Singapore Slinging

By Henry Moore                                  23/6/11


So, I didn’t win a GP. It’s pretty gutting, I’ll be honest. I was certain this was my tournament. Well…that’s not really true, but I am really disappointed about the wasted opportunity. At the same time, I’m really stoked that Aaron and Matt did well, and that both of them had the opportunity to do better were they not on the wrong side of luck. What I’d like to talk about today is what went wrong with my tournament, and what I am attempting to do to change my results in the future. My hope is that by putting this is writing I can also help others to improve on their game.

 Let’s start at the beginning. As soon as I was eliminated from the Auckland PTQ the weekend before we left, I began brewing a RUG twin list for Singapore. The deck seemed so good! I couldn’t possibly beat it with Cawblade! I got to play Lotus Cobra!

 

These are the things that I started to convince myself. Basically, I worked myself into a headspace in which I could excuse my loss to RUG in the PTQ by concluding that it was a much better deck than Cawblade, and that I should therefore be playing it. This is a dangerous thing to do: not only do you end up dismissing any mistakes you made during the match (‘it wouldn’t have mattered, his deck was sooo much better’), but you also become much more likely to change decks at the last minute. I have only once changed decks at the last minute with positive results, and I definitely do not recommend it. A lot of people have said it but I’ll say it again: The edge you might gain by playing a different deck is often the same or less than the edge you already have by knowing your way around a deck in a specific format.

 

But I digress, back to the point. I told myself that RUG twin was a better deck and that I should play the best deck at a GP. When I arrived in Singapore and we met up with Matt and Paul, Matt showed me his RUG deck, telling me that he also thought it was a better deck. Now, how could BOTH of us be wrong? I’m not saying that we were, in fact Matt did very well with that deck, but the point I’m making is that the fact that I had someone to back up my claim that RUG was better blinded me to other possibilities.


    ‘the best cobra ever printed’

At the end of the day, I ended up playing a RUG twin deck for the GP (A very similar list can be found here, the deck Matt used to win a grinder). As I will describe further on in this article, I can’t really be sure that I played it wrong, but there were a lot of plays that I just simply didn’t see because I wasn’t comfortable with the interactions. Believe me when I say it’s a lot easier to play against the deceiver combo than it is to play with it. I’m not the kind of player who can just pick up a deck and play perfectly with it. I know that, and yet the thought never crossed my mind.

 Now, a thought that DID cross my mind a lot was this: ‘I don’t want to play the Cawblade mirror all day’. There are a lot of issues loaded into this comment. Let me say first that there is some merit to this frame of mind. The UW cawblade mirror often comes down to a slow grind where both players have Batterskull and  Sword of War and Peace and gaining an edge is so difficult that games often go to time, which you obviously don’t want. Draws on day 1 are as bad as a loss, since you can’t have more than two rounds that aren’t wins to make the cut to day two. In some formats (like this) a draw is even worse than a loss, since you’re more likely to play other people playing UW Cawblade who also have a draw from playing the mirror which went to time. This could lead to further draws, leaving you very little room to end up paired against a deck that wasn’t Cawblade. However, there are some problems with this logic. The first is that the deck I would have played would have been Darkblade, the deck I talked about in my article last week. The matchup is a bit different than the straight UW Cawblade mirror. You have more proactive discard and removal spells. What this means is that the games can go much quicker because you’re able to gain information and play around (or more importantly not have to play around) certain cards. This would have meant less draws. The other is that there is actually a lot of interaction in the mirror, and games don’t always go to time. If you play well you can put yourself in a position where you won’t end up in the grind situation.

 

Basically, what I had done was engender in myself a fear of the mirror. Fear of the mirror is something that a lot of players suffer from. Sometimes it is fair. The Jund mirror, for example, while I never really played it I assume it often came down to who drew more Blightning and Bloodbraid Elf. However there are a lot of times when mirrors aren’t like that and you should learn to play them before being driven away by fear. My challenge to myself and to others is to remove the stigma from ‘the mirror’. I hope to learn a lot from doing so by practicing more mirrors (especially Cawblade, which I expect to be huge at NZ Nationals later this year) (Editor – Well we all know what happened, check here if you missed it).

As you can see, my deck choice was driven by a lot of factors, and I know a lot of you go through the same thought processes. What I’m trying to get across here is that sometimes your own over-thinking can be your worst enemy. Don’t second guess yourself, but remember to think as critically as possible. It’s hard, and I know I will make mistakes like this for a long time, but I’m always learning, and so long as you learn from your mistakes you will get better.

