It was inevitable, I guess. After such a good run of FNM results, complete scrubbery was bound to happen. That doesn’t make it any more enjoyable when it happens, nor does it mean that I should just brush it off and act like it never happened. There are lessons to be learned. I could blame it on the fact that I was in no mental state to win games of Magic, I suppose. The last couple of weeks have left me feeling like Chael Sonnen’s face during the Anderson Silva fight: one hammering blow after another. I could blame it on bad luck, too: round 1 I saw zero basic Forests in games 1 and 3. Round 2 my opponent’s Augur of Bolas seemed to read “When this enters the battlefield, put a Mana Leak into your hand.” I could even shrug those things off as variance and act like nothing worthwhile was to be learned from the disappointment.
The latter is the course I took on the night, because there was a draft that fired after FNM and I needed to get my head straight. I managed to 2-1 my pod and take second, so the approach worked. I was too tilted to take notes on the draft, but my deck was Wr with a focus on tokens: Captain of the Watch was my bomb, and I also had a pair of Krenko’s Command, a Captain’s Call and a Crusader of Odric. My removal was pretty strong too: two Pacifism, an Oblivion Ring a Divine Verdict, Searing Spear and Arms Dealer. I lost in the third round to the Exalted deck piloted by Ludwig, largely because Pacifism isn’t so god against that strategy. At least the games were close.
As a result of going 0-3, this week’s column will take a slightly different tack. I’ll give you a brief rundown of what I played and what happened in the three matches, but I will focus more on what I learned and what you can, hopefully, take away from my abject failure.
For a while now I have been addicted to Titans. I wasn’t playing when they first made their appearance, and it was only in the past few months that I managed to acquire my first Primeval Titan. Fortunately I got my second, third and fourth at the same time. I don’t need to tell anyone who has been playing competitive Magic since M11 just how powerful the six-drops are. All of them have seen top-level play at some point. Decks with as many as eight Titans have won major tournaments, as witnessed at Worlds with Jun’ya Iyanaga’s Wolf Run build.
I’d been looking for something to do with both Cavern of Souls and Somberwald Sage for a while, something even more over-the-top than last week’s Green Summer deck. If eight Titans are good, what about TWELVE? Hell, why not SIXTEEN? Even I wasn’t crazy enough to go for the full 20, since Sun Titan just does nothing when all you are doing is racing to six mana and dropping bombs.
I threw Primetime, Frosty, Fire Daddy and GravyT in the deck, along with Cavern of Souls, Somberwald Sage and Rampant Growth. Reasoning that I would need more ramp, I added Solemn Simulacrum and a pair of Viridian Emissaries. I played a few test games between rounds at various events, and got ROFLstomped. Sure when I got to six mana early I usually won, but I often wasn’t getting to six mana early enough. Out came Grave Titan and in went two Bonfire of the Damned and two Devastation Tide. In testing this worked REALLY well. Bouncing Titans with Tide when you will be replaying them that turn is not really a setback, and if you get it early and need to miracle it, you can stay alive longer. That’s pretty crucial…staying alive longer. Bonfire is of course the high nut and goes in every deck that can produce red mana. Stop arguing.
A few of the regulars, particularly Extra Balls, had seen me brewing this monstrosity over the weeks and were more excited than I was to see it in action. I wasn’t sure it would be good enough, so I brewed two MORE decks just in case I got a last-minute attack of the jitters: WB Mid-Range and mono-blue Delver Mill. Yes yes, I know that last one sounds terrible. I should have played either of those, to be honest.
How Did I Do?
Well, you already know the answer to that: badly. I feel almost guilty about not giving you a write-up on the three rounds I played before scrubbing out, but there’s not much to say. Regardless, a quick overview:
Round 1 – Nick Williams with 4-Colour Pod
Nick doesn’t play nearly enough. He’s good as it is, but if he showed up every week he’d be one of the best I think. However he has an airtight excuse: he is, I believe, a military man. Game 1, as I mentioned above, I didn’t see a green source until far too late. I kept a 3-land hand with a Solemn and a Rampant Growth after mulling to 5, but the lands were Mountain, Island, and Sulfur Falls. By the time I got the fourth land I was facing down Blade Splicer and multiple friends courtesy of Restoration Angel.
