There was a Pro Tour Qualifier tournament (Standard) going on at Lucky’s Card Shop on Saturday, May 19. The only reason I knew this was from Brian mentioning it a handful of times, on the show and in an email asking to borrow cards he needed for the deck. He asked if any of the rest of us were going. Of course, Dirk said no. He has no time or interest (or cards) for a Standard tournament. Mike said “I dunno. Maybe.” Actual quote!
As for me, I told Brian it would depend on whether or not Mike went. If not, I could borrow his Big Red deck and play it. If he decided to play, I’d have nothing to pilot myself, so there wasn’t really a point to even thinking about it. As time went on, it became clear that Mike would be going to the PTQ. Friday after work I met Brian and his lovely wife and daughter for dinner at Texas Roadhouse (and thoroughly enjoyed all the cinnamon butter), then he came by my place for a quick second to grab the cards he needed to borrow.
Since it was Friday night and I’m a (mostly) young and (mostly) eligible bachelor…I was sitting around doing stuff on the computer. Pretty sure I was working on posting shows for MTGCast, but I could be mistaken. I had Twitter open (because I hate myself), and a tweet by @Smi77y caught my eye. It said “Here’s the latest version of Kamikaze!” and had a link. I thought to myself “What does that mean?” and clicked on the link.
“Oh” I said, continuing to have a full conversation with myself (rocking Friday night, yeah?), “it’s a decklist. One of his freakin’ Blood Artist lists. How lame. Guess I’ll just close thi…” My eyes fell on the Falkenrath Aristocrat in the list, with the number 4 next to it, and something in my brain said “THAT’S AWESOME!” I looked at the list again, seeing all the nifty little interactions. Then I saw 3 copies of Killing Wave and knew this was a deck I had to play. Killing Wave is actually not so much a good card, but in this deck it is absolutely amazing. And the more I looked at the deck, the more I wanted to play it. Like a lot. I sent the link to Mike, who said “Looks pretty cool.” Another actual quote!
Unfortunately, I didn’t actually own…well, basically anything. So I trudged off to Top Deck Games in Kernersville NC, decklist in hand, to see what it would cost me. Turns out it was about 50 bucks for all the cards I didn’t have, with the exception of Cavern of Souls. He threw in 3 of those to finish my set, bringing the total up to $120. Lucky for me, I’m no longer completely broke and unemployed. Plus, I realized I could sell back my set of Caverns to Lucky after I scrubbed out of the tournament, essentially just renting them. Life is good.
When I got back to the apartment, I realized that I had no Ratchet Bombs and was not about to spend money on them. I really just don’t like them that much. So I pulled up Gatherer and started looking for other mass removal in black and red. I decided on either Black Sun’s Zenith (which I have) or Whipflare (I traded all those to Mike for the Big Red deck). After mulling it over for at least a few seconds, I decided on Whipflare. The Zenith scales up to take out bigger things, but it costs more to use and it kills things that I don’t want to kill, namely *insert Gilbert Gottfried voice* …the Aristocrats! It turns out that Whipflare also doesn’t kill my artifact creatures, but I swear I didn’t think of that ahead of time.
Since I didn’t have all the cards yet, didn’t have anyone to playtest against, and didn’t have time to do so even if these things weren’t true, I looked at an article Smitty had written about a previous version of the deck looking for some quick play tips and (more importantly, because I suck at it) sideboarding tips. See, I did a little bit of research! There’s a lesson there, kids. If you’re going to netdeck, at least get some tips on how to play the deck you’re going to play. Far too many people put together a deck they saw on the internet and assume that it will just autopilot them to victory. That’s not true of Mike’s Big Red deck (which is a control deck no matter what the colors might lead you to believe) and it’s not true here either. In fact, it’s almost certainly not true for any deck, so do your homework. There will be a test!
The next morning I got to Lucky’s, grabbed the stuff I was still missing from the dorks (Mike even traded someone for a 4th Aristocrat for me, isn’t he sweet?) and sleeved up the deck. I wrote out the decklist and shuffled up, dealing out my first practice opening hand. It was super aggressive and ridiculous, and I knew I was in for an awesome time today.
