Friday February 4th:
I have to admit that boarding the subway I was kind of nervous; I hadn't played in a Standard tournament since November 25th because I'd been sick all winter. Naturally of course I'd been practicing at work and within my playgroup but there's always something a little different about playing in an actual tournament; a certain tension that you just can't replicate practicing around the kitchen table. Additionally of course I found myself hoping we'd have at least 8 players at the tournament; there's nothing worse than traveling an hour north on an overcrowded subway only to play 3 more games of casual Magic before heading home. After all that practicing I really wanted a chance to compete in a "real" sanctioned tournament, even if it was only going to be a local FNM event. Thankfully when I arrived at the Hairy T North with a couple of friends (Tommy and Casey) we had 13 players and after practicing a few games with my Kuldotha Goblins deck I got ready to battle. I'd already decided to play U/B Control on the subway/bus ride to the HTN because it was the "new" deck I felt most comfortable with so I agreed to loan Beau the "K-Gob" deck instead and entered round 1 with the following list:
Creatures - 5:
2x Abyssal Persecutor
1x Frost Titan
2x Grave Titan
Planeswalkers - 4:
4x Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Spells - 25:
2x Brittle Effigy
4x Mana Leak
3x Go for the Throat
2x Into the Roil
2x Black Sun's Zenith
1x Stoic Rebuttal
Lands - 26:
4x Creeping Tar Pit
4x Darkslick Shores
4x Drowned Catacombs
4x Tectonic Edge
1x Marsh Flats
1x Scalding Tarn
4x Spreading Seas
2x Ratchet Bomb
1x Frost Titan
Ultimately I went with a more "anti-aggro" version of the typical U/B build because I expected to see more red/Goblin/aggro decks in the early post MBS environment. While typically Toronto trends towards U based control decks and ramp combo decks I also knew that aggro decks were ALWAYS more popular at the beginning of a new format. It's almost as if most players (in a state of confusion as to which decks are now the best choices) assume that simply "going faster" will accrue wins until the harsh reality of tournament play prove to them otherwise. I felt this tendency had shown itself both in recent large tournament results with the success of Boros and Vampire decks at the most recent Star City open and even at my workplace; we had been selling components of WW, Elves, K-Goblins and even Knight decks pretty much the entire week after the pre-release.
Naturally of course I modified my initial build slightly to respond to this expected shift in my local environment; moving the Spreading Seas and a Duress into the sideboard in favor of extra removal cards like Disfigure, Into the Roil and a 2nd Brittle Effigy. This in turn necessitated re-tuning the Sideboard towards dealing with control and ramp decks; just in case I turned out to be incorrect about the number of aggro decks I would face. Unfortunately at the very last second I became worried that even *after* moving more removal into the main deck my build was too weak against turn 3-4 aggro/combo builds like K Goblins or Red Deck wins. With little else available to cut I pulled some of the extra counters (1x Stoic Rebuttal, 2x Negate) for some Ratchet Bombs and a 2nd copy of Smother; leaving me strong against both aggro and ramp but frightfully weak against control in my opinion.
Unfortunately the DCI Reporter program would conspire against me once again; pairing me against my fellow subway rider and close friend Tommy in round 1. Making matters slightly worse Tommy happened to be playing a modified version of my "Die in a Fire" mono R Koth deck; a deck I had specifically built to give control decks fits. While I hardly felt like an "underdog" in the match-up I knew that our games would revolve around his ability to stick a Koth of the Hammer, a Kargan Dragonlord or a Molten-Tail Masticore; all cards my deck would struggle against mightily. Alternately if I could answer those cards/keep them off the table the match would veer heavily in my favor.
Sadly neither of our games in this round turned out to be particularly satisfying. I lost the roll in game 1 but Tommy's deck came out pretty slowly in response. I hit him with a Duress on both turns 1 and 2; ripping both Koth's out of his hand before the game even started. My opponent was able to get a couple of Ember Haulers into play and drag me down to 7 before the game ended when I backed a 5 mana Black Sun's Zenith into a Grave Titan. Game 2 was slightly better as Tommy led with Goblin Guide and quickly teamed him up with an Ember Hauler. I managed to Duress a Koth out of his hand but missed on the 2nd Duress when Tommy proceeded to Bolt/Burst me in response. At that point I was at 10 life and staring down a must kill Kargan Dragonlord, a Goblin Guide and an Ember Hauler. I threw a Go for the Throat at the Dragonlord and after being clawed down to 6 stopped the bleeding with a Frost Titan. Naturally of course my opponent proceeded to top-deck 4 consecutive land when virtually any burn spell/Koth or Inferno Titan probably would have won him the game. I thanked my opponent for the match and made a point to avoid suggesting that they were somehow "good" games. Tommy is a pretty good-natured guy and I doubt he would have minded but I've always felt there was something off about telling an opponent who had just mana flooded out of a game he was winning that it had been a "good game".
