Hi there, welcome to Part 2 of my Nationals report. In the Part 1, I detailed the rounds leading to me going 6-1-1 in the Standard LCQ, qualifying me for the main event and then the first Standard portion of the main event, leaving me on an impressive 3-1 record. I’m now going into the first Draft portion in very high spirits:
Draft Pod 1
So, I’m 3-1 going into the pod and I’m ranked 24th in the standings, putting me in pod 3 with 7 others on the same record. I open pack 1 and happily keep a Djinn of Wishes over nothing else hugely noteworthy in the pack. I took a second pick Stormfront Pegasus with, once again, absolutely nothing worth noting in the pack and the same thing happened for pick 3, which saw me take an Oblivion Ring. 4th pick added an Unsummon to my pool, but the rest of the pack was relatively uneventful. The signals were very mixed but one thing was for sure. Green was WIDE open, so I began taking a few Green cards, starting with a pick 6 Carnage Wurm. I got an 8th pick Phantasmal Dragon and then ended up wheeling an 11th pick Trollhide and unbelievably, a 12th pick Garruk’s Horde! My deck now had a possible 3 bombs and I’d also picked up a Rampant Growth, so I decided to play some sort of ramp deck, possibly splashing White for the Oblivion Ring I’d picked up.
Pack 2 was very disappointing. I opened up a Flameblast Dragon and immediately took it, least of all because I didn’t wanto die to it. I then figured that with the minimal blue I’d opened so far, that red/green would be a better deck. I then took a secod pick Blood Ogre and from that point, saw not a single playable red card, much to my disappointment. However, along the ramp theme, I picked up a pick 4 Birds of Paradise followed by an Aven Fleetwing and a beautiful 6th pick Skinshifter. Green was most definitely open and my deck started to take shape. As the packs began to wheel, I got an 8th pick Hunter’s Insight and then wheeled a 9th pick Garruk’s Companion and a 10th pick Stampeding Rhino and nothing else good in the pack.
Pack 3 saw me take a first pick Lurking Crocodile with not a single playable card other than that in the pack, other than I suppose, a Bloodrage Vampire and other similarly mediocre cards. I then found a 2nd pick Stingerfling Spider and a pick 3 Cudgel Troll over nothing of note other than a Doom Blade, which I did consider taking, but I dislike splashes in most circumstances and the Cudgel Troll is pretty insane. Having seen the player on my left snap pick some card from the pack in my peripheral vision, I figured that he’d taken that Doom Blade, considering there was nothing else in the pack good enough to snap pick. So when the 4th pick presented me with a choice between Doom Blade and Brindle Boar, the choice was now even easier as I hate draft the Doom Blade away from that player. The rest of the pack is pretty weak but it gives me an Ice Cage, Divination, Unsummon, Rampant Growth and 14th pick Harbor Serpent!!!
1 Birds of Paradise
1 Garruk’s Companion
1 Brindle Boar
1 Aven Fleetwing
2 Lurking Crocodile
1 Cudgel Troll
1 Stingerfling Spider
1 Stampeding Rhino
1 Phantasmal Dragon
1 Harbor Serpent
1 Djinn of Wishes
1 Garruk’s Horde
1 Carnage Wurm
The deck really did build itself. Having hated away that Doom Blade in pack 4, I decided to splash it in the main deck. I had the 2 Rampant Growths and Birds of Paradise to net me a black source more often, making the splash more consistent. I did also bear in mind the Oblivion Ring on the sideboard, which I replaced the Doom Blade with against Black decks. In fact, I forgot to grab a Plains from the land boxes that were provided, so after game 1 in round 1, I decided to make this sideboard change and made the weirdest Judge call in my magic career, where I call a judge to our table and ask him to bring me a Basic Plains… ANYWAY, on to the matches.
Round 5: B/W
This guy was a really nice player again and a pleasure to talk to. He was a bit nervous and he claimed he didn’t like the deck he drafted very much, so I shared with him that I wasn’t too happy either (purely down to the non-existent removal my deck seemed to have). Game 1 was pretty sided in my favour. I kept a hand of 5 lands, Djinn of Wishes and a Rampant Growth. So, I played out the hand with the old, turn 4 Djinn of Wishes play… he responded with a Stonehorn Dignitary which was fine, I just left mana up to wish for something with Djinn, whilst holding a hand of Doom Blade + a land. He tried to Mind Rot my hand, so I Doom Bladed his Dignitary for value. At the end of the turn, I used Djinn’s wish effect and netted my 7th land, which was perfect since I then topdecked Carnage Wurm. I swung in with Djinn for 4 damage and dropped my 9/9 trample dude. 2 turns later I found a Trollhide which for some reason found it’s way onto my Carnage Wurm, as if it wasn’t big enough already… and that basically ended it, despite his late Aegis Angel and Vengeful Pharaoh plays.
