I woke up earlier than my alarm on Sunday feeling generally rested, but somehow not relaxed. Even the remarkably hot shower could not settle the tension I was feeling in my guts (No, this was not a result of the extravagant meals from the days prior). Andy was sleeping still, and snoring away in an inexplicable fashion. To tell you the truth, it was really one of the world’s greatest mysteries that he didn’t wake both himself and our neighbours during the night with said demonic droning. I had laid out my clothes the night before in a pile on the dresser, allowing me to depart the bathroom, quickly get dressed, grab my gear for the day, and head downstairs for breakfast all in the span of only a few minutes. It was just after 7am, and I had already secured some breakfast and was enjoying my coffee when I got a message from Jason about him getting in the shower and looking to meet for breakfast. I let him know that I was already eating and he hurried to catch up and meet me in the dining area.
Jason came down and there was a good discussion over his breakfast about day one, and we could both feel the excitement about having the right deck for the room. Now that we were headed into day 2, it would be very unlikely that we would face some random field decks, and we could likely expect all of our opponents to be running well established tier 1/1.5 decks, all of which we had confident plans for. We decided that we would find Larry when we got to the tournament site, and discuss our matches and board plans cohesively. A quick stop at the convenience store on the way to the venue got another bottle of water and a pack of gum, completing the list of necessary items which I knew I would need for the day. The excitement was building. With two of us together, it started to feel resonate. The only way I could explain it is that there was a vibration in the air; subtle and constant. It eased the tension from the morning, and I was quick to realize that it was the anticipation of the day’s events which was really behind the feeling.
We met Larry on site, and the three of us sat down to go over all of our rounds, sideboard strategies and results from the day before. There were so many people that came by to talk to us and wish us luck. If we seemed frustrated and uninterested, then I wish to formally apologize. We were only trying to get ourselves together before the day’s games which was daunting of itself given the time allotted without the extra constant interruptions. Having the three of us together, there was a full sense of purpose that became evident. We had really accomplished something as a team. It really felt like we had stumbled upon some big secret of the universe, and it would be up to us to demonstrate the power of that by putting up the results. We were the Geist’s apostles, there to spread his good word, much to the expected chagrin of our unfortunate opponents.
Someone came by and mentioned that the day 2 player meeting was occurring, and without us. “They have those?” I ask. The three of us bust our humps to get to our seats with just enough time to fill out our income forms for WotC should we earn prizes. Seating was done alphabetically, and I of course find myself directly across from Valentin Mackl, notable European Pro player. I’m having a nightmare of a time trying to fill out this form which I have never seen before, and Valentin is having a good laugh over it. Thankfully, to my left is Edgar Magalhaes, a fellow Ontario player, and friend of mine. He also is laughing, but he graciously helps me out, and I get everything filled out and submitted just in time to hear that pairings are posted and that I would have to struggle to find my seat and my first round opponent. Into the fire I suppose. I check my pairings, and spend almost the entire time trying to find the seat. I sit down with moments to spare before the round should start, and begin to shuffle my deck. I can honestly tell you at this moment, that I was more panicked than I had been during the entire GP. There I was, sitting down to play my first day 2 round of Magic, with my heart galloping in my chest from running around like an idiot for the last 15 minutes, feeling like a dinghy boat cast back and forth by the cascading tides of an ocean that I just should not have been in. I was losing focus, and feeling the crush of the pressure. I knew this would be rough.
Round 10 – Jeff – RUG Scapeshift
Jeff was wearing a shirt from Ice Imports, and welcomed me to the table with a huge smile. He was a very pleasant opponent, and we began to chat as I was shuffling. I could feel my hands trembling as I shuffled, and was glad for the break from my tumultuous mental state. I mentioned that my friend, KYT had been to one of the Ice Imports PTQs last season, and that they apparently did a pretty good job with the setup. Aside from the power outage of course, which we both had a laugh over, settling me down enough to present my deck. We shuffled up each other’s decks, and I won the roll. I land turn 3 Geist on the play, and get in for 4 as he chumps the Ghost Daddy with a Tribe Elder that finds another land. I get in again for a full 6 the following turn, with an Electrolyze during Jeff’s end step. I swing again for a full 6 and have the Snapcaster Mage to hit the Electrolyze on his turn to take him out.
Game 2 I have a Turn 2 Snapcaster Mage in Ambush Viper mode, and start the beats early. I land a Vendilion Clique to disrupt Jeff and his potential interactions, and the two end up going all the way with a pair of bolts to seal the deal.
