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Zvi Mowshowitz

We need to head back to the room as quickly as possible, although we get sidetracked a little because my teammates are starving. I have been trained in the fine Magic tournament art of no-eating (it's a Zen thing) so I'm fine, but they need to get to the bar for whatever can still be had at this hour. It's just closing, and perhaps for that reason we get comped. How lucky! A decent tip is left and we're up to the room. I didn't plan to stay at the hotel, holding out for the promise of the comfort of my own home, but it clearly wasn't to be. It would probably take half the time before the next round just getting there and back given I wasn't willing to cut it close. Instead I experienced the joys of sleeping on the floor, but it's not that bad when you're this tired. We all get to sleep without much trouble.

We get downstairs, and try to pick up from what little we managed to talk about the night before. Clearly black wants to be on the right, and everyone knows that. The rest was unclear. I'd spent some time thinking about the format but there wasn't anything I was happy with. The only plans that looked good involved a great willingness to go White/Red. Although the deck from day one was very good, I was less than confident that it could be drafted consistently. To make matters worse, Justin still had no experience with it and Alex would only be drafting it under protest and much pointing at cards. In the end we decided to improvise the rest for the first draft.

Meanwhile, Brian David-Marshall mentions that his teammate Tim McKenna hasn't showed up yet. The pairings go up, and we're playing against a team that only has two players on the premises. Maybe they shouldn't have named themselves after an incident where they went to the wrong building. Either way, they're all friends but we'll certainly take the win. Third team member Paul Jordan is on his cell phone talking to Tim, who is in a cab that has taken at least one serious wrong turn. Paul starts taunting Tim over the phone. They win the flip, and Tim is informed. Meanwhile, the round is starting late to the great surprise of no one. I want to get things moving to get the free win, but a delay was expected after the night before and they're friends so I decide to let things run their natural course since our opponents aren't running delaying tactics on their end. The round finally begins, and Tim still hasn't showed.

Under the current rules, that means we get a free match win. It's a very harsh rule, but it saves them from having to deal with strange draft situations. I think it would be fine if the missing player picked at random, always taking the upper left card until he showed up, but that's not how it works. We all decide that both teams need the practice badly so we decide to run the practice draft for that reason and build our decks together. No one is impressed with our drafting skills, as we're a little rusty given the lack of practice. I see what seems like a good chance to go White/Red, but the cards do not show up and my deck ends up looking terrible. We build the decks together, and it turns out our decks aren't as bad as we thought. In particular, I was building mine wrong and I did have a decent chance. We decided not to play it out. The draft was quite helpful, both by letting us warm up and by showing me that White/Red was very difficult to draft properly. It also showed the potential for another white deck to wreck it in Judgment.

Meanwhile, Scott McCord was walking by and shared with both teams what his strategy was. I agreed not to share it with the rest of the world, but I can say it was straightforward, easy to follow, and made a lot of sense. Alex and Justin took off for the supermarket to try and get some food while I stayed behind to scout the field. I went around and watched each match long enough to determine the colors of both players. In short order I had information on every match except Benefal's. The reason I couldn't get anything on Benefal for a long time was that every time I dropped by to find out he was still shuffling. It is also explained that we will get a three point bye and the other team will get a zero point bye in order to avoid messing with the ratings.

The most surprising finding was that Black/Green was a popular archetype to draft. My assumption was that Black/Green would be rare because it does not make full use of the abilities of its individual cards, which means it will weaken the team overall. Instead, it seems as if it was drafted because it was the best way to ensure that the black deck would receive a solid card pool. A few minutes after I was done Alex and Justin make it back. They have donuts for me, and most importantly Justin now had Red Bull. A few minutes after that, Justin started having Ideas. A little after that they evolved into Evil Plans. Our strategy was still very improvisational, but we had a setup we thought would give us the advantage against the most popular setup.

Round 10:
We played against Your Move Games, which was probably the pairing we least wanted to get. I go up to confirm with the judges that this is a legal pairing, and they confirm that we can't play Cardshark so we have to play further down, since our bye has thrust us into lone first place. From the very first pack the rules get thrown out the window. In the B seat Dave Humpherys opens up Painbringer and I take a Whispering Shade across from it. Soon I have a second Whispering Shade and both me and Dave seem happy to head into a Black/Red mirror matchup. This was a feature match, so there is detailed draft coverage available at The Sideboard.