Games 2 and 3 were, quite honestly, terrible. I keep a 3-lander in game 2 and then draw 7 more lands in 8 turns and so have no spells to stop him curving out. Similarly in Game 3, I kept an ok hand of 2 lands, a Rampant Growth and some fatties, since the fatties are insane. I then make my 3rd land with Rampant Growth and see no more, nor a 3 or lower mana cost spell, so his simple curve of black Bloodthirst guys and a turn 5 Vengeful Pharaoh finish me off really easily.
Now, from this point on, I’m not being funny, but my deck was sick. I spoke with the other drafters at the table and it was generally accepted that the power level of our packs was ridiculously low. No one seemed to open anything along the lines of any Incinerates, Mind Controls, Overruns, Fireballs or even any mythic rares from the look of it.
Round 6: Goblins
My round 6 opponent just didn’t have a particularly good deck and my big guys finished him pretty handily. Similarly, my round 3 opponent had a black/red goblin deck. He told me he started taking the Goblins, including a pair of Goblin Grenades, but he literally saw no good playables come his way, so much so that he showed me the 3 Goblin Bangchuckers in his main deck to confirm this. Both of these matches were finished 2-0 in my favour, purely down to all of the bad cards in the pod.
And now… OMG! I’m 5-2 after day one of my first ever Nationals! I don’t get how this has happened, but most importantly, I was going into day 2 with a perfectly reasonable record, one which had put LSV into the top-8 of US Nationals two weeks previously. My confidence with Standard meant that a good draft in the morning (2-1 or 3-0) would put me well within the qualifying bracket for the top 8 cut.
Day 3: Nationals Part 2
So then, Day 2 of Nationals on a positive record. I was sat on pod 4 with a couple of familiar faces, including Manaleaks own Joe Fletcher who, after a poor run in standard on day 1, managed to 3-0 his draft pod to crawl back up to 5-2. So, without much further ado, the draft.
I opened pack 1 and scanned through it. Having done well with it in day 1, I felt quite happy to try forcing Green, but there were no green playables in the pack and no real bombs. So I took the one removal spell in the pack, being a Pacifism, which I’m always happy to first pick. It’s a powerful and solid removal spell in the format and highly splashable, regardless of what colour you’re in, so I wasn’t yet committed to any particular colour. Pick two warranted the taking of an Overrun over, once again, very few playables in each colour. Pick 3 was what defined the draft for me. Now, normally I’m bad at reading draft signals, but getting a 3rd pick Sorin’s Vengeance was a pretty clear signal that Black should be open in packs 1 and 3 when passing left, as both of the two players to my right elected to take uncommons over this sick bomb rare and really didn’t want to be in Black. This was pretty much confirmed by next taking a pair of Wring Flesh, then later a Warpath Ghoul and an 8th pick Child of Night. I also took an Elite Vanguard and Peregrine Griffin, amongst a couple of green cards, in case I wanted to eventually build the horrible deck with Overrun and Sorin’s Vengeance (triple green + triple black…).
Pack 2 was pretty abysmal. I opened the worst rare in the whole set (Scrambleverse) and no actually playable uncommons either. I was short on guys, so I took a Duskhunter Bat. Black then appeared to be open coming in from the other side too, as I took an Onyx Mage 2nd, Warpath Ghoul 3rd and Gravedigger 5th. I finished up with some more green cards, a second Peregrine Griffin and I managed to wheel a Distress. Green was however, definitely not open from this direction. The green cards I had taken were pretty bad and I’d seen nothing along the lines of Giant Spiders or Llanowar Elves come my way, when those cards are sick enough in green but not good enough elsewhere for them to start wheeling round and signal that no one’s in green. I figured there must be a green drafter about 2, maybe 3 seats up from me.
Pack 3 was pretty beautiful. I opened up Gideon Jura as the rare and immediately took it. So far, I was very clearly going to be a black deck, splashing either green or white. I had so far not taken anything in either colour that fully committed me to it, apart from the Overrun and Pacifism, with Pacifism being the clear front-runner. Then, my theory about black being open DEFINITELY proved itself to be right, as I got the following 5 picks in order: Sengir Vampire, Sorin’s Thirst, Doom Blade, Wring Flesh, Sorin’s Thirst, Blood Seeker, Distress, Mind Rot.
Then the playables completely vanished, but I was left with around 23 playables anyway, so my deck was gonna look pretty awesome!
