Cramped Headspace interviews: Brett Hughes!

Hi all,

I have brewed up something extra special today, as I have scored an interview with Grand Prix: Melbourne 2009 Top 8 Competitor Brett Hughes. Brett’s a mate of mine, we used to playtest together in the days that both of us played Magic regularly. Brett made a comeback for Grand Prix: Melbourne and i’m sure he plans to make it stick with his fantastic result. I was lucky enough that Brett is a good man and agreed to be interviewed, so the below is our MSN conversation we had regarding the tournament, the times, and correcting Tomoharu Saitou’s play 🙂

[Plubby] Reece says:
 Hi, Brett! Firstly, congratulations on your big finish! How does it feel to have done so well and get those first pro points under your belt? Only 95 more for Hall of Fame eligibility, right?

Brett says:
 Thanks very much.  It’s hard to describe really, to be honest going into the event I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what finishes get what pro points.  That aside, Magic is firstly a ‘fun’ game and hobby still, and a competitive game second and I’ll probably always think of it that way.  HoF will have to wait until after San Diego!

[Plubby] Reece says:
 How much preparation did you do before the event, and what expectations did you have going into it?

Brett says:
 Absolutely zero for both.  The Pre-release was on the same weekend as the AFL Grand Final, which just happened to take priority for me.  Then I figured I would attend the Launch Party at the local store just to see some cards in person, I knew what most did from the spoiler.  This was the first time I played Limited (the week before the GP), so it’s safe to say I had no expectations.

 P.S. I went 0-3 for the Launch Party

[Plubby] Reece says:
 Take us through the tournament. Firstly, how was your sealed deck?

Brett says:
 Day 1 deck was fairly good, obviously I had no byes so I had to start Round 1 and finishes the day 7-1 there must have been something right about the deck.  Black was the primary colour with loads of playables, and I had a hard time deciding between the secondary colour.  I had 2 transformational sideboards into different secondary colours but didn’t use them a whole lot throughout the day.

[Plubby] Reece says:
 You stepped on my next question with the bye thing – so I’ll instead ask if you had any bombs, or multiples of commons/uncommons of note?

Brett says:
 I opened 4 white rares which made me maindeck white, even though my blue and red cards were probably more consistent.  Emeria Angel and Conquerer’s Pledge both made my final 40 and won a few games.  In black I had double Hideous End, 1 each of almost every other black removal, and one of my favourite cards – Vampire Nighthawk.

 Also two underappreciated cards I had were Nimbus Wings and Vampire’s Bite – these were good for me almost all day, giving my Vampires flying or getting the opponent quickly to 10 to turn on Intimidate.

[Plubby] Reece says:
Did you play any big names on Day one?

Brett says:
 My loss came from Andrew Eckerman in Round 4 and he went on to be undefeated Day One.  No pros, but I’ll give a shout out to Isaac Egan who I played in the final round, we were both 6-1 so the match had a lot less pressure than the previous matches that day.  Top bloke.

[Plubby] Reece says:
 Especially under the circumstances Isaac is going through

Brett says:
 Exactly right, for all the MtG Paradise readers will know about Isaac and Chris Evans running Meta Games in Melbourne and have read about the recent events.

[Plubby] Reece says:
 And also as written about elsewhere on Cramped Headspace 😀

   Going into Day 2 – how much Zendikar had you drafted?

Brett says:
 None.  I had actually never drafted any block/set before.  I’ve obviously watched drafts but never really had the urge to play.

[Plubby] Reece says:
 Wow, so you must have been pretty out of your comfort zone playing limited at all, let alone at the pointy end of the standings. So with that being said, what was your draft strategy?

Brett says:
 You could say that, yeah.  I had already overachieved by making day 2 so I was actually pretty relaxed.  I know the basics about drafting and the theory, so I just started with some nice splashable removal (Burst Lightning, Journey to Nowhere) and tried to read what colours were open.

[Plubby] Reece says:
 Who was in your first draft pod, and how did that deck end up?

