Haven't done a tournament report in a while. Heck, I haven't really played tournament Magic in a while, not seriously at least. For that reason it may have been a bad idea to run with a deck that requires a lot of matchup knowledge to play. The tournament was Grand Prix Singapore 2011, the format was standard and my weapon of choice was Caw Blade:
I actually ran this deck through a couple of grinders, both times losing to RUG variants, and that was practically all the playtesting time I had aside from a few random casual games the Friday before the GP. Oh well, we go with what we have.
Round 1 I played versus another Filipino who was visiting Singapore from Malaysia. Apparently he had just come in this morning via bus and was running on only a couple of hours sleep. That didn't stop him from wrecking me game one with a Phyrexian Obliterator bearing a Lashwrithe. Yup, he was playing Monoblack control. I had actually mulliganned to five and he tore my hand apart with pinpoint discard before that Obliterator took me down in two swings. For game two I brought in Celestial Purges and Divine Offerings, taking out Mana Leaks and the Jace Beleren. I easily won game two off a Mirran Crusader that got his War and Peace on. Game three started off poorly for me as this time I mulled to four, keeping a one lander. Luckily I drew into what I needed and he was drawing mostly land. I managed to play a Hawk (refilling my hand) before he played a surprise sideboarded Torpor Orb cutting me off from my equipment. He played a couple of creatures -- an Obliterator and a Vampire Nighthawk before I managed to land a Jace that eventually allowed me to stabilize. By this time however, most of my creatures were out, though I well had the game under control. So I just proceeded to fateseal him every turn and finish him off with Jace's ultimate.
1-0 matches, 2-1 games
Round 2 My round 2 opponent was... er, I'm not sure. He was definitely Singaporean and I think he was playing either Darkblade or Cawblade. But I did win, in 3 games!
2-0 matches 4-2 games
Round 3 My round 3 opponent was definitely Caw Blade, and was another Filipino who was working in Singapore. He seemed even more inexperienced with the deck than I was though, as I saw when we had some exchanges like me blocking his Batterskull that had a Feast and Famine with my Hawk that had a Batterskull and Feast and Famine. Nevermind the fact that I had more toughness, he hadn't even realized I had protection from his germ token. I don't remember the other details well, but I won in 3 games again.
3-0 matches, 6-3 games
At the start of Round 4 they called the first feature match: Owen Turtenwald vs Steven Tan. I kind of did a double take when I heard the Steven Tan part.
Round 4 My opponent was Singaporean, and he lead with forest into Birds of Paradise. I thought he was some sort of RUG but turns out he was straight RG Valakut. The matchup is as easy as I had read, since he has so few creatures to help him establish control and very little in the way of spot removal. A Mirran Crusader bearing War and Peace was enough to win game one. In game two he hesitated before keeping his hand after he had mulliganned to five and I decided to be merciless and give him the Eye of the Tiger (TM). He played turn two Explore and I answered with Spell Pierce. Turn 3 Cobra and I answered with Flashfreeze. Turn 4 Explore (still stuck on three lands) and I had the second Spell Pierce. By this time I had solid control and he would never be able to recover.
4-0 matches, 8-3 games
I was feeling great at this point, but was well aware that by now I was in danger of running into pros, and my record against pros is not surprisingly quite bad.
Round 5 I actually thought I was paired against fffreak himself Brad Nelson, but it turns out it was a guy named Brandom Nelson. He was a scrawny American (reminded me somehow of Reid from Criminal Minds), so I wasn't sure if he was related to Brad Nelson. I later found out he was actually fffreakslittlebro hence the name similarity and that they are step brothers or half brothers or something hence the difference in appearance. He was bringing Caw Blade as well, and the difference of playtesting showed up here quite easily. He played quickly; as soon as I had played a turn 2 Hawk he would ask me how many I was getting and would proceed to say, "then you're done right" and start his turn while I was still shuffling. "No need to waste time," he would murmur.
He got a Mystic first and went for Batterskull. My Mystic went for a Feast and Famine, I figured I would need to grind him out, treating it as a control matchup. I was probably already wrong here, but I didn't have long to figure it out. His next creature was a Mirran Crusader and the turn after that he got a War and Peace on it (he never played the Batterskull), with Spell Pierce backup for my Into the Roil, and I died quickly.
