October 14, 2003

Pro Tour Amsterdam Qualifier, Costa Mesa

Got up early Saturday morning to head up to the Woman's Club for the PTQ and Grand Prix Kansas City Trial tournaments. Had a good time at the Mirrodin Prerelease, so I figure I'd give Mirrodin sealed-deck a shot in a more serious tournament. Also stayed up late to figure out a shopping list at the dealer tables. The release of a new large set is always the best time to get back into Type 2, and I'm willing to try any format where white weenie is good. Had a list for mono-black control, too, but it needed an awful lot of expensive rares. White control decks were out of the question, with Exalted Angels going for $15 and Eternal Dragons going for $12. Thought cousin Alan might be interested in checking out the scene, but he had a two-hour SAT-prep class he had to go to.

The Grand Prix Trial was suppose to start after round three of the PTQ, so I figure that unless I was at 3-0 or 2-1 with a great deck I would just drop and play in the GPT with hopefully less intimidating opponents. There were 77 people playing in the PTQ. The problem with the high-level tournaments is that you have to go through the whole deck-registration and deck-swap ordeal. Alphabetizing and recording cards is not a fun way to start the day. Although the foil Chrome Mox got the buzz going in the crowd as we wondered who would get the $50 bill. Well, it wasn't me. Got a strange sealed deck, with lots of duplicates. I didn't mind though, since I had doubles of Electrostatic Bolt and Pyrite Spellbomb, plus an Arrest and I splashed in black for Terror and Irradiate. My creature base was a little iffy (white fliers and red haste guys, but no beef), and only one Shatter as real artifact removal, but I figured that I had so many creature kill that I could get by, especially since everyone tends to run creature-light in Mirrodin limited anyway.

PTQ Round 1, Brett S.
I've seen him play at Costa Mesa for as long as I've gone to the tournaments there. Solid opponent to start the day. Was playing 17 lands in a 41 cards deck, one less than my usual. Of course, I drew no Mountains until the last turn of game 1, all the while holding two Electrostatic Bolts in my hand, plus a red creature or two. Pure white weenie is not a good strategy in Mirrodin sealed. Did have a Swamp and got a Terror opening hand, but of course he ran me over with big artifact creatures, which the Bolt would've killed but Terror couldn't.

Got to play in the second game, as I got my removal and the lands to cast them. A Viridian Longbow turned my weenies into pingers and held him off so I could save my spot removal for the big threats. His Fireshrieker was a dangerous piece of equipment if he kept a creature on the board, but I cleaned his side of the board and then dropped my Vulshok Battlemaster, which temporarily stole his Fireshrieker and double-striked him for six and put me ahead to stay.

Decided to play for tempo in the third game and used a lot of removal early to get damage through, but my weenies weren't a fast enough clock and he played a Mirror Golem which was Protected From Creatures. That plus the Fireshrieker meant that he started smacking me for six a turn, and I went 20-14-8-2-lose, just as time was called for the round.

PTQ Round 2, Kia
Oh well, I've come back from round 1 losses before and done okay. He dropped a second turn Sun Droplet and I figured that I had an easy round. Who plays life gain, especially slow life gain? It sure dragged the game out, though, since he could gain two life each round (one on his upkeep and one on mine), so I had to hit him for at least three each and every round if I ever want to make progress. I thought I was pretty clever in baiting him into attacking with his first-turn Auriok Transfixer (a great one-drop in the format) and nailing it with a surprise Raise the Alarm. Didn't feel as smart when I thought the coast was clear for my hasty Vulshok Berserker only to see him Raise the Alarm to take out the Berserker (one of the few guys in my deck with power > 2). Luckily he didn't have any bombs to put pressure on me as the game dragged on, except for a Mirror Golem for which I had the answer in Irradiate. Also got 2 x Pyrite Spellbombs, my Soldier Replica, and a Bolt for everyone else. Finally, eventually, and painfully I built up a big enough army to overwhelm the Sun Droplet and kill him off. The game took up most of the time in the round, though. Thankfully I rolled him in the second game as I drew Raise the Alarm, both E. Bolts, Arrest, Shatter, and the Terror. The final insult was when I killed off all his creatures and then dropped the Battlemaster, which let me draw cards off of his Mask of Memory. Now that's card advantage.

