Tournament Report – UK Nationals 2011 Report – Top 8 Finish
Part 1 – Preludicious
I’ve tried to write this report from both the perspective of a player and a Tournament Organiser, so it may be a little unconventional. I’ll cover off the usual stuff about deck choice, sideboarding and match coverage, but I also want to give the whole thing some context, particularly on how I may have approached this tournament from a different perspective from most of the players there.
I guess that I had better start from the beginning. My name’s Kevin Blake and unless I’ve run into you at a Magic event then you’ve probably never heard of me. I run, with help from my co Tournament Organiser (TO) Fin Morley, events in Milton Keynes, home of the concrete cow and of countless bewildered drivers lost in the seemingly never-ending system of roundabouts . As a club we’ve been going for about 2.5 years and seen a lot of change in that time. Withdrawal of FNM booster prize support, booster price increase, withdrawal of the bounty hunter programme to attract new players, withdrawal of the Rewards programme and most recently the change in policy that forces independent TOs to tie up with a bricks and mortar store to retain the rights to run, well , pretty much any sanctioned event that you can think of. Oh, and of course FNM must now be run on a Friday.
These changes have not exactly made it easy to grow and develop a club devoted solely to running MtG events in a town that does not have a single comic store or dedicated games store. So I am extremely proud that the club has gone from strength to strength and now has around 45 to 50 regular players who turn up to the weekly sanctioned events that we run on Tuesdays or the Commander League that we usually run on Thursdays. I say usually as occasionally we take a break from the world of 100 card chaos and run other alternative formats, such as design your own draft or junk rare drafts.
Clearly I’m biased, but I believe that we have a fantastic community with little or none of the cliquey elitism that sometimes causes problems in UK Magic.
All of this has meant that in my eyes, and I’m sure in the eyes of the club players, I am a TO first and a player second. As a TO and sometime tournament player it’s an interesting balancing act trying to meet the demands of the tournament level players whilst not discouraging the new players who, ultimately, are the long-term lifeblood of the club.
A simple example of this would be the treatment of booster drafts. We play swiss rounds and offer booster prize support on the basis of one booster per win over the three rounds. Due to the mixed experience level and player objectives there is always the possibility that rare-drafting will take place. Personally, this doesn’t bother me at all, but I can understand that this can irritate the more experienced players as it distorts the draft. Thus the possibility of re-drafting the rares at the end of the event to eliminate rare-drafting has been raised once or twice. However I have resisted introducing this as the winning players, who tend to be the more experienced or dedicated players, already win the majority of the boosters. To allow them to pick the best rares/mythics as well would be very discouraging to the new more casual players.
There are many other demands on a TO’s attention and time – formats, venues, upset players, liaising with WotC – all this diminishes the amount of time that I get to spend actually playing Magic. My loving wife Anna is very tolerant about my love of Magic and the amount of time I devote to it, but as she works full time she is understandably less keen for me to spend a lot of weekends travelling to events.
The combination of all these factors meant that during the course of the Nationals’s Qualifier season earlier this year, which had an insanely cramped schedule anyway, I only got to attend two different events. My preparation had been limited. This was the height of Caw Blade dominance and I was having a huge amount of fun ripping them apart with my UWr Allies deck which took advantage of the fact that the Caw Blade lists had become increasingly focused on the mirror, not even running [card]Day of Judgement[/card] main. Of course the deck had middling to terrible match ups against the rest of the field, but I didn’t really care that much. Aside from dream crushing poorly prepared Caw Blade players I was more interested in sharing in the triumphs and experiences of the players from MK that I travelled to the events with.
In the two events that I went to my record was something like 4-3 and 3-3. I never came close to qualifying and I was fine with that. I had never been to Nationals, and I had no particular ambitions to do so. Sure it would be nice, but not nice enough that I was going to devote any significant time to practising and testing what at the time was a very stale metagame.
So the NQ season finished and I wasn’t going to be going to Sheffield. In fact an unusually low number of players from MK had qualified for Nats this year. Only James Allingham and Cam Simmonds had made it through.
Then this (GP London 2011 Report – 34th by Kevin Blake) happened. At first I didn’t appreciate the implications, I was just happy to have had the experience. But then someone, I forget who, pointed out that I would probably now qualify for Nationals on rating. I checked a week or two later and my rating had soared from around 1840 to around 1970. At one rather ludicrous point I was rated no 7 in England on limited rating. Now clearly this is not an accurate representation of my ability as a Magic player, more just an illustration of how much success in one event could make it appear that I am. But with the cut off for a ratings invite being around 1875, going to Nationals was transformed from an improbability (to say the least) to an almost certainty.