Second game was worse for me, as I was low on lands and he kept me low with a Tectonic Edge on my sixth and seventh lands. I held him off for a while, countering a Jace and hitting a Batterskull with Divine Offering, but eventually he lands a Sun Titan and starts recurring Tectonic Edge and I have no chance. First loss down.
4-1 matches, 8-5 games
That was a bit heartbreaking, I felt like he knew the matchup inside-out (he probably did) and just crushed me at every opportunity. I went into round six a bit off...
Round 6 was against a Malaysian guy sporting RB Vampires. He led with a quick pair of Vampire Lacerators into a Kalastria Highborn. I remember going for the early Batterskull, but my notes don't show me gaining life, instead losing it in chunks of four. I think he killed the Germ somehow.
Game two he had the same opening, but this time I had more ammunition to hold him off. I would draw Celestial Purges and Into the Roils before I eventually managed to Jace into DoJ, but it took forever and I had to chump block quite a number of Hawks before I stabilized.. During this time he had managed to Crush or Manic Vandal away the equipment I was searching with my Mystics. I looked at the clock and saw that there were less than twenty minutes left in the round so I started speeding up the pace. I already had control but was at a low five life and had to resort to attacking with a Mystic bearing a Sylvok Lifestaff to bring him down from 12 while he tried to put away the last few points of damage. I lock him down with Tectonic Edges to keep him at less than four lands, but eventually he gets a creature through and drops me to 3 as he's at 4. I Tectonic Edge the last red source he has and swing to bring him to 2. He draws his card and sighs showing me the Lightning Bolt that would have killed me, then we shuffle up for game 3.
We barely had five minutes left as we started game three, and at that point I knew it was already pretty much a draw. He actually still managed to open with the 2 Lacerators and the Highborn, and followed up with a couple of Bloodghasts, but my hand was chock-full of condemns, celestial purges and into the roils, he had no chance to put me away in five minutes. So we ended in a draw. And in this vicious unforgiving grand prix day one, that draw might as well have been a loss and we both fell into do or die mode.
4-1-1 matches, 9-6-1 games
Interestingly, the table beside us was a Cawblade mirror between two Caucasians that fell into a draw as well, and they spent quite a few minutes talking among themselves on how they'll handle it, as neither of them wanted to give up the win. Eventually they just got a draw as well.
Round 7 My Belgian opponent led with Island into Preordain and I had played so much Caw Blade I just assumed that was what he had. The second land however was a Mountain, followed by another Preordain and I realized I had fallen prey to the boogeyman matchup -- Exarch Twin. Well I figured I just had to be careful not to tap out, and indeed I managed to be aggrressive, going Hawk into Hawk into Mystic into Batterskull. Eventually as I attacked for with 4 creatures for 7 damage he flashed in the Deceiver Exarch to tap down the germ and I kind of panicked as the only instant speed response I had in hand was an Into the Roil. I pondered whether to play it or not and at some point even tapped the four mana. If I sent it back to his hand immediately, he would just do the same thing on his next attack and then I would have nothing. So I held back and just dealt my 3 damage. Post-combat I played a Mystic to get Feast and Famine, hoping to grind out his hand, but as was pointed out to me later, it was a crucial mistake as I was left with only four mana untapped. On his turn he played the Splinter Twin and I responded with Into the Roil, but had no mana to pay for the Mana Leak. The Twin resolved and we were on to game two.
I resolved to play tighter as I boarded in Spellskites and Dismembers, but it was for naught as I was stuck at 3 islands and a plains for most of the game, with him keeping me off a fifth land via Tectonic Edges. He played a Manic Vandal for the first equipment my Mystic flashed in, and I dared not tap out after that since I could die at any time, which meant I was restricted to playing one two mana spell a turn so that I could keep up a Mana Leak available. Eventually I got nothing and that Manic Vandal actually went all the way (I drew a Dismember with too few life to kill him).
4-2-1 matches, 9-7-1 games, and that's it for me.
Really, the losses were due to the general lack of practice and playtesting which made them a bit frustrating. But that's life I guess, and a consequence of putting things together at the last minute. At least I have more experience when I go to play in the upcoming Nationals Qualifiers.
I'll probably skip Shanghai, despite it being a limited GP, as I'd like to limit the damage to international GP a year. I'm still not willing nor able to commit the amount of playtesting and practice time to compete at the international level apparently, but at least I'm already doing better than the 0-3 starts I got the last 2 GPs I attended. We'll see where I go with Magic from here.