Nine confidence boosters.

My sealed spoils.

My sealed spoils.

This weekend was full of Magic: The Gathering. I drafted, I played sealed and I drafted some more. I participated in two sanctioned tournaments: FNM (as usual) and the Release Day Sealed for Theros. I also did a team draft with my play group, a few of which are joining me next weekend in Oklahoma City for the Grand Prix. That means I played a total of a whopping 15 rounds of MTG over the weekend. I’d love to go over them all in detail, but I don’t have the time or patience to write that many recaps. That, and because I played so many matches, a lot of them are blurring together.

Friday Night Magic

The Draft

Drafting Theros was a bit awkward because nobody really knew what they were doing. It took a lot longer than normal because we were all reading the cards and evaluating them for what could easily be the first time. Not only did we have to decide whether the card would be useful in our deck, we also had to decide whether the card was good in general.

My first pick was the Akroan Horse, which I had to read several times and ask the judge to make sure it did what I thought it did before picking it. And because it was an artifact, I didn’t have a clear idea of what colors I would be. Green seemed open, with LOTS of good cards in it, so the next couple picks were green, with a couple red cards sprinkled in. But when I saw a really late Nimbus Naiad, I decided to switch into blue. It had seemed fairly open, but there was usually a green card I wanted more, so I was happy to make the jump. I ended up drafting what seemed to be a really strong U/G deck. It had a good curve — things to do early AND things to do late — but it didn’t really have any crazy bombs. (For the record, I still haven’t opened a God or one of their equipments, but I’m not too torn up about it.) I had a couple monstrous creatures, a couple of great bestow cards and even two Staunch-Hearted Warriors that brought in the heroic mechanic. I was pretty confident going into the matches, but I really didn’t know how things would go.

The Matches (final record, 3-3) 

My first match was really fun. It was a mirror match, but I came out on top. The first game came down to one turn — if I didn’t finish the job on my turn, he was going to on his. Luckily, I top-decked my Nimbus Naiad and gave my guy flying for the alpha strike. Game two went to my opponent, but it was also a good game. The third game was pretty much an epic beat down. I played turn one scorpion, turn two Ordeal of Nylea and attack for two, turn three another Ordeal of Nylea and attack for four (which he blocked and traded) and put FOUR tapped lands into play. On turn four I untapped, played land for turn and had eight lands in play. I played my 5/5 Nemesis of Mortals, passed the turn and then triggered monstrous on my turn and had a 10/10 creature attacking on turn five. Hardly fair, but awesome.

The rest of my matches were not so memorable, although most of them were really close and went to game three. One of them went to time while I was playing an opponent with Elspeth and Triad of Fates. It went all the way to turn five, but he was able to kill me in the end. It was pretty sad, but at least I put up a good fight. My other two losses were to black decks running Mogis’ Marauder, which turns out to be pretty bomb-like at uncommon. It was frustrating, but at least I know to value that card highly if I’m drafting black!

At the end of the night I was slightly disappointed, but 3-3 isn’t a terrible record for the first draft of a set. I was annoyed that Theros seems to be dictated by bombs, and I didn’t have any, but as the set goes on I think that will change. People will figure out the archetypes and not rely on the rare they pulled to finish the game. But one thing is definitely certain: if your match goes long, you better have a good late-game plan or else you will probably lose.

The Release

Unlike the prerelease last week, we didn’t get any color-seeded packs, and nobody got guaranteed bombs due to promo cards. We all just got the normal six boosters to build with.

I was much luckier with my pulls on Saturday than I was at the prerelease. I got several of playable rares that were in colors that my pool was able to support. I knew I needed to play black — I had Hythonia the Cruel and Thoughseize as my rares and a lot of strong uncommons and commons. I also really wanted to play white because I had Celestial Archon. I had a two good multicolor rares, too: Anax and Cymede and Daxos of Meletis, and some fairly strong green cards.

Initially, I just wanted to go straight white black. Those were obviously my strongest colors, and I was confident I had a decent deck with just those. I did have some fixing, though, so I could splash for a third color if I wanted. A friend suggested I splash green because he saw a few strong cards he thought were playable. So for the first round I took his advice, but it didn’t really work out too well. My opponent beat me pretty easily. I was kind of annoyed, but my opponent was a really strong player — one of the guys at my LGS that just doesn’t seem to make mistakes. He asked if he could look at my pool (he didn’t see why I was playing green) and I let him.

Now, I know I’m going to have to build my own deck this weekend, but it was really helpful hearing his opinions. We ended up changing my deck to splash blue instead of green. We put in a Nimbus Naiad, Daxos and Horizon Scholar instead of my green cards and then swapped out a couple of my other not-so-strong cards for a couple Returned Phalax to help me get to my super awesome late game. The changes also smoothed out my curve a lot. (I realized I’d sorted my pool by color, creatures and non-creature spells, but had never actually laid it out to check my curve and it was pretty terrible.) The guy helping me explained exactly why he thought the changes were good, and I definitely agree. The blue was much, much stronger than the green. He did say that my pool was a tough one to build,  but I think what we ended up with was really great. So moving forward, I was really excited to test my deck.

And it ROCKED. I won the rest of my matches, and drew into the top eight. I played the guy I drew with for fun, and beat him, too. I beat a couple people playing the Bow of Nylea, one of whom also got Thassa out at the same time… but it didn’t really help him. In game three of round five my opponent had answers to almost everything I played, but I had so many strong creatures that eventually my deck just got there.

Throughout the day I was careful to keep my head in the game. I kept my focus because I knew that even though my deck was strong, I still needed to play well to back it up. I thought through my decisions, especially about bestow creatures, carefully to decide what needed to happen at that particular point in the game. Every game is different, and just because one thing worked against one opponent, doesn’t mean it will work the same way in all the matches.

The top eight decided not to play it out, but that was fine with me. I got NINE boosters, which is a full three playsets of packs for draft! I’ve never had that many in my stash at once, and I’m happy to be starting Theros off on an upswing. I needed the confidence boost. And as if those weren’t enough, cue the draft I did with my playgroup…

Draft for fun/ GP prep

I opened a Stormbreath Dragon in pack one, which sent me straight into red. Luckily, the only other red drafter was on the opposite side of the table. I picked blue as my second color pretty early and took all the fliers I saw and a lot of scry cards. I picked up two Spellheart Chimeras pretty late, which I almost cut during deck building, but ended up keeping in because of my high number of instants and sorceries. Plus I had other ways to beef them, too. The deck ended up being fairly aggressive — I had two Ordeals (Thassa and Purphorous) and a low curve, plus solid creatures. I wasn’t ever depending on Stormbreath to come out and save me; the times I played him I was already far enough ahead he was just a finisher.

