I was starting to think I wasn’t going to make it to Limited States. I was up much of the night with an illness which—well, let’s just say if the tournament had been held then I would have been too busy doing something else to play cards. So on Saturday morning I tentatively packed up and headed off for the tournament, not sure if I’d have to go dashing off mid-round to the little gamers’ room.
I opened my packs and as I registered the cards I was very glad that we would be playing a different card pool than we registered. The highlight of the group was Lightning Helix. A good card, sure, but it’s not going to win the game for you by itself. There was some other playable red and white but as I write this I can’t even remember any of the rares except Glimpse, which is, of course, unplayable in Boros.
We turned in our cards and then I went to play some Legacy with Joel Allen, Top 8 Regionals finisher a few weeks ago. Aluren vs. Sneak Attack sure breaks up the Standard monotony of Jitte + random creature.
Soon enough we were called back to our seats and given the cards we would actually play. As I verified the Ravnica cards I wondered “Did this guy get any rares?” Then I got to the gold cards. Glare. Uh huh, that seems good. Oh, plus Tolsimir. Wow! I also got Rakdos Pit Dragon but the rest of the red was weak and he’s not really splashable with the double mana requirement. Plus I had to go with black for the removal.
The deck basically built itself with just the Ravnica tournament deck. Here’s what I ran with:
1 Centaur Safeguard
1 Civic Wayfinder
1 Conclave Equenaut
1 Dimir House Guard
1 Elves of Deep Shadow
1 Freewind Equenaut
1 Ghor-Clan Savage
1 Glare of Subdual
1 Golgari Brownscale
1 Greater Mossdog
1 Guardian of the Guildpact
1 Sadistic Augermage
1 Scatter the Seeds
1 Seal of Doom
1 Selesnya Guildmage
1 Selesnya Sagittars
1 Selesnya Sancutary
1 Shambling Shell
1 Tolsimir Wolfblood
1 Verdant Eidolon
1 Wild Cantor
1 Nightmare Void
I should have brought in Sewerdreg from the board but I really didn’t need another 5cc creature, especially another double black requirement. He’s good but when you can tap out your opponent’s creatures at will he’s not absolutely required. I probably should have run him but it worked out well the way it was.
Round 1 - Todd Martin
Todd was playing every color but green, a common theme of the day. I saw a lot of four color decks and even some five color decks. With my build and the mana fixers I had I figured I’d win at least a few games due to my opponent’s color screw. Game one of round one proved that theory. I cast a couple of quick creatures and then we both played draw go for awhile, looking for land to match our spells. Fortunately I had been pinging him for two or three the whole time and by the time he started playing creatures he was too low on life to survive my alpha strikes. Game two I drew Glare. That was pretty much it. For a couple of turns he had three creatures to my two and he got me down to 11 but then I found more creatures and killed him quickly thereafter.
Nick saw me playing and told me he had Glare too. “See you in the Top 8!” he said joyfully as he played.
Round 2 - Charlie Weber
This deck really wasn’t very hard to play, even against a good opponent like Charlie (he also Top 8′d Regionals). I kept playing better and better creatures as Charlie exclaimed how ridiculous my deck was. Turn one Elves, turn two Freewind Equenaut, turn three Greater Mossdog, then a Selesnya Guildmage. Then Tolsimir came out and they all got bigger and I overran him. Game two I started the same way and then found Glare. He came very close to scooping on the spot but stuck it out until the end (which wasn’t much longer).
Round 3 - Michael Olesen
By now others were starting to talk about my deck and Nick Moreno’s, a fellow Rainy Day Gamer who also got Glare and was also 2-0. Michael’s deck just never gave him a chance. He double mulliganed in game one and was stuck on one land for at least the first three or four turns. I never took any damage. Game two was more of the same as he was stuck on two and even when he started drawing land it didn’t match the color of his spells. I can’t really tell you much about his deck because I didn’t see much of it. I offered him the handshake after game two but he was obviously disgusted at the way the match went. I talked to him afterward and he seemed in better spirits.
Round 4 - Robbie Chen
After round three I heard Robbie, another very good player, talk about how he didn’t like his deck but he liked the opponents he was getting. I watched part of his round three and his opponent definitely made some play mistakes. Of course his opponent was also the one who took Battle of Wits to States last year so I know he builds decks a bit differently.
