Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Oxford vs Milton Keynes

Hey hey hey!

Last weekend was our approximately annual friendly competition with Milton Keynes.  The tournament was 3 rounds of Standard followed by 3 rounds of Modern, then a cut to a top 8.  The top 8 would be drafting Avacyn Restored and play knock out to win the trophy and a box of boosters for their team.

I haven't been playing much constructed recently (as per usual....), and I had no idea how Avacyn Restored had changed Standard.  I was pretty sure it wouldn't have impacted Modern much anyway.  I decided to take decks that I at least had a small amount of practice with.  For Standard I took my fun Heartless Architect deck with which I'd won the last game day.  For Modern I took an updated Melira Pod list, which I'd played a bit for the PTQs.

The day did not start out very well for me.  I lost the first round of Standard to Delver, and the second round to UW Humans.  Both of my opponents were MK players, so I was really letting the side down.  Then I got the bye so I was disappointed I wouldn't be getting any turn 4 Wurmcoils today.  I watched a couple of games that were going on, then I was invited by Nicolo to play "Momir".  I hadn't played this format before but the premise was quite simple - you have a deck of basic lands, and every turn you may pay X mana and discard a card to play a random creature with converted mana cost X (they had a box of random creatures with matching sleeves for each mana cost).  Silliness ensued when I randomly created Karona, False God who definitely sped up the game, and we had to look up some of the Oracle text for creature types of things in play.

The first Modern round was against one of my team's players, James' son Sean.  I wasn't feeling great to be playing an infinite combo deck against such a young player, but when he cast Tidehollow Sculler and saw my hand he exclaimed "This is my Daddy's deck!"  So he knew what I was up to, but his hand disruption did not prevent me from comboing off in game 1.  In game 2 he ended up with 2 Grafdigger's Cages in play, but I used Putrefy on his creatures and won by attacking him.  Up next was a break for a yummy roast dinner!

Round 5 was against a Tron variant piloted by Ash.  He Firespouted my first wave of creatures away, but I had a Birthing Pod and a Chord of Calling so I reassembled the combo with Murderous Redcap to kill him just in time - he had just Summoning Trapped Emrakul into play!  In game 2 I used Fulminator Mage to destroy a Tron piece and slow him down, Putrefied his Grafdigger's Cage then comboed again for the win.  At this point team Oxford had Sera, Rob, Owen, James C and me all with a record of 3-2 and a chance of making the top 8.  Unfortunately I got paired with Owen, which was bad news for Oxford. 

Owen was playing Caw Blade.  In the first game he had open mana but no counterspells and I comboed off.  In game 2 he kept control of me and I died to a squad of hawks and a Vendillion Clique.  I'd unfortunately boarded out my Orzhov Pontiff so I could not Birthing Pod into it to survive.  In game 3 Owen tapped out for Geist of Saint Traft when I had a Viscera Seer, Noble Hierarch and a Murderous Redcap in play.  I top decked my Birthing Pod and combo won again.

Sera won her game, as did James, but Rob had drawn.  This meant I squeaked into the draft in 8th place, unfortunately putting Rob 9th.  I knew team Oxford would be looking towards their "Limited Specialist" as James likes to call me.  I wasn't feeling that confidant as I'd only drafted Avacyn Restored once so far, Matt Light was in the top 8 playing for MK and we were outnumbered 5 to 3.  Still I was relaxed and I'd had a good day, so I was just going to try my best.  In the meantime, everyone else not playing the finals had the chance to do a Cube draft courtesy of Mikey P.

My opening pack did not contain a good rare, but there were 2 removal spells to choose between.  I took Pillar of Flame over Death Wind because I think red is a better colour than black in this set, it's cheaper and it can damage the opponent as well as creatures, although it has the drawback of not being an instant.  I picked up a couple more red cards then noticed blue appeared to be open so I moved in.  This is the deck I ended up with:

In the quarterfinals I got my revenge on Dimitri who had defeated me in round 1.  His deck had removal for my 1-toughness guys in the form of Ghoulflesh, but his creatures were fairly expensive and I just kept bouncing them out of the way and hitting him.  For the second game I boarded in Guise of Fire as I'd seen he had several 1-toughness fliers, including a Marrow Bats.  I soon had him down to 8 life but then there were his Marrow Bats in the way.  I cast Pillar of Flame on his Bats, and after some thinking he decided to regenerate them.  I pointed out that this means they tap, a rule people often overlook, so he was now dead to my attack.  In the other quarterfinals Sera and James had both been defeated, so now it was down to me to keep hold of the trophy.