The matched were awesome. My playgroup is full of really strong players — I’m definitely the one with the least MTG experience — but I didn’t lose a single game. We were all playing each other, and I “won” the draft after going 3-0. My fourth opponent chose not to play me — it was getting late and we all wanted to head out, but still, the draft left my overall record for the day at 8-1.

That would get me to day two of GP Oklahoma City!

I’m stoked for this coming weekend, and I plan to post lots of updates on Twitter and a few on Facebook, so follow me there if you want live-action reports!

All for now,
Bale

What do you do to prepare for big tournaments? Any tips?

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A dramatic turnaround: From jinxing myself to success.

I took a week off posting because I was frustrated, worn out and annoyed with Magic. I even debated taking the week off of FNM, too. M14 has not been easy for me, and I have a couple theories about why.

The first is the logical explanation: I’m still a new player and I learned to draft in a super fast format (RTR block) and M14 is super slow. The pace of the format changes a lot of things, including card evaluation and knowing which decks will actually be successful. In RTR, I had the best success with really fast decks. In M14, the format is more geared toward the late game, and it’s taken me pretty much the whole time to figure out how to build a decent draft deck for that. M14 is also the first mono-colored block I’ve played in, so that changes things a bit, too. So, logically, being a new player made the transition to a new set of cards harder for me.

The second is more emotional. I’d had a bad time from the start of the set, which was hard because I had just tasted some amount of routine success. I’d top 8’d a few times and really understood how to draft RTR, and even pick a pack. And everyone told me that I wouldn’t have a problem with M14: Core sets are meant for beginners, so it will be easy. But it wasn’t, so I felt like I failed. And for several weeks I was really hard on myself. Because of that, I think I kind of jinxed myself. I had an expectation that I would do poorly, so I did. Even last week: I started out 2-0 and then lost every single other match. It sucked, and it made me realize I needed to change something.

So I took the week off from posting. I knew posting a recap would make me relive it, and frustrate me even more, so I just didn’t. And then I had a three days off from work so I treated myself to a few days of relaxing and regeneration. I watched a lot of “Charmed”, read a lot and didn’t watch any MTG streams or listen to any MTG podcasts. I hardly even looked at the Theros spoilers or Reddit. And so by Friday, while I wasn’t exactly STOKED to play M14, I felt ready for a fresh try.

And guess what?? I got FIRST PLACE!!!

That’s right, after weeks of sucking ass, I pulled it together, used my brain to draft well and play well and it paid off. And it felt AMAZING. Even better: I played it out for the foil, AND WON. So I have my first hard-earned FNM promo foil to show for a great night of MTG. It’s icing on the cake that it’s an Experiment One, which is one of my favorite cards.

So, without further ado, here’s my recap for September 13. (Apparently Friday the Thirteenth is lucky for me?)

YEAH FOIL! First time winning the match for the foil, and first time making legit first place.

YEAH FOIL! First time winning the match for the foil, and first time making legit first place.

THE DRAFT

Pack One — I first-picked a Sengir Vampire over my rare, a Grim Return. A 4/4 flier for five with upside is just too good to pass. Plus I like black in M14; I think it’s strong and has a lot of good cards. From there, I second-picked a Barrage of Expendables because there wasn’t much else in the pack and if I decided to draft the B/R sacrifice deck it’d be good. I third-picked an Ajani’s Chosen. I felt it was early enough to build around if I wanted and I already had one enchantment. But I wasn’t convinced — I didn’t want to start picking not-so-strong cards because of one strong one. So I spent the rest of the pack picking up the best red and black cards, with the occasional white card. But when I got a really late Divination, I started picking up some blue, too. I didn’t really have a solid game plan, but with cards like Sengir Vampire, Gnawing Zombie and Liturgy of Blood, I was pretty sure I wanted to be in black at least.

Pack Two — I was rewarded for sticking with black by opening a Lifebane Zombie, so I was pretty stoked for that. My second color was picked for me by the person to my left passing me an Ogre Battledriver for my second pick. I had some strong cards in red already, so it just solidified my plan. From there I picked up a fairly late Young Pyromancer, a Molten Birth, a couple Act of Treasons and an Academy Raider to help my red.

Pack Three — I don’t remember what I opened or took for my last first pick, but I think it might have been a Flames of the Firebrand because I needed more removal. I do remember that I finally was able to pick up a Corpse Hauler, got my Corrupt, a Marauding Maulhorn and my second Barrage of Expendables in that pack, though. I also picked up a Darksteel Ingot in case I wanted to splash some blue, a Child of Night and a Nightwing Shade. Nothing too spicy, but all things that were very helpful in my deck.

I ended up running just a straight-up R/B deck, and when Steve saw it he said there was no reason I shouldn’t get top 8 if I played well. He said something along the lines of ‘just don’t make stupid mistakes and you’ll get there’. So I was pretty happy going into the matches.

Check out the complete deck here.

THE MATCHES (Final record: 4-1)

Unfortunately, I wasn’t anticipating doing as well as I did, so I did not take notes, but I’ll do my best from my life totals and memory.

Match One (2-1) — I started off the night with a strong game in my first match. I kept a pretty fast hand and quickly started the race by playing Child of Night and immediately putting Lightening Talons on it. My opponent was playing a B/G deck though, and was able to put Troll Hide on his Rumbling Baloth to shut that down. It came down to an old fashioned race, but I was so far ahead it didn’t end up well for my opponent. His deck worked much better for him in game two — I kept a pretty slow hand, and he curved out very well. I got my Barrage out, which was the only way I dealt him damage the whole time. He was racing, and I didn’t get any good creatures to block, so I’d chump and then sacrifice my creatures, hoping to stay in the game long enough to pull something good. The next game was basically the same, but in reverse. I curved out well and he played two Dark Prophecies and only a couple creatures. After the match, my opponent

Match Two (0-2) — My only match loss of the night was to a U/W deck that was super tempo-y and had all the answers. I had a great start game one — I got my Battledriver out and everything — but eventually my opponent was able to deal with it and pretty much every other creature I tried to play, or even got on board. To top it off, her top end was complete with an Air Servant and a Serra Angel. Oh well. I had to mulligan game two, and I kept a hand that I thought could get there, but never did. It was unfortunate, but it happens. She ended up getting 9th place, so she obviously had a decent deck, too.

Match Three (2-1) — I actually started off the round by losing my first game. My opponent was running R/W slivers, but neither of us hit anything really nuts. He was able to kill me because the only creature I drew the whole time was my Maulhorn. I even Lightening Talon’d it up, but couldn’t win the race because by the time I got it out, he was too far ahead. But it was close — he ended the game at three life. Game two was also close. A well-timed Corrupt swung the race in my favor and I was able to win. Game three was kind of unfortunate for my opponent — he had to mulligan down to five, and didn’t really stand a chance against my hand if I drew a third land, which I immediately did. I had Barrage, a Blur Sliver and a couple Act of Treasons to start and I stole, attacked with and sacrificed everything he got out. It was hardly fair, but felt good anyway.

