Before The Mana Drain Open 17 was announced, I secretly hoped that TMD Open 16 would be the last one, and that I would get to reign as champion unopposed, indefinitely. Upon the announcement of TMD Open 17, part of me was excited to venture back to Connecticut to defend my title, but another part of me was worried that I would not be able to live up to the expectations that my performance at TMD Open 16 had set. At that tournament I didn’t drop a match and was 14-2 in games on the day. All those wins came after the head judge asked me not to play with my newly altered Trinisphere (courtesy of Roland Chang), which prompted me to switch from Martello Shops to Terra Nova 10 minutes before the player meeting, as my Terra Nova list didn’t play Trinisphere.
As I sit here thinking about TMD Open 17, I can’t decide if it’s a reality or all a figment of my imagination; some strange dream with many twists and turns that somehow ends happily. Let me start with my backstory, chronicling the last year of Vintage for me, as it will give perspective on where my head was at when I arrived at the VFW in Oakville (Connecticut, USA) this past Saturday.
Last year, before Eternal Weekend in 2015, my best friend Craig Berry and I spent hours discussing the merits of Ravager Shops versus my tried and tested Martello Shops. I stuck to my guns because I knew how to play Martello at a high level over a long tournament, despite feeling that Ravager Shops was the best deck for the field. In Vintage Champs I started out 8-1 before running into the Brian Kelly buzz saw in Round 10, and ended up getting 11th place after thinking I could draw in to the Top 8. Game 1 consisted of Mox Sapphire, Forbidden Orchard, Oath of Druids, Force of Will your first threat, Force of Will your second. Game 2 was more of the same, with me opening on Sphere of Resistance and Brian playing Forbidden Orchard into Black Lotus and Oath of Druids. Getting so close left me hungry and ready to practice more…until Chalice of the Void got restricted shortly after Eternal Weekend, which left me unsure where to go.
In 2015 I played one more event after Vintage Championships; the October Eternal Extravaganza 4, where I got eliminated by a Game 3 Mental Misstep on my Sol Ring because my opponent somehow forgot to board out all 4. I took the rest of the year off and decided to try something new in 2016. I played my first non-Workshop Vintage deck in 7 years at Top Deck Games, piloting Fenton Oath to a 4-2 record, picking up my first loss due to a judge incorrectly ruling that I could not use a Forbidden Orchard during my opponent’s upkeep to stop them from triggering their Oath of Druids. After that event I was ready to go back to Mishra, and decided to try out a new Shop deck. With the help of Nick Detwiler, I put together a fun and relatively competitive Dark Depths Workshop list that I piloted to a Top 16 at the Black Magic Invitational in March.
I was again optimistic about where the Workshop pillar was at, and then Lodestone Golem got restricted. I won’t lie, I was heartbroken; since Worldwake was released I had never even thought of playing a Workshop deck without 4 Lodestone Golem. It was the glue that held the pillar together. For me, playing Workshops had always meant locking your opponent out. Whether my deck included Smokestacks, Goblin Welders, or Kuldotha Forgemasters, my Workshop decks were always focused on locking people out – that’s what I enjoyed the most. Without Lodestone Golem though, I knew that playing Workshop Prison was going to be exceptionally difficult.
Soon after the restriction I saw results in which people played their Ravager Shops decks with Thought-Knot Seers inserted in the hole that Lodestone Golem left, and I scoffed at them. Adding a card which could not be cast off of Mishra’s Workshop and which had negative synergy with Sphere of Resistance couldn’t work. I goldfished the deck for an hour or so one night after putting it together for my testing gauntlet, and wrote it off as too inconsistent for my liking.
Shortly thereafter, Craig and I began discussing Nahiri, the Harbinger, and I soon made up my mind to play that deck at the NYSE IV Open. We put a list together that we both thought was strong, and testing led us to believe that it was competitive against all of the players in the field. After a disappointing 4-4 finish I learned that you should either be playing Gush or not playing Blue in the current environment.
Quite frankly, I was and really still am sick of the Vintage format as it is currently. The power of Gush has warped the format and made it virtually impossible to run a blue deck that doesn’t use Gush as a draw engine or Workshop prison. My desire to play Vintage was gone for a solid month or so. I didn’t test at all, and I thought about Vintage sparingly because I was stressed about TMD Open 17 looming on the horizon.
