Vaulting Through Ohio – Vintage in Sandusky

Earlier this year the members of Team Serious, that is, my teammates, decided there wasn’t enough Vintage action going on in the great Ohio valley, so they decided to do something about it and organized a tournament at POP! in Sandusky, Ohio (USA) for July 2nd, 2011. Team Serious extraordinaire Nat Moes of Charbelcher fame traveled in from the DC area and took down the whole thing with Wizards.dec. Yep, seriously. You can find all the sick decklists from that tournament here, courtesy of Asian assassin and rap battlemaster Twaun007.

I couldn’t make it to that tournament, but was determined to make it to the next one to support the posse and to sling Vintage cardboard with the world’s finest. New Subaru Outback in tow (RIP Honda), on extremely short notice (like less than a week away) I convinced my teammates the Lord of AllCats aka Jimmy McCarthy to drive down from Wisconsin with Mike Solymossy aka The Salad aka Soly aka Mr. Pink aka “I can’t be tilted” and to carpool out with me across three states. I was determined to dominate both sandwiches and Vintage alchemists. Read on for more details of my road trip Vaulting Through Ohio, leaving a wake of tattered sandwiches and dreams crushed beneath my feet.

The Prequel

So Friday morning Jimmy McCat and Soly roll down a couple of hours to my krib, and after some Mexican fare we hit the highway for a 6 hour journey to the great state of Ohio, where we would be crashing with Twaun the whole weekend at the SLM Headquarters. As we approached SLM we were calling Twaun unsuccessfully for an hour or more, and then rolled up and parked the car. Knocks on the door went unanswered as did further calls, so after calling the rest of Team Serious to see if they knew of the whereabouts of Twaun, I decided to break in. After lifting a screen and crawling inside the building, I milled around and found all of the lights off, but I also managed to find a passed out Twaun laying nearly naked. Great success!

Apparently getting off of work early and getting wasted courtesy of teammate Oliver was Twaun’s plan, and he followed it perfectly. With Twaun awaking (or so we thought) Jerry Yang aka Yangtime and Gilberto Rivera aka G rolled up and we headed to the Flying Fig (a local hotspot using organic locally sourced food) for a late night gourmet snack and some drinks. I managed to smash Twaun’s unprotected sandwich, but he didn’t appear 1000% cognizant. Apparently Twaun was still bonkers from his earlier escapades, and after a couple more drinks he managed to wander out from the table into the street and pulled a Houdini and disappeared. After searching all local gutters for more than two hours for this joker we headed back to SLM Headquarters without him, and figured he would turn up sooner or later. Later turned out to be around 3am, and to this day Twaun alleges he remembers nothing between the hours of 6pm-3am. Poppycock. After battling Soly at the kitchen table until 4am I decide on some more tweaks to the deck, and hit the sack around 5am to get a nice 3 hours of rest before the big tournament. All of those stories about getting a good night’s rest and making sure you have snacks and drinks at tournaments are a crock. Give me a short respite after a wicked night of partying and then a snifter of brandy during the tournament and I’ll roll you! (Everyone in Wisconsin, where there is more brandy consumed per capita than anywhere else in the world, just nodded in agreement.)

Tournament Action and The Deck

So pre-tournament we have two missions today: first to have an amazing breakfast, and second to get some video technology set up to live stream feature matches throughout the day. Team Serious does it real big, son. Ever epicurious Jerry Yang locks in breakfast at Berardi’s, which has the best fries, and the best biscuits and gravy I’ve ever had. We then hit up POP! and Jimmy McCat and I start setting up the feature match area complete with live streaming from my laptop, and after getting that dialed in it’s gametime. I register this beast:

TurboTezz Team Serious Remix 20113Q 1.3, by Jaco 09-02-2011

Business (34)
Force of Will
Mana Drain
Hurkyl’s Recall
Ancestral Recall
Sensei’s Divining Top
Dark Confidant
Time Walk
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Tezzeret, the Seeker
Vampiric Tutor
Demonic Tutor
Gifts Ungiven
Time Vault
Voltaic Key
Blightsteel Colossus
Yawgmoth’s Will

Mana Sources (26)
Black Lotus
Mox Emerald
Mox Jet
Mox Pearl
Mox Ruby
Mox Sapphire
Mana Crypt
Sol Ring
Mana Vault
Grim Monolith
Tolarian Academy
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Flooded Strand
Snow-Covered Island
Underground Sea
Tropical Island
Sideboard (15)
Sower of Temptation
Mental Misstep
Relic of Progenitus
Steel Sabotage
Trygon Predator

Round 1 vs. Randall Witherell aka Randall the Red (Caribou Combo, with Key-Vault and Tendrils)
Game 1 Randall wins the die roll, and I Force of Will whatever his first big threat is, and then a couple of turns later Demonic for Tinker for Blightsteel with protection for the win.

