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Braving the Winter Storm - a Bad Tournament Experience

2.19.04  Well, this past Saturday I attended a Pro Tour Qualifier for San Diego in our great State Capital of Austin, Texas.  I knew I was in for a bad weekend though.

If you read my column weekly, you are aware that I am purchasing a home.  Things are coming along great btw.  I'm waiting for one last phone call and then we just need to close and everything is a done deal.  But, I was down at my bank around noonish on the previous Friday.  That's when it all began.  It started to snow.
Now, I know that many of you are thinking to yourself, "Ya big wuss!  It's snow! Grow up!" 
But there is a lot more to it than that.  It rarely snows anywhere in Texas south of Dallas.  What's worse was that it was coming down mid day.  Also, this wasn't one of those light snows.  It was coming down pretty good.  It was basically a Texas blizzard.  Seriously, you should have seen the bewildered looks on everyone's eyes. 
People at the bank were in complete amazement of the snow.  I personally tried to ignore it and worked diligently on my loan form to make sure it was completed as fast as possible.  I eventually got it done between every third person asking me if I had seen the snow falling outside.  I hopped in my car and drove back across town to my store.  I get out of the car walk into the store and point out the obvious to everyone that it is snowing.  There's a problem though.  It's not snowing anymore.  Well, damn.  Some of you might be put of by this.  I thought it was great.  Especially since I knew that I'd be driving on I-35 to Austin on Saturday.
The funny thing is, we have a saying in Texas: If you don't like the weather, just wait five minutes. true it was.
Our Friday night tournament attendance was low.  We feel that this was most likely due to the snowfall.  People probably didn't want to risk getting caught in it at night.  Regardless, we held our tournament.  We closed up shop.  We went home.  I finally fell asleep around 12:45AM. 
My alarm goes off at 5:30AM.  Not a lot of sleep, but what was I really going to do at this point.  I expected the roads might be icy, so I allowed more time for slow driving conditions.  It's a good thing I did too.  I turned on my computer to check the weather report and it had the little gray cloud with snowflakes falling out of it.  That was a bad sign.  The good news is that it would warm up later and the weather wasn't half as bad in Austin.  Great.  I get cleaned up, toss my clothes on.  I then proceed to go outside. 
That's when it began.  I stepped outside in a rush and found five inches of snow in front of my apartment.  This was not going to be a good day.  The sidewalks were icy, so I walked through the grass to my car.  When I finally reached my car, I greeted to a large white mound that mildly resembled the shape of my vehicle.  This was definitely interesting.  I spent about ten minutes warming the car up and pushing snow off of it.  I was definitely not happy.
Eventually, I met up with Paul, Damien, and Tay.  Everyone was on time and we rolled out of the parking lot at 6:32AM.  Everything seemed to be standard fair.  Everyone had an interesting morning story to share about the snow they dealt with that morning.  We finally reach the highway.  At that point, we greeted it some of the fiercest driving conditions a Texan has ever had to deal with. 
As soon as we started to gain speed on the highway, we could hear the wheels of the car spinning.  Now, as I type this, I can see how this would be perceived as a really damn cool situation.  You might even be imagining the neat sound of the tires.  In some ways, now that I think about it, it was neat.  But the reality was that if I wasn't careful, our crew was easily about half a turn from death.  Fortunately for us, the two big members sat in the backseat and that gave us a little weight to keep us from fishtailing.
We proceeded to drive at speeds no higher than 25 miles per hour down I-35.  There was even a stretch of road where I just let the car idle and I was able to keep up with the extremely slow moving traffic.  So our hour and a half trip turned into nearly a two and a half hour adventure.  We just shared random views on things and discussed a whole slew of topics to keep ourselves entertained.  By the way, there are bonus points going out to anyone that knows why McGuyver was afraid to use a gun.  If you are reading this and don't know who McGuyver was, you are too young and therefore ineligible. 
It was pretty crazy.  During the trip we saw five wrecked vehicles, several cops, three horses on the loose, two loose cows, a lamppost that was knocked over extending into the highway, several sets of skid marks were cars were likely out of control, and something that looked like it could have been a body.  Damien threatened to get out and poke it with a stick.  I offered to stop and let him, but only with the understanding that if it reached for him I had permission to drive off and leave him.  He then declined to go after it.
Anyway, we eventually get to Austin.  Due to some poor backseat driving from our big men in the back seat, we miss our turn and have to take a five minute detour to get back on course.  This isn't a big deal, but when you've already lost an extra hour, every minute seems precious.  We get on course though and head our proper way.
