Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sealed Tournament: Lessons Learned

I was pretty depressed after the sealed tournament on Sunday, thus the late update. I went 3-2, coming in 9th and just missing the cut for the top 8 draft playoff.

What made the results particularly painful were:

1) I got pretty close to a dream Boros pool, including a Firemane Angel and Aurelia.
2) The first two rounds my draws were absolutely abysmal. I mulliganed to 5 in the third game of match 1, put up a fierce fight, but my opponent ripped four spells in a row in midgame to take it. I mulliganed to 4 in the third game of match 2, keeping a hand with 3 plains and Firemane Avenger. I actually won that game, due to misplay by my opponent, landing me at 1-1 in matches.
3) Round 3 was the only match my deck actually fired on all cylinders, curving out and crushing 2-0.
4) Round 4 was just horrible. I won the first game easily, but made key errors in games 2 and 3 that cost me the match. Had I won just one of those games I could have simply tied into the top 8. Very depressing.

So I won round 5 fairly easily, but really had no shot at top 8 since a first round loss absolutely borks your tiebreakers. Anyway, here are the mistakes I made and potentially lessons learned:

Game 2 of round 4: my opponent and I have been trading blows, and our life totals are both low. I'm at 7 and he's at 8. I have just attacked with a Warmind Infantry and an Ember Beast, putting him at his current life total. I play a Skinbrand Goblin, leaving 1 white mana open. He's got a Kingpin's Pet and an Ember Beast on board. He untaps, draws, and taps both his creatures for the attack.

Now, I have Beckon Apparition in hand, and am able to cast it. I also have a Holy Mantle in hand. He's got 4 mana open, including 2 red and 2 white. Now here's where I should have put more thought into my play. Why would he attack with both creatures, leaving himself open to a fatal backswing, unless he thought he could kill me this turn? He knows I can block the Ember Beast with the Skinbrand Goblin, which I would need to enable Battalion for a lethal swingback. So maybe he wants to just force me to chump with the Goblin so I don't have lethal on the swingback.

I cast the Beckon Apparition, making a 1/1 spirit token and blocking just the Ember Beast. My reasoning was that he didn't likely have the mana and spells to pump his Pet to lethal, and I needed the Goblin for lethal on the swingback. He proceeded to Bloodrush Scorchwalker onto his Pet for exact damage, taking Game 1. So was that a mistake? Should I have double-chumped? In hindsight, yes. Though I hadn't seen the Scorchwalker. I think this is actually very close, so I'm not particularly sure it was a mistake.

Game 3 involved me not playing out a third creature, leaving open Massive Raid to try to take out a Bloodrushed attacker. Instead, my opponent cast Martial Glory, saving his creature and doing exact lethal.

The match had a very coin-flip feel to it, but I still think I made the mistake of not developing my board, taking a slightly defensive stance in Game 3, which cost me the match. The Scorchwalker play had spooked me, and I was playing too wary in Game 3. Boros can pull amazing burst damage out of nowhere, as well as using Act of Treason to completely flip a board state. You can only play around so much, but hedging and playing more defensively in the mirror is just a bad idea. You have to swing for the fences and hope for the best. Unfortunately I hadn't played too many Boros mirrors coming into the event, so I've learned this lesson a bit too late.

Eliminating these minor lapses at crucial moments is the next step in improvement. I'm a solid, above-average player, but to consistently be in the top 10% of the field, I have to reduce my mistakes even further. Tonight is my local game store draft, and hopefully I'll nail that and regain some confidence after bubbling on Sunday.

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