Game 2 is a slow moving affair where I Thoughtseize and Force Randall’s first couple of big threats, and then he resolves Yawgmoth’s Will and kills me with Tendrils of Agony.

Game 3 I have a pretty awesome hand, but have 2 Tropical Islands and a Mox as my mana sources. I should draw into some more throughout the course of the game with the loot in my hand, so I roll with this opener. I never see another mana source in this game, and I really needed a fetchland or Underground to unlock the rest of my hand. If I had I probably win this game very very early, but it was not to be.

Matches 0-1; Games 1-2

Round 2 vs. Kurtis Frazier (Dark Times)
Game 1 we trade Confidants early but I am able land another one, and even throught all of his disruption (Strip Mine, Wasteland x2, multiple discard spells) I land a Jace and Sensei’s Awesome Top to pull way ahead on very low life.

Game 2 I side in Trygon Predators and Darkblast, and an early Trygon keeps his Leyline-Helm stuff at bay, and I’m able to tutor up Darkblast early to keep blasting his Confidants. A Vampire Hexmage kills off my Jace, but Trygon and a Dark Confidant get there.

Matches 1-1; Games 3-2

Round 3 vs. CJ Moritz (UBG Confidant Gush)
Game 1 CJ Mental Missteps my early Ancestral, but I land a Confidant and am able to disrupt him enough to assemble Key-Vault and lock him out quickly.

Game 2 I mulligan to 5 but resolve a first turn Confidant and Force through Key-Vault again very early. The total time for this match including shuffling was about 8 minutes.

Matches 2-1; Games 5-2

Round 4 vs. Anthony Michaels aka Twaun007 (UBG Bobby Digital Tezzeret control)
Twaun is probably my favorite person to play Vintage against, as we have a lot of common interests (rap, BMX, Magic, Sandwich Punch, etc.) and my love for Dark Confidant is matched only by his. We both refer to Confidant glowingly as Bobby Digital due to our shared love of the Wu-Tang Clan and the RZA’s alter ego. This was the first Vintage tournament in my last few where I busted out the Bob Digis, so I was excited to see how our match would play out, as I figured he was rocking some kind of Digital control brew.

Game 1 my Dark Confidant is matched by his second turn Trygon Predator, which is eating up my Moxes and keeping my Sensei’s Divining Top from going crazy and finding me the loots, and I have to shuffle away Top at some point. He’s forced to Nature’s Claim (main deck) my Time Vault bringing me back up to 6 life, and after going perilously low on life due to Trygon attacks and Confidant flips I sneak in another Tezzeret I believe, and get Top back into play to safely navigate through my remaining Confidant triggers and win. Life totals ended at 4-0.

Game 2 Twaun’s early Confidant gets Darkblasted but he resolves a Tezzeret, and I’m unable to do anything about it on my turn and that’s the game.

Game 3 I Thoughtseize and Force through enough to strip away his threats, Sower his Confidant, and eventually land my own Tezzeret to take the match.

Matches 3-1; Games 7-3

Round 5 vs. Mark Trogdon aka Troggy (UBR Key-Vault control)
Mark is another Team Serious member and teammate and I always have fun battling him. After looking at the pairings I think I got paired down, so just to double check I consult my the tournament organizer/judge. Apparently they entered my Round 2 results incorrectly and gave me an 0-2 loss instead of a 2-0 win, and now they are unwilling to change that entry in the computer. Throughout the tournament pairings were just read off of a computer screen aloud and were not printed off, so we couldn’t really see how many points we had after every round so no one caught the error until now, and they deemed it too late to change. Sweet. Screwed by the man again. So whereas I would normally be able to draw in at this point, I’m on the outside looking in but still have a shot of eighth place on breakers if I win this round.

Game 1 we mess about and Trogdon flashes his main deck Darkblast to assassinate my Bob Digi, so there goes that plan. I cannot find enough action and am behind on board and in cards, and eventually he assembles Key-Vault to lock me out.

Game 2 is a Thoughtseize-fest, and after some back and forth baiting of spells and basically emptying our hands I am floating a Jace with Sensei’s Divining Top, and Jace eventually hits, and then shortly thereafter assemble Key-Vault and lock Trogdon out on 4 life. Vintage!

Game 3 I have another action packed opener and Force his early Ancestral, then Thoughtseize away his Jace, and Sower his Azure Mage (sideboard technology), and eventually Vampiric Tutor up either Tezzeret or Time Vault to lock him out, and that’s a wrap.

