Parke: Worlds 2008 Tournament Report

by Jamie Parke

It feels as though it’s been more than a decade since I’ve written my last tournament report, and it’s actually been just as long since I’ve had a finish in a Magic tournament that would justify writing one. (“Japan 99!” as Lan D. Ho would constantly scream at me all weekend long. I got sixth place there, losing to Kai Budde in the quarterfinals.)

I stopped playing Magic competitively for the eight years between Worlds 1999 in Tokyo and the beginning of this year. I spent four years in college and the four years after that learning the ins and outs of work. But after all of that, I was able to find some time this spring to make my way to Grand Prix: Philadelphia. There, I qualified for Pro Tour: Hollywood. I placed 50th in Hollywood and followed that up with a 3rd-place finish at Grand Prix: Indianpolis. At this point, my rating was high enough for me to qualify for the looming monster that was the 2008 Magic World Championships in Memphis, Tennessee, giving me the opportunity to smash it right in the face.

To prepare for Worlds, I playtested the constructed formats with Gabriel Nassif, Mark Herberholz, Jelger Wiegersma, Timothy Landale, Melissa De Tora, Antonino De Rosa, Steve Sadin, and Gerard Fabiano. We practiced mostly online for the month leading up to the tournament and chatted over instant messenger and Facebook, sharing our thoughts on Standard and Extended. Even though we did a lot of testing, we were still pretty uneasy with our choice in the Standard format: a version of the Five-Color Control Deck. Here is our decklist:

4 Big Poppa Monk
4 Big Daddy Drifts
2 Pac-Man Jones
1 Lance Bass
4 Ghost Busters
2 Not!
4 The Cleaner
1 Marriage Proposal
1 Christmas Morning
3 Prisoner’s Dilemma
3 Planned Parenthood Message
2 The Hook
1 Syphilis
2 Life Sentence

4 Vinny Chase
4 Johnny Drama
4 Eric Murphy
4 Turtle
4 Blue-White Surgeon General’s Warning
2 Red-Green Surgeon General’s Warning
1 Blue-Black Surgeon General’s Warning
1 Blue-Green Surgeon General’s Warning
1 Harriet Tubman
1 St. Croix


4 The Fun Police
3 Gutterballs
2 Syphilis
2 Life Sentence
1 Planned Parenthood Message
1 Get Out of Jail Free Card
1 Acupuncture
1 Miser’s Mage

I flew out of New York City on Wednesday, the day before the tournament, and landed in Memphis that afternoon. Steve Sadin and I arrived at the hotel together, and we quickly met up with Nassif and Herberholz to do some last-minute testing and to make some last-minute adjustments before Day 1. I was playing a few games against Heezy, but he wasn’t being his normal Heezy-self. He wasn’t acting super excited and he wasn’t saying much of anything. He just looked as though his mind were somewhere else. I was actually a little worried, and I was determined to dig a little deeper.

Me: Heez, what’s wrong, man? Wanna grab a drink or something?
Heezy: [immediately jumps into the air and does a 720, his face splitting into an ear-to-ear grin] THAT’S GAME, BOYS! [throws his grip on the table and begins walking full steam ahead to the hotel bar]

Huh. I guess he was just a little bored. Commence night of drinking number one. We grabbed a couple of brews and then head over to the players’ meeting at Graceland. We arrived a little late and the dinner area was full, so we got hooked into going on a tour of the mansion. It was actually pretty cool until we arrived at Elvis’s trophy room. There, right on the wall, was a picture of George W. That PRETTY MUCH ended the tour for me.

We then returned to the hotel bar and met up with Jelger Wiegersma (who is never afraid of to drink a beer) and Jon Finkel (who is now afraid to drink a beer because of getting a three-week head start on his New Year’s resolution). We continued to test and tinker with our deck list while downing a continual stream of Sam Adams. Eventually, the six or seven of us ended up with a build that we were content enough with. Most of the group then headed off to their rooms to retire for the night.

Heezy and I decided to drink a couple of more brews. Then, all of a sudden, gamers galore began coming out of the woodwork, among whom was Ryan Fuller. For those of you who don’t know Ryan Fuller, let me just say that he (1) is full of ridiculous stories, (2) is full of good times, and (3) will never pass up an opportunity to talk shit to anyone.

He saw us in the bar and came up to us. He proceeded to tell us the following story, called “Big Daddy Benafel and Ryan Fuller Go Drinking at Grand Prix: Kansas City”:

Fuller and Big Daddy Benafel were out drinking all night after Day 2. They were on their way home and were roaming around looking for a cab when Benafel decided he had to take a leak. A true gentleman would have waited until he got back to the hotel and used a proper bathroom. Benafel, on the other hand, walked into a nearby parking garage and took a piss behind a car. Normally, this would be the end of the story, but there were four people in that car. Bad timing.

The window rolled down. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” someone in the car asked.

“I’m pissing on the wall,” Benafel replied.

“Fuck you are!” came the answer.

The four guys then decided to play hero and all get out of the car. Benafel and the four dudes began shouting at each other, and the danger meter started to hit red. But then the cops showed up and stopped things from getting too out of hand.

So that was that. Benafel and Fuller managed to find a cab and get in. As the cabdriver was waiting his turn to drive out of the crowded downtown area, however, the cab door was suddenly flung open. Benafel and Fuller are dragged from the car and get whaled on. The four dudes from the parking garage, convinced that Benafel had disrespected their car with his golden shower, were going to teach them a lesson. No one pisses on their car and gets away with it. Nobody.

The cops, of course, seeing shit like this happen every single day in Kansas City, had been watching the entire time. They ran up and shot everyone with pepper spray. Fuller managed to turn his head and avoid the cloud; Big Daddy Benafel was not so lucky. But neither were the douchebags from the parking garage. They all got hit with the spray and began howling in agony. The one who was attacking Fuller fell to the ground and started writhing around, pathetically, screaming in pain. Fuller took the opportunity to really stick in the needles and got in the guy’s face and started yelling at him. “Oh, man! Good thing I didn’t get hit by that mace! Because you got hit by that mace right in your face! And I didn’t! That looks like it hurts, man! Man! That’s gotta suck, bro!” The guy responded by covering his face with his hands and writhing in pain some more.

Benafel, for his part, managed to regroup. He was sitting on the curb, recovering from the spray, when a car drove by. He heard the sound of something being destroyed.

“Dude,” Fuller called out, “those were your glasses.”

We also ran into Mike Long, who wasn’t qualified but just wanted to hang out in Memphis for the weekend and be around the action. The night ended around 1 am with Long, Herberholz, and me drinking a few unnecessary brews while brewing up a Standard Doran deck of our own. We were on the cusp of a hot little brew pot but realized that we should probably just get some sleep.

Heezy and I also made a couple of gentlemen’s agreements on our relative performance throughout the weekend. If either of us made top 8, he would fly the other out to his hometown for a weekend of boozing and gaming. Also, neither of us could drop without the other’s permission. The catch was that permission would be granted only through the performance of some publicly humiliating act, as determined by the one granting permission. So dropping was firing a warhead from a nuclear submarine: you needed both people to turn the key. I caught a glimpse of myself, mierably playing Round 18 in the 2-15 bracket against Von Julio Karterson Miserwitz Stickerfield and his 300-Chimera homebrew deck just to avoid whatever sick thing Heezy’s twisted imagination came up with. Well, that’s just the way it goes, sometimes.

Day 1 (Standard)

Wake up, shower, grab some grub and some coffee, make my way over to the tournament center, etc.