Brett says:
 Notables were Martin Juza and the co. (does he count? (Ed:  the co. is Nicolas Rolf, a player from Australia who frequently wins PTQ’s, and equally frequently scrubs on the pro tour. And he always counts in my book.)  I ended up with a super fast Red/Black deck with loads of removal.  I got loads of black early after a first pick Hideous End, and got most of my red picks late in the packs.  I think I had something like 4 one drops (Vampires) and 7 two drops (Shortcutters, Geopedes, Marauders), and of course my favourite Nighthawk.

[Plubby] Reece says:
 The official coverage tells us you 3-0’d the draft with this deck. Who did you beat?

Brett says:
 Round 9 was Alex West who was playing UR, Round 10 was Daniel Blackbourne playing mono White, and Round 11 the feature match against Juza.  He was BW.

[Plubby] Reece says:
 How about your second pod – who was in it, and what was the deck like?

Brett says:
 I was lucky enough to be on table 1 for the second pod.  It had the Japanese contingent of Saitou, Watanabe and Mitamura, and Shane Dalliston and Steve Aplin who made top 8.  Rounding out the table was Andrew Eckermann and Levi Hinz.

 I went into RW almost straight away with first pick Journey and 2nd pick Burst Lightning.  I ended up with 2 Journey’s and 3 Burst’s for the draft.  The rest of the deck just kind of got pieced together, including 4 (!) Steppe Lynx, some flying Kor (Aeronauts and Skyfisher) in the 2 drop slot, and some awesome Hookmaster for 3 drops.

[Plubby] Reece says:
 ..Oh sweet jeebers, that’s insane.

Brett says:
 Not bad for my 2nd draft ever.

[Plubby] Reece says:
 And you went 1-0-2? Were they both Intentional Draws? And who did you beat?

Brett says:
 I played Levi in Round 12 in 3 very close matches.  He played a very solid UR deck that almost got there.  He got stuck on 3 lands in the decider so he was understandably frustrated.  At this point I knew I could draw in so I was extremely pleased, only to be given the news I had mis-registered my deck list (I literally forgot to register all my red cards).

 I received a game loss for the following round.  At this stage, Shane, Saitou and I were the only players on 33 points so I was hoping I didn’t get paired down.  Luckily I got paired with Shane who graciously decided to ID even though I had a game loss.  Saito went on to win and we ID’d in the last round.

[Plubby] Reece says:
 Obviously we know the result, but how did you Top 8 Draft and quarterfinal match go?

Brett says:

 Badly.  I thought my deck was pretty average no matter what blisterguy says.  I went pretty heavy green first pack but saw no real other playables.  First pick was a Turntimber Ranger, and I had some other solid picks in River Boa, Nissa’s Chosen, Harrow and Oran-Reef Survivalist.  I got a late Hagra Diabolist so I tried to push black in the 2nd pack.

 2nd pack I picked Bloodghast over another Oran-Reef Survivalist which probably was a bad pick.  I picked Mind Sludge over Disfigure for my 2nd pick which again was probably questionable.  I saw very limited green passing to the right so I was just trying to pick up anything playable at this point.

 Last pack I opened a first pick Hideous End which I was extremely grateful for.  Unfortunately Watanabe to my right was heavy black and I got cut off pretty bad in the 3rd pack, so I was barely able to scrape a deck together.

 I randomly (I guess?) got paired against top seed Saito which seems a bit unfair since I finished 4th.  He had the deck I wanted, solid Black/Green with Red splash for removal and Blue splash for the insane draw ally.

 Needless to say my one Hideous End wasn’t going to get there against the blue Ally, and I got ground out in 2 long games.

[Plubby] Reece says:
Are your co-workers familiar with Magic at all? What did you tell them, if anything about this experience?

Brett says:
 No actually, I work in IT so no reason to make them think of me as a super nerd who plays card games.  My sister works in game development and has loads of co-workers who play casually, so I have sort of become a local hero to them – does that count? 

[Plubby] Reece says:
 It’ll do 🙂
 And lastly, are there any other interesting or amusing stories you want to share?

