GP Vegas: From the inside

While I was at home¬†watching from GP Vegas afar, my boyfriend, Steve, and several close friends from my LGS were there. Actually playing in the largest TCG event ever. I was cheering for them all, hoping they’d make day 2 and show everyone who’s boss. And I know how awesome my LGS is, especially at limited, so I thought they had somewhat of a good chance. While they all did OK, only Steve made day 2. So being the awesome guy he is, he agreed to let me ask him a few questions about the experience for “Nerd Maids”. (He’s not a girl, but I counted and only maybe five girls made day 2 of GP Vegas… I included a few gender-neutral names in that count, too.) And after making Steve show me his sealed deck, and let me play with his draft decks from Vegas, I finally got him to sit down and do this. Yay! ūüôā I hope you enjoy his story as much as I do! – B

The playmat from GP Vegas. The guys got there in time to get their playmats, and they're freaking sweet. The art is from the Sword of Fire and Ice -- one of the famous sword artifacts from Modern Masters.

The playmat from GP Vegas. The guys got there in time to get their playmats, and they’re freaking sweet. The art is from the Sword of Fire and Ice — one of the famous sword artifacts from Modern Masters.

How long have you been playing Magic?

I’m a grizzled veteran of the magic scene. ¬†I started playing casually around 1995. ¬†Back in those days, my friends and I would make amazing five color, 200 card decks where we would shove every Elder Dragon Legend we had into them and just hope for the best. ¬†Yeah, we were really good. ¬†I started playing semi-competitively during Invasion block. ¬†That’s the time I learned about drafting. ¬†I still remember my first pick of my first draft: Rith, the Awakener, a naya colored dragon. I just drafted around those colors and actually ended up with a playable deck. ¬†I even won my first round! ¬†I’ve been hooked ever since.

What made you want to go to GP Vegas?

Although I’ve been playing magic for so long, I had never gone to a large competitive tournament. ¬†The biggest tournament I had ever been to was the Torment prerelease in Kansas City. ¬†After hearing success stories from many of my FNM friends playing at GPs and PTQs, I started to get the itch to test myself at a bigger event. ¬†I pretty much only play draft and sealed magic, so I kept my eyes out for a GP or PTQ that was a limited format. ¬†When I heard about GP Vegas, Modern Masters sealed, I knew I had to go.

Were you familiar with the cards in Modern Masters?

As many people who play magic know, sometimes you get burned out and have to quit the game from time to time.  Many of the cards from Modern Masters were from sets that I sat out.  I would say that I was familiar with about 40% of  the cards.

So how did you prepare?

I did as many draft simulations on bestiare.org as I could.  This sometimes meant not eating or sleeping for days at a time.  OK, maybe I only did like 20 total.  I also did a draft with some friends out of a box one of them purchased and did one phantom draft on Magic Online.  Although I was probably less prepared than many of the other 4499 players that went to Vegas, I was relying on my superior card evaluation skills to pull me through.

How did it feel going into day 1 knowing you had 4499 opponents, and were part of the largest TCG tournament ever?

I probably would have felt super excited if I wasn’t completely brain-dead from the 20+ hour drive it took to get there.

So you felt good?

Yes.

Awesome. Can you tell me a little about how the sealed part of the GP works?

First, I had to find my name on a list of all the players and see what color section I would be in. ¬†Then I had to go to that section and find my name on another list that told me what table number I would be on. ¬† After everyone found their seats, we all received a fancy white paper bag filled with 6 packs of Modern Masters and a checklist with every card in the set. ¬†Then we had exactly 30 minutes to organize all the cards alphabetically into colors, non-basic lands and artifacts. Then I had to mark down the contents on the checklist. ¬† I was pretty stressed out when they called out “five minutes left” and I still had plenty left to sort and record, but I did finish on time. ¬†The pool I opened was very strong. ¬†It had 3 rare fairies, including Oona, Queen of the Fae¬†and Vendilion Clique. ¬†It’s important to remember however that this is not the pool I got to make my deck with. ¬†The people that opened the foil Tarmogoyfs and immediately dropped definitely remembered that fact. ¬†After the 30 minutes were up, everyone put all the cards and the checklist back into the paper bag and passed it to the left. ¬†Then it was time to build our decks.

What process did you use to build your deck?