Match Four (2-0) — This match was fun. My opponent was playing a U/W deck with Jace in it, which I knew going in. I was only slightly intimidated, but knew if I got the cards I needed, I would be OK. In game one he managed to set up quite the defense — a Wall of Frost and an Angelic Wall — but my Academy Raider and Barrage were able to get through. He got Jace out and milled me twice, but because of that I was able to use my Corpse Hauler to get back my Sengir Vampire and kill Jace before he was able to mill me out completely. He shut down the Sengir with Pacifism before I was able to kill him outright, but I was able to sacrifice that and the other creatures he’d enchanted to my Barrage and killed him with three cards left in my library. Game two was a bit more grindy than game one. He set up another massive defense with two Wall of Frosts, but I had my Raider again and was able to get damage through slowly. I was able to two-for-one him with Flames, so that helped get some early damage through, but that was all reversed when he put Divine Favor on his Griffin Sentinel. I got my Sengir out eventually, and was able to make some headway — he didn’t block with his Sentinal once, and that put him in range of just pure burn range — I had Barrage and Gnawing Zombie out, so I was able to sac all my creatures to deal him four damage to end the game.

Match Five (2-1) — Going into this match, my opponent offered the intentional draw into top 8. I would probably have made it, but there was a chance I’d be knocked out if we didn’t, so I decided to play it out. My opponent was also nice enough to say that if things started going badly for me, he’d offer the draw again. (I think he knew how much of a big deal getting top 8 would be, and he usually gets it when he plays.) But I’m glad I played it out — it was an epic match against a really good player, and I’m proud I was able to win. Game one wasn’t looking too good for me — he was winning the race, and I didn’t have many answers for his fliers. He was playing blue, with Opportunity and a lot of counters. I saved my ass by killing one of his fliers with Corrupt while he was tapped out — that took me from two life to six. I had Barrage on Board, so I was really hoping to pull an Act of Treason to turn things around. I had a couple other removal spells that helped me stay alive, and he was at six life as well. When he played his Sengir Vampire, I thankfully top-decked my Act of Treason and was able to sacrifice it. I won by sacrificing three creatures to Barrage and killing him. It was awesome. Game two wasn’t so great. I started off OK, but he played Rod of Ruin, which just killed me. A lot of the creatures I played that game were 1-toughness, and everytime I got something out he was all NOPE, gonna kill that before it can even block. I sided in Demolish, just for that game three. I didn’t end up needing it, though, because I got out my Sengir on time and had other creatures to back him up. I even put Lightening Talons on it, so all my opponents fliers turned into chump blockers. (I forgot to put counters on my Sengir though… oops.) Apparently I could have killed him a turn earlier by taking advantage of my sacrifice outlets more, though: I’d played a Blur Sliver, but I could have sacrificed my creatures to my Barrage and Gnawing Zombie instead and killed him. I was at six life at the end, so my opponent said there could have been a way for him to get back in the game after I didn’t kill him when I had the chance. Luckily that didn’t happen though. It was a good match, and when I told the judge I won, his response was “Really? That’s awesome, [my opponent] is really good, this is a top 8 you should be proud of.”

And I was really proud. It was a really good feeling and when I played for the foil, I felt confident in myself and my deck. That match went well, too. It was slow and grindy, but I still won. Observers pointed out that I could have been more aggressive with my attacks because of my Barrage, which probably would have been smart. But I still won, so I’m not too worried. It’s definitely something to keep in mind though. Just because going slow is working, doesn’t mean it’s going to win the match — the more draw steps you give your opponent, the more chances you give them to get back in the game.

I got lucky that my opponents never did. But my success wasn’t due to luck, it was due to playing well, drafting well and trusting myself. I am a good Magic player, so I just have to remember that. Confidence — not cockiness — is key. Good luck is just a bonus. (And fun fact: I actually lost most of my die rolls all night, and only got Molten Birth back to my hand a couple times.)

All for now,
Bale

What are your biggest lessons from misplays? Have you ever thrown a game because you didn’t just win when you could?

I finally tried standard FNM, folks.

For my first standard FNM, I played a Selesnya token deck, with a black splash. (Mainly for the lingering souls.)

For my first standard FNM, I played a Selesnya token deck, with a black splash. (Mainly for the lingering souls.)

This won’t be a normal recap because I didn’t have my normal FNM draft experience. Despite top 8’ing July’s pick-a-pack, I decided to forgo August’s in favor of finally trying standard at FNM. I’d found a deck I liked online (Travis Woo’s Supertoken deck), and one of my friends at my LGS helped me build something similar. I only actually played with the deck for one quick game before the tournament started, so not only was it the first standard tournament I’d entered, I didn’t really have any practice playing with my deck. I felt very out of my element.

THE DECK 

I had a lot of fun playing my version of the token deck. I don’t have the full decklist, unfortunately, and I’m not so familiar with it I can rattle it off by heart, but I can tell you a few key players. Its power comes from Collective Blessing and Intangible Virtue, powerful enchantments to make my tokens more beefy. I ran Lingering Souls, Call of the Conclave, Midnight Haunting, Advent of the Wurm, Gather the Townsfolk and Increasing Devotion as my main token generators. I also had Selesnya Charms in there and other cards like Rootborn Defenses to help protect them. I only ran a few actual creatures: Sublime Archangel, Trostani and Mikaeus. I also had Gavony Townships to make my tokens stronger. I felt pretty good going into the matches because  in the one game I did play with the deck before the tournament I absolutely smashed the aristocrats deck. I got two Intangible Virtues on board with an Advent of the Wurm and then played Trostani and populated. It was awesome. Turns out two 7/7 tramplers can just win games.

I was excited because I thought my deck could do some really awesome things, but I was also nervous. I’m not a regular standard player, so I had no idea what to expect. Except that everyone would probably side in Ratchet Bomb against me, if possible.

THE TOURNAMENT (Overall record: 1-4) 

Round one (0-2) — I got stomped by a very talented player and an awesome Jund deck. I didn’t really have a chance. The first game he got out his Huntmaster, and it almost immediately flipped. I survived for a couple of turns, but not long. Game two, I started off a bit better. But when he played his Olivia on curve and I didn’t have a single answer, it was pretty much game over then, too. Like I said, I got STOMPED. But it wasn’t really a good matchup for my deck, and I learned that the sheer power of standard decks is higher than that of limited decks. I kind of knew that going in, but it didn’t really hit me until that match.