Some blue bombs in deep blue packs convinced us that blue needed to be split between Alex and Justin. The colors were seriously strange. Rob opened up a Cabal Patriarch and had to take it, but his positioning for black was as bad as it gets. My plan was to split black between me in B and Justin in A and use that to destroy their black decks in the B and C seats, since we would be in position to attack them in Torment. It didn't work out the way I had hoped, but it turned out to be the right move not to have a real white mage, instead splitting both black and blue.

Thanks to Swelter and Shower of Coals, I felt I was in an excellent position in my match against Dave, but I had a really bad creature base and had to play some punisher cards that didn't fit in with the plan. If my deck drew well I should win, but if the key cards didn't show Dave would roll over my defenses. That's exactly what happened game one, as I failed to cast Swelter or Shower of Coals at all while the Shades were stuck trying to play defense. That plan is horrible. I also didn't draw the Masked Gorgon or Worldgorger Dragon, instead drawing a ton of land. In game two the bombs were in my hand but I had no land. I'm not sure who had the edge in the matchup, although my initial impression that I would win easily was clearly wrong. There's still much to learn about the Black/Red mirror.

Alex had already won, leaving Justin's match against Darwin. Darwin took game one, but time was running low. Justin seemed to have an advantage, but there was no way that game three would be able to finish if Justin took game two. I studied the standings to see what a draw would mean. For us, a draw meant we could draw in the last round, but there would be no one to agree to that draw with. A draw eliminated Your Move Games. Me and Alex decided that if Justin was fine with it we would scoop up our cards in the event of a draw, but Darwin drew out of the situation to win 1-0 with a commanding board position. That rendered the discussion moot.

Round 11:
We look at the pairings and we're playing Exhisposition Center. Brian David Marshall's team. Again. What's going on? It turns out that we never actually played them in Round 9. Instead, both teams received byes. So when they won and we lost in Round 10, we got back to the same record and got to play again. The same thing also happened to the other matchup where one team didn't show for Round 9. Brian and I admit to having completely ignored Scott McCord's good advice and the draft begins.

I start with two Diligent Farmhands, but can't seem to pick up any spells to cast with my mana. Tim does not have that problem opposite me. I know I'm at a disadvantage, but I still have flexibility. I'm also happy with Justin playing White/Black against White/Red in the A seat, while Alex and BDM both have Black/Blue decks. (We didn't have a red mage early because there were no red cards to take.)

Entering Torment, I had mana acceleration and the ability to splash easily with a Rites of Spring added to the Farmhands, but nothing to cast. Pack after pack had Petravark in it, and I picked up three. That gave me a game plan, but I wasn't sure how I'd win if Tim got his mana. I picked up a Keep Watch and a Chastise in pack three and had the mana base to afford one land each for them, which gave me more game. He had moved into Green/Black. I also picked up two Harvest Druids in pack three, allowing me to put out turn three Petravark a lot. Game one went as I hoped, with Tim unable to cast spells and collapsing fast. Game two took longer, but I just played a bunch of creatures, turned them sideways and cast Keep Watch for seven. There was nothing he could do. Justin got bogged down in a nightmare situation, so all eyes were on Alex. It turned out to be all about the Filthy Curs, which were the only two drop he had available. One got up to 5/5 flying with an Arcane Teachings and a Ghostly Wings, and it got the job done.

Cardshark managed to make its way to the top four, so we got our chance for revenge. Once again our plan was flexible, but we resolved not to do anything too strange if we didn't have to. We felt we had the advantage in both draft experience and playing ability, so we didn't want to risk trying something strange and throwing it away.

We gave Alex the white and me the green because that's where we both felt comfortable. I would now get into the classic battle this decision leads to, with me trying to draft Blue/Green to beat a Blue/White while Alex gets to play his white against green in turn. They ended up splitting the black, but as usual my focus was on my own matchup and that's what I remember the most. Early on it seemed like a battle, but as time moved on his deck failed to pick up combat tricks of any kind. He did have some flyers and Lost in Thoughts, but nothing that seemed like it could stop my army. On top of that, all his major creatures were white. I had picked up two Flash of Defiance, even taking them over playable cards, and my intention was to use a red splash to take him out of the match.

We did make one large mistake in our match, letting him have a Spurnmage Advocate for no reason. If he hadn't had that, it would have been very hard for me to lose. As it was, if that card showed up then a bad draw could cause me to lose. Game one I dropped out the flying defense in the form of Scaplelexis and Anurid Swarmstopper. With those in place he could only watch in horror as my army was assembled man by man. When I finally had enough of them, I cast Turbulent Dreams 'targeting all creatures you control' and attacked for about thirty.