We FINALLY arrive at the tournament site.  We nearly hit an Asian guy in a nice BMW.  I'm not sure if I was driving carelessly because of my eagerness to park, or because he was in the wrong.  Either way, it's no big deal.  No harm, no foul.  We unload and head inside to register. 
It is just after 9AM and we are doing a head count.  Only about 30 or so people are there at this point, but it's not a big deal.  Many people have called and are still planning to arrive.  We decide to do the standard meet and greet and to go grab some grub.  Paul, Tay, and myself head into the hotel eatery and are baffled.
First of all, this is a really small place.  Eatery is the best term I have for it.  I'm not totally sure it can be classified as a restaurant.  Maybe at full capacity it could seat 30-35 people.  At this point, we are standing in the doorway to the place and are looking around for waitstaff or some other form of personnel.  Over to our right there is what looks to be a small room that people are going in and out of to get what is likely their complimentary continental breakfast.  There is a small display case of sorts that has two cinnamon rolls in it and some chips bags on a rack above it.  We are liking our first impressions.
In due time (two minutes or so) a lady comes over and seats us.  I was so distracted (or maybe its dumbfounded) that I didn't bother to get her name.  We will just call her Boss Lady.  We tell Boss Lady that we are only here for the tournament so we can't partake int he complimentary breakfast.  She says its not a big deal and that she can bring us the menu. 
OK, I want to take a moment to provide a side note that I do not take kindly to anyone insulting anyone else's business.  I try not to do it, even if I don't like the people.  I own a small business and I know that things can be difficult sometimes and there are some situations that may be beyond your control for any given reason to fix.  I also want to let everyone know that doesn't know, that I grew up extremely poor.  I can deal with people being cheap.
All of that being said.  I had no way to be prepared for what came next.  Boss lady is gone for about 30 seconds and comes back out of the kitchen area with a HAND WRITTEN menu.  I'm talking two sheets of paper, photocopied with content on just the front of both of them.  It wasn't even written all that neatly either.  And on top of that, there were like five items they were offering.  Six if you count the lunch time appetizers that we obviously wouldn't be having.  The three of us, are kind of quiet for a second and just look at each other.  I think we were each trying to not be the first to express something negative about the situation. 
Boss Lady tells us that she is going to have someone over to our table to take our drink orders pretty soon.  I decide at this point to go find and ATM so that I have some small spending cash in case of emergency.  I roam nearly the entire hotel and find nothing.  Fortunately for me, the place is only about four stories tall.  On my third pass of the front desk (which is the first time there hasn't been a line), I ask them if they have an ATM.  They say no.  This is obviously not even a three star hotel.  I thank them and head back down to the eatery.
I get there just as the waiter is finishing up our order.  I don't have his name either, so we shall call him Slow Bro.  Anyway, I'm watching Slow Bro struggle with an EXTREMELY easy order to take.  All three of us are having the same thing, but two of us are getting sausage and one is getting bacon.  The drinks are two orange juices and one apple juice.  That's it.  I start to step in and see if I can make things simpler, but Slow Bro looked like he was already struggling and Paul and Tay were looking like they couldn't explain it much simpler.  Eventually he heads off to the kitchen and we have a good laugh and chat about the whole thing.  The two of them are as surprised as I am that there is no ATM in the building. 
Well, at this point we see the Asian guy from the parking lot come into the eatery.  Considering he is in a really nice suit and he was driving a BMW and he has his family with him, I see nothing good coming of this situation.  The three of us just make eye contact with the obvious looks that we were all thinking the same thing.  Boss Lady quickly comes out and seats them.  She heads into the kitchen and comes back out with "the menu."  When she lays is in front of the rich Asian guy he proceeds to give it and her a look of complete astonishment.  It was almost like he didn't know what to do.  I noticed that Paul saw this and we both had to look away to keep from laughing.  They eventually decide to deal with it and order anyway.
About this time Damien decides to join us.  We just laugh when he walks in and we tell him that he's gonna see the best "menu" ever.  Boss Lady pops back buy and brings out our drinks and brings Damien the "menu."  Shorter after Damien gets a little laughter from his "men," Slow Bro comes out to take his order.  Damien orders of the breakfast tacos and Slow Bro heads back into the kitchen.  This wouldn't be such a bad idea other than the fact that Damien was supposed to pick three things from their list to have on the tacos.  Since Slow Bro doesn't return to ask him, we assume that Damien is getting the mystery tacos.  A few minutes later, Boss Lady returns with our food.  We eventually all get to finish eating and things are good.  Well, about as good as they can be at this point.
