January 13, 2017

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Going for the Gold: How I Punted the SSS Finals – 11th Place

Wait? You punted? What happened?

Well before we get to it, let me tell you all about my weekend. For some reason, a few weeks ago when my flight was being booked they had put me on an 8 am flight leaving Toronto to Seattle while connecting in Vancouver. For those of you that have ever travelled through Pearson airport, you’d know it was a complete nightmare at this time. I barely got to the gate in time for my flight and quickly fell asleep.

A couple hours later, I opened my eyes and was surprised to see that everyone was already deboarding the plane. We had arrived! However, it wasn’t as good as I thought as we had apparently stayed in Toronto the entire time. There were problems with the plane and they had tried to de-ice it on the runway for three hours before giving up. Now they wanted all of the passengers to take the late evening flight to Vancouver which meant that I would miss my connection to Seattle. Realizing that this probably screwed me for the tournament, I went to the customer service desk and found out that I’d have to spend the night in Vancouver before my flight would land in Seattle around 1 pm, roughly 4 hours after the first draft of the event.

This was a no-go for me, so I demanded that my flights be rebooked and I went through Chicago to finally end up in Seattle after 15 hours of travelling (Seattle is 3 hours behind us). I met up with fellow competitor and Wizard’s Tower teammate Edgar Magalhaes and we worked out at the gym (Chest Day for those who care) before getting some goodnight sleep to get us ready for the intense competition on Saturday.

Preparing for this event, I had done a scan of all of the players who were qualified and quickly identified the people who I would prefer not to sit next to at the draft table since there were a lot of unknowns who were playing in the event. Of course, I end up on the feature match table passing to Sam Black and 2 seats to my right is the current SCG Invitational Champion, Jacob Baugh.

black_draft

I started off by taking an Aerial Responder first pick over Depala, Pilot Exemplar (assumed Sam would take this correctly), and a Snare Thopter over Fairgrounds Warden. I had to pass a Padeem, Consul of Innovation early when I wasn’t in blue but picked up another copy later in the draft. The packs I opened were very subpar and I was forced to first pick a Narnam Cobra out of pack three (when I didn’t even have any green sources at the time) and ended up in a medium UWr deck that was splashing for two Whirler Virtuoso.

draft

My first round opponent basically played with his hand face-up and it was always clear what tricks he was representing. Unfortunately, he was a very slow player and since this was a more casual event I did not call a judge for slowplay, which ended up costing me as he won a quick game 2 after a marathon initial game and we ended up going to time in game 3. My next round, I got paired up against a ridiculous UG energy deck and got thoroughly stomped game 1 by a bunch of 1 2 and 3 drops, so I boarded in two more 0/4s and my opponent only drew Bristling Hydras, yes multiple of them and then had an Aethersquall Ancient to put the final nail in the coffin. So there I was, playing an event where I expected to start 3-0, but with a terrible record of 0-1-1. To say that this tournament was not going my way would be an understatement.

At is at this time that they decided that they would pause the tournament to have lunch so that all the competitors could have a break and we all sat down to a great Mexican style feast full of tacos. During lunch, I caught up with Brian David Marshall (BDM) who asked me if I was finally going to make it this year, since the coverage team continues to hype me up and have been waiting for me to break through with a stellar finish. After lunch, I would get paired against one of the nicest guys in the tournament in Soh Weng Heng. Somehow we were playing a UW mirror (he had Padeem and Smuggler’s Copter as his highlights) In game one, he played a Glint-Nest Crane which I Revolutionary Rebuff‘ed, and after that he played a Smuggler’s Copter and a Sky Skiff as I beat him down fast. We had a very long game two with both of our Padeems out but I was able to take down it, barely . Okay so I walked away from the draft with a 1-1-1 record, just have to win four more to get into the top 8.

For the Modern portion of the deck I stuck with the U/R Kiln Fiend deck that I was championing for the last couple months. Ever since I saw it take down multiple RPTQ slots and do very well at the WMC, it has been the deck that I was most excited about. It had a lot of raw power, had the ability to close the game very fast and had access to some of the most powerful sideboard cards in the format. I would give you some insight to the deck, but the recent banning of Gitaxian Probe (may he rest in peace) makes this deck significantly worse moving forward. Here is what I ran in the Super Sunday Series Finals:

U/R Kiln Fiend – Modern

Maindeck: (60)
Bedlam Reveler
Kiln Fiend
Monastery Swiftspear
Thing in the Ice
Serum Visions
Gitaxian Probe
Sleight of Hand
Apostle’s Blessing
Lightning Bolt
Manamorphose
Mutagenic Growth
Temur Battle Rage
Twisted Image
Vapor Snag
Scalding Tarn
Misty Rainforest
Spirebluff Canal
Island
Mountain
Steam Vents
Stomping Ground
Sideboard: (15)
Ancient Grudge
Bedlam Reveler
Blood Moon
Dismember
Grafdigger’s Cage
Spell Pierce
Stubborn Denial
Young Pyromancer

In the first round of Modern, I played against Bant Eldrazi. The games were pretty academic, she rolled me game one when I kept a threat light hand, I won game two and three after landing quick Blood Moons. The second round of Modern, I drew what looked like a turn 2/3 kill hand and my opponent on Death’s Shadow Zoo (we had shared information prior to the round) was debating taking a mulligan to five on the draw. I didn’t think anything could go wrong, but at that moment just like most of the weekend, a judge appeared and switched our pairings so that I was facing the player who I was sitting adjacent to. Awkward!

