The phone rang at 3:34 in the morning. I had been asleep for all of an hour after finally building decks for myself and two friends to play. All I can hear on the other end of the line is garbage and something that sounds like screaming or laughing; I give up on the phone call and see that I have several texts from Jon Smithers.
“Plump plump il”
“Campbell is passed out, Darby is so fucked he is yelling in his sleep.. this is the most absurd night”
Incidentally, Campbell and Darby were the two friends I had spent the last few hours putting decks together for.
I call Jon back after a few more hours of sleep. A few drinks had led to a few more and just like that both Campbell and Darby had dropped out of the PTQ. I tried to convince Jon to cancel the trip, but he insisted that he needed to play and was in no condition to drive.
We reached a solution after a few phone calls. Former Versus System Pro Mike Brierley would drive Jon’s truck to the PTQ, allowing us to fit in two more players than had been scheduled to drive in Mike’s car. This lead to some cramped driving conditions for everyone as we began our frantic race to reach Montreal before the PTQ started.
The Ottawa crew eventually stumbled into the venue minutes before the event was due to begin with decklists scrawled on whatever paper had been handy in the truck. Before I knew it round one pairings had been posted. Fortunately, the car trip had given me enough time to finish putting together the following deck:
4 Celestial Colonnade
2 Glacial Fortress
1 Marsh Flats
1 Misty Rainforest
3 Mystic Gate
4 Seachrome Coast
3 Mirran Crusader
4 Stoneforge Mystic
3 Vendilion Clique
4 Cryptic Command
4 Mana Leak
3 Path to Exile
2 Spell Pierce
2 Day of Judgment
1 Sword of Body and Mind
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Baneslayer Angel
1 Spell Pierce
1 Day of Judgment
2 Ratchet Bomb
2 Gideon Jura
2 Jace Beleren
My extensive testing had shown three things:
1) Adding [card]Figure of Destiny[/card] to make the deck more aggressive was an awful idea.
2) Don’t tap out against Valakut to slam a Jace.
3) I can test for approximately two and a half hours before I want to quit and go play Ascension.
Apologies to my opponents if I misremember any match details.
Round 1 – Kevin Anctil with Elf Combo
My opponent led with a [card]Llanowar Elves[/card]. I play [card]Preordain[/card] to start a desperate search for a [card]Day of Judgment[/card] but to no avail. I tap out turn two for a [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] and search up [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card]. I manage to counter my opponent’s [card]Green Suns Zenith[/card] for a [card]Regal Force[/card] and he is forced to go on the aggressive plan. A key [card]Mana Leak[/card] on the turn he plays [card]Joraga Warcaller[/card] forces him to tap his attackers (via [card]Heritage Druid[/card]) to pay for the Leak. Jace comes down and starts comboing with [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card] as a makeshift [card]Vindicate[/card] effect due to my opponent’s empty hand. Jace eventually dies but I have the second copy to replace it and take the game with only a single life remaining. I only realize later how lucky I was to draw the second and last copy of Jace in my deck (run good #1).
The second game is more straightforward. I sideboard in [card]Oust[/card]s, [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card]s, [card]Flashfreeze[/card] and the additional [card]Day of Judgment[/card] and play a more straightforward control game against him. There is one tense moment when he plays an early [card]Primal Command[/card] to bounce my [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card] (with zero counters) and search up a creature. I sacrifice the Bomb and he begins to search his deck anyway but a (Regional Coordinator for Canada) Kyle Ryc-approved judge call quickly sorts things out. He survives this first judgement but learns a couple of turns later that it just isn’t his Day.
Round 2 – Alan Brown with Valakut
A judge grabs my opponent before the round begins. A deck registration error gives me a game win (run good #2) and my opponent makes a major tactical error and sits down with his score pad from the previous game visible. I glance at it and note that his opponent’s life goes from 18 to 0 – sounds like [card]Scapeshift[/card] to me! I keep a hand that is strong against Valakut and am rewarded with the game win.
We play another game for fun and the [card]Flashfreeze[/card]s in the board prove their worth.
Round 3 – Frederick Mercier with Faeries
This match was not too difficult as my opponent has mana issues both games (run good #3 and #4). I take game one despite stupidly running a [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] into a [card]Mutavault[/card]. He makes a small mistake in game 2 and plays a [card]Preordain[/card] with his [card]Secluded Glen[/card]. I take the opportunity to resolve a [card]Mirran Crusader[/card]. He tries to [card]Mana Leak[/card] it but [card]Sunken Ruins[/card] and [card]Tectonic Edge[/card] are not the greatest combo.