The round was done in less than 20 minutes. I felt alive. I was instantly cured of all of the hesitancies and nerves. I deserved to be here. I had to win out to make the tour, but all I could think about was the next match. Who’s next? The Killer Instinct was back.
Round 11 – Royce – UWR Control
My opponent was a nice guy, and we both had a lot of laughs and smile headed into our games. I win the play, and Royce mulligans to 6, but when we both led off with Celestial Colonnade, we knew that neither of those things would really matter. I had a hand without Geist, but was filled with burn and Snapcaster Mages, along with lands, and quickly found a Vendilion Clique. Royce landed a Wall of Omens, sending the clear message that I now had to play around both Angels and potentially Kiki-Jiki. I just played all of my burn spells and snapped burn spells on his end step, and eventually just straight up burn him out. I end the game with both Geist and Eiganjo Castle in my hand, refusing to show him the true nature of the deck, hoping to gain extra edges during Sideboards. Game 2, I have turn 2 Snapcaster Viper into turn 3 Geist, getting in for 2. Royce untaps and plays Wrath of God. I express my shock and commend him on his astute appraisal of my strategy, and he replies that Helix was the giveaway card that prompted the board. I thankfully untap on my turn and play the second geist in my hand, and I attack after he plays a Wall of Omens. Then after that I bolt on his end step. I play out a Snapcaster naked to overwhelm his board presence, and with him at 3 life, all untapped for clearly a Rev. Royce opts to allow me to untap, and goes for the Revelation during my combat phase. I cast the Restoration Angel in my hand, hit the Snapcaster Mage, and bolt him from the yard for exacts with the Rev on the stack. Thankfully, Royce got a little too tricky with his instants. Marshall Sutcliffe was watching the bulk of game two from over my opponent’s shoulder, and expressed his positive impression on my play lines. This of course made my day and I told him that it was a good thing that he didn’t give me the feature match in day 1, because I would just get it when I made top 8. He wished me luck and I was off.
Another quick 2 games. I was really beginning to think that I had a shot. No more losses. Just win. Always Jam.
Round 12 – Josh – RUG Scapeshift
I lose the die roll, and keep a hand with some non Geist action and lands. I end up seeing 7 spells and 10 lands, and put Josh to 9, while Josh destroys me on turn 8 with lethal Scapeshift for about a million. Game 2 on the play I have Geist of Saint Traft on 3, and kill with it and a Helix before Josh can get enough together. Game 3 is a non Geist game, and as such, became a very drawn out ordeal. I had all 4 Remands in the game, and had a Vendilion Clique and a resolved Aven Mindcensor on the table. I end up losing the game to a pair of errors, one minor, one major. The minor error I make is missing a window to play one of the two Celestial Colonnades in my hand, allowing me to quickly turn the corner and close the game when that time came. I had instead prioritized efficient mana use and maximizing available mana on turns 1 through 6 of the game. This left me without the sight of a clear clock with which to effectively win the game. The major error occurred when I was looking to turn the corner too quickly, and figured that with the angel or snap into Remand that I had on table, I could safely protect my Aven from combat, and swung with both it and my Vendilion Clique into opponent with a lot of mana and Clique and Snap/Remand himself. I ended up losing the Aven to the clique and the game the following turn when he Scapeshifts me for over 32. If I only had not battled with the Aven, the game was very easily mine in two turns once I start swinging with Colonnades. As soon as I turned the creature sideways I knew in my gut that it was wrong, but there are no take backs in big boy magic, so I was forced into making the best of it. I failed.
I was unfortunate enough to have Larry watching the last game, and we both agreed that the game was mine to lose. I knew my PT dream was dead in that moment, so not the next goal was to just play out all my games and win as many as possible in hopes to make some money on the day. The pressure cooker was now on simmer, and I relaxed a little, determined to enjoy myself for the rest of the day.