Round 1: John Sittner (Black-White Token Deck)

Sittner was playing the Black-White Token deck. In the first game, he cast two Tidehollow Scullers and I couldn’t rip a Syphilis or a Planned Parenthood Message to save my life. In the second game, he cast Thoughtseize, forcing me to discard my wrath effect, and then proceeded to beat me down with Spectral Procession tokens, activating Windbrisk Heights a few times in the process. That’s game, boys.
Match record: 0-1

Round 2: Marcio Carvalho (Black-White Token Deck)

Another Black-White Token deck. The first game went well for the good guys, as Carvalho didn’t get Ajani Goldmane into play. The game degenerated into one of attrition, which is very good for me in this matchup as my deck has a lot of card-drawing ability. Marriage Proposal sealed the deal. In the second game, he tag-teamed me with Elspeth, Knight-Errant, and Ajani Goldmane, which was simply too much for my deck to deal with. The third game proceeded much as the first one did. Got one for the good ol’!
Match record: 1-1

Round 3: Arnost Zidek (Blue-Black Faeries)

I don’t remember much about this one except that I was able to mise the second game because I was on the play and had The Fun Police in my opening hand. But I’m pretty sure that the first and third games weren’t close and that he just smashed me.
Match record: 1-2

Round 4: Sami Tuomi (Blue-Black Faeries)

I lost the first game but managed to win the second courtesy of The Fun Police making an appearance on the second turn. The third game goes quite long, and, unfortunately for me, we run out of time. I needed one more attack phase for the match win, but instead I have to settle for the draw.
Match record: 1-2-1

Round 5: Patrik Thor (Black-Green Elves)

I don’t remember all the details about this match. I won, but I think I did it in three games. I had Life Sentence and Planned Parenthood Message in hand when I needed them. Marriage Proposal, I found out in this match, is quite good against Elf decks.
Match record: 2-2-1

Round 6: David Irvine (White-Black-Blue Reveillark)

I managed to win the first game, but Irvine smashed me pretty badly in the second and third games. He brought in Stillmoon Cavalier, Thoughtseize, and Glen Elendra Archmage Pretty much a nightmare.
Match record: 2-3-1

So I was barely hanging by a thread with a spicy 7 match points to my name. Herberholz began brewing ideas in case that thread snapped after a bad day of drafting. At this point, he was thinking of dressing me in an outfit consisting of jeans sliced into Daisy Dukes cutoffs and one of Lan D. Ho’s T-shirts (since Lan D. Ho’s a small guy who wears even smaller shirts) and forcing me to parade around the site for fifteen minutes, asking everyone in earshot whether they wanted “free handskis.” That would have been pretty rough beats.

So a gang of misers headed to Westy’s Diner for some dinner. The place was pure gas; let’s just say that the menu featured an appetizer called “The Amazing Westy’s Smother Tots Special.” I have three words for you: a must-have.

The roll call for dinner was Patrick Chapin, Mark Herberholz, Gabriel Nassif, Liz Limpecki, Manuel Bucher, Mike Long, and Raphel Levy. And with so many loudmouths and luminaries there, you know the conversation was sprinkled with lots of juiciness and randomness (and juicy randomness), including:

• the inferiority of our Five-Color Control build to that of the Chapin and Bucher build;
• the futility of trying to guess Manuel Bucher’s weight within three pounds (it can’t be done); and
• Kart.

Then, out of absolutely nowhere, Bucher challenged Herberholz to something most men don’t dare challenge another man to: a skip race.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with skip-racing, the officially sanctioned rules are listed below.

1. Your feet must land on the pavement in the following pattern: right, left, left, right, right, left, left, right right, etc.
2. The race must be a reasonably short distance, usually fifty feet or so.
3. The first man (or woman) to cross the finish line wins.
4. No dirty tricks are allowed.

After thinking it over, Heezy respectfully declined the offer. And being the gamers we are, we began to discuss why Bucher had an edge over Heezy in a race like this. First, Bucher’s small, which means he has a shorter stride. This helps him reach his top skipping speed much more quickly than a bigger guy like Heezy, who has a much longer stride, would be able to. Second, the distance of the race is pretty short, so acceleration will be much more important than top speed. (Looks as if all those years of Kartin’ it up paid off.)

Bucher then regaled us with stories of how he has slaughtered people at skip-racing after learning the technology from Kenji Tsumura (whom Bucher raced to a draw). The gears in my head started spinning, and I began sizing Bucher up. I felt as if I could keep up with him in the early stages of the race, where acceleration was key, and I was pretty sure that my top speed was much higher than his (especially after having just learned his actual weight—probably not too much muscle on those bones!). Then, before I could help myself,

Me: Bucher, I challenge you to a skip race!

Bucher accepted. My analysis turned out to be correct. I took him down and earned a place in the annals of skip-racing history. You can watch the actual race below.

Don’t be thrown off by the haters saying that we were running at the beginning. If you look closely, you’ll see that our steps both follow the pattern set forth in the officially sanctioned rules of skip-racing exactly.

After witnessing me humiliate Bucher thus, Mike Long immediately thought that we should set up a skip race pitting me against Kenji. We then headed back to the tournament center, where the I Came To Game Invitational Tournament was being held. Mike Long and Kenji were playing each other in the first round, but before the match started, Long presented Kenji with the the skip-race proposition: me versus Kenji, one on one, for an amount of money that could only be described as pornographic. Kenji was immediately suspicious; usually, he’s the one proposing the race, and usually he’s the one trying to drive the stakes up. Long’s eagerness tipped our hand; Kenji no-sirred us. Bad beats. But the challenge still stands! Kenji! If you are reading this, I challenge you to a skip race! For money or no money! (I won’t lie; I skip-race for the love.)

Heezy was also playing in the I Came to Game tournament, and he was paired against Mike Turian in the first round. Heezy, getting assigned Hammer Regnier’s blue-white Millstone deck, got trashed by Turian, playing Eric Tam’s Four-Color Deck of Wonder. Afterward, we went to the hotel bar for a few brews and then decided that, since the next day was draft and didn’t require any deck preparation, we should probably head out to Beale Street to hit up the local bars.

The Beale Street crew that night was Heezy, Dan Burdick, Mike Long, Hélène Bergeot, and yours truly. Highlights for me included slamming a bunch of brews and shots, getting the high score in Photo Hunt (our handle was “MISERS”), and Mike Long forcefully enlisting me into wingman service (which he didn’t really seem to need anyway). But Dan Burdick was the MVP of the night, coming through late in the game with the following two key plays:

1. Around 1 am, he ripped the sticker off an environmental-friendly-flushing urinal and gave it to me because it said “Econo-Miser.” Ha! The sticker is still on the back of my iPhone to this day.


2. Around 2 am, as the Beale Street crew was walking out the door of the last bar to head back to the hotel, Dan summoned us back to the bar to take some “strictly negative-EV” shots. In a moment of clarity, I saw Dan for who he truly was: a Bridge-and-Tunnel Dirty New Jersian.

Dan: Jager bombs! Jager bombs! Jager bombs! [points, arms fully stretched, in every random direction]

Might as well end the night with something that will (1) get you even drunker and (2) help you not sleep. Ha! Good times, good times.

Day 2 (Booster Draft)

I woke up a little groggy, but damage was minimal. I went through the same ol’ morning routine and then headed down to the tournament site.

I found my seat. As I was sitting down, I got a text message from Herberholz.

Heezy: I’m dropping bombs left and right, bro. My bombs are like chemical warfare right now. I think it’ll give me an edge in the draft.
Me: Good thing I’m not at your draft table, dude.
Heezy: I’m not sure you’re outside the blast radius.

