At 6am on Sunday, Vroman, Josh Lalo and I departed from Vroman’s apartment in the U-city loop to drive 5+hours to a Vintage tournament a little ways north of Chicago to compete for a Mox Pearl.
The night before the event, I went to a birthday party for a friend of my girlfriend’s. It was Ninja/Zombie themed and Mary did my makeup beforehand. Sadly a pic of ZombieJosh is unavailable, but I found out later I still had some red stuff coming out of my nose, so try to picture that when I’m describing my games later. Also I was on about 4 hours of sleep.
I have played in a number of power tourneys before, but never even come particularly close to walking away with magic cards valued in the triple digits — largely because I get super skiddish once I make any kind of cut (top8, top4) and want to organize a split, because I don’t like variance and my expected value is basically fixed once the cut happens (or so I think). Or maybe I am just not confident enough in my ability to beat other magic players in a top 8.
Anyway, we arrive at Xtreme Games at approximately 11:15, in plenty of time for the noon scheduled start. The dozen or so people milling around as noon approaches don’t look particularly threatening, but what do I know? I’m sure I looked like a typical beard in a bright green t-shirt. I did notice one fella wearing a black t-shirt with the elegantly silk-screened
on the front in large white letters. “What a classy fellow,” I remember thinking. I also remember thinking I hope I don’t play that guy. More on that later.
When round one starts, 16 players sit down for four rounds, cut to top eight. I didn’t write down any names, so I’ll have to identify my opponents by their deck. Here’s what I sat down with:
4 Force of Will
4 Mana Drain
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Lim-Dul’s Vault
1 Merchant Scroll
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Gifts Ungiven
1 Fact or Fiction
1 Fire // Ice
1 Transmute Artifact
1 Time Walk
1 Sphinx of the Steel Wind
1 Yawgmoth’s Will
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Gorilla Shaman
1 Goblin Welder
1 Empty the Warrens
1 Memory Jar
1 Time Vault
1 Voltaic Key
1 Black Lotus
1 Lotus Petal
1 Tropical Island
1 Tolarian Academy
1 Sol Ring
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Jet
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mana Vault
3 City of Brass
2 Flooded Strand
2 Polluted delta
2 Underground Sea
1 Volcanic Island
4 Leyline of the Void
1 Helm of Obedience
1 Sower of Temptation
1 Seal of Cleansing
1 Crime // Punishment
1 Shattering Spree
1 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Echoing Truth
RD 1 Workshop aggro? 2-0
I lose the roll and force his turn one thorn of amethyst (off workshop) because it made my hand of two lands, mox, tinker really clunky if it resolved. After my uneventful reply turn one of land, off-color mox, go, I was sweating bullets when he cast crop rotation off of basic forest. What would he get? Strip mine to ruin my day? Wasteland to do the same? Maze of Ith to make my tinker useless? Bazaar to quickly win the card quality competition? Imagine my relief when he retrieved a second ‘shop and cast Triskelion. No need for a counter, I can race that. On my turn I tinker for sphinx of the steel wind, and he plays nothing meaningful for the rest of the game, though I was worried a Duplicant might hit play.
-1 empty the warrens (I like to side this out against stax, since if they succeed at all in their plan, multiple spells per turn are out of the question)
+1 echoing truth
+1 seal of cleansing
+1 shattering spree
Game two was even more lopsided. He plays turn one welder, turn two ATTACK, miss land drop, thorn of amythest off lotus petal. I decide that if he isn’t going to play lands and is going to attack with the best creature in type one, I can afford to allow the thorn. As predicted, the thorn was mostly in his side as he attacked with welder for about four straight turns while was making land, mox and sol ring drops. I added a seal of cleansing to the board pretty quickly but saw no reason to even use it right away. He added a second welder off his eventual second land, so I echoing truthed the welders to gain some tempo in what felt like an unloseable game. Eventually I realized the thorn was hurting me slightly more, as I was the only one playing spells, so I popped it and Fact or Fictioned into time vault with a tutor for key in hand. He wanted me to play it out, so I did. He conceded when I tutored for tinker for sphinx.
RD 2 Dredge 2-0
My memory of this match is particularly bad, but I know that I got vault key on turn two or three in game one, and started game two with a leyline. I drew the helm of obedience pretty early on and brainstormed or something into mana vault + voltaic key. This poor man’s vault key gave me the mana i needed to cast and activate the illustrious helm.
RD 3 Don’t know ID
I sat down for this round and immediately started making a chart to see if all the talk last round about “anyone with six points can draw in” had any merit. Here’s a tutorial for those interested, feel free to skip if you don’t care.
