With half the country covered in snow and ice, it was only natural for me to slip up this weekend. From air travel shenanigans to blown top 8 berths, there’s plenty of mishaps and mistakes to share!
As a pre-holiday treat and to better explain how I felt about things this weekend, enjoy images and GIFs from the Lions/Eagles snow bowl game (from SBnation.com)!
1. Grand Prix Dallas Disaster
Everything is bigger in Texas, including the thickness of the ice. More than a month ago I had set everything up to fly out to Texas Friday night to play in Grand Prix Dallas. Mother Nature decided that wasn’t in the cards, and pounded the Lone Star State with ice and snow through the night on Thursday to bring the city to a standstill. You’re probably thinking, I got my money back no problem because my flight was canceled. Sucks, but no big deal right? If there is a way for me to make something more difficult, I will find it.
You see things were a bit more complicated. My Michigan friends (who were sharing the hotel) had flights departing Detroit on Friday morning, which were cancelled early Thursday evening. The airline they chose didn’t have flights to Dallas from Detroit until Saturday afternoon, so it was an easy choice to just cancel the whole GP trip. But when I called my airline to get a refund, they told me there was nothing I could do, because my flight from Baltimore had yet to be cancelled. Because I had a work meeting during the day Friday, I wasn’t set to fly out until late Friday night. Weather folks predicted that the winter storm would end several hours before that, so there was no reason for my airline to call the flight off yet. But without my friends there to subsidize the hotel (or pick me up from the airport), the flight out on my own would be useless, especially given the fact that roads near the Dallas-Fort Worth airport were being closed off. Regardless of that reason, the airline would only refund tickets (and waive $200 voucher creation fees for cancellations) if I had purchased Trip Insurance, because I purchased them through a travel agent site (ex. Travelocity, Priceline, etc.)
This happened to me the last time I tried to fly somewhere. Last year around Thanksgiving I made arrangements to go to Los Angeles to watch a friend be on Wheel of Fortune. Super Storm Sandy came through and ruined those plans, and because I didn’t buy Trip Insurance the airline was only willing to offer me a third of what I paid in a voucher for future travel. When I bought the tickets to Dallas, I figured the chances of another big storm interrupting my travel was unlikely (especially a winter storm in Texas!) so I once again opted not to buy the insurance.
However, this time I was more vigilant about getting some retribution, if only more value in a voucher, because it didn’t make sense that I still had to pay for a flight when the airline wasn’t flying. It’s not fair for it to make money for doing nothing. So Friday morning I called the airline, waited on the phone for nearly an hour, and talked to three different customer service representatives. I got the same answer from all three people, but at least it was a possible solution: I could get a refund, but only if the flight was officially cancelled. But at 10am, the flight (set for 7:25pm) was still not cancelled yet.
So I checked the flight status every 10 minutes for the next 4 hours, until I finally saw this:
It’s a weird feeling to be excited for an airline cancelling your trip, but in this case it meant I wasn’t getting screwed again. I called the airline immediately, and after waiting 62:13, talked to a customer service rep and processed my refund. I wasn’t going to Grand Prix Dallas, but at least I wasn’t out a few hundred bucks I didn’t use. Half victory!
I’m 2-for-2 on airline travels being cancelled by Super Storms, so one of two things is possible: 1) I have the power to control the weather when I buy flight tickets, or 2) I really should start buying Trip Insurance.
2. Think Locally, not Globally
It was a huge let down to miss Grand Prix Dallas. I had been practicing against the metagame monsters (blue, red, and black devotion decks) for weeks, and had made the switch to blue-white control to combat the mono-colored menaces. Fortunately, there was a StarCityGames Elite IQ at a store near Baltimore, so I took a 45-minute drive up to the event. I was prepared for the “global” metagame (based on Magic Online, Grand Prix events, and other high level tournaments), and expected to play lots of devotion decks, just like I would at the GP. Except, this wasn’t a GP or a SCG Open. It was just a large event at a local game store.
As I walked around the playing area before the tournament, I saw many different decks, nearly none of which were mono-colored decks. Instead of blue seas and dark swamps I saw three-color-reanimators, green-white beaters, red-white burn decks, and tons and tons of green-based aggressive decks. This was not the meta I was looking for, and it seemed like the perfect time to switch back to Esper control. Except I didn’t bring my pile of extra cards that contained my playsets of Thoughtseize, Blood Baron of Vizkopa, and scry lands.
Besides failing to bring cards that I might need (that’s a huge mistake on its own), I brought a deck that was designed to beat a different meta. That’s a key takeaway here – what you see winning at top-tier events is not necessarily what players have at smaller tournaments at your local game store. Blue-white control wasn’t a terrible choice for the day, since it is still a strong deck, but I had to work to earn my wins and really could have used Blood Baron or Hero’s Downfall in nearly every match. Had I played Esper instead, my matchups would have generally been better and I would have had easy answers to cards like Stormbreath Dragon, which gave me hassles all day. I ended up 4-2-1, and had a shot to make Top 8 in the last round (which I blew, see below) against a deck that had almost no answer to Blood Baron and finished me off with a Doom Blade-able monstrous dragon.
3. Tilting on Ties
I started the Elite IQ 3-0, grinding through two Green-black aggro decks and a Black-White midrange/control deck (similar to what won GP Dallas). In round 4 I faced a slow Esper control player who took his time getting to his seat and set up (we started game one 6-minutes into the round). Our match involved several mulligans for each of us, which sucked up a few more minutes of clock time, and we ended up running out of time in game three and drew the match after the obligatory five turns. This bothered me immensely. Now, for many people, a draw is better than a loss and it’s not the end of the world. But when the fifth turn ended, my opponent had five cards left in his library, a few cards in hand, and nothing on the table. I had Aetherling in play, and a grip full of counterspells. As long as I didn’t pass out and die at the table, there was no way I could lose that game.
