The Team Tournament was an all-nighter starting from midnight and going until after 5:00. I loaded up on caffeine, onigiri, and sandwiches. I was ready. I had been working on plays, strategies, and all sorts of contingencies with the Burn deck. I looked up decks, played against Mike, and watched videos on YouTube involving Burn decks or decks that I would be up against. I was golden.
Then, I started my first match.
I had never seen Zoo. It never came up in any matchups I watched. Mike never said a word about. Zoo runs creatures which interact with your land. For example, Loam Lion gets +1/+2 if you control a Forest. Wild Nactal gets +1/+1 if you control a Mountain a +1/+1 if you control a Plain. Meaning, it gets +2/+2 if you control both.
It also runs Tarmogoyf. Tarmogoyf gets x/x+1 for every type of card in your graveyard. Which means that if you have a sorcery, an instant, and a creature in your graveyard, Tarmogoyf is a 3/4. On turn two. Add in Knight of the Reliquary, which lets you sacrifice a Forest or a Plain and then search for a land card and put it onto the battlefield untapped, adds another land type to your graveyard and gets +1/+1 for every land in your graveyard.
Anyway, it’s a beater deck. And he put me on a much faster clock than I had him on. He would play Tarmogoyf on turn two, hit me, two or three times, maybe resolve a Knight or something, and then use burn spells to finish me off. It was quick.
So, we started sideboarding. I thought, “Sweepers and Blood Moon!” The sweeper I sideboarded was Volcanic Fallout. It’s a three mana, two red, Instant that does two damage to everything; players and creatures. Probably not the best sweeper, but I’m new to sideboarding.
Anyway, we shuffle, cut, draw seven cards. I kept a normal Burn hand: a single mountain, Goblin Guide, and some burn spells. He says, “Keepu” (because, you know, he’s Japanese) and I said, “Keep,” (because, you know, I’m American) and I was about to play my first land when he held up his hand and said, “Sutopu (stop).” He reached into his hand, and played……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. Leyline of Sanctity.
Yup. You read that right. Leyline of frakin’-Sanctity! I almost quit right then. I turned to Mike and said, “Remember what we talked about earlier? It happened.” I was toast.
However, I wanted to play.
Now, I couldn’t shoot burn spells to his head, so I decided to kill off his creatures and then hit him with my own. I hit him with double Goblin Guides, Keldon Marauders, and Hellspark.
I got him down to, get this, three lifepoints. That’s right… three lifepoints! With creatures and Volanic Fallout (since the damage is done to everything, without specifying a target, Leyline can’t prevent it). So, he’s within three points and I only draw burn spells and mountains. He resolves Tarmogoyf and Knight of the Reliquary, then burns me to death.
It took my five minutes after the game ended to realize that I had forgotten to flashback the Hellspark Elemental.
He had three lifepoints left and I had a 3/1 with haste and trample just waiting to come back into play and I forgot to play it!
Lesson learned: when playing Burn, remember what’s in your graveyard and use it.
Needless to say, I lost.
We took a break. I bought a playmat. Then we started again.
So, I sit down in front of my next opponent and we start playing. We keep our hands and then he starts. He draws, drops a Swamp, and plays Entomb.
Yup, that deck.
Then he searches for, and dumps into his graveyard……………………………………………………… Griselbrand.
Yeah, that card.
My turn. I play a Mountain, resolve a Goblin Guide, and get in for two. Next turn, he drops a second Swamp and he Exumes………………………………………………….. (is this annoying yet?) Griselbrand!
Now, I need to preface what I did. Before we started playing, the shop owner announced that the first player to have two creatures killed that match will get a brand spankin’ new Avacyn Restored fatpack. Now, back to the game. My Goblin Guide (2/2) is staring down a flying Griselbrand (7/7). What do I decide to do? Well, I wanted the fatpack, and I figured, in this case, a dead Goblin is better than a bored one, so I ran him into Griselbrand. Of course, I forgot about the Lifelink.
I forgot about the Lifelink!
I tried sideboarding grave-hate. I put Surgical Extraction in. Basically, I pay two lifepoints and then name a card in my opponent’s graveyard. I then search his graveyard, library, and hand for copies of that card and then exile them all. Perfect! I wait until he tries to Exhume Griselbrand, I play Surgical Extraction, I exile all of his Griselbrands, and he wastes an Exhume!
Yeah, if I had mulliganed until I had it.
Lesson learned: if you need hate, mulligan until you have it.
I lost… again.
I hang out, watch some people play, and then we started game three.
There’s not a lot I can say about the next game. Have you ever heard The World? Nope? Me neither. Neither has anyone else. My opponent had brewed it himself. I can’t really say much, except that it was a blue green agro deck.
And then lost again.
It’s 4:00am. I’m running low on energy. I’ve given up using what little Japanese I know and just started nodding whenever someone started talking to me.
Now, I would like to say that I had a fourth game. But, I really didn’t. Here’s why: mono-blue Hightide.
I really don’t know how this deck works. All I really remember was a lot of tapping and untapping of Islands, Sensei’s Diving Top, and Temporal Spiral. He played a single Japanese card and just stopped, holding it in front of me. I nudged Mike, asked him what it was, and all he did was shake his head and said,
“It’s over. Scoop.”
I put in some blue hate and Pyrostatic Pillar, which is an enchantment that does 2 damage to a player every time they play a spell that has a converted mana cost of three or less. Now, Hightide uses a lot of one and two mana drops. So, I figured, that using Pyrostatic Pillar would lock them down, and then I’d use Pyroblast to destroy a blue permanent or cancel Hightide or Temporal Spiral. Of course, that would have worked, if I had mulliganed to it.
Lesson learned a second time.
However, I did actually win that one. He didn’t get all the pieces together right away.
We started game three and, the next thing I know, he started ramping up his mana and playing Sensei’s Diving Top a lot. His turn took five minutes. I was so bored I started watching Mike’s game.
I lost again.
So, that’s it. I lost every match and maybe won one or two games.
However, when all was said and done, I prefer losing because of my mistakes. I can change those. When I lose because I’m dumb, I can learn and get smarter. When I get bashed because I made a bad play, I learn to make the good plays.
When it comes to getting better, losing is always preferable to winning. You learn when you lose. You grow and get better. No one ever got better because they smashed their opponents every time. You only get better when you remember your mistakes and then learn from.
That was the most important lesson I learned.