Worlds opened the extended season, after nearly a year without any major extended tournament. In worlds we saw the raw, untested decks, based on the previous extended season. A few old archetypes crashed to the floor in Worlds (mainly Stompy) and Pro-Tour New-Orleans, the next major tournament, saw a different enviroment altogether.
Whereas Sligh dominated Worlds in sheer numbers (40+ sligh decks, as opposed to 20 at most of each other archtype), Pt NO didn't hold nearly enough success in store for Sligh. The archtypes that ruled that tournament were Re-animator and the new version of Trix (aka Donate Illusions).
The new Re-Animator used 2 of the new expansion cards. The one, Zombie Infestation, granted it a lasting power which it never had before, as well as a means of discarding fatties to the graveyard. The other, Entomb, enabled a second turn reanimation of Multani/Crosis against control decks, or a Verdant Force against Sligh decks. Krovikan Horrors and Squee enabled an endless creation of zombies (via Zombie Infestation). The crown of the deck was a sole Contamination, often used (with the help of 4 Vampiric Tutors) to lock a control deck on 3rd turn, assuming a Multani didn't hit the table before that.
Trix has suffered many changes since the banning of Necropotence. It traded an effective, 1 card, drawing-winning engine for the interaction of many spells. The current version uses Accumulated Knowledges, along with Intuition, in order to draw 3, and often 4 cards. That sheer card advantage is often used on the next few turns to bring an Illusions into play and Donate it to the other player. And that, more or less, means game.
The new version, seen in New Orleans, included 3 Fire/Ice maindeck, as well as some Pyroblasts in the sideboard. This took care of many problems Trix had to deal before, such as Bottle Gnomes, Spike Feeder, Druid Lyrist, Ball Lightning and many others. In the worst case, it could be used simply as a limited form of Time Walk, tapping an opponent's land during his upkeep.
This deck is reliable and fast (often capable of winning on the 5th turn - almost as fast as Sligh). Kai Budde, the german Juggernaut won the Pro Tour using this deck (and assisted by a generous amount of luck, one must state).
Knowing these facts, it was obvious for my team that those are the decks to prepare against.
And now about the team :
Team I.M.F - Israeli Magic Force - consists of 5 players : Dani and Andrei Yosef, Tomer, Shahaf and myself (Roey). We are all sworn to defend the honor of north Israel. And we do that, of course, by winning as many tournaments we can.
We have at least one playtesting session each week, where we work on our decks, search for new ideas for new and exciting decks, and usually make a pizza tray or two vanish, too.
Dani was playing a Wallamies control deck. The deck is almost identical to the one that Wallamies elevated to the second place in Pro Tour New Orleans. It consists of heavy board control (Swords to Plowshares, Wrath of God, Seal of Cleansing), card advantage (via Impulses and Fact or Fictions), and 4 winning cards (3 Call of the Herd and 1 Morphling). His brother Andrei was playing a Trix deck, almost the same as the one Kai Budde played in the Pro Tour. If I'm not mistaken, the only change made was in adding 1 Stroke of Genius to the main.
Tomer was playing a Brawler-Sligh deck. An ordinary Sligh with Veteran Brawlers against other Sligh decks, and Ports against control and to aid the Brawlers. He fine tuned it, though, into a red-green Sligh, in which the only green cards were 4 Land Grant, which insured him some land consistancy. His sideboard was heavy laden with Hull Breaches, Emerald Charms, and other such cards, all useful against the popular Oath and Trix decks.
As for myself, I stuck with trusty old 2-Turns-Boom, though I improved it a little.
Here's the deck list for the tournament :
Problem solvers :
2 Swords to Plowshares
2 Diabolic Edict
3 Wrath of God
1 Seal of Cleansing
4 Gerrard's Verdict
1 Vampiric Tutor
4 Marble Diamond
3 Phyrexian Arena
2 Chimeric Idol
2 Desolation Angel
Life savers :
2 Radiant's Dragoons
2 Gerrard's Wisdom
4 Scrubland (courtesy of Dani)
4 Caves of Koilos
3 Coffin Purge (anti Re-animator - even if they Duress you, you can still use it)
3 Seal of Cleansing (anti Oath/Orbosition/Re-animator)
4 Circle of Protection Red (anti Stompy. No, not really... :> )
2 Disrupting Scepter (anti Dani :> )
2 Haunting Echoes (anti control/re-animator)
We reached the tournament area and were straight away matched against each other.
First round - Dani Yosef
Upon hearing the pairings, Dani immidiately offers me to concede; and for a good reason, too. My deck was very consistant against his in playtesting - meaning that it lost 100% of the games, with or without sideboard. He feels that it's going to be a slaughter, and I... Well, I feel even worse.
Still, I didn't reach the tournament only to concede on the first round. I am resolved to play the match as well as I could, and just hope I won't fall down too hard.
Game 1 : Dani is the Israeli champion, and not without reason. He never makes any mistakes that I discern, and usually shows me the ones I do while playtesting. Worst of all, he looks like Kai Budde!