Brett says:
 Well this was my return to Magic.  I hadn’t played competitively in over a year and had sort of lost my edge.  I joked with Isaac in the last game of Day 1 about forgetting my trigger on my Umara Raptor.  He ended up losing the games so I made sure to let him know he lost to a 3CC Flying Men.

 I also had to have M10 rules explained to me as I thought I had lethal combat damage, but apparently lifelink isn’t triggered anymore so the static ‘simultaneous’ life gain got me.

I corrected Saitou on a misplay 😀 I had a board of critters, Saitou had some blockers including a Vampire Hexmage. I brought out Tuktuk Grunts (2/2 ally gets +1/+1 counter, and has Haste naturally) and attacked. He chumped Tuktuk without killing it since he didn’t realise the Hexmage had First Strike, and could sacrifice between First Strike and regular damage to kill it.  

 Other than that, just enjoyed meeting Melburnians again who I used to play against and meeting with the Pros.  Not that he would remember me, but Olivier Ruel is one of the funniest guys going around.

[Plubby] Reece says:
 Wait, so you top8’d this Grand Prix completely kold? Second ever limited event, first ever draft, first time playing magic at all in over a year?!? All of this with ZERO byes?

Brett says: 
Yup.  Ralphey (Ed: Ralphey being Russel Alphey, the Premier Tournament Organiser in Melbourne. Props to Ralphey!) can attest to that as he didn’t even know I was from Melbourne!

 [Plubby] Reece says:

 Well, that’s certainly invoking the mystic powers of Chris Pikula!

Congratulations again, Brett and hopefully it won’t be another year before we see you at another Magic tournament. Well done!


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An Appalling Act – Please Help However You Can!

Last weekend (Sunday 27th September) the store Meta Games in Melbourne, Australia was burgled. Someone got into the store (by the looks of it through the toilet window) and stole all of their Zendikar Stock (between 25 and 30 Boxes), their Type 2, Type 1 and M10 Singles Folder, 8 Pieces of power and cleared out the register of over $700.

In total around $40,000 worth of cash and product was taken from the store.

Unfortunately, the store had also recently had $8000 worth of stock stolen, which was already being processed under insurance. As a result, they changed the locks and installed security cameras. The last footage from the cameras is from Sunday afternoon, during the day. This indicates the theft was premeditated and done by someone inside the local Melbourne community, so this new theft has absolutely buried the owners Isaac and Chris, both financially and emotionally.

At that stage, the future of Meta Games looks bleak. However, the magic community, both in Melbourne and across Australia has already rallied behind owners Chris and Isaac, and shown their support by way of countless offers of donations of cards to restock folders, as well as the prizes so that they can actually run their upcoming Highlander event that they already announced, and donations towards a Auction with the money going towards the store.

 All of this is a fantastic start, but we’re still a ways short of being able to replace the total value of the losses Meta Games has suffered. We’re desperate, and we’re looking to the wider Magic community now for any support you’re able to provide. Without it, the store will invariably be forced to shut down and it’s likely that bankruptcy for Isaac and//or Chris is a factor as well. If you would like to help Metagames, these are the cards & stock that we’re hoping people can help replenish with donations:

-Zendikar boosters&boxes
-Shards block rares
-M10 rares
-Any chase or semi-chase Vintage or Legacy rares and uncommons

ANY help, from anyone, is appreciated beyond words. The address for Metagames is:

Meta Games
2/116 Peel St
North Melbourne
Victoria 3053

 If you’re looking for an email contact, you can contact either myself, or Alex McCormick (or both) here:



Thanking you,
Reece Perry

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Swan Songs Part 1: Why I’m Quitting

So it turns out that I started writing this post on July 4th. Independence from Magic Day, it would seem. I got precisely zero words done on it, just that *ahem* gem of a title you see before you. Heh.

 Now that I have said attention-grabbing title out of the way, perhaps I should clarify. Quitting is too strong a word, and anyone who visits MTG Paradise can tell that I clearly haven’t severed all my ties to the game. Nor do I plan to. To go into it more, I’ll tell of how this all relates to Australian Nationals.