My usual process is to separate the cards by color then go through each color and take out the unplayable cards and go from there.   This was a little different because the cards were already sorted by color for me and there were barely any unplayable cards because Modern Masters is a very powerful set.  It seemed I could have made a decent deck no matter what colors I played but I knew that I wanted to play with my Cryptic Command and Meloku the Clouded Mirror (not to mention my three Aethersnipes) so blue was the first color I decided on playing.  I finally narrowed it down to green or red for my second color.  I had to choose between the solid removal I had in red or the efficient creatures in green but it was Tromp the Domains that solidified green as my second color.  Some other notables in green were Woodfall Primus, two Search for Tomorrows and a Penumbra Spider.  I ended up splashing black for a Drag Down because instant speed removal is good and the extra color would power up my Tromp the Domains.

How did your matches go?

I was a little worried because my deck was very light on early drops and extremely top heavy. ¬†But I quickly realized that this was a slow format and when I got up to six mana I could completely take over games using my superior late game spells. ¬†While my Meloku and Tromp won me many games, I’d have to say the MVPs of my deck were my Search for Tomorrows. ¬†Those let me reliably accelerate up to my magic number of six lands and after that my Aethersnipes and other bad boys gave my opponents headaches all day. ¬†I went 6-0 before I finally lost a match and then won the last two for a final day 1 record of 8-1. ¬†You wouldn’t believe how many swords I had to beat to get there.

It must have felt pretty good to have that kind of run. Were you expecting to make day 2?

It was unbelievable! ¬†I knew the odds of making day 2 were pretty low but I wanted to stay positive. ¬†I wouldn’t say I expected to make it but I thought I had a decent chance.

How were you feeling going into day 2?

I was feeling great before my group made it back to the hotel and realized that my last match had been recorded incorrectly. ¬†That caused me quite a bit of stress and I lost some sleep over the whole thing. ¬†Everything got taken care of once we arrived the next day and I started feeling good again right before the draft started. ¬†I felt like I was going to win the whole thing and was already deciding what to do with all the money! ¬†I just want Bale to know that, even though I was in Vegas without her, I never thought of spending that money on hookers or blackjack even once ūüôā

Awww thanks. What was it like drafting at that level? How did your drafts go? 

I wish every draft I played in was that organized and rigid with the rules. ¬†There was absolutely no table talk allowed and that is just how I like it. ¬†There was also a strict time limit to make your picks, another thing I really liked. ¬†I ended up making a blue/white tempo deck with Cryptic Command (pack 1, pick 2), two Mulldrifters, two Vedalken Dismissers, two Veteran Armorers, two Blinding Beams and other goodness. ¬†I was lacking bombs but I figured I would win by keeping my opponent off balance but it didn’t go exactly as planned. ¬†I ended up going 1-2 and killed my chances at the top 8. ¬†I still had an outside chance at top 64 and some money but I would have had to go 3-0 in my next draft pod. ¬†I built an almost mono-black aggro goblin deck with some blue tricks but ended up 1-2 in that draft as well. ¬†I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

Even though you didn’t end up in the money, you still placed in the top six percent of the tournament. How does that make you feel?¬†

Considering it was my first major tournament, I have to feel pretty satisfied with how it turned out. ¬†I’m looking forward to playing in another GP soon. ¬†Bale turned me on to a limited GP in Oklahoma City in October so that’s probably the next step from here.

Did you learn a lot? 

I did. ¬†The most important thing I learned is that I can step my game up when I really need to. ¬†I beat at least a couple guys that have played in pro-tours and I didn’t miss a single suspend trigger until my 15th match of the tournament. ¬†Magic is serious business at GPs and I felt like I actually belonged there.

What was the most memorable part of GP Vegas? 

Probably all of the dreams I crushed and the tears I drank on the way to making day 2 of the biggest TCG tournament of all time!

 

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FNM recap: May 21 (Not a GP, but still fun!)

Another good FNM for me. I finished 9th overall. I made a couple play mistakes, but I am still learning!

Another good FNM for me. I finished 9th overall. I made a couple play mistakes, but I am still learning! Also… there are probably circumstances when attacking with your creatures after they get -1/-1 would be OK. It just didn’t work our for me on Friday. ūüėõ¬†

So even though most of my close friends at my LGS were not going to be there, I still ventured out to FNM. And I’m glad I did: I continued my streak of getting packs. I got 9th last week, so I only got two packs. My record was 4-2, which could be good enough for Top 8 depending on my tie-breakers… I just got unlucky. Oh well.

