Nationals and Me
So during the month leading up to nationals my life sort of fell apart, so this meant that Magic: The Gathering took a backseat while I tried to fix as many things as possible. This took longer than expected so unfortunately I wasn’t able to put any time into actually preparing for nationals, so I picked a deck I’d never played and got ready to draft a set I had only drafted once before. Safe to say my expectations heading into the event were pretty damn low. I headed down with my friends Ryan and Jack. It was a decent drive and we got in at 10:30pm on the Friday. We immediately fired up Magic Online and started drafting. Ryan was trying his best to teach me about the format, while also teaching me how to sideboard for standard as we were playing the same deck. Long story short I went 2-2 in standard (I played four colour Energy), my games were close and with further testing I do believe I should have finished 3-1. Drafting is where my day really fell apart. I consider myself a capable drafter that follows signals pretty well, but this draft I could not read anything and drafted a very mediocre Blue Green cycling deck. I had some close games but managed to lose them all somehow and go 0-3 and take my record to 2-5. While everyone was qualified for day two, I decided to drop and play in the PPTQ that would be happening. I also decided to play a very interesting deck that Ryan brought along with him.
The basic idea of the deck is to get down a Hardened Scales or a Winding Constrictor then start playing creatures with counters that will get out of hand. Walking Ballista is the main kill condition in the deck; it can quickly get out of hand. Arcbound Ravager is also an important piece of the puzzle; with so many artifacts in the deck you can make the ravager gigantic and then put the counters onto a ballista to finish them off. There is also plenty of disruption in the form of Thoughtseize, Dromoka’s Command and Fatal Push. These all help you stay in the game long enough to deploy your threats. The deck is also able to use Ancient Stirrings to dig deep into the deck to find artifact creatures or important lands like Gavony Township. I was pretty excited to be playing something different to the typical burn deck I usually play in modern so I went into the tournament with the goal to just enjoy myself and ignore my results. The PPTQ turned out to be one of the biggest in Australian history with a whooping 127 people registering to play. This meant there would be seven rounds of action and it also meant that it was basically impossible for someone to top 8 if they picked up two or more losses.
Round 1- Abzan Midrange
Game 1: I keep an ok hand with three lands and four spells, but I draw six lands in a row and my opponent plays some stuff and kills me with it. Barely any magic was played here.
Game 2: Almost exact same thing as in the first game. I keep three lands and only draw lands for the rest of the game. My opponent has a Stony Silence that slows me down and then they are able to use Dark Confidant to find enough answers and threats to finish me off.
Round 2- Abzan Company
Game 1: I land an early Hardened Scales and then follow it up with a Scavenging Ooze to attack his graveyard and a Walking Ballista to pick off his creatures and keep him on the back foot. I manage to play another Hardened Scales and an Arcbound Ravager which makes my Walking Ballista big enough to shoot my opponent to death.
Game 2: My opponent keeps a sketchy hand and I keep one light on mana, but thanks to Path to Exile I’m able to hit my land drops and play a Winding Constrictor AND two Hardened Scales which turn all my guys into gigantic threats. I am able to sacrifice my 9/9 Hangarback Walker to my Arcbound Ravager then swing for lethal for my army of thopters.
Round 3- Eldrazi Tron
Game 1: I curve Hardened Scales into Winding Constrictor into a huge Walking Ballista. My opponent plays a turn four Karn Liberated on the play but doesn’t exile my Walking Ballista. I am then able to use Dromoka’s Command to grow my ballista and clear his board of blockers and swing in and kill Karn Liberated. My opponent doesn’t have an answer and scoops em up.
Game 2: I have to mulligan down to five, but I play a turn one scales which gets under his turn two Thought-Knot Seer (so glad that’s legal in the format….). I then proceed to draw two more scales and then start finding ballistas and Hangarback Walkers which buy me a lot of time. Unfortunately I miss a potential line of play and scoop when I shouldn’t. It just shows that I don’t have too much experience with the deck.
Game 3: Once again I have to mulligan and I keep an ok looking hand with a scales in it. I get stuck on two mana but I’m able to put some decent pressure on the board. My opponent finds a Wurmcoil Engine to gain some life but I top deck an Arcbound Ravager which lets me sacrifice my board and make my Walking Ballista GIGANTIC and well over lethal.
Round 4- RG Ponza (land destruction)
Game 1: I keep a kind of sketchy hand with a bunch of pay offs and no scales or snakes. I play a few Hangarback Walkers and then a Nissa, Voice of Zendikar to put a bunch of counters on my dudes. My opponent destroys a few of my lands but doesn’t have an answer for my creatures and scoops up his lands.
Game 2: My opponent manages to play a Courser of Kruphix on turn two and three but I’m able to play a Scavenging Ooze and quickly grow it to be a 4/4. We have a board stall for a while and I am able to see everything my opponent draws and plan out my turns perfectly around his mass removal spells. Eventually he finds a Blood Moon which slows me down a few turns but eventually I am able to sneak in some damage and then finish him off with a Walking Ballista.
Round 5- RUG Scapeshift
Game 1: I have a bit of a slow start and I’m not 100% sure what deck he is playing. My opponent casts Remand on my first few spells and by the time I am able to start building up a board of creatures my opponent casts a Scapeshift (that’s when I realized how dead I was) and hits me for thirty six damage.
Game 2: Once again I’ve got a bit of a slow start and my opponent has Lightning Bolt and Nature’s Claim to really slow me down further. I am able to use Dromoka’s Command to take care of his Prismatic Omen but it only delays the inevitable and I eventually die to a Scapeshift that fetches out Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and six Mountains.
Well I picked up my second loss which meant I had no chance of making it to the top 8. It also meant I could not earn any prizes because for some reason in a HUNDRED AND TWENTY SEVEN person PPTQ; they only gave out rewards to the top 8 and even then they were very mediocre at best. This is probably the only downside I can think of for this entire weekend. The lack of increase to the prize support was a travesty and hopefully next time the same mistakes won’t be made again.
Top 8 of the PPTQ
Bye Bye Canberra….. for now
While I didn’t quite get the tournament results that people (including myself) expect of me, I did have an incredibly fun few days. I got to see my good friend Ryan Davey make top 8 of nationals and then a few minutes later I saw my best friend Jack Stewart make top 8 of the PPTQ (when he fully expected to 0-2 drop). I also got to enjoy spending some great times with my friends and it reminded me that magic isn’t just about trying to win, it’s about having fun and experiencing new things with those close to you. This really did give me fire to want to continue playing magic and to really push myself and take my game to the next level. I don’t want to be on the sidelines cheering my friends on, I want to be there battling with them. I can’t wait for next years nationals!