 The whole mess started in the lead up – even as far back as last year, where I had come to the realisation that I enjoyed playing hockey so much on a Saturday afternoon, more than any of my other hobbies. The one time I skipped on hockey to play in a PTQ, I felt guilty as hell; there was a knot in my stomach that screamed at me that I’d just made an awful decision. The countless tournaments I had missed for hockey, I felt no such guilt. This year, I had missed a pre-release and for the first time in my tournament playing career, I had missed a PTQ in order to play hockey. Not only had I missed it, but I didn’t even know there was one on until someone asked me that night how my PTQ had gone.

 I had begun to feel a distancing from the game prior to that; I was getting more enjoyment from my post-event coverage than I was the event itself, regardless of how I did. Posting deck lists and giving the players of Perth some exposure via their hard work to the world was just as gratifying to me as the two PTQ top 8’s I had to my name. (Major gratitude to people like Brian David-Marshall and Mike Flores for helping me with said exposure.) It was becoming hard to justify attending events just to get deck lists at the end of it all.

 More to the point, reason #1, and the main one why I am quitting.

 I could no longer justify to myself spending $200+ on three PTQ’s, states and regionals every year to do terribly and gain no enjoyment from the event save for what I was doing for the community.

I was very much loved the coverage and community-building. I still truly believe that people really got a kick out of seeing the product of all their hard work recognised on the internet – I just couldn’t spend hundreds of dollars and waste a day when that was all I could get out of it.

 So I had decided that I was going to leave the game. At the very least, take an extended break from it. I didn’t want to play in any more sanctioned events until at least 2010, and even more if I didn’t feel the magic (no pun intended) coming back.

 There was just one hiccup in the road. The skipping of the pre-release and PTQ had happened across April (ish) and June, and I had prepaid for Nationals flights and accommodation in like…March. So I had one weekend of tournaments left. It was kind of frustrating, having made the decision to break away, yet still attached to the game by this upcoming tournament. But I didn’t feel like I was truly “done” with magic – even though I had made this decision, I felt like I could not, and possibly would never be able to completely separate from it. So I decided to come at it from the perspective that Nationals was Magic’s “last chance to convince me to stay”.

 Over the weekend, in the face of the M10 changes, I had a relatively good time at Nationals. While I never got past the second round of a grinder, and I 0-3’d the PTQ on Sunday, I got the chance to catch up with people I consider good friends. I chatted with people like Nic Rolf (“The Co.”), Bill Mladenoski,  as well as “Wedges” Matthew Hare on multiple occasions over the weekend, and I watched Levi Hinz, one of my favourite interstate players play in a feature match. On top of that I got to discover that I was not the only one thoroughly disgusted that “Bribery” Nicastri was the one who the face of Australian Magic was. I had dinner and went out drinking on multiple nights with the other members of the Perth community, and on the last night roughly 10 of us from Perth and 3 or 4 players from Brisbane, including the aforementioned Levi went out and had celebratory steak with the players who had done well/come so close to doing well. At the end of that last night, we went out to buy beer and brought it back to the hotel, drank and team drafted until 1 in the morning.

You’ll notice that until the draft, none of these good times I had were spent actually playing Magic. I certainly noticed it. But the thing that was most surprising was that I’d had so much fun playing in that draft that it was clear to me that I wasn’t yet ready to give magic away, not completely, not just yet.

This brings me right the way back to the start of the post, and how quitting was too strong a word for where I’m at with Magic. I’ve decided, in essence, to “retire” from tournament magic. For the foreseeable future, anyway. I might still game from time-to-time with my friends, and maybe we’ll all draft together when the new set comes out. But I feel completely comfortable with my decision to leave the tournament game alone. I’m finding it too expensive and too time-consuming for the little reward I was getting. This isn’t a messy, ugly divorce however. I’m leaving the door open for a potential return, if the time and inclination ever takes me.

It’s funny. I remember the first tournament I ever played in. It was at State Championships 2003, and I played a mono blue concoction that was basically a glorified limited deck. I went 0-6, and had the time of my life.

As I mentioned, my last tournament was the PTQ on the Sunday of Australian Nationals. I went 0-3 drop, and felt at peace as I signed my last match slip.

Throughout almost six years of tournament-level magic, what have I learned?