When I got there, I was very surprised that there were so many people: We had enough to go six rounds, like normal. My draft was really strong, even though I chose the risky route of drafting an RTR guild.

My first pick was Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch, Rakdos’s Legendary Creature. I was really excited about it because even if I couldn’t use her ability often (all creatures you control with +1/+1 counters on them have haste) she is still 4/4 first striker with haste, if you unleash her… and why would you not? My second pick was a Spike Jester, another really good, agressive Rakdos creature. My third pick was a Viashino Firstblade, a very good agressive Boros card. At that point I was thinking I could cut Boros hard and go into B/W/R and just be ridiculously agressive. That didn’t exactly pan out because my fourth and fifth picks were both Carnage Gladiators. Clearly nobody to my right was drafting Rakdos, so ¬†I was fairly certain I’d get a strong third pack. I stuck with drafting Red/Black at that point.

My second pack turned out OK even though I didn’t end up splashing white, which meant no Orzhov or Boros cards. My first pick was a Grisly Spectacle over an Alms Beast. I wasn’t confident I’d get much good white, so I went with one of the best removal spells in the format. I also got a Mugging and a Massive Raid, so Gatecrash was very helpful with my removal. I also got a couple very useful creatures: Shadow Alley Denizen and Foundry Street Denizen; a couple not-so-great creatures: Syndicate Enforcer and Slate Street Ruffian; and one of my favorite cards: Gift of Orzhova. So even though I wasn’t in a Gatecrash guild, the pack still worked out very well. I also got a Five-alarm Fire really late, which I could have played, but ended up not knowing what to take out of my main deck for it…

The RTR pack ended up being solid, thank goodness. I first-picked a Cryptborn Horror, which actually turned out to be fairly good for me (I didn’t cast it for anything smaller than a 4/4 all night). My second pick was an Ash Zealot, so the person to my right was definitely NOT in red, which was awesome. (I love Ash Zealots.) I got a couple unleashed creatures (every one I could), Perilous Shadow, a Rakdos Ragemutt, a Goblin Rally and a Deviant Glee. Overall, I was a little creature light (didn’t get as many solid playables as I would have liked), but I had the Goblin Rally and some really agressive creatures, so I was hoping it’d work out.

And, for the most part, it did. My I won my first match 2-0, despite a fairly close first game (the lifelink on the Ragemutt saved my butt!) and a pretty big misplay in the second game. My opponent blocked a couple of my creatures, and instead of using Weapon Surge to give them first strike, I let them trade. I was far enough ahead it didn’t really matter, but I made a note of it so I didn’t do it again.

My second match was a less-than-favorable almost mirror match. Except my opponent was splashing white, so he had a bunch of extort and several really good removal spells. I was happy when he misplayed his Auger Spree, though. He tried to use it on my Perilous Shadow, and in response I just pumped him up. He asked if he could take it back, but he was in the middle of winning game two, so I was not about to let him do it. (Actually, I really didn’t like playing this guy… something about his attitude really ¬†bugged me. That and he shuffled my deck very carelessly, so I was worried about him breaking my sleeves!) Oh well, on to match three.

I dominated match three. I played a turn two¬†Gore-House Chainwalker, turn three Deviant Glee and got him for five and then he didn’t play a blocker, so I got him down to 10. At that point I figured I’d go ahead and add Gift of Orzhova into the mix. He couldn’t do anything about it, so I won that game fairly quickly. I don’t remember exactly what I got out in game two, but it was over very fast as well.

Match four was a close one. It went to game three, and I almost had him. I actually was certain I was going to win. I had my Shadow Alley Denizen on board, along with my Spike Jester,¬†Grim Roustabout, Perilous Shadow and a 4/4 Cryptborn Horror. He was at 13, and had swung with all but one of his creatures leaving him pretty open to a lethal attack if I could get my intimidate to go off. I played my Exava, and in response he cast the Loss half of Profit//Loss. That killed my Denizen and my Spike Jester and made all my creatures smaller (except Exava). I went ahead and attacked anyway, but missed lethal by 2. He had nine power on board and I was at 11, so I thought I was safe. Unfortunately, I forgot about bloodrush. It was a pretty heartbreaking loss, but it was a good match, so I can’t be too upset.