1-0 (2-0) MVP: Duress. Ripping the turn 1 Koth out of Tommy's hands in both games was vital in this match-up; U/B isn't very good at dealing with active Planeswalkers and Koth in particular gives this deck absolute fits.
Naturally of course I would be paired against another one of my friends running I deck I'd built in round 2; this time it was Beau who'd borrowed my "experimental" Kuldotha Goblins deck to for the evening. In this case however I *did* feel like a massive underdog simply because the deck is so *ridiculous* against control; particularly U/B control where Day of Judgement isn't a factor! In fact I felt that my only real advantage going into the match would be a question of experience; I'd played K-Goblins about 50 times and "goldfished" the deck another 200-250 times over the past couple of days. While the deck wasn't exactly "complicated" I didn't feel the build was "mindless" either and I went into round 2 hoping my opponent's unfamiliarity with the design might give me enough space to steal a win this time.
Game 1 started off poorly for me when I not only lost the roll but was forced to mulligan to 6. Thankfully my 2nd hand had a Disfigure, 2 dual lands, an Island, a Mana Leak and a Black Sun's Zenith so the mulligan was considerably less painful than it could have been. Even more fortunate for me Beau had kept a hand without a 1 drop creature; effectively buying me an *entire* turn in a game that would probably come down to a 4-5 turn race! Despite this "gimme turn" however I would still finish the 6 turn game at 4 life after casting a Disfigure, 2x Go for the Throat and a Black Sun's Zenith for 2 on turn 4 that wiped out 3 of Beau's creatures. While the nature of K-Goblins makes it hard to remember the turn to turn specifics of a game (all of his creatures look the same and they all do "a lot" of damage) I do recall that Beau never saw a Kuldotha Rebirth either.
Between games I sided out 3x Duress and 1x Cancel for 2x Ratchet Bomb and 2x Smother while actively hoping that my good fortune would carry over into game 2. When Beau started the game off by taking a mulligan and staring long and hard at the 6 cards that came back before deciding to keep I started to wonder if perhaps I'd hoped too hard. I discovered the reason for his hesitation pretty quickly when Beau dropped a Mountain and cast a Goblin Bushwacker (without kicker) before shipping me the turn. From personal experience I knew that this bordered on the worst possible opening draw the K-Gob deck could have and in many ways was worse than simply not casting a 1 drop at all. Unfortunately I don't remember much else about this game except that I cast a Black Sun's Zenith on turn 4 and then promptly drew one again on turn 5. As I recall Beau was having trouble drawing land while I curved out perfectly into Grave Titan on turn 7ish after casting something like 4 removal spells and 2 "Wrath of God" effects in the game. I certainly don't believe this match was indicative of the match-up overall; sometimes you get lucky and sometimes your opponent gets unlucky. In this particular case I felt my stunning 2-0 victory was "a little from column A and a little from column B".
2-0 (4-0) MVP: Black Sun's Zenith. While I'm still not entirely sold on this card as a "black Wrath of God" type effect it was certainly effective in this match-up. Alternately however I can help but feel that if my opponent had mulled into more aggressive draws it still would have been too slow to contain his aggro rush.
Round 3 - Kelly - Mono R Hybrid Koth:
As luck would have it I managed to continue my "playing against close personal friends" streak when I pulled Kelly in round 3. Additionally he would also be playing a variant of "Die in a Fire"; albeit with a completely different sideboard than Tommy's version. Once again I felt that the key to the match-up would be keeping Kelly from sticking a Koth of the Hammer, a Molten Tail-Masticore or a Kargan Dragonlord; after sideboard things would get more complicated as I knew Kelly ran multiple Goblin Runeblasters to take out my dual lands.
Game 1 also played to script as I once again managed to lose the die roll; this time however Kelly was ready to make me pay with a turn 1 Goblin Guide quickly followed up by a Dragonlord. I responded by using Duress to rip Koth out of his hand on my 1st turn and leaving up mana to whack his Dragonlord with Go for the Throat when he tried to level it up before attacking. At this point in the game I honestly felt things were going pretty swimmingly; I'd answered 2 of Kelly's most dangerous threats off the bat and while I was still losing life steadily to a Goblin Guide I had a hand full of counters and card draw to go find some answers. Things looked even better for me after I countered Kelly's Masticore and responded by playing my own Abyssal Persecutor to start putting my opponent on a clock in the midgame. Naturally of course Kelly responded by double "bolt"ing the Persecutor for 6 but I wasn't too worried, after all I would draw another threat eventually and Kelly was down two of his best answers to the Jace the Mind Sculptor I was going to drop on the next turn anyways. A funny thing happened on the way to my victory party however; namely Kelly drew another threat (Inferno Titan) and then after using it to draw the last counter-spell out of my hand proceeded to topdeck and play a Koth of the Hammer. I responded (illegally it turns out) by casting an Into the Roil with kicker to bounce his Mountain back into his hand (Into the Roil says "nonland permanent") to save Jace for one more brainstorm but the damage was already done. 2 turns, a Preordain and 3 land later I'd lost my first game of the night and we headed to game 2.