So that was pre-tournament. I also want to talk about my experiences during the tournament which caused me to be eliminated with only one (real) win under my belt. People who know me well will be aware that I’m a bit of a caffeine fiend. I’m the guy who goes to the supermarket and buys 10 single blue Monsters because I can get them there for $3 rather than spending $4.20 at my local dairy. I am used to having one a day AT LEAST to get myself in the right headspace for being at work. The trouble with that is, once you get in that habit, it’s quite difficult to get out of it. If I don’t have a Monster, I feel terrible and can’t concentrate on my work, let alone anything else. Maybe it’s psychosomatic (all in my head), but that’s just how it has been for me for as long as I can remember. To compound on this, in Singapore the only energy drinks you can buy are small Redbulls (for the low cost of $3.50) or some kind of weak non-caffeinated Singaporean version that tastes awful. Being in the holiday mentality, I didn’t click to the fact that I might be in trouble if I stopped my daily dose of caffeine, and quickly ignored the Redbull on offer. As Aaron would say, this did not pay dividends.

 

                                                                                                             The Rise and Fall of Henry Moore...

On the morning of day one of the GP, I woke up feeling ok. I was excited to (Singapore) sling some cards, and confident in my deck choice. We got to the venue, checked out the traders, had some breakfast and played some EDH (sorry, Commander). I made sure that I had a nice big breakfast and that I had plenty of 100plus handy (like Powerade but much much better). I was feeling fine until about the end of round 2. A pain began behind my eyes and eventually exploded into a full-blown what I assume is a migraine. I’ve never had a worse headache, and I knew I was in trouble. I quickly had some painkillers, and even some kind of strange herbal pill that Max insisted was a ‘natural remedy’. As an aside, I’m not sure if that was a natural remedy, but I feel like those pills might explain some of Max’s more flamboyant interactions with the rest of the NZ magic community…

Anyway, nothing worked. I went into round 4 basically delirious. I couldn’t think straight, and I remember playing like I had a Splinter Twin in my hand for two turns after my opponent duressed it away.

‘Splinter Twin: Castable from your hand, not from your graveyard’

I somehow herp-derped my way to victory on the back of Inferno Titan and our insane sideboard for aggro decks. From that point it was all downhill. In round 5 I played against an American dude who plays with some of the guys from Channel Fireball and he mopped the floor with me. I played like a huge scrub and he punished me for it. I don’t even really remember the next two rounds, but I remember that I made plays that I would never make normally. I can only conclude that my caffeine dependency heavily contributed to putting me out of contention. I can’t complain, and I can’t use it as an excuse. I put myself in that position, and eventually paid the price for it. I have decided to kick the habit. For the rest of the holiday I didn’t have any energy drinks at all, and since I’ve been back I have only had the occasional one to help me get over the time difference.

 

The overarching point is that there are a lot of factors outside of your deck and knowledge of a format which can lose you a tournament, and you need to be in control of as many of them as possible. Your physical wellbeing is extremely important while playing Magic, even though it is a mental game. I have learned this the hard way, and I’m not taking the lesson lightly. I know a lot of people take it upon themselves to stay hydrated and eat, but you can go further than that. Only JD, former National Champ 1997, can play a pre-release coming off 2 hours sleep and a big night, don’t try it. If you’re like me, and you wish you could take caffeine intravenously, I would advise trying to get yourself off it. I’ve been told by non-addicts that caffeine actually helps when you don’t have it all the time. This is a novelty to me, but I’ll certainly be testing the theory. If you can’t, DON’T try to go cold turkey two days before a big tournament. I have even read from multiple sources that staying physically fit allows your brain to work for longer. Some chess pro once said that he works out to stay fit for chess, so it must be true.

 

The GP was awesome. I may have done terribly, but I learned a lot. I would highly recommend to anyone that can save up to try and get to a GP outside of NZ, and outside of Australia too if you can manage it. ‘Play the Game, See the World’ is the motto I believe, and it really is true. If you think playing your favourite game is awesome in NZ, wait till you get to play it in other countries. Jetstar, while it is a pretty average airline, do really cheap flights and they seem to be increasing their number of destinations all the time. Our return flights were just over NZ$600, which is only $200 more than going to anywhere in Australia. And if you justify going as a holiday as well as a Magic tournament it’s a whole lot less tilting when you scrub out ;).

 

I’ve been told I need a sweet sign-off for my articles, so I’m going to trial one:

 

No skill required,

 

Henry.

 

TL;DR: QQ omg I can’t believe I didn’t top 8 I’m SOOOO unlucky. Shut up Steven.

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