A Miracle on Horton Street

It’s 9:29 P.M. Thursday. I’m writing my Advanced Microeconomics exam and frantically trying to squeeze in every last mark. The exam was supposed to be over at 9:00 P.M., but not one person was remotely finished. Our professor gave us a thirty-minute extension, and I intended to squeeze maximum value out of it. I have a flash of insight and figure out the solution to one of the problems I was struggling with. I furiously start writing out equations, not caring how clean my summations look. With my pen’s last drop of ink, I finish answering the last question.

“Okay, guys, time’s up.”

To call last week stressful is something of an understatement. My school decided to schedule all four of my finals in four consecutive days. I called it The Week of Hell. How well I do on these exams will have a major impact on whether I am accepted at the graduate program I’m applying to. There’s nothing I can do about them now but sit and wait for the results.

  • I don’t care if Monday’s black.
  • Tuesday, Wednesday—heart attack
  • Thursday, never looking back
  • It’s Friday, I’m in love.

Friday Night Magic. It almost feels like a distant memory now. I haven’t touched a Magic card for the purposes of playing Standard in months. Knowing nothing about the format, I looked at few decklists until I found this beauty:

Gisela, Blade of Goldnight
I mentioned Ali Aintrazi’s crazy five-color deck before and noticed that he updated his list for a StarCityGames Open in which he made Top 4. The new list seems to me to be a huge improvement. I also like it a lot more than the OmniDoor version of this deck. The new-fangled Demonic Tutors and Time Walks seem very clunky to me. This new list eschews such nonsense and plays actual good cards. The Thragtusks, Huntmasters, and Lingering Souls buy a ton of time against aggro decks and do a pretty good job of laying the beats against control. I’m a big fan of the main-decked Curse of Death’s Hold, as it was a key part of my beloved U/B control from around this time last year. Gisela, Blade of Goldnight is an interesting choice and has amazing synergy with Kessig Wolf Run. Speaking of the utility land, combining it with Rhox Faithmender out of the sideboard is a pretty big game against red decks. I also like that Aintrazi moved the Door to Nothingness to the sideboard. It’s just too clunky. However, there are some matches in which the board becomes stalled out and it’s hard to kill the opponent with your creatures. In those games, you want an alternate way of winning.

I called my friend and local Level 1 judge Randy Sheffield to see if I would be able to put this monstrosity together. He’s usually my go-to guy for cards since I don’t play Constructed often enough to maintain a collection. Since I pretty much live in a cave while I’m in school, I don’t hear anything about what’s happening in the local Magic scene, so I had no idea he was running a charity Standard tournament on Saturday for the Boys & Girls Club of London. I normally don’t like playing tournaments in which the only prizes are packs, but I can make an exception for a charity event. It was something of a Christmas toy drive, and I can get behind helping out disadvantaged kids. Besides, this deck looked like a blast to play, and what the heck else was I going to do?

After casually splitting the finals of FNM, I felt comfortable enough with the deck to run it back for the next day. Even though this is for charity, I still want to win, and I’m going to battle!

We ended up seeing slightly fewer than fifty players, which actually surprised me a lot. Prereleases aside, London events don’t usually have very many people. Everyone crawled out of the woodwork for this, and even my Grinch-sized heart grew three sizes. I was also really impressed by the facilities at the Boys & Girls Club. The room they gave us was nice and big, well-lit, and clean. That might seem like something a lot of people would take for granted, but the play areas of most of the stores I’ve played Magic at look like actual dungeons.

Here’s a quick rundown of my matches:

Round 1 vs. Mono Red

Rhox Faithmender
I started things off with a mulligan to five cards, keeping two lands and not much else. I actually knew my opponent was playing mono-red since he immediately played a Mountain before I had a chance to tell him I wanted to take a mulligan. That didn’t actually affect my mulligan decisions, though, since both the seven- and six-card hands didn’t have any lands in them. I failed to draw a third land in the first game and very quickly died.

I was still pretty confident I could win the match, though, as I beat mono-red twice at FNM the previous night. Game 2 went very much according to plan, as Rhox Faithmender combined with Thragtusk and Sphinx’s Revelation to put my life total well out of reach for my opponent. I ended the game at 59 life.

Game 3, I once again mulliganed and kept a mediocre six-card hand. It was a bit on the slow side, and my opponent punished me with a very aggressive draw.

As my friends are fond of pointing out, I’m the king of losing Round 1 and still making Top 8, so I wasn’t that worried.

Round 2 vs. Bant Control

Sphinx's Revelation
Game 1 featured some dueling Thragtusks, but Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker was in my hand, so I played in such a way to maximize the impact of my beloved planeswalker. I made sure that I would be able to protect him with Lingering Souls tokens, and by the time he found a Detention Sphere, I had already destroyed a Tamiyo, the Moon Sage and a couple lands and stolen a couple creatures, forcing him to wrath for almost no value. The Nicol Bolas was so backbreaking that he had nothing left when I refilled my hand with a Sphinx’s Revelation for 7. The game was basically over at that point, but he played on for several more turns. I was actually fine with that since I could probably drag out Game 2 if I needed to (with life-gain and board sweepers, not slow-playing of course).

Unfortunately, I had a very awkward draw in Game 2. The specific combination of lands I had in play made me unable to actually cast anything in my hand. I really, really, really hate Cavern of Souls. I understand it’s necessary, but man, oh man, do I hate lands that don’t cast spells. He had a more aggressive draw than I expected and killed me before I could overcome my mana issues.