On that ominous note, the draft began. With my first pick in the first pack, I took Magma Spray; there was really nothing else of note in that pack. Then I got passed a Vithian Stinger in the second pack and an Executioner’s Capsule in the third. The guy to my right was sending me a pretty straightforward, so I was looking to draft a straight red-black deck. Then it hit me; it felt as if Big Papi had slammed me in the chest full force with an aluminum, crushing my ribs and rupturing my internal organs. I began to keel over. I couldn’t breathe. I vomited a little in my mouth. One of Heezy’s bomb had somehow made it all the way to me in clear violation of several laws of physics! Apparently, his bombs have (at least) a three-table radius of impact!

I began frantically searching for an answer that wouldn’t result in my getting a warning. I was running out of time. I needed to inhale a fresh source of oxygen that wasn’t tainted with Heezy’s toxins. But then a lightbulb appeared above my head: I got it! There was only one thing in my immediate proximity that could save me. It may even be the only thing in the entire world whose joyous aroma was of such magnitude that it could counteract the evil in which I was about to be enveloped.

So I exhaled what little air was left in my lungs, grabbed the remaining eleven cards from the fourth pack, and buried my face in them, drawing a long, full, glorious breath of restorative, Magic-enchancd air into my lungs. That’s right, boys—there are only two weapons known to work against a bomb that evil: a freshly struck match or the scent of a freshly cracked pack of Magic cards. Try it yourself if you don’t believe me; it’s the stone-kold nuts. If a girl came up to me at a bar and wearing “Fresh Pack No. 5,” I would ask her to bear my children on the spot.

With the rest of my table clearly impaired by Heezy’s noxious gases, I ended up with a saucy little deck that included two Resounding Thunders, two Executioner’s Capsules, a Magma Spray, a Bonesplinters, two Dragon Fodders, two Hissing Iguanars, a Fleshbag Marauder, and a couple of Uncle Leos.


Round 7: Sami Tuomi

Tuomi had a five-color deck with a lot of good removal: three Branching Bolts, an Oblivion Ring, etc. His deck didn’t put much pressure on me, though. I had a pretty bad draw in game one, but I had time to recover. I played around Branching Bolt; for example, I would cast Skeletal Kathari only when I had mana open to regenerate it. Late in the game, he was at 8 life, and I had a couple of Dragon Fodder tokens in play. I was wondering how I was going to pull this one out when I got a phone call. “Who is this?” I asked. Turns out it was Uncle Leo! He came over for a visit from the graveyard. I pumped Uncle Leo three times and sent him and the tokens in for 8 damage. Game, boys. In the second game, Tuomi got a little mana flooded early on. I got a strong draw, a combination of early pressure with enough removal to deal with whatever he tried to put in the way of my marauding monsters.
Match record: 3-3-1

Round 8: Michal Krzyzyk

I wasn’t too impressed with Krzyzyk’s deck. His deck was four colors (all but blue), and from the games we played it seemed as if it didn’t have much in the way of mana fixing. I win the first game quickly because he didn’t get the colors of mana he needed. In the second game, he had to cast Realm Razor in order to stay alive. (Uncle Leo was hanging out in the graveyard again, just a phone call away.) After that, though, he couldn’t develop his board any further, and I won about seven turns later by pinging him to death with Onyx Goblet.
Match record: 4-3-1

Round 9: Adam Chambers

Adam Chambers is a great man and a great drafter I wasn’t surprised at all that we were facing each other to see who would sweep the pod. He was playing Naya. In the first game, I was able to come out faster than he was able to set up. I had answers for his 5/3 creatures in the form of Resounding Thunder and Bonesplinters. In the second game, he was stuck on three lands and wasn’t able to mount much of a defense against my men.
Match record: 5-3-1

My deck in the second draft was much less focused than my deck in the first. My first pick in the first pack was a Rhox Charger, which I took over a Viscara Dragger. I picked up a Magma Spray in the second pack. I began to dabble in Jund, picking up a Fleshbag Marauder, a Tropan Ascetic, and several other red cards. I didn’t really knowing exactly where my deck was going to end up. In the second pack, I opened a Predator Dragon (boo-yah!). My next pick was another Magma Spray. I started to scoop some mana fixing, and I grabbed a Naya Charm in a pretty thin pack and followed that up with some big green creatures. In the third pack, I ended up picking up mostly Jund cards to round out my deck, such as Sprouting Thrinax, Carrion Thrash, and Blood Cultist.

I ended up with a four-color deck with good mana fixing. It was mostly red-green; I splashed white for Naya Charm and black for five cards or so. Let’s get it!

Round 10: Stuart Wright

Stuart Wright was the only person I recognized at the draft table. He drafted what seemed like a solid Naya deck. In the first game, he got an aggressive start and reduced me to 5 life pretty quickly. I began to battle back and ultimately gained board control by casting a parade of large men: Cavern Thoctar, Carrion Thrash, and Uncle Leo. His board was much less impressive, consisting of a Guardians of Akrasa and a Bull Cerodon. I started hammering away, sending in Uncle Leo. Wright then ripped an Excommunicate. He cast it on my Cavern Thoctar, putting it back on top of my library, and then he attacked with his Bull Cerodon, which was 6/6 because of the Guardians. Unfortunately for him, I had Resounding Roar in my grip, which allowed my Carrion Thrash to take down his Cerodon and survive. Wright scooped in response. Game two wasn’t as close. I had a smooth draw with nice mana, and his draw just couldn’t keep up.
Match record: 6-3-1

Round 11: Renato Wohlers

In the first game, my creatures just outclassed his. I played Tropan Ascetic on turn three and followed that up with Rhox Charger on turn four. Wohlers had an Executioner’s Capsule to deal with one of my threats and then cast a Vithian Stinger soon afterward. I removed his Stinger from the game with a Magma Spray and then cast a Sprouting Thrinax. He was too far behind at this point, and it was on to game two.

The second game began similarly to the first. I cast a Tropan Ascetic on the third turn and a Sprouting Thrinax the turn after that. Wohlers immediately cast a Thriax of his own. I attack with my Thrinax the next turn, and he blocks with his, giving us both three 1/1 tokens. He then cast an Executioner’s Capsule. The next turn, I attacked with my Tropan Ascetic, leaving the three Thirnax tokens behind, guessing that the threat of a 5/5 creature would be too much. I was right; he sacrificed his Capsule to kill the Ascetic. He drew and shipped the turn. At this point, he seemed out of gas, and with his Executioner’s Capsule out of the way, I decided to cast Predator Dragon and sacrfice all three of my Thrinax tokens to it. Wohlers didn’t seem too happy about that. I sent the Dragon over to smash him in the face, taking him down to 8. He didn’t draw an answer next turn, and that was the game, boys!
Match record: 7-3-1

Round 12: Grgur Petric Maretic

Maretic had a very solid Esper deck; it contained two Esper Battlemages, Ravitz’s Grandmother, and multiples of Courier’s Capsule, Metallurgeon, Etherium Sculptor, and Windwright Mage. I lost the first game as he was able to mount an impenetrable defense of Steelclad Serpents and Metallurgeons. The second game played out just like the first, but I had gotten him low enough on life so that I was able to cast Naya Charm, tapping all his creatures, and alpha-striking for the win.

In the third game, Maretic wasn’t able to start with nearly the defense that he had gotten in the previous two, so I was able to keep him on his heels for what felt like most of the early game. Later on, though, he began to stabilize, but I had begun to amass a large army of big creatures. If the game went long enough such that I could get them all into play, I would be able to overwhelm him. Unfortunately, he then laid his seventh land and windmilled Archdemon of Unx onto the table. This was especially bad news as he already had Ravitz’s Grandmother in play. This put me on a clock that I simply could not outrace. Maretic knocked me down to 10 and then to 4 on successive turns with the Archdemon. It looked as if that were it for me; my hopes of a of a flawless victory in the draft portion of Worlds were vanishing right before my eyes.