I won my next two matched 2-0. The most notable game out of those two was the first game of my last match. I played a turn two Chainwalker and a turn three Ash Zealot, so I got in for five right away. He didn’t cast a creature the next turn, so I got in for five again and was able to cast my Cryptborn Horror as a 5/5 during my second mainphase. He scooped after he was unable to come up with an answer. It was very satisfying.

I was very happy with my night. I wish I’d been able to Top 8 again, but Top 12 is still pretty awesome. I have enough packs to draft my final DGM-GTC-RTR draft in a couple weeks (I’m missing next week and tomorrow is pick-a-pack again… where did June go?!?). I’m looking forward to a new format, but I’m kind of bummed I’ll only get to draft this set one more time… I feel like everything is finally clicking!

Hopefully pick-a-pack goes well, though. I feel like I can use all the stuff I learned over the weekend watching the GP to my favor somehow… Plus I’ve been able to play a little with the MM cards now, so I think that will help in the sense that I’m not always playing the RTR block. I guess we’ll see!

All for now,
Bale

GP Vegas: From the outside.

From the #GPVegas twitter stream. So many people!

From the #GPVegas twitter stream. So many people!

The biggest Magic: The Gathering tournament ever. The biggest trading card tournament ever. And the first GP I watched coverage of online.

As I mentioned on my last post, several of my close friends from my LGS attended GP Vegas. I probably bugged them a lot with all of my texts, but I’d be damned if I didn’t hear how they were doing. ¬†And after doing my girly things on Saturday (seeing Emma Watson’s new movie and going shopping) I got home, tuned into the online coverage and went into full nermaid mode.

I only stopped when my friends arrived for game night, close to midnight (they all work late). And that still probably counts as nerdmaid mode, now that I think about it. (Settlers of Catan!)

I’d never really gotten into the whole online coverage for magic; I didn’t see how it could be THAT entertaining. But boy, was I proven wrong. I tuned in as they were explaining the archetypes of Modern Masters, and was immediately hooked. I’d drafted Modern Masters once, when a guy at my LGS had a box he needed to open, but I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. ¬†But through watching the coverage, I learned I’d actually drafted one of the archetypes of Modern Masters: R/W Giants. Imagine that!

When they finally showed an actual match, I felt like I sort of had an idea of what was going on. Plus, the commentators were actually really good at explaining what was happening. When a card came into play that was really interesting, they’d show it on screen, and I looked up a lot of cards on my own as well so I could understand what the plays and decisions made. I learned more about Modern Masters watching the coverage of the GP than I thought I ever would.

Paired with that, I was also getting text updates from my buddies actually in Vegas. It sounded like they were having a blast, and I was insanely jealous. But I was rooting for them as best I could from my futon several states away. And when I found out that my boyfriend, Steve ¬†(whom I met at my first FNM), was on a winning streak, I was so excited I could hardly sit still. After watching the featured match of the round, I’d wait not-so-patiently for an update to hear how everyone was doing. Steve didn’t lose a match until round seven!

Steve ended up 8-1 after day one, qualifying for day two of the largest GP ever. I was incredibly proud. In his seventh round, he was even placed at table 1 of his flight (the tournament was separated into four smaller groups), meaning he had one of the two best records of his group!! And to top that off, it was his first GP ever. But I’ll let him tell more of his story for himself later.

Let’s pause for a sec. In case you didn’t know, GP Vegas was a limited tournament. The first day players got a sealed pool of cards they had to make a deck out of. Players had to have a record of 7-2 or better to make it to day two. On day two all the qualifying players got to participate in two 3-round drafts. So basically it was two days of lots of deck-building and magic-playing greatness. (I would imagine, obviously I don’t know first-hand.)

So anyways, I watched some really good players on the featured matches. It was really interesting watching how they played, and listening to the commentators. I feel like I learned a lot just through observing, so I can only imagine how actually playing would have been.

On day two I got to watch Sam Black and Melissa DeTora draft, which was also very interesting. I also got to watch them both win their first matches after the drafts, so I got to see their decks in action. It was neat following their draft and then getting to see how all their picks ended up working.

Most of the time I ignored the stream chat, but I couldn’t help but notice that a lot of people on the stream chat would complain about having to watch Melissa. I don’t know why, but I actually think it might be because she’s a girl. It seemed like some of the people had an attitude of “oh, we have to watch a girl play… there are so many better choices!”. So lame. But whatever, Melissa still did great, and remains one of my biggest Magic inspirations. Only a handful of girls made day 2, and Melissa ended up 22nd. And for a tournament of 4500 people, that’s awesome.