Round two (2-1) — My only match win! I was up against a fairly strong sliver deck. I won game one through careful defensive strategies and patience while I assembled a large token army. He had curved out really well and had the sliver that gave his guys flying, two Predatory Slivers, the Bonescythe Sliver and the one that gives all his slivers vigilance. I didn’t do much attacking — I had and Intangible Virtue out, and was slowly building an army of spirit tokens. I was able to whittle down his forces through mostly defensive plays and careful trades. I started sending in my centaur token after I played another Intangible Virtue, offering some good trades. And when I played my Advent of the Wurm, things swung in my favor. He’d locked up the air, but I forced him to deal with my Wurm token with trample, which knocked out enough of his slivers I was able to finally get through. Games two and three weren’t as good or as skill-intensive. I just wasn’t able to keep up with his slivers game two. I missed a couple land drops and he killed my enchanment, so my tokens were weenie. Plus all his slivers were flying, and I just wasn’t able to get enough spirit tokens to make a difference. Game three was great for me — I got plenty of tokens and a wurm right away, and he had no responses…. but that was because he kept a one-land hand and wasn’t able to draw the second in time to stabilize.

Round three (1-2) — I want to start by saying I’m really proud of how I played in this match, despite some misplays. But as many people pointed out to me, FNM is where you need to make those mistakes, so you can learn from them and not make them at bigger tournaments. That said, the first game was not close. I had a GREAT start, but was soon just crushed by Supreme Verdict and was never able to recover. He got out a Jace, Architect of Thought, and I couldn’t avoid it ultimating so my opponent was able to play my own Trostani and his Aetherling, and it was game over. Game two was much better. I started by making a few spirit tokens and then immediately following those with my Sublime Archangel. I also had Gavony Township on board, which I could have used to pump my guys. Instead, though, I just sent the Archangel in. I think I would have killed him faster had I used Township, but I still killed him before he found his Supreme Verdict or another answer. If I were in that situation again, though, I think I would opt for the faster method. I don’t want to give my opponents any more chances than necessary to find an answer! Game three was pretty epic. I had sided in Duress to try and get his board wipes out of his hand, and it worked. I got one Supreme Verdict out of his hand fairly early. I don’t remember the beginning of the game too well, but I did keep the pressure on him as much as possible despite knowing he had two Sphinx’s Revelations in hand. There are are a few key moments I remember, though. The first was when he cast Syncopate in response to my Advent of the Wurm at the end of his turn. I had Intangible Virtue on board, and he really didn’t want a 6/6 trample guy on board. I had another in hand and he was tapped out. On my turn I decided I didn’t want to main phase an instant, though, and instead cast Lingering Souls and passed. I think I should have played the Wurm there, but I don’t know if it would have made a difference. Fast forward several turns and I’m at 5 life and I’ve managed to finally play the Advent of the Wurm I’ve been holding and populate it. He’s at 16, but I’ve knocked him down to 4 with my two 6/6 trample Wurms. I notice he’s still tapped out and play Trostani and then Gathering Townsfolk, gaining 10 life because of Fateful Hour and Intagible Virtue on board. So basically he is super dead unless he can find an answer. Which he did. He played a whole bunch of card draw spells, including Sphinx’s Revelation, and he slammed the Supreme Verdict when he found it, and my army was dead. I was left at 15 life with no blockers, and didn’t find any in time to live. Overall, It was a good match against a very good player at my LGS, so I’m just proud I was able to avoid another blowout.

Round four (1-2) — My opponent was playing an awkward Dimir mill deck. I don’t think he played a single creature in any of the games, but he had TONS of black removal. Doom Blade, Tragic Slip, Mutilate, Murder, you name it and he probably had it. The first game I got really close to killing him, despite all the board wipes I suffered with Mutilate — he was at 5 when he finally milled me to death using four Nephalia Drownyards. It was frustrating. He got out Jace, Memory Adept the second game, but I managed to kill both Jace and my opponent before he was able to mill me out. Game three he also successfully milled me out, but I think I made a critical error that cost me the game. I had Collective Blessing on board with two spirit tokens. He played Ratchet Bomb, which I cast Abrupt Decay on. In response, he sacrificed it to destroy my tokens and I… I just let that happen. He milled me at his end step and my upkeep to kill me. But I had, IN MY HAND, Rootborn Defenses. Ratchet Bomb, unlike a lot of his other removal (like Mutilate), “destroys” the creatures. So it would have countered it and populated, giving me three  1/1 spirits with +3/+3 from the Blessing. Had I remembered, and he didn’t have a counter, I would have won the game. Oops.

Round five (0-2) — My opponents deck was just faster and stronger than mine. He ramped up using elves and played HUGE creatures early. His creatures also had enter the battlefield effects like “destroy target non-creature permanent”. I just couldn’t get past him. There might have been a way for my deck to win, but I didn’t find it. Maybe next time.

Overall, I think I did really well, considering it was my first time playing standard. I kind of set a self-fulfilling prophecy, though. I went in saying I’d be happy if I just won one match. And that’s what I did. But I wasn’t really happy. If I do play standard again, I think I will definitely go in with a more positive attitude. My matches were close, for the most part. I played some great players, but only felt outplayed a couple times. I know I have the skills to do better than 1-4, so next time I’ll hold myself to a higher standard.

All for now,
Bale

Do you remember your first standard FNM? What was it like? And do you think going into games with an expectation of losing/ winning influences the outcome? 

I’ve never been more excited for pick-a-pack.

It was a disappointing night, but I still had fun. And really, that's the most important part of a hobby, right?

It was a disappointing night, but I still had fun. And really, that’s the most important part of a hobby, right?

Last Friday was not a successful night. Again, I thought my draft went well, but the matches didn’t go as well as anticipated. But hey, at least I got to hang out with my friends, right? Good thing I wrote my last post before going to another FNM … it was a good reminder that Magic is actually supposed to be a FUN hobby, not something to torture myself with. So I still managed to have fun, even if my record was terrible. (And not entirely because of the bar down the street from my LGS, but it didn’t hurt 😉 )

THE DRAFT

Pack One — I opened a Shivan Dragon, which I was pretty happy about. I had to pass A TON of good removal, including Shock, Chandra’s Outrage AND Volcanic Geyser, but I couldn’t pass up on the dragon. I noticed pretty early that black was also open, so I got a few Liturgy of Bloods, and some other really strong black cards. Going into pack two I was pretty confident I’d be able to get plenty of good playables.

Pack Two — I opened another Scavenging Ooze. I was happy, despite not being able to play it. But again, I had to pass up some really good things I wanted in my deck, including more removal and a Blood Bairn. I’d picked up an Act of Treason in pack one, so I was really looking for some sacrifice outlets. Luckily, I was able to pick up a couple really strong creatures — including a Goblin Diplomats, two Corpse Haulers and two Academy Raiders — in pack two, in addition to a couple Altar’s Reaps.

Pack Three — I got incredibly lucky with my pack: I opened Liliana! I was already in black and I got the black planeswalker. So awesome. And even though she’s not the best, having a planeswalker in limited is very good. I also got some other good creatures to fill out my curve and top end, including some Minotaur Abominations, a Pitchburn Devils and a Regathan Firecat. I also got a Fireshrieker, which makes every creature better. I also passed a pretty late Bogbrew Witch because I didn’t have any of the combo pieces, but I did pick up a Guardian of the Ages.

