Monday, April 22, 2013

A Bittersweet Top 8

I played in a Gatecrash sealed Grand Prix Trial on Saturday.

My sealed pool was one of those with evenly-distributed cards among the colors, and not much in the way of bombs (Stolen Identity was my "bomb"). I ended up in Esper (UWB), mainly because of 2 Kingpin's Pets and 2 Orzhov Charms. I didn't think the deck was particularly strong, but it did have a good curve, and a little fixing.

We played 5 rounds of Swiss. All of the first four rounds I played against Borzhov (BRW). I won all four, admittedly getting a little lucky on my opponent's poor draws. I did play very tight Magic, though, not making any obvious mistakes that I can recall. I tied into the top 8 with my 5th-round opponent.

The top 8 did a Gatecrash draft. I don't think I drafted very well, though I think I did get a little unlucky. One issue was that each pick was timed. I'd never done a live draft where the picks were timed. Of course, on Magic Online, the picks are timed, but they cards are also laid out fully in front of you, so making picks faster is easier. You can immediately rule out certain cards and focus on just a few. In a live draft, you cannot lay out your cards. You must look at them one or a few at a time. This makes a timed live draft a bit more nerve-wracking. I'm used to fairly casual drafts where I have plenty of time to mull over my decisions. This was one of the first times I've felt rushed drafting.

Anyway, my first two picks were: 1) Grisly Spectacle, and 2) Dimir Charm. They were the best cards in those packs, and I thought I might be able to have a minor coup by moving in on Dimir (a generally underdrafted guild) and possibly being the only Dimir drafter at the table. Things were looking pretty good when I picked up a Call of the Nightwing pick 4, but then the cards started to dry up fairly quickly. I don't remember pack contents extremely well, but I do think that I probably should have been picking up strong Simic cards in pack one to stay reasonable open. I think I took mediocre Dimir cards instead. I was hoping for a nice suite of removal (Death's Approach and Devour Flesh at the very least, a Killing Glare and/or another Spectacle, best case). But the removal didn't come. In retrospect, I think I probably had one or more Orzhov drafters to my immediate right, because the black was downright horrible.

This is one of the poor design choices made by Wizards with respect to Dimir, I think. Most of the cards Dimir wants are also easily playable in Orzhov. Virtually every removal spell with black (except Dimir Charm, though Orzhov gets its own removal charm which is arguably better) is also playable in Orzhov. I guess Soul Ransom counts, but of course it's at rare. Dimir really needed something like Agony Warp, a UB spell much more difficult for Orzhov to pick up.

Now, I got a Simic Manipulator passed to me in pack 2, but that was the highlight. I ended up very light on removal and with zero Deathcult Rogues (which I was really counting on for offense and cipher).

I was the #1 seed, so I faced an opponent I'd beaten in Round 4. He was a nice guy, but made several play mistakes. He was playing Naya and had a lot of high-quality early drops (Truefire Paladin, Skarrg Guildmage, etc.). In game 1 I got my Simic Manipulator online, along with Call of the Nightwing, and the game was a complete blowout in my favor. Game 2 I got stuck on 4 lands, missing 3 land drops in a row with Dinrova Horror and two other 5-drops in hand. He curved out and I died. Game 3 was closer, but on a locked board he drew three creatures in a row to my three lands, and my board was outclassed. So I lost first round in the top 8, which left a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth. I had moved in on Dimir, which I thought was a strong move, but either I wasn't the only Dimir drafter, or more likely Orzhov was being heavily drafted in the pool as well, or the pool was just very Dimir light.

At one point I had one of those moments where I felt like a douche for rules-lawyering. My opponent had a Skarrg Guildmage in play. He played a mountain, then tapped three lands and pointed to the mountain he had just played. "Make it a 4/4," he said. A judge was watching. I sighed and said, "You know that mountain has summoning sickness, right?" He said, "Oh okay, then I'll just make my Plains a creature instead." He started to untap his mana, and the judge said, "No." My opponent was visibly upset. Had a judge not been there, I'm not sure what I would have done. I kind of felt like I'd already given the guy a break. In the Swiss portion, the same opponent had been on the play. He had looked at his hand, said "Keep." I said, "Mulligan." He then said, "Okay, we'll I'll mulligan too then." I knew that wasn't cool. He'd already shoved his cards back into his deck. I had let that one go. Not sure what a judge would have ruled, but I'm pretty sure he would have at least gotten a warning. Having let that go, I felt like I had to point out the issue with the activated land. I wouldn't have been surprised in the judge had said that his intent was to activate a non-summoning sick land and let it fly, but I thought it was the sort of thing that someone else would have held me to, and I wanted to be on a level playing field. But, despite this and other minor play mistakes (mostly involving not making attacks when I he had good ones), I lost.

Ah well. It was my first top 8 in a competitive rules environment. I've top-16'd two Grand Prix Qualifiers (including one online with over 400 participants), but this was my first competitive-level top-8. So, I'm generally pleased. I won't be really, really pleased until I win one, though.

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