My Regionals report…Kind of
My name is Jeremey Lochridge, and sometimes I fail…really hard.
This was going to be a tournament report about the Regionals in Seattle this past weekend I was fully prepared to dominate. Unfortunately, things didn’t go quite my way, and I have nobody to blame but myself. I did what I so frequently do and, like so many other tournaments before this one, played a deck I shouldn’t have. My notoriety for doing this has become sadly comical to me in a way.
In the weeks leading up to the event I had my mind, heart, and soul set on Caw-blade. I had played a lot of other decks in the format and I just didn’t like the majority of them. Basically, I just always wished I had playing with Caw-Blade when I was playing with the other decks. I had a Venser control deck, much like the one Carlos Ramao and David Sharffman had been playing, in the works but it just had a pretty bad Caw-blade matchup, despite what anyone else says or how it looks on paper.
With one week to go we picked up our testing to an everyday thing. I was over at my friend’s with our playgroup getting games, ideas, and subway sandwiches in like they were going out of style. At the beginning of the week the entirety of our four-man car was set of Caw-blade. The other guys were on the Dark-blade train but soon enough, with some convincing from me were, one by one, switching to U/W Caw. We talked about the mana, how Inkmoth Nexus is basically just Mutavault, sideboard slots, how they liked one main deck deprive and how I hated it, and various other card slots. Amidst having my priorities straight, with visions of squawking out ca-cawww-ca-cawww whenever I cast the flying recall, something strange happened. Early in the week somebody handed me RUG and I began playing games. And by playing games I mean crushing their Caw decks, over and over and over and…you get the point. I really liked how the deck was performing and even said I could see myself playing it. I was playing it well, it felt comfortable, it felt good, and I didn’t feel like there were too many decks I would hate to play against.
But deep down I knew what I wanted to play. So I formulated a plan for the Caw-Blade deck to combat RUG. Killing Cobra is a must. I liked Sword of Body and Mind against RUG but i wasn’t sure if I wanted to play it or not.You can give a creature of yours protection from their deck by equipping but that didn’t seem too important to me. The card I was basically always afraid my Caw-blade opponent would have while I was playing RUG was Baneslayer Angel. The only ‘removal’ I have for it is bouncing it with Jace, or double titan/double bolt/titan and bolt. But if you get a sword on a Baneslayer it’s basically impossible to kill. When I gave the argument it races an inferno Titan, I got some odd looks, but I was being serious. Yes the red titan can deal more damage quicker and beat you despite having Baneslayer. But the thing about Caw-blade is it has ways to make sure a titan isn’t hitting them. If you have a Tumble Magnet, an Oust, a Condemn, a Jace, or a Gideon, your Baneslayer can race, and fast. Not to mention if your Baneslayer has a sword on it you can just hold it back not even attack and make it so the Inferno Titan is useless. I even wanted Baneslayer in a bunch of other matchups as well so they were basically locked in the sideboard, because they are pretty bad in the Caw- mirror.
I played a bunch of games with Boros and it seemed to have a okay Caw matchup with the right draw, especially game one, but I’ve always tended to veer far out of the way of white weenie decks, mono red deck, elf decks, etc, so that was never even an option I would consider. Whenever I play with some random aggro deck I almost always wish I was playing control. There are certain exceptions, last year with Jund, and back in 2006 with that B/W agro deck. But I only played those because they weren’t narrow, were resilient, and were both pretty powerful and consistent. If I’m not playing control those are the things I look for when I’m going to be beating down.
It was Thursday night and we were all getting our final* lists together for Saturday. We got a bunch of games in, read some articles, and I did some last minute brewing. The thing about me is I’m an inherent deck brewer. Actually, more like compulsive deck brewer. I just can’t stop writing down deck lists. When I have an idea for a deck I will spend insurmountable amounts of time trying to make it work. They almost never do, though there have been a few exceptions. After seeing two of my friends play against people playing, coincidentally, decks I had brewed just a few days before during round one of the tournament I giggled a little inside. Seeing their swords’ feast on the famine of bad decks made me happy I didn’t play those decks. However, it also made me sad…
Back to Thursday night…
Earlier in the night I had played in a weekly Thursday night standard event at a store I frequent called ‘Uncle’s Games and Comics’ and went 4-0 in matches. I played the Dark-blade deck to see just how much I liked seeing my opponents hand compared to running on the guesstometer 3000. I played against Esper Tempered Steel with Tezzeret, mono green Eldrazi ramp, U/B infect, and Valakut. I was happy to play against a bunch of decks I hadn’t done much testing against, as they were all decks I could expect to see at Regionals. (IDC if it’s not called Regionals anymore, that’s what I refer to it as because that’s what it is) I loved having inquisition, probably a little too much…
I rode over to the play test group designated house with my good buddy Robbie. After taking a wrong turn or two, or lack thereof a turn, we got lost for what must have been the 20895725 time that week. Robbie’s a fine driver so I blame myself for this. It’s easy to get distracted by me when I start talking about Magic because I NEVER STOP TALKING.