The first game is pretty ridiculous. He manages to bring 3 lands into play... and that's it. I, in the meantime, cast a first turn Duress, and, discerning that he has no counterspells in hand, cast down a Phyrexian Arena - the one card he must counter in my deck. He doesn't, and I use the card advantage to demolish his elephant token and start applying the beats with my Chimeric Idol. Eventually he gets a Tithe and starts playing like he should. However, the damage has already been done at this stage, and my Idol, aided by a Wrath of God (to remove his second token) whumps him hard. At a certain point he manages to kill the Idol, and I summon a Desolation Angel to trumpet his demise. He has 2 turns to topdeck a Swords to Plowshares, and when he doesn't - I win.
Game 2 : Dani is still in shock, and I'm in no better shape. I sideboard out a Seal and Vindicates (he has almost no dangerous permanents) and stick in Haunting Echoes and Disrupting Scepter.
Amazingly enough, the first game goes the same way as the first. I Duress and Verdict him, and he gets stuck with no good cards. I artifice me a Chimeric Idol and commence with the beating. His first Herd token takes up the plowshare, and his second is removed soon after. He is at 5 life, and as a last ditch effort, casts Intuition for 2 Calls of the Herd and a Morphling (having 6 lands, and only 3 left untapped after the Intuition). I give him the Morphling, and next turn cast Haunting Echoes. That winnows his deck by half, and more importantly for now - removes the pesky Calls from the graveyard. He draws a card, and asks if I have an Edict. I show him a Wrath - but that's good enough. It's Game Over.
I guess Lady Luck was mansturating today :>
But seriously now, if there was one game my deck should have crashed in, it was this one. I suppose you just can't anticipate luck.
However, Dani later faced -=3=- Reanimator decks in a row (which is a VERY favorable match for me - 90% win) and a medicore one for him. He won them all, and made his way to the top 8 over the still corpses of Multani and Crosis.
Way to go, Dani!
Second Round - Duri Sadan
Duri is one of the oldest magic players in Israel (37 years old). He invests large amounts of money in the game - and his deck is nearly entirely foil, as a result. He doesn't play with white-bordered cards - even his Tundras are Beta. His deck is a version of aggo/control. He summons a white weenie or two (Meddling Mages, White Knights, Soltari Monk/Priest, etc), and defends it with counterspells and Parallax Waves. As a backup plan, his deck packs Fairie Conclaves and Chimeric Idols - and when he feels he's in troubles, he just Wraths everything and switches to Idol mode.
Game 1 : He begins by Force Spiking my Marble Diamond, and then casting a Soltari Priest. The Priest is quite a nuisance, hitting me for 2 each turn. I summon a Radiant's Dragoons to prevent his Chimeric Idol from attacking, and sometime later, I wrath (taking 2 of his critters and my Dragoons). The game goes on and on, with me losing life rapidly, and casting a Wisdom for 8 life and another Dragoons for 5. My Arena bears heavily on me, and I finally Seal it away, at 1 life. At that point I summon an Angel of the void. He doesn't have Swords to Plowshares - and the game is over.
Game 2 : I don't remember this game to the details. It involved a first Parallax Wave taking out my Dragoons, and then when I wrathed, his Knight and Northern Paladin. It was buried 2 turns later, releasing my Dragoons and his critters. Neither of us noticed that the Dragoons gain me 5 life - or, for that matter, that I have to pay the echo cost again (which I could). The game went on, until he cast another Parallax Wave - and I suddenly realized that the Dragoons should have netted me 5 life. He objected, which I thought a bit rude, since I let him take back a step earlier on (which would have killed his Knight). I called the judge - Or Shefer - and he ruled that we both have a warning, and that I gain 5 life. That extra life was just in place, as I had 4 life at the time, with 2 annoying critters staring me in the eye from his side of the table. Next turn I summoned an Angel. He Parallaxed it away, but stayed without lands. His Parallax was buried a turn later, and my Angel and Dragoons came back into play, netting me another 5 life - but also destroying the land I played. The Dragoons died a turn later, when I was unable of paying the echo cost, and I stayed with an Angel in play, against a Meddling Mage (set on Wisdom) and a White Knight. I was down to 9 life at that time, and he could have attacked me with the Knight (unblockable by the black Angel) - I wouldn't have dared attack him. He didn't though, for a few turns. When he remembered that the Knight had protection, he slapped his forehead, started rushing me - and I lost 4 rounds later (no topdeck Swords/Edict).
Time was called at this moment, and I realized that we would have to settle this match with a tie.
Third round - Itai Bahar
Itai was playing a Opposition-Tradewind Rider deck, with Mystic Snakes.
Game 1 : He counters my Dragoons, bounces back my Masticore with Man'o'war and then Mystic Snakes it away. Then it's
beating time. He hits me with 2 2/2 every turn, while I'm waiting for some normal critter-killing spell, since I don't want to waste a Vindicate on a critter (I'm too afraid of his Opposition). When I'm down to 7 life, I finally Vindicate his Snake away, and bring a Dragoon to play. The Dragoon stays put until I can be sure he has no counterspells in play - and then it's Angel time. And that, of course, means Game.
