How I won an Invasion Limited PTQ with Karma
Gary Wise has set the new standard in tournament reports. If you haven't
read his PTNY2000.5 report, it is on Sideboard and it is an amazing look at
a side of the Pro tour that most of us will never see. Its about egos, the
inner workings of one of the biggest PT teams, winning it all, and what it
all looked like through Gary's eyes. In fact if you haven't read it, go read
it now, this report won't be nearly as interesting. In fact this one's going
to be pretty basic.
One thing that Gary's report really got me thinking about is how much I miss
the old days when every week there would be dozens of reports to read. How
come no one writes reports anymore? There was a time when people wrote about
local tournaments! Sure a lot of the reports in the old days sucked, but
most of them offered at least something interesting.
Speaking of sucking, time to get this thing underway.
Pre-tourney info you don't need to know:
-4 hours of sleep
-3 hour drive
-10:30 start in Edmonton
-35 people (That's low, but $40 Canadian for a tournament is pretty high,
and scares a lot of more casual players away. When the price of a Magic
tourney and the price of a ticket to an NHL game is the same, you have a
- 6 rounds, Rochester top 8, Invasion Limited PTQ for PTLA2001, October
- my previous results in LA qualifiers: 0-1 drop, 4 weeks ago and lose in
the Top 4, two weeks ago
Actually, I need to expand on that qualifier two weeks ago. It was one of my
most frustrating days of Magic ever. I opened a very difficult deck to build, and it
was less than a week after the set had been released. I had done about a
dozen practice sealed decks that week, but definitely didn't understand the
set well enough to build this very difficult deck. It had good spells in all
5 colors, but a weak creature base. It's only five color components were one
harrow and one Phyrexian Lens. I know I misbuilt the deck, I must have,
because what I ended up with was U/W/G with good tricks (triple repulse) and
combat modifiers (triple armadillo cloak) but no way to deal with opposing
creatures, especially tappers.
I took my misbuilt deck and played it terribly, beating random opponents
despite my mistakes, but losing to contenders (in this case Murray and
Forest Evans) because of my mistakes. I made a totally undeserved Top 8 with
The draft went well until the 2nd last pack. I would be picking third out of
the pack and during the review I see that there are good cards for both the
players picking before me, and an Ancient Kavu in my primary color for me.
For some reason I become distracted, and when the judge says "Player 1,
Draft', I realize, 'hey, that's me' and reach out to grab my Ancient Kavu.
As I slap my new 4 casting 3/3, which will nicely round out my creature curve
into my pile of cards, I notice that I've grabbed a Turf Wound. WTF? I look
back just in time to see my second round opponent picking up my 3/3
beatstick. If you have some Invasion commons handy, take a look. Turf Wound
and Ancient Kavu look nothing alike. I am an idiot.
So that's my last mistake, right? Nope.
I think I have a decent understanding of relative card powers and I think I
can draft decks and not just piles of cards. I play the politics game well, cooperative drafting when ever possible. My weakness in Rochester is that I can't remember enough of
what my opponents draft. I usually know everyone's colors, but not the
individual cards. It might be lack of practice, or maybe I just don't have a
good mind for the memorization required to be a really good Rochester
drafter but it's definitely a weakness I need to work on.
I win my first round, but I don't realize that my second round opponents has
very bad creatures, but 3 soul burns. So instead of using my removal spells
to kill his dorks I lose a crucial game by letting them do unnecessary
damage to me while I develop 'board position' and then die to two of his
three Soul Burns, still with my removal in my hand.
I leave the tournament feeling really bad about my game. I made mistakes in
almost every aspect of the tournament. I've blown my second last, and best,
chance to go to LA. Believe me, you don't want to miss a chance to leave
Canada for LA in February :-)
So much for condensing the pre-report stuff to point form.
Here's the deck I got back. I'll list everything by color for those that
want to build at home, then the deck I played. Think I did something wrong?
