Sunday, July 31, 2016

MTG: Sealed Event at Game On

Yesterday I made the drive across the state to Game On in Midland to play in an Eldritch Moon sealed deck event.
The store location. I bet that Subway and Little Caesars get a ton of gamer business.
Game On is a well-organized little store in a strip mall in Midland. They have the usual wide variety of gaming items, from lots of card games to board games to video games. There's also a rack of disc golf stuff, and a wall full of movies. Right next to the store is a gaming area, in a second section of the strip mall, with room for around 60 people to sit at gaming tables. Our event had 38 people, and there was still plenty of room for a few other small groups of folks playing other games.

This event was a PPTQ, similar to the event a few weeks ago at Realms Games. The only real difference was the card sets. Now that Eldritch Moon is out, the card pool was four packs of that set and two of Shadows over Innistrad (rather than the 6 Shadows packs of the prior event). We still had to go through all the deck registration and other bookkeeping of a Pro Tour event, which was particularly annoying since one guy took forever registering his deck pool. But eventually the event got underway.

My card pool was pretty good, though not great. Three of my rares were wolves: Ulrich of the Kallenhorde, Spirit of the Hunt, and Silverfur Partisan. I had a reasonable number of green and red creatures, and four red damage spells that served as removal. Unfortunately I didn't have any of the good green removal spells, and enough of my creatures were non-wolves that I couldn't really play any wolf-specific boosts. My white cards were decent, mostly humans, with three removal spells. The other three rares were all black, but the rest of my black cards were pretty bad so they weren't really usable. In the end, I decided on red-green, with mostly wolves and some red removal, over white-green humans with a splash of red for Ulrich. The decision came down to two things: I had one more removal spell with red instead of white, and since I had no mana-fixing to speak of it seemed prudent to stay in two colors.

Round One: My opponent was a teenager playing in his first event other than pre-releases, using a red-white-blue deck with a lot of small creatures and spells. Very nice guy, seemed to be learning his way around the game quite well. He won the first game easily with a horde of quick attacks and pump spells, but in the second game I drew some removal and was able to keep his creatures off the board. The third game went my way because he didn't get any blue mana and had blue cards in hand - the dangers of playing three colors.

Round Two: When I sat down to this match, my opponent said something along the lines of "good to meet the only one here with a lower DCI number." I hadn't noticed before he said that, but it seems we were the only two with 6-digit DCI numbers (the new ones are all much longer) and mine was just slightly lower than his. These things happen when you've been playing (on and off) since the 1990s! I won two games fairly easily because his deck just never got rolling, with some poor draws.

Round Three: I hadn't seen Ulrich at all up until this point, but he came up big in this round. The opposing deck was white/black with some really good cards, including both Thalia, Heretic Cathar and Liliana, the Last Hope. I drew Ulrich in all three games and he did yeoman (yeowolf?) work in all three, beating up opposing creatures and pumping up my guys. I lost the middle game when I was unable to stop Liliana before her emblem came out and I was buried in zombies, but won the other two.
The play area. Yes, that's a baby in the foreground. She slept most of the time, while both parents were playing in the event.
Round Four: My opponent in this round was the guy who sat across from me during card pool registration, meaning that we both knew what the other had to work with. Knowing what was coming didn't help me much, as he just rolled over me with a white-green humans deck. He'd gotten all the human synergy cards and green removal spells that my pool was missing, and my deck never turned up any answers. Lost both games in short order.

Round Five: This was a bit of a strange round as my opponent played red-green in the first game, then swapped out half his deck and played black-green in the second. I suppose the idea is that he believed his black was stronger against my deck, but it didn't really work out that way. I won both games without too much trouble, largely due to getting good draws. In these events, simply having enough land and a good mix of creatures and spells can often lead to victories, and that was the case here.

There was a sixth round, but I didn't actually play it since both my opponent and I were guaranteed to get into the top eight with a draw. This being a Pro Tour-style event, the top eight players then did a booster draft and played a single-elimination playoff.
By the time it was all over, night had fallen and everyone else had gone home.
The draft went fairly well, although I must admit I'm not very good at judging my draft decks. I almost always feel like I've picked a pretty solid group of cards, but other people are doing the same thing! In this one, I went white-black, with a pretty solid group of smaller creatures and a few removal spells, plus several larger creatures that could bring back creatures from my graveyard (a pair of Midnight Scavengers and Bruna, the Fading Light). I also picked up Odric, Lunarch Marshal which paired up nicely with the lifelink, skulk, and flying abilities that were on quite a few of my creatures. I would have liked more removal, but I didn't see a whole lot, which turned out to be because five of the eight players were picking black cards. I hadn't realized it during the draft since there were so many good creatures coming my way, but it was pretty obvious once we started playing!

I won the first round, against an opponent playing green-black. His deck was pretty defensive, with a lot of high-toughness creatures. That included several spiders, not least of which was Ishkanah, Grafwidow. In the first game, we had a board stall going with a ton of creatures on both sides, until I drew Bruna, played her and retrieved Odric from my graveyard, giving my entire army flying (and lifelink, and skulk, with the other creatures I had) for the win. The second game looked exactly the same with an army on either side unable to do much damage, until Ishkanah made an appearance and whittled down my life total with her life-loss ability. After all that, the third game was a bit of an anti-climax when my opponent kept a two-land hand and didn't draw a third for several turns. That was enough time for me to get an insurmountable lead.

The second round of the draft had easily the closest games that I played all day, which is a fitting way to close out the event. My opponent was playing an aggressive red-black deck, with quick small creatures for early damage, and spell interactions with Thermo-Alchemist and Weaver of Lightning later on. I won the first game largely because I drew Faithbearer Paladin, and used that lifelink ability to gain just enough life to stay ahead of his damage. Eventually I got Odric and was able to get through his defenses. In the second game, his deck came together perfectly, dropping the Thermo-Alchemist and then playing a bunch of instant and sorcery spells to hit me repeatedly. The real killer in that game was 3 (!) Prying Questions, which cost me nine damage and three card draws. In the final game, we went back and forth until he was down around 5 life with no cards in hand. I attacked with flyers to knock him down to 1 life, with a sure lethal attack the next turn, and one blocker to stop his biggest guy so I could survive that long. He had one card draw to find an answer, and he did...a removal spell to kill my blocker, then attacked for exactly enough damage to finish me off. It doesn't get any closer than that!

So, in the end I lost in the semi-finals, putting me at 3rd/4th place. It's always nice to win, of course, but that last match was such a good one that I didn't mind the loss. The top 8 all got cash prizes, too, which was a first for me...usually the events that I play in give out product or store credit. Nice to get back my entry fee, plus enough to pay for another few events in the future! Thanks to Game On and the folks who ran the event, who did a great job - it's a long drive up to Midland, but I'll definitely consider it again at some point for another event.

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