May 19, 2004 - A Box Fit For Flinging (across the room)
Saturday was yet another team event. My teammates Jason Krysak and DeQuan Watson were all prepared to make the trip and play; since I’d managed to put together a very solid record playing in Mirrodin-block limited so far, I felt like we had a pretty solid chance to get ourselves on the plane for Seattle…assuming that a little fortune fell our way, of course.
Friday night, Jason and another friend, Steven Livingston, show up from Austin to stay at my apartment in Denton, about 40 minutes from the site. We spend a big part of the evening walking around Denton and the UNT campus, chatting a small amount about Magic and a large part about various aspects of life. Frankly, nights walking around with friends like these are one of the big reasons that I continue to play Magic at all; the people that I work to keep around me mean a lot to me.
We wake up early, everyone gets a shower and breakfast, then we make the drive over to the store where the PTQ was going to be held. I had pre-registered our team for the event, as attendance had been capped at 30 teams due to potential space considerations. We get there to find out that a grand total of 12 teams were showing up to play; even two of the pre-registered teams failed to show up for the event. It’s really confusing why so many players would fail to attend a team event, even one in a fairly odd location that coincided with a Pro Tour. Such is the way of things around Texas at times.
Q is there waiting for us; a while later, we get seated and receive our sealed decks. By the way, kudos to Jim Shuman and company for pre-checking decks for everyone, reducing some of the work and time that would be put into the day. It’s a detail that is much appreciated by the players.
Going over our cards, we realize something in pretty short order: we’ve got some pretty solid rares in this deck, including Platinum Angel and Megatog. After some work flipping through the rest of the cards and separating out the chaff, we come to another conclusion: our decks were thin. I’d actually go so far as to say they were terrible, simply due to the weak nature of the commons in our cardpool. There were four Leonin Bola in our cards; that was it as far as common equipment went. While we had a Deconstruct and an Altar’s Light, we didn’t have a single piece of red artifact removal, nor did we have any decent Spellbombs or staple common spells like Blinding Beam or Electrostatic Bolt.
We sorted out the cards by color and realized that nothing was really plentiful enough to split between multiple decks. There wasn’t enough of anything to ensure that we could split up artifact removal between decks; we were going to be building several decks that simply weren’t going to have a way to deal with problematic artifacts. After using practically the full time, we built an R/U deck with some juicy rares, a mono-black deck that I ended up piloting, and a G/W deck that, in retrospect, was very poor, mostly due to the absence of Blinding Beam from our cardpool. We had decent cards; what we didn’t have were decent decks, in the end.
The details of our play are few and brief. Round one, our opponents are a group who had driven in for their first PTQ ever; they end up getting a pair of match-losses due to mis-registered decks. Our second round, I get mauled in my game while Q manages to coax a victory out of his G/W monstrosity. Jason, however, comes up a mana short of being able to play Platinum Angel to win his match, though he did everything he could to prolong the end. The third round is against a group of PTQ regulars from Arkansas and Oklahoma; I’m able to beat my opponent Tim with some very aggressive draws, while both Q and Jason get rolled by a ridiculous cardpool, including double-Spikeshot with double-Bonesplitter. At this point, we drop and spend the rest of the day playing Marvel and looking around for drafts. Bah.
Did we learn anything from this experience? I’m really not sure if there was anything to pick up from this experience, other than the real difficulty that can arise from having a mediocre pool of cards for your team. It takes a lot of work to have a truly sucky cardpool in the team environment, simply because you open a pretty sizable amount of product. Four Bolas seems decent, but it really was a challenge trying to find a way to make those fit into our spread of decks (I ended up being the guy with two in my deck). We weren’t able to find a better build for the decks we had, but I’m pretty sure that we couldn’t have been too far off from an optimal build.
An interesting situation arose during this event. Entering the final round of swiss, one team had clinched a spot in the top four; another team was guaranteed outside, unless one of the top two tables played and a team with nine points lost. The two teams involved (a ten point and a six point) were groups who were very familiar with each other, friendly a good deal of the time. In this situation, what seems to be “expected” was that the ten-point team would play the nine in order to give the team with six the best possible chance to get into the top four, since they didn’t have a shot any other way.
That, however, was not what ended up occurring; the ten and nine drew, thus closing the top four before the final round was even played. A good deal of disappointment and anger was caused because of the draw in the final round, a situation difficult to deal with in any circumstances. I don’t really know how to approach an issue like this, simply because so many feelings are at stake here…personally, I’m inclined to play in order to attempt to aid a group of friends. It’s not a fair situation for anyone involved…when you know you are inviting a very competitive, very strong group of players and cards into the potential top four, you are tempting fate. It takes some measure to determine what is more important to you, in the end. It’s probably simplest to let it fall to a vote of the team, though even that can end up causing a lot of heartache in the end.
It makes a point that I really do think you can hold to most of the time; if there’s a question about whom it affects, just play. As long as you do that consistently, you really can’t be judged one way or another, and you’re fair to everyone involved. Maybe it’s not easy, but at least it’s effective.
So next week? Fifth Dawn, ladies and gentlemen! We’re coming up on pre-release weekend, and I’ll be judging at the event here in the Dallas area. Looking over the cards that I have seen so far, I really don’t see any sort of impact in constructed yet. Limited, on the other hand…this could swing Mirrodin-block into a whole new realm, with people making comparisons to Invasion and the sets that were related to that. It’s something that we’ll look into over the coming weeks.
‘til next time…
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