We didn’t have a whole lot of time for Game 3, so boarded in Door to Nothingness (never thought I’d be saying that) in case I needed to win quickly. My opponent played a Jace, Architect of Thought, which made my Lingering Souls look very silly. He also managed to contain my other creatures, so I couldn’t find a way of getting rid of him before my opponent fired off the ultimate. I could tell this was the first time he’d used the ability since not only did he not search his own deck, he almost tried to play a Rakdos’s Return out of mine. I should note here that this was a Casual REL tournament. Were this a Pro Tour Qualifier, I would try to trick him into choosing the Rakdos’s Return and calling prison rules. But I let him take it back, and he decided to get Griselbrand instead. I had the Supreme Verdict in hand (that I flashed in with Alchemist’s Refuge no less), so I was in no danger of dying, but the extra seven cards he drew were going to make it pretty difficult to win. We ran out of time, and in turn three of extra turns, I went into the tank. The only line I had that could win was to Sphinx’s Revelation for 2, leaving me exactly 5 mana left. I needed to hit Door to Nothingness off one of those two cards so I could play it in the same turn and win on the last extra turn.

Door to Nothingness
First card . . .

No Door.

Second card . . .
No Door.

It ended up not mattering since he had the Dissipate anyway, but that sure would have made for an amazing win. We ended up drawing, putting me in the unenviable position of having to win out. This is starting to sound like a Cage the Elephant song.

Round 3 vs. Bant Aggro-Control

I actually don’t have very good recollection as to what happened in this match. I do remember he had a lot of 1-toughness creatures such as Lyev Skyknight, so my Curses were really good. Judging from my score pad, neither of the games were particularly close.

Round 4 vs. W/U Homebrew

Lingering Souls
I could tell my opponent was inexperienced with playing in tournaments and was just playing a casual deck that had cards in it she liked. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but there was such a huge disparity in power levels between her deck and mine that all I had to do was make sure I hit my land drops. She also made it painfully obvious whenever she had a counterspell in hand since she would just immediately play anything else she drew. Even when she had a counterspell, she almost always countered the first spell I played. Lingering Souls is even better when its alternate mode is Mind Rot. I felt kind of bad that I thrashed her as thoroughly as I did, but I tried to make it as fun as possible for both of us by keeping things light. I couldn’t help but laugh at the situation when after drawing ten cards from a Sphinx’s Revelation, I had about four different ways of winning the game the following next turn. She was cool about it, and both she and her friend seemed really curious about my deck.

2–1–1, keeping the dream alive!

Round 5 vs. Naya Aggro

Thragtusk
I was playing against Matt Finch, one of the few players in the room I actually knew. He’s something of an old-school FNM ringer who occasionally plays PTQs. He kept a sketchy hand Game 1, and I was able to quickly take him down with a pair of Huntmaster of the Fells. I made a mistake sideboarding and didn’t put him on having Zealous Conscripts. I left in my Garruk, Primal Hunter, and it cost me when he stole it to draw a bunch of cards. He managed to grind me out with Thragtusks and Restoration Angels. In Game 3, I had a fast start with Huntmaster of the Fells, but Sigarda, Host of Herons shut down my offense. I couldn’t find a board sweeper in time, and once the Angel joined forces with a Silverblade Paladin, I was on a pretty short clock. I had an Abrupt Decay for the Paladin, but he had enough mana for a Restoration Angel, so I had to take 10 that turn. He flashed it in at the end of my turn, and I took that opportunity to remove the troublesome creature, but as I had no flyers, I was dead anyway.

Matt was nice enough to concede to me, as he was paired up to me and couldn’t make Top 8, whereas I could. One more round!

Round 6 vs. G/W Aggro

Kessig Wolf Run
I looked at the standings, and there was a high chance that I would make Top 8 with a win. I was paired down again and was kind of hoping I’d get the runner-runner scoops, but no such luck. I mulliganed to five cards (ugh) in Game 1, and right when it looked like I was going to die, I drew Huntmaster of the Fells followed by a Sphinx’s Revelation for 7 a couple of turns later. It was actually a close race since he took some damage from his lands and I pushed a big hit in with a Kessig Wolf Run powering Ravager of the Fells. I made a play in Game 1 that in retrospect lost me the game. I was trying to figure out if my opponent had Restoration Angel. If he didn’t have it, he was dead since I had enough mana to pump my Ravager of the Fells for lethal damage. If he did, he could flash it in and blink his Thragtusk. I decided to attack and if he had the Angel, I would just let them trade since I had other cards in hand I could play. He chump-blocked with his Avacyn’s Pilgrim and didn’t play Angel. Thinking the coast was clear, I pumped Kessig Wolf Run for the full amount. My opponent didn’t realize that my creature had trample and just put his creature in the graveyard. I told him he was taking lethal damage, and that’s when he played his Angel. Randy was watching the match, and I just kind of stared at him with a pleading look in my eyes. You’re going to make me do this aren’t you? Again, this is Casual REL, so I let him go back and play the Angel before damage to not die. I died on the counterattack.

I don’t remember a whole lot about Game 2 other than me dying to his collection of giant monsters.

 


All in all, I had a great time, despite giving my opponent a take-back to not make Top 8. My friend Kyle Duncan ended up winning the whole thing. The tournament was well run overall, and people seemed to be enjoying themselves for the most part. It was also a huge success for the Boys & Girls Club, as we collected over $1,000 in toys and cash donations. I really have to give major props to Randy for putting the whole thing together and doing a great job keeping things running smoothly. We’re looking at making this a yearly event and making it an even bigger success next year. If you’d like to donate Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada, please check out their website.

Next week, Cuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuube!

Thanks for reading and take care,
Nassim Ketita
arcticninja on Magic Online
http://www.youtube.com/nketita