Let me know, maybe we'll both learn something.
harrow x2, Sulam Djinn x2, Llanowar Elite x2, Kavu Lair, Scouting Trek,Whip
Silk, Wandering Stream, Vigorous Charge, Quirion Trailblazer, Serpentine
Kavu, Aggressive Urge, Restock, Quirion Sentinel, Thornscape Apprentice
hooded Kavu x2, Kavu Scout x2, Overload, Scarred Puma, Pouncing Kavu,
Thunderscape Apprentice, Viashino Grappler, Tribal Flames, Lightning Dart
Stormscape Apprentice, Repulse, Zanam Djinn, Faerie Squadron, Opt, Barrin's
Unmaking, Essence Leak, Phantasmal Terrain, Shimmering Wings, Well-Laid
Plans, Worldly Councel, Vodalian Serpent
Urborg Emissary, Mourning, Phyrexian Reaper, Urborg Phantom, Goham Djinn,
Addle, Soul Burn, Cursed Flesh x2, Firescreamer
Benalish Lancer x2, Benalish Trapper, Shackles, Obsidian Acolyte,
Dismantling Blow x2, Orim's Touch, Capashen Unicorn
Wings of Hope, Frenzied Tilling, Ordered Migration, Lobotomy, Recoil x2,
Barrin's Spite, FOIL Dromar the Banisher
Dromar's Attendant, Crosis's Attendant, Alloy Golem, Power Armor
Sulfur Vent x2, Foil Plains
You build while I hit the enter key.
All done? Ok here's what I built:
Benalish Lancer x2
Dromar, the Banisher (No, really, I played my dragon)
Sulfur Vent x2
I could have played 5cG with the deck, but there were enough good cards in
Dromar's colors I went with the more consistent three color build. Never
thought I'd use the phrase 'More consistent three color build' :-). The deck has
a lot of bombs, but they're mostly 5 or 6 to cast. With such a high curve on
my creatures I played a couple of weaker ones over better non-creature spells to at
least have a few cheaper drops. My one mistake was the Urborg Phantom. I
forgot he couldn't block. He was sided out every game, for whichever of my
good sideboard cards was most applicable, default being Capashan Unicorn,
chump blocker, enchantment killer extraordinare.
Round 1 vs. Scott Chaffey
Game one, Scott and I drop out some tappers and other early dorks and trade
an insignificant amount of damage. Scott drops armadillo cloak on his
Rampant Elephant and my Urborg Emissary is ground under. Next turn I recoil
the Elephant and continue to build toward my six mana bombs. I have a tapper
who's taking care of his ground forces but that's about it. Scott drops
Angel of Mercy and gains 3 life to go to 25. Bet Scott doesn't think he dies
in 3 turns :-). He's wrong. I drop Dromar next turn, the turn after I drop
a Zanam Djinn, tap his Angel and hit him for six. The turn after that, I tap
his Angel, serve for 11 and drop Goham Djinn. Scott draws and concedes. I
still have at least two more 6 mana bombs in my hand :-).
Game two Scott gets me to 12 while I put up as much resistance as possible
with tappers trying to get to 6 mana. Once I get to six mana I drop Dromar
and his Djinn friends again. Scott dies in three attacks, despite casting
his Angel of Mercy again.
Matches 1-0-0 Games 2-0-0
Round 2 vs. Jim Roy
I have a decent draw, no white mana, but no white cards either. Well, ten or
so turns later, still no white mana but, many, many white cards. Actually,
all of them. Jim is playing conservatively, not recasting his Vodalian
Serpent after I was forced to bounce it earlier, because he thinks the cards
in my hand are removal spells, not white spells.
I make a cool play when Jim tries to dismantling blow my Crosis's Attendant.
I sac him and use the mana (uwb) to cast recoil on one of his potential
attackers, which he can't recast this turn, buying me a bunch of time, and
denying Jim his two kicker cards.