1 Gideon Jura
I’m not going to go into detail in my matches, because funnily enough, they were disastrous. My deck seemed pretty good on paper. I had two very powerful win conditions and 7 removal spells + 2 discard spells, but my creatures were in general, really poor. However, considering my matches, this wasn’t at all releavnt. I lost both matches 2-1 and 2-0 respectively. The 1 game I won was due to Gideon Jura hitting the table, but ALL 4 of the games I lost were down to a horreendous amount of mana flooding, where I saw about 5-6 spells maximum with around 10+ lands. So yeah, couldn’t win very much. The other 0-2 in the pod had dropped, so I got a bye, giving me time to run up to Millie’s Cookies up the road and get me some lunch + rations for the afternoon in the form of 12 cookies for 6 quid. Bargain!!!
By this point, the usual crew in the Worcester Legacy scene had arrived and everyone was trying to convince me to play in the Legacy GPT instead of continue in the main event. My recent Legacy results have been very promising, with 2 wins and 2 finals splits in the last 4 Legacy Tournaments that I’d used my home brew Merfolk deck in. However, this was my first time at Nationals and I was determined to make a better showing than 6-4 drop… So I carried on. My Valakut list is very solid and I felt that if matchups go my way then I could end up on 10-4 or close, which would actually give me a spot in top-16 and my first ever pro point! (giving me a bye at GP Amsterdam AND a massive ratings boost) I had to use the identical list to Day 1, which was fine. The deck is really powerful and I wouldn’t even want to make any changes.
Round 11: Caw-Blade
To be quite honest, Caw-Blade is possibly the deck’s best matchup. I’ve been working tirelessly to improve this matchup and to this point, I’d not lost a single match to it. In game 2, he got a fast start and crushed me, but both of the other games were pretty easy with my build.
Round 12: U/R Splinter Twin
Having lost horribly to Twin in the qualifier, I figured this would be the match to remove me from top-16 contention. I opened with no disruption and he opened with a combo hand which won on turn 4. We actually finished the game whilst other tables were still shuffling for game 1, not really that surprised about it though. For game 2, I bring in my usual anti-twin plan and it really paid off. I had a hand with some decent disruption in it including a Ricochet Trap and a Dismember. He got to turn 4 and left 3 mana open, representing his end-of-turn Combo. I then drew for my turn 5 and hit a Memoricide. I instantly played it out into a Mana Leak which I backed up with a Ricochet Trap and the Memoricide ended up resolving. He asked me what I would name and when I told him Splinter Twin he just scooped up and went to game 3, with only 10 or so minutes elapsed on the clock. The table next to us had been deck checked and had their decks had only just been presented back to them at this very moment.
Game 3 was quite a bit harder. He now knew that I was on the Memoricide plan and was very clearly playing accordingly. I kept a hand which was admittedly quite dodgy. I had 1 Verdant Catacombs, Memoricide, 4 Mountains and 1 Explore. The only reason I kept it was because Memoricide wins the game instantly and although I needed my fetch land to grab a Forest so I didn’t have any black mana available to cast it, I knew that drawing a black source would hand me the game. My Explore on turn 2 gave me a Green Sun’s Zenith which let me grab Birds of Paradise on turn 3, giving me Memoricide on turn 4. He pre-empted this and so on his turn, tapped out to use Into the Roil on my Birds, taking away my only black mana source. In my turn, I drew a Primeval Titan and replayed the Birds + my 5th land. On his turn, he goes to 5 lands as well, and kicks an Into the Roil on my Birds. Personally, I think this lost him the game. He could have done this without the Kicker and represented a Mana Leak for my next turn play. Instead, he had 1 mana open and I simply played out my 6th land and my Primeval Titan, finding me my single Swamp. On my next turn, I untap 8 Lands and cast Memoricide, which he now has 2 Mana Leaks for, but with 4 additional mana available, I can pay for one of them and Ricochet Trap the other one, so he graciously offers the customary handshake.
From this point, the worst record I can end on is 8-6, which is exactly what I set out aiming for, so I was already buzzing and didn’t really care that much as to what would happen in the next 2 matches. By this point, everyone from the usual Magic scene had dropped out, leaving just me and Tom Rickarby in the last 2 rounds, competing for pride more than anything. Now, me and Tom get on very well, but considering it was HIS performance that led to me not qualifying for Nats in Bristol, I was keen to finish higher than him, so a little bit of additional pride for this was at stake.