I had one more draw phase, however, so I might as well pull something worthwhile. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Rippy Longstocking came a-skippin’ up to our table! Holy shit! She plucked my final card for me from the top of the deck for me, placed it in my my grip, and then skipped off into the sunset. The card she ripped for me, of course, was Naya Charm. Guess what, boys? I had exactly enough damage for the kill on board. That’s game, boys! Game!
Match record: 8-3-1

I did it! I went 6-0 in the draft portion and was right back in the tournament! I wasn’t sure how I needed to do on Day 3 to make top 8, but I knew that I had a shot. Sorry, Heezy—I wouldn’t be offering any free handskis anytime soon.

At the second draft table, Steve Sadin and Ruud Warmenhoven, their dreams of top 8 pretty much dashed (Sadin was 2-7 and Ruud was 3-6), decided to engage in a little miser’s duel on the side. Both Sadin and Ruud had to employ a specific handicap in their draft, and then whoever won the most matches (or games, as the case may be) after three rounds would be declared the greatest miser of them all. Keep in mind that all of this was going on during the tournament itself. Sadin’s handicap was that he had to play single card he drafted. Ruud could play a forty-card deck, but he had to goof grab every pick. So ridiclous. I wish I could have been watching just to see the reactions of the other drafters at Ruud’s table!

Ruud: Tomoharu Saito, who sat to my right, noticed it after pick ten or so. He just smiled at me, shook his head, and shrugged. The guy across the table saw it as well, but he didn’t really have a reaction. When I won my first and only game, I got up and screamed, “Yes!” prompting a judge to come over. I then had to explain to him that we didn’t need to sign the match slip just yet….

Nothing too significant went down Friday night as the Beale Street crew was all pretty beat from our antics the night before. I don’t think any of us got too much sleep. We went to an excellent rib joint called Rendevous for dinner, and then we went to the hotel bar to have a couple of beers and to do a little testing.

From the get-go, we pretty much knew what we would be playing. Nassif had designed a very good monoblue Faeries deck for Berlin, where he finished in 23rd. We made a few changes to the list Nassif used in Berlin, but it was essentially the same thing. We also shipped the deck technology to Paul Cheon, for the good of the USA, and to Jake Van Lunen, who could also potentially make top by going 6-0.

Day 3 (Extended)

I had to go 5-1 in order to make top 8. This was the type of deck that could do it. It’s consistent, it’s powerful, and it has many good matchups.

“The Wiz,” designed by Gabriel Nassif

4 Speech Lessons
3 Tha Numba-One Stunna
2 Big Daddy Venser
4 Hooked ‘em, Boys!
4 “3 More Pls?”
1 Not!
3 Gettin’ Jitty with It
3 Herberholz’s Bombs
3 Run It Back
4 Happy Hour
2 Robbery
2 Robbery, Repeat Offender

3 Bling Bling
1 Cry Me a River
1 Gucci Knockoff
1 Prada Knockoff
1 Armani Knockoff

3 Seat of the Synod
3 Miser’s Research Facility
4 Muties
1 The Rebuy Option


3 Kolderson Gotcha
2 Not!
2 Silent but Deadly
2 Miser’s Mage
2 Two-Point Conversion
2 Robbery
1 Robbery, Repeat Offender
1 The Rebuy Option

Here is a video of Jake Van Lunen discussing the deck with Randy Buehler at Worlds.

Round 13: Seth Manfield (Black-Green Rock)

In the first game, Manfield got mana flooded. I summoned Tha Numba-One Stunna and shipped his only threat—Night of Soul’s Betrayal—to the bottom of his library. I then Got Jitty with It, and by this point he was too far behind.

In game two, he got an awkward mana draw—he had only one forest, which he cast two Utopia Sprawls on. But before he could get much going, I brought out Big Daddy Venser and bounced his forest, kolding his two enchantments in the process. I began applying pressure with Big Daddy Venser, but that didn’t get too far as Manfield soon cast a Tarmagoyf. Luckily, I had Robbery in hand and was able to burgle his beast. By then he was too far behind to come back.
Match record: 9-3-1

Round 14: Jason Imperiale (All-In Red)

I won the first game because Imperiale’s draw wasn’t as explosive as it needed to be. He started off with Chalice of the Void set on 1 and followed that up with Blood Moon, which isn’t quite the start that All-In Red wants to get. By the time he was able to mount a serious threat, I was able to counter it with 3 More Pls. He was then out of gas, and I did mop-up duty by Gettin’ Jitty with It on Tha Numba-One Stunna
. Game two, if you could call it that, was over very quickly. Imperiale cast a Demigod of Revenge on the second turn; unfortunately, I didn’t have two mana and couldn’t counter it. I lost three turns later.

The third game was very difficult. On my first turn, I played an Island and two Bling Bling, leaving myself with two cards in hand: Gettin’ Jitty with It and Tha Numba-One Stunna. During his upkeep, I cast Tha Stunna. His hand, if I recall correctly, consisted of a Bling Bling, two Simian Spirit Guides, a Rite of Flame, an Empty the Warrens, a Goblin Sharpshooter, a Demigod of Revenge, and a Deus of Calamity. No land. I decided to ship the Sharpshooter to the bottom; if he plays it, I reasoned, and I don’t draw a fourth land, I think I just lose. Imperiale’s first turn is a doozy: he played Bling Bling, a Mountain (ripped from the top!), a Spirit Guide, and a Rite of Flame, casting Empty the Warrens for 8. I Ran Back a goblin token, cast a Jitte, and then attacked with Tha Numba-One Stunna. On his turn, he sent his entire crew and brought me down to 13. Tha Numba-One Stunna then Got Jitty with It and started picking off Imperiale’s guys with -1/-1 counters. A crucial play happened a few turns later: he cast Shattering Spree and replicated it once, targeting my Jitte and my Bling Bling. I cast Kolderson Gotcha on the copy targeting my Jitte, and he discards Simian Spirit Guide to Gutterball my Kolderson, and I counter his Gutterball with another Kolderson. My Bling Bling got destroyed, but I was okay with. It’s hard to say for sure, but I think I would have lost if Imperiale had just targeted my Jitte with with both copies of Shattering Spree. Game, boys.
Match record: 10-3-1

Round 15: Olivia Ruel (Blue-Green-Black Gifts)

I don’t remember much from the first game other than attending a timely Happy Hour right after he cast Thoughtseize on me. I was eventually able to cast Robbery, Repeat Offender, which I used to steal Olivier’s Kitchen Finks. Tha Numba-One Stunna sent his Triskelion to the bottom of his deck, and that was game. In game two, I came out like gangbusters, and Olivier just wasn’t able to catch back up in time despite getting the Gifts Ungiven-Life of the Loam engine (powered by cycle lands) going.
Match record: 12-3-1

Round 16: Akira Asahara (Elves)

The match against Akira was played in the Feature Match area and was over very quickly. Akira had an aggressive creature draw in the first game; he emptied his hand and filled his side of the board with one-casting-cost creatures. On my turn, I played a Herberholz’s Bomb set to 1. After I sacrificed it, Akira had one creature (which he returned with Wirewood Symbiote) and a Forest. He was too far behind in cards after that, and I quickly won. In the second game, Akira, on the play, had to mulligan to four cards. There wasn’t much he could do. This match was retarded; he just had terrible luck in a matchup that was already pretty bad for him.
Match record: 12-3-1

Round 17: Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa (Zoo)

This was not my best-played match by any means. The full coverage can be found here.