Rd 13 – Jonathon – Ad Nauseum Combo
Jonathon wins the play, and leads of with a Temple. Knowing exactly what I was up against, I began to throw everything I had at his face as soon as possible. I have him at one when he goes off with Ad Nauseum under a Phyrexian Unlife. Game 2, Jon mulligans, and cannot compete with burn spell into burn spell, into Geist into Electrolyze and Wear for his Unlife. Game 3 Jonathon mulligans again, and I look at a turn 3 Geist with a Bolt, Remand and a Clique. This was almost as good as possible, short of having the door closing Counterflux in hand. I have Jonathon at 10 at my end step, and his board is Plains, Watery Grave, Gemstone Mine with a Lotus Bloom about to come off Suspend and 5 cards in hand. I have thankfully enough understanding of his deck to know that I could be very dead on his turn. I carefully consider my options. Should he have exactly Angel’s Grace, Ad Nauseam, Pact of Negation, then I am absolutely just dead and nothing I do can possibly change that. I have 4 mana available, and I can cast either Remand, or Clique, but not both. I can either look to Remand the Bloom, hoping to set back the plans for long enough to win, remand the Ad Nauseam should he have it, or Clique during my end step, hoping to force some interaction on my turn if he only has part of the combo. In the moment, after a gracious enough amount of time to consider it from my opponent, I opt for the Clique, hoping to shorten my clock on him while seeking more information from him, and forcing him to do something on my turn, locking out Angel’s Grace potentially being used to buy turns later.
The Clique meets a Pact of Negation. I ask him if he really has it all. He smiles and shrugs. He stacks his Bloom trigger and pact trigger, and casts Angel’s Grace. “You really have it then.” He resolves his Bloom, and goes off during his upkeep without even drawing a card. He tells me his hand at the moment that I cast the Clique was Angel’s Grace, Ad Nauseam, Mystical Teachings and 2 Pact of Negation. I guess if you are going to lose, it better be in spectacular fashion, right?” Still had all deez.
Ok. So at this point, I knew that I could no longer lose, and began to take stock of the weekend. I had lost 2 rounds to misplays, and 2 rounds to the stone nuts from my opponents. Overall, I could honestly say that I was happy with the way I was playing outside of the two misplays. Considering we would have played 15 rounds by the day`s end, I was content. I relayed the most spectacular loss story to my friends, all of which agreed that responding to the bloom coming into play with clique was likely the most optimal play which I could have made, as it similarly forces action, and I was not beating the nut draw anyway.
I went to find my pairings for the second last round.
Round 14 – Eric – Mono Red BURN and Dudes
Eric was a nice guy, with a rapier wit and good sense of humor. We exchanged witty repartee, and I knew that it would be a fun game, even if he was going to melt my face off. I was going to need to see both Helixes and Geist in order to have a shot. Game one I find Path to Exiles, Bolts, and a Geist which ends up being enough after being left at 8 life myself. Game two, I have Magma Spray for a Hellspark Elemental, bolts and a Purge for creatures, land a Geist, and fade 2 draw steps for Eric to draw any burn spell in his deck to kill me from 3 life. Lucky. So Lucky.
One more round. Standings go up, and I don`t even bother to look. I have no idea where I am, but if I have hopes to win dollars, I knew that I would likely have to play. x-4-1 didn`t sound like a cash worthy performance. I resigned myself to play and finish strong, and found my last round opponent
Rd 15: Jim – RUG Delver
Jim immediately asks me if I want to draw into minimum cash with him. He tells me that because of the announcement of size of event, that cash is paid out down further than top 100, and that a draw puts both of us in minimum cash, while the winner goes from 200 to 300, and the loser gets nothing. I consider the folly of not looking at standings during this time, and listen intently to the pair beside me discussing this very thing in thankfully great detail. I decide to agree to the draw, but inform Jim that I did come to game, and would like to actually play anyway. Jim eagerly agrees, and at that point informs me that he was anxiously wanting to play his list against my deck ever since he watched in on my stream. Yes. I felt like I got played a little. Jim expertly treated me like a nobody during our draw discussion, and then once I agreed, treated me like a long lost friend. Now I didn`t feel bad for making him play it out with me. We shuffle up after turning in the slip, and Jim wins the play. I see 2 lands all game, and end up losing to Flipped Delvers and Young Pyromancer and friends. Game 2, was a great game. Jim resolves a Blood Moon, which I am able to play around with my fetches, and Geist shows up to help close the game backed by my removal, which was only improved once the Blood Moon made me some more Red sources. Game 3 Jim mulligans to 5 on the play, and just cannot get enough lands to stop my onslaught of Geist and company.
I did it. I finished a GP. I made money while doing it. My first day 2, and I made money while doing it. I went and found Larry still playing in his 3rd game against Alex Bertoncini, who was on Affinity. Larry lost game one, won the second one in spectacular fashion, and then was one Path to Exile away from being able to survive Alex`s onslaught of creatures. Alex ended up making top 8 on breakers which was heart wrenching for all of us, as Larry could very well have been in that spot. Overall, the deck out all of us into day 2, nearly one of us in top 8, and 2 of us to a cash finish. I guess this is what it feels like to bottle lightning.