Round 13: Caw-Blade
This match was definitely weird. Games 1 and 2 went the same as every other Caw-Blade game I’ve played, where I win game 1 easily and my opponent wins game 2 easily too. We begin game 3, although unbeknown to me, one of my friends who’d seen my opponent sideboard had reported to a judge that some of his specific cards were upside down, in such a way that he could actually be trying to stack his deck. We’d already started by the time a judge made his way to our table and the game wasn’t stopped, although the judge had told my friend it would be. I had no idea this had happened, since I found out afterwards, but I’d opened a disgustingly good hand. On the play, I played a turn 2 Rampant Growth and he responded with a turn 2 land go, representing a Mana Leak. I draw, play land #4 and look to my hand for options and decide on running out a turn 3 Thrun, the Last Troll. As it happens, this play was perfect.
My opponent, being quite vocal, expressed his displeasure at seeing a Thrun and immediately made a Squadron Hawk to block him, leaving only 1 mana open. Since he didn’t Spell Pierce my Rampant Growth, I figured the coast was clear, and I play my 5th land followed my Chandra, the Firebrand which he again laughed at as it blew up his Hawk and Thrun hit him for 4. He then panicked again and tapped out to play an Oblivion Ring on Chandra, again leaving just 1 mana open. So, I bash with Thrun and play a Primeval Titan, making it obvious that his plays had been pretty bad up to this point compared to mine. I won soon after with my Thrun and Titan.
My friend who’d reported my opponent tracked me down after the match had finished and his side event had also finished. He spoke to me in the hope that the judge had done something and I hadn’t lost because of it. I just casually told him the judge hadn’t said anything but I beat him anyway, so the situation ended up resolving itself. As for my opponent, I have no idea if he was spoken to before round 14 or whether he even played round 14, but still…
Round 14: RUG Birthing Pod
Now, this match was plain and simple. It wasn’t very interesting really. I kept a slowish hand in game 1 and the turn before I play a Primeval Titan he drops an Acidic Slime setting me back a whole turn and follows it up with some Cloned Slimes for the next 2 turns and I never do hit that 6th land, so he drops some bigger guys and destroys me.
In game 2, he plays a turn 1 Birds of Paradise and a turn 2 Phyrexian Metamorph copying the Birds, which then gets his field Pyroclasmed. However, on turn 4 he plays a Vengevine, hitting me for 4. Next turn, he plays Urabrask the Hidden and swings for 8, so I Dismember the Urabrask. I don’t have a good play next turn and he then drops Hero of Oxid Ridge. This sequence of hasty dudes prompts me to pack it in and be the gracious loser.
So, there we have it. I ended my first ever Nationals on a very positive 9-5 record. Until this point, I’d been very pessimistic about my skills as a Magic player. Although I aspire to one day be on the Pro Tour (and me hoping to move to America in about 5 years or so would eventually help that), I had never genuinely thought I’d have what it takes. However, finishing 28th place out of 186 people has really made me think differently about this and I genuinely think that I have a shot at the higher levels of tournament play now that I have this experience behind me.
Until now I’ve not even been able to get top 8 in a PTQ, so that will be the next accomplishment I’m going to set my sights on, and gradually attempt to work my way up from there. My draft skills definitely let me down this weekend and if I’d done a better quality of testing for the tournament, then I don’t think it’s too farfetched to say I could have been in the top 8 or at least the top 16.
1. With my homebrew of Valakut, I ended up ending with a total Constructed record of 12-3-1 for the weekend.
2. Some of the Americans tell you that Caw-Blade destroys Valakut and Valakut doesn’t stand a chance in the matchup, yet I ended the weekend with an unbeaten 4-0 record against the archetype.
3. Having started the weekend on an ok rating of 1754 points, I ended on 1905, putting me in the top-60 players in the country (although my side events on day 4 dropped me to 1874 and 101st in the country).
4. The Gideon I picked up in the 2nd draft is, weirdly enough, the 5th time out of a total of 30 M12 drafts in which I’ve opened a Gideon, but the first time I’ve not gone 3-0 in the pod because of it :(.
5. I finished on 28th place, the highest of all of the regular Worcester players. Tom Rickarby ended in 45th place I believe on an 8-6 record, everyone else dropped out on X-4 or worse records.
So, from now on, I’m going to be focusing very heavily on looking to qualify for the Pro Tour. If the Winter season PTQs are Modern format like I figure they should be, then I’ll be very happy to test this diverse format from essentially now until then and I already have some sick brews ready. Until then, Standard can take to the back benches in my mind, apart from the odd local Manaleak tournament.
In my next article, I’m going to explore the new Modern format and show you some decklists that I’ve experimented with in the past week or 2, including one with a maindeck costing little more than $20, whilst still being tournament competetive!!!
Until next time!