I’m slightly embarrassed to say that, in common with many players in the UK at this time, I then proceeded to sit on my rating for 4 or 5 weeks. It’s not something I was happy doing, particularly given what I said above about not really caring about going. The best way I can explain it is by comparison. It’s a bit like knowing that 54â€ 3D HD TVs are great fun to watch, but also knowing that acquiring one is going to cost an arm and a leg. But then someone offers to give you one for free as long as you don’t watch your favourite show for a month. A crap analogy, possibly, but you get the idea. Ahem.
As an aside, the way the rating system works for qualification should really be evaluated again. The fact that some players just sit on their rating for months (or even years) at a time and that there is no process in place to stop this happening is just a little silly.
So, I was now going to Nationals in Sheffield. I booked the hotel and made travel arrangements (National Express) and everything seemed to be sorted. Along with Cam and James, Stuart Sellers (with whom I would be sharing a room), Nico Graziano and Paul Richardson (recently returned from the dead/Australia) would also be going and hoping to grind in on the Thursday.
Then another unexpected event – my sister, her husband and their adorable 15 month old twins phoned and asked if they could come and stay for a week. They live in North Devon and so I get to see them only a few times a year so of course I said yes. Obviously it turns out the only week they could make was 19th -26th August. Sigh.
After some haggling we decided that I would still go to Nationals and would catch the 6.15 bus back on Saturday 20th. So I would get to play in the main event, at least for long enough to do the customary 4-4 drop, and Anna would only have to cope on her own for one evening.
With everything settled for the next few weeks any spare Magic time was spent testing various standard decks against each other. We at various points tested Valakut, U/W control, Cawblade, Tempered Steel, U/R Exarch combo, U/B control, RUG Pod and RDW.
We decided pretty early on that the hate for RDW was too strong in a field likely to be full of Cawblade. No-one wanted to play Valakut because it’s match up against U/B, which was going through a resurgence following US Nationals, was poor and because the deck is just no fun to play. No one wanted to run Exarch Twin for pretty much the same reasons.
With a week or two to go I had decided I wanted to run U/B control. The list I had been running up to that point was a carbon copy of Ali Aintrazi’s US Nationals winning list. The match up against Valakut and Cawblade was strong and it interacted well with most other decks. It had mediocre match ups against RDW and Tempered Steel, but I didn’t expect to see much of either deck. I knew I wanted to make some changes for what I expected to see at Nationals, but nothing was final. On the limited side at the club we had also been drafting M12 for several weeks and I felt that I had figured out at least what was good, what was bad and most importantly what had changed from M11.
The week before Nationals I spent most of my Magic related time trying to work out what final changes I wanted to make. I knew that I wanted to replace [card]Volition Reins[/card] and [card]Peace Strider[/card]. Volition Reins was cute in the mirror, but I don’t like having cards in hand that are only situationally useful. Peace Strider seems like a very weak answer to the RDW problem , especially as a one of. I think I would rather just accept that the match up is bad and devote the slot to improving the match up against other decks rather than pinning my hopes on something so….. average. I don’t think removing either of these was particularly controversial, but aside from these changes I had no definite plans for the sideboard. In the end as I knew that James Allingham would be also be running U/B and would be in Sheffield I decided to hold off on any final decisions until I had spoken to him.
Part 2 – Nationals
The morning of Thursday 18th saw me and Stuart Sellers (who was hoping to grind in through one of the LCQs) catching a National Express coach from Milton Keynes station. We figured that at £9 each way this would be cheaper and less hassle than driving up and trying to negotiate an unknown city centre with the associated parking costs. We spent the journey playing type 4 mental magic with some mashed together Commander precons, much to the bemusement of the lady sharing the back seat of the coach. (Yeah, you read that right – the back seat. That’s just how we roll in MK.)
We arrived in Sheffield and found that the coach station was just a few minutes walk from the hotel, which in turn was almost next door to the venue, Ponds Forge – a large leisure centre with conference facilities.
We found the rest of the group gathered around James and Matt Light, who were predictably ‘discussing‘ how many [card]Bloodghast[/card]s to run in the U/B sideboard for the mirror. Embarrassingly I hadn’t heard about this latest tech up to this point and was initially quite sceptical, but after James handed me several thrashings in the mirror I saw the light.