In the semifinals I played against Matt.  He'd drafted a blue green deck with soulbond creatures.  He got off to a fairly slow start and I drew very nicely, getting in some early damage then bouncing blockers out of my way to finish him off.  In game 2 he mulliganned and it wasn't really much of a game.  Into the Void left a lonely Flowering Lumberknot that could not block my fatal alpha strike.  Despite our games being quick, we were not the first to finish - James A had annihilated Kevin in a blindingly fast manner with Thatcher's Revolt and Goldnight Commander.  The finals were going to be rough!

James did not manage to get me with his combo in the first game, as I was able to remove his Goldnight Commander with Pillar of Flame, do some blocking then eventually set up Nephalia Smuggler and Gryff Vanguard to draw lots of cards.  At one point I only had 3 mana open and James tried to remove the Gryff Vanguard, but I had Ghostly Flicker to save it and draw yet another card, and I just buried him in card advantage. 

For game 2 I boarded in Aggravate as a possible way to survive a big turn against Thatcher's Revolt, (plus he also had several other one toughness creatures that it would kill).  He got his combo early, and I took 12 from angry red human tokens while chump blocking the Commander.  I managed to remain on 1 life for several turns, stopping another revolt with Aggravate, but eventually James found a miraculous top deck in the form of Thunderous Wrath - 5 damage directed straight at me was not something I had an answer for.  Game 3 began with a mulligan from James.  His draw left him stuck on 3 mana, unable to cast his Goldnight Commander, and I had an aggressive draw which did not give him time to recover.  I'd done it - once again, victory for Oxford!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Innistrad with Dark Ascension #2 - Grand Prix Manchester

Hey hey hey!

The GP was finally here.  I drove up after work with my boyfriend Geoffrey and my workmate Tom, so there was almost non-stop magic strategy chat for the 3 hour drive (with a little bit of "guess the card" thrown in, which is a yes/no game where you have to guess which card someone is thinking of.  "Is it a permanent?" is my favourite opening question).  We got there in time to register on the Friday, and to everyone's dismay the hall already smelled pretty bad.... :-(

Day 1

The following morning I was really excited to get there and see whether I'd have a good sealed deck to battle with after my 3 byes were up.  There were enough people there for 9 rounds, and to make day 2 you needed 2 or fewer losses.  I opened a pool with Grim-Grin and Havengul Lich (again - sigh, I really would like to own one of these myself).  The pool I was passed had the benefit of lots of removal, red being it's best colour.  The trick was to decide whether to pair it with blue (splash black) -

or with black (splash white) -

The blue deck was more tempoish, and the black deck more grindy.  I thought the black deck would be able to get to the late game but then may struggle as it was lacking any real bombs - the splash for the angel was to try to rectify this.  I registered the blue build as I liked it's creatures more, but I misbuilt it slightly - I had a Nearheath Stalker which was my last cut, but I should've kept it instead of one of the Deranged Assistants - I had become to fixated on the two stitched creatures that I wanted to support and had almost failed to notice I wasn't really ramping into anything apart from the flashback on Fires of Undeath and Forbidden Alchemy.

I managed to find Geoffrey and have a look at his UB zombie deck, gave him a little advice on a couple of card choices I would have made differently, then wished him luck for the first round.  I took the opportunity of most people being busy to then visit the artists and get some cards signed.  It was cool chatting to R K Post, it turns out he does almost the same day job as me, and he gave me a postcard with instructions on how to send portfolios to Wizards.

After the 1st round I got together with Tom, Matt Light and Neil Rigby.  I showed Neil my builds, his opinion was that the black version was better.  I planned my mana base and sleeved up the cards that I'd need in order to do a colour switch into the black deck.  I played some test games against Matt, winning the first one after luckily top-decking some lands, and the 2nd game was cut short just after Matt had made Mikaeus, the Unhallowed as the pairings went up for the next round.

I ventured out into Manchester to find some lunch for Geoffrey and myself.  After eating I played some games with my blue build against James Foster's 4 colour creation.  I won 3 in a row, and the deck felt pretty good - so then I tried the black build out.  The mana wasn't really behaving itself for some reason, and the creatures I had felt very uninspiring - they did not feel like "threats which must be answered", like my blue deck's Murder of Crows and Stitched Drake.  I decided I prefered the blue deck, but I'd board into the black deck if I felt it was better against the particular deck I was facing.

