The blog has had a funny turn this week. I started to write a thing about Modern and then was told to expect 2 guest blogs so I kind of stuck it all on the back burner and did nothing. Now, a little later than I expected here is the first guest blog from the one and only Joe Alexander - enjoy I know I did.
No, not the converted mana cost of my last dragons maze draft, but the time the alarm clock went off on 11th May 2013. Last season Ian Richardson and myself made the journey to Cardiff to play in an RTR sealed PTQ. Despite average results a great time was had and we said we would be back.
When word got round of cool trading, a very winnable event and the prospect of a good old road-trip interest in this season's standard event quickly blossomed and by 6am on the morning of the event we had 13 people heading in cars to Wales. Well we would have if there had not been some technology issues, but by 6.30 we had 12 people heading down to Wales.
I can only report the journey to Wales from the perspective of our car, but highlights included discovering Avril Lavigne on Rob’s Ipod, a rendition of Gangnam style including the riding of an invisible horse and the complete incomprehension of the Welsh language by our resident Malaysian MODO machine Quinton “quinbot” Lip.
Although Quinton was unable to comprehend the need to write every place name twice in a language spoken by next to nobody and the amount of L’s and W’s needed he was able to quickly grasp some of the more bestial rumours put forward about the welsh by the English.
Once at the venue we were able to meet up with the rest off the Sheffield team and get our decks in order. For some members of the team this was easy than for others as Ash had intended to buy some key cards for his deck from a vendor, but ironically the Welsh shop was out of dragons so he spent the 30 minutes before the event trading into a playable deck.
Explaining to the Welsh why our motto is "Winter is coming"!
131 players sat down for round one of the event and after the first round things were pretty even across the team, with success and bad beats in equal measure. At this point things began to go wrong. At the end of round 2 the team regrouped around the room and news started to filter that everyone had ended round 2 with a record of 1-1. The only player who had avoided this was Ian, and Fabian (to nobody's surprise,) was still playing. Ian had found that smashing people in the face with red and green creatures was working as effectively for him as it had for missing team member Jimmy Wild in the month preceding the event.
A crowd began to gather around the only table still playing. Extra turns had been called and the board was close. Team Sheffield's representative, Fabian, playing his humanimator deck had 1 turn to win. With most of his combo in the bin, including an unburial rites and a angel of glory’s rise the odds were against him as he began to flip over cards from his grizzly salvage. A land and 1 of 4 cartel aristocrats in 5 cards.
First card over was a Cartel Aristocrat! 4 cards to show any land card, this would allow Fabian to go infinite and win in extra turns. Second card was a none land,
and the third...
And the fourth...
with encouragement from Rich Fuller Fabian picked up the last card without looking and slammed it onto the table, both he and his opponent knew that if he revealed a land he won the game.
But no. After 4 misses (at odds around 90% of hitting,) Fabian entered the draw bracket.
I feel that I should congratulate Firestorm games at this point. There play space is fantastic, although mainly geared towards tabletop gaming and having a bar at the back of the room is a super touch. It was after round 2 that I had a burger from the BBQ that was out back, and from a player perspective not having to leave the sight for some sustenance was a bonus.
My dreams of top eight (and I must have been dreaming to think I was in with a shot,) ended in round 3 when I was beaten by a stack of bad limited cards.
I should clarify, I was beaten by the 2nd place competitor at the PTQ in London earlier this year with his super synergistic U/B zombies deck. Using Bloodthrone vampire and Corpse Blockade as sacrifice outlets and Diregraf Captain and Blood Artists to gain advantage from the sacrificed creature he is able to loop Gravecrawler deaths for the price of 1 black mana. I did feel like I had a shot in the games we played, but my greed of playing a turn 4 Griselbrand when on 8 life only to have it killed when I could have left up an Azorius Charm showed that there is still gains to be had from playing synergistic decks rather than just powerful cards.
After round 3 some members of the team started to drop out as there left top 8 contention. Unfortunately drafts had not been announced so a couple of hours of trading faced those who had left the main event.
Trading in a new city is a main reason to travel to these events and many people came away with cards that they have not been able to trade for in Sheffield. I managed to build 5 cards closer to my legacy goblins deck by trading away some unplayed standard cards and also got a good portion of a new modern deck after having my last modern deck nerfed. The other advantage of trading in a new city is the little rarities you find that you have not seen before, such as Mark finding a foil Werebear.
Rounds 4 and 5 were the turning point for many members of the team, with people winning more and more, the drafts started so players who had dropped had more to do and the room was becoming a little less crowded and the business end of the event started to kick in. Ian was still forging a path and Quinton and Rob had also found themselves in a stronger position.
The final 3 rounds saw some heartache for Ian as he lost his Win and in match round 7. The Final round also put Rob and Quinton against each other. After 7 hours of magic it would be back to playing a familiar opponent, who knew the other deck inside out.
A shout out has to be made to Mark, who not only drove one of the cars but also managed a winning record with a deck he had picked up less than 2 weeks before.
Having stayed and picked up prizes (which were heavily weighted towards winning records, which although a good way to encourage competitive play is heartbreaking for grinders such as myself,) we headed into Cardiff to find some food.
Our route took us into central Cardiff on a Saturday night, where there were plenty of sights to keep 12 men interested.
At this point we struck gold.
The Red Hot World Buffet is a hungry PTQ players dream.
I have no idea what this is a picture of...
As an all you can eat Chinese you can fill your boots before the long journey home.
But I don't like chinese I hear you cry,
Well what about Italian,
or Tex Mex
With an Ice cream stall
Everyone knows magic players like a 2 for 1, and with its mix of food the Red hot World Buffet offers the ability for a 6 for 1, and as its all you can eat it is a guaranteed blow out.
The bar was also a hit, selling cocktails as big as your head and the colour of screen wash (and according to some people at the table tasting about as good). The milkshakes come in some interesting shaped glasses, the jelly and waffles taught us an interesting lesson in people proficiency at a variety of skills an Fabian managed to create the world most ethnically diverse sandwich.
Nana bread, with shredded duck, Hawaiian pizza forming the top slice, with a Sushi topper. Reviews were (surprisingly,) positive
Time to head home, but not before our primary school teacher started a game of tag which only ended when a unsuspecting woman got made “it”.
The journey home took a detour over the Severn bridge and at 3.30am when i arrived through my door I was still thinking about the standard breaking decks we had developed on the way home.
I don't want to give away all the secret tech, but i feel safe in saying that if Ian’s master biomancer/ legions initiative deck starts crushing the pro tour you heard it here first.
So we look towards Manchester, hope for the same good turnout and a little more success, and if anyone knows of an all you can eat buffet with a dragon in it let me know...
Thanks Joe for a cracking article - I will be back with the Modern blog and details of Games Day next weekend on Monday. Have a great weekend and enjoy Pro Tour!