Learnings from a GPT or “How Dispense Justice has made me paranoid”
By Eric (Gareth Norsk)
Last Saturday I attended a GPT in order to get my 3-round-bye for Paris. No big deal, right? The format was SOM Sealed w/ Top8 and it will definitely be the last time I am playing Scars limited. I am done with this set. I just cannot take it anymore. Actually, when I was leaving the store I was a nervous picture of misery marked by what Dispense Justice had done to me in the course of the day.
Let us start at the beginning, however.
The day started with me opening the most ridiculous Scars pool I have ever seen. When I was done registering the pool I was passing a bombshell to the guy to my left which I was pretty sure would win the tournament. The pool consisted of Elspeth Tirel, Sunblast Angel, Carnifex Demon, Kuldotha Phoenix and a Steel Hellkite supported by a notable amount of removal in black, red and white. You actually could have made a decent 60 card deck out of it. Ironically, the guy never made it to the Top8 and I only remember seeing him leaving the store with a grim look on his face talking to himself about being mana screwed and that he needs to practice shuffling. One more time the proof that there is more to Magic: The Gathering than actually having good cards.
Personally, I ended up playing a half-decent U/W Control deck with a green touch:
Scars GPT Sealed Deck
I am not mentioning the sideboard since there was not really much in it and for the tale this article is about to tell it is not relevant at all. See, after playing SOM Sealed for roughly 40 times and 20 more drafts I considered myself to be rather experienced with the format, to have seen pretty much everything and to know which are the cards that actually win you the game. I could not have been more wrong. In fact, there were some interesting learnings awaiting me in the course of the day.
Learning I: Count your deck, and then count it again, and again, and again, and…
It has happened to a lot of friends of mine but it actually had not ever happened to me; until Saturday. I registered a 39 card deck. In the end of the day, it did not really matter since it was a land that was missing and I was allowed to add another Island to the deck. The handicap of one game loss in round 2 did not matter as well since the deck of my opponent was white/black weenie, and he came out so fast that I could only watch his Sunspear Shikari w/ Darksteel Axe crushing me while all my answers were grasped, revoked or Skinrendered. Anyhow, registering the wrong deck or a deck with less than 40 cards is maybe one of the most stupid mistakes you can ever make. So make sure you spend enough time to actually count your deck and ensure it has at least 40 cards.
Learning II: Quicksilver Gargantuan is maybe the most undervalued Mythic in the set
When constructing a deck I always try to count my win conditions. If you have a look at my decklist again, there are: Venser (1), Evasion (2), Soft Removal (3) and Quicksilver Gargantuan (4). The latter I considered being the most unlikely since it requires seven land and is rather slow. I could not have been more wrong. What actually happened is that Quicksilver Gargantuan won me 2/3 of all my games. Since there is pretty much nothing that can deal with it, it quickly changes the state of the game. But the greatest advantage of the card is its variety. I always found myself copying my opponents’ biggest threats. So I copied Kembas Skyguard, to win via evasion, or Plague Stinger to win via poison and evasion. I also copied my opponents Neurok Invisimancer to make him concede immediately. Copying a Sunblast Angel and wiping out the complete board of my opponent granted my ticket to the top eight and copying Ezuris Brigade to swing with an 11/11 trample devastated my final opponent. The card really made my day and I feel sorry that I did not give it the respect it deserves earlier.
Learning III: Stay smart of play at least on different color in Top 8
This might sound stupid and maybe it is just me having trouble with it but it happened to me more than once and it also happened this time. In the top eight I tried to draft into something else than U/W but for some reason I again ended up playing these colors. The bad thing is that in such a situation I am usually having a hard time distinguishing what was in my first deck and what is now in the top eight draft deck deck. For example, at some point in the elimination phase I caught myself waiting to draw a Tumble Magnet that I never drafted but that initially was in my Sealed Pool.
Learning IV: Stay focused and do not get paranoid
I already mentioned that I did quite well during the sealed games and that I made it to the top eight. Getting there was not too challenging but I had to go through a valley of tears that had been prepared by Dispense Justice.
I am not good in playing around cards and Dispense Justice is actually a tough one to play around anyway. If you have no counterspell you have to take it at some point in time. So you either want to get in a position where you can attack with one or two creatures you feel not too sad to sacrifice or you have to get so much board advantage you do not have to care about it anymore. What happened to me is that for some reason all my opponents were playing white and after round three I had seen a Dispense Justice in every single match. I still did quite well, but after sacrificing my Golem Artisan for the third time I got pissed and increasingly annoyed by that card. In the following rounds I began to play around it and luckily my Copper Myrs or the Trinket Mage became the guys that had to jump but I still was running into Dispense Justice in each following game. Sometimes with metalcraft, sometimes without but it still made me sac something. Every opponent seemed to have it.
Later in the top eight I was playing against W/G Dinosaurs. I quickly lost the first game since I got mana flooded but caught up in game 2. In turn 12 of game 2 the board was looking like this:
It is my turn and I wonder what might be the play here. My opponent has stopped dropping lands some turns ago and I have seen a Liege of the Tangle in game 1. So I assume he is not holding back lands, at least not three of them. He could have a Darksteel Sentinel but since I can give flying to the Artisan, it does not matter. I am very short on life and there are numerous cards he could draw that would instantly kill me. Literally I am on 2 life since he can use the Necrogen Censer any time. I have to play cautious but I should also finish him now.
So I decide to make the Artisan a flyer, leaving five mana open and swing with both. Dispense Justice it says in my mind. What if he has Dispense Justice? He has metalcraft so I would have to sac both creatures, leaving me without any defense. I realize that I can get rid of the Myr via the Trigon and destroy the Urn or the Censer with my Shatter. Goodbye metalcraft. So I have the perfect response to his Dispense Justice, I would only have to sac the glider and could swing for the final blow next turn.
I am thinking. Dispense Justice Dispense Justice. I tap my creatures and he asks me “do you pump?”. Dispense Justice Dispense Justice. I take a deep breath. Dispense Justice Dispense Justice. “No”, I say. “Then I go to two”, he says. I shrug. No Dispense Justice. The audience goes “duh” and I feel like an idiot. I could have won. He draws a card, smiles at me and drops another Necrogen Censer. Game over. With a big smile he reveals his hand… 3 Plains.
Immediately the crowd begins asking “why didn’t you pump?”. I explain Dispense Justice, metalcraft, next turn… Nobody understands what sounded so logical and cautious to me. A friend of mine later asks me, why I did think he actually had Dispense Justice since he did not play one in game 1. “I don’t know”, I say. “Any white player had it today and so I assumed he did have it as well… I guess I just got paranoid.” At home I opened the boosters I won. Guess what was the first uncommon in booster no.1? Yeah… it is the truth.