The horizontal rows are the round numbers. The vertical columns are the number of players with a particular number of points after whatever round(row) they are in. We assume away draws, because draws only reduce the total number of points and on net, can only make worse the record required to make the cut. That is, when draws are present in the results, people with worse records tend to make it in.
—- 0 — 3 — 6 — 9 — 12
0 — 16 ——————- (before rd 1, everyone has 0 pts)
1 — 8 — 8 ————— (after rd one, half the people win and half the people lose)
2 — 4 — 8 — 4 ———- (in this rd, half the people with zero pts (four of them) lost, and half won, same for the 3 pointers)
3 — 2 — 6 — 6 — 2 —- (same rules as before, half win in each pt bracket and stay where they are, and half move up)
4 — 1 — 4 — 6 — 4 — 1 (note that these numbers are abnormally easy, owing to the power of 2 number of players(2^4=16). There are no odd numbers until the last round. Normally you have to make assumptions or make separate charts to deal with the event of an upset (a paired down player loses) which can only happen with an odd number of people in a given point bracket)
So in the absence of any draws, the undefeated player makes the cut, and so do all the 9 pointers, but that’s only five people. so 3 of the 6 pointers make top 8 on tie breaks. Since you need at LEAST 6 points to make the cut in the max points (no draws) scenario, and there aren’t more than 8 people with at least six points in RD 3, this means that anyone with more than six points must make the cut whether they have draws or not.
I explained to my opponent using a chart much like the one above that if we drew we were guaranteed to make the cut. Who says no to that? Thankfully not this fellow, and I spent the rest of this round watching Spiderman 3 on the bigscreen in the adjacent room. Vroman lost RD one as well as this round so he was out of contention. Lalo was 2-0, so he ID’d also.
RD 4 Josh Lalo ID
It was a hard fought battle. Knowing we were both guaranteed in made it hard not to scoop to my car-mate/name-a-like. In the end, I accepted the handshake and watched more BugmanIII.
Suddenly I found myself struck with an overwhelming desire to learn all about the prize structure. Here’s what I learned
3-4. “a dual land each”
5-8. a draft set
Now I am getting visions swirling in my head of sacrificing 17 hours of my life and $25 for a draft set, but the total prize pool was so small I just wasn’t really comfortable with an eight way split, never mind the logistics of actually organizing such a thing.
Quarterfinals mono U 2-0
I am told that the guy I played is quite good, and never did he make a mistake that I noticed, apart from the obvious one everyone has likely noticed by now, namely: playing mono U. I could describe in detail about how I agonized over every play, always feeling slightly behind and worrying over every counter, even down to merely one card in his hand. I could do that, but the best way to describe this match is to say that in both games he went first, playing ancestral visions off an island, and he never removed the last counter. I managed to kill him in three turns, two games in a row. Ok, technically the last game it took me four turns, but one of them was a timewalk turn. I started that game with turn one tinker for sphinxer, and he forced or fetched his way to a three-swing kill. Game one I believe he scooped to vault-key.
My top four match was one of the first two to finish. The other to finish quickly was won by none other than FUCKTEZZ, who would be playing the winner of Lalo’s quarterfinals match. My semi-finals match would be the winner of the Jason Jaco(I think that was his name) vs Very Geeky Looking Guy With R/G LD. This latter fellow folded to Lalo in RD 2, but bested Vroman in Rd 3, giving V his second match loss, making it impossible for him to draw into the cut. I was sorta hoping to face LD guy in the semis, partly because his deck was lacking things like Null Rod and seemed like a pushover, but mostly because his opponent seemed way too competent. I did not get my wish.
The top 4 wound up being two Joshes (way to take it down Lalo!), Jason Jaco, and FUCKTEZZ. I immediately wanted to organize a split. Since the dualland prizes for 3-4 were non-blue, I valued them at about $30, the FTV:E at $100 and the mox at $250. This meant that each person would get around $100 in the event of a split, with whoever got the mox paying $70 to each of the dualland recipients and the last person getting the FTV:E outright. This sounded just fine to me and Jason Jaco (we both wanted to leave asap), but Josh Lalo wasn’t hearing it, and neither was FUCKTEZZ.
I tried to reason with FUCKTEZZ first, since Lalo was still playing, explaining to him how nobody wanted to get only $30 when they could get $100 guaranteed, and we drove a long way and want to leave. Here’s an example of the type of replies I got:
“I give a fuck about the money”
“I just came to play some magic”
“I play poker for a living so I could give a fuck about the cards, I just wanna win”
“I lost 2400 dollars this week so I give a fuck about a hundred dollars”
These last two struck me as peculiar. I know that poker has high variance, but how much longer can someone who “plays poker for a living” continue to do so when he is losing over a grand a week? Moreover, you’d think that he would A)try to stem the tide by maximizing his return on this event and B) face a high opportunity cost of playing the silly magic game, when he could be pokering to recoup his losses.