Round 4 eventually came around and it was time to play!  My first opponent was Tomas Sukaitis, a face I recognise from PTQs, and I'm pretty sure I have lost to him in the past.  His deck is full of humans and he has Avacyn's Collar, which is bad news for me.  After dying to his spirit tokens I board into my black deck, and also board in my own Avacyn's Collar even though I don't really have many humans myself.  I manage to win game 2 by using Unburial Rites on my Forge Devil to kill a blocker - not the most glamarous of targets that I'd envisioned!  In game 3 I am again on the back foot and die to lots of little spirits. 

I decided not to be phased my losing the first round I played.  I got to have a really good chat with my next round opponent, Ryan Carroll, while we waited for the round to start.  Turns out he's worked at CERN and know's my friend Ellie from my year at University - such a small world!  His deck is some bad news for me - 2 Lingering Souls, Avacyn's Collar and Elder of Laurels, but after 3 games I manage to win in turn 1 of time when he alpha strikes me, doesn't play a spell and my Hanweir Watchkeep flips so that I have lethal damage on the back swing.  I decide if I can beat that combination of cards I can beat anything!  No more losing!

I keep up no more losing for 2 more rounds.  The most fun game was winning after my opponent had played Lingering Souls and Bloodline Keeper.  I'd Geist Flamed his tokens away, Brimstone Volleyed his Bloodline Keeper but was definitely looking to be on the back foot.  I'd attacked twice with Makeshift Mauler, putting my opponent to 12.  On my opponent's attack, I flashed in Snapcaster Mage, giving my Brimstone Volley flashback.  After blocks and some sacrificing to Falkenrath Torturer, my opponent seemed a little surprised that I Brimstoned him in the face in the end step.  I attacked, putting him to 5, then finished him off with the 2nd Brimstone Volley in my hand.  In the next game I found it quite funny when he played Witchbane Orb - a bit of an overreaction!

In my next round I lost to a green deck.  My blue deck wasn't great at dealing with his huge creatures so I boarded into my black build which had cards like Tragic Slip and Death's Caress which seemed better for the matchup.  Meanwhile he boarded into a blue green build, and then I died to his fliers.

Having now accumulated two losses, I was in for a bubble match.  Whoever won would get to play day 2, and the other would not.  And it seemed I had come full circle - my opponent Tom Davies was the person I'd been sitting opposite in deck building first thing this morning thanks to our similar surnames.  I tried to remember what I'd seen him building - I had a vague recollection it was red and that was about it.  He told me he'd lost his first two rounds and then had been on a winning streak from there.  His deck was red black, quite aggressive and had some nice cards to help as removal and reach - Fires of Undeath and Devil's Play.  He made me work for my win and in - we had two very grindy games and it was the first time I'd actually flashed back Forbidden Alchemy all day.  With only 5 cards left in game 2, I drew my Griptide, removing his only blocker for the win. 

Geoffrey didn't ask me if I'd made it, he just said "Well done!" after seeing the giant grin on my face.  Geoffrey went 4-5 and Tom and Matt had done amazingly well, both going 8-1.  We went to a very noisy pub, stayed for one drink then managed to navigate back to our hotel.

Day 2

We had to arrive at 7.55am for the player's meeting.  After signing bits of paper and some waiting around we got to do the first draft:

I was more than pleased with how the first draft had gone.  It seemed no-one to my right was interested in my colours, so in the 3rd pack I got a 3rd pick Kessig Wolf-Run, and then 4th pick the Daybreak Ranger I'd seen opened also made it to me - in the same pack as a 2nd Wolf-Run that I had to pass.

In the first round of this draft I made the biggest mistake I'd made all tournament by messing up my Moonmist while blocking.  It was complicated by the fact that he had 3 wolves and werewolves of his own, but I managed to first mess up by not leaving a green open so I'd be able to regenerate my Ulvenwald Mystic's werewolf side, and also by thinking Moonmist would prevent the damage from his Pitchburn Devil's death trigger.  When it turned out he had Rally the Peasants all of our creatures ended up trading with each other, and he recovered before I did.  In game 2 I only drew one Mountain, and he Into the Maw of Helled it and my flipped Daybreak Ranger that had been happily eating all of his creatures.  With no red mana, and a hand full of red spells, I couldn't do anything about the Moonveil Dragon with Butcher's Clever.