What? It’s possible to have an awesome time scrubbing out! Oh, shut up and check out the decklist I turned in to the judges:
Round 1 vs John Winters (Esper Tapout)
Really? I have to play John Winters in the first round? What the hell? John is consistently ranked near the top in the state. He’s also a really nice guy. I tutored him in Calculus once while on the clock at another job. True story, little weird. Anyway. I drew my opening hand, only the second one I had ever drawn with the deck. It had a Cavern, a Summit, an Aristocrat, a Killing Wave, and 3 other cards that just didn’t fill me with hope when playing against one of the top players in the state. So I decided to mulligan to 6. I got a no-lander. So I went to 5. Another no-lander, really? Damn. So down to 4 I go. You’ve got to be kidding me! AGAIN? Remind me to have Smitty killed. Who puts only 23 land in a deck? I don’t care if the curve tops out at 4 and really only NEEDS to have 3 lands in play to run effectively? So down to 3 cards I go. Turns out it was pretty good for only 3 cards. I had a Gravecrawler, a Swamp, and a Blood Artist. Snap-keep!
Turns out that was pretty good. I ripped a land off the top and played a second Blood Artist! I was doing a pretty good job of moving ahead…when he cast Sever the Bloodline on my Artists. He had an O-Ring for my later Messenger too. I managed to knock him down to 12 life even though I started with only 3 cards! But he smashed me. Somehow he gained 5 of that life back, but I don’t remember how exactly. I think it was a Batterskull caving my head in.
Sideboard: Pretty sure I took out the Fiends and probably a Ghoul for the Crypt Creepers, but that’s just an educated guess. Hadn’t fully recovered from my concussion yet.
Now that I’ve gotten all the bad draws out of my system, I’m gonna kick this guy’s…and again with the no land. Smitty will die for this. But my 6 card mulligan was wonderful, and I proceeded to curb stomp John Winters. I’ve got a zombie army and you can’t harm me! The Aristocrat showed up for 4 points of flying damage, then swung again the next turn to sew it up. So THAT’S what this deck is supposed to do!
Of course, I mull to 6 again. Dammit Smitty. I was holding my own, fighting through all his removal and whatnot, bringing him all the way down to 5 life. Even though he Severed my Artists again, dammit. Then he played the Wurmcoil Engine. The Go for the Throat in my hand actually laughed at me. Oh well, I’m probably just gonna scrub out anyway, right?
Round 2 vs Ryan (RW Humans)
One half of a set of twins that was at the event, Ryan was running on the smallest amounts of sleep. It didn’t seem to faze him as much as you might think though. And hey look, I didn’t have to mulligan! Perhaps Smitty can go on living…for now.
I found out that Porcelain Legionnaire is absolutely brilliant against an opposing Mirran Crusader. In case you can’t tell by looking, there’s not much my deck can do against a Crusader in game one other than roll over and die…except throw a Toilet Soldier in the way! Rather than trade, he opted to pump his up with an Honor of the Pure, then play a second Crusader. Lucky for me, I played a Blood Artist then copied it with a Metamorph. When he swung in with his two 3/3 double strikers, I blocked one with the Crapper Commander and let the other one through. At the end of that combat, I lost a total of 2 life and my opponent lost 4 life. On his attack. Seems good. After that the Aristocrat showed up and flew over for the win. She does that.
Sideboard: I know I threw in the Despises, because the next paragraph says I did. Pretty sure the Fiends came out, along with a Tragic Slip and a Ghoul. At least I think that’s what I did. I’m pretty sure I was so afraid of facing a Crusader unprepared that I didn’t fool with any of the other sideboard cards. Which is dumb since Whipflare takes them out. Look, I just discovered the deck yesterday, gimme a break here.
So I sided in those Despises to hopefully snag a Crusader (because Smitty said that’s what it’s there for). And what do you know, turn one I draw a Despise and play it, snagging a Crusader. Ladies and gentlemen, sideboard tech at its best! My opponent had a quick Gather the Townsfolk, so I answered with another Privy Platoon. He bonded one of his human tokens with a Silverblade Paladin, which caused me to pause for a moment, but I still had Corporal Commode to trade with the Paladin if he sent it in.