And for that matter, the whole Top 8 group inspired me. A lot of them hadn’t had any notable Magic achievements. The overall winner, Neal Oliver, actually went into the tournament without any byes (I think most pros had at least three… even a couple guys from my LGS had that many!) and lost his first round. He said he almost dropped! But instead he kept going and ended up winning 15 matches in a row, with an intentional draw into Top 8… it’s just crazy. ¬†It made me feel like there is actually hope for me (or Steve) to make Top 8 at a big tournament and “go pro” with Magic. I’m not sure that’s in the cards, but I’m at least going to attend some GPs… that’s for sure. It seems like such a good time, and a great way to get more Magic experience.

But all I really want to do right now is play some Modern Masters!

All for now,
Bale

FNM recap: June 14 (!!!)

I MADE TOP 4!!! I ended up in third place after playing out the top 8. Before playing out the top 8 I was in second!

I MADE TOP 4!!! I ended up in third place after playing out the top 8. Before playing out the top 8 I was in second!

It’s a little sad it’s taken me this long to report this: I MADE TOP 8! Not only that, but I made top 4.

Yup, after the previous week’s best-night-of-magic-ever FNM, I decided to blow past my personal best and dominate.

It’s been a long week, but as I sit here sipping my margarita after day six of work in row, it’s easy to remember the giddy emotions of last Friday. The tension, the adrenaline, the hopes and most of all: the winning!

It was a rare night of only five rounds at my LGS, and at the end of those rounds I was 4-1. It felt great! There were several high pressure match ups, and the only person I lost to ended up in the top 4 as well.

I’d practiced drafting a couple times throughout the week again, so I think that is really helping. Also, my confidence in my ability to draft this set is just getting stronger and strong and confidence is key.

My draft pod was interesting. We opened A TON of good cards among the eight of us. I picked a Trostani’s Summoner first pick and a Zhur-Taa Druid as my second pick, pretty much thinking along the same lines as last week: I can splash my bomb and still draft my favorite Gatecrash guild.

The plan went splendidly. I got a ton of strong playable creatures in both pack 1 and pack 2. I got some strong removal as well. My deck was turning out to be very similar to the previous week. I didn’t have double MadCap Skills, but I had an Armed//Dangerous, two Disciple of the Old Ways, an Experiment One, a Kraul Warrior, a Rubblebelt Maaka and a Weapon Surge. So I was pretty happy going into pack 3. I’d passed some solid black cards, but picked up a few white cards since I had the Summoner.

Then I opened Rakdos’s Return. Even though it was black, I knew it was the right pick. I’m not actually that familiar with the RTR cards, so I didn’t even know this mythic rare existed, but reading it I knew it could be a HUGE game changer. Pay X and have your opponent lose X life and discard X cards? Yes please. And pack 3 didn’t stop being amazing there: I got a Frostburn Weird, a Splatter Thug, an Annihilating Fire, an Explosive Impact, and an Axebane Guardian.

I didn’t end up playing my Summoner, deciding to splash black for the better bomb. I had the Axebane guardian and two swamps as my black sources. I had a couple guildgates and a cluestone as well, so my mana base was really solid. I was fairly confident going into my first match, even after I saw that it was against one of the best players at my LGS.¬†I’d never played him before, but he Top 8s regularly and has been playing forever.

But that didn’t matter. I crushed him 2-0.

The first game, I curved out really well with my Experiment One, then my Disciple and then my Splatter Thug. I went the super aggressive route. I played my Axebane guardian, which he immediately killed… but I didn’t have Rakdos’s Return in hand anyway. And he just couldn’t handle my super agressive attacks. It was over in five turns, and I was still at 16 life at the end.

Game two was only slightly closer. I had a good start, and he had a better start than the first game, but my super aggressive deck was working to my advantage again. I played out my Axebane Guardian, and he didn’t kill it immediately, which was nice because I did have Rakdos’s Return in hand. I held on to it until I got really hurt him. I ended up playing it with my Axebane guardian and his face was priceless when I tapped it and said “black”. I hadn’t played a single swamp in either game so he had absolutely no idea I had a card like that. I hit him for 6 and he had to discard his entire hand. He was at two life after that, and he didn’t top deck anything really useful. I attacked with all my creatures on my turn, and he blocked two of them and let my Druid go through, so I played Weapon Surge for lethal. It was awesome.