After siding in a couple Flashfreezes and a 2nd Frost Titan I wished Kelly "good luck but not too much because I still want to win" and shuffled up for game 2. This time I was on the play and while he responded to my turn 1 Creeping Tar Pit with another Goblin Guide my turn 2 Duress hit home and ripped away his lone Koth. His early game featured another Dragonlord and an Ember Hauler but I specifically saved another G4tT to make sure the Dragolord didn't get out of hand. At some point Kelly stopped drawing land however and despite having a Brittle Effigy in play when I cast a turn 6 Frost Titan he was 1 mana short of activating it. Unfortunately Kelly wouldn't draw a way out of the Frost Titan lock until the turn after I'd cast a Persecutor and once I revealed the Jace to bounce him back to my hand we headed on to game 3.
Game 3 would turn out to be an epic back and forth battle for supremacy that would ultimately come down to land. In the early game I had Kelly on the ropes with an active Jace and a "live" Creeping Tar Pit before I paused to case an Abyssal Persecutor. Kelly proceeded to cast back to back Goblin Runeblasters; denying me both unblockable monsters and sources of black mana! Unfortunately for Kelly he would become trapped at 5 land when I finally drew another black source to hit him with a Duress, he replied by double bolting my Persecutor (again) and I found myself staring at 3 copies of Inferno Titan. Brainstorming like mad I quickly made sure that I had a counterspell in my hand at all times while cycling towards my 2nd black mana source. Kelly finally drew the 6th Mountain and with little choice started casting Inferno Titans. I countered the first two and stuck a Grave Titan at 12 Life; when Kelly responded by casting an Inferno Titan and throwing 3 at my "head" I knew the match was mine. I untapped and showed him the Go For the Throat in my hand before accepting his concession.
3-0 (6-1) MVP: Go for the Throat. Over the course of 3 games this card helped me kill something ridiculous like 5 Dragonlords, 2 Koth Elementals, an Inferno Titan and a Goblin Guide. Additionally only once did I find myself wishing it was Doom Blade; Kelly briefly stuck a Molten-Tail Masticore in game 1 and I was forced to waste an Into the Roil on it even though my opponent lacked "regeneration" mana.
Going into round 4 Shai and I were the only undefeated players and it didn't make a whole lot of sense for either one of us to play out the match. Naturally of course we didn't discuss splitting the prizes (a DCI no-no) but I was prepared to come in 2nd place as long as I got the draw so I didn't really care either way. At this point the sheer excitement of the evening had started to wear on me and I figured getting home an hour earlier was probably worth more than the difference between 1st and 2nd place. Being sick all winter had certainly taken some of my endurance as I'd found myself yawning/stretching a lot as the evening wore on anyways. Additionally I had naturally assumed that Shai was playing a fully updated version of Valakut and surmised that my odds of winning the match were no better than 50/50 anyways. When I later on learned that Shai hadn't added Green Sun's Zenith to his deck yet I laughed out loud; I honestly felt my U/B deck could win games 2 and 3 quite easily against "old" Valakut Ramp.
3-0-1 (6-1-2) MVP: Drawing in the finals. Playing your way out of the prize money is no way to end a tournament you started 3-0; as it turns out my tiebreakers were pretty good anyways but even knowing that I was happy to take the draw.
After the tournament I hung around for a few minutes while the guys traded cards and swapped bad beat stories before packing up for the hour long trip home on the freezing subway. Fortunately for me Kelly, Beau, Casey and Tommy were also along for the Subway ride and we passed the time idly chatting on the subway until each of my companions reached their stop in turn, Kelly rode the subway past his stop to walk me home from mine and after thanking him for running an awesome tournament I wished him goodnight.
Well folks that's about all I have for this time, at some point I'll want to write a report about the 2nd tournament (we had 21 people) but for now my typing fingers are a little too sore. Before I sign off however I'd like to give a big shout out to the Magic crew at Brampton Ontario's "Teddy N Me". After meeting the boys at the Hairy T North during last week's FNM I have to say that I'm delighted long time Hairy T regular Brian Little talked them into joining us. I also promised one of them (Daniel) that I'd help advertise their upcoming "Super Standard" tournament so here goes:
Teddy N Me
Shopper's World Mall
499 Main St. S.
Mon-Fri: 10am to 9pm
Sat: 9:30am to 6pm
Sun: 12pm to 5pm
12pm $5 Super Standard
When: Saturday, Feb 19, 2011
Description: Start Time: 12pm
Entry Fee: $5
Prizes: 1st: Vengevine x2
2nd: Primeval Titan
3rd: Avenger of Zendikar
4th: Prismatic Omen
And with that ladies and gentlemen she's off; until next time always remember that Inquisition of Kozilek can't take a 4CC Planeswalker and never forget to keep it weird!