Game 2 I actually got a Forest, which lead to multiple Titans. Even a copied Primeval Titan didn’t faze me as I smashed face. At this point I was prepared to write game 1 off as variance…then game 3 followed the same pattern, only with a Huntmaster transforming before I could cast anything. That spells doom most of the time.
Round 2 – Jonny Manuel with Mono-Blue Wizards
Last time I played Jonny, I mentioned the lousy luck he seems to have against me. As he sat down (and it’s a LONG way down, Jonny is at least 11 feet tall), he mentioned that his Delvers were once again allergic to transforming. What he forgot to mention was that EVERYTHING ELSE was working perfectly for him. Every Augur found a Mana Leak, and he always had exactly the answer he needed to my threats. Hey Jonny…YOU’RE WELCOME.
Round 3 – David Bishop with TurboFog
I don’t want to talk about it. It’s really hard to win through Tamiyo, Gideon, Terminus, Fog and Safe Passage. I mean REALLY hard. Dave’s a nice guy and we had fun playing out the matchup, but by this time I had already decided I was going to be drafting shortly.
What Did I Learn?
Aside from the obvious “a deck full of beasts with no real answers is a bad deck,” I didn’t really get much out of this week.
Naming Birds with your turn one Cavern of Souls is rarely the correct play. You should probably mulligan that hand. I actually did this twice and it never worked out well for me, and really I should have remembered Thran Quarry. When I was first playing competitive Magic I would often use that to cast a first turn Birds, then punch myself when the Birds ate a Shock and I got Time Walked.
Sometimes Magic just kicks you in the nuts. Mostly it’s variance that gets you, but on occasion your bad day will coincide with your opponents’ good day and you’ll feel like you can’t do anything right. That’s actually variance in disguise. Letting it tilt you will lead to more mistakes, which leads to more tilt…you get the idea.
Something I tell young players a lot is to avoid using “cool” cards in their decks, or just including cards because they like them. Most of the time it’s not going to end well. Unfortunately I fell into this trap myself by not correctly building the mana base and just jamming 12 Titans in one deck without much thought to how I was actually going to develop the game. It’s all very well to be a teacher in your community, but you have to make sure you follow your own advice!
Going 0-3 is not the end of the world. It sucks, but it will happen again. It was tough for me to suck it up and go into the draft with a clear head, because I hate losing, but carrying over your disgust is the best way to ensure it gets worse. However you shrug it off in the short-term, do it. Then when you have time to analyze what REALLY went wrong, revisit the situation. By then you should have a clearer head and be more able to objectively pick apart your decisions.
What’s on Deck?
This week I’m going to be playing combo of some sort. Playing the green deck a couple of weeks back has set the combo fires alight again for me, and I can’t resist the siren call. What flavour of combo is still to be decided, but I have a feeling it will involve Past in Flames. After that, maybe I’ll give the mill deck a try. Jace’s Phantasm is still high on my list of cards to play.
Side Note: Grand Prix Trial for GP Boston
For most of you a GPT is probably nothing about which to get excited. When you can drive to a PTQ, SCG Open or GP on any given weekend that makes a lot of sense. As I’ve said in numerous places, we don’t have that luxury here. A Grand Prix Trial is as big as it gets locally, so we try to hold one each month.
As the format for Boston is M13 Sealed, we ran the Trial as the same format. Finn took the event down, which is fortunate as he is planning to go. He only got one concession on the way, which makes it an even more impressive finish. We had a lot of returning players show up for this one, which I hope bodes well for larger FNMs in the future. A few of the regulars were kept away by the Sealed format but we had enough for five rounds of Swiss.
From watching the games, I learned that Staff of Nin is better than most people expected in Limited. That card wins games, pretty much on its own. Also insane is Arms Dealer, even with only a single Krenko’s Command as fodder.
Of note on the day, we now have another L1 in town! Steve “Mev” Whelan passed his L1 test and helped me out on the day, making the event run very smoothly. My first new level 1!
Hopefully this week I can get back to winning some games of constructed, so next week’s article isn’t as short. If I play what I’m thinking I’ll play, the article will be entertaining to say the least!