Round and Round

Posted in Learning Curve on July 28, 2004

By Brian David-Marshall

Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.

Something pretty unusual happened two weeks ago. I have spent so much time traveling around to do event coverage (I am in Malaysia as I write this) that I don't have much opportunity to play in PTQs. I get to play Magic about as much as I want to and have regular sessions with friends to draft, playtest, and watch the Mets bullpen fail them down the stretch during the week but come the weekends I am usually on the sidelines behind my computer watching other people play.

The weekend before the Malaysian GP I had the rare weekend off and decided to play in the block constructed PTQ at Neutral Ground. I went back and forth between several different decks that I wanted to play but based on the recent lists I had been looking at I knew I wanted to play either mono-red or Affinity but I couldn't' make up my mind. In fact, I never did and decided to get to Neutral Ground early on the morning of the tournament and build one deck or the other when I arrived.

Things did not go exactly as planned--I guess I had really fallen out of the habit of playing in these things--because none of my cards from Mirrodin block were in any kind of order. I threw together what cards I could manage to scrap together but it was not anything close to a decklist. Still, I was planning on getting to Neutral Ground early and would have plenty of time to fill in the holes with cards from my friends--whatever deck I decided to play.

I mentioned that things didn't turn out like I planned, right? I left my house and realized about ten minutes away that I had left crucial supplies behind. I had to go back and then when I finally was en route there was a traffic accident outside the Lincoln Tunnel that reduced the flow of traffic to a dribble. I arrived moments before the tournament was ready to start. I tried to borrow an entire deck from someone but all the good ones had been snapped up by people who arrived not quite as late as I did.

Fortunately Seth Burn had the fixings for about half an Affinity deck that wasn't the half I already had with me and I was able to cobble something together with a couple of Arcbound Ravagers courtesy of Neutral Ground. The idea was to build the Affinity deck with Aether Vial but there were a couple of key cards missing--Atog and My Retriever. If I wanted to get into the tournament I needed to get the list done and I ended up playing with a less than ideal build.

Last Minute Affinity

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I was not optimistic about my chances but I had been planning to write about the experience for this column and decided to press on regardless. I was reminded of something that was posted in the forums of one of my columns a few weeks back about looking at the decks that don't make the Top 8. I decided to play all eight rounds--there were over one hundred and fifty players in the tournament--and give a brief synopsis of the match along with my opponent's decklist.

Round One -- Sergio ? playing Green-Red

Aether Vial
So I took home all the deck lists from the tournament and could not find one for anyone named Sergio. Most likely his deck was pulled aside for one of the tournament's periodic deck checks by the judging staff and it became separated from the rest. I don't recall the exact contents of his list but I do remember that he had two Molder Slugs out against me in game one. He was also running Oxidize main deck. I led off with an artifact land and an Aether Vial and as he looked at my board I was hoping that he would hit my land and not the Vial. He read the Vial a couple of times but aimed his Oxidize at my land. I spit out a one drop and played two Ravagers in one turn. I was racing against double Molder Slug but I still managed to win thanks to Somber Hoverguard with Cranial Plating. I just kept playing and sacrificing lands and hoping he didn't draw an Electrostatic Bolt or Magma Jet.

In the second game it took exactly two hits from a Hoverguard to finish him off. The first was for ten and the next was eleven. Cranial Plating is simply amazing.

Record: 1-0 matches and 2-0 games

Round Two -- Mike Jones playing Angel Control

Mike Jones

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This was another very quick match. In the first game I got out a first turn Vial and was able to put a Disciple and a Ravager into play despite what was an obvious Condescend waiting in Mike's hand. I was able to finish him off with the Disciple Ravager combo within a couple of turns. In game two he took a mulligan and kept a land light hand. I had sided in Condescends but they never mattered and when he tapped out for Pulse of the Fields I Shrapnel Blasted him for the match.

Record: 2-0 matches and 4-0 games

Round three --David Wallin playing Blue-Black March Lattice

David Wallin

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So much for the idea that people weren't gunning for Affinity as much this week. Molder Slug, March, March definitely told a different story in the first three rounds. Still, I don't think these decks are fast enough to run with Affinity. I actually hadn't played with it prior to this weekend and the speed and raw power of the deck made a strong impression upon me. In most games I killed my opponent within the first four or five turns of the game.