I played the first game fairly poorly but was still going to win. As reported by Bill Stark:

Unfazed, Jamie ripped a Vedalken Shackles and immediately used it to steal Paulo’s Confidant. That left him tapped out, however, and Paulo used a Lightning Helix and Tribal Flames to finish his opponent off.

Paulo needed to rip his fifth basic land type or another burn spell that turn in order to kill me the first game. (He did, of course).

The third game was very close and ended with Paulo casting Tribal Flames at me when I was at 4. The critical juncture of the match is noted by Bill Stark below:

With the turn back, Parke tapped out for Glen Elendra Archmage. When Damo da Rosa made an Oblivion Ring, Parke used his last remaining blue mana to counter it with the Archmage, which then returned to play thanks to persist. At 8 life, Jamie wasn’t out of the woods, but it was looking like he had stabilized. The American attacked for 2, then played a postcombat Umezawa’s Jitte, clearly indicating he was holding counters to protect his equipment.

That protection involved saccing his Glen Elendra Archmage to counter a Seal of Fire, then playing a second Spellstutter Sprite to counter Lightning Helix. That allowed his original Sprite to get in wearing the equipment, but Paulo’s Oblivion Ring managed to hit the Jitte. Jamie responded by blowing up the Hedge-Mage and continuing to attack with his 1/1s.

Paulo’s next attempt at victory was Tribal Flames for lethal against his opponent, but Jamie had Mana Leak. When Paulo revealed a second Flames, Jamie slumped in his seat. He surveyed his hand, found no help, and nodded his head in defeat.

In retrospect, what I should have done was Gotten Jitty with It to gain 4 life rather than destroy his Duegar Hedge-Mage when he kolded my Jitte the previous turn; I had cards in hand to work with and a Mutie in play to trade with his Hedge-Mage. Oh, well. The only thing I could do then was shake it off and move on.
Match record: 12-4-1

Round 18: Ben Rubin (Monoblue Faeries—mirror match)

This was it, boys! “Win and in!” was all I could think. I love Ben, but he has beaten me when we were both in contention for top 8 deep in previous tournaments. I steeled myself. “Not this time,” I said. “Not this time.”

The first game started out very close. I had to mulligan once, but my six-card hand was land-heavy, which is key. He tried to cast Tha Numba-One Stunna but then I asked, “3 More Pls?”. Ben declined, and to the yard the Stunna went. I then Cried Myself a River to get my third color of mana, which I used to drop one of Herberholz’s Bombs set to 3 and blast his Robbery, Repeat Offender. Ben began gaining what seemed like a huge advantage by attending a couple of Happy Hours, but they didn’t help him develop his mana. That was ultimately how I managed to take him out. I ended up with three Muties and two Miser’s Research Facilities in play, and he didn’t have enough resources to make effective use of all the cards in his hand. Then he played a Heezy Bomb of his own, set at 0; I knew he thought he could kold my Muties, so I played accordingly. (Animated lands are still lands in addition to whatever creature type they become.) Sure enough, Ben made a play wherein he relied on his Bomb to protect him from my Muties, which in essence left him defenseless. He was too far behind at this point to come back. ONE MORE TIME!

It’s also worth mentioning that Ben and I were playing at a pace that could be described as “cautious”; we’re both very deliberate players. Jon Finkel was watching us, and he had had enough. Before leaving the feature-match area, Jonny Magic proclaimed, “Don’t unintentionally draw yourselves out of the top 8!” A good friend to both of us, he wanted to see one of us make it. Point taken.

Game two: Ben’s big sideboard strategy was to bring in Dimir Aqueducts so that he would have mana advantage in games two and three. He played first and laid a second-turn Aqueduct—it was playing first and drawing first! I had a slow draw and didn’t have a counter for his Robbery, Repeat Offender. Then on his fifth turn, he played his second Aqueduct and shipped the turn with a full grip.

But then it happened. I tapped four mana during Ben’s end step, calling on the only man I knew who could handle a job like this: Big Daddy Venser! Ben’s only response was to mouth “Oh, fuck,” so I knew Big Daddy Venser was coming into play. Ben tanked for a while and then said, “Okay,” picking up his Robbery, Repeat Offender.

“Oh, no!” I yelled, “Big Daddy Venser wants the Aqueducts!” The next turn, I dropped Big Daddy off at the Miser’s Research Facility, and he came back the turn after that, bouncing the other Aqueduct. I had drawn enough mana to begin applying pressure to the tune of two points every other turn and also to keep bouncing his lands, crippling his progress. It was eventually too much for Ben to overcome, and that was game, boys!
Match record: 13-4-1

I released a howl of pure joy But then I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see Nassif and BDM.

BDM: You’re not definitely in.
Me: …Holy crap. Are you serious? What’s it look like?
Nassif: There are five people with your point total, and only four of them get in.
Me: What were my tiebreaks compared with theirs going into the last round?
BDM: [hesitant to tell me] …Fourth.
Me: [almost afraid to ask] How far ahead was I from the fifth guy?
Nassif: [almost sorry to have to tell me] Like… three-tenths of a percent.

My mind shut down for a brief moment. I quickly snapped out of it, though; I fully understood the situation. I had done all I could, and I accepted it. Now I could only wait for the results.

After the final round finished, Wizards began to announcing the top 8. The first through fourth seeds were all pretty much set in stone. I didn’t think I had much of a chance at being fifth or sixth seed, either, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when it wasn’t me.

Announcer: And in seventh place, from Japan…

Damn it!

Me: [closing my eyes in anticipation] Just be there…
Chapin: One time, Jamie P., one time…
Announcer: And our final top 8 competitor, from the United States is…Jamie Parke!

This is what happened.

Photo by Craig Gibson

I actually didn’t know until my name was announced that I had made it; the other player in contention for top 8 was David Irvine, also from the United States, so that pause actually created a bit of tension.

We screamed and yelled for a few minutes, and I received the congratulations of the misers all around me. Wizards then ushered me off to take care of all the bureaucratic stuff (meeting of top 8 competitors, photo shoot). Afterward, I could get back to thinking about Magic. My first-round opponent the next day was none other than Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, arguably the best Faeries player and the one who beat me in round 17.

We went to our usual spot at the hotel bar, got some food and beers, put the decks together, and went to work. We played a few unsideboarded games, which confirmed what we already knew: the first game in this matchup was pretty much a coin flip. With that out of the way, I was confronted with the much bigger question of how to sideboard for the rest of the match.

I tested deep into the night with the insane brain trust of Gabriel Nassif, Mark Herberholz, Jelger Wiegersma, and Jon Finkel. Some of the problems I had to figure out were: Does the Faeries deck hate Acupuncture? Do I keep in Life Sentence? Do I bring in more Life Sentences from the board? What do I take out? Will The Fun Police help rein in Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa’s reign of terror? So much to figure out!

We tested until 2 am. I had to be ready to play in front of the cameras in six short hours. I was ready to pack up my things and go to my room, but the gang told me to leave the decks so that they could test a little more. Jon actually tested more the night before the top 8 than he did before before the actual tournament! He ended up sleeping through his flight because of it. All good men. Thank you.

Quarterfinals: Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa (Blue-Black Faeries)

The match coverage is here.

(All inset commentary on this match is courtesy of Nate Price.) The short version of the match can be found here. I win the coin flip. In the first game, Paulo is able to get ahead early. But then we reached a critical juncture in the game:

At this point, Damo da Rosa had a hand of six cards and a great deal of mana available, thanks to his multi-Mutavault draw. Parke was tried to even up the hand count with Mulldrifter, which would also provide him a blocker for one of the Mutavaults. Damo da Rosa thought for a few minutes before deciding to Cryptic Command the card-drawing Elemental, but Parke really wanted those cards and forced it through with a Negate. His hand back to six cards and his blocker in place, Parke passed the turn.