My second match took a long time because he was playing five colors with several extort creatures… and Vraska. Somehow I managed to win even when he got her out game one. I think it was because I had my Druid on board, so he never wanted to leave her at one… and I was playing a creature heavy deck so I didn’t really care when she killed one of my guys. So I pretty much ignored her and just tried to get through to him whenever possible. It eventually worked. Game two went faster. He didn’t get out as many extort creatures and I had my Druid out, so it evened out and my aggressive deck ended up winning.

Match three was my loss. I won one game with Armed//Dangerous, but lost the other two to Voice of Resurgence.

My other matches were pretty fun. I played Match 4 against K, which was hard. She gave me a run for my money with all her life gain and extort. I got paired down for Match 5, which meant I had to play it out for the top 8. No intentional draws for me! That was a high stress match because I knew I had to win to achieve my goal. The first game was super aggressive: I killed him in three turns. The second game was a bit closer. I got him down to 15, and was planning on ending it with a brutal Weapon Surge and Armed// Dangerous combo the next turn, but I played an extra creature first just to be sure. It was a good thing I did, too — he played a ridiculous counter spell that also gave him five life. So he was back at 20 and I was at 12. Awesome. I attacked with all my creatures one time, and he let them through, getting him down to 14 (I had a 4/4 out and a 2/2 and a Druid). I also tapped my Druid for mana, pinging him for 1. I could still go through with my plan on the next turn, so I wasn’t that worried… even when he played Trostani’s Summoner on his end. I attacked with everything, fused Armed// Dangerous and then cast Weapon Surge on my 4/4. That made it a 6/6 with double strike, so it hit him for 12 and my 2/2 got through as well, ending the game.

I was stoked. I ended the normal 5 rounds in second place! One person wanted to play it out though, so I ended up having to play two more matches. And if I lost my first top 8 match, I’d walk away with only three packs, despite a top 8 finish. I was determined to get more packs than that — I finished SECOND for goodness sakes. But man, I was tired. (Even writing this, I feel tired!)

The first top 8 match went into game 3, and I almost lost it. I played Rakdos’s Return a bit too early, and lost my blockers, so he was able to hit me for six twice in a row. I had Armed// Dangerous and Weapon Surge in my hand, but no creature on board. I was almost ready to give up… but then I top decked Traitorous Instinct, which was perfect. He had attacked with all his creatures to ge me to 1 life. All of them were two power creatures, so I stole one and the Instinct gave it +2/+0 and then I cast just Armed, giving it another +1/+1 and double strike. He was at 6, so luckily, it was lethal.

The next match was over quite quickly. I was playing an even more aggressive deck. I think I had him in game 2, and probably should have called a judge over, but it was late and I was happy with getting five packs. I should have called a judge because when I cast Rakdos’s Return for four, he discarded his whole hand (four cards). His friend watching asked “why’d you do that??” and he said because the card says so. But then he paused, and realized he could respond by playing his Boros Charm and hitting me for four, which made his next attack lethal. If I’d called a judge, I would have said he got outside coaching. But at the end of the night, I was still incredibly proud of myself.

It was really cool having two of my best FNMs back to back. Maybe tomorrow night I’ll get first!!

It’s actually not outside the realm of possibility because of how many people at my LGS who will be gone. They’re all going to GP Vegas, and I’m pretty jealous. I’m not jealous of the people road-tripping out there… It’s a 20+ hour drive for us. But I am jealous that they’ll be able to be part of the largest MTG tournament ever. And maybe even the biggest Trading Card Tournament ever.

If I didn’t have a day job, I probably would have gone. Not that I even know how to draft Modern Masters… but it still would have been fun.

So to all you guys out there at GP Vegas: Good Luck!! But the guys from my LGS will kick your butts ūüėČ

All for now,
Bale

FNM recap: June 7… Finally, top 12.

First picked Putrefy, which definitely helped me out all night, even though I ended up having to splash black for it. Worth it.

First picked Putrefy, which definitely helped me out all night, even though I ended up having to splash black for it. Worth it.

Guys, I did it. I finally got top 12 again. And since there were 45 participants in the tournament (yup, 45!), I got a whole draft set, and not just two packs. (Normally places 9-12 only get two “pity packs”.) Basically, it was my best night of Magic so far. Eleventh out of 45 is not too shabby, I’d say.