THE MATCHES

I’ll go through these quickly — nothing too notable happened, and despite it being six rounds, I didn’t actually play two of them.

Match one (0-2) — The first game was close. I got ahead, but didn’t anticipate a main boarded Lava Axe, which ended up killing me. The second game was not close at all. I mulled down to six and kept a two land hand with a two drop and a three drop, but never actually drew a third land.

Match two (2-0, technically) — My opponent didn’t show up, so I got the win by default. I ended up playing a match for fun. My new opponent was playing a really strong Sliver deck. I won our match 2-1, but she faltered on mana both times, and I curved out perfectly. It was great. The game I lost was frustrating — I wasn’t dead on board, but could have killed one of her three Blur Slivers on board with a Liturgy. I didn’t, though, cause I was at 14 life, so I didn’t think it would really make a difference — even if I killed one all her slivers would still have haste. The next turn she played Battle Sliver and got through a lethal alpha because she still had all those Blur Slivers. Oh well, it was just for fun.

Match three (2-1) — The first two games were won because one or the other of us had mana issues. They weren’t really games at all. In the game I won, though, I got out Liliana on turn four, which was satisfying. The third game was frustrating for me because my opponent was playing a fairly strong U/B control deck with lots of quality removal/ counter spells. Every time I tried to cast a creature I was pretty much unsuccessful. Then he played out Bogbrew Witch, which I used my Liliana to kill — he didn’t have the cauldron, but he had the newts and a Blood Bairn as a sac outlet. Then he cast Opportunity, followed by an Elixir of Immortality that he used, even though he wasn’t really in any danger of dying. As a result, he actually got to cast Opportunity again. There’s really no coming back from that.

Match four (2-0, paired against Steve) — I played well, but my deck just didn’t get there. Game one was long because we both stalled and kept drawing lands, but he got out of it sooner and was able to get rid of basically my whole board (a Corpse hauler, a Firecat and Guardian of the Ages) by using Flames of the Firebrand, attacking and then making me sacrifice my Guardian with Celestial Flare. The game was over pretty quickly after that. The second game wasn’t as good as the first, even though I got Liliana out. Again, I played well (as far as I can remember), but it just didn’t work out. After the match, Steve and I decided to go and drink some beer — neither of us was having a great night and as Nummy’s tweet pointed out, the best thing to do when on tilt from Magic is just drink beer. YEAH.

Match five (2-0, technically) — My opponent didn’t want to play, so he gave me the match. End of story. No playing for fun this time, since I went down to the bar to hang out with other friends who’d dropped/ weren’t playing the round.

Match six (0-2, technically) — I was pretty good friends with the guy I was paired up with, and since he’d been paired down and needed to win the match to make top 12, I gave it to him. Even if I won, I didn’t have a chance. We played for fun and he got it 2-1, but the game I won was really epic. I played my Shivan Dragon (that I hadn’t seen all night) out THREE TIMES. He kept killing it, but I brought it back with my Corpse Haulers. And when he played his not-as-awesome dragon, I was able to Act of Treason it AND sacrifice it with Alters Reap. It was wonderful.

So even though I had a crappy record, I still had a fairly fun evening. The games I won were good games, and so were most of the games I lost. It seems like I still haven’t gotten the hang of this set, so I’ve been thinking about drafting online. I think it could really up my game, and I might (MIGHT) even stream if I feel like it. I’ve been watching a lot of streams lately, and I think it could be fun. I don’t have a great set up, but I do have everything I need on my computer to stream since Astro and I thought we would at the beginning. Who knows though — I’m running out of steam on my three posts a week schedule already. But drafting online would be a really good way to improve my skills, and if I want to play well at the GP in Oklahoma City, I probably should. I’ll keep you guys updated, of course.

All for now,
Bale

How do you avoid tilting when playing games? Do you watch Magic streams or other game streams online? 

 

Why I keep playing, even when I lose.

PLAY ALL THE CARDS. Standard Sealed is a crazy format, but really awesome because I got to play Clone and Haunter of the Night Veil. Did I get them both out at once? No... but it would have been awesome! (But when I was playing for fun and switched decks with a friend, he did... and it was not awesome.)

PLAY ALL THE CARDS. Standard Sealed is a crazy format, but really awesome because I got to play Clone and Haunter of the Night Veil. Did I get them both out at once? No… but it would have been awesome! (But when I was playing for fun and switched decks with a friend, he did… and it was not awesome.)

I’ve devoted a bunch of my posts over the past several months to tracking my progress at FNM. Every week, save for a couple exceptions, I wrote down how my draft went, my record and what I’d learned from the night. It has helped me think critically and analyze my playing and that has probably helped me become a stronger player.

But if I wrote my normal recap this week I might get so discouraged I won’t want to go back to FNM on Friday. I might throw my draft deck across my room. And I might just become inexplicably annoyed for the rest of the day. So I’m going to save Astro and my coworkers from that and just not. But I do owe you guys a post about this weekend, simply because I played A LOT of Magic. I went to draft on Friday (obviously) and then on Saturday I decided to play in my LGS’s Standard Sealed tournament. Which meant I spent nearly 16 hours at my LGS over those two days.

On Friday I went 1-3-1 with a deck a U/W deck I thought was fairly strong. I had mana troubles again, but the biggest issue was the fact I only had two or three creatures that could really count as win conditions. I was really good at stalling (hence the unintentional draw), and creating a board presence that was impossible for my opponent to get through, but if I didn’t get my good creatures out all I was able to do was delay the inevitable. Which, as you might have guessed, was very frustrating. My cards of note were Opportunity, Serra Angel, Pacifism and Water Servant. The Pacifism actually tabled for me in my second pack, I was astonished. However, I found out later that the guy to my right was hate drafting white all night — he said he picked up TWO Serra Angels and an Angelic Accord. I was really annoyed, but it made sense: I knew white was open, but I wasn’t getting many extremely good cards because of him. And at our LGS we have so many people hate drafting is not even helpful; I didn’t play him all night, and all he did was make my deck worse. I was especially annoyed when I remembered I’d drafted to the right of him last week too. Who knows what picks I missed out on!

On Saturday I tried my hand at sealed again. The only other times I’ve played in sealed tournaments have been the prereleases. So I don’t really have much experience even with a normal six-pact sealed environment. The Standard Sealed pool was a booster of each set in standard right now, which is eight packs. And I only started playing at the very end of RTR, so there were a lot of packs I haven’t played much with. (Thank goodness of pick-a-pack!) That meant I had to cut down a pool of 100+ cards to only 23. It was stressful, but I managed to make my deck with only a small amount of input from my neighbors. I didn’t want to depend on other people because when I go to the GP in Oklahoma City I won’t be able to at all. Luckily it was really easy for me to pick red as my main color — I had basically all the red removal and some really strong creatures, including Mondronen Shaman. It was between black and blue for my second color — I had more removal in both colors and some really strong creatures as well. Plus, I had Duskmantle Seer and Haunter of the Night Veil, so I knew I would probably splash for those no matter what. I ended up picking blue because I had some good control cards, like Opportunity, but I decided to take out the Seer and just splash black for Doom Blade and the Night Veil. One of the guys building next to me suggested taking out the seer because it could go very badly for me, too. I ended up only going 2-3, but I had a really good time overall.