I believe in my abilities as a player, and think I could play a Gush deck at an above average level, but it’s vastly different to play 10 games with a Mentor deck in testing, and playing 10 matches in a tournament. The stress level would be significantly higher, and I was afraid that the King of the Hill crown Ray introduced for the event would weigh heavily upon my head. On the other hand, I knew I could play a Workshop deck at a very high level over even the longest of days. With a 3+ hour drive both ways I knew that I wanted to go with what I knew, I just had to decide which variant I would ultimately choose.
This past Monday I knew that I needed to start testing again, having not played more than 10 games of Vintage since NYSE IV, and the TMD Open 17 tournament was only 5 days away. I logically started with Andy Markiton’s winning Ravager TKS Shops list, because there really were no other Workshop variants that were putting up consistent results. Craig Berry wanted to try out Ryan Eberhardt and Rich Shay’s Grixis Pyromancer deck, so we played 10 or so preboarded games on Monday night, and I wasn’t really that impressed by Ravager Shops. The deck felt as inconsistent as I remembered, and as I said before, I’m a Workshop prison pilot; Ravager Shops was certainly not a prison deck.
On Tuesday, I wanted to test, but unfortunately Craig was busy that night drinking gin with his grandfather and eating Chicken Parmesan with his hands, so we set up a testing session for Wednesday instead. I spent my evening looking at what changes had happened in Vintage since the NYSE IV, and saw a lot more Null Rods and Stony Silences than I had remembered. This left me feeling much less enthusiastic about the prospects of Ravager Shops, because it keeled over and died if either Null Rod or Stony Silence hit the battlefield. I reached out to the Godfather of Shops, Raffaele Forino, about trying out Mud Arrabbiata, but after goldfishing it Tuesday night for a good hour or so I felt like it might not be consistent enough for a long tournament. Time was running out and I was currently choosing between a deck I had tested sparingly, and one I had never played a game with outside of goldfishing.
As I finished work on Wednesday I texted Craig asking if we were still on to playtest and he told me that he was in Philadelphia for the evening. The stress of the tournament was getting to me. I couldn’t show up as the reigning champion and do poorly. I needed to prepare, and yet my plans for the evening were shot. I decided to make the trip up to Stomping Grounds to play Modern and get some games of Vintage in with my friend Brett Schmuckler between rounds. The testing with Mud Arrabbiata against Mentor and Grixis Pyromancer was pretty average, and didn’t boost my confidence about the viability or consistency of the deck. TMD Open 17 was 3 days out, and I still didn’t have a clue of what I was going to play.
On Thursday I contemplated playing a Green White Eldrazi deck with Noble Hierarchs, and put together a deck list to test with Craig. When we got to testing that night I immediately learned that Eldrazi was not my cup of tea. As a lifelong Workshop pilot, the idea of playing a deck which might go land-go on Turn 1 was a bridge too far. Craig handily crushed me with Grixis Pyromancer in 3 of the 4 games we played, and the games where I lost didn’t feel close.
After putting Green White Eldrazi down for good, I moved on to Mud Arrabbiata and was once more soundly defeated by Grixis Pyromancer. Every game followed the same general pattern – I kept what I thought was a reasonable hand, and then I promptly drew all mana or all spells over the next eight or so turns and died to an army of Elemental Tokens. We took a walk and discussed changes to make the deck more consistent. I tried out Mud Arrabbiata without Welders and the results were the same as before. I ended the night with 2 wins and 10 losses on the aggregate. After this testing session I begrudgingly decided to switch back to Ravager Shops, despite my lackluster testing results and distrust in the deck. I felt I was out of options because TMD Open 17 was only 2 days away, and the deck had to be good if so many people were doing well with it.
During the day on Friday I tweaked Andy Markiton’s list ever so slightly. I included Karakas in my sideboard to answer Thalias, Kataki, Jace Vryn’s Prodigy, Griselbrand, and Emrakul. I also included another Dismember, and replaced Relic of Progenitus with Tormod’s Crypt because I’ve lost to Dredge because I couldn’t commit threats to the board due to the mana I needed to hold up so I could pop Relic. I also worked with Rich Shay and Craig on a sideboard strategy, and by 5:00PM I felt pretty confident in my deck decision.