PTQ Round 3, Si
Didn't recognize the Vietnamese guy, but he was there hanging out with another CM regular, so he couldn't be too terrible. His deck sure wasn't terrible. I played a second turn Leonine Skyhunter and hit him for two every single turn in the air. He just kept dropping equipment: Fireshrieker, Bonesplitter, and Vulshok Battlegear, which totaled up to +5/+3, double-strike to any creature lucky enough to stick on the board. Killed everything for as long as I had the goods, but I ran out of gas and couldn't find another guy besides the Skyhunter to do more damage. Had one last chance when he was at 6 and I was at 8 and he attacked with everybody to take me down to 1 after some tricky blocking. I had the Skyhunter and the Vulshok Berserker in hand, but that only added up to five points of damage no matter how I did the math. Second game was more of a fair battle. As he got a bit of slower start and I could keep the board clear for the Berserker and fliers to sneak through for consistent damage. He was building up to the big Golems backed with equipment, though, and he played a Skyhunter Patrol that would've shut down my air attack if I didn't have the clutch Terror to clear the way and outrace him. Third game was anti-climactic, as I only had Plains when I had two Bolts, Shatter, and Terror all in hand.

Well, at least it wasn't a tough call to drop out of the PTQ at 1-2. The tight three-game match meant that I didn't have any downtime before the GPT started. Good thing I brought a Clif Bar. Only 21 people in the GPT, but for some reason we have to play five rounds to cut to the top-eight. At least it means that a mediocre 3-2 record should get one into the top-8 Rochester draft. Only top-4 get prizes, though, which is a bummer. Pulled another R/W deck, but a bit more balanced this time. Still had my Bolt and Arrest, but this time I had a Spikeshot Goblin, the MVP of this format, and some solid pieces of equipment.

GPT Round 1, Ben
He had some green beef, including a Troll Ascetic, but I dropped a third-turn Slith Ascendant which grew to a 3/3 before he could stop the madness with the Tel-Jilad Archers. However, the Spikeshot Goblin joined the party with Vulshok Gauntlets. So I could equip the Goblin to hit for five to the dome, then swap the gauntlets to a ground blocker while letting the Goblin untap. That's some good.

Got another third-turn Goblin drop, which annoyed him a little bit. Had to be content with pinging him for one each turn for four turns as I had to hold the ground. Sped up the clock a little bit when I got the Auriok Bladewarden to give the Spikeshot a +1 boost each turn to double its ping damage. He could be patient with one point a turn but not two, so he started to swing back for a couple points here and there. He didn't leave enough back, though, and a timely Bolt allowed me to swing for seven in one turn. He alpha-striked me back to take me down to 9, but by then I could re-stabilize on the ground and finish him off with Goblin direct-damage.

GPT Round 2, Ali
Good player with a good deck is a dangerous combo. Not that I put up much of a fight first game as I put down three pieces of Equipment but couldn't find a creature to save my life. Literally. In the second game, he got out a Nim Lasher and equipped it with a Mask of Memory. The flying Nim got bigger with each artifact he played. I tried to play countermeasures (Spikeshot Goblin, Slith Ascendant, Skyhunter Patrol), but the card advantage from the Mask meant that he had answers every time. Oh well, at least I had some time to do some shopping at the dealer tables.

GPT Round 3, ?
He had fast mana with Myrs, some big and beefy creatures, and a nice piece of equipment in Loxodon Warhammer. But I had the Spikeshot Goblin and the Skyhunter Patrol. Armed with the Vulshok Gauntlets, I could either attack for six with the flying kitties, or shoot down a creature for five with the Spikeshot. He couldn't draw any creature kill before the combo did him in.

He gets the nuts draw with 2 Myrs ramping to a Solemn Simulacrum. All the mana meant that he could make an Altar of Shadows way before anyone should be able to. I had an opening to eat the Altar with my Goblin Replica but I was a moron and played another creature to try to outrace the Altar instead. Do you know how hard it is to play around an artifact that kills one of your creatures every turn? I was forced to go on the attack as it was use-them-or-lose-them, but the Altar activations tied up his mana, and I had equipment on the table so that I could still sneak damage through with my leftover weenies. He was just about to clean out my side of the table and take control when I used Grab the Reins' Fling ability to do the final bit of damage. The deck definitely had to cooperate for me to pull that one out.