Either way, the split was obviously not happening, and after beginning to set up and then moving twice, Jaco and I sat down for what was the most fun match of Type 1 I think I’ve ever played (or maybe just the most fun one that didn’t involve turn one Phyrexian Negator).
Semi-Finals Jason Jaco 2-1
He seemed like a nice guy, and this was for quite a bit of money, so I chatted him up as we shuffled and began to play. I never do this with magic opponents, though I may do it more in the future and highly recommend it for anyone. The people are the most important reason to play this game, IMO.
I scouted quite a bit in the quarterfinals, going so far as to watch him resolve a tutor, so I knew what he was playing rather well and didn’t like my odds. He had inkwell to my sphinx(shroud is too good) and confidants galore, so I was not likely to win the long game.
I remember that these games were epic, but that’s about it. The only game I remember well is the last one, where I managed to put 14 goblins on the board with him at 16, and pass the turn with no cards in hand. He took a LONG time thinking about ways out over the next couple turns, so long in fact that I pulled out my rubik’s cube and solved it repeatedly while waiting. In the end he found no answer to my goblin offensive(not the card, the attack, and they certainly are) and I was headed to the Finals.
At this point I was satisfied with any prize as I had shown my willingness to split for just $100 which I had valued the FTV at earlier, so losing wouldn’t’ve been so bad. Except that my opponent was the abrasive FUCKTEZZ. I had gotten to the point where this guy’s attitude and swagger were really pissing me off, plus he had just beaten my boy Lalo, so I felt I had to take him down. This one was for all the honor.
FINALS FUCKTEZZ 2-0
As we sat down he refused the split once more, and made comments to the effect of “I don’t even know what a from the vault is.” I explained in some detail exactly what it is, to which he replied “Well, I don’t even know what a from the vault is.”
. . . ok then.
Game one involved an unanswered turn one welder, getting time vault in my hand off a fact or fiction, then resolving gifts for lotus, mana vault, mana crypt and voltaic key with no mana up but a sol ring in play. Yeah, can’t lose that one. He thought about it for a while then gave me mana vault and key, so I welded in lotus and played it all, took my first free turn, welding out mana vault during my upkeep so as not to lose on damage, took a couple turns just drawing some cards, then began to swing with Goblin of the Weld, at which point he scooped.
Game two I mulliganed and he turn one duressed, taking the balance out of my one land two mox, demonic tutor, sol ring, balance hand. I’m drawing a blank on the details, but somehow I didn’t lose this game either.
During the match, Jaco, perhaps recognizing the jerkitude of the fellow before him, offered to play FUCKTEZZ for money or even “the mox if you win it.” Downcast gazes and hasty excuses about needing to meet up with his “babymama” stayed his hubris’s execution. This made me think of something else, which Vroman pointed out on the ride home: if you have a child you REALLY can’t afford to lose a couple grand a week at poker. Too each his own, I suppose.
I offered to buy his FTV:E for 70 cash which I had on me to buy Drew Idoux’s copy the next day as planned (I would be willing to pay that much for two, I guess), but he declined saying that he already had an offer for more. Hopefully not too much less than the $100 or so he stood to gain from the split he refused all the way to the finals.
In order to piss off Vroman, I am reviving the Props and Slops:
-Vroman for driving and being the orchestrator of my attending the event
-Lalo for manning up and making the trip, not to mention top fouring
-Xtreme Games for putting up the mox and running the event so well
-That guy from Wings for beating the hell out of tobey maguire
-my deck for serving up game after game of turn two or three vault-key
-FUCKTEZZ for not only refusing the split and thus adding value to my tournament winnings, but making my win that much sweeter by acting ignorant all the way.
-Gregg for deciding to stay home at the absolute last minute. Surprise, last minute, short-deadline project for work = nut low.
-the mexican cafe down the strip from XG for not being able to make a decent hotdog
-me if I spelled anything wrong and for not remembering more details. I have taken decent notes at so many tournaments I’ve scrubbed out on — why not this time?
My only regret is that I didn’t make the TGalbs victory speech:
“I’d like to thank so many people for my win today. I’d like to thank my parents for raising me, my opponents for being courteous as well as not out-drawing me. I’d like to thank my playtest group and the guys I traveled with for making this all possible. And most of all, I’d like to thank God Almighty for helping me to win today.
“I’d like to thank all those people, but I can’t, because I DID IT ALL. That’s right I have no one to thank but myself for being the greatest.”
PS. Vault-key is completely busted, if you haven’t heard.