On both Friday and Saturday I had moments of huge disappointment. I was annoyed at myself because I thought my decks were decent and I just could not get there. I had mana issues both days (out of all the packs I opened, I got zero fixing) and it’s just as hard to play your cards when you’re stuck on three mana as it is when you just don’t draw spells. But I never conceded a game because I tend to think there is a chance I could draw SOMETHING that could help me, and if I play well I could still have a chance. But that doesn’t make the losses any less frustrating. In fact, it kind of makes it worse, because I had moments where I was just convinced I was a terrible Magic player. But I kept playing. I couldn’t help it… I have only dropped once, and I regretted it almost immediately. Every game is an opportunity to learn.

After I scrubbed out of the tournament on Saturday, I stuck around while the Top Eight was played out and hung out with the guy who runs our tournaments. He’s super nice and really helpful. We played a couple matches, and despite the fact I lost most of them I had a lot of fun. After a couple of matches with my original deck, he looked through my pool and swapped the blue out for the black. What he came up with a red/ black control deck with a blue splash for the Duskmantle Seer, Clone and Haunter of the Night Veil. We played several more matches and swapped decks to play more. I don’t even remember how many games we played, but it was a lot. And I lost a lot, but since it was not in a competitive situation I didn’t get nearly as frustrated when I didn’t pull any of my blue mana and when we swapped decks he had no color issues. So not fair. But it reminded me that it is just part of the game — when all of your blue mana is at the bottom of the library, it’s kind of hard to draw it.

Playing all of those games and talking to the judge also made me realize that I really am still kind of a MTG newbie. I’d finally gotten the hang of drafting the RTR block when M14 came out, and I’m having a harder time adjusting to the new format than I expected. But it makes sense — it’s my first non multicolored set and the drafting strategies are different because of that.

And when my LGS’s judge messaged me later apologizing for not explaining more elaborately about his changes to my deck because it wouldn’t help me later, I realized how awesome my LGS really is. The people I play Magic with there are one of the main reasons I play every week. Not because I need to be the best, but because Magic people are awesome. My play group is full of wonderful people who genuinely care about each other. They’re helpful, awesome and very good at cheering me up when I’m frustrated.

I’ve been pretty hard on myself lately, and partly it’s because of my recaps. I want to be improving, and I want you guys to read about successful nights, not failures. It’s increased the pressure I put on myself to win matches, which makes it harder when I lose. As a result, I don’t have as much fun because I’m too hard on myself. At the end of the day, it’s just a game. And it shouldn’t be ALL about winning, but also about having fun and enjoying the company of my friends.

So next Friday I’ll try to keep that in mind. After all, if I didn’t like the people at my LGS, I probably wouldn’t have gotten so into the game. So screw you, mana problems and annoying hate drafters… you can’t ruin my fun! My friends are too awesome for that.

All for now,
Bale

Why do you keep playing MTG (or other games) when you hit a losing streak? What brings you back to the game?

FNM Recap: Aug. 2… Disappointing, but a solid first try.

Four rares, including Scavenging Ooze. My draft was successful just because of that one card!

Four rares, including Scavenging Ooze. My draft was successful just because of that one card!

Friday was not a normal draft for various reasons. I decided not to go to a new LGS because I didn’t want to drive the two hours home in the middle of the night. Plus, brutal honesty here, I was nursing a pretty wicked hangover that was the result of too many $1 beers and disregarding the fact I am fairly lactose intolerant and eating all the pepper-jack cheese bites and delicious queso dip. Apparently my stomach didn’t like that combination…. Deciding to go to my home LGS was definitely the right choice, but that meant I had to drive straight there, which also meant I didn’t rest or prepare much at all.

Luckily, though, I’d practiced with several M14 draft simulations before I left on my short trip. (If I had gone to a new LGS I wouldn’t have wanted to embarrass myself, after all!) And the prep definitely paid off, at least a little. I was really, really happy with my draft. I opened Jace’s Mindseeker, Scavenging Ooze and Elite Arcanist and got passed a Clone. Four solid rare cards, I thought, especially in draft. The first pack went well and I picked up mostly blue fliers. I was iffy about my second color — I picked up a few black cards and green cards but didn’t see much good red or white. When I opened Scavenging Ooze pack two I was pretty happy to finally pick green. I also picked up Trollhide, two Giant Spiders and an Elvish Mystic, but those were my only green cards I ended up running. So I was nearly mono-blue, with just a little green. I had six fliers, including two Air Servants, the Mindseeker and a Warden of Evos Isle. I also had a Phantom Warrior, so the majority of my creatures had some sort of evasion. I also had a lot of spells — two Essence Scatters, two Cancels and a Disperse — so my plan was to play the tempo game and counter most of my opponent’s spells until I could play my bombs. Unfortunately, I didn’t really have any straight up removal, so once a big creature of my opponent’s hit the board, I had to deal with it. Sometimes that worked, sometimes that didn’t. Despite that, I was fairly confident going into the first round.

My first game went very well. I got my scavenging ooze out, and was able to get it up to an 8/8. My opponent had gotten rid of my Fireshrieker, so that was sad, but turns out Scavenging Ooze is just a solid card on its own. I was also able to cast Elite Arcanist with Cancel underneath it, after I had cast Archaeomancer to get Cancel back from my graveyard. (My opponent had tried to make sacrifice my Ooze with Celestial Flare, so I Canceled that of course…) So I got some great value out of Cancel, and the game ended very quickly from there. He started having to chump block the Ooze, which just made him bigger, and I got a couple fliers out to help as well. It was a fairly easy win. So I was pretty confident going into game two, and I when I had Time Ebb and Elite Arcanist both in my opening hand I thought I had it in the bag. Make him draw the same cards all game? Awesome. Turns out that’s not actually a combo though — the Arcanist can only exile INSTANTS from your hand. Time Ebb is a sorcery. I figured that out when I tried to do that. Unfortunately, that meant I ended up casting the Arcanist as a weenie 1/1 for 4CMC. It put me behind and I had no good plays to make after trying to do that. That one misplay put me on the defense the whole game. I ended up not drawing my counter spells, so I couldn’t take care of his Air Servant or other fliers. Game three was also painful for me. I was able to get the Arcanist on board with Essence Scatter exiled beneath it, but unfortunately, my opponent didn’t allow me to use it. He played Master of Diversion before I was able to actually use it, and would attack first, tap my Arcanist, and then play whatever creature spell he wanted to. When he got Air Servant out, it was pretty much game over for me. I had Giant Spider, so I was able to block it once, and then I attempted to Clone the Spider (not the Air Servant because it could be tapped cause it had flying… only after did I realize I probably should have tried to clone that because I could tap his Air Servant with my Servant, even if it was tapped), but he cast Cancel instead. I think had I Cloned a turn earlier instead of casting my initial Giant Spider he might not have been able to play the Cancel, but I don’t remember if he was tapped out or not. Overall, it was a disappointing match, but I learned some very important lessons that I kept in mind all night.