When to drop.

Maybe I’ll be back with some more funny anecdotes, or stories of the people I’ve encountered in my magical career, but until then, thankyou spellcasters, one and all. You’ve been awesome.

 – RP

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Soul Revival; Aka Revenge of the KarstenBot DI Rebuys

This deck is I’m having a blast with it on Modo, thought i’d share 🙂

// Lands
    4 [LRW] Vivid Creek
    4 [LRW] Vivid Marsh
    2 [EVE] Cascade Bluffs
    3 [EVE] Flooded Grove
    4 [SHM] Sunken Ruins
    3 [UNH] Island
    4 [SHM] Reflecting Pool
    2 [LRW] Vivid Crag

// Creatures
    4 [ALA] Broodmate Dragon
    3 [LRW] Shriekmaw
    3 [LRW] Cloudthresher
    4 [LRW] Mulldrifter
    4 [SHM] Kitchen Finks

// Spells
    2 [ALA] Cruel Ultimatum
    4 [CNF] Volcanic Fallout
    4 [LRW] Cryptic Command
    3 [ARB] Soul Manipulation
    3 [LRW] Makeshift Mannequin

// Sideboard
SB: 1 [LRW] Shriekmaw
SB: 1 [LRW] Cloudthresher
SB: 4 [MOR] Vendilion Clique
SB: 4 [ARB] Anathemancer
SB: 3 [SHM] Runed Halo
SB: 2 [CNF] Banefire

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The Selloutington Post

It is with a heavy heart that I can no longer in good faith reccommend The Starkington Post. It’s sailed down the river sellout to “Forums and a frontpage feature on Starcitygames”-ville. It is an undisputable fact that communities are much nicer places to be when they’re not corrupted by proper forums – see Fivewithflores, Top8Magic past and present and more. I still have a lot of time for Bill, but this is a change that I don’t quite understand.

TSP been replaced in my heart with a blog by the author of The Beautiful Struggles series of articles on SCG, Mark “MM” Young and his blog intuitively titled The Struggle. Linkies:

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Lessons Learned at PTQ Honolulu

Lesson #3: While an alternate win condition is useful as a means of surprising your opponent, the most dangerous thing in magic is an additional way to lose the game.

Elves is a very powerful deck, perhaps the most powerful in the pre-Alara Reborn extended format. The one thing that is more powerful though is one of the Future Sight pacts. Please people, pay for your pacts.

Lesson #2: If the deck you choose for a tournament wins a Grand Prix and you don’t adjust your list for the mirror, you deserve to lose to it twice.

Ego is a powerful thing. “I will outplay my opponents” is a good philosophy to have, but it needs to come with some grounded perception in reality. That being a) That you are actually capable of this and b) That your playskill will matter at all relative to the difference in decks. I got this wrong, and I was pounded by maindeck paths and more 5/4 Thoctars than I could handle.

Lesson #1: Magic – Take it or leave it.

As you can see by the amount of time it has taken me to write this post, I’m feeling pretty apathetic about Magic. I’m preparing for Regionals because it is my bye week in Hockey, and I have an obligation to try and qualify for Nationals, which I will be attending in July. But the biggest thing that I took away from PTQ Honlulu is that I don’t feel a need to play Magic anymore. I think I might be more or less done with it, Magic’s become a social game for me now. It’s something I have to spend time with old school friends, or to spend hundreds of dollars and travel across the country to catch up with people I’ve barely met from different states…different countries. I don’t have the burning desire to play in the Pro Tour anymore. It’s not a case of losing “The Fire” that people (particularly myself) have spoken of in other places before. I still have The Fire, it just doesn’t burn for Magic anymore. Maybe i’m just becoming more stereotypically “normal”…

And it’s absolutely unclear to me whether or not I like it.

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Mediocrity Wrapped in a Bleh Polo Shirt: PTQ Honolulu 2009

Here’s a Quote from my twitter account:

“If your deck wins a Grand Prix, and you don’t adjust your deck for the mirror, you deserve to lose it twice.”