Unfortunately this round was my deck’s turn to crap out. In game one I played some early creatures but his blue bounce plus bigger green guys were able to take care of them and I never found Glare or Tolsimir. Robbie was still wondering what the bombs were in my deck—people sitting next to us were talking about how good it was as we sat down but fortunately they didn’t give anything specific away. In round two Robbie just played creature after creature and swarmed me with Overwhelm-powered Saprolings. After the game I showed him the bombs which never came out to play and tried to gird myself up for another round. I was really hoping for the 4-0 draw in strategy.
Round 5 - Nick Turula
Nick is a very nice guy who played his Type I Singleton deck against my Control Slaver deck before the tournament started. Gorilla Shaman tore him up but he took it very well and we had fun playing our broken decks. Now we were both fighting for our tournament lives as the loser was out.
Game one I played quick creatures and swarmed him. Again, no Glare but I still only took one point of damage. Fortunately Castigate revealed a Savage Twister which I promptly removed. For game two I boarded in the Nightmare Void to try to get rid of Savage Twister. I mulliganed and started out slowly. He was playing tons of creatures and Skullmead Cauldron. I was able to start fighting him off by blocking with the Eidolon, letting it die, then casting a multicolored creature to get it back (the Wild Cantor even served this purpose). Eventually we both had about ten creatures each and I was able to stabilize at five life and start chipping away at his total, which had grown to 29, with the Dimir House Guard and Freewind Equenaut. Our libraries were getting pretty low and I was still looking for Glare. He found Thundersong Trumpeter but I found Darkblast. He found another one and I had to dredge Darkblast back, even with a relatively high chance of dredging my own Glare. But if I didn’t find Glare I’d be dead as he’d make my one flyer unable to block his one flyer. I revealed two lands and a meaningless creature. Whew. I killed his Trumpeter. Unfortunately he found some removal for my flyer and finished me off.
Game three my deck was on. He was color screwed and I played the Selesnya Guildmage and the Wayfinder. Every turn I tapped out to give them both +1/+1 and hit for six. He didn’t last long at that rate as he couldn’t get out a blocker.
Whew again! I was pretty sure I was in since my tiebreakers were great but I waited anxiously for the standings. I was fourth, the highest ranked of the 4-1’s. As long as I got paired up against one of the top three I could definitely draw in.
Round 6 - Ryan Engbrecht
Woo hoo! Ryan was ranked third and undefeated so we quickly agreed to a draw. We played for fun and I played badly. I played the House Guard instead of dredging him for Glare and I tried to set up Ghor-Clan Savage with Bloodthirst even though I didn’t have two Forests in play. We shuffled up and played again and he beat me again (with no Glare or Tolsimir). Good thing we drew.
After the sixth round ended they announced the top 8. I was fifth.
Top 8 Draft
I was sandwiched between Dan Schomburg, a perennial Portland Magic Top 8 finisher, and Brett Gadberry, who rode Sunforger and tons of good instants to the Top 8. They announced the rules and everyone gathered around the table to watch the draft. They told us to begin but I almost couldn’t get the stupid Ravnica pack open! I finally did to reveal—Grozoth. Oh goody. I decided to go for the Lightning Helix and I was very glad I did because I got passed a parade of great Boros cards. Wojek Embermage, Indentured Oaf, and Sunhome Enforcer. I drafted almost exclusively Boros in the Ravnica pack except for a lone Transluminant and a couple of lousy 14th and 15th picks. I figured I’d go black for Orzhov in Guildpact and Rakdos in Dissension. With this many good players I figured they’d all be fighting over blue.
The Guildpact pack showed me another crappy rare and I took Mortify, passing a Blind Hunter and a Pillory. I actually got the Blind Hunter back and also grabbed a couple of Cry of Contrition late just in case I faced something I couldn’t handle. I got Djinn Illuminatus very late and, since there was nothing better, I went ahead and took him. I figured he’d pass for my beef.
I was hoping for some real Rakdos goodies but didn’t get a single Ickspitter or Cackling Flames. I did get a Hit in the middle of the run and a Seal of Doom but I was forced to take the Azorius Signet just to try for some sort of acceleration and mana fixing. Playing three colors without green is risky and I only found one Rakdos Carnarium, but I felt I had a decent if not overpowering deck.
I went with this build:
1 Agent of Masks
1 Azorius Signet
1 Beacon Hawk
1 Blind Hunter
1 Centaur Safeguard
1 Conclave Equenaut
1 Courier Hawk
1 Demon’s Jester
1 Djinn Illuminatus
1 Douse in Gloom
1 Ghost Warden
1 Hit // Run
1 Indentured Oaf
1 Lightning Helix
1 Ordruun Commando
1 Parallectric Feedback
1 Rakdos Carnarium
1 Scorched Rusalka
1 Seal of Doom
1 Slaugherhouse Bouncer
1 Sunhome Enforcer
1 Thundersong Trumpeter
1 Vesper Ghoul
1 Wojek Embermage
1 Cry of Contrition
Round 1 - Nicholas Moreno
Well, good and bad—one of us was going to make it to the semis but one of us would definitely be out.