Whilst James and Matt moved on to ‘discussing‘ other aspects of the sideboard, I had a wonder around to see what was going on. Stu, Nico and Paul had all enrolled in the LCQs and I watched a few of their matches. Nico managed to qualify, despite not really wanting to and not liking Standard, whilst Paul crashed. In one of his matches he didn’t attack with his Serra Angel as he forgot that it had vigilance. He missed 3 attacks and his opponent finished the game on 12 life. This as you can imagine caused much merriment when he related how he had lost. Clearly Mtg in Australia hasn’t caught up with such radically new cards as Serra Angel.
Stu’s event was the last one of the day and had a ridiculous number of players – over 150. He stayed in contention for a spot until the final rounds but just couldn’t quite make it.
From a very cursory look around at what was being tested on the Thursday it seemed that there would be a fair amount of U/B, Caw Blade and Pod decks. So I headed back to the hotel room to make the final changes.
This is where I made the most controversial change in the deck. [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card] was a staple in just about all the U/B builds we had tested or discussed. And yet every time I cast it I felt sad inside. Yes it helped me ramp to the all important 6 drops and also perhaps block for a turn in the meantime, but I increasingly found that I never wanted to tap out on turn 4, allowing them to resolve their Gideon, [card]Primeval Titan[/card], or Koth uncontested. With only 4 6-drop threats maindeck there was certainly no guarantee that I would have anything in hand to ramp into. Even in the aggro match ups I wasn’t convinced that it did what was wanted – turning on Searing Blaze for example in what was already a difficult match up.
I also wanted more answers and more flexibility for the mirror and the Caw Blade match up. It seemed to me that having the flexibility to counter with only 1 mana was useful, but in a field where my opponents would be expecting the mirror to slavishly follow the latest tech, it could also lead to some useful tricks. So I stripped out the 3 Solemns and replaced them with 2 Spell Pierce and a Stoic Rebuttal. Finally, as Tempered Steel seemed like it was going to be a very small part of the metagame I dropped Consume the Meek for a Praetors Grasp. This raised a few eyebrows and admittedly is of limited use in some match ups like RDW or Valakut but in the control mirror, or against decks like pod, being able to steal a card like Frost Titan or Grave Titan while seeing what build they are running and getting a good idea of what they have in hand seemed pretty good.
The final deck list looked like this:
1 [card]Black Sun’s Zenith[/card]
2 [card]Doom Blade[/card]
2 [card]Go for the Throat[/card]
4 [card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/card]
1 [card]Into the Roil[/card]
4 [card]Jace Beleren[/card]
1 [card]Karn Liberated[/card]
1 [card]Liliana Vess[/card]
4 [card]Mana Leak[/card]
1 [card]Praetor’s Grasp[/card]
2 [card]Spell Pierce[/card]
1 [card]Stoic Rebuttal[/card]
1 [card]Black Sun’s Zenith[/card]
1 [card]Praetor’s Grasp[/card]
1 [card]Surgical Extraction[/card]
1 [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]
After a meal and a few beers I went to bed. I rarely sleep well in hotels and this weekend was no exception. When we had booked in earlier (we were staying at the Ibis hotel in Sheffield) we had taken up the offer of a half price breakfast the following morning. So unrefreshed I may have been, but at least I had a nourishing breakfast to look forward to.
Yeeeah. You may disagree with my card choices and you might think my strategy sucks (possibly with good reason), but if you take nothing else away from this article, if you value your intestinal well-being, never, ever, eat breakfast in an Ibis hotel. It was quite probably one of the worst meals I have ever had. I shudder to think about it. If I was on death row and that was presented as my last meal I think I would have begged to be put out of my misery rather than endure another mouthful of that vile muck. Our breakfasts from then on were eaten in the Lloyds No. 1 pub a few minutes walk from the hotel.
If you’ve read this far, congratulations. Really, you’ve done well. Take a break and have a cup of tea, I’m not going anywhere. Ready? On with the matches!
In case you didn’t know, the format for Nationals is four rounds of Standard, followed by three rounds of draft on day one, then on day two it’s another three rounds of draft followed by four rounds of Standard. To make it to the top 8 on day three it was generally reckoned that a record of 10-3-1 (31 points) would be sufficient.