And this is the short version of what happened at my PTQ…

I’ll post my decklist, and quick recap of my rounds below, and I hope to post later in the week with some more “Lessons Learned”.

First, the list:

Naya Zoo:

4 Wooded Foothills
3 Bloodstained Mire
3 Windswept Heath
3 Stomping Ground
2 Sacred Foundry
2 Mutavault
2 Mountain
1 Temple Garden
1 Forest

4 Wild Nacatl
4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Kird Ape
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Hellspark Elemental
3 Ethersworn Canonist
2 Wooly Thoctar

4 Seal of Fire
4 Lightning Helix
3 Sulfuric Vortex
2 Umezawa’s Jitte
1 Tarfire

4 Volcanic Fallout
3 Rule of Law
3 Path to Exile
3 Duergar Hedge-Mage
2 Ancient Grudge

Round 1 I played against Elves
I had key early burn to hold off his creatures, and managed to get to a fairly stable midgame. He played a pact to set up a mass of guys, and the next turn I planned to Be The Kenji (TM) and make sure he didn’t forget. I mistapped my mana forcing me to take an unnecessary two extra points on my fetchland and spent about thirty seconds complaining about how bad I was. So both of us forgot and he untapped and drew a card. It was about halfway through his main phase when I realised “wait a minute, I tapped out calculating he’d be able to play less creatures than this” and then I realised he’d forgotten to pay for his pact. I probably would have won anyway – the poor guy drew at least eight or nine land.

Game 2 he drew an early Jitte so it was time to get my game face on and fight a Jitte battle where he was up a Jitte to my none, and I had left my Jitte hate in my sideboard. I had a Mogg Fanatic to help out and a timely Volcanic Fallout. When I played Rule of Law and Wooly Thoctar on consecutive turns I knew I was in good shape. He finally got counters on the Jitte though, and things looked bad for me…but then I ripped a Jitte. Now the board was his tiny guys vs my huge guys, and none of us had our jittes. With him only able to deploy one blocker a turn, and my guys mowing his down at a rate of knots, I was able to close out a potentially dangerous matchup 2-0.

Next I played Affinity. My opponent was a hugely talented player who seemed pretty down on his particular list, primarily because I don’t think he was able to play his first choice, and affinity was a backup deck that only had three thoughtcast in it. In game one he only drew one creature, and I had a pretty nuts draw. Game 2 he had a lot of smaller creatures and one Myr Enforcer, but I had Duergar Hedge-Mage and was able to close with larger creatures.

Round 3 I played the mirror, and it turned out to be Saitou’s list. His deck has more Paths, More Thoctars, and all of them are maindeck. I for the most part played better than him, especially considering I was able to nearly stabilise from 3 life, AFTER he targeted my creature with Lightning Helix instead of my face. Unfortunately the turn before I would have gotten counters to the Jitte, he drew another Helix. That was the end of game 2, and dropped me to 2-1

Round 4 I played against Affinity again. In game one, he mulliganed to four on the play, so I lost. There’s just no beating a mulligan to four on the play. Game 2 he drew two Ravagers and a MoE, where any ONE of them left unchecked is game over for me. I only drew one piece of my removal.

Round 5 I played against a fun looking Ad Nauseum deck, which had just won the previous round after connecting to the face of the Elf player I had defeated in Round 1 with a Phage the Untouchable. Yes, you read that right. I won in two fairly easy games, though it bears mentioning that I sideboarded Path to Exile for Ethersworn Canonist to kill Phage, but Phage is in his sideboard, he doesn’t bring it in against my deck, and his ACTUAL kill condition is Ad Nauseum + Angel’s grace to draw his entire deck and kill with that card that Sudden Impacts the opponent for cards in casters’ hand.

Round 6 I played against Saitou’s deck again, and again lost in two despite playing what I thought was better magic than my opponent. There’s just too much fat to deal with, and I probably wasn’t playing good enough. Turns out we were playing for ninth anyway.

And there’s a quick 800 words on my PTQ experience with Naya Zoo! There’s definitely some lessons to be taken away from this kind of a tournament, but I still had a great time, and extended is still the best format in magic!

Until next time,
 – RP

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