About 15 or 20 minutes after getting our food, we ask for our bill to be brought over and we just split it up and send out money and credit cards with Boss Lady.  But guess what, the fun's not over yet.  They can't print receipts on their machine, so we can't each have our own and divide it up.  Good thing I'm not using this weekend as a tax deduction.  As we're getting up I'm debating not leaving a tip at a restaurant for the first time in nearly forever.  Honestly, I can't even remember the last time I didn't leave a tip at a place I ate at.  Not even when I was poor and had next to no money.  Anyway, Boss Lady asks us what we thought of the whether and we tell her about our perilous trip.  She says that she had some issues with it as well and tells us that she hurt her toe on the way to work.  Here's the kicker though...she shows us the still bleeding injured toe.
Now, I have to admit, there is a time and a place for such things.  I thought to myself though that this is definitely not the place.  But, this is about as open as anyone is gonna be as far as trying to be friendly and close with the customer.  I pulled out a few bucks and left a tip.
Damien later stayed at the hotel with his woman and gave a report that was terrible.  The rooms were as bad as the service.  I have no problem playing a tournament here, but I won't be eating or sleeping there unless it is an emergency in the future.
We walk back to the tournament room and see the room up to about 50+ players.  This is good.  It eventually gets over 60.  I do more meeting and greeting with all the players I don't get to see that often from the area.  I remind everyone about our PTQ that's coming up in a week.  Everyone is in good spirits and everyone that called, made it to the even safely, even with the bad roads. 
After all of this, my luck stayed terrible.  I opened up very few creatures, very little removal, and only two ways to kill artifacts.  I manage to go 2-2 and head home.  Tay is the only one that does respectably well from our crew this week and he finished 9th.  However, my day did feature a little bit of controversy in round three.
First, let me preface this situation with the fact that I allowed myself to get distracted with too many things and missed a few small damage earlier in the match that could have potentially made this finish nonexistent.  But the problem is, my opponent is at 14 life.  I have a Leonin Den-Guard equipped with a Viridian Longbow and a Plated Slagwurm with seven lands available and a card that I've been holding onto for a while, which is a Forest.  He has a Hoverguard Observer equipped with a Fireshrieker and a Bosh, Iron Golem.  His lands are tapped out because of Bosh.  I'm at 8 life, and he has a card in hand.  With the amount of burn and removal he has I could very well be dead.  I am the fact that he has three ways to deal direct damage in his deck, since I saw them in our previous two games.  This has me just a tad bit worried.  As it stands, i still come up a few damage short of killing him if he doesn't block.
This is a very bad spot to be in, which seems to be completely unwinnable. a bit depressingly, I draw my card for the turn.  I draw up Stand Together.  At this point I'm calculating how I could possibly kill him if just one of my guys gets through.  There's no way.  I need them to both break free.  So I take a shot in the dark and start mentioning how I wish I was playing Blood Scent so that I could get Bosh to block.  I do this in the hopes that I can get him to second guess himself.  What I failed to mention is that this is the guy that registered my deck.  All match, he was aware of the cards in my deck, so my tricks weren't all that useful.  However, he did express some doubt in his memory as to what cards I may have.  I figured here in the third game, that MAYBE he will overthink himself and not block, thinking that I might still have something that he couldn't remember.  I wait a few seconds to calculate the math and realize that I can just attack with both of them and hope for the best.
I proceed to attack.  I push turn the Plated Slagwurm sideways and I push the Leonin Den-Guard forward.  He quickly say, "No blocks."  At this point there was about ten players watching this match.  All of them made the simultaneous "o" face at this.  I took a second to double count my damage.  I then cast Stand Together putting two counters on both of my creatures.  He just looks at me.  I ask him if that's game.  He is then confused as he didn't think I was attacking with my Den-Guard.  We says if I were attacking with it, he would have blocked my Slagwurm.  So now, I'm in a bit of a quandary.  I honestly don't feel that my opponent was lying here.  However, everyone else seems to have seen me push my guys forward.  Even where they are positioned on the table they are further up than the rest of my stuff.  On top of that, I had been attacking with both the Leonin Den-Guard and the Razor Golem the same way int he previous two games.  I make it a point to make all of my actions similar and deliberate for an entire match.  It's a habit I developed mainly to prevent such situations. 