In order to clear a path for his Muties, Paulo cast Terror on Big Daddy Drifts. I let his Terror resolve; he then sent in one Mutie (he was playing around The Hook, which was in my hand), but unfortunately he ran into a speed bump.

The path was once again clear for the Mutavaults, but Parke now had a handful of cards and eight mana available to him. Damo da Rosa thought for a good amount of time before activating a single Mutavault and attacking. The attack would have dropped Parke to 7, but he had other ideas. Parke thought for a good amount of time before making his move. He had played Damo da Rosa yesterday and lost due to an unfortunate series of mental errors. On this stage, there is no room for those errors, and he wanted to be absolutely sure he was going to do the right thing. He eventually decided to take a point from his lands to play a Cloudthresher. That dropped him to 6 and Damo da Rosa to 12. The Thresher stood tall in front of the Mutavault and sent it packing.

This left him with two Muties; he also then cast a Bitterblossom, which I solved with Prisoner’s Dilemma. This allowed me to send Pac-Man Jones on the offensive. Afterward,

Parke also sent in his Cloudthresher, knowing he had an answer for just about any flashed creatures that Damo da Rosa could manage. Damo da Rosa was at a high enough life total, and not under a Bitterblossom clock, and he chose to take the damage, knocking him down to 5. On his turn, he simply drew his card and said go, which isn’t something you really want to necessarily find yourself doing if you’re behind on life and facing down a ‘Thresher.

Cloudthresher came over again on the next turn, and Damo da Rosa activated a Mutavault and went to stick it in the way. Before he could, though, Parke chose to use Jund Charm to do two damage to all creatures. Damo da Rosa hadn’t forgotten about this card. In fact, he’d been playing around it all game. He simply tapped his dying Mutavault to float the mana to power up another. Once it was fully animated, Parke tried to Jund Charm again, dropping himself to 5 in the process. Damo da Rosa had a Broken Ambitions for two, which Parke was able to pay. Once Parke had paid the required mana, Damo da Rosa nodded and scooped up his cards.

The second game was a thrashing; he cast two Thoughtseizes on the first two turns and then followed them up with Jace Beleren. Things went steadily downhill from there.

[Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa] also made a Bitterblossom and championed it during Parke’s draw step with a Mistbind Clique, knowing Parke had nothing to stop it in his hand. Damo da Rosa untapped and attacked with his Clique. Parke tried to get something going for himself with a Mulldrifter, but Damo da Rosa had a Cryptic Command hiding in the mountain of cards he called a hand. The Clique hit for another 4. Parke’s next try at staving off defeat was a Rhox War Monk that might have been quite nice with a couple counters from the Jund Charm in his hand if it hadn’t met an instant death to a Terror. Another four from the Clique dropped Parke to 9. One look at his draw step and Parke decided his fight was in vain.

In the third game, I called in The Fun Police, who really began putting the pressure on Paulo. In an attempt to stabilize and eventually gain board advantage, he cast two Bitterblossoms of his own.

Damo da Rosa was fighting back, though, and a second copy of Bitterblossom slid down next to his first. He was going to be dropping life fast, but there was a good chance that Parke was going to be dropping faster thanks to eventual token advantage. After making his second Blossom, Damo da Rosa sent his Mutavault at Parke. Parke used his only untapped Faerie token to block and enhanced it with a couple of counters from a Jund Charm. That was bad news for Damo da Rosa, though he would be able to chump-block it every turn with his tokens until he had built enough to just trade for it. Both players were at three cards and Parke had the advantage in life and creatures on the table, but Damo da Rosa had more growth potential with his pair of Bitterblossoms. With Parke continually sneaking through a point or two of damage, though, Damo da Rosa might die before his extra creatures become a factor.

Over the next couple of turns, both players went through the same motions. Damo da Rosa drew, made two tokens, inched ever closer to death and passed the turn. Parke drew, made his one token, and tried to speed up Damo da Rosa’s Bitterblossom clock. After a couple turns of this, with no other changes, the math sided with Parke.

At this point, the Frank Karsten-Tsuyoshi Ikeda match finished, with Ikeda, playing Black-Red Blightning Beatdown, winning.

The fourth game was kind of a savaging. Paulo cast Thoughtseize on the first turn, forcing me to discard Big Daddy Drifts. He then followed up with a second-turn Bitterblossom, and from there was able to mount a good bit of pressure, which ultimately I wasn’t able to deal with.

I got a good start in the fifth and final game of the match; The Fun Police came down on my side of the board on the second turn, and to me that was when the game began swinging in my favor. Later on, Paulo tried to cast Bitterblossom, and the ensuing counter war allowed me to sneak in a Marriage Proposal. Paulo must like me quite a bit, because he accepted!

[Paulo Vitor Damo de Rosa] attempted a Bitterblossom to match the American’s, but it met a Cryptic Command. He tried to stop the Command with a Broken Ambitions, but Parke simply paid a green and cast Guttural Response. The response is always huge, trading a single mana for a usually much greater mana investment.

Then it hit. With Damo da Rosa tapped out thanks to the Broken Ambitions, Parke struck with a Cruel Ultimatum. Parke shot up to 18; Damo da Rosa dropped to 9. Parke drew three cards while Damo da Rosa discarded them. If Parke had looked to be ahead before, the Ultimatum appeared to have absolutely cemented it for him. A swing for 4 dropped Damo da Rosa to 5, which Parke could deal next turn if left unmolested. In a defensive effort, Damo da Rosa was forced to champion a Mutavault with a Mistbind Clique to provide a blocker. Damo da Rosa was depleted except for two cards, while Parke sat on a full hand. He decided to make sure he put the game away and used Esper Charm to finish the last of Damo da Rosa’s cards. A Spellstutter Sprite tried to step in the way, but a Remove Soul put an end to that—and the match.

So basically, I win coin flip to go first, and so I win the first game. In third and fifth games, I call in The Fun Police on the second turn and Paulo does not. Game, boys!

“Did you just have bad draws?” Parke inquired as they packed up.

“You just had Bitterblossoms and I didn’t. If we both have Bitterblossom, I win. If I have it and you don’t, I win. But if you have it and I don’t, I lose.”

Parke completely agreed with him.

In between rounds, I looked for someone to playtest my next match. Fortunately, I ran into Jelger. I frantically wrote out proxies for Ikeda’s deck as Jelger read off the deck list.

I forgo lunch to test and Jelger and I get about fifteen games in before my semifinal match began. I lost fourteen of the fifteen games, which didn’t seem very good at all. Luckily, I got a decent amount of game experience with regard to the matchup, and I was able to figure out which cards were important and which I could sideboard out.

Semifinals: Tsuyoshi Ikeda (Red-Black Blightning)

Nate Price covered the match here. Again, as in the match against Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, all inset commentary is courtesy of Nate Price. If you want the shorter version of this match, click here. The full version is pretty short, too.

In the first game, Ikeda cast a Figure of Destiny on the second turn, but I had a Life Sentence for it before it got too big. At that point, he had no pressure, and the game was smooth sailing from there.

After untapping, Ikeda tapped out and tried to make the one-card army: Siege-Gang Commander. Parke wasn’t having any of that, though, and used a Cryptic Command to counter the Goblin and draw a card. At this point, considering he was still fairly high in life, Parke seemed to be in total control. Ikeda attacked into Parke’s open board with a Ghitu Encampment, trying desperately to make something happen. Parke was content to sit behind his untapped lands and take the 2. At the end of Ikeda’s turn, he sprung into action, unleashing a Cloudthresher that now dominated to board. The resulting swing back dropped Ikeda to 13. Ikeda drew his card and immediately conceded. He was behind in every aspect, from creatures to cards in hand to life totals.