Finally I get my white mana and get out Dromar, who has to stay back to
block. I get out Benalish Tapper, and then Zanam Djinn and I'm more or less
stabilized, but I'm at 1. Jim drops Samite Archer, forcing me to send the
Djinn and Dromar and bounce all white creatures to stay alive, leaving the
Djinn and Jim's Quirion Elf as the only creatures in play. I replay my
Mourning on the elf and say go. I will kill Jim the next turn with my Djinn
plus Power Armor. He topdecks Obsidian Acolyte, smokes my Mourning and deals
the last point of damage to me. I'm pretty bummed, and Jim is mad at himself
for making some tactical errors, playing too conservatively, and letting me
into a game I shouldn't have had a chance in.
Game two we go back and forth a bit and I have a decent hand with some
removal and two recoils. Again I'm a little light on the right color of mana
with only one swamp so I can't cast multiple spells a turn. Jim drops that
damn Acolyte. I manage to slip through the Malice half of Spite/Malice at
some point, but most of my black cards are now just chaff, and without them
I slowly get ground out.
Matches 1-1-0 Games 2-2-0
At this point I relate my cool sac attendant/recoil play to Mike Handfield,
who asks 'Did you win?'. I say no. He says, 'Then who cares?'. With friends
It's also at this point that Foil Dromar starts to get a little nervous. I
have a history of throwing out sealed decks which fail me. Since everyone
knows this, scavengers wait by the garbage when I get close to my second
loss, hoping to pick up some goods, so I've upgraded to physically
destroying decks that don't have Top 8 in them. Foil Dromar and friends get
the 'Do or Die' speech and its on to round three.
Round 3 vs. Forest Evans
Game one Forest gets severely color/mana screwed and goes down without
casting a spell, I believe. Game two, I'm light on land and lacking a color
and put up only token resistance. Game 3 Forest is again light on land early
and color screwed late. My Plague Spores doesn't help him out.
Matches 2-1-0 Games 4-3-0
Mike Handfield comes up to me between rounds with tales of mana screw. He
begins to tell me about a play he made and I cut him off with 'Did you win?'
He gets a look on his face like he knows what's coming, 'No,' but I hit him
with it anyway. Say it with me, 'Then Who Cares!'
I then inform Mike how karma works (the 'What goes around, comes around'
philosophy of life, not the black mage hating Magic card). Remembering how
good karma helped me out at the Chicago qualifier I won, I decide to spread
some good deeds around so I can reap the karmic rewards later :-)
Round 4 Mark ???
I've never met this guy before and I'm guessing he's new to the game. Game
one is frustrating, as I can't draw any black mana. I do have a tapper in
play and some non-kickered Benalish Lancers I was forced to cast early. He's
picking away at me with a Dream Thrush and a Stormscape Apprentice. I
finally get a swamp when I'm getting low on life and if Mark ever used his
Dream Thrush to either change one of his lands into a plains so he could use
his apprentice to tap my guys, or change my swamp into another basic land in
my upkeep, I'd be screwed, but this never occurs to him thankfully. I take a
couple risks that completely depend on him not wising up, but fortunately he
doesn't, and I squeak out a win.
Game two, despite seeing at least one recoil in game one, Mark plays every
land in his hand (far more than he needed to cast anything he played) and
lets me recoil his threats to his graveyard. Dromar and friends end the game
quickly after that. Mark was a friendly, if inexperienced, opponent and I
let him off of mana burning on at least two occasions, to boost my karma :-)
Matches 3-1 Games 6-3
Round 5 Arlin ???
Another player I've never played before. What's with playing consistent top
eight players in the early rounds and people I've never seen before in the
late rounds? My pairings seemed to change after I put into effect the 'Good
Game one goes fairly standard with early beats from my opponent. I drop
Dromar and his Djinn buddies and end it shortly after. Arlin also has a
dragon, but when they tangle in combat, mine is repulsed and recast shortly
after. Arlin also makes a couple bad plays including not noticing when my
Zanam Djinn switched from 3/4 to 5/6 and let his explosive growthed (no
kicker) Faerie Squadron get run over. Game two my bounce and removal really
kicked in and I beat Arlin up with Urborg Emissary while his creatures were
constantly bounced, tapped or outright destroyed.