That confidence I had built up throughout the workday on Friday was gone by the time I went to bed. Craig came over and I asked if we could play post board games of Grixis Pyromancer versus Ravager Shops. First we played 5 games with Craig on the play in which he went 5-0, and then Craig beat me 3-0 when I was on the play. I was clearly frustrated as I was 2-18 against Grixis Pyromancer over the last 2 days, and Craig consoled me by saying, “It’s okay, buddy, you’re probably going to go X-0 and I’m going to go 0-X.” He couldn’t have been more right, though at the time I didn’t know that. While I was falling asleep I briefly considered a last minute audible to Grixis Pyromancer. The tilt was very real from the beat down he had put on me, but still I knew that my chances were much better with a Workshop deck than anything else.
I woke up on Saturday far earlier than I would have liked, and Craig, my girlfriend Veronica, and I set out on a journey from Plymouth Meeting to Oakville. One Wawa and two rest stops later and the GPS told us we were going to arrive at 10:55. This only added to the stress level, as the event was scheduled to start at 11:00. We pulled into the VFW, I nearly hit two cars in the parking lot and Craig and I rushed inside while Veronica parked the car nearby.
Here’s what I decided to play:
Ravager Aggro TKS Workshops, by Will Magrann - 1st Place
1 Chalice of the Void
4 Sphere of Resistance
4 Thorn of Amethyst
4 Tangle Wire
1 Lodestone Golem
4 Arcbound Ravager
4 Phyrexian Revoker
4 Thought-Knot Seer
3 Hangarback Walker
Mana Sources (26)
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mana Crypt
1 Sol Ring
1 Tolarian Academy
4 Mishra’s Workshop
4 Ancient Tomb
4 Eldrazi Temple
1 Strip Mine
4 Grafdigger’s Cage
3 Tormod’s Crypt
3 Crucible of Worlds
Round 1 vs. Bye
I considered switching sleeves despite having changed them on Tuesday night but then remembered that I only had 60 instead of 75 sleeves and hyperhidrosis, meaning that re-sleeving my deck was going to be a stressful and time consuming process. Instead, Veronica and I discussed lunch and relaxed for an hour.
Round 2 vs. Ken Brisco (playing Charbelcher)
Thanks to my win at TMD Open 16 I got to start my tournament in round 2 at the feature match area as the King of the Hill. Donning my crown I sat down to play. I had joked with my friends before starting to play that my motto for the day was going to come from The Wire’s Omar Little, “If you come at the king, you best not miss.”
I won the die roll and opened a hand of Strip Mine, Sol Ring, Thorn of Amethyst, Lodestone Golem, Tolarian Academy, Triskelion, and Phyrexian Revoker. Ken Mulliganed to 6 and I knew that if my Sol Ring was not Mental Misstepped I was in great shape, otherwise I was in big trouble. Sol Ring resolved, so did the Thorn of Amethyst, and just like that, Ken conceded.
I figured he was on Belcher or Storm, and didn’t sideboard because even with a bad hand, most decks could possibly win through a single Thorn of Amethyst.
Ken mulliganed to 5 in game 2, while I kept my opening 7 of Black Lotus, Mox Ruby, Phyrexian Revoker, Thought-Knot Seer, Tangle Wire, Wasteland, and Tolarian Academy. My hand was strong and flexible, especially against an opponent with only 5 cards in hand. Ken played a Mox Pearl into Voltaic Key and passed. I played Mox Ruby, Ancient Tomb, Phyrexian Revoker naming Mox Pearl then followed up with Black Lotus and Thought-Knot Seer revealing a hand of 2 Goblin Charbelchers and a Tezzeret the Seeker, which I took to prevent his ability to cast any future Force of Wills. Ken played Mox Opal and Mishra’s Workshop into Goblin Charbelcher 2 turns later, which I answered by playing Tangle Wire and Wastelanding his Mishra’s Workshop. He tapped down, drew a card for turn, and then conceded.
The match took no more than 10 minutes and I was already 2-0. I felt good, but still the crown put extra pressure on me. I got Veronica to take my picture while wearing the crown and holding up a playmat commemorating my TMD Open 16 victory, because I knew that at any moment I could be defeated and lose the crown, and potentially never get it back.
Round 3 vs. Chris Kelsey (playing Ravager Aggro Workshop)
This was easily one of my most interesting games of the day. I had played Chris a few times before, and knew he would be on Workshops.