I own this match in two quick games as well. Other than two points in one game during the first round I actually hadn't taken a point of damage in any of the games while my opponent's life totals were eroding in nine and ten points masses. I sided in the Condescends in this match as well and I actually countered a Barter in Blood and a Death Cloud. I will probably change them to Overrides if I play this deck again though.

Record: 3-0 matches and 6-0 games

Round four -- Eric Swain playing Crystal Witness

Eric Swain

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I can't impress enough on you how powerful this deck was even with my horribly misbuilt version. Maindeck Shaman and Oxidize with side boarded Tel-Jilad Justice and March of the Machines for games two and three? No problem. He took a mulligan game one and I ran him over--or should I say the deck ran him over. It had very little to do with me.

I mulligan in game two but I still managed to emerge without talking a point of damage--somehow.

Record: 4-0 matches and 8-0 games

Round five -- TJ Impellizieri playing Counter Tooth

TJ Impellizieri

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TJ and Bryn Kenney were playing similar decks. In a new twist on the Counter Tooth deck they slid a Memnarch into the mix--just when I thought I had seen all the artifact hate I could stand!

Cranial Plating put TJ under tremendous early pressure and even though he cast a Memnarch against me he had to put it in the way of an equipped Frogmite. In the second game he resolved a March of the Machines but I had a pair of Disciples of the Vault in play and the lands in my hand became Shocks. Once again I took no damage. That was definitely about to change though!

Record: 5-0 matches and 10-0 games (with 198 of a possible 200 life points still in the bank)

Round six -- Mike McGee playing Mono-Red

Mike McGee

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Mike was not excited about this match-up and claimed he needed several things to go right in game one to win. By 'several things' he must have meant to say 'several Molten Rains' because that is what happened. I failed to get a fast draw for the first time all tournament and he destroyed my lands for several turns. One Magma Jet, Pulse of the Forge, and a Fireball later I was handed my first game loss.

Mike sided in twelve cards against me--everything but the Whelps--and we had a back and forth game that saw me die to a Fireball with McGee at a tantalizingly low one life. Frowns.

Record: 5-1 matches and 10-2 games

Round seven -- Matt Nash playing Mono-Red

Matt Nash

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Aaaaargh! I needed to win one more match and I would be able to draw my way into the Top 8. In game one of this match I apparently checked off that I lost five points to a Shrapnel Blast that had actually taken out one of my creatures. The accounting error did not come to light until after the match. I probably would have won the game with the five extra points as I went from 15 to 0 over the course of one turn thanks to Pulse of the Forge. I won game two but for the third time in five games I could not deal the crucial final point of damage to a critically wounded opponent in game three.

By the way… I got a real charge out of the Leonin Bladetraps in Matt's sideboard. It is pretty funny tech for the Rude Awakenings that have been bopping around the format.

Record: 5-2 matches and 11-4 games

Round eight -- Tim Gillam playing Affinity

Tim Gillam

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There was some talk that a 6-2 record might make the Top 8. Most likely we were just playing to end up in the Top 16 and earn half a box of booster packs for our day's effort. I was on the ropes early in game one but I managed to topdeck an Arcbound Ravager with two Disciples in play. He had similar luck in game two and in game three his draw seemed unexciting. I was worried about Furnace Dragon but it never showed up and I won my half box.

Record: 6-2 matches and 12-5 games

Both Mike McGee and Matt Nash went on to make the Top 8. TJ Impellizieri finished ninth and I ended up in twelfth. There were actually four red decks in the Top 8. Joining them were two Affinity decks, one Mono-Green, and one Counter Tooth. Matt Boccio ended up emerging on top with his Vial Affinity deck. I am not going to put all the Top 8 decks into this article but I thought you deserved to see a good Affinity deck for taking the time to read this far.

Matt Boccio

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Next week: I should have all the bugs worked out of my Time Machine and we will take it for a spin!

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