Oh, you’re still here? Crap… I suppose I’d better write something…
I find myself in a strange place. A premature plateau as I often put it. You see, I’m no scrub. I started playing in M10. In my FLGS (local gaming store) I’m often banded with the better competitive players, more so to do with the fact that most of them I count as close friends, but in terms of Playing Skill/Ability, I am a small fish in a big pond.
There has been a lot of talk of how to improve as a player floating around recently. I made the decision to make an active effort to improve a short while ago. I’m not unfamiliar with FNM drafts, PTQs, WMCQs and GPT’s, and I recently went to my first GP in Manchester, but I never seem to make it into the top half of the field, let alone the Top 8. There are many things on my mind regarding this topic, but I reckon I’ll leave them for another day. Magic players often open cans of worms, and this topic is no exception. What I want to talk about is one of my more common failings. One of which, quite frankly, is unacceptable, and has no bearing on the game what so ever.
I’m talking about misconceptions and the judgement of others. Whether it’s to do with the age of the player, what they wear, how loud they are… the list goes on. Embarrassingly, I have often judged my opponent based on the mere fact that I’ve heard they’re bad, or they attend a certain club, or are wearing unusual garb.
The subject of this article, and the reason I feel I’ve turned a page in this failing, is one Jeremy Mansfield.
Jeremy is one of the older players that frequents Spellbound Games (My local FLGS) and is often known for his odd choices in head gear and his preference for playing with a furry mascot on the table. For many, this would start ringing the “Weirdo” alarm straight away, and while I found it pretty stupid at first, what I really found odd, and to some degree, totally stupid, was his religion and how it influenced what cards he would or wouldn’t play.
Jeremy is a Christian.
Now, while I was Christened as a baby, I wasn’t brought up in a religious household. As I grew up, I got into interests that further increased my opinion that there is no deity. As a 26 year old man/boy, I am now 99.99% certain that there is no God. I can’t say I’m 100% certain, as I obviously cannot prove it. I’m pretty much your average Atheist. And I certainly would have liked to think it didn’t affect my impression of others.
But there he was, Jeremy, playing decks without certain cards because its Creature Type was “Devil” or it depicted something that he considered was blasphemous. And I had a problem with that. How could this guy even consider getting better when he’s put these barriers up, right?
The Night Before
So, with the Manchester PTQ coming up and my testing group discussing the details, Jeremy graciously offered to drive a car full down to Manchester. My best mate Greg Shanks, Graeme McIntyre and I agreed with Jeremy we’d travel down with him, and I must admit, I was dreading it.
Without going into details, Graeme and I have had a rocky friendship (for lack of a better phrase), so the prospect of sharing the car with him and Jeremy, the wacky Christian, was pretty horrible.
I was wrong. The minute we got in the car, we started having a laugh. The discussions didn’t stop and topic after topic kept us and the journey in good spirits. Farming, politics, socialism, the Royal Family etc. Jeremy is a very smart man. A man of science, he realises how it conflicts with his beliefs.
I must say that I wanted to probe further with regards to that and his choices regarding certain cards, but considering this was the first time we were getting to know each other, I didn’t want to set the cat amongst the pigeons. We had a very interesting, and in some cases, a hilarious trip. Gay carrots indeed. (The topic of Consumer Based Farming and the unrealistic expectations of consumers came up. E.g. Straight and Bent carrots. I’ll let you fill in the rest (for lack of a better term))
The real ice breaker was when we got to Manchester. Heading into the city, we found our feet and FanBoy 3, who were running the event. We all had heard of the Curry Mile, and with some basic directions, we set off in search of a good meal.
We got lost. Obviously.
We discovered, from one chap we stopped, that it was quite a walk, and during our discussion, attracted the attention of a woman, who quite frankly, wasn’t exactly on the Manchester welcoming committee. Discussing it with Greg later on, she was quite obviously a prostitute, and one that probably has to look for work more than it finding her.
Anyway, she knew the city, obviously. Saying the Curry Mile wasn’t worth it and she knew a little place just round the corner called Mohammad’s (First alarm going off there). She led us off in the general direction of where we came, showing us were “The Gay District” was in a pretty demeaning manner and generally making some terrible, awkward chat. This whole paragraph pretty much contradicts what I’m trying to put across here, considering I pretty much wrote her off, but she took the hand of Jeremy to determine if he was a good person multiple times, hugging him more than once and smacking him on the cheek with that cringe worthy kiss of hers. She was obviously a good judge of character and personality. Not forgetting a complete and utter mental case.
Getting to the point where we could find our own way, she makes the move that I certainly saw coming. “Can you help me out?” I’m half way up the road by this point, but unsurprisingly, I see Jeremy take out his wallet. Not only that, he rips a purple note from it. A £20 note. Twenty f*cking quid! And gives it to her! This is following Greg giving her about a quid in loose change. After this pretty huge gesture from Jeremy, she only goes and asks if she can join us and for us to buy her a meal. I see Greg getting pretty pissed at her for how brazen she was being, and rightfully sets her back in her place before making our excuses and getting the hell out of there. Amazing.
The cherry on the cake was when Jeremy found it surprising that we all thought she was a “Lady of the Night”. That, ladies and gents, was the Ice Breaker. Fudging hilarious.
Grant Hislop had often said to me that Jeremy was an absolute gent and was genuinely one of the best people in the scene, and I’m starting to agree.
I felt awful. Sure, I still have a bunch of questions I’d like to ask him, and we are pretty much different in a lot of ways, but here I was, ripping the guy, because of his beliefs and liking of stupid hats. For that, and I hope Jeremy is reading this, I apologise.
