February 09, 2004

Oaktown Represent

Got up bright and early for Grand Prix Oakland. Barely had time to shower, shave, and grab some cards for Randy to sign. He was a regular in LA in the good old days and I have just about everything of his before Tempest already signed, so it's cool to get some of the newer cards signed off, too, although the gaps in my recent collection is too big for me to have everything. The GP promised to be a long, long day, and even with the venue next to Chinatown, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to get away for eats, given my record of time-outs in Mirrodin sealed. Thanksfully, Ba Le was already open and I grabbed a ham&pork sandwich to go before heading on the freeway. Regular people had better things to do than to go out on the freeway at 9am on a Saturday, so it was a smooth drive all the way. Parking was expensive, but there was plenty of it, as the hotel is connected to the Oakland Convention Center and its parking facilities. The venue was basically a big huge room with lots of tables and a couple of stages. Not pretty, but there was plenty of space and the pros from WotC (hi Larabee) were in charge with manpower help from MatchPlay.

Deck registration didn't start until 10am, which gave me a chance to go across the street to grab a latté and their last scone, but 276 players and eight rounds of swiss is going to make for at least 10 hours of work. Unless I suck and wash out early, of course. Too bad the only typical sealed deck tournaments are pre-releases and PTQs, because it's by far my favorite format. Just sit down, build, and play. In PTQs you have to register your deck on paper before they'll even give you land, which I'm not really comfortable with (that lack of practice thing again). I had a couple of ridiculous bombs, but I should have splashed red more heavily for creature removal. I ended up siding in a couple of red cards every single round. Ironically, I ended up winning game one more often than not.

I hate it when my opponent mulligans and beats me anyway. Had the Oblivion Stone but had to blow it to stabilize, so I couldn't get any card advantage out of it, and he outraced me. He pretty much stomped me in game two. Almost stopped the bleeding, but then he got the Spikeshot and put me away. Used the Stone to better effect in round two. Had it in my opening hand in game one and sandbagged it until I had eight mana so I could drop it and blow it all in one turn. That move crushed his game and his spirit. Dropped the Stone early in game two and managed to save a couple of my guys while blowing his away. He definitely wasn't expecting to see killer rares at the losers' table.

Third round was your typical Magic match. I steamroll him first game when he gets a lousy draw. He steamrolls me the second game on my lousy draw. Third game was actually good, even though I was a little short on land. He beat me down with my slow start, but I got the indestructible Gargoyle hitting back and the Angel joined the party, too. I was seriously outnumbered though, but I played the Oblivion Stone to control the board just as time ran out. Had five turns to either win the game or draw the match. I could've blown the Stone and wiped the board which would guarantee a tie. Instead, I let him attack me down to one life in the hope of counterattacking for the win. I knew he had direct damage in his deck, because he's zapped me with it before, and sure enough he had the Barbed Lightning to put me away. Stupid plays like this kills me in poker, too. It's funny how hold'em is now the preferred between-rounds/after-hours entertainment at Magic tournaments.

At least I didn't let the bad loss get me down, or at least my deck didn't get down, as I got the cards and rolled my next three opponents 2-0. All of the dropped their heads when they read the Angel's text box. Theoretically all you need to get rid of it is a 4/4-killing Instant spell while the Angel is tapped and hope that the Angel's controller doesn't have another Instant to play in response to untap the Angel. Nobody managed it all day, though, even though I didn't have many Instants in my deck, as I was usually careful to play a spell after attacking in order to untap her for D. Also got to eat my sandwich and get cards signed in the downtime.

It's always a good feeling to lock up .500 at a PTQ, and even more so at a Grand Prix, with plenty of out-of-towners visiting with their juicy rating points. Joe's from SoCal, which is almost local by GP standards. He had a lousy land draw in the first game and I ended it quickly. In the second game he gets his land and his R/G deck starts dropping down beefy creatures that I was hard pressed to stop. The Angel came along to allow me to at least hit back and then untap for defense, but she could only bounce the attackers, not take them out. I attacked one more time, taking him down to 2 life, but I was out of spells to cast so the Angel remained tapped. I did have a regenerating Troll to block one of his two potential attackers, so I would take 5 damage with 9 life left. Of course, he had the Barbed Lightning, too, which zapped me for 3 and tapped the Troll, too, so that was that. Third game was another race, as I took my lumps early until the Gargoyle and the Angel came in and smashed back. Played out weenies to untap the Angel and chump block. He hit me down to 1, with more creatures than I can block next turn. He was at 9, but this time it is I with the Barbed Lightning, and Gargoyle + Angel + Lightning = W1nNar.

Theoretically some 6-2 people could make top-64 and advance to the second day, but my tiebreakers were awful because I lost in the early rounds and because of people with early-round byes. That's actually fine with me, since I'm a lousy drafter anyway, so having the best possible non-drafting match-record would be cool. Then I sit down in the eighth round and couldn't draw land to save my life. Hence the "I Hate This Game" t-shirts being sold at the dealer tables.

Oh well, at least I got home at a reasonable hour. Good thing, too, as the second-chance PTQ starts at 9am on Sunday. Dad decided to come along, as he wanted to see what it's all about, plus the venue is near Chinatown, and there's nothing on TV on Sundays anyway. Fine with me, since it's awfully convenient to have someone to fetch food during the round, and I wanted to show him what the blue flower and that white thing were selling for at the dealers' tables. Unfortunately, having a support crew doesn't make up for the lack of supporting cards. Sure, Fireball and Barbed Lightning were nice, but I only had one artifact-kill spell, and my rares were worthless. Smacked into reality in the very first round, when my opponent had the same R/G deck I had, except he had the Shatter, and killer cards like Oblivion Stone, Arcbound Overseer, and Arcbound Fiend. Even when I won it was more due to my opponents' bad draws than anything I did. Made it to 2-2 and decided to play one more to try to salvage a positive record. I even won the first game before being stomped in the second and third to end up 2-3. The day wasn't a total loss, though. As I was getting a last few cards signed, Randy Gallegos asked me to sit for a quick sketch. Apparently he wanted to work on jawlines. So in exchange for sitting still for five minutes I got him to sketch something on my deck box. Not a big deal, really, since he only charges five bucks to do sketches, but bartering is so much more fun than cash.

Posted by mikewang on 12:41 PM