Chris won the die roll and kept his opening 7. I kept a hand of Thought-Knot Seer, Ancient Tomb, Mana Crypt, Mishra’s Workshop, Triskelion, Triskelion, and Arcbound Ravager. Chris opened with Mishra’s Workshop, Mox Ruby, Porcelain Legionnaire, and Arcbound Ravager. I played Ancient Tomb, Mana Crypt, and Thought-Knot Seer – seeing a hand of Triskelion, Phyrexian Revoker, and Ancient Tomb. I thought for a bit and took Triskelion. Chris predictably played Phyrexian Revoker on Mana Crypt, Mox Pearl, attacked with Porcelain Legionnaire, and passed. I drew Hangarback Walker for the turn, and played Mishra’s Workshop and cast both Arcbound Ravager and the Hangarback Walker (set to 1) before passing. Chris played Mox Jet and passed. I drew Eldrazi Temple and slammed Triskelion. I shot Porcelain Legionnaire; he sacrificed it to Arcbound Ravager. I responded by shooting Phyrexian Revoker, he sacrificed it to Arcbound Ravager. I responded by shooting Arcbound Ravager, he sacrificed a Mox. I responded by tapping my Mana Crypt, adding a counter to Hangarback Walker, sacrificing Hangarback Walker and its two tokens as well as my Mana Crypt to Arcbound Ravager and then Arcbound Ravager to itself, and shooting his Arcbound Ravager. When the dust settled he had no board and I was left with a 5/5 Triskelion and a Thought-Knot Seer. When I cast a second Triskelion on the following turn he conceded. In prison decks I never liked Triskelion, and always played things like Steel Hellkite or Duplicant instead, but this game showed me the true power of the trashcan with arms. It was indispensable in this game.
In the second game I opened a hand of Mishra’s Workshop, Mana Crypt, Lodestone Golem, Strip Mine, and Thought-Knot Seer. Chris opened with Phyrexian Revoker blind naming Arcbound Ravager. I drew Eldrazi Temple, played Lodestone Golem and he mirrored that by playing his own. I Strip Mined him and passed. On my next turn I drew Dismember, laid the Temple, and took out his Lodestone Golem, paving the way for my attacks. He drew another blank and I hit Triskelion to seal the game once more. I’m not sure if I drew the 3rd Dismember as they’re all identical, but I like to think so.
Round 4 vs. Chris Hanson (playing Grixis Turbo Key-Vault)
I won the die roll and mulliganed to 6, keeping a hand of Mox Sapphire, Eldrazi Temple, Eldrazi Temple, Wasteland, Phyrexian Revoker, and Sphere of Resistance. I kept a Thorn of Amethyst on top of my deck after scrying. I played Mox Sapphire, Eldrazi Temple and Sphere of Resistance which was Force of Willed. Chris played Mana Crypt and a fetch before passing. I drew Thorn of Amethyst and played Phyrexian Revoker on Mana Crypt, as well as an Eldrazi Temple. Chris played an end of turn Vampiric Tutor, then untapped and played a Volcanic Island, and passed. I played and used my Wasteland on his Underground Sea, and dropped a Thorn of Amethyst, which he responded to by Ancestral Recalling. He played a second land and passed. I drew and played Thought-Knot Seer, seeing Memory Jar, Brainstorm, Myr Battlesphere, Memory Jar, and Baleful Strix. I took the Strix because of the work that it did against me the night before, holding off an army of creatures until Craig could amass an army of Elementals. Meanwhile, Mana Crypt rolled against Chris for 12 straight damage, and combined with the attacks of my Phyrexian Revoker and Thought-Knot Seer made short work of him.
In game two Chris mulliganed to 6 cards, and opened with Underground Sea into Sol Ring. I kept a hand of Wasteland, Wasteland, Mox Pearl, Thought-Knot Seer, Triskelion, Phyrexian Revoker, and Chalice of the Void. I drew Eldrazi Temple and Wastelanded his Sea. He passed without playing a land. I drew Mox Emerald, played both Moxes, Eldrazi Temple, and Thought-Knot Seer – seeing a hand of Toxic Deluge (which I took), Thirst for Knowledge, Baleful Strix, Dack Fayden, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Chris drew a Volcanic Island and cast Thirst for Knowledge, discarding Baleful Strix. I played Wasteland on his Volcanic Island, and Phyrexian Revokered his Sol Ring. Chris played a Volcanic Island and Goblin Welder. I laid a Thorn of Amethyst. On Chris’ turn he played Strip Mine and Mox Pearl. I drew Tolarian Academy and cast Triskelion. I shot his Goblin Welder, which he used to Weld in his Baleful Strix, and then I shot the Baleful Strix and he conceded.