My second match was against a fairly new player at our store. I actually played him last week, too. He’s very nice and seems to be catching onto the game fairly quickly. Unfortunately, he didn’t get very good draws against me and couldn’t take care of my fliers. The first game was over fairly quickly — I cast my Warden and then Cloned the following turn, which gave me access to all my beefy fliers really early. Game two was a lot closer, but I overran him with fliers again. (Not before he got me down to four, though!)

My third match was pretty close. The first game was over really fast — both of us got evasive creatures out on turn three. I got my Phantom Warrior out and she got a black intimidate creature out. I was able to get Dragon Shrieker on the battlefield, but then she enchanted her guy with Dark Favor, giving her a head start on the huge attacks. She won that race. Game two was definitely in my favor — I got Scavenging Ooze out again, plus some fliers. She got her black staff out, but it didn’t really do much except delay the inevitable. In game three, though, her monoblack deck really shined. I was overwhelming her with fliers, and was at 12 while she was at 4 and she had no way to block my ten flying damage coming at her the next turn. She’d gotten me down to 12 by casting Sanguine Bond — whenever you gain life, your opponent loses that much life — and her black staff, which is actually a solid combo. It’s basically extorting at least once per turn, probably more. On turn six, she was able to cast Corrupt with six swamps out putting me down to six. And because she had her nifty bond enchantment and Corrupt causes her to gain life equal to the life lost she gained 6 life and I lost 6 more… killing me. It was a very sad moment. She felt guilty, but it was the combo she’d built her monoblack deck around. She said she had three Corrupts in her deck, so the chances of her drawing one were pretty good. I was really annoyed though; I was 1-2, and I thought I’d had the match in the bag.

My fourth match was even closer than my third match. In game one, my opponent and I had a straightforward game of attacking and trying to win the race, and then when my opponent stabilized, we hit top-deck mode. Unfortunately for me, I was losing my blockers and needed to get something quick. I pulled a Trollhide, which was OK, but my opponent was at four and had two guys out. I was also at four and needed him to block my guy for me to live another turn (I want to say his creatures were flying, so I couldn’t block). My only creature was a 1/1, however, and the Trollhide put him at a 3/3. I didn’t have and cards in hand, either, so I couldn’t trick him into blocking. I attacked anyway, but he didn’t fall for it and he dropped to one and killed me on the crackback. I honestly don’t remember if his creatures were flying, but if they weren’t it might have been a better idea to hold my guy back and block with him. I don’t remember why I thought the only way to survive was to attack. Game two was similar in that we both got down to four life and entered top deck mode, but this time it ended in my favor. I don’t remember the exact circumstances (gotta take more notes, apparently) , but I do remember casting Jace’s Mindseeker and successfully milling his Chandra, though, which was awesome. We continued on to game three and I thought I had a good chance. The game went rather long and both of us were developing our boards a lot, but neither of us had a favorable attack. I had Trollhide on my Giant Spider, so it locked down the sky pretty well and both of us had creatures we weren’t willing to trade. What turned the game was my opponent casting Act of Treason, stealing my best blocker (the Spider) and then attacking all out. I chump blocked a little, but then instead of just letting me get my Spider back, my opponent cast Liturgy of Blood to kill it. (Had I paid the regeneration cost in response to the Act, I would have gotten it back, but I didn’t think of it.) I didn’t have any good blockers the next turn, so he was able to attack and win. Another sad loss.

I debated going home after that — I was really tired, my head was absolutely killing me and I was just not having a good night. I stuck it out though… I was hoping to at least end the night with a 3-3 record.

My fifth match was a win, but for an unfortunate reason. In the middle of game two (I’d gotten game one), a guy came into the game room and said someone outside was having a seizure. Several people jumped up and ran outside — my opponent was among them. He came back a couple minutes later and apologized, saying he thought it might have been his step-brother. We kept playing, but when the paramedics came in with the head judge, who was getting the name of the guy for them, my opponent heard him say his brother’s name. He left to with the paramedics, and sure enough… it was his brother. (And also the new guy I’d played in round two.) I was very sad and worried. My opponent ended up dropping, so I got the win, but I was not happy about it. It doesn’t feel good to get a win under such circumstances. I just hope the guy is OK.

I was in a terrible mood for my last match. My night had gone pretty horribly, my head was hurting and I was pretty shaken about about the events of the night. I got paired up — I think if my opponent beat me, she would have gotten Top 12. But I kind of dream crushed her. Again, I didn’t take that many notes and I was quite distracted the whole match, so I don’t remember the details, but I got game one decisively. I was able to cast Jace’s Mindseeker and clone it the next turn. With the first mindseeker, I milled a bunch of land and a Mind Rot, so I forced her to discard two cards. She was mana screwed, so milling the land was huge. The second mindseeker also got a bunch of land, and she didn’t draw anything to take care the eight damage coming at her in the air. Game two was a bit closer, but I also won it. Scavenging Ooze came out, and so did my evasion creatures. So I ended on a semi-high note… even if the night was a bit weird.

I’m looking forward to playing with this deck a bit more over the week. I was really happy with it, but things just didn’t pan out. Even though I went 3-3 I still ended up in 20th place, which is a very disappointing finish. I did learn some important things, though: Read the cards, having counterspells doesn’t mean you have removal and, just purely on a personal level, I need to take more notes!

Oh well. Luckily, there is always next week. And besides, it was my first time drafting M14. I should cut myself a little slack…. maybe.

All for now,
Bale.

Have you drafted M14? How did it go, and what cards do you like/ dislike?

FNM recap: July 26… A triumphant return.

I didn't end up playing my first pick, but I played my second pick! And I got some nifty new sleeves.

I didn’t end up playing my first pick, but I played my second pick! And I got some nifty new sleeves.

When I walked into my LGS on Friday, it felt like I’d been gone forever. In reality, I’d only missed the previous week and the first FNM in July, but still. I haven’t been playing as much Magic this month as I’m used to. It was pick-a-pack, so I decided to buy M13, M14 and Dragon’s Maze to open. I also got some nifty sleeves, coincidentally the same ones Melissa De Tora used during one of the matches featuring her during GP Vegas. Maybe it was the new sleeves, or maybe it was the little break, I don’t know. But I rocked it.