Round 1 vs Jack Kettle – RDW
Great. My worst match up. Although it went to three games it really wasn’t that close. Not a good start to the event. 0-1
Round 2 vs Jim Marlow – RDW
Sigh. This was not going well. Fortunately my opponent was playing an unusual build of RDW, eschewing the usual Shrines in favour of cards like Kargan Dragonlord. Wurmcoil Engine took it home in game 2, while he had a slow draw in game 3 and never really managed to get anything going before I made a Grave Titan and rode that to victory. 1-1
I don’t remember much about rounds 3 & 4, so apologies to my opponents. I won them both and one of them was a mirror match where Bloodghast really shined. 3-1
Then onto the draft. The previous week I had drafted a very successful U/W aggro deck and I was quite keen to try and repeat that if possible. White is the deepest colour by far and has an embarrassment of riches for aggressive decks. My first pick was a Gideon’s Avenger, there was not much else in the pack and he seemed like a fine body for an aggressive strategy. From there I didn’t see any out and out bombs, but picked up several white flyers, some two and three drop ground dudes, an Azure Mage, a Mighty Leap, two Gideon’s Lawkeepers and four Frost Breaths. I was hesitant about playing all 4, but decided to go with it as I was running 18 creatures and they combo’d well with my Avenger. I only had two four drops and one five drop so decided to run 16 land.
Round 5 – Andrew Rouse
This was a fun match, which I punted in game 2, having taken game 1. I mistimed a Mighty Leap, casting it before I attacked, not considering that he might have one of his own that would allow him to take out one of my guys and stabilise. He went on to win game three relatively easily. 3-2.
Round 6 – Stephen Keenan
This is probably the most bizarre match I played all weekend. Stephen seemed to have drafted all of the spiders in the world, splashing U for some flyers of his own and an Ice Cage or two. Both games took a long time. Stephen had no answers to my Avenger, which I managed to drop early in both games. It just got progressively bigger as my Lawkeepers went to work, eventually smashing through his defences.
Game two was ludicrous. At one point he had seven or eight creatures with reach or flying in play, completely stimying my air force. Azure Mage went to town trying to find as many frost breaths as I could lay my hands on before he found one of the Overruns I was convinced he had (I passed 3 in the draft). At one point, in mild frustration with the locked up nature of the board, I asked him if he was ever going to cast the Overrun and kill me. Unexpectedly he said that he didn’t have any – OK, good to know. Eventually I frost breathed two of his reach/flying guys in his end step, tapping down two more with Lawkeepers, then did the same in my main phase before Mighty Leaping my 15/15 Avenger over the top for lethal. 4-2
Round 7 – Dylan Black
Dylan had drafted a similar deck to mine, but without the Avenger, Lawkeeper, Frost Breath synergy, which meant that I just out tempo’d him in both the games I won. In game 3 I received a warning for missed triggers – my Avenger had been Pacifism’d and I had no main deck answers to it so I had been sloppy about putting counters on it. 5-2
And that was the end of day 1. I was reasonably pleased to be at least nominally in contention, but I thought it unlikely, given the increased quality of the players I would face on day 2, that I would manage to survive more than a few more rounds.
Sadly my compatriots had not fared so well. After a promising start Nico had gone 3-4 and dropped, James had gone 0-3 drop, Cam 1-4 drop and Matt 2-4 drop. Once we finished round 7 Nico and I found that the others had already started cubing, so we went to get a pint and some food. I was, as usual, being pessimistic of my chances on the morrow. Nico did an excellent job of talking me back up and after a few drinks I felt much better about the possibilities of day 2. Thanks Nico.
At this point the others had finished their first rather depressed looking attempt at playing Cube, so we went back to the hotel to cube some more. I played a few games then made my excuses and went to bed. Another restless night followed.
I love the smell of cardboard in the morning. Looking around my draft pod there were several big names from the UK Magic scene, including Carrie Oliver, Joe Jackson and Glenn Goldsworthy. I drafted another aggressive deck, this time R/W. I was somewhat lacking in removal, but I felt that the deck had the speed and consistency to overcome this. Here’s what I ended up playing:
1 x [card]Goblin Arsonist[/card]
2 x [card]Gideon’s Lawkeeper[/card]
3 x [card]Armoured Warhorse[/card]
1 x [card]Stormfront Pegasus[/card]
1 x [card]Goblin Tunneler[/card]
2 x [card]Blood Ogre[/card]
2 x [card]Benalish Veteran[/card]
1 x [card]Auramancer[/card]
1 x [card]Lightning Elemental[/card]
1 x [card]Gorehorn Minotaur[/card]
1 x [card]Peregrine Griffin[/card]
2 x [card]Mighty Leap[/card]
1 x [card]Fling[/card]
1 x [card]Divine Favour[/card]
1 x [card]Guardians’ Pledge[/card]
1 x [card]Angelic Destiny[/card]
9 x [card]Plains[/card]
8 x [card]Mountains[/card]
Not the best deck I have ever drafted, but hopefully it would be good enough to go 2-1 or, more likely, 1-2. I don’t particularly like Auramancer, but I wanted to be able to get [card]Angelic Destiny[/card] back if it somehow went to the graveyard. It was my only chance in the long game.