GPT Round 4, Jason
Only drew white mana for most of game one and couldn't hold off his big green horde. Pecked away with fliers in game two. Had to switch the Gauntlets back and forth between my fliers for offense and ground creatures for defense. The no-untap clause meant that I left myself open for counterattacks when I swing with a Gauntlet-equipped creature, so I had to be real careful in who and when to equip. Managed to outrace him by one point, but we only had three minutes for game three. Decided to play for it and I had the perfect draw. Third turn Slith Ascendant, fourth turn Skyhunter Patrol, fifth turn Spikeshot Goblin. But time was up and I didn't have enough time for the Slith to get big. Came up one turn short of finishing him off. If I had the win I could've intentionally drew the last round and get into top-8, but now I have to play and win to make it.

GPT Round 5, Eugene
He was 3-1 and hoping to intentionally draw, and wasn't happy that he got paired down vs. somebody who had to play. His mood didn't get much better when he had to double-mulligan down to five cards. He missed his second land drop, and by the time he top-decked a land I already had the Slith Ascendant up and running away from him. The Skyhunter joined the party and finished him off before he could stabilize. In the second game, he dropped a first-turn Pyrite Spellbomb, but didn't have red mana for a few turns, which allowed my Auriok Transfixer to sneak through and grab a couple of cards with Mask of Memory. Finally got my Vulshok Gauntlets + Leonine Den-Guard combo to get in one smack with the 6/6 no-tap card-advantage (thanks to the Mask) monster. He was about all I had, though, as he had a horde of huge Golems and things, equipped with a Fireshrieker and Vulshok Battlegear. He alpha-striked to wipe out my most of my chump blockers, leaving himself open to my equipped Den-Guard, but he was still at 13 life and poised to kill me next turn. However, the Mask cards from last turn got me my Grab the Reins. So I could attack with the Den-Guard and Transfixer (which had been staying back to tap his attackers) for seven, and Grab the pumped Den-Guard to hit him for the final damage. He was pissed, but his friends were happy since they could now drive to get some food before the top-8 draft, which he was still in-line for, even if I probably took a big bite out of his rating.

It was about 9:30 PM by then, and only the drafters from the PTQ and the GPT and their friends were still around. The dealer went around for last-call, and I bought some packs that Alan wanted, since there was no guarantee that I would win a round in the draft and get prize packs. The top-8 was about half random guys like me, and half good players, most of whom hadn't really seen Mirrodin cards yet. I had a pretty crappy draft, even considering that it's the first time I've Rochester drafted at a serious tournament. I liked the R/W thing I had going in the sealed tourneys, but that plan went down the tubes in a hurry as Ali to my left picked heavily white to start. Consciously wanted to make sure I get enough creatures, so I picked up some blue-favoring artifact creatures like Wizard Replica and Cobalt Golem. Also got into green with two Tel-Jilad Archers. Got a couple of Annuls and other counterspells like Override and Assert Authority. A couple of Yotian Soldiers to hold the ground, and a Neurok Spy for evasion. You notice that none of these guys have more than 2 power. And in a format full of dangerous artifacts and creatures, I had no creature or artifact kill at all aside from the counterspells. Also couldn't resist some rare-drafting, as I picked up a Chrome Mox as a third pick (hey, it was like a 20-dollar bill sitting on the table) and a Second Sunrise for my WW deck.

GPT Draft Quarterfinals, Eric
My plan, and it wasn't much of one, was to try to peck away with fliers while try to slow down their ground attack with Yotians and Archers and hold back a counterspell or two for their bombs. Eric had a R/G deck, going for the speed. I, um, was not. With all the counters I had, I had to be careful with spending mana, trading life for time, and how to maximize my blocks when I was outgunned on the ground most of the time. I had the Neurok Spy going and a Cobalt Golem in the first game, but his Malachite Golem was big enough to crush my Yotians and I couldn't outrace. The second game was an agonizing affair. Archers and Yotians kept him off my back, but the only offense I had was a third-turn unblockable Neurok Spy. I figured he must have a bolt or something in there to take him out eventually, but I wasn't going to stop swinging until he did. So his life went 20-19-16-14-12-10-8-4-2-0. Nope, he never found the answer.