I’m really proud of myself, and it definitely helped that everything came together in draft. I ended up with really good removal, strong creatures and some really good bombs. I first-picked a Putrefy, and second picked a Zhur-Taa Druid. After picking the druid I quickly switched into Gruul so I could send signals to my left and hopefully get strong Gruul in the Gatecrash draft. And I did. I ended up with two Madcap Skills, one right after another. I also got two Scorchwalkers and a Disciple of the Old Ways. One of my last picks of Gatecrash was actually a Rubblehulk, which was awesome when I got it out. I picked a smaller creature over it the first time around because I was aiming to be more aggressive, but I am very glad it tabled. My Ravnica picks were also strong. I’m not as familiar with those cards, but when an Ash Zealot came to me fourth or fifth pick, I definitely grabbed that. I also got a Rubbleback Rhino, a Slime Molding and Annihilating Fire. I could go on … I really like all the cards in my deck, so check out the decklist!

I was really stoked going into the first match. I knew that if I could get one of my strong two-drops, like Ash Zealot, and immediately get Madcap Skills on it, I would be in good shape. And that’s exactly what happened the first game. I got my Disciple out turn two, and Madcap Skills turn three. After hitting my opponent for five that turn, I got a little overexcited for my next attack and bloodrushed with a Scorchwalker right away. My opponent responded by preventing all damage that turn. Oh well, I had another one in my hand, which I was able to successfully play to the face the following attack phase. At this point, my opponent had taken 15, so on his turn he Supreme Verdicts my one creature. Luckily, I had a Slime Molding and plenty of mana to cast it. He conceded when it hit the board.

Game two started off in a very similar fashion, but with an Ash Zealot and Madcap Skills. I also played another creature out, so when he Supreme Verdicted that game, it was enough to stop me. He had a couple fliers out, and I couldn’t deal with them, so eventually he won. He had answers to all my removal, and I couldn’t get get my big dudes out. I’d even sided in my one reach creature, Archweaver, and had it in my hand but didn’t have the mana to play it.

So we went on to game three, which started off a bit slow for me. That allowed him to gather momentum and fliers and I just couldn’t ever get back in the game. My first match was kind of a bust; I was thwarted by tempo and Supreme Verdict, but I didn’t let it get me down. I went into the second match with high hopes.

My hopes came true when I thoroughly stomped my next opponent 2-0. He didn’t really even have a chance. Game one I got Madcap Skills on my Gore-House Chainwalker, and he got pretty mana screwed. Game two I got a two drop with Madcap skills and got him down low before he could double block, and then when he could, I got another creature out and attacked with both and bloodrushed the unblocked for lethal. It was really fun.

I lost the first game of match three because my opponent was playing a strong Orzhov deck with a Tithe Drinker and other strong extort cards. I didn’t have much of a chance when he got above 25 life. Game two started off with me keeping a hand with a Putrefy and the mana to play it, my¬†Annihilating¬†Fire and some late drops. In a perfect world, it would have totally worked. Turn 2, he plays his Tithe Drinker, so turn 3 I Putrefy it. I didn’t have any creatures out, and didn’t want its extort and lifelink to give him a massive head start. Then his turn 3 he played Pack Rat, and I didn’t have the double red to cast Annihilating Fire. I didn’t concede right away, but ultimately ended up losing to an army of ¬†Pack Rats. Had I known he had Pack Rat, I would have held on to that Putrefy until it showed up, but unfortunately I’m not¬†omniscient. (That’d probably give me an unfair advantage anyway…)

The rest of my matches were pretty much like match 2 in that I won all of them 2-0. Some highlights:

  • I got both my Madcap Skills out at one time.
  • I got both my Rubblehulk and a huge Ooze token from a Slime Molding out on the battlefield at once.
  • I managed to Weapon Surge when my creature with Madcap Skills on it would have died, and killed both of my opponents creatures.
  • I used Traitorous Instinct to make my creature with Madcap skills unblockable.
  • My Druid helped me get my bigger creatures out reliably, which was great.
  • Overall domination!

I was really happy when I won three matches in a row without losing a game. I’d never been on that end of the spectrum, and it was incredibly gratifying.