Round 8 – Carrie Oliver
Carrie had a bit of a slow 3 colour (I want to say it was W/B/R) deck, but that didn’t really matter. I mulliganed to 6 in the first game and flooded massively. Given that my deck needed to come out quickly it became obvious pretty soon that I was not going to win and I scooped them up rather than show Carrie anymore than the two spells that I drew.
Game 2 I mulliganed to 5 and got a great start considering, Stormfront Pegasus into Blood Ogre into Benalish Veteran. Sadly I then flooded again and Carrie dropped Call to the Grave followed by Zombie Goliath and that was game. Carrie was one of the most pleasant opponents I faced all day – a credit to Magic in the UK. 5-3.
Round 9 – Martin Dingler
Martin by his own admission had been out of Magic for a while and ‘was not as good as he used to be‘ (he won GP Cardiff playing Ravnica limited). We had played once before, at the Ravnice pre-release. It may seem weird that I remembered this, but Martin at the time wrote a column for Starcity Games and he covered that event. As a player just starting to venture out to play tournaments I had a small thrill seeing my name in black and white on such an eminent website.
Martin had drafted a very slow controlling deck, but seemed to have little to slow the game down until he got to the mana he needed to cast his bombs. Both games were relatively short and brutal as my deck did what it was supposed to do. 6-3.
Round 10 – Glenn Goldsworthy
Game 1 of this match was a little odd. I played some dudes and attacked, he played some Mountains and a single Plains and not much else. So I won. I guessed that he was waiting for a second Plains, possibly for Day of Judgement, but fortunately he never found it.
Game 2 he did find it and then followed it up with Flameblast Dragon which I was forced to use a combination of Mighty Leaps and Fling to get rid of. Having 4 for 1’d myself I wasn’t coming back from that one.
Game 3 I drew Angelic Destiny for the first time and cast it on my Armoured Warhorse when he tapped out for Griffin Sentinel. I was careful not to over extend into DoJ and it was over shortly after he was forced to chump block with his Flamblast Dragon. It has to be said that he wasn’t happy about losing this match – I couldn’t really blame him given the quality of his cardpool. 7-3.
Back to constructed again. I now needed to win the next 3 in order to be able to ID so I was somewhat sanguine about the possibility of making top 8. Any loss and I would be out. However there was a question that remained unanswered. My coach was due to leave at 6.15 and it was clear that the rounds wouldn’t finish until some time after that. It was very possible that I could at least be in contention until the final round. What to do?
Fortunately Mark Horne, Magic card trader and all round good guy had driven up to Sheffield to see what was going on. He very kindly offered to drive me back to Leighton Buzzard if I missed my coach that night. I cannot express how much of a relief that was – now I could just concentrate on playing
Round 11 – Bradley Barclay – U/B Control
Bradley is probably one of the best players in the UK at the moment, so I was slightly disheartened to be playing him in the mirror. Game 1 came down to a point where we had more or less stripped each others hands and were top decking, although he had a freshly cast Jace. I topdecked a Sphinx and played it, he killed it during his upkeep. I top decked a second one straight away and he had no answer. Two draw steps later he had found nothing and scooped.
Game 2 in came the Bloodghasts and I was pleased to see two in my opening hand, together with the mana to cast them. Bradley meanwhile had kept a hand with only one coloured mana source and struggled to get going. His second coloured sources came into play tapped and I stripped them both. Bloodghasts did a ton of damage, but he fought on until I forced through a Grave Titan, at which point he scooped. Whew. 8-3.
Round 12 – Mark Aylett – U/B Control
I remember little about this match other than the games were not particularly close. Game 1 I Praetor’s Grasp’d one of his Grave Titans. Game two he demolished me. Game three the Bloodghasts took it home.
After the match he showed me his secret tech – Vampire Nighthawks. Yeah, they seemed some good against my Bloodghasts – fortunately he never drew any. 9-3.