Game two doesn't go as well. I never draw an Island, so he casts a bunch of guys and wins. Oh well, these things happen. In game three, the Advocate came down but I didn't have much of anything useless in my graveyard. He also didn't have an offense or much of a defense after I Syncopated his Aven Flock. At that point, I sent in the Krosan Avenger and he didn't have a good answer. I drew the Churning Eddy, so I returned the Advocate, used a Flash of Defiance to take out the blockers and had two turns of free attacks. He didn't survive them.

Justin lost his match, so it all came down to Alex. His creatures were all defensive, but his matchup was very good. A Nantuko Shade took up the offensive with controller Adam very low on life. Some Shades tried to attack, but tricks kept them from doing major damage. Game two the Shades came in again, and this time Adam had Cabal Coffers, so Alex kept trying to find enough power to kill the Shade. Finally an Advocate gave him the last point he needed, and Pay No Heed prevented the Shade from wreaking havoc on Alex's entire team. Alex took a huge life lead that allowed him to swing with his team without getting killed by the counterstrike, but the game was still going painfully slowly as Alex's cards were still all defensive, and when it looked like the Wanderers would be able to go in a Mind Sludge sent them back to the waiting room. Finally Alex got the ability to alpha strike Adam out of the game, and we were back in the finals.

Our final match was against Kyle Rose and two of his friends. The decks are available at the sideboard, as are the semifinal decks. Toby's coverage is hype at its most brazen, with two days of intense competition coming down to this and setting us up for an action packed and entertaining final. In case you're wondering why I don't write much coverage these days, it's because I don't write like that. Everyone has a limit, and more power to Toby for writing that and keeping down his lunch.

At any rate, the finals start up. Alex is in hell, with three Arcane Teachings facing down no good answers. Justin and I however are in good shape. Game one, I get mana flooded with a Breakthrough, and since losing the Breakthrough would be a disaster I have to play carefully around his two Syncopates. He gives me an opening, but I'm still flooded. Meanwhile Kyle goes straight to seven and drops his splashed Nishoba. I keep it at bay with Puppeteer, but he starts bouncing the Puppeteer. I can block the Nishoba without much trouble but it gives him too much life for me to kill him. I start to run low on cards, and he counters one of the Defy Gravities to kill me when I have to get too aggressive to avoid getting decked.

In case you're wondering why I was running Defy Gravity, aside from a Crab and the Nishoba he had only flyers to win the game. The ground was mine, so I figured why not just block everything? They worked out well, and the real question is whether there should have been three instead of two. At any rate, game two was a disappointment as Kyle played out a hand full of quick guys as I looked at a bunch of answers I couldn't cast. Ah, mana screw. It took down both me and Justin, and the big prize of the tournament went to The Jokas. Ironically, the coverage says it was because of the Arcane Teachings deck of despicable death, but that deck LOST. Yes, Alex pulled it out again. None of us has any idea how, but he did.

The tournament was over. I guess you can't complain about second place, but if you factor in the masters slot the majority of the money in the tournament goes to the winners. So while I'm not unhappy, I'm not all that happy about it either. I considered getting a ride back to the city with Alex or Justin, but it would have ended up taking me farther away so I decided instead to stick around and get a cab. I ended up splitting one with Zev and Toby.

Now that that's complete, I'd like to give an update on Magic Online before I go. A lot of people realized that they should be buying event tickets, which has led to packs becoming much more expensive. If you're looking to draft Odyssey Block, you should probably buy the Odyssey boosters yourself and trade for the Torment if you want to spend time to save a little money. If you're trying to draft IPA or Seventh Edition, go ahead and buy the packs. I'm sure this will continue to change over time, and I'll try and keep everyone posted on that as it develops.

The real steal oddly enough is Tournament Packs, also known as starters. There are no starters given out as prizes and they can't be used as currency. The result is that the prices are inflated. If you have the time, your best bet right now is to buy starters and then trade them for the packs and tickets you want. Odyssey and Invasion both work well. Do note however that just as before this will change over time, and soon the prices should return to normal.

The trading post is less of a wasteland than it used to be, but it's still not my favorite place to be. I tried creating a web page listing what I have to offer and what I'm willing to buy, which can be found one link from www.zvimowshowitz.com. I'll be updating that regularly. If anyone else is maintaining a website, e-mail me the url and I'll try to compile a list for people to reference.

- Zvi Mowshowitz


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