Archive for Tournament Reports

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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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

SB:
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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