Then Ryan threw the curveball at me. He cast Riders of Gavony and named Soldier. I looked down at my board of Lavatory Lord and Gravecrawler with a tapped Aristocrat and realized that I was in for a WORLD of hurt. Then I drew a Killing Wave and started to do math. I was at 10 life, he was at 8. I cast the Killing Wave for 4, meaning he would only be able to keep one creature without killing himself in the process. I paid for the scary flying vampire and let the Gravecrawler and the Head Honcho die (since they couldn’t block anyway). This would leave me at 6 and him at 4 with only 1 creature in play, unable to kill me in one swing…unless he happened to draw the Lightning Mauler. He opted to save the Paladin, and I held my breath and said “Go.” He untapped, picked up his top card, smiled…and extended his hand in concession. I’m really glad he didn’t draw a Zealous Conscripts either. Holy crap, I didn’t even think about that until writing this! He had more outs than I thought. Lucky Chewie is lucky!
Round 3 vs Steven (Zombies!)
Steven was a pretty cool guy. He was playing a mono-black zombies build with 22 Swamps. I later found out that this warmed the heart of one of the judges at the event. Everyone loves tribal, whether it’s good or not.
He played a turn 3 Messenger. I played a turn 3 Lieutenant Loo, whose first strike kept the Messenger from delivering. He played a Cemetery Reaper, which didn’t pump up his undying guy enough to get to me. That didn’t stop him from swinging in anyway, making his Messenger knock 2 life out of me. Next turn, he could swing with a 5/4, which was big enough to survive tangling with my Bog Battalion. So I played a second one, causing Steven to shake his head as he played a SECOND Reaper. Now his Messenger was a 6/5, but it still couldn’t get through the Dunny Division holding the front line. I ended up winning when he was at 7 life by swinging with an Aristocrat, then playing and sacrificing a Soulcage Fiend to knock out his last 3 life points. That’s the first and last time the Fiend did anything for me this tournament (other than make my sideboarding decisions easier).
Sideboard: Pretty sure that went so well that I didn’t bother boarding anything in.
I felt for Steven in this game, because he kept drawing no-land hands and had to mulligan down to 4 cards. Even so, he managed to knock me all the way down to 10 life. But my zombie army put in a bit more work than his this time around, with some help from the Bathroom Brigadiers. I actually played a Cavern of Souls and named Soldier just so I didn’t have to pay life to cast them!
Round 4 vs Mike (Big Red)
Of course, I then had to play Mike, who was also 2-1 on the day. Now as you might remember, I’ve been there since the beginning of this deck. I’ve even spent a couple tournaments playing it, doing pretty well in both. The point I’m trying to get across here is that I know this deck pretty well. In fact, I know it better than the one I’m playing! So when I dropped a Messenger on turn 3 and another one on turn 4, I knew what a complete blowout that was. At that point, Mike was far enough behind that it would take an act of Congress for him to take it back. Well Congress wasn’t in session that day, and I won without taking a point of damage. Not that it meant anything for me to still be at 20; Mike’s deck sometimes just kills you from 20 without asking first.
Sideboard: I was afraid of Koth and Karn, so I sided in the Despises. I’m pretty sure the Manic Vandals came in to handle his stupid Shrines too, because they just destroy my entire face. Like the whole thing. Dismembers came out, since Mike’s creatures aren’t really scary except for the Inferno Titan, and that won’t kill them. Fiends came out yet again (I swear that’s what they’re there for), and I’m pretty sure the Tragic Slip came out. The fact that it was a singleton copy had me wondering what Smitty was thinking for most of the day.