I was really beating myself up about my mistake.  Matt snapped me out of it by pointing out that my deck is awesome and I'm just going to crush the next two rounds because they won't be the good decks in my pod.  I indeed crushed the next round, but then had quite an epic dual with the next opponent.  His deck was blue black and very controlling.  In game 1 I traded Ludvic's Abomination for an Ambush Viper but then got finished off by zombie tokens.  I boarded in my Nightbird's Clutches as his deck was good at gumming up the board.  I won game 2, then in game 3 the combination of Pyreheart Wolf, Nightbird's Clutches and Markov Warlord allowed me to kill him despite his many zombie tokens.

2-1 was a fine result, but I was still annoyed at myself for not going 3-0 with that deck.  Geoffrey had bought me a lovely panini, so I got to eat while the tables were sorted out for the next draft.  It also went rather well:

Here I made another mistake.  I'd opened the Vorapede and become too fixated on it.  When it was clear I was going to play more plains than forests I should've listened to my inner voice of sanity and put it in the sideboard, and my Silverclaw Griffin into the main deck.  My inner Timmy was being very loud however, and after about 5 mins of deliberation I'd convinced myself I needed something for the late game "just incase".  After handing the deck registration sheet in I knew I was being silly, and would be boarding my griffin in after each game 1.

My deck crushed the first opponent for this draft in approximately 6 minutes.  So I got to see the end of one of Tom and Matt's feature matches as they were both in the feature match area that round.  I was keeping my fingers crossed that one or both of them would make the top 8.  Sadly Tom lost but Matt defeated Ben Stark.

The next round I was punished for my deck building mistake, losing the first game to my opponent's Silverclaw Griffin, with one forest in play and Vorapede in my hand.  In addition, I had "gone for it" with Wild Hunger for the kill - and he had a Brimstone Volley to wreck that plan.  I got a nice fast start in game 2 after mulliganning and won that one.  Then in game 3 I mulliganned to 6 again.  My hand was Forest, Young Wolf, Dawntreader Elk, Hamlet Captain and a couple of 3 drops.  I took the risk and kept it.  I failed to draw a 2nd land for 3 turns, while he made 2 Cloistered Youths which rapidly mauled me to death.  I was sad to lose with this deck too, but it was ultimately my deck building failure which cost me that one.

For the last round of the day I played against a red blue control deck with Charmbreaker Devils.  Here Vorapede decided to shine.  I got him down to 8 life but he had managed to kill all of my creatures.  He had set up a lock on the board with Charmbreaker Devil having gotten back Grasp of Phantoms, in addition to a Harvest Pyre and Blood Feud, and he had a Ghoulcaller's bell filling up his graveyard slowly.  For some reason he wasn't attacking with his Charmbreaker Devil, so I was still on 20 life.  I of course had Vorapede stuck in my hand again.  I drew Wild Hunger, then I drew and cast the Demonmail Hauberk, then drew Faith's Shield.  I then drew two forests, allowing me to cast Vorapede.  On his turn he of course tries to Grasp it, so I shield it.  I cross my fingers that the next card I draw is a creature - which it is.  I play my creature then sac it, going to equip the Vorapede.  In response he Harvest Pyres Vorapede for 4 - so I Wild Hunger it.  My 12 power Vorapede smashes over his Charmbreaker Devils for the win.  The next game is not as exctiting as I curve out and he is stuck on mountains.

So after all that magic I'm 11-4.  I come 48th, winning some money and I finally have a pro point!  Tom ended up a fantastic 15th, and Matt heartbreakingly lost out on his tie-breakers and came 9th.  We went to celebrate/commiserate in a nearby Weatherspoons, and when I was sufficiently merry Geoffrey and I went to the Thai Orchid and ended a great weekend with a fantastic meal.

Innistrad with Dark Ascension #1 - A brief summary of the past 6 months

Hey hey hey!

I'm back - sorry for being away for so long.  When it came to sitting down to write about losing the finals of the Milton Keynes PTQ I couldn't quite get the enthusiasm to do so.  Losing the finals of a PTQ is *the worst*.

Very briefly, this is what happened.  I got a really solid UB deck in my sealed pool with Grim-Grin, Corpse Born, Evil Twin and a nice curve of creatures, self-mill and removal spells.  My tournament didn't get off to a great start though as I lost in the 1st round thanks to a mistake on my part.  Rather than dwelling on my error, I picked myself up and carried on battling.  A couple of rounds later when I made it past Stephen Murray with his Garruk and Devil's Play deck, I was feeling quietly confidant I may be able to get there.  I proceeded to win the rest of the rounds and found myself in the top 8 draft. 

