I had an out of country trip last weekend to Kuala Lumpur to play Magic, but I was a bit tempted to not write about it all. The reason being that inevitably after one of these MTG-related trips the first thing people ask me is "Nanalo ka ba?" (Did you win?) and this time, the answer was sadly no. (Let's get the spoilers out of the way early shall we.) However, I realized that not all stories have to have happy endings. Sometimes the journey itself is the story.
Besides, it was my first trip ever to Malaysia, and as I like to use this blog to remember past events, it's probably a good idea to write a little bit about it. If you're here just to get my opinions on Malaysia and want to skip the MTG bits here you go:
- Weather was hot, but nowhere near as hot as manila
- Look and feel more like Singapore than Manila. I was expecting it to be closer to Manila, but I guess with the proximity to Singapore the similarity makes more sense
- Food is more expensive than Manila, again probably due to Singapore being a few hours away by bus
- I didn't get to sample the public transpo, we mostly either walked or took a Grab anywhere. We didn't really have time to do anything touristy anyway as we were either prepping for the RPTQ or tired from doing poorly.
- I did like how the airport was like 50km away from the city proper. It's one of the terrible things about NAIA is that there's no space between the airport and Metro Manila. There's also a fixed grab rate when travelling from the airport, so that was cool.
- I still have 100+ extra ringgit. I'm selling, if you're interested LOL.
Now for the MTG bits: I was actually not intending to do any foreign travel this year, mostly because I had decided to lay low with MTG for a while after last year's lackluster performances. I was so decided to skip standard for this year that during that last trip I left my standard deck with @switchfollows in Singapore so he would have some cards for the GP they have in June. Around February, another friend @aleksfelipe tells me that he has a deferred invite to the 25A RPTQ happening in Kuala Lumpur in June. The format for that RPTQ happened to be Team Unified Standard, so Alex would need to bring two more players as his teammates. Among our old playgroup, it was really only him and me and Switch who were still sort of playing regularly and at a kind of competitive level, so we were the chosen team!
Of course, the problems of card availability came up. Switch was in Singapore, and he had most of the standard-legal cards with him. Alex and I were in the Philippines, with much less cards available. We had been planning to purchase the standard challenger decks when they came out, so that helped get us a bunch of other cards we needed. The timing was tough too. Dominaria would be coming out around a month before the RPTQ, which meant we didn't know what decks we could play until then. We also didn't want to spend too much resources on singles, since the trip was already costing us some money. Between the usual work business and the fact that our card pool was split across two countries, we also did not have time for playtesting. As the date of the RPTQ drew near, it was increasingly likely that we would need to assemble our decks on-site and just do our testing there.
We did manage to get a bit of support from a local gaming store that let us borrow some cards we were missing, so shout out to Roll Play Game Lounge for their support (although we totally fumbled the ball.)
We eventually settled on playing RB midrange, GB constrictor, and UB Improvise ("Anguished Affinity"). We decided against even trying to assemble a UW control deck because (a) we were missing too many pieces (mainly Disallow and the white sideboard mythics -- Lyra Dawnbringer and History of Benalia); and (b) we felt that piloting a control deck required a comprehensive understanding of the metagame, which we didn't have with our limited prep.
Our configuration ended up being Switch in Seat A with RB midrange, me in Seat B with GB constrictor and Alex in Seat C with UB Improvise. Here is the GB list I piloted:
Because of how hot it was and how we'd been sweating a lot during the trip and how we somehow decided to all play black decks, we jokingly referred to ourselves as Team Black Pawis. This turned out to be an unlucky team name LOL. We managed to practice a few matchups (including with a proxied UW control) on-site Friday and Saturday. Our red matchups didn't feel too good, but it was too late to switch. All we could do was hope for the best.
As for the tournament itself:
- The turnout was huge, with 82 teams opting to play. I think as many as ten Philippine teams and probably a bit more Singaporean teams. The organizer actually had to switch to a larger venue to accommodate everyone (which caused not a bit of inconvenience from groups who had chosen to book early). I suppose the team nature of the event and the fact that an invitee could bring his friends along vastly increased interest in the tournament.
- Speaking of the larger venue, it could indeed hold all the teams, but their airconditioning was not up to it, so we ended up sweating a lot throughout the event. Team Black Pawis indeed.
- We did quite poorly. Dropped after four losses and only one win which was a no-show. I didn't even win a match. A lot of it was due to lack of preparation and poor positioning/deck choice.
Losing of course was a feel-bad, as it always is for me. My teammates were not quite as spikey as I was, so they took it a bit better. I mentioned to Alex that his invite might have gone to better use if he had looked for other players who were actively playing standard at the time. He correctly responded that the thought never crossed his mind, that the opportunity to play in a team tournament with friends who he had known for a while was what he wanted. It was a good reminder for me that winning isn't always everything. The trip was not a waste since we did enjoy our prep time and had some fun moments and catching up with each other.
- We sent Switch off back to Singapore with his RB deck. We felt that monored probably would've been a simpler choice, and far easier to pilot as well, so he might decide to switch that up for his GP next week.
- I'll probably still try to play the same deck in standard PPTQs before Core 2019 comes out, with minor adjustments. At the very least, will probably add 1-2 Blossoming Defense somewhere in the 75.
- Team Unified Standard was a fun puzzle. I think we did get the general solution in the days leading up the tournament, but lack of card availability and flexibility left us unable to execute that.
- For a while I tried to metagame the seating arrangements but I gave up because realistically there's no way to predict what other teams would do. One of our opponents did give us a good insight though: they put the quick monored deck in the middle seat, so that no matter what, his decisions would be quicker and he would have more time to advise the other team members.
- Alex and I are also qualified for PH Nationals in July, so that's something to look forward to. Unfortunately, that tournament happens in week 1 of a new meta, so I'll probably be playing the same deck again, with whatever adjustments needed for Core 2019.
Just for fun, I also started compiling a trip playlist. Then I stopped because I could only remember three relevant songs:
- Call Me Maybe -- was playing on the radio during the Grab trip from the airport, and for some reason it got stuck in my head
- All Star -- only because during our late night testing we ended up watching a few of Jon Sudano's videos.
- Be Prepared -- this was the main takeaway from the defeat! For me personally, the biggest takeaway is that preparation is always important.
My new, upgraded set of rules (an improvement over the ones from the GP Singapore post:
- Be prepared
- Read the cards
- Mulligan well
- Think before scooping
- Life is unfair
So much for "laying low". Ah Magic, you are such a hard game to quit.