The second game was the closest of the match, but at no point did I feel like I was behind. He tried to cast Spiteful Visions, which I cleared away with Prisoner’s Dilemma, although I embarrassingly failed to net an extra card the first time I did so.

During his upkeep, Parke played an Esper Charm to kill the Spiteful Visions. After drawing his card for the turn, Parke had to stop for a second as Ikeda called a judge over. There was a little confusion about the card’s trigger and how many cards Parke could have and should have drawn. After a bit of deliberation, that number ended up being only one, but had he destroyed it during the draw step with the trigger on the stack, he could have gotten an extra.

“I messed up,” said Parke.

“Thank you, Jamie!” Ikeda replied.

“Yeah, I didn’t need the second card anyway.”

It didn’t really matter, though. He cast a second Spiteful Visions and I made sure to figure out the Dilemma correctly. I got Pac-Man Jones into play and cleared a path for him with The Hook. That was all she wrote.

I did make a mistake this game, though. Toward the end of the game,

Jamie just sent his [Cloudthresher] over, and it was promptly blocked by Ikeda’s Faerie Rogue token. With nothing else to do, Parke just passed the turn back. For his turn, Ikeda simply replaced the Spiteful Visions he’d lost the turn before and passed the turn. During his next upkeep, Parke snagged Spiteful Visions to give it a read. “I gotta make sure I do this right,” he said. He thought for a minute and drew the first card, taking a point of damage. After a good thirty seconds or so, he finally relented and decided to just draw the other card and take the other point of damage. That put him down to 8. After edicting Ikeda with his Thresher, he passed the turn.

Ikeda drew his cards and made his next token, dropping him to 4. When he said go, Parke used a Cryptic Command to bounce the last defender, clearing a path for his Cloudthresher to finish Ikeda off.

What I should have done instead was attack him with Pac-Man Jones, put damage on the stack, and then give ol’ Pac-Man a Life Sentence. Afterward, I should have cast Prisoner’s Dilemma on Ikeda’s Bitterblossom. This is a little complex, but it would have been a much safer route to victory, in case he had the perfect cards to win in his hand.

In the third game, Ikeda mulliganed twice and I mulliganed once. I crippled him early with a couple of Life Sentences, and really that was pretty much the game.

Ikeda got started with a pair of Ghitu Encampments on the opening turns of the game, then found his way to a hasty turn-three Boggart Ram-Gang. The Ram-Gang would once again fail to reach Parke, as a Condemn sent them packing just like the last time. Even stronger, though, was the Condemn the following turn that got to send an Encampment to the bottom of Ikeda’s deck.

I then got Big Poppa Monk on the table, and Ikeda cast a Bitterblossom. I began swinging with Big Poppa Monk and gaining 3 life a turn. He then cast Spiteful Visions so that he could begin digging for an answer. Then I called on Big Poppa Monk‘s brother! I felt like I was playing Necro!

With Parke tapped out, Ikeda took the opportunity to empty his hand of a land and Spiteful Visions into play. He was down to 16 and would be dropping by 3 every turn, but he needed the extra draws to find some help. After Rhox War Monk Monk ate Ikeda’s token, Parke added a second Monk to the battle. The lifelink from the Monks was more than offsetting the loss of life from Spiteful Visions, and it seemed like it gave him a huge advantage in the long run, but Ikeda could only focus on not dying in the immediate future, so the long term wasn’t even a consideration.

Ikeda drew his card, made a token, and played a Ghitu Encampment. Parke untapped and sent his Monks at Ikeda. Before Ikeda could block, a Cloudthresher cleared the board. It cleared his hand, too! Because of the impossible situation he was facing, and the fact that his only cards in hand were lands, he knew he was dead. He dropped his hand face-up on the table and shook Parke’s hand in defeat.

The short version is that Ikeda had atrocious draws in three straight games, getting mana flooded in all three of them. The match wasn’t close at all, certainly a far cry from the results Jelger and I were getting from our testing.

The other semifinal match was only in game three when Ikeda and I finished playing, so I had a little bit more time to practice between rounds. Also, the final round of the team tournament (Australia versus the United States) was scheduled to take place between the semifinal and the finals of the individual event. In the other semifinal match, Hannes Karem, playing Kithkin, was up two games to none and it looked as if I would finally have a favorable matchup. Unfortunately, things didn’t go my way as Antti Malin, playing Faeries, won three games in a row to pull it out. Time to knuckle up.

Finals: Antti Malin (Blue-Black Faeries)

Bill Stark covered the match here. All inset text is courtesy of Bill Stark. If you want the short version of the finals, click here.

In the first game, Malin assumed the role of the control deck; the first creature on the board was Big Poppa Monk. Malin made no play till my third turn, when he caled Vendlillion Clique during my third turn, stripping me of a Cleaner. He untapped and then grabbed a hold of Big Poppa Monk with Sower of Temptation. He followed that up with a Thoughtseize to grab my second Cleaner. He then cast Bitterblossom and started chipping away, and I was too far behind to recover.

Sower of Temptation made for an excellent answer to the 3/4 War Monk but Jamie came right back by ripping a fourth land and playing his second copy of the Rhino. Malin used Thoughtseize to get another peek at his opponent’s hand and saw Mulldrifter, Esper Charm, Cryptic Command, and Remove Soul. The Tenth Edition counterspell was the only new addition, and Jamie lost his second Cryptic Command. Malin followed up by using Terror on his opponent’s War Monk, then played a Bitterblossom and attacked Parke to 7.

Though completely out of cards in hand, Malin had forced Jamie to come up with a big play on his own turn. He found one of sorts in a third Rhox War Monk, but when Malin didn’t forget about his Mutavault as an attacker, the two were on to the second game with Parke unable to put up enough blockers.

Video highlights of game one:

Malin started out quickly in the second game, casting a couple of Thoughtseizes early and then getting two Bitterblossoms on the board. This really changed the dynamic of the game.

“This won’t be a long game,” the Finnish pro said, referencing the fact that he would either die to his own enchantments as his opponent contained the Faerie Rogues from them, or quickly overrun Parke with the 1/1s.

Jamie was content to move into the all-in on Bitterblossom plan, using Esper Charm to target himself and drawing two cards. Antti fell to 10 on his upkeep and attacked his opponent to 19 with a Faerie Rogue. He considered his options carefully before finally deciding to play a Mistbind Clique on his main phase. He had already seen a Remove Soul from Jamie Parke and knew the 4/4 wouldn’t resolve on his opponent’s upkeep. The monster was a beatstick that would seriously increase his clock and got rid of one of the Bitterblossoms, but Jamie fired right back with a Mulldrifter for five that kept cards flowing to his hand.

I could see how the game was going, so I was going to force through damage fairly aggressively any way that I could. For example, when Malin was at 7, I cast a spell that I knew he would counter; I did this because he needed to tap his Underground River for blue in order to activate either of his Sunken Ruins, and I snuck in another point of damage that way.

The next attack from Malin left the totals at 13-7 in Jamie’s favor but Parke made no effort to change things on his own turn. Instead, he used Mulldrifter as a chump blocker on Mistbind Clique, falling to 10 from Faerie Rogues, then played an end of turn Jund Charm set to 2 damage to all creatures. That would wipe out Antti’s board entirely and leave him with two Bitterblossom eating away his depleted life total. Shockingly the spell resolved, and from the viewing crowd off in the distance cheers erupted. Unfortunately for Antti Malin, the spectators from the U.S. had no qualms about showing their bias in the finals.

