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Attention to Detail #36
Paper Moon
by Jordan Kronick
August 25, 2006

The Coldsnap release events on Magic Online have come to a close. If you're like me and you do most of your Magic playing in the digital world, you're well aware of this fact. Hopefully you got a chance – as I did – to play in some. And, again like me, hopefully you won big. I myself pulled off a 2nd place finish in a 4x release event. My luck ran out on me in the third game of the final match after being strong all day. In the end, I'm happy with the result. For my effort I won 36 packs of Coldsnap, a Haakon avatar (which is quite nice) and most important of all – a qualification to the Coldsnap Release Championship. For those unfamiliar with the way release events work online, I'll give a brief refresher course. Premiere Events (which is to say any event with more than 8 people in it) come in two varieties during release time – 2x and 4x. The multiplier is how many times the normal prizes you receive for winning. 4x events cost a little more to enter and they also attract more people (so you're statistically less likely to be in the top 8). The top 8 of a 4x event get qualifications while only the winners of 2x events get qualified (for a separate event – there's two different championships). Ordinarily I prefer to play in 2x events because I like getting an easier shot at the top 8 and because they don't take as long to play in. However, when I logged into Magic Online last Friday I was scant minutes late for joining a 2x event. I would have to wait another hour. I looked at the schedule and saw there was a 4x starting at the same time as the next 2x. Because of this, it was entirely possible the 2x wouldn't fire off at all. This was in the wee hours of the morning and it was unlikely that either event would fill to capacity. So I decided to spend a couple more tix and play a 4x. Coldsnap “sealed deck” (which uses 5 packs of Coldsnap) is far from my favorite format. My favorite draft strategy – that of Surging Dementias – is all but useless in the sealed format. In fact, the entire Ripple mechanic is pretty much useless. It makes for a very different environment.

I opened my packs at the beginning of the tournament and was greeted with a decent assortment of cards. In the end I decided to go for a G/B/R deck which also splashed blue for the big bomb of a vampire herself – Garza Zol. With two snow covered sources of blue mana and an Into the North, I felt pretty alright with my splash. In any case, here's the deck I ended up with:

1x Chill to the Bone
1x Grim Harvest

1x Gristle Grinner
1x Gutless Ghoul
1x Krovikan Scoundrel
1x Rimebound Dead
1x Stromgald Crusader
1x Rime Transfusion
1x Soul Spike

1x Allosaurus Rider
2x Aurochs Herd
1x Boreal Druid
1x Bull Aurochs
1x Frostweb Spider
1x Bull Aurochs
1x Resize
1x Into the North

1x Greater Stone Spirit
1x Ohran Yeti
1x Surging Flame
1x Skred

1x Garza Zol, Plague Queen

1x Snow Covered Island
1x Snow Covered Forest
1x Frost Marsh
1x Tresserhorn Sinks
3x Mountain
4x Swamp
6x Forest

My removal was a little on the weak side. Two red pieces, two black pieces. I had hoped that the Soul Spike would win me some games and that the sheer size of my good creature base would pick up the rest of them. To tell the truth, I wasn't
very confident in this deck. Garza Zol may be alright, but she's far from the best card in the set. I had opened a decent white pool including two Gelid Shackles and a Sunscour and considered playing that, but the creature base in white was very shaky and I felt like I was cutting myself short of creatures as it was. I decided to take the big rist with this deck rather than play for the much safer and more defensive white deck. As we already know, it turned out for the best.

My matches were all fairly easy for the first three rounds. In two of those rounds, mine was the first match to finish. In fact my third round was over so quickly that I had time to walk to the store before the next round started. The creatures were doing it all. Coldsnap draft can be a quick and brutal format. A lucky ripple stack can end a game before it begins. However, Coldsnap sealed tends to be a slow format. Without rippling and with only a small amount of mana acceleration in the set – and little card draw – games can drag on a bit. But not mine. The Ronom Hulk won two straight games for me when my opponent appeared to have nothing but snow creatures in his deck. One game I even dropped the big guy on turn 4 thanks to a timely Into the North. When your opponent decides to make a deck fully utilizing the snow theme, that guy is just a wrecking ball.

Amazingly enough through the first three rounds, I'd not seen any of my rares. The fourth match showed them to me, but ultimately it wasn't to be. In the first game I very quickly managed to beat my opponent down to 5 life before he stabilized. I drew the Soul Spike and unfortunately it did nothing but sit in my hand without the Surging Flame – or any damage for that matter – to back it up. The second game didn't go much better. I made an early Into the North and searched out the Frost Marsh as I had Garza Zol in my hand. Unfortunately I never drew a source of red and lost after four turns when a single mountain would have won me the game. I was starting to feel like the deck had abandoned me. That maybe it was just luck that had carried me through three victories. A win in round four would have allowed me to take intentional draws into the top 8, but it wasn't to be.