So we finally reached our destination, (which was definitely NOT in Idaho where we had ended up first;)) and I finally put my own Caw deck together since the entire week I was either playing with the other guys’ decks* or with the gauntlet of decks to beat. I still knew I wanted to play the U/W version of the deck, despite loving inquisition. We played some games well into the late hours of the night and eventually everybody had left to go home for the night, with the exception of myself as I was staying there for the night. At one point it was 4 in the morning and Brian and I decided to play some games of the mirror…by six I was going to bed frustrated, unhappy, beaten, and worst of all, with a head full of terrible ideas. Basically I had lost something like 8,346 games in a row, give or take a few hundred, and was baffled. I wasn’t entirely aware of what was happening at the time. At one point we even switched decks to see if it was the build and I still kept losing. I didn’t think I was playing particularly terrible or anything. Brian kept telling me how sick his draws were and I kept moping after I missed tons of land drops, didn’t draw Jace, or Hawk and just got rolled. At one point I said ‘okay were not going to bed until I win. Two games later and I called it quits, feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders as I began to second guess my deck choice, and myself.
By morning I wasn’t sure what to do. The only testing I had done with the U/W version was during that week so I thought maybe the black version would be better to play because I had a lot more experience with it during tournaments, but I really didn’t want to lose to U/W Caw-blade. I logged on Brian’s computer and hit up Channelfireball. I saw the Conley woods article and clicked on it.
Half an hour later I was running around the man cave* looking for cards for his Blue Black ‘deck’ he played at Dallas. It looked really sweet on paper. It had hand disruption, Tectonic Edge, Creeping Tar-Pit, and a bunch of other really sweet cards. I had gone into desperation mode and was prepared to sleeve up a Conley special with zero testing. Something had gone terribly wrong.
We had stopped at Zips to eat, which I only agreed on to save time and Magic road trips were pretty much the only time I let myself eat fast food out of courtesy for the other people in the car. I came and sat down amidst muffled laughter and smiles. After a few jabs they finally told me they had made a pact to, as soon as we got to our hotel in Seattle, beat me so badly with caw-blade that I would have no choice but to put the Conley special to rest. Oh boy, did they have another thing coming.;)
Actually, they didn’t. we played three games and it only took me about one and a half to realize how bad the matchup was. If they resolve a hawk, I lose, if they equip a sword, I lose. If they cast any spell in their deck, I lose. When I finally made my way to bed I was going over the decks ‘nut draw’ which consisted of turn one IoK, turn two IoK+preordain, turn three IoK+ mana leak back up, turn four Jace, Turn five Persecutor/Bloodhusk. I laughed as I said it and laughed even harder when Brian pointed out that that ‘wasn’t even that good’.
So I sleeved up RUG and played a few games against Robbie, as Housley was drugged and passed out via weak-sauce sleeping pills. I was fairly happy with the deck. I mean, it’s one of the best decks in the format, I could play well with it, and there weren’t too many decks I would hate to play against and I had game against those decks after board, anyway. What could go wrong, right?…right!?**
After a long night of little collective sleep do to Robbie’s snoring (Love you RobbieJ ) and me finally passing out on the floor for comfort(I’m odd, I know) we awoke to a too-early alarm and were got ready to battle.
I started out beating a mono red control deck built and played by Stephen Girdner, the guy who invented the mono white control deck in extended I watched my friend Nathan lose to in the finals of the Seattle PTQ. That was an entertaining top 8 to watch to say the least. Next, I played against a Grixis control deck that I beat in game three on turn three of turns with an avenger. The next two rounds I lost to Paul Tefft-Meeker playing Boros. In game one I got a titan out and promptly lost with him having one creature in play. The problem was it was a Stoneforge Mystic with a Sword of Body and Mind (SOBAM!) on it that had milled five creatures into my graveyard the turn before. He then, mid combat, placed a Bonehoard into play that created a 6/6 that killed my titan. I had no outs to it because the SOBAM on the Stoneforge+Bonehoard was going to get me the next turn anyway. Game two I had to mull and had a pretty decent hand. He just had removal for my Cobra and I got mana screwed. Oh well. It happens. Then I lost to Ryan Bemrose, a pretty good player from Portland playing this Bant colored midrange deck. I didn’t see any Fauna Shamans or Vengevines, which surprised me. I don’t remember games one or two very well, but I know I lost game one then won game two. Game three I had triple Titan in my hand and had just got my Cobra killed by mortarpod when he cast a Baneslayer Angel. I had tumble Magnet and was planning on staving off the assault then do the double titan beat down to end the Angels day. Unfortunatley, he had a Celestial Colonnade and a Garruk to make tokens with and get in there and a topdeck Jace to slow down my titan plan for a turn so I was dead. I dropped and later found out Ryan made top 8. Hopefully I see him at nationals since I plan on going whether I qualify in the upcoming weekends or not.