The second game went in a completely different fashion. I had 2 Swamps and a Cavern set to Zombies so I could play my Messenger on turn 3 and hopefully crush Mike’s face quickly again. When I tried to play a second one, he burned out the first one, then wiped the board on his turn, leaving me with one zombie and doing pretty well. The problem is, I really needed some red mana. I had an Aristocrat AND a Vandal in my hand, but couldn’t get either one onto the battlefield. Here we see the downfall of the Cavern, but it’s still totally worth it to play. Mike got out a Koth and started punching me in the face with Mountain-guys until he was able to set off his Limit Break and get the emblem. He used a Ghost Quarter to turn one of his non-Mountains into another Mountain, giving him 4 of them to ping me with every turn. No problem, I just need to draw a red mana source or another dude and I’m good, right?
Of course, this is when my deck decided to run out of gas. I cast Despise to get a peek at the lone card in his hand, and it was a Slagstorm. Oh goodie. At some point I played a Blood Artist, hoping to finish him off before the stupid purple Mountains killed me with their majesty. Did I mention he was 4 life? When he attempted to kill me during his turn, I hit my Blood Artist with a Go for the Throat to suck a single point of life out of him. It was at this point that he realized it was a really good thing that he didn’t try to get cute and kill me with the Slagstorm, as that would have given me the game. But I again drew nothing, and he just killed me during his next turn. Stupid Mountains.
Deciding game! At some point I got out a Blood Artist or two, because my life total jumps to 22 then 24. After killing my Artists, poor Mike kept drawing Ghost Quarters and Solemn Simulacrums though, because he just couldn’t get anything going. He did play a Koth again. It acted as a 4 mana red Fog, because my Aristocrat decided to kill it instead of hitting Mike again. But alas, I kept drawing gas and he kept drawing not gas, and I ended up taking it down again at 20 life.
Round 5 vs Dylan (UW Tokens)
The first game against Dylan was a trip. He led off with a first turn Delver of Secrets, which took a Tragic Slip into the grave. Next turn he played another one, which was promptly Dismembered. Third turn he tried yet another one, which was Dismembered yet again. We just looked at each other with incredulity at that point. He tried to say something about me having 3 kill spells in a row, but he had the triple Gregor Samsa draw, so he had no room to complain.
Later he dropped an Invisible Stalker followed by a Sword of War and Peace. Lucky for me though, I just happened to have a Phyrexian Metamorph in hand to copy his Sword. Then I drew a second one, and copied his Sword again. It turns out that dual-wielding those things trumps a single one every time. I have absolutely no memory of the rest of the game, I just know that I managed to out-Sword him. I love me some Metamorph.
Sideboard: I know I sided in Whipflares against the token-heavy build, along with the Vandals to combat his Swords. Again the Fiends came out, along with the Dismembers (lots of little dudes, after all) and some other card, probably a Ghoul.
I had some early beats going, which was pretty cool. I had a Blood Artist and a Metamorph copy of it on the battlefield along with a couple of dudes. Dylan was behind on creatures and life, so he cast a Timely Reinforcements to recoup some of both.
I looked at the Whipflare in my hand and tried really hard not to break into a big stupid sloppy moronic grin. When my turn started, I didn’t even swing first, although I probably should have. I sat there a fairly long time doing math, trying to figure out if I could win or not (and trying real hard not to screw it all up). Dylan actually asked if I could pick up the pace a bit so we didn’t run out of time. We had 24 minutes left, and apparently he still thought he had a chance at winning this game since he was at 18. So I cast the Whipflare, killing almost everything on the board (the Metamorph copy of the Artist survived because it remains an artifact creature no matter what you copy) and draining him for a whopping 16 life.
So now Dylan’s at 2 and I’m at 36, and my deck decides it’s just done. He casts another Timely Reinforcements and attempted to come back. I managed to find a couple of guys, one of which is another Artist, and finally drew a Killing Wave. I swung in to bring his life down to 6, then I cast the Killing Wave for zero. Dylan said “So I have to sacrifice all my creatures…unless I pay…zero life?” And I said “Sure, but I go first. I choose not to pay zero life for any of my guys, and they all die, causing you to lose 6 life.” “…Oh.” So that was that, and he was really cool about it all, even though of course he was bummed to go to 3-2 and be out of contention.