In the fifth round I was playing up against one of the undefeated people. I can't recall the guy's screenname, but he ended up in the top 8 as well. In fact, once the top 8 started I noticed that three of my opponents from the swiss rounds were in it with me. By the end of the tournament I'd played matches against 6 of 7 of the other people in the top 8! I was worried in round five because I was playing against an undefeated opponent and because I knew that a single loss would almost certainly knock me out of contention for the top 8. Prizes go down to 16th place in a 4x tournament but after the good showing early I wasn't going to be happy with just a few packs. I was shooting for the double digits. Everything went in my favor, however. My opponent was playing a deck nearly identical to my own. He was even splashing a Frost Marsh to play Garza Zol. He killed me with the vampire one game. And then I came back and killed him with the vampire in games two and three. It was beautiful, though I must admit he was severely mana screwed in the third game. Still, I wasn't going to let that dampen my spirits. I was up to a 4-1 record. If I won next round I was assured a spot in the top 8. It would even be possible – if things were looking right – that I could intentionally draw in.

I was curious of whether or not my opponent would want to try drawing at the start of the match, but no such thing happened. We went right into the game and I went right into a turn 5 Aurochs Herd followed by a turn 6 Aurochs Herd. The big cows trampled their way to victory for me. In the second game, things were even more brutal. On turn 2 I played an Into the North and a risky Allosaurus Rider. I still had land in hand and knew that if he had removal, I would be in big trouble. However, he never had the removal. I kept drawing lands and the dinosaur kept getting bigger. Eventually it ran him over. I was 5-1 and guaranteed a spot in the top 8, including the big packs, the avatar and the qualification. I've only been qualified for a championship once before, but suddenly I was very excited about the prospect. It's going to be a heck of a big tournament. At last viewing there were 306 players signed up and quite a few more than that who still have the option. The prizes are big though. First place gets a whopping 72 packs and a full foil set of Coldsnap.

Speaking of big prizes, I had better things to do with my time than dream about the championship. The top 8 was about to begin. In the few days prior to this point I'd played 5 CCC drafts (the format for the top 8, incidentally) and had won 3 of them. I was pretty confident in my abilities against the crowds in the draft room, but this was a top 8. These people knew what they were doing or they wouldn't be here. I had ridden Surging Dementia through my draft wins over the previous week. However, I knew that the Dementia strategy only works if nobody else is trying it. With a crowd of experienced players like this, I figured it would be unlike if I was the only onw who was going to give it a shot. I opened my first pack and didn't see a Dementia. So, at least, I wouldn't have to make the choice right away. My first pack had a Surging Flame in it and I decided that the safest bet was just to fall back on the good old fashioned “burn and creatures” strategy.

Over the course of the 6 picks, I picked up some more decent red cards and lastly a Deepfire Elemental. I knew this didn't mean a lot. Although I was getting a very strong black card in 6th pick, it didn't mean the color was open by any means. It just meant that nobody else was trying black/red. That, at least, was a good sign. Then the seventh pick came around and it was staring me right in the face – Surging Dementia. Also in the pack was a very decent Zombie Musher. The Musher can be a real powerhouse in CCC drafting where just about everyone ends up playing some snow. However, I knew that I would have to stay true to my roots and I picked the Dementia. It paid off. In the 8th pick I got another one, without having to pick it over anything better. Two Dementias in the first pack was alright. It still gave me a good chance of finding 6 (the optimal number, in my opinion) over the course of the draft.

The second pack started out with more of the same.
I was opening awful rares – Wooly Razorback and Phyrexian Etchings, as I recall. But I got another Surging Flame. I hoped for more than just the two but it wasn't to be. And then the Surging Dementias came. I got two more from the second pack and I was feeling very strong. My deck lacked any true bombs, but it was starting to shape up. I'd gotten a Lightning Storm, which I've found to be very strong in any deck that uses a Dementia base. Once you've knocked a few cards out of their hand, they're unlikely to hold and extra land and risk losing it. In the third pack, I got my wish. In the 3rd pick I got my 5th Dementia. And then, hoping against hope, I got passed my 8th pick and #6 was staring me right in the face. I scooped it up almost without seeing what else was in the pack.

In the end, my deck was stable but lacked any true bombs as predicted. The Deepfire Elemental was my biggest creature and I was glad to have it. My memories of the top 8 matches are something of a blur. At this point I'd been awake for a good 19 hours or so. I do recall that in the second round I managed to hit a 5-card Surging Dementia on turn 2, provoking a rather rude response from my opponent. In fact, through the course of the top 8, everyone I played the card against seemed somewhat shocked. Perhaps I'd overestimated them? Maybe they hadn't gotten the news about how good Surging Dementia really is. Whatever the case may be, I slid through all the way until the third game of the final match. My opponent – a nice enough guy – quickly noted the power of the Dementias. In the second game he managed to kill me with flying creatures before the damage could be inflicted. And then the third game came and my deck just fell apart. I Surged him three times, each for only a single card. I failed to draw any removal or any creatures with a power higher than 2. In short, it went badly. He recognized my predicament and won with grace. Had it been a paper match I gladly would have shaken his hand. Happily, even with a loss I was still getting huge prizes. Sure, he was getting 12 more packs than I was, but that's not much to think about when you've just won the equivalent of a full box of boosters.

So that's my story of my qualification to the 4x Coldsnap championship. I took a format that I really disliked and managed to do great. Unfortunately, the championship uses the same format. And I still don't like it very much, even if it has been good to me. I can only hope that my bad luck will stop at a streak of one game. This tournament could last the better part of Saturday, but I'll br happy to play in it. And, if I make the top 8, I'm going to take the Dementias. Let that be the lesson for the day. When something treats you well, give notice.


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