Matches 4-1 Games 8-3
Round 6 Jason ???
We intentionally draw. I was hoping to draw with Mike Handfield this round, as
his 1950 rating would have netted me some points. Instead I give up a few,
for some more karma.
Matches 4-1-1 Games 8-3
Top eight is announced and I'm in at 6th seed. My opponent will be Jason
from round 6, so I can get back those points I lent him. For super extra
karma points I lend Mike some Silver sleeves for the top eight draft.
Seating in pack opening order is:
Geoff Fontaine (Soalo of #mtgwacky fame)
Jason ??? (Round 6 guy, my opponent)
Mike Handfield (the best limited player here today, in his 87,634th Top 8)
Arlin ??? (Round 5 guy)
Shaye Coleman (another Edmonton top 8 regular)
Michael Bower (me, but you knew that, right?)
Garry Hough (I shared a bed with this guy at PTNY2000)
Chris Parton (Won our Regionals, drove in from Saskatchewan)
I'm happy to be between two experienced drafters as I hope I can expect less
fighting for colors. I'm more or less right.
Geoff opens the first pack and takes the green master, Jason takes a red
Kavu, Mike takes Serpentine Kavu, Arlin takes a white card, Shaye takes the
Probe I was hoping would make it to me, and then I take... nothing! The best
card left was a Zap, but I was looking at the other cards as well, and what
the early players took. I was trying to decide how to best signal my colors, but
I took too long. Oops. Never done that in a draft before. So I am
awarded...Zap! Cool. Geoff actually thought I was being a cocky prick and
just let time run out since Zap was the top left card :-) As it turned out, I'm fairly sure it was the card I wanted anyway.
The rest of the draft is fairly uneventful. My opponent picks up a Moat, but
is kind of all over the place as far as colors go, screwing both Mike and
Geoff a fair bit. Shaye establishes himself in U/b and Garry starts out
green, while I am red. I am hoping Garry will go G/w, so I can go R/b and
Shaye can be U/b. Instead Gary goes G/R and picks up a few black and white
spells as well, obviously playing the 5cG mage. Aside from Gary no-one else
seems to want black spells, so Shaye and I split them up and stay away from
each others gold cards. Shaye gets the Recoils, I get the Plague Spores. I
am such a believer in friendly draft, and at this point karma, I take an
unplayable common as the second last card so Shaye can have a foil swamp for
his deck :-)
Shaye's deck ends up being madness with many bombs, he even gets a Crosis in
the last pack that comes around from the far side of the table! Shaye has
the consensus best deck at the table. My deck is also good, and I have many
playable cards in the sideboard. Shaye and I had so many playable cards
early into the third set of packs that we even had time to hate some
Obsidian Acolytes and other white cards from the white side of the table. I
think Gary smacked down a red acolyte he might have used in his sideboard as
well, and I think only one made it into a white players deck.
My deck ended up as:
Pouncing Kavu x3
Marauding Knight (1st picked in the third pack over Goham Djinn because the
earliest I could play a player without plains in his deck was the finals. It
turned out everyone I played had plains)
Notable sideboard cards: Kavu Scout, Viashino Grappler, Scavenged Weaponry,
Ravenous Rats, Nightscape Apprentice, Recover, Firescreamer, Cursed Flesh
x2, and TURF WOUND, which I picked up to read during the review period to
make sure it wasn't an Ancient Kavu, and then scooped up after the wheel as
the third or fourth last card of the pack :-)
Quarterfinals vs Jason ???
I expect Jason will be blue, white and at least one more color. It turns out
he was u/w/g I believe. Jason really had very little chance this match,
unless I was mana screwed my deck was a beating against anything u/w based.
Game one goes pretty much according to plan. Jason holds me off for a bit
and gets some damage in, but I kill him with a 4/4 Marauding Knight, and
still have more removal in my hand when the game ends.