We then call a judge over and explain the situation to him.  My opponents argument is that if I was attacking with both creatures he would have blocked because he had the win in hand.  I was thinking it was a Fireball, but I later find out that it is the Pyrite Spellbomb.  Just as well, I explain my side to the judge, which the crowd seems to agree with.  I also make it a note to point out that my opponent knows what's in my deck and very well wrecks things by changing his mind, because now he has seen one of the two cards in hand.  The judge says that he can't do anything about the game state, since we both had ample time to verify attacks and blocks with each other.  My opponent makes an appeal and it comes back with the same verdict.  My opponent is upset.  I now feel like a slight jerk.  But what do ya do?
We talk afterwards and its all cool.  We each understand the others side and are cool with things.  Lesson learned.  If you aren't sure, double-check or ask.
There are a couple of things wrong with this scenario.  First of all, he knew was in my deck.  I thought about the fact that I had a Predator's Strike in the deck still.  If my other card were a Predator's Strike, I could have still won:
    Plated Slagwurm  8
    Counters from Stand Together  2
    Predator's Strike  3
+  Using Viridian Longbow 1
That's a total of 14 damage anyway.
Had he been thinking, he would have blocked anyway.
Also, he noted multiple times that he was wondering why I didn't attack with both of them.  That should have been his first sign.  I knew, he knew, and everyone watching knew that without attacking with both creatures, I had no possible chance of winning.  He should have checked something as well.
But anyway, its over and done with.  I just didn't want to make any enemies.  I'm glad that the spectators agreed that I did what I did, so I know that I'm not screwing over my opponent.
But that's enough of that, let's move along.
I asked for Good Plays and Bad Plays and I got a really awesome good play to post this week.  I got a couple of good ones, but this week's good play comes from Luke Hendricks:
Chris, a friend, was playing a blue/red controlling/burn deck against me, playing a casual monoblack control.  I was at 3 life with a Cabal Coffers, 5 swamps, and a Barren Moor in play (due to Chris countering most of my spells and burning me and my creatures), while Chris had lands and maybe a Compulsion; it didn't affect the play.  I had two cards in hand.  I tapped two swamps to activate the Coffers for five and tapped the other three to play an Avatar of Woe.  Chris, seeing my lone untapped land, targeted it with Mana Leak.  Lucky for me, I had a Dark Ritual in hand to come up with the necessary mana, right? One would think.  Unfortunately, in response to my Dark Ritual, he cast Counterspell. I started to pick up my Ritual to put it in the graveyard, but he said, "No, I'm countering my Mana Leak."  I looked at him oddly for a few seconds as first my Dark Ritual and then my Avatar resolved.  It was then I realized that I had nothing I could use the three black mana for now, and at the end of the phase, I manaburned for three and died.  That is the only time I've ever seen anyone die to a Dark Ritual, and if I was him, I know I wouldn’t have seen the play. :-)
That definitely merits being called play of the week.  I'll have Luke's prize package in the mail this weekend.  Actually, that reminds me.  I think I forgot to mention that I was giving away prizes.
Well, now you know.  I will accept both a good play and a bad play of the week winner each week.  Both will receive mystery prizes from my store.  And before anyone asks, YES, the prizes will be worth it.
This week's card of the week is Boomerang.  I know this card seems really simple, but if you are playing blue, give it another look.  Right now, with indestructible cards making appearances all over the place, this can help you out.  It truly lets you get you get a second shot at countering nearly any problem card.  Also, unlike other bounce spells, it lets you target your opponent's lands.  If you go first, you effectively stop your opponent from getting anything going on your second turn.  There are a ton of other cards that need to be explored right now, but this one is worth giving a second look to.  It's got a lot of uses still and I think with some of the flash of the new cards, this little gem has gotten lost in the shuffle.
I don't really have a strategy tip of the week.  But technically my little story above is a perfect one to use.  Be clear and precise about your moves while playing.  It keeps things from getting confusing and it can also help when you need a ruling to go your way.
Well, I've obviously written way too much this week.  So I need to wrap this one up.
Remember to send in your Good Plays and Bad Plays of the week for a chance to win fabulous prizes.  All you have to do is send an e-mail in to have a chance to win.
Also, check your local tournament listings to find out about Pro Tour San Diego Qualifiers in your are.  It turns out that even when you get smashed and leave with a 2-2 record, Mirrodin/Darksteel sealed is still pretty fun.
Until next time,
DeQuan Watson
a.k.a. PowrDragn
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