Just like that I was 4-0. Veronica asked me how many rounds I had left, and I told her I didn’t want to think about that, and instead focus on winning my next match. I should have been happy to have gotten so far unscathed, but instead I was worried about the wheels falling off if I began daydreaming.
Round 5 vs. David Nunez (playing Doomsday)
Before we sat down David asked if he would get the crown if he won, and I said he would, but that he would have to beat me first. At this point, I wanted to ensure that the crown remained upon my head more than I wanted to win.
My notes aren’t the greatest for this match, but I opened on Thorn of Amethyst, while David played Underground Sea into Black Lotus. I drew and cast Phyrexian Revoker, naming his Black Lotus. He played a Polluted Delta, and I followed up by dropping an Arcbound Ravager, Tangle Wire, and then a Thought-Knot Seer a turn or two later (taking his Doomsday, and leaving him holding 2 Force of Wills, Flusterstorm and Preordain). David never drew what he needed and the game ended shortly.
In game 2 I had a Sphere in play and David cast a Doomsday. I looked through his removed from game pile after he built his stack and saw that he had put two Underground Seas, Laboratory Maniac, Ancestral Recall and an unknown card into his Doomsday pile, with Mox Jet and two Underground Seas in play. I had Mana Crypt in play which was whittling away at my life total, and two other mana, with 2 Triskelions in hand. I drew a Phyrexian Revoker and cast that on his Mox Jet. He played a land and passed. I drew and cast a second Sphere of Resistance. He played another land, while I drew a Wasteland and immediately played and used it to take out an Underground Sea. Just like that, David could never get to the five mana that he needed to cast his Laboratory Maniac through both of my Sphere of Resistances. After I dodged the final Mana Crypt roll, Phyrexian Revoker dealt the final 2 points of damage and I moved on to 5-0.
At this point I had yet to lose a single game on the day, and felt pretty confident I could draw into the Top 8. But I didn’t take into account that the tournament was 2 players short of being 8 rounds, so not everyone at 5-0 would be able to draw twice and guarantee a Top 8 spot.
Round 6 vs. Andy Markiton (playing Ravager Aggro TKS Workshop)
I looked at the standings and after talking to my friends we agreed that since I was in first place by a good chunk of OMW% thanks to my Round 1 bye, I could safely draw into Top 8, but they weren’t sure about the other people at 5-0. Andy and I talked for a few minutes and agreed to draw this round and then see the standings after 6 rounds, to see if we could draw in to the Top 8 or not. We agreed to draw, and I spent the round relaxing and doing tiebreaker math, exploring all of the possibilities because I did not want to draw myself into 9th place and miss the Top 8.
Round 7 vs. Craig Masley (playing Grixis Pyromancer)
I was the top seed and Craig was second. I did the math and the two of us could draw if we were paired up, and whoever Nick DiJohn got paired with could not draw because Nick would end up in 9th. I considered playing because if I won I would be first seed, and if I lost I would likely be 8th seed assuming Andy and Nick played their match. But if they drew I would get 9th, thus forcing me to draw, and accept the 7th seed. I wanted to be the first seed and be on the play, but since I hadn’t lost a game all day I wasn’t overly concerned about being on the draw.
Craig Berry, Nick Detwiler, Veronica and I sat and chatted as I waited for the Swiss to finish and for Top 8 to start. As I prepared to go over for my Top 8 match, Craig reminded me that “Splits are for gymnasts, not Magic players,” meaning that you should never split prizes because you came to a Magic tournament with the intention of winning.
Top 8 Quarterfinals vs. David Ata (playing Ravager Aggro TKS Workshop)
The Top 8 was played away from the feature match area, but I was not going to let that stop me from being King of the Hill. I took the chair which I had been sitting in all day with me to my Top 8 match to remind everyone that I was the King of the Hill, in case they couldn’t tell from the crown atop my head.
Before we started the match the judge passed out slips of paper asking if we wanted to split, I wrote no, and unsurprisingly a split was not agreed upon by all players.