Game two isn't as close. Marauding Knight is 5/5 this time and Plague
Spitter is along for the ride. Jason does make a cool play when he Armadillo
Cloaks my Plague Spitter, giving him a life-gaining machine that almost
saves him for a turn. Instead I cast one of my Pouncing Kavu's and swing
for 12. I call Jason Ness, the head judge, over before my attack because I
suspect my opponent won't like the fact that he dies from Plague Spitter's
combat damage while his Cloak's life gain is still on the stack.
After this match, I discover that Geoff has beat Shaye! Remember that one
Obsidian Acolyte that escaped us? Shaye certainly will. The rest of the top
8 lets out a collective sigh of relief. There's hope for the rest of us! This also demonstrates why you want to work with the players beside you as much
as possible. They still have to win two rounds before you have to face them,
so either you meet in the finals, or they lose and suddenly you have the
best deck left in the draft.
Quarterfinals vs Arlin ???
Arlin is also U/W/g with the only green I remember being Armadillo Cloak.
Game one is a battle. I get out an early Plague Spitter that does some
early damage before trading with a Benalish Herald. After plague spitter
dies I play my Apprentice and begin 'draining' Arlin at the end of the turn.
I use removal on some of his blockers, including a kickered Benalish Lancer.
He does have a Glimmering Angel, but keeps blue open. It's on D anyway, so
no worries, right? Wrong. Armadillo Cloak on the one guy I can't kill and
the race swings in Arlin's favor.
I keep swinging back and frustratingly draw my Plague Spores that I can't
use on the Angel because he has one blue open. I try to use Slimy Kavu to
turn it into a swamp but he adds a blue and gives his angel protection. If
Plague Spores had been Agonizing Demise I could have taken the angel out in
response, instead I use my Spores on his last blocker to continue my attack.
With me down to 3 and dying to the Angel next turn, I have a number of cards
that can save me. Arlin's at 9 and I have seven points of damage on the
board. I can draw either of two remaining Pouncing Kavu, Soul Burn, Tribal
Flames or Scorching Lava to win. I draw Zap. I mainphase Zap Arlin and
Wow, if game one was a battle then game two is the war. And I'm fighting on
two fronts, me vs Arlin and me vs my deck. I play first and keep a two mana
hand. Three turns later I have eight cards in hand and can discard, or waste
one of my two mana removal spells. I decide to tribal flames Arlin's tapper,
which I can deal with in other ways later, but I don't want to dump anything
else in my hand very badly. Next turn same thing. This time I use my
Lightning Dart earlier than I would like, on Arlin's Griffin. Next turn I
finally get a third land and drop a Plague Spitter. Arlin attacks me with
his Benalish Heralds, rather than draw a card, which seems a little strange,
and I begin swinging back with Plague Spitter.
We continue to race and I continue to not draw land. Shaye, who was now
watching our match, said I drew 12 cards between my fourth and fifth land. I
cast two zaps to great effect, combined with Plague Spitter, but still no
fifth land. At this point my hand is Duskwalker, 2 Pouncing Kavu, Shivan
Emissary, Plague Spores, Soul Burn, and a Maniacal Rage I can't afford to
play. I have to cast three of my kicker guys without kicker, just to stay
I thought I had Arlin when, with both of us at six, I finally killed his Blue
Apprentice with Soul Burn, taking me to seven and getting my 5/5 Marauding
Knight back in the game. Combined with my red apprentice I can finish him
next turn. Or not. Arlin has Samite Ministration, and goes up to 11 instead.
He's also been drawing two cards a turn for quite some time with the
Heralds, and at any moment could bust out that damn cloak. Next turn he
drops Wings of Hope on his kickered Benalish Lancer and I drop to 2.
I still don't have my fifth land. I pound my deck, threatening it with
certain death, unless it coughs up a land. And not one of those 'comes into
play tapped' pieces of crap either. I draw... Swamp! Finally! Still not out
of the woods yet though. I take out the damn Lancers with Shivan Emissary
but his side still has the ground pretty tied up. Next turn I draw another
land, and finally deal with the damn Heralds, also taking out his lone
source of green with Plague Spores. Hopefully this keeps the Cloak from
killing me. I start to get a bit of damage in and get my good creatures into
play, and finally finish Arlin off. I have to carefully play around the Orim
's Touch I remember from game one and haven't seen yet despite the fact
Arlin has under 10 cards left in his library.