Matches 4-1 (but recorded as 3-2); Games 9-4

After the last round is complete Stephen Menendian also finishes at 3-2 and edges me on tiebreakers, makes the Top 8, and would go on to win the tournament with Cobra Gush. So THAT my friends, is how you go 4-1 in Vintage and fail to make Top 8. Team Matchslip strikes again. After the tournament I spoke to the tournament organizer Dave and we went over some ideas on how to improve future tournaments (including printing out pairings every round, as well as match slips, and possibly standings), so while it’s unfortunate that I didn’t get to continue to crush in Vintage, I left knowing that these tournaments were awesome and that they will continue to improve under Dave’s watchful eye. I will be back for sure whenever my schedule allows, and highly recommend POP! as a great place to game and shop.

Had I made Top 8 I think I would have had a very good chance of winning, as the field was a lot of Gush decks, an Oath deck (Soly, who I had just had pretty successful games practicing against the night before), and a couple of Workshop decks which I would probably smash. This is one of the best Vintage decks I have ever tested and played, and I would highly recommend it if the metagame continues to look like a lot of Blue decks, some Workshop decks, some Dredge decks, and the occasional Fish or Null Rod deck. TurboTezz is extremely well positioned right now. While other people are taking turns casting Preordain and Sphere of Resistance you are taking turns casting Voltaic Key and Tezzeret the Seeker, and usually just winning. A mutation of Omar Rohner’s Bazaar of Moxen 2011-winning deck, the goal of this deck was to make full use of my mana each turn and do something relevant, and I tweaked it to do exactly what I wanted to against the field I expected. Against Workshops I would much rather spend my limited mana casting Voltaic Key or Dark Confidant than Preordain, hoping to find something to survive or further my gameplan. Against Blue decks I’d rather pick apart their hand and cast Thoughtseize than try to battle them on the stack and worry about crap like Flusterstorm and whatever else they might be holding for a penultimate turn. With this deck your plan in simple; just cast Tinker or bomb after bomb and lock your opponent out (using Thoughtseize and Force of Will to ram them through), and this accomplishes that faster than just about anything else being played right now. The Confidants were nice for serving as a turn 1 bomb, drawing a bunch of cards, and usually protecting my planeswalkers from opposing Confidants. Playing a combo deck where you don’t need to chain together a long string of spells has traditionally been an exceptional way to win in Magic’s history, and this fits that mold very well.

The Afterparty

So picking up our adventure Saturday night, the post-tournament scene heads to Outback Steakhouse, where CJ Moritz can recite the entire menu from memory and knows of top secret items that aren’t even listed on the menu. For those who don’t know of the joys and perils of the great Sandwich Punch club, it basically makes every meal a potential disaster if a club member lets their guard down and leaves a sandwich unprotected (the rules). So most people in the club are always watching for an unsuspecting slacker to provide an opportunity for glorious sandwich obliteration, and Jimmy McCat was the unsuspecting member who would provide joy to the throng of gamers eating at our table on this scalding night.

As dinner was wrapping up Jimmy had about half of his sandwich or more uneaten, and asked for a takeout (Styrofoam) carton. I have often dreamed of this exact scenario, which we’ll refer to as the “unprotected sandwich transfer,” where a previously protected sandwich is picked up and moved and may be a temporary target if the consumer isn’t careful. So when the takeout carton arrived Jimmy began what I hoped would be an unprotected sandwich transfer, and to the pending delight of many he moved his sandwich and then immediately started shoveling fries into the takeout carton! DANGER WILL ROBINSON! Like a trained assassin leaping from the shadows I leapt into action, and as Jimmy’s outstretched hand held his open takeout carton the forces of nature could not stop my fist from connecting perfectly with his unprotected hamburger, and BLAOW! Total carnage. Jimmy made some weak argument that his open container provided some sort of supernatural cover for the sandwich in question, but no one at the table was buying his soft explanation, and this was later reaffirmed by Level 3 Sandwich Punch Judge Nat Moes. So hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your sandwich. There’s an executioner on the loose, and he will stop at nothing to assassinate your sandwich.

Team Serious Vintage Championship Belt Title Match

After more late night gaming we eventually crash extremely late, and wake up Sunday ready to battle some more and have a cook out. Within the ranks of Team Serious we have a physical championship belt WWE style, and the current Vintage Championship Belt holder was none other than Gil, aka G Money. I challenged Gil to a title fight on Friday, and he accepted and we battled and live streamed that on Sunday. Pro Tour Top 8 style, best of 5 games, and checking out the opponent’s decklist beforehand. I had a few decks ready to blaze, but went back into the lab once more that morning and emerged with a worldbeater UBRG control deck, utilizing a bunch of cards I just enjoy playing with, from Dark Confidant to Mystic Remora to Repeal to Vendilion Clique to Viashino Heretic.