As usual during pick-a-pack, I wasn’t that confident during draft. I tend to feel a little overwhelmed; I have to read the majority of the cards because the only set I’m really familiar with is the RTR block. At my table there was some RTR stuff, but a lot of older sets and M14 as well. But my card judgement is strong, and I tried to keep in mind the “BREAD” draft strategy. (BREAD stands for bombs, removal, evasion, aggressive/ card advantage and duds. The idea is to draft those types of cards in order.)

I opened Dragon’s Maze first and got a really crappy rare (Plasm Capture), so I first picked a Warped Physique. I figured quality removal is always good. I second-picked a Teleportal because it shared a color with it and can straight up win games. My third pick was a blue flip card called Ludevic’s Test Subject. It’s a 0/3 defender that you pay to put counters on and when you remove five, it flips and becomes a 13/13 creature with trample. It seemed like it could be fairly strong, even though I had never seen it before. From there I focused on getting a solid blue base, and noticed some really strong red coming my way. Since I had Teleportal, I ended up going the Izzet route, instead of Dimir. I don’t actually remember what my second and third first picks were, but neither of them was the rare in the pack. One was double black, so I knew I wouldn’t play it… but I don’t remember anything about the other. That said, I picked some really strong cards that were awesome all night: Turn// Burn, Archaeomancer, Shock, Claustrophobia, Hands of Binding, Crimson Mage and several fliers. I picked the Archaeomancer over an Awaken the Ancient, choosing the double blue casting cost over the triple red. The Ancient ended up coming back to me, and I did end up running it in my deck with some really good results. A 7/7 on turn five is pretty good, if it works out. As I was building my deck I felt pretty good, but wasn’t sure how it would hold up. I had several double blue or double red casting costs and the triple red card. I decided to run 10 mountains and only seven islands, which ended up working most of the time. I didn’t get color screwed all night. I also had a couple bombs… not crazy ones, but really strong cards nonetheless and some really good removal. I even had evasion creatures! I followed the BREAD strategy pretty successfully, and it paid off.

The tournament was five rounds, and I ended up 4-1 and in second place. Top eight played it out for the foil, but split the packs so I walked away with five packs. I lost my last match, so I didn’t get the foil… but even after playing it out I was in third or fourth. It was a good night.

My matches were fun. I started off actually losing my first game. I seriously misplayed my Teleportal because I forgot one of my creatures had been detained by my opponent playing Azorius Arrester. He offered to let me take it back, but I didn’t. If I want to get better I have to feel my mistakes… and that one cost me the game. He killed me the next turn. The next two games were much better — I didn’t even drop below 20 life. They were over fairly quickly. I felt kind of bad because my opponent had to mulligan to five game three and never had a chance to get back in it.

My second match was my loss. I played Steve, and got seriously mana screwed the first game. The second game I got kind of mana screwed, and might have been able to get back in it, but he’d completely locked down the board with some ridiculous creatures. He had Soratami Rainshaper, Galvanic Alchemist and Soul Seizer equipped with No-Dachi all on board. The Rainshaper could make any of his creatures hexproof, so my removal was pointless. He’d soulbonded the Alchemist and the Seizer, so he could untap them at any time, making my Claustrophobia useless as well. It was incredibly frustrating because I couldn’t attack, I couldn’t really block and none of my spells mattered. Talk about controlling the board state. Steve didn’t lose a game all night, and drew into the top 8, so I technically finished higher than him, but he had a really strong deck. Also Izzet, I might add. (And I beat him in the one casual match we’ve had since FNM… so far.)

My next match was against a fairly new player. His deck seemed pretty good, but he was running three colors with no mana fixing, which made it hard on him. I successfully play my Ancient against him the first game, and he had an answer to it — a card that sent target permanent back to its owners hand — but he played it on my other creature, not the enchanted land. I explained after the game that that would have been the better move, but I didn’t mention anything at the time. I felt slightly guilty because the game ended fairly quickly after that, but I wanted to win! The second game was over pretty fast as well, but we had a good chat after, and I think he’s going to keep coming. So that’s good! It’s exciting playing newer players than me (weird, though). It’s cool to see them excited about the game. He said later he took out the third color and he did better after that. Yay!

I also got my next match 2-0. The first game I got lucky with Molten Birth and won the coin flip twice, so I got to cast it three times. So by turn six I had six 1/1 creatures on board, along with another 2/1 creature (my Crimson Mage) I’d hit him with along with my tokens to get him down to 12. Then I cast Teleportal to win me the game. The second game I successfully got my Ancient out again and he didn’t really have an answer to it, so it won me that game as well. I also had my Mage out again, so I was able to give my other creatures haste… a very handy ability.

At this point in the night I was 3-1 and in 10th so I had to win my match to make top 8. The first game went well for me — I got Stealer of Secrets out on turn three and was able to cast Claustrophobia on the wall he’d cast in response. He was kind of mana screwed, so that was a quality move — my Stealer got through several times and gave me serious card advantage. My opponent didn’t even hit me all game. I wasn’t so lucky the next game, though. It was pretty close, and even though I was successfully locking down his board somewhat with Hands of Binding, I missed two points of life he gained from a Verdant Haven and attacked for what I thought was lethal using an overloaded Weapon Surge, but only hit him for six, not seven because I thought he was at five. I had a lot of mana out, though and Steve, who was watching, said I could have won by playing the Weapon Surge mainphase, then casting Archeaomancer to get it back and recasting it. I didn’t think I needed to, though, and I lost the next turn. (I was actually at five.) Game three was stressful just because we were running out of time. We went to time, and I ended up winning it by successfully flipping my Test Subject and Turn// Burning his 5/4 regenerate creature when he was tapped out. There was a little more to it than that, but I was running on adrenaline at that point and it’s kind of a blur. Winning that match meant I was going to top 8 for the second time, and I was really anxious. But it all worked out, and I ended up in second place!! I got my five packs and decided to try to play for the foil.

I actually did dominate my first match for the foil… I flipped my test subject and won even though I kind of misplayed. Instead of casting my Hands of Binding on my 13/13 and ciphering to lock down his flier, I cast a weenie 1/1 flier to block instead. It worked out, but since I was at four if he’d had one removal spell I would have died. But I won anyway! And the second game I got my Ancient out and got to cast Molten Birth twice. It was pretty fun. The match I lost for the foil was frustrating because I would be ahead, and then all of a sudden he’d take over the game and I wouldn’t draw any of my late game cards. Oh well, I didn’t really want the foil Rakdos Cackler… I swear…

Next week I think I might go to FNM at a different LGS. I’ll be two hours away, so I might drive back, but I’ve found a store I am planning on going to if I don’t. It sounds similar to my LGS, and it could be fun to play some different people. We’ll see, though.

All for now,
Bale

Did you go to FNM? How’d you do?