I wasn't very experience drafting the set at the time.  I drafted a UG Spider Spawning deck on the fly, having never drafted it before or even heard about it (I think it was a week or two afterwards that the strategy became well known and incredibly popular).  If I'd known then what I know now perhaps I would have had a shot at winning, by having my Gnaw to the Bone main deck instead of in the sideboard.  In the finals I lost to the best deck of the format - WG with Midnight Haunting and Travel Preparations, and soon I was staring at a blue envelope in my opponent's hand.


I loved the Innistrad set for limited.  I drafted quite a lot of triple Innistrad online in addition to my regular weekly drafts in the pub, and I probably exhausted the list of possible draft archetypes doing so.  I was kind of sad to see Dark Ascension arrive as it seemed to put a stop to all the hillarious Burning Vengeance and Spider Spawning decks. 

I had a solid GW(r) pool at the prerelease and did alright there.  I started the day as a human and managed to remain that way until the final round when I became Vampirised by one of my boyfriend's Thrulls. 

My release deck was the most powerful sealed deck I have ever had.  It was totally nuts - 19 creatures, most of which flew, including Dungeon Geists, Fiend Hunter, Drogskol Captain and Jazz-hands man (aka Drogskol Reaver); and a Midnight Haunting, a Bonds of Faith and Feeling of Dread.  I lost one game when I flooded and my opponent had Hellvault, but other than that game I simply crushed all my opponents.  It would be amazing if my GP Manchester pool looked something like this...

Speaking of which, I won the Reading GPT for Manchester.  The pool I opened had some tasty Mythics in the terrifying Reever Demon and fun Havengul Lich.  I had to swap this away for my pool, which contained no mythics.  It did however have some very solid 5-drop rares, and a great white card base.  The main decision was whether to pair the white with my black, blue or green cards.  I ended up building with green as it had the nicer curve, and the possibilty of repeated removal if I could equip one of the green deathtouch creatures with Wolf Hunter's Quiver:

My deck did what it was supposed to do - curving out nicely, while each of my opponents seemed to have mana or mulliganning issues, and also made the odd play mistake.  At 3-0 I could I.D. the last 2 rounds into the top 8.  I had a nice time chilling out in the sunshine then watching DLS playing rather than judging, and doing entertaining things with Feed the Pack and Increasing Savagery.... there were *a lot* of wolves.

The top 8 draft was the strangest Dark Ascension draft I had yet done.  It seemed we'd opened up almost no removal, and the usual archetype cards just didn't seem to be there.  At the end of the pack I was quite troubled as all I seemed to have was my first pick Lingering Souls, a couple Warden of the Walls and a few random creatures in black and green.  Innistrad provided me with a good direction however when I picked up a Spider Spawning and noticed there were some Mulches that I could probably wheel.  They did table, and in the 3rd pack I ended up with a 2nd Spider Spawning and an interesting looking deck:

I vanquished Ben Cottee's UW fliers deck in the quarter finals.  His deck was pretty good, but I boarded in my two Warden of the Walls which were excellent at helping me stabilise against his 2/2 fliers (I didn't put them into my main deck as they aren't actually creatures for the purpose of using Spider Spawning). 

The semi finals was against Oxford local player Owen Scarr, who had a UB zombie deck.  I remember one of the games being very interesting and a good example of playing to my outs.  I was barely staying alive by boosting creatures with Elder of Laurels and sacrificing them to Disciple of Griselbrand while Owen was repeatedly hitting me with a pair of fliers.  At the last possible draw I got my Spider Spawning and ended up winning the game.

The finals was against our local best pro player, and my workmate, Tom Harle.  His deck was interesting to say the least - during the draft I had noticed an unusually high number of curses floating around and it was into his deck that they had amassed.  He got me in game 2 with Curse of Misfortunes, searching up Curse of Thirst and then casting a 2nd Curse of Thirst.  However I was victorious in game 3, almost entirely thanks to the excellent Lingering Souls, with a little help from Demonmail Hauberk and a boarded-in Wreath of Geists.


With my 3 byes for the GP in the bag, I turned my attention to Standard for a while, learning how to play Kibler's Naya Pseudo-Pod deck. I did some testing in the pub, mostly against Delver and Esper Control.  I went down to London with Owen and Anthony and played in the first WMCQ.  I didn't do very well - the meta game was quite different to what I had anticipated - but I had lots of fun playing there and had fun messing around with the Reading players.  Anthony made top 8 which was brilliant!

And finally it was time for the event I had been looking forward to the most: Grand Prix Manchester...