Round 4 – Joel St-Amour with RUG
My opponent for this round is a local from Ottawa who always plays a pretty tight game. Joel does have a bit of a reputation for a slow and deliberate game pace so I know I need to manage the clock in this matchup. His deck is a bit of a rogue build similar to the RUG control build in standard but with [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card] and [card]Cryptic Command[/card].
An early Stoneforge gives the lead in game 1. I sideboard into a more controlling build by bringing in Gideon and [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card] but Joel smashes me with a fast start thanks to [card]Noble Hierarch[/card] and [card]Lotus Cobra[/card].
I make the classic [card]Vendilion Clique[/card] blunder in game 3 and slam down my hand before Joel declares targets. He ends up targeting himself and then learns that he can’t cycle away a land (run good #5). He has a fast start and I stall for a few turns on four mana with both Baneslayers and Gideons in hand. I rip a [card]Plains[/card] on my last possible turn to slam a Baneslayer against a board full of [card=Bloodbraid Elf]Bloodbraid Elves[/card], [card]Lotus Cobra[/card]s, [card]Vendilion Clique[/card]s and [card]Kitchen Finks[/card]. Joel does not have the Cryptic or Jace to bounce the Angel and I survive the attack at 1 (run good #6).
The second Baneslayer comes down the next turn and I begin attacking. Joel misses another opportunity to draw Jace or Cryptic (run good #7) and I survive another turn. Time is called and all of a sudden I am on the offensive. I eventually rip a [card]Cryptic Command[/card] in time to tap down his last blocker and win in extra turns (run good #8).
Round 5 – Ben Moir with Faeries
Ben has an impressive record and has held the simultaneous titles of most talented and hated twelve year old in Ottawa for the past four years. I would describe the match in depth, but I can’t quite remember all the details. Interested readers should assume I topdeck a key [card]Cryptic Command[/card] and [card]Mirran Crusader[/card] gets in for the win (run good #9) and I’ll relate my favourite Ben story (aside from him being abandoned at GP Boston during the midnight GPT by Kyle Ryc) instead.
Ben was playing combo elves in a Vintage tournament. His opponent was playing an awful [card]Mana Drain[/card] deck with [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card] as the only win condition. At the start of turn four of extra time Ben asks his opponent to wait during his upkeep. Ben’s opponent can’t possible win this turn so Ben decides to play around his opponent drawing a counter. Ben plays double [card]Summoners Pact[/card], his opponent instantly passes the turn and Ben looks down at his three lonely forests.
Round 6 – KYT with UW Faeries
KYT and I would have played this match out . . . unfortunately we are both too old to find our table and settle for a draw instead.
Later Kyle Ryc soundly chastises me for being unable to fill out a match slip correctly and spends 15 minutes shouting that 0-0-3 is DCI approved and 1-1-1 is cheating and I should be DQ’d if he had written the penalty guide.
Round 7 – Halley Schaub with Naya Scapeshift
I try to trick Halley into signing the match slip 1-1-1 to eliminate a potential competitor in top 8 but he catches on and insists on 0-0-3.
Quarterfinals – Rob Anderson with UW Stoneforge
The only thing that I can focus on as I head over to play my quarterfinal match is the fact that I have lost in the quarters the last six times I’ve gotten there. Whether it is due to a terrible matchup, terrible draft decks or my own terrible play I just never get the win. Rob knows it too and wastes no time in reminding me about my record. Comments are made about how lucky it is to get a bye in the top 8 but it doesn’t bother me. After those six losses I’m dead inside and nothing can bother me.
Predictably I mulligan and the first game is won by Rob after a long and bitter battle. I go through the motions and sideboard, already thinking of the delicious Bar-B-Barn dinner that is Ottawa tradition after a Montreal PTQ. Then the unthinkable happens.
Rob makes a mistake.
It’s just a small mistake, but he equips [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card] to his [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] and [card]Sword of Body and Mind[/card] to his wolf token. He enters his attack step and then pauses, looking at my [card]Celestial Colonnade[/card] and the Feast and Famine carrying Mystic. The Mystic is forced to sit out the combat step and only the Wolf attacks in.