Round 13 – Joe Jackson RUG Pod
This match was covered to some degree on the official coverage. Game 1 I stopped him doing much, but he did have Pod and Seagate Oracle in play. I dropped Grave Titan and on his turn he podded for Metamorph, copying Grave Titan. I then played a 7th land and dropped Karn, killing his Metamorph and that was the end of game 1.
Game 2 he was a bit land light and I again stopped him doing much in the early game with discard effects. At one point he had two Birds of Paradise and two land in play. He went for a desperate Metamorph to copy a birds and get his mana up, but I killed both birds in response and he was back down to two sources. Then I dropped Grave Titan and Joe showed me his hand of five and six drops. Another very polite and sociable opponent who showed no sign of anger or hostility even when the gods kicked him in the knackers in game 2.
And that was it – unbelievably I was now in a position that I could ID into top 8. There was much congratulating and I felt more than a bit emotional, possibly because I was very tired, but also possibly because I can be a bit of a girl at moments like these.
Now all I had to do was a) somehow get home tomorrow and b) tell my wife that I wouldn’t be coming home until Sunday.
Again Mark leapt to the rescue – as long as he could find a bed for the night he would give me a lift home on the Sunday. As James had left early, having failed to redeem his failure in his own eyes in the side events, there was a spare bed at the Ibis that Mark could have.
The phone call to Anna went remarkably well. She was very happy for me and did not mind in the slightest that I wanted to stay another night. All the same I felt terrible because I would be missing some valuable time with my adorable nephews.
Posts were made on forums and Dan Barrett twittered that I had made top 8. The pairings went up and Stu, who was much closer to the board than me, came away with a strange look on his face. ‘Sorry dude, you’ve been paired down.’
Really? Double sigh.
Bizarrely it wasn’t so much that I had another match to play that bothered me as much as the fact that if I lost the next round I would have to tell everyone that had been told that I had made it that, in fact, I had not.
Round 14 – Mark Rickell – Caw Blade
My spirits were lifted somewhat by the news that my opponent was playing Caw Blade. I knew this was a good match up as all of my spells were relevant against him whereas he had a lot of dead cards against me.
Game 1 I stripped his hand and stuck both a Liliana and a Karn. Embarrassingly I was so tired I then durdled around for a few turns stripping any cards he drew rather than just tutoring for Grave Titan and winning. Eventually I saw sense and made the right play.
Game 2 he mulliganed on the play. I Inquisitioned him turn 1 and saw Mana Leak, Squadron Hawk and land. I took the Leak, I think to his surprise, but the tactic was made clear when after he played Hawk and tutored for three more I Doom Bladed it and used Surgical Extraction to take the rest. I stuck a Jace on turn 3 and rode the card advantage to victory.
Finally I was in. The emotions of the previous round were repeated, and a tremendous sense of relief washed over me. Lot’s of backslapping etc, etc.
We were given decklists, photos were taken and then Stu, Cam and Paul quickly informed me how the evening was going to map out. Dinner then testing. Then more testing.
I had been sharing trials and tribulations with several friends from Oxford during the course of Day 2 and one, of them, Laura Dawes, who does an excellent Blog of her drafts which can be found on mtgUK and on her website, had been on a medically prescribed gluten free diet all week and was dieing to have a pizza. So off to Pizza Hut we went.
After way too much cheezy bready goodness we headed back to the hotel to test. We quickly found that Daniel Royde’s Eldrazi Green deck was not a good match up. It was winnable, but I needed to disrupt his early mana development and get a Grave Titan into play quickly. He would win any long game. I went to bed while Stu, Paul and Cam put together sideboard notes and tested further. A big thank you to these guys for going that extra mile.
The official coverage does a pretty good job of covering the salient points of the match (found here). My luck didn’t hold and I drew pretty poorly, which were not helped by my mulligans in games 2 and 3, whilst Dan seemed to draw quite well. The early phase of the game plan went as expected, I managed to disrupt him in all three games, but without a Grave Titan or Karn to close things (except for too late to matter in game one), he managed to recover well and destroy me.
And it was over. I didn’t feel like hanging around the event as I had played enough Magic to last me for a while and I was very keen to get home and see my family. So I found Mark and we headed off home. The box of boosters I won wasn’t really much consolation for not getting to go to San Fransisco – but to be perfectly blunt I had punched well above my weight on day 2 and was tremendously glad just to have made top 8. Making day 2 of a GP and top 8 of Nationals within a few months of each other was something I would never have believed would happen at the start of this year.
Thanks for bearing with me and I hope you enjoyed the journey as much as I did.