Game 3 I again stall at 4 land. Again I have decent five casting spells and
Plague Spores in my hand. I continue to pound and threaten my deck, but
instead of giving me land it gives me spells I can cast. At least that's
something. I have to waste my Soul Burn again, doing one damage. Couldn't I
just get some damage in early and burn someone out with this thing? I again
have a 5/5 Knight, and keep drawing creatures I can cast, and removal, so
the fact I never get to 5 mana doesn't matter, as Arlin just can't deal with
the knight when his tappers keep getting smoked.
Geoff is still living the impossible dream, beating Mike Handfield, his
self-confessed limited daddy. Earlier in the draft Geoff was so confident in
his deck he asked, "What's the 5th though 8th prize?" and now he was in the
finals. One win from the PT and glory.
As Geoff sits down I use the skills I've learned playing Fact or Fiction to
divide the prize into the boxes of cards, and the $250US in one pile and the
Blue Envelope and the win in the other pile. I want the Blue Envelope. Geoff
declines, but I press on. I tell him, "You have so much. You have a beautiful
wife and a son, I have so little. Let me have this one small thing." :-).
Geoff says he wants to play, he wants to go to LA. I let up on the banter as
we get ready for game one :-(.
Geoff parises and then parises again. He keeps his five card hand, but doesn't do much for the first few turns. My hand is mostly removal, so I don't do
much either, but I keep putting land into play, Geoff does not. I get to
five and the kickered Pouncing Kavu's start coming over. I annihilate every
creature Geoff plays, with my choice of the many removal spells in my hand.
It's over before one of Geoff's creatures gets over summoning sickness. The
creatures I cast this game don't even come into play with summoning
We begin to shuffle up for game 2 and I let Geoff know my offer is still on
the table. He walks away with all the money and all the packs, I get my 4th
Blue Envelope in a little over a year. Geoff thinks about it seriously now.
I press a little more, telling him I think my deck is really good, but I don't want to be a jerk, badgering Geoff into a decision he'll regret
later. We are friends after all, and I know he would love to go to a PT, and
get to see all his IRC friends. Finally, after about ten minutes of
shuffling, Geoff extends his hand! I'm going to LA!! Geoff says he wants to
play it out for fun, just to see what would have happened. Geoff is light on
land again, and even though I also stall for a turn or two, this is a savage
beating. Not as bad as the first one, but the only damage I take is from my
own Plague Spitter.
Geoff seems a little down, and I don't blame him. He drives me to a bank
machine, and I get him his cash. I fill in the Wotc forms and then it’s a
three hour drive back home to Calgary. That drive is sure a lot easier when
you win, than when you don't :-)
Props and Slops
Just one prop, and that's for Jason Ness, our new Level 3 Judge. Jason got
his Level 3 in NY, and is now the second Level 3 in all of Canada. He's an
excellent judge, very fair and very knowledgeable. We're very lucky to have
someone willing to make the sacrifices necessary to be a judge.
Actually, make that two props. The other is to WotC for finally starting to
compensate judges fairly. The foil cards they're given are readily
convertible to cash, should they wish, plus meal allowances and paying for
their hotel rooms etc. was a long overdue step in the right direction.
If anyone made it this far, thanks for reading, see you in Chicago and/or
Phoenix Comics NW Ltd.
Q'd for back to back PTs :-)
BAroken card pool dude.
anyway, I think your colour choice was reasonable, but at first glance I think W/G/U with a potential couple of swamps for djinn and dragon would be equally viable.
I'm not sure about your choices for the sealed deck. You certainly could have played a very strong 4cg or 5cg with the Harrows, the Trailblazer and two Attendents. You also had some good cretures with only one color in the casting cost. You passed on some very good spells and creatures in Red and Green that might have been played. Then again, you won so what do I know. :)