David was the higher seed and thus got to play first. I kept a hand with a Phyrexian Revoker, Sphere of Resistance, Thorn of Amethyst, and lands. David opened with a Mana Crypt into Phyrexian Revoker naming Arcbound Ravager. We postured back and forth, and David got an Arcbound Ravager into play, as well as a Triskelion, which he used to kill my creatures that I had in play. I got a Revoker into play naming Triskelion, but was getting beaten down by his Revoker naming Ravager, because if I blocked and killed it then he would be able to use his Arcbound Ravager to make a large creature which would then need to be blocked by my Revoker naming Triskelion, leading to him shooting me with Triskelion. In the closing stages of the game, I was facing down lethal damage for 2 turns in which I blankly stared David down, knowing that every second in which I bluffed David would be expending energy trying to figure out what I could possibly have and how he could beat it. After a good 10 or so minutes David played his fourth Sphere of Resistance, and moved in on his Triskelion.
I had lost my first game, but I could see fatigue on David’s face, and I knew that victory was not out of reach. I took a sip of water, readjusted my crown, took a deep breath, and sideboarded.
In game 2 I kept a hand of Dismember, Ancient Tomb, Ancient Tomb, Phyrexian Revoker, Arcbound Ravager, Strip Mine, and Eldrazi Temple. I opened with Ancient Tomb into Arcbound Ravager. David played Wasteland, Black Lotus, and Thought-Knot Seer, taking my Dismember. I Wasteland his tapped Wasteland and played Phyrexian Revoker naming Relic of Progenitus, because I only had Tormod’s Crypts in my deck, and he might have sideboarded in Relic of Progenitus in his deck. He played a Wasteland on my Ancient Tomb, a Chalice of the Void at 0, and attacked me with Thought-Knot. I played another Ancient Tomb, dropped a Phyrexian Revoker naming Mana Crypt (which I had boarded out), and attacked for a point with my Arcbound Ravager. He laid an Eldrazi Temple and swung his Thought-Knot Seer in. I double blocked and he Dismembered one of my Phyrexian Revokers, to which I sacrificed both Phyrexian Revokers and got a 3/3 Arcbound Ravager. I played a Tangle Wire on my turn and David was forced to tap down all of his permanents. I sacrificed my Tangle Wire at his next end of turn, as I had drawn a Crucible of Worlds I wanted to cast. I used my Crucible to Wasteland his Eldrazi Temple, and passed. He attacked in with Thought-Knot Seer, which I blocked and traded with. He dropped another one mana land, and a Relic of Progenitus. I Wastelanded him and we went back and forth, him not drawing a land, while Relic of Progenitus slowly dwindled down my graveyard. On 6 life from Ancient Tombs and Thought-Knot Seer, I drew and played an Arcbound Ravager, which attacked a few times unopposed before David conceded.
In Game 3 David opened on Mox Sapphire, Ancient Tomb, and Crucible of Worlds. I mulliganed to 6 and kept a land heavy hand that was unable to beat a fast start by David. I went Ancient Tomb into Phyrexian Revoker on Mox Sapphire. David played Ghost Quarter and used it on my Ancient Tomb. I then played a Karakas and a 1/1 Hangarback Walker. David dropped a Chalice set to 1 counter to stop Relic of Progentius (which I don’t have), and then replayed Ghost Quarter to destroy my Karakas. I promptly drew Tormod’s Crypt, Wastelanded his Ancient Tomb, and Tormod’s Crypted him. I crossed my fingers that he was out of lands, but he responded by playing another Wasteland and an Arcbound Ravager. I dropped a Phyrexian Revoker on Arcbound Ravager and added a counter to my Hangarback Walker at end step. David Wastelanded me on his turn and passed. I swung in with just the Phyrexian Revoker naming Arcbound Ravager and my Hangarback Walker until I drew a Mishra’s Workshop to go with my second Hangarback Walker I had been holding. He was on 8 life, I attacked him for 6, he blocked the Phyrexian Revoker naming Mox Sapphire, and I laid Mishra’s Workshop and a 2/2 Hangarback Walker so he would have to put out two blockers to avoid losing. He drew his card and shook my hand.
I couldn’t believe I had won this match, but I was not out of the woods yet.
Top 4 Semifinals vs. David Nunez (playing Doomsday)
Once more, the judge asked if we wanted to split and I again wrote “no” as I had already defeated David Nunez in the Swiss and knew he was playing a favorable matchup for me in Doomsday.