So now I’m 4-1 at a freakin’ PTQ and can possibly draw into the top 8. I looked at the standings, and I was on top of the 12-point players. John Winters was undefeated after trouncing me thoroughly, so my tiebreakers were pretty good. For you other casual players out there, the first step in determining tiebreakers is opponents’ match win percentage. My tiebreaks were pretty high compared to the players at 10 points too, so I wasn’t too worried about intentionally drawing out of the top 8.
So I sat down across from Phillip and asked if he’d like to just ID. I knew he would be in regardless and therefore shouldn’t really care, so it was ultimately up to me. And considering I came in expecting to pull a 1-3 drop or something, I was tickled pink and didn’t really care if I made the top 8 or not. If I did, that’s freakin’ awesome. If not then damn, that sucks, who wants Mexican food? So we signed the slip with an ID and handed it to the judge. Then I asked if he wanted to just play the round for fun, and he said sure. So we shuffled up.
It was at this point that Will, of the now-defunct Runnin’ the Gauntlet podcast, noticed me sitting at table 2. He freaked. “What are you doing up here?” Dude, I’m awesome. “No really. How the hell are you at table 2 at a PTQ? You don’t even play seriously!” Hey now! I always play seriously. “No, I mean you don’t play competitively.” So I’m just playing to lose most of the time? “ARGH! Dammit you know what I mean!” Yeah, I do. But just because I don’t play in tournaments doesn’t mean I’m a bad player. Keep that in mind, bucko.
I do so love breaking stereotypes and expectations. I highly recommend it.
Round 6 vs Phillip Fortner (UB Kamikaze) (just for kicks)
All right, I have to admit here that I was WAY too excited to actually take notes of any sort. It actually turned out that he was playing a blue and black version of the Kamikaze deck. And after playing him, I’m glad I went with the red version, because I just won both games. Granted, we didn’t sideboard or anything, but I’m pretty sure he was actually playing and not just screwing around to waste time. I remember nothing about the games, but I do know that I was at 9 when I killed him in the first game and 8 when I won the second. I also remember not being concerned about what his deck was doing at any point whatsoever. But I honestly don’t even remember what blue cards he was playing. We just played two quick throwaway games and I went to sit with Mike and wait for the top 8 announcement.
At this point Dylan (my round 5 opponent) asked how I did. I told him how it went down, and he informed me that Phillip Fortner was a really good player. Like finished in the top 16 of the last SCG Invitational good. That made me feel even better about trouncing him in our quick throwaway games!
When they made the announcement, it turned out that I was in 7th place! I had just made the top 8 of a Standard PTQ! Me, casual player extraordinaire! As I sat down at one of the tables set aside for the top 8, a few of the local guys there that know me said “Hey jackass, that’s where the top 8 players are gonna play. Go sit somewhere else.” I’m not gonna lie, it felt really good to keep sitting there.
Top 8 – Quarterfinals vs Chris Piland (Esper Tapout)
Chris sat down across from me, and one of the judges (Cluze!) sat down next to me. He announced “It is my job to make you nervous.” Honestly, he should be fired from this job. But then again, maybe not. The fact that this was a PTQ Top 8 and I was sitting next to a judge did make me play with just a bit more…not urgency exactly. Professionalism, maybe? I didn’t take any notes about what happened in any of the games, probably because I didn’t want to slow the game down any or anything like that. Of course, because I took no notes, I actually don’t know who won which games (except the last one, of course). But the more I think about, the more things are coming back to me, so I can definitely hit the high points. It’s entirely possible that I’ll get some of the details mixed up between the games. Please forgive me for that, I’m getting old and the memory isn’t quite what it used to be.
I apparently got out an early Blood Artist, because my life total climbs up to 24 on my life pad. He had run out a Ponder and Forbidden Alchemy and the like, probably dropped a Lingering Souls on me at this point. I still didn’t know what he was playing, but I saw blue mana open. When I played my Falkenrath Aristocrat, I said “Okay, now to draw out the counterspell.” And Chris played right along. He looked at his hand and thought it over for a few seconds, then looked at my mana and said “You got it.” I got all excited and said “Sweet! Go.” Just as soon as I said it, I realized that I was the biggest idiot ever. Mouse over the this Falkenrath Aristocrat and you’ll see why. Yup, it has haste. Idiot. I was so happy to get to keep it that I completely forgot to attack with it. And since his life total never drops by 4 for the rest of the record here, I’m pretty sure he cast Sever the Bloodline on it the next turn. The punchline? His deck doesn’t run countermagic of any sort. I’m not entirely sure what happened after that, but my life total drops from 24 to 15. I’m almost certain it had something to do with Sun Titan. But I managed to pull out the win despite that, thank goodness.