Gil came prepared to battle with a UBR Confidant Tezzeret deck with a few anti Workshop cards in the sideboard and about a million anti-control cards like Red Elemental Blast, Flusterstorm, Mindbreak Trap, etc. With half of Team Serious gathered around, the grill fired up and cooking brats and hamburgers (sandwich alert!), and the lights blaring and camera rolling, it was time for action.

I land a first turn Mystic Remora, and between a follow up Ancestral Recall, Thoughtseize, and Dark Confidant, the G man was eventually forced to take action and play into my Remora. Extra cards are always sweet, and after a drawn out affair I chain Top, random Moxes, a Hurkyl’s Recall, and Moxes yet again into an Empty the Warrens for 16 tokens, and then follow that up with Demonic Tutor for Time Walk, with an used Yawgmoth’s Will in hand. Solid.

I sided in some REBs, a Heretic, and an Ancient Grudge or two, and take out any remnants of my combo cards because I don’t feel like running them into his Flusterstorms and Mindbreak Traps which I’m guessing he brought in to win various counter wars. I want to win this game incrementally and really counteract whatever he plays. My opener contains Force, Pyroblast, Sol Ring, Volcanic Island, Tropical Island, and I don’t know what else. The clear plan is to have Pryoblast and Force stop whatever he’s trying to do. G plays a first turn Time Vault with Mana Crypt and still has mana up, likely for a Flusterstorm or REB, so I just play my Volcanic and pass. G has a lot of mana sources, and after plodding along cautiously I play a third turn Confidant, and G resolves Thirst for Knowledge. I have bigger fish to fry with my Pyroblast so I let it resolve, and he then resolves his own Confidant. Confidant nets me an REB and I Demonic for Ancient Grudge, as my quickest way to lose this game is for him to get Key-Vault active (and he already has Vault in play). End of turn G casts Gifts Ungiven, which I REB, which he Forces (pitching Force), which I Pyroblast. His Confidant and Mana Crypt are beating him up. Our Confidants trade and then I land my lone Viashino Heretic, which immediately shuts off the Tinker or Key-Vault plan for him. I’m sitting on double Force and Ancient Grudge, so this game is over. G tries to find a solution but can’t, and that’s goodgizzle.

We both mulligan to 6. I have a hand with Mana Drain, land, Black Lotus, Red Elemental Blast, Ancient Grudge, and who knows what else so I keep. He resolves Time Vault on turn 2 so I slow down my play to make sure I can always cast Ancient Grudge and be able to flash it back if need be. This game drags on, but eventually Confidant plus Clique or something gets there (this video got cut off for some reason).

And with that we are extending a handshake, and I have wrestled away the Vintage Championship Belt from within the ranks of the Cleveland chapter of Team Serious. Straight sweep, homie. There were immediate rumblings of a road trip to Chicago to try to come and take the belt back, but heed this warning: I MUST BREAK YOU.

Let that be a warning to the rest of Team Serious, you sucka MCs!

So after the title match a bunch of Team Serious took turns battling under the streaming camera for the world to watch, and around this time the food came off the grill. Where this is smoke, there is often fire. The grill was providing the smoke, and I was providing the fire! During the post-title battling both Twaun (who was battling Gil) and Soly (who was watching) were sitting at the table and somehow left their sandwiches unprotected, and for that they would not remain unmolested. Like a mongoose I pounced into action, with an epic double-fisted hulk smash thrashing of both sandwiches simultaneously!

For those of you still paying attention, that marks a 4-pack on the weekend, which is basically akin to Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point game. That’s QUAD-LAZER SANDWICH DOMINATION. BOOM.

Even after this people were still up for eating more sandwiches later in the evening, amazingly enough. Melt is a legendary local purveyor of fine sandwiches, but it’s nearly impossible to get a table without waiting 1-2 hours (no reservations). So we did the next best thing and ordered a half a dozen sandwiches to go. Sadly none of these sandwiches got punched. While it wasn’t the best Monte Cristo I’ve ever had, it was pretty solid I’m happy to report Melt is doling out fantastic sandwiches for the fanatics, and I will definitely be hitting them up for an in-store visit next time I’m in town.

Monday morning (Labor Day) we headed out on the long drive back, closing another chapter in the book of Team Serious’s Vintage exploits, and our epic adventure came to a close. I can only hope to regale you with future tales of debauchery and fist-fueled sandwich decimation, and if the stars align correctly we’ll be seeing another Team Serious Open soon. Until next time, may all your Mana Crypt rolls yield no damage, and may all your Bobby Digital flips treat you kindly.