I kept a strong 7 card hand of Mana Crypt, Mox Pearl, Sol Ring, Thought-Knot Seer, Arcbound Ravager, Strip Mine, and Tolarian Academy. David opened on a Gitaxian Probe, and then Duressed me taking my Sol Ring. I drew Sphere of Resistance, laid Mana Crypt, Mox Pearl, Arcbound Ravager, Strip Mine and Sphere of Resistance. David unhappily allowed the Sphere of Resistance to resolve, and played a land and passed. I followed up with Thought-Knot Seer, and he never drew anything relevant as my creatures ate away at his life total.
For game 2, I kept a hand of Phyrexian Revoker, Mana Crypt, Hangarback Walker, Tangle Wire, Wasteland, Mishra’s Workshop, and Mox Ruby. I was worried that I didn’t have a Sphere of Resistance or Thorn of Amethyst, but I felt my hand was just too good to mulligan. David Gitaxian Probed me, laid a Flooded Strand and passed. I played out Mox Ruby, Mana Crypt, and Tangle Wire (which resolved), and then Mishra’s Workshop into Phyrexian Revoker, naming Black Lotus. David laid another Flooded Strand and passed. I tapped Tangle Wire, Revoker, and Mox Ruby, Wastelanded his tapped Flooded Strand to eliminate any Gushing or casting of Hurkyl’s Recall on his upkeep, and then cast a 2/2 Hangarback Walker. He laid another land and passed. I drew Triskelion and cast it, adding a counter to Hangarback Walker. David tapped two lands and passed. I drew Tangle Wire and cast it, which he Force of Willed. I then attacked for nine with my Triskelion, Phyrexian Revoker, and Hangarback Walker. On his upkeep he Nature’s Claimed my Triskelion, prompting me to shoot him for 3 damage down to 3. He cast a Dark Ritual into Doomsday, looked for a pile that would kill me, and eventually conceded, proclaiming that he couldn’t find a pile that would win.
Top 2 Finals vs. Craig Masley (playing Grixis Pyromancer)
As they had before the Top 4 and Top 8, the judges asked if we wanted to split. I proposed that I would do a 50/50 split if Craig would concede, making me the undefeated, back to back Waterbury Champion and allowing me to keep my crown. Craig suggested a 60/40 split instead and I declined, so we shuffled up to play.
Since I was the 7th seed and Craig was 8th due to tiebreakers I was on the play for game 1. Craig mulliganed to 6 cards. I unfortunately no not remember my entire hand or the exact plays. I Phyrexian Revokered a Mox Jet Craig played, and had a Thorn of Amethyst and a Hangarback Walker in play that I had ticked up to 4/4 over the early turns, which I used to attack him with down to 13. Craig played a land and a Young Pyromancer. I laid a Chalice of the Void set to 1 counter, and attacked with my 4/4 Hangarback Walker and Phyrexian Revoker, knocking him to 7. Craig played a Gitaxian Probe into the Chalice of the Void for a blocker and passed. I swung in with my Hangarback Walker, eating a token, and passed. Craig played another Gitaxian Probe for a token and passed, and I then laid a Triskelion, shooting his Elemental Token and Pyromancer, attacking him down to 1 and shooting him for the final point.
In game 2 I kept a hand of Mana Crypt, Wasteland, Black Lotus, Hangarback Walker, Triskelion, Thought-Knot Seer, and my Trinisphere. I hadn’t seen Trinisphere in any of my games during the day up to this point, and couldn’t have been happier to see it in my opening hand. Craig opened with a fetch into Underground Sea and Cabal Therapy naming Thorn of Amethyst. I revealed my hand and Craig promptly conceded and shook my hand. I didn’t ask Craig if there was one card in particular that prompted his concession, but I think it was probably because of my Trinisphere…
After the tournament is all said and done I still don’t love the deck I played, but it is undoubtedly powerful. I lost only one game all day and in the two Mana Drain Opens I have played in, I won both with a combined record of 28-3 in games and 14-0-4 in matches I have played, with all of my draws coming intentionally.
I walked out of the venue with the prize money in my pocket, King of the Hill crown planted firmly atop my head, and Trinisphere in my deck box. I had successfully defended my title as TMD Open Champion and became the first ever back to back champion!
Ray, thank you very much for hosting another wonderful event. It lived up to the lofty expectations that TMD Open 16 set, and then some. The reason that being back to back TMD Open champion means so much is because of the hard work and time that you have committed to the format. I look forward to the next TMD Open when I return as King, and go for 3 in a row!