I gathered as many as I could and we headed out to the restaurant near the hotel to find beer and food. Thankfully, every bar in Worcester has Guinness on tap. Unfortunately, the food at this establishment was average at best. 3 Pints later, we were on our way back to the hotel to Cube while waiting for the rest of the crew to finish up so we could go out for our epic evening of Karaoke and adult beverages. The Cube was a Modern Pauper cube, which was very interesting, and I ended up first picking an Ulamog’s Crusher, followed by 3 Ravnica Bouncelands, a Maul Splicer, and then all the blue draw spells and red burn spells. I lost all of my games, but this was more likely my fault than the deck`s. We cleaned up when KYT got back to the Hotel after losing his win and in round to the Sunday Super Series top 8, and then headed out with Adrian (Mathematrickste on Twitter) who graciously put the evening together and drove us out to the first stop. The bar was a hole in the wall, with a bunch of taps, and a narrow feel. The karaoke was good from a selection standpoint, but sounds were less than optimal, and the place was a little dead for my liking. We were joined by Thomas Dodd (Amistod on Twitter), a good friend I first met 4 years prior at GPDC 2010, and we opted to hit up another place instead. We walked into the Irish pub, even smaller than the last place, but filled to the brim with happening twenty somethings, all dancing to the DJs excellent mix of modern top 40 dance hits. We hit the bar, and I asked KYT if he was drinking whatever I was going to be drinking, and he agreed. I ordered 2 double Bombay Sapphires with Soda water in Pint Glasses, and watched as the buff bartender filled the cups to the brim with Ice, then ¾ full with Gin, and topped off with Soda Water. When I make mention of it during the refills moments later, he laughs and tells us that he normally pours doubles, and if we ask for actual doubles, then he tries to kill us. Well, we didn`t die, but our inhibitions probably did. I ended up running back some Macklemore, and then some Fall Out Boy for the Karaoke portion, and we were all stunned by the talent in the room. The young lady who dubbed herself Feminem was superb, and the Factory working lady who belted out the Country tunes was absurdly good. All of us Old Men had a great time, and we were so happy to have ended up together in this place to close out the weekend. KYT and I woke Andy up when we got back to the hotel, and began to regale him with our tales of irresponsible debauchery and wished he had joined us. Apparently John Wasson ended up making the top 8 of the Super Series and Andy stayed to support his buddy. No faults there. KYT went back to his room, and I passed out in mid conversation exhausted and completely content.
Morning came, and the long drive would be preceded by a visit to the best Breakfast joint that I have ever been to; Little Miss Worcester. This was a street car which was converted to a diner and parked on the corner of an out of the way intersection. There was almost no room to sit, and the food was being prepared on a single grill, with only 3 people working the whole place. I ordered the Meat Lover`s and Cheese Stuffed French Toast, and it was beyond all mortal explanation of deliciousness. If you are ever in Worcester again for a GP or an SCG event, make this a can`t miss stop the morning before you leave. You will not regret it.
I got home and was just exhausted from the weekend as a whole. I had a great ride home thanks to Andy who kept the conversations and the jokes rolling the whole way back. We had a few things to declare at the border thanks to the amazing stop at the Duty Free, and my family enjoyed and appreciated the gifts which I had brought for them.
Upon further discussion among us after the tournament, the three of us decided that the deck was basically perfect, with the only change that we would be interested in making being a swap for the Anger of the Gods in the sideboard for a single copy of Shatterstorm. It is also possible that the Anger should remain in the deck, and that the cut should be the third copy of Aven Mindcensor. I suggest that you play with these slots based on your meta expectations should you be looking to pick up the deck yourself. The other interesting change that I have seen is a move away from the main deck Batterskull and an adoption of Thundermaw Hellkite prompted by the increase in presence of Lingering Souls in the metagame. Feel free to try it out yourself, but know that Larry decisively disagrees with it.
Here is the 75 from the GP in case you all missed it.
I decided to run it back one more time before delving into some Standard before the WMCQ season starts in earnest. Here is the stream
Tune in tonight when I get the one and only Gerry T to join us for some Jund Walkers, where Gerry brings us what he thinks the most optimal build would look like were he to play it in a WMCQ!! 9PM EST, twitch.tv/legitmtg
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