Sideboard: I sided in Whipflares and Crypt Creepers to combat his Lingering Souls before and after the flashback. Of course the Fiends came out along with, probably a couple Diregraf Ghouls and…I honestly don’t know. I remember putting a fair amount of thought into it, but I can honestly not remember what I came up with.
Or at least this is the game I’m remembering as the second one. I seem to recall Chris being short a color for a good long time, but I can’t remember what color it was. Of course, that could have been last game. That might explain why I won last game, actually. Anyway, not important. What I DO remember about this game was the horrible horrible beatdown that is Sun Titan with Phantasmal Image in the graveyard. Chris attacked with the Sun Titan and grabbed an Image with his trigger. When it hit the field, he copied the Sun Titan, getting another trigger. He grabbed a SECOND Phantasmal Image in the graveyard, which copied the Titan AGAIN, triggering AGAIN, getting back something that doesn’t matter. One time it was an Evolving Wilds. Pretty sure he grabbed a Nihil Spellbomb at some point too. For my part, I managed to get him down to 3 life. But there was really nothing I could do. I remember this game being a long grindy one. At one point he Forbidden Alchemied an Elesh Norn into his graveyard, then flashed it back and threw an Unburial Rites in there, but he ended up not using that to kill me. Probably because he didn’t need it. Brutal.
So here it is. The decider. The difference between making the semifinals and…not making the semifinals, I guess. Hm. This game was also pretty long and grindy. One might say it was fittingly epic.
I managed to get the “ideal situation” going for a minute. I had out an Aristocrat, Gravecrawler, Crypt Creeper, and Blood Artist. I had a Killing Wave in my hand. I can’t remember for the life of me just how many creatures he had out, but I’m pretty sure he had 4. I started sacrificing the Gravecrawler to the Aristocrat to drain one life from him each time, then recast it from the Graveyard. I did this until I was running low on mana, then I sacrificed my Crypt Creeper to knock the Souls out of his graveyard, which brought him to 6. I was at 25. I cast the Killing Wave in my hand for 2. Somehow I broke even on this, remaining at 25 life, meaning that I paid 4 life to save my two guys and he ended up losing 4 life to go to 2. This is where the controversy came out later. I was told that I had him dead on board. Apparently with the mana I had open I could have just killed him without the Killing Wave. After the game was over Cluze and I discussed it and neither of us saw how that was possible. I know I could have gotten him to 1 life easily, but then I’d have had nothing left to actually kill him. I had to take out some of his creatures to deal him more damage, and the only way to do that was to cast Killing Wave for 2. Had I cast it for 1 he could have just paid to keep his creatures and lost the same amount of life as he would have for sacrificing them with an Artist on the board, so I’m not sure what they were seeing. So it could be that they were mistaken, or it could be that my inexperience with the deck bit me in the ass and cost me the win right then and there.
Anyway, that left me with a Blood Artist and an Aristocrat with him at 2 life, so I was pretty happy. Then he played a Tamiyo, the Moon Sage and locked my Aristocrat out of the game. No problem, I just need to draw a dude of any sort and he’s dead, right? I knew I had to keep the Aristocrat on the board so he absolutely HAD to use Tamiyo to keep it tapped down so he couldn’t do other things with her, like draw cards. He cast an Oblivion Ring and waited. What I did was allow the O-Ring to resolve so he could target my Blood Artist and keep it locked down. My reasoning for this was that I didn’t want to sacrifice it to the Aristocrat, allowing him to put the Aristocrat under there which would free up Tamiyo to do other things. Of course, what I didn’t see (and was later told about in great detail from the bystanders) was that I could have sacrificed the Artist to the vampire, then sacrificed her to herself. That would leave only one legal target for the O-Ring. Did you guess what it was? Tamiyo herself! That would have effectively reset the game with me at 26 and him at 1. But I didn’t see that play, I just knew I wanted to keep Tamiyo busy. So that was my bad, completely and totally, for not seeing it.