I asked my opponent to scoop me the win, since he was clearly dead in a few turns, but he held to the draw, making us both 3-0-1 with 3 more rounds to go. I don’t blame him for wanting the draw, and it worked out in his favor since he was in the Top 8 at the end of the day. But for some reason I let the draw set me on tilt. It was likely due to fatigue setting in, since my resolve was weaker due to the sinus infection I had been fighting all week. Whatever the reason, the tilt had its immediate effect, and I sat down for my round 5 match against a familiar opponent – mono-blue devotion – not of sound mind. I kept two terrible hands and got blown out by a match I have practiced for more than a month. It wasn’t even close. I was playing so well until that point, too, and I just threw it away because of a draw.
Tilt is vicious and something that must be avoided at all costs. After the quick blowout, I went and sat in my car for a bit to relax and get my head on straight. I shook it off and went back into Round 6 ready to battle.
Speaking of ties, check out next Thursday’s (12-19) Bad Magic Podcast episode all about draws!
4. More Winning, Less Durdling
I was 4-1-1 and 10th place going into Round 7. If I won the match, I’d be in the Top 8 and guaranteed at least $100, a playmat, and be a few points away from a SCG Invitational qualification (plus the chance to play for an Invite and up to $500 cash). If I lost, I’d be knocked out of the top 16 and get zero prize (9th through 16th got $50 and a playmat). My opponent was playing a Naya midrange deck with all the cards blue-white control hates – good planeswalkers, Voice of Resurgence, and Stormbreath Dragon. He absolutely crushed me game 1 with an insane on-curve hand of turn 1 mana dork, turn 2 Loxodon Smiter, turn 3 Xenagos, the Reveler, good game.
Game two I had some good draws after we both had a slow start and fought through the eventual onslaught of value creatures. It was a tough game but I pulled through to force a game 3.
Game three was a really close match, and it was clear that I was getting extremely fatigued. I lost concentration during the match several times, which caused me to miss a Jace +1 trigger (resulting in more Elspeth Soldier tokens dying than should have). It didn’t help that my match was the last one still going on that mattered for the Top 8, so there was a small crowd gathering around the table. I don’t mind people watching, but at that point in the day it was easy for me to be distracted by the whispers, and the feeling that my plays were being extra scrutinized got to me more than it usually does. Fatigue was certainly a factor, but I wasn’t trying as hard as I should have to keep focused.
I made a few mistakes that didn’t seem to have much of an impact at the time, but ultimately set my fate in motion. One such play was casting Last Breath on a 2/2 Elemental token (left by Voice of Resurgence) in response to my opponent’s Elspeth +1 (before the three Soldier tokens came into play). When I died, my opponent was at 2 life, so that 4 life bonus 4-5 turns before the end of the game mattered. The Last Breath was unnecessary since I could have chump blocked the growing Elemental with my Elspeth tokens all day, and my deck was full of answers like Azorius Charm or Supreme Verdict that negated the token as a real threat. Had I kept the Last Breath for later, I would been able to gain four precious life by targeting one of my Mutavaults or Soldier tokens (I lost the game at -1 life, so again, relevant).
It also would have allowed me to stop the final alpha strike that ended me. My opponent had two Soldier tokens and a 7/7 (from monstrous) Stormbreath Dragon, and played Aurelia, the Warleader. I had used Jace’s +1 ability on my turn, and had Aetherling in play with two Celestial Flare in hand (with the open mana to cast both). I was at 12 life. He attacked with all four creatures, (Jace trigger), and I blocked one of the 0/1 tokens with Aetherling to kill it and take 8. Then he attacked with the three remaining creatures (Jace trigger again), and I cast the two Flares. He correctly sacrificed Aurelia and the Soldier token, leaving the now 5/7 dragon to finish me off. If I still had the Last Breath I could have taken out the Soldier token on the 2nd swing to kill his big creatures, and then finished him with Aetherling on the next turn. It was a misplay several turns ago, but it was one that was completely relevant to whether I made up for my biggest mistake of all:
I had Aetherling in my hand for three turns before casting him, against an opponent with virtually zero ways to kill it outside of combat. Instead, I just durdled around with the plus abilities on Elspeth and Jace while holding the Celestial Flares. My opponent had plenty of Soldier tokens to negate the Flares, so there was no reason to keep up mana for them. It should have been an easy call to slam down the finisher and start winning the game. The way the game played out, I would have won the game and started sorting my deck for the Top 8 deck check before my opponent even got to play the Stormbreath Dragon that killed me. Aetherling full-invested was a three-turn clock, but instead I wasted those three turns waiting on my opponent act. Fatal mistakes are fatal, even though I had a chance to make up for it but didn’t.
So basically, I punted after punting. A double punt. Which is more kicks than the Lions made against the Eagles. My 4-2-1 record put me at 20th place, and out of any prizes.
Losing sucks. But losing a winnable match because of your own mistakes are worse. Say what you want about the role fatigue and sickness can play in a long day of Magic, but the end result is the same. Another tournament I could have top 8’d and more free money in my pocket I could have taken home. The only thing we can do is learn from our mistakes and move onward and upward. There’s plenty of Standard Magic yet to be played before the next set comes out in February, and I’m ready to take a control deck to the top of the next event! (Harrisburg, PA – $1k event at Tap ‘N Atk on Saturday, and a SCG IQ on Sunday at the Adventurer’s Guild)
Stay warm, and don’t forget to check out the Bad Magic Podcast with new episodes every Thursday!