So obviously I drew again and took a mulligan and got crushed by a very fast Affinity draw. I had a shot to win when I flipped Thing in the Ice, but I had to use both of my Temur Battle Rages since my cantrips gave me nothing but land. He replayed his board and at 2 life I was on a 2-outer to win the game, with various redraws. I drew a Mutagenic Growth and conceded. In game two, I drew both of my Ancient Grudges, a Lightning Bolt and a Thing in the Ice kept him nowhere near able to win the game. My opponent had to start with fewer cards in hand because of a side boarding error on his part and I was able to squeak a game by forcing him to chump-block a Thing in the Ice every turn. You know you are winning when you are at 7 life and your opponent has to Galvanic Blast your Bedlam Reveler. This put me at 2-0 in Modern and 3-1-1 in the entire tournament, just two more to go.

Round 6 pairings go up and I am paired against the player who I lost to in draft, ironically my only loss at this point. We are summoned to the feature match where Huey and Marshall are talking the entire time, which was a little distracting. This match doesn’t really involve interactive games since he is on Bant Eldrazi and he kept some really bad hands which leads to me blowing him out really fast. This is why Gitaxian Probe was so broken in Modern, it always let me know when I could just go for it. Let’s take a moment of silence to honour our fallen friend. Anyways, I had to call a judge since my friend, Jesse Moulton, gave me Korean Temur Battle Rages and I wanted to ensure that the double strike did not require monstrous. Just one more to go!

I looked at the standings when the pairings go up and I am in 6th place. However, due to my 4-1-1 record I will have to play a win-and-in to make the top 8. I’m paired against a Lantern Control player and won the dice roll. Things were looking up! We get to a situation where my opponent is at 9 life (I had fuelled out a fast Temur Battle Rage to put him within range for the next turn) and has just played a top-decked Ensnaring Bridge to go with his various milling rocks and a relevant Inventors’ Fair for next turn. My board is a Kiln Fiend and a Monastery Swiftspear. I have 3 lands on the field, along with a Lightning Bolt, a Twisted Image and another land in hand. From an earlier Gitaxian Probe, I know that the last 2 cards in my opponent’s hand were Thoughtseize and Ancient Stirring. I almost fell over when my opponent used his last mana source (Blooming Marsh) to cast Thoughtseize targeting me to take my Lightning Bolt. I couldn’t believe it, my opponent top-decked one of his four outs and I still was going to win this game.

I got so excited that I untapped, drew a land and immediately cast Twisted Image on my Monastery Swiftspear and announced all my triggers. I drew a land, no matter, I went to attack and was immediately informed that my creatures were too big to attack past the Ensnaring Bridge. I couldn’t believe it, I got so excited that I threw away that game. A lot of players who were watching on the rails couldn’t believe the egregious mistake that I made. Personally, even as I write this, I am still not over this mistake. At the level that I play at, this is completely inexcusable and I haven’t felt this stupid since I tried to Force of Will a Cavern of Souls‘ed out Goblin Ringleader, like 5 years ago.

I ended up winning game two by having a really fast draw and my opponent did not play Spellskite on turn 2 since he incorrectly assumed that Thing in the Ice would bounce it (#winning). However, I lost game three when I kept a hand with 2 Ancient Grudges, Gitaxian Probe, Serum Visions, Sleight of Hand and Monastery Swiftspear. Of course, I didn’t end up getting there. I scryed a Gitaxian Probe to the bottom and drew a bunch of non-land cards until turn 6 when my opponent played a Lantern of Insight and was able to control my draw steps along with his milling rocks. At this point, I congratulated my opponent for making top 8. I didn’t get there, but I didn’t need to. I had game one locked up and I played it really bad and deserved to lose.

This was definitely a humbling experience and throughout the weekend I kept thinking about to those seconds. For some reason, my brain decided to shut off and go on auto pilot for a few seconds, and in that timeframe I threw away my tournament. This is a lesson that everyone can learn from, until you have that match slip in your hand, don’t let your focus wander on what you are about to achieve. You just might not end up achieving it, like I did. Either way I ended up in 11th place and walked out of the event with a cool $500 USD, so at least I walked away with something.

Anyways I hope you enjoyed my recap of the Super Sunday Series Finals. Next week, I’ll share some insight on the pre-prerelease that we did and tell you about my experience finally seeing Wizards of the Coast’s Headquarters. Have a great week!

All the best,

Sammy T