Suddenly the momentum in the match is on my side and a seemingly endless rain of planeswalkers and counter spells come my way (run good #10). Game two wraps up quickly in my favour.
Game 3 is more of the same and I manage to wrap up the match with a [card]Cryptic Command[/card] off the top that enables me to tap down Rob’s team of 2 [card]Mirran Crusader[/card]s (one of the Crusaders gets bounced for good measure) and a [card]Vendilion Clique[/card]. This leaves my [card]Mutavault[/card] free to kill Rob’s [card]Jace Beleren[/card] and my Mystic (equipped with everyone’s favourite Sword) to hit Rob. I slam down a Jace post combat and bounce the other [card]Mirran Crusader[/card]. Combined with the [card]Gideon Jura[/card] I have in play it’s too much for Rob to handle.
Semi-finals – Halley Schaub with Naya Scapeshift
Halley is playing the Jon Smither’s designed Naya [card]Scapeshift[/card] deck. He asks if we can take a short break before the match so he can go to the washroom. Being a nice guy I allow it and promptly run across the room to Jon Smithers asking him how I can beat his deck. He gives me some advice and it’s time to get the semi-finals going.
The matchup is fairly straightforward. I need to get a threat down and prevent Halley from killing me with a [card]Scapeshift[/card], [card]Prismatic Omen[/card] or [card]Primeval Titan[/card]. The Naya version can also beat down with [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card] and [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card] but the creatures normally don’t matter too much.
I have the necessary counters in game one and don’t in game two. I toy with my sideboard before the beginning of game three – should I bring in additional anti-creature tools like Gideon or Baneslayer? Ultimately I decide not to and shuffle up a hand of four lands, [card]Mirran Crusader[/card], [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card] and [card]Vendilion Clique[/card]. I hesitate over the hand for approximately five minutes before keeping.
I know, I can’t believe I kept that god awful hand either. Unfortunately for Halley it is my day and the top of my deck yields [card]Cryptic Command[/card], two [card]Mana Leak[/card]s and two [card]Flashfreeze[/card]s (run goods #11 to 15). It all comes down to one turn where I have to play out a [card]Mirran Crusader[/card] to win the next turn. I know Halley has two [card]Scapeshift[/card]s in hand but only three green sources in play while I have a single [card]Flashfreeze[/card] available.
He draws for his turn and . . . run good #16.
Halley is part of the Toronto/Hamilton crowd and they decide to start the trip home as all the Ontario players have been eliminated. Meanwhile, the all Ottawa finals is about to begin.
Finals – Zack Spence with UB Faeries
Zack is a friend so it is great to see him make the finals. Unfortunately we know there is going to be an awkward car ride home with one of us wanting to do nothing but celebrate and the other just wanting to figure out where it all went wrong so close to the goal.
It’s at this point that KYT (whom had just been defeated by Zack) tells me to avenge him in the name of the old-timers as the Montreal crowd heads out to find dinner. This leaves a meagre eight people in the venue with six Ottawa players huddled in a corner and the head judge and tournament organizer packing up.
I draw all my [card]Vendilion Clique[/card]s in game one and beat down while Zack struggles to draw relevant cards. I’m able to maintain the tempo with [card]Cryptic Commands[/card] as Zack is forced to act first to try and deal with my Cliques. Zack kills all the Cliques but I have a [card]Celestial Colonnade[/card] to finish the game. Zack, ever the gentleman, concedes rather than forcing me to go through the motions.
Game two is all about Zack and double [card]Bitterblossom[/card]. I struggle to generate some kind of momentum but Zack is able to sit back and respond to my spells. Tempo is clearly the dominant factor in this matchup.
Zack moves to begin game three with a [card]Thoughtseize[/card] but I point out that I elected to play first in the decider. I play [card]Preordain[/card] and leave a [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] on top. Zack plays [card]Thoughtseize[/card] anyways but the joke is on him as my hand is terrible. I play Stoneforge, he makes me discard the Sword and I rip [card]Mirran Crusader[/card] (run good #17) and slam it into play. The Stoneforge and Crusader race Zack’s [card]Bitterblossom[/card] and I draw the appropriate counters to prevent Zack from playing his way back into the game.
Afterwards we head to Bar-B-Barn and enjoy some ribs, beer and a few stories. On the trip back we stop at Tim Hortons and get some coffee to sustain us. The best thing about Tim Hortons at this time of year is Roll up the Rim.
Yeah, you guessed it – run good #18.