That game took forever, and the semifinals were already starting on the other side of the bracket. Started on the third game and was content to let his weenies ping me for a couple of turns as I built up. Then the judge informed us that we only had five minutes left in the round. Time limit in the playoffs? But we were tied at one game a piece, so what happens when we time out in the third game? Life total is the tiebreak? Of course, I find this out after I declined blocking to put me down at 16-15. I found an Archer to stabilize the ground, but I still needed to get some damage through. Thankfully the Cobalt Golem showed up just in time and he took to the air to deliver the beats in time to put me comfortably ahead in life as time ran out.

GPT Semifinals, Mark
Thankfully, I was on the easy side of the bracket, as the good players tore each other up on the other side. Not to say that Mark was a bad player, just that he's a little kid and it was getting past 11PM and his friends were urging him to hurry the fuck up. I wasn't in any condition to play fast, though, as I was just land-shy enough to have to consider the mana implications of each move, especially since I was drawing every single blue trick in my deck. A super-clutch Annul in response to his Oblivion Stone set the tone. A Wandering Sentry showed me his hand full of Golems. Counter a couple with the Override and the Assert Authority, traded the Sentry for another one, and the coup de grace was the Domineer for his Malachite, which allowed me to smash for eight in one turn alongside his new friends. Had to block with the Golem after that (two-for-one goodness), but the fliers showed up to finish him off. Was hoping to follow the same blueprint in the second game, but he was having none of that. Held off as long as I could with my ground blockers, but I couldn't put enough pressure on him and he built up enough mana for the Wurmskin Forger that made his Malachites just big enough to trample past everything I have.

I got a good start in the third game, with early Wizard Replica and Neurok Spy doing unblockable damage while my low-power, high-toughness guys (Yotians, Archers, Lumengrid Warden) stalled the ground. That plan went out the window when he played the Molder Slug. Luckily I had a couple of Myrs to take the fall while I got in a last few points with my fliers, and he had to throw away his army of arty critters, too. I made a terrible mistake and swung with the Spy after all his artifacts were eaten by the Slug, forgetting that the Spy is unblockable only when the opponent controlled an artifact. He was waiting for the Slug to take out my Replica and make the Spy blockable, but they'd taken him down to 3 life before the smoke cleared and all that remained was the Slug and my 1/3 Warden. I still had 14 life, and he decided not to swing with the Slug, hoping to draw another fatty to put me away. I was in top-deck mode, too, although I wasn't quite sure what I was looking for. A counterspell gave me a little more time, and the deck delivered up the Somber Hoverguard. A non-artifact, flying creature with 3 power. Sweet. Mark couldn't find the answer and the Hoverguard delivered the final blow.

A couple of MVPs that didn't get mentioned before: the Silver Myr was super useful, especially since they count double for my counterspells (forcing opponents to pay more for Override, and simultaneously provide mana and reduce the casting cost of Assert Authority). Since I didn't have real creature removal, the Ε’ther Spellbomb's bounce ability was critical in gaining tempo in the damage race, especially against Mark and his Dragon Blood.

Eugene from Round 5 had blew through the other bracket. The main prize for the GPT was a three-round bye in Grand Prix Kansas City. Now, I like Mirrodin limited, but I wasn't going to fly to KC to play. Eugene wanted the byes bad, and I was happy to let him have it in exchange for an even split of the prize packs. He had a much, much better deck than I did, he beat better opponents, and it was getting near midnight. All in all it was a good way to finish the day. Took my 24 packs and headed down Harbor Blvd. to find a gas station and hit the 405. I was exhausted and hungry (tally for the day: one large vanilla latte, one apple danish, one Clif Bar), so I gave uncle a call from the gas station. Luckily they were still up, so I only had to drive 15 minutes to their place instead of 80 minutes back to San Diego. Gave Alan his four packs and he managed to snatch an Empyrial Plate and a foil Leonine Sun Standard. Pretty good percentage. Found an Oblivion Stone, my own Empyrial Plate, and two Chalice of the Voids, among other things. Gave Alan as many commons as he wanted, as many uncommons as I could spare, and whatever randomly useful rares that were extra in my binder (Nev's Disk, Armageddon, etc.). Slept over for the night and stayed around to watch the Raiders lose (and lose ugly: 19 penalties?) on TV before heading south.

Posted by mikewang on 10:28 AM