Then I drew a Phyrexian Metamorph! Oh happy day! I cast it, and he killed my Aristocrat in response. I don’t remember how he killed it, but I really don’t think it’s important. What is important is that my Metamorph had absolutely nothing on the field to copy, creature or artifact, so it entered the battlefield as an incredibly stupid 0/0 and died immediately. Good riddance you big idiot. Then Chris played a Timely Reinforcements just to gain 6 life (neither of us had any creatures) and Tamiyo started tapping down my one red mana source, a Dragonskull Summit. I drew a pointless Whipflare. He tapped down my red source again, and I drew a Whipflare. Really deck? Then he cast Lingering Souls and tapped my red source again. I drew something equally pointless, probably a Blackcleave Cliffs. He attacked with his Spirits and used Tamiyo to draw 2 cards. I cast Whipflare and…a Diregraf Ghoul?
There’s a problem with my memory again at this point. At some point, I used a TON of mana to do something. The only thing that makes any sense in this deck is a MASSIVE Killing Wave. The problem is, I recorded no life loss on his part, so whatever he had out he was happy to let die. And then it all went to hell. The turn after I was out of mana, he did the trick with the Sun Titans and the Phantasmal Images. You know that one, the Disappearing Chewie trick. I only had 1 mana open, so I paid 4 life to kill one of his Imaged Titans with Dismember. Considering I was going to take 6 from it the next turn, I like think I paid 1 mana to gain 2 life and not die next turn. He swung in with 3 Titans, bringing me to a sad little one life. Another Killing Wave would have helped, but I didn’t draw it. So I extended my hand in defeat. It turns out Chris went on to play his brother in the finals and managed to pull out the win, so I really don’t feel too bad about losing to him.
So that’s my PTQ experience. A casual player with little to no interest in playing Standard at all, much less at a higher level like a PTQ, managed to take a deck he saw for the first time the night before (and never played) all the way to the top 8. Seems good. Don’t worry, I still haven’t caught the Standard bug. In fact, I sold those Caverns to Lucky before I left to go have celebratory Mexican food with Mike. If I ever were to play this again, I’d definitely do a little tinkering, mainly with the removal suite. Dismember didn’t do much for me over the course of the tournament. I think another Slip and another Go for the Throat would probably do well, but I might also consider Bone Splinters to see how they worked. They were in a previous version of the deck.
There are a couple lessons that I hope you’ve picked up from this. First off, don’t underestimate any deck that @smi77y builds. If he’s built a deck and has been hyping it and refining it over more than just a week or two, chances are it’s good enough to at least check out, whether you’re going to play it or not. This applies to more than just him though. Try not to dismiss the serious deck brewers just because they’re deck brewers. If you look at one of their decks and it’s complete crap and you KNOW this because you’ve PLAYED it (not because you looked at it and said “Oh that’s complete crap”), then give them some feedback. Constructive feedback, dammit. “This deck sucks and is lame!” Oh, why’s that? “…Because it’s obviously stupid.” What’s stupid about it? “It just sucks!” Oh sweet, thanks for the information, please die in a fire. That sort of thing isn’t helping anyone. I myself thought Blood Artist was a casual card only, but it turns out I was completely wrong.
Second lesson – do NOT underestimate those players who don’t play tournament Magic. I’ve been telling people for years on The Mana Pool that casual player does not equal bad player. Sure there are plenty of casual players who aren’t good at Magic and are just playing around to have fun. But if you go to a couple FNMs you’ll find that there are plenty of tournament-minded players who aren’t that good either. I’m pretty sure there were a few playing in this PTQ too. So let’s try to avoid some of the idiotic narrow-minded stereotypes, huh?
And just so you know, that’s good advice for Magic AND for real life. Pay attention.