I mulliganed a one Swamp hand into one with four lands but it didn’t really matter because this game went on a long, long time. I don’t know how long but it seemed like at least an hour. Everyone else was finished before we were done with game one. I got him down to ten quickly but then he stabilized with bigger creatures and started getting real card advantage with Bottled Cloister. He kept counting his land and I was holding Parallectric Feedback to try to finish him off with him at eight. But then he started getting through for a point here and a point there and my life total was dwindling. I used the Feedback in response to a Sewerdreg that he’d fetched with Congragation at Dawn, bringing him down to three. All I needed was the Helix. Eventually, eventually he was able to alpha strike with everything and finish me off with Golgari Rotwurm and a Blind Hunter-haunted creature. He did exactly enough damage with him at three.
Game two was a different story. I got lots of removal and swarmed him very quickly without taking a point of damage. Game three I did the same with early removal and a big Hit.
Round 2 - Charlie Weber
After Charlie laid down his second land and gestured toward me I asked him if he was done. “It’s possible, pig,” he said in a dead on Dread Pirate Roberts voice and when I got the reference he threw his hands up and smiled big. “Finally, someone who gets my references!” We spent most of the rest of the match riffing Princess Bride and Family Guy references while we played.
Game one, again, took a long long time. Charlie was right when he told me before round one that he got ridiculous amounts of removal. I played a creature and he killed it. Repeat. Fortunately he wasn’t playing many creatures of his own until he got a Streetbreaker Wurm out. I Hit him for five and was able to finish him off.
Game two was close as well with us playing creatures and killing the other’s creatures. I was down to nine and he was at six. He cast something, the Streetbreaker I think?, and I responded with Parallectric Feedback. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Charlie was down to one and I finished him off the next turn.
Round 3 - States Finals - Robbie Chan
I asked Robbie to please let me play this time since my deck didn’t do anything against him in the Swiss. “Oh yeah, Rob Roy again” he said and we shuffled up for the finals.
Game one was all Robbie. I was a bit mana screwed and could only get one or two creatures in play. He kept bouncing them with Ogre Savants or Repealing them. I just couldn’t keep enough creatures on the board to block them all, especially once Court Hussar showed up and started flying over me, and I never did a point of damage.
Game two should have been mine. It was back and forth and I had him down to four. After blocking I sac’d a creature to the Rusalka and then started thinking. “What is your Haunt target?” Robbie asked and I picked the Silkwing Scout. You know, the one he can sac for green and get a basic land. So in response he sac’d it and exhaled while he searched for the Mountain he needed. As soon as I picked the Scout I knew I had made a mistake and that mistake did cost me the game. I was able to get him down to three which exactly the missing damage which I could have done if I’d haunted one of my own creatures. I was able to hold him off for five or six turns (”You held on much longer than I expected,” the head judge remarked afterward) but I couldn’t kill off his Simic Ragwurm equipped with Grifter’s Blade and backed up by Skarrg. I kept blocking but Skarrg kept forcing through a couple of points a turn. I even got the Djinn out but he couldn’t kill the suddenly 5/5 wurm.
I was down to one and he was at three. He had a tapped Ragwurm (with one blue open) and one other creature, untapped. I had a Scorched Rusalka and a Wojek Embermage (that was another mistake I made in this game—I held the Embermage too long and played other creatures before him, which forced me to take Scatter the Seeds tokens once and take five or six damage in one turn). I exhaled and drew my card, praying for the Helix. I ripped a Plains. I thought for a minute and attacked with both creatures. He untapped the Ragwurm and I extended my hand. “I was hoping you’d have a brain fart or something,” I explained—it was my only chance after making my fatal mistake earlier.
Here’s how the Top 8 played out:
Robbie Chan def. Brett Gadberry 2-0
Dan Schomburg def. Ryan Engbrecht 2-0
Charlie Weber def. Tom Huteson
me def. Nicholas Moreno 2-1
Robbie Chan def. Dan Schomburg 2-0
me def. Charlie Weber 2-0
Robbie Chan def. me 2-0
Oh, and by the way, if you’re reading this Nathan Saunders—hi Nathan!