For me, my night signaled that all my practice over the last few months has been worth it. I’m not going to expect to go 4-2 from now on, but it’s definitely encouraging. I know I can actually do it now, and the first time I got top 12¬†probably wasn’t actually a fluke. My night on Friday showed me that I am actually getting better, but Magic just takes practice.

In preparation for FNM, I ¬†did a couple online drafts with a friend, and several mock drafts on¬†bestiaire, which really helped me get the hang of drafting DGM-GTC-RTR. I’ve heard that this set is actually fairly difficult for new players to draft, which I could see. So I decided to practice more! I always play with my draft deck throughout the week after FNM, which has helped actual playing skills get much better, so I decided to apply that logic to practicing draft. And it seems to have paid off.

I’m definitely not going to stop practicing now… I want to start making top 12 more often, and hopefully make top 8 sometime soon! It’d be awesome if I could do it during this set, too. I guess time will tell. For now, I’ll just bask in the glory of my free draft set.

What was your most memorable FNM experience? I’d love to hear some of your stories!¬†

All for now,
Bale

FNM recap: May 31… Pick a pack makes my brain hurt.

Pick a Pack means lots of random cards… I had cards from Time Spiral, Mercadian Masks, Planar Chaos, Prophecy and more!

Pick a Pack means lots of random cards… I had cards from Time Spiral, Mercadian Masks, Planar Chaos, Prophecy and more!

I’ve only drafted pick a pack a couple times, including my first draft ever. The last time I did pick a pack I went 3-2, so I was pretty happy with it. I went 2-3-1 on Friday, and my deck was weird. It had lots of weird interactions, and cards from a wide variety of sets.

The draft itself was a bit janky. I opened Gatecrash-Dragons Maze-M13, and first picked an Orzhov Charm over a Simic Manipulator. My reasoning: Simic isn’t strong in the format it belongs to, so I didn’t know how it’d work out with all the random sets and I didn’t want to pick it and then end up with a weak deck. And the Orzhov Charm is very good removal, which is very important in limited. My Dragon’s Maze pack was not all that exciting, so I think I ended up picking a Tithe Drinker. To be honest, though, I don’t really remember. And I really don’t remember what I picked from my M13 pack (maybe I should start writing these things down…). But there were so many random packs at my table I felt a little overwhelmed. My strategy during the draft was just focusing on reading the black and white cards and passing the rest on. I ended up with some really good removal: the Charm, Doom Blade and a mass removal spell called Wave of Reckoning. I also ended up with some really strong creatures, as well as some just weird ones. I had a card that dealt poison counters, one that got spore counters, a card with flanking, a card with suspend and even one with exalted. It is pretty awkward. And my deck plays that way too.

I ended up 2-3-1, but most of my matches were fairly close and intense. My first match only went to game two. I lost the first one, but my opponent wasn’t able to kill me in time, so it ended up with her winning the match 1-0-1. ¬†Awkward. My second match was over fairly quickly because my opponent got mana screwed. I also won my third match, but I couldn’t tell you much about it other than that my deck performed really well, using all its weird abilities to ¬†work in my favor. My fourth match was the draw — I won game 1, he won game 2 and then we couldn’t finish game 3. I was OK with it though, because my opponent was a guy that always seems to put me on tilt. I don’t know what it is, but his play style really bothers me. And somehow he’d beaten me in every matchup, except for that one. I’m taking it as a sign that I’m able to control my emotions a little more now. Or I’m just getting better. I’m happy with either one, though.

I lost the last two, which was a disappointing end to the night, but I think I ¬†just lost a lot of steam towards the end. My brain hurt from reading all my opponent’s cards and trying not to forget my various triggers. Unfortunately, I forgot them more than I’d like to admit. I forgot my Blood Seeker trigger¬†in my first match and it may have lost me the first game: I had her down to 1 and I was at 3 when she top decked a Spark Trooper for the win. It was incredibly frustrating.

But the night was definitely ¬†good FNM. I brought a friend with me who was visiting from Bath, England. Even though he didn’t really play much Magic before the draft I wanted him to see what I do with my Friday nights. And luckily, he had a good time. He won a match and drew a match as well, making his first FNM more successful than mine. And my friend K (who I’ve mentioned before as my #1 fan) did AMAZING and got 4th place. I might be a little jealous, but I’m definitely proud.

I’m excited to get back to drafting Dragon’s Maze this week, though, that’s for sure.

All for now,
Bale