It sounds so simple, and I’m sure a lot of you are thinking I’m a bit of a jerk (and you’re not wrong) but I think a lot of people judge their opponents ability merely based on appearance. It’s only human, but for those that think that this isn’t an issue for them, I urge you to consider that it might be. You might just surprise yourself.
PTQ Manchester 2012
The Manchester PTQ was certainly the biggest I had played in. Over 130 players turned up on the day, making it 8 rounds. Here’s the list I went in with:
2x [card]Arbor Elf[/card]
2x [card]Llanowar Elves[/card]
4x [card]Birds of Paradise[/card]
2x [card]Ulvenwald Tracker[/card]
3x [card]Predator Ooze[/card]
3x [card]Strangleroot Geist[/card]
1x [card]Viridian Corrupter[/card]
4x [card]Dungrove Elder[/card]
1x [card]Wolfir Silverheart[/card]
3x [card]Revenge of the Hunted[/card]
4x [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card]
1x [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]
1x [card]Acidic Slime[/card]
2x [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card]
2x [card]Garruk Relentless[/card]
2x [card]Beast Within[/card]
2x [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card]
2x [card]Crushing Vines[/card]
Going into the PTQ, after the testing we had done, I felt pretty confident. I had a good board presence, some explosive early turns and some good synergy. I love the interaction between Ooze and Tracker. [card]Rancor[/card] is obviously a house with Mr Dungrove, and ripping a Revenge feels as sweet as it sounds. I knew my best match ups were against Delver and Ramp. Naya Pod was more of an issue when a Pod goes unanswered, but what deck doesn’t have trouble with that? Like I said, I felt all good.
Round 1: I remembered Ioannis’ face, as Greg and I had played against him and a friend at Two Headed Giant Draft at GP Manchester, so the banter was free flowing. Winning the dice roll, he plays a forest and a BoP. I do the same. He follows up with a Turn 2 [card]Predator Ooze[/card], at which I laugh out loud and do the same. It went downhill from here, as he got his Rancor first and basically out races me after playing a Sword of War and Peace to which I had to answer. I hadn’t tested the Mirror, thinking it wouldn’t be an issue. A failing on my part, as it was obvious he was playing his Swords in the Main as opposed to the Sideboard.
Game 2, I manage to play a turn 3 Wurmcoil Engine, to which he replies with a [card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card]. After some awkward exchanges, he plays a [card]Garruk Relentless[/card] and I dry up on tempo, leading him to another win.
Round 2: Joshua was my opponent. I hadn’t met him before, so it was a blank canvas. I won the roll and in Game 1 led with Double Rancor’d Geists. He plays a Lingering Souls, blocking both Geists next turn. I re-Rancor them and pass. He plays a Turn 4 DoJ leaving me high and dry. His next three turns consisted of playing [card]Tamiyo, the Moon Sage[/card], [card]Gideon Jura[/card] and [card]Sorin, Lord of Innistrad[/card] in that order. Following another Turn 4 DoJ and ANOTHER three turns consisting of playing Tamiyo, Gideon and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, not forgetting a little help from Bloodline Keeper, I lose pretty convincingly.
Round 3: I get paired against Jeremy, the man himself, and knowing he’s playing the White offshoot on Wolf Run, I feel pretty good with the match up. Game 1 consisted of a turn 2 Ooze from myself, followed up by a couple of Dungrove Elders. With all three getting bigger each turn, Jeremy’s Inferno titan died pretty quickly, and so did he.
Game 2 was pretty much the same, though a mistake from Jeremy left his double blocked Inferno Titan leaving a Dungrove Elder alive. Leaving Angel mana up, he passed in vein, as I ripped a sword off the top, and attached it to the Elder for the win. Not a single Kessig Wolf Run was seen.
Round 4: Or Team Scotland Sarnie, sitting between Jeremy and Grant, I face another Mirror playing the Old Avenger shell. Josh won the roll, I mull to 6 and keep. A turn 2 Sword from him and a Rancor let him win quickly with an [card]Wolfir Avenger[/card]. Game two, I keep a 1 land hand with a bunch of Mana Dorks. With Double [card]Rancor[/card]s from both sides, he gets one of his 6 Swords (after SB) and starts beating face. I sit there with my 1 land and scoop.
Following that, and with the others being equally as deflated, we drop and head for home.
Despite an awful and disappointing performance, I had a really good time, learned a lot and hopefully, stabilised a failing that was affecting my game. In hindsight, I think I would have played Naya Pod. Having been a player and follower of Kibler’s deck as it made its changes through the Pod to Aggro deck, I think I would have performed better with it.
Mono-Green aggro was a lot of fun, but I think I’d have the swords in the Main Deck instead of the [card]Dismember[/card]s. Also, with Ooze, [card]Prey Upon[/card] seems really good, though could often fall flat if the [card]Predator Ooze[/card] remains the 1/1 it starts off as.
The Meta-game was certainly a lot different to what we expected. I didn’t come across a Delver or Pod match-up in the four rounds I played and many of my friends were the same. The standard meta-game as a whole feels rather up in the air at the moment, with a severe leaning towards Green being the colour to play. I’m one of many hoping that Return to Ravnica doesn’t lead to this still being the case, nor the prospect of Angel Based decks being the decks to go to. I’m hoping for a shakeup.
As I’ve touched on, I still consider myself as a newer player, so any constructive C&C is welcomed. I have plans going forward to explore progress from a newer player’s perspective, so I hope that newer and older players will find it interesting.
Cheers and Beers, mtgUK.