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Ontario Provincial Championship-ON, CAN

Duncan McGregor

On November 7th, I was given the opportunity to head judge the Ontario Provincial Championships. This was the first time that Provincial Championships had been run at the same time as States, and this proved to be a smaller tournament than I expect more States to be... a total of 28 players. This proved to be just about right for the tournament area, as the local tournament organizers ran this in their store rather than renting space elsewhere. This posed some problems, as the playing area was crowded, and younger children trying to get Pokemon were around pretty much continuously, but the tournament managed to run without any major snags.

This being the first weekend of Mercadian Masques being legal in Type II, the metagame was still in a state of flux. Also, a number of local players showed up who were not regular tournament-goers, and had decks that were perhaps less well-tuned than others. Notable in this category was a deck most people at the tourney ended up hearing about, a mono-red Dragon deck with Volcanic, Two-Headed, and Lightning Dragons, as well as a Crimson Hellkite, Crater Hellions, and lots more big critters. While this player did not finish with a winning record, he had fun and seemed to enjoy the fame.

I made a point of checking the decklists as they came in to watch for Rath cycle cards, but everyone seemed to know that these were nolonger allowed. The tournament started shortly after 10 a.m., as advertised.

A situation that occurred almost immediately was that of a player with marked cards. He was playing without sleeves, and his opponent noticed that the cards were worn irregularly. I looked at his deck, and found several cards that were worn in a way that distinguished them from the rest of the deck, but with no pattern. One of the cards actually turned out to be a foil Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary!

A card that I was asked about frequently was Misdirection. Questions that came up were:

  • Can I Misdirect a Duress back to it's caster? Answer: no, Duress says 'Target opponent'.
  • Can I Misdirect a Persecute back to it's caster? Answer: yes, as it says 'Target player'. On resolution, the caster will choose a colour, look at his own hand, and discard all cards of that colour that he finds. Not surprisingly, cards were not discarded to such a Persecute often.
  • If I Misdirect a Soul Feast back to it's caster when he is at four or less life, will he die before gaining the life back? Answer: no, state-based effects (like player death) aren't checked for during a spell's resolution.

An interesting situation came up in a battle of a mono-green fat deck (Player A) vs. a green/white deck (Player B). B was using his Dawnstrider, the spellshaper that produces a fog effect, to hold off A's army, and using a Mother of Runes and later a Cho-Manno's Blessing to protect the Dawnstrider from A's Desert Twisters. The game had continued in stalemate for a long time, nearly to the end of the round, until A Desert Twister'd B's lone Forest. This left B with only a Gaea's Cradle to activate the Dawnstrider with, and the mana burn would then kill him. The situation may seem straightforward when laid out like thais, but I commend A for his correct thinking in finding the out from what seemed to onlookers like a drawn game.

Green decks of various kinds, including green weenie, green fat and green/blue Opposition decks were out in force, but the most-represented deck in the top eight after the five rounds of Swiss was Bargain. Three Bargain decks combo'd their way in, and while they did not dominate the Swiss (finishing 5th, 6th and 7th) they proved hard to deal with. In the quarterfinals, the one non-Bargain match had Alex Belden's mono-rd land destruction defeating Ron Shortt's speed black deck. Gab Tsang's Bargain had an easy victory over Ben Roth's mono-blue deck (the source of most of the Misdirection questions), as Ben drew one Island and two Dust Bowls for land in each of the games. Richard Hoaen's Bargain managed to eke out a victory against Paul Pijawka's green speed. Finally, Alex Rennet's Bargain was defeated in close sets by Bill Ruderman's mono-red mana curve deck, which came well prepared for Bargain by main-decking four Goblin Cadets.

In the semi-finals, Bill again defeated Bargain, taking down Richard, while Gab managed to take down Alex Belden, toppling the leader after the Swiss. In finals, Bill took the first game from Gab, trying to complete his dominance of the Bargain decks, but Gab had other ideas. In game 2, after mulliganing to six cards, Gab started with Plains, go. Bill played a Mountain and a Goblin Cadets. Gab played a Phyrexian Tower and a Grim Monolith. Bill failed to drop a land on his second turn, and played out a Kris Mage after attacking for two. Gab used the Monolith and Plains to drop an Academy Rector, putting an immediate halt to the Cadet beatdown. Bill drew a second Mountain, and used it to Reckless Abandon the Cadets at Gab. Gab was unfazed, and on his turn used the Phyrexian Tower to send his Rector out for a Yawgmoth's Bargain. Gab began drawing cards, playing around the possibility that Bill was holding a Shock in his hand, played out a Skirge Familiar, began discarding Radiant's Dragoons and land to the Familiar, then Exhuming the Dragoons bak into play, drawing more cards, using Soul Feast on Bill, drawing more cards... this continued until Gab cast a Yawgmoth's Will, at which point Bill conceded.

Game three began with Bill dropping Mountain, Cadets. Gab played a Swamp. Bill attacked with the Cadets, then dropped another Mountain, another Cadets, and a Kris Mage. Gab Vampiric Tutored during Bill's end step (going to 16), and on his turn dropped a Plains and Dark Ritualed out an Academy Rector. After Bill untapped and drew, he Shocked the Rector, allowing Gab to get the Bargain, and attacked to bring Gab down to 11. This left Bill holding two cards in hand and having two mana open. Gab, having no choice but to go off, started playing slowly and mothodically, trying to play around the cards in Bill's hand (two Shocks being a worst case scenario), but after drawing to five, he did not have the right cards to go off. He drew one more, down to four, and Bill did not kill him. Gab still needed more, though, and he Vampiric Tutored, dropping himself to two life. Bill still didn't kill him, and Gab used his second-last life point to draw the card he tutored for. He managed to Ritual a Skirge into play, pitch cards to Soul Feast Bill, draw cards, repeat, then start drawing cards from Radiant's Dragoons/Exhume. When Gab cast the Yawgmoth's Will, Bill extended the hand in concession. Gab Tsang is congratulated for winning the Ontario Provincial Championship.

The question of whether Yawgmoth's Bargain should be banned is one that I am sure the DCI will be giving much thought to over the next month. With the next bannings announced December 1st, I'm sure that States and Provincials will have shown whether there exists a need for Bargain to be banned. As I see it, there exist two reasons for such a banning. First, the DCI might ban it if the Bargain deck proves to be dominant in the Standard environment, a deck that will win too much unless drastic efforts are taken to defeat it... much like the High Tide decks from the New York qualifier season.

Even if Bargain is just a tier-one deck though, the DCI might choose to ban it in the interests of maintaining interactive play. Gab Tsang himself has said that there should not exist an environment where one player is playing for 90% of the match and the other player 10%. Games like this are less fun, both for the opponent and for the spectators. The DCI has already shown a desire to ban combo decks with the mass bannings last March, even banning cards like Fluctuator that had not yet caused a major stir on the tournament scene, but would not be used for any non-combo purpose. A ban of Yawgmoth's Bargain would continue this trend and encourage play that requires the attention of both players.

One other option that will doubtless be considered, instead of or in addition to the banning of Bargain, is the banning of Yawgmoth's Will. While this has seen extensive use in combo decks, it also has seen quite a bit of use in non-combo decks, black control decks and others. The fact that this card has seen so much use in non-combo decks is probably the reason why it has remained tournament-legal this far, but it may well be added to the banned list this time around. In any case, if the DCI wishes to continue it's practice of banning combos, it has quite a bit of work ahead of it, as Dark Tide, Enchantress, and several other decks are all being considered as possible replacements for Bargain should that no longer be available as the combo deck of choice.

-- Duncan McGregor, Level II

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