I can’t say I was surprised. Truthfully, and quite sadly, I wasn’t even that disappointed. I don’t know what it was exactly that made me lose it, but I just didn’t have the fire. The same fire people have commented on in the past, the looks in my eyes, ‘the stare’ the lack of ability to talk and have an actual conversation while at a tournament. I just wasn’t feeling it. But this is for another article.
I had put the U/W Caw deck together and signed up for a standard win-a-box as a saving grace to my weekend. Before It started though, my other friends were out as well and we decided to save time and leave for home after a disappointing weekend.
Before we left I began talking with Jesse Hampton, a player I often find myself randomly chatting with during my trips to Seattle, who had just got ninth at Grand Prix Dallas on tiebreaks. I asked him why he drew himself out of top eight and about his deck list. After telling me he was just stupid with the final round draw he told me stories of Dallas. We talked about how ridiculous Caw-blade was and he told me the details of his deck list. After sharing nearly similar thoughts on card choices in the deck and ways to play matchups down to specific cards and sequence of plays, I had really regretted not playing Caw-blade since we came to nearly all of the same conclusions about the deck. My favorite moment in the conversation was when he mentioned he played Conley Woods on day one and we both started laughing at how his deck could just never beat Caw-blade. The best was when he explained in one game Conley taps six mana and Jesse bemoans in his head about the Grave Titan that was about to ruin his day, when Conley says ‘Bloodhusk’ and more laughing commences. More jokes were made about the ‘nut draw’ and all was hilarity in Magical Christmas-land.
Not to bash on Conley or anything, he makes some interesting decks and is a pretty good player, but this deck is not the deck to be playing right now because Caw-blade is everywhere and, aside from them getting severely mana screwed, you probably aren’t going to beat them. That being said, love me some Conley Woods! : D
Looking back on the tournament now, It’s hard to say RUG was a bad choice regardless of what my record with it was. But I will say it. Rug was a bad choice, for me. I mean, it does have a good Caw-blade matchup and is a very powerful deck. It’s just not ‘The Deck’, and I should have just played ‘The Deck’. I’m not saying everybody should play Caw-blade because if you don’t have enough practice with it I don’t think you should play it at a tournament that matters. It’s very easy to make mistakes with the deck and they are way too many mistakes that can make you lose way too many games. Not to mention if you don’t understand how to play the mirror, you will just lose.
I think the biggest mistake I made en route to making the deck choice mistake was letting the results from the Thursday night/morning ‘roots’ style whoopin’ get in my head. From one perspective, the one I choose to view from, I was losing the mirror match and it must have meant I was not playing the deck well enough to win a tournament with. From the other perspective, and the one I should have viewed from, I was getting uncharacteristically mana screwed or flooded way too much, Brian was running like Forrest Gump, and it was 4-6 in the morning and I wasn’t used to staying up that late. I also think there is a little bit of an adjustment period needed for most players when switching from U/W to dark-blade, or the other way around, because the decks are different.
If anything I should have played dark-blade. It’s not like it’s a bad deck, and it’s still preferred for people such as Gerry Thompson. I mean, I think I still should have played U/W, but dark-blade would have been a fine substitute I could feel comfortable with. The only reason I didn’t was because I had already made the decision I didn’t want to play with the black version in the Caw-mirror.
So I could walk around blaming any number of various occurrences for why I didn’t win Regionals this year. But I’ll just blame myself because that’s really the only person there is to blame. I learned my lesson. I’ll remember this tournament as a mistake I, hopefully, won’t repeat. Time to win some store-qualifiers! And yes, I will be playing Caw-blade.
Before I go I’ll leave you with the list I’m at right now, though I’m sure I’ll make a few changes before this weekend.
2xSword of Feast and Famine
4xJace, The Mind Sculptor
1xDay of Judgment
Innovative, I know.
4th Gideon Jura in the Sideboard, more Firewalkers, 4th Flashfreeze, cutting Lifestaff, more DoJ, main deck Baby Jace, more Inkmoth Nexus, (nexi?) and less Spell Pierce.
Hopefully you all make a deck choice you can feel good about for the next couple weekends in-store National Qualifiers. If you’ve already qualified congrats and I’ll see you again soonJ
Final*- Nobody ever gets his or her final list together until the day of or the night before the tournament, we all know this: P
Decks*-say it bit differently and you can imagine how much laughter I provided during the play test hours.
Man-cave*- Cold garage full of Magic cardsJ that’s what I call a man-cave!