A second Mulldrifter hit for Jamie but Antti played a Remove Soul to counter the 2/2, leaving a blue mana floating. When Jamie had no other plays for the turn, the floating mana was dumped into a Mutavault. Malin’s Underground River, his only source of blue or black mana to power up double copies of Sunken Ruins, had wreaked significant havoc for him this game, and he fell to 4 on his upkeep from Bitterblossoms after taking an extra sting from the River countering the Mulldrifter. Trying to maneuver a win out of the situation Antti activated Mutavault and attacked Jamie to 8, playing a second in the process. Malin fell to 2 during his next upkeep, but was exactly 2 short of lethal and was set to die on his next upkeep. With no miracle solution existing in Standard, the players were on to the third game.

Video highlights of game two:

Unfortunately, the third game was a blowout. Malin laid a Mutavault on the first turn and set it straight into the Red Zone on turn two. The turn after that, he cast Jace Beleren, and it was steadily downhill from there.

Looking to contain the planeswalker, Jamie Parke played a third-turn Rhox War Monk to start beating down. Unfortunately for him Malin was ready for the play dropping a Sower of Temptation for the steal. They began beating down while Jace kept Antti stocked up until he played a Thoughtseize. Jamie responded with a Cryptic Command, but not to counter. Instead he opted to bounce Sower of Temptation and draw a card, prompting a Cryptic Command from Malin to counter and bounce Jamie’s Vivid Grove. The discard spell revealed two Vivid Groves, a Bitterblossom, Remove Soul, and Oona, Queen of the Fae, with Remove Soul sent to the graveyard. Malin’s attack set the score at 17-13 in his favor.

Ripped Pac-Man Jones, but Malin had drawn another Thoughtseize and cast it, sending Mr. Jones to the bin. I tried digging for answers with Big Daddy Drifts, but he didn’t give me any love. Not tonight, anyway.

Video highlights of game three:

So, now my back was against the wall. Win, and I play one more for the world championship. Lose, and I finish in second. The fourth game was a tight one. Malin again started out with a first-turn Thoughtseize and then followed it up with another one later. A counter war ensued over the second Thoughtseize; I tried to Clean it, but unfortunately, he had Broken Ambitions. He forced me to discard my second Cleaner. I then solved the Prisoner’s Dilemma and drew a couple of cards to refill my hand.

Catching Jamie tapped too low to counter after the Charm, Antti Malin ran a Glen Elendra Archmage on to the table. The 2/2 was a nightmare for Five-Color Control as it could counter not one but two critical spells. To his credit, Parke came right back at Malin, taking advantage of his opponent tapping out to play a Mulldrifter drawing even more cards and cluttering the red zone’s skies. The next creature to hit the table was a Mistbind Clique from Malin, a play that sent Jamie into the tank. Ultimately he decided to float a white, blue, and black mana before the 4/4’s “comes into play” ability resolved, then drew for the turn and played Esper Charm forcing Antti to discard two cards.

I felt really good about the situation at hand, as I had him down to one card in hand and only his Mistbind Clique in play. In my hand, I had Pac-Man Jones, ready to defend the goal line.

The game’s pace had become glacial, and the table judge leaned in to warn both players about the quickness of their play. When Antti attacked with his Mistbind Clique, Jamie used six mana to summon Cloudthresher, killing the 4/4 and putting the totals at 14-12 in Parke’s favor. Malin was going to need a Sower of Temptation pretty badly, but his returned Glen Elendra Archmage from the Clique’s champion ability would at least allow him to more easily force the Control Magic on legs into play.

Afterward, Malin cast Jace Beleren, and for me, that was the turning point of the game. What I should have done was let the Mistbind Clique hit me. He would have cast Jace Beleren, and then I would have cast Pac-Man Jones. This would have killed Jace, kept his Glen Elendra Archmage from coming back into play (which would have given me a one-turn window to play any noncreature spell I needed to), and allowed Pac-Man Jones to get a free swing in. Instead, I let Pac-Man Jones drag down the Mistbind Clique, which was kind of an instinctual play, and because of that, Malin had a Jace Beleren and a Glen Elendra Archmage in play; while he was ar a fairly low life, he certainly had the tools on board to mount a comeback.

Thresher rumbled to the red zone and dropped Malin to 5 life, but Parke just watched as his follow-up Bitterblossom was countered by a Spellstutter Sprite. Antti tried to keep up by attacking back with his 1/1 Sprite and Archmage, but only dropped Jamie to 11. On Parke’s upkeep Antti made a Cryptic Command to tap Jamie’s team and draw a card. Parke tried to counter with Guttural Response, but Malin had a second Spellstutter Sprite.

Despite my earlier lapse of judgment, I still could have won the game and forced a game five; unfortunately, I ran out of gas and my last few draws were blanks.

Thresher rumbled to the red zone and dropped Malin to 5 life, but Parke just watched as his follow-up Bitterblossom was countered by a Spellstutter Sprite. Antti tried to keep up by attacking back with his 1/1 Sprite and Archmage, but only dropped Jamie to 11. On Parke’s upkeep Antti made a Cryptic Command to tap Jamie’s team and draw a card. Parke tried to counter with Guttural Response, but Malin had a second Spellstutter Sprite.

Malin was making a bad game into a hard-fought battle. He continued on the offensive, sending Jamie to 8, then played a fountain of Cloudthresher chump-blockers in the form of Bitterblossom. Because he was at 5 life, however, he didn’t have infinite time to mess around. He needed his Glen Elendra Archmage and Spellstutter Sprite to hold up in the red zone while Faerie Rogues contained his opponent’s 7/7 Elemental. Working around the plan, Jamie decided not to attack with his Cloudthresher, instead hoping to block by way of the creature’s reach ability and to kill his opponent with his own Bitterblossoms.

Malin was all-in and sent his team back to the red zone. Jamie blocked the Archmage and the game was tied at 3. Post-combat Antti played a second Glen Elendra Archmage and it started looking very bad for Jamie Parke. When he flipped a Jund Charm off the top that was unable to save him, Antti Malin won the game and match.

Video highlights from game four:

The short summary is that the finals didn’t go as well as the match against Paulo despite the matchup being almost exactly the same. I was able to win the second game, but that was it. If I had played the fourth game a little differently or if one of my last few draws would have been a little better, I could have forced a fifth game, and then who knows what would happen?

I didn’t find all the reporters, lights, and cameras around me to be disconcerting at all. I mean, it was kind of daunting knowing that all of this was going on, but once the game starts, I locked in and just played the game. My bubble would get pierced periodically, however—like after I won the first game against Paulo. I heard the crowd erupt in cheers! It reminded me that we were playing in America The finals overall was a series of journeys into the zone with occasional jaunts back to reality.

I will say that that the experience of playing in the finals in Memphis overall was quite surreal—unlike any other Magic experience I ever had. It wasn’t being in the top 8 and it wasn’t being on camera: I had made the top 8 at Worlds in Tokyo in 1999, but the coverage there didn’t really begin (at least in terms of the cameras following us around) till the semifinals; I had played before the cameras before, though, in 1997, when I made top 8 of the Junior Pro Tour in New York. What made playing in Memphis different from every other Magic experience was knowing that it was being broadcast over the Internet and that all my friends were watching me. Literally seconds after every match, I got congratulatory e-mails from my friends in New York and elsewhere, even before I had finished packing up my cards. It felt great to know that I had so many people rooting for me and just watching me play.

It was tough to lose that final match, but looking back, there’s no way I can be sad about finishing in second at Worlds. Going into the tournament, I was worried about getting the three Pro Tour points I needed to be on the train for 2009. Now. I mised Level 6 status and plan on attending all the major events as well as any Grand Prixs I can without seriously disrupting my work schedule

The next big stop for me is Pro Tour: Kyoto. Until then: I’m out bitches!


P.S. Fuck yo’ couch!