Game 2 : I sideboard in my Haunting Echoes and the game begins. He gets a slow start, but still manages to counter my Dragoons and Masticore. At a certain point he manages to bring 2 Tradewind Riders into play, along with a Birds of Paradise. He starts bouncing my lands each turn, while I desperately wait for a Wrath. In the end, I manage to Swords away his Rider - and a few turns later I cast Haunting Echoes.
Now THIS is something to see! About half the spells in his deck lie in the graveyard. I remove all his Swords, Seals, Disenchants, Counterspells, Forbids, Mana Leaks, Brainstorms... EVERYTHING. I put his mini-deck back on the table, and just feel good about myself. I even know now which cards he has in his hand!
His only counterspell left is Force of Will - and I saw 4 of them in the library. 2 turns later, he Force of Wills one of my major spells - using another Force of Will as the blue fuel card. He brings a Wall, a Mystic Snake and an opposition into play and uses it to nullify my Chimeric Idol. I lay down another Idol, and then summon the Angel. He can't tap them all... and Game it is.
Fourth Round - Andrei Yosef
Well, now, luck has 2 faces - and at the moment, it chose to pair me against the second Yosef brother, and a team-mate. And, of course, the only Trix deck in the entire tournament. Still, I felt this would be an even match, as my deck contains many life gainers, and each of them is a threat to the Trix deck. A small threat - but a threat nontheless.
Game 1 : At the start of the game, judge Or Shefer sat down next to us, and declared this game 'A Feature Match'!
Then he took my notepad and began reporting the game as we played. It's a good thing he did, too, as the games were pretty demanding and I had to pay attention to every step and turn. Those were the most enjoyable games I had so far in the tournament, by the way.
Since I don't have the report he made, I'll not even make an attempt at reporting the games accurately. In the first game I managed to pass through a Gerrard's Verdict on me (3rd turn, I think), which gained me another 6 life. He manages to cast Illusions+Donate once, but is unable to cast them again, mainly because I duressed another of his Donates, Verdicted another one, and the other he used to fuel a Force of Will. He's left out of Donates, I'm at 6 life, and he already wasted one of his Fire/Ice (he only has 3). How can he win? Capsize!
He starts Capsizing me, with 3 Sapphire Meddalions in play. That means he casts a Capsize 3 times every turn. Luckily, I fall upon a Verdict and cast it on him, praying that he has no Counterspells in hand. He has 2 cards in hand, but as a final retort, he responds by Capsizing my Scrubland back to my hand. That was his mistake, of course - since he should have returned his own Island to his hand - and then discard that Island and the other card he had in hand. A Masticore and a Chimeric Idol finish the game soon after.
Game 2 : He manages to achieve control, mainly by using 2 Merchant Scrolls to get 2 Counterspells. I still manage to Verdict myself for 3 extra life, but he just sets himself into control mode, using Capsize (again, with 3 Meddalions) to bounce back my cards. I stay with no cards on the table, and I think he just cast an Illusions again and Donated it to me without me doing anything against it. -=That=- was some sheer torture!
Time is called.
Fifth Round - Gidi Aviram
Gidi and I have a long record to settle between us, since that last extended tournament where I beat him with my 2-Turns-Boom. He's sworn to settle that account today - and he manages to do that pretty well with his improved Oath deck.
Game 1 : He gained control, and never let it go. I conceded when he had 10 enchantments in play (including a Wild Research and 2 Oaths), thinking that I would sideboard my Echoes and Coffin Purges and slaughter him next game.
Game 2 : I Purge an early Blessing, and then flash it back for an Accumulated Knowledge. He Wastelands my Caves, and then I'm sitting with a long face, topdecking Plains after Plains. My hand consists of : 2 Haunting Echoes (a game winner against Oath at that stage of the game), 2 Phyrexian Arena, Desolation Angel...
You get the point. Anyway, he attacks with his Treetop Village, lowering me to 7 life or so, until I am forced to Tutor for an Edict. He brings an Ivory mask into play, and I topdeck a Swamp (which doesn't help me anymore) and 4 Duresses in 8 turns.
I wasn't nice...
And that's all I'm going to say about that game.
I didn't make top 8. Of those who did, 3 were team-mates (Dani, Tomer and Andrei). The others were Gidi Aviram, Djen, Or Bildner, Lior Zomerfeld, and David.
They were playing as follows :
Dani (Control-Wallamies) -------- Gidi (Oath) ===> Dani wins
Andrei (Trix) --------- Tomer (Brawler-Sligh) =====> Andrei Wins
Or Bildner (Black-white Junk) ---------- Djen (Oath) ===> Djen Wins
Lior Zommerfeld (Re-Animator) ---------- David (Sligh) ===> Lior Wins
Lior ----- Dani =====> Dani wins
Andrei ----- Djen ===> Djen wins
Djen ------ Dani ====> Dani wins (In a glorious match, that I'll let Djen report about, if he wishes to :> )
I later joined a rare draft, where I opened a Call of the Herd. Dani and Andrei had to leave, though, and since I was going with them, I had to leave my Call of the Herd behind, as a prize for the winner.
That concludes a season of extended. Start working on your type 2 decks - Dani is going to organize some big type 2 tournaments very soon - and you don't want to miss those!