Consider the Lobster

What a trip, huh.

Eleven days of mising, traveling, eating, drinking. Wandering around, playing magic. Honestly, the magic playing was not among the highlights of the week, except as a pretense, but that’s what you want to read about so that’s where we’re going.

First, just after landing from Europe, due to Mano we got to broken draft with these degenerates. I’m actually happier than I look (usually, I think the opposite is more likely).

Getting crushed by Jon Finkel in limited was fantastic, as was (much later, at the Sisters of the Flame meetup in Williamsburg) getting to buy Chris Pikula a drink in gratitude for me making a GP t8 back in 2001 with Meddling Mage.

On deck choice, I’ve been itching to play The Deck for a long time, especially in Atlantic since the burn decks I like so much struggle a bit against Shops. Not that it can’t be handled by a ton of sideboarding, but maindeck Abyss and Bottle along with all the 4/4s do pose a problem. I had an idea about a The Deck version running 4 maindeck Copy Artifact, untested of course, but couldn’t really bring myself to play white-bordered cards (at the time I only owned 1 Beta copy). Wishing I had played The Deck at N00bCon only strenghthened this decision.

Testing started here, driving home from N00bCon.

I then made a list, what I consider to be pretty stock with one Fountain of Youth as the maindeck lifegain spell, and showed it to Fluffy. Both he and Olle refused to believe Fountain was a playable card, and if I wanted a better chance to beat 12-burn decks, I’d be better off just running some of those Serras main. After some deliberation, I decided to listen. Having access to probably the best The Deck player in the world is a resource one should not easily squander. 

This list is almost entirely Fluffy, even though he’s not very familiar with non-Swedish formats. Notable points are the mana base (a ton of white, almost too much red so could see cutting a Volcanic for a basic Island; the sb Island is against Blood Moon but also when I want to cut a Fellwar against Energy Flux or when the opponent doesn’t play white or blue) and the large number of Lightning Bolts. A few of my own ideas are the sideboarded Time Vault (only for the mirror) and Moat (against shops and mono-green); I never brought in either.

Generally, Serras are good. This is how the room looks after finishing 2-0 with The Deck in 15 minutes. I also went to time only once, and then won before flips.

It’s good not to play any bad cards. Good cards are good. Playing Timetwister gives you more power, as the abovementioned ATC episode shows. But also, nothing really matters. The last 2-3 maindeck slots, the mana base and the last 8 sideboard slots could honestly be anything and you can still win the tournament (or, in my case, come in second). Just play the game and don’t worry so much. It makes life easier. 

Lobsters were had:

My ante deck sucks. It’s based on my Disco Universe lists which I tried to little success in regular Swedish. It’s still somewhat viable, I think, but it’s slow, boring and not powerful enough to offset this. I’m working on something new now, and can thus share this. It can also never ever beat the cards Armageddon and Counterspell, which do see some play.

Many of the decklists from the main event can be found here, but as far as I know there hasn’t been any kind of metagame analysis and doing so myself is out of the question; it sounds too much like work and I don’t very much enjoy working. However, from just watching the tables around me and playing my matches, there seems to be less shops than expected and less bolts, but a lot of multi-colored Hymn decks. 

My Premodern deck didn’t suck, just my matchups. Running a stock Sligh list, I dropped at 0-2 after having lost first to Enchantress, then Welder Survival. I took a game off both, but beating t2 Warmth is close to impossible, as is Solitary Confinement.

I did play a few matches of old school. We should probably get to them.

Round 1, Guillaume Soucy. He starts forest, bird. I play library. He plays factory (I think), ice storm. What is he on? Forest and birds is a strange combo. He then plays a Serendib, I develop my mana and play an unprotected Serra, which he unsummons and follows up with a Nether Void. Okay, I know what’s up. The serra is a few turns away, but I can Demonic Tutor for a Swords for the Dib, then as Guillaume is still only on 4-5 mana, I Bolt a mana dork and Disenchant his Sol Ring instead of the Nether Void, locking him under it while I eventually hit 8 mana to get my Serra out there, stopping his eventual small creatures and taking it home. Game 2, he brings in a bunch of Terrors, but he’s stuck on Forest, Elf, Bayou as mana while I get Library active (as he doesn’t have the Ice Storm this time), eventually showing me a hand of I think all the blue power cards. The match shows that Serra is a good, solid magic card. Also bolts as extra spot removal was excellent.

Round 2, I play against Andrés Hojman, whom I’ve faced once online but never met. Amazing he made the trip all the way from Chile and me from Sweden, and we met here. He’s very nice and it was fun getting to talk a bit. I once again start with Library, now on the play, but Andrés starts with land, jet, hymn. I never really get into the game and lose to a Sedge Troll and a Factory. Andrés is on some variation on the 4-color Hymn deck, with black creatures, trolls, Bolts, white removal and blue power. I win game 2 in some manner I don’t remember, except that a Serra dominates some smaller creatures, then game 3 I feel good when I Mind Twist him for hand around turn 4, to which he topdecks his own twist and I die to his factories. I probably sideboard a bit too reactively here. A card like Circle of Protection: Black is only good against his Orders and Juzams; Bolt is only good against Order and Factory; and so on. It’s easy to have my removal line up badly against his threats, especially when I shave all-purpose cards like Counterspell and Recall for narrow answers. I think there’s an argument for sideboarding less in The Deck. The maindeck is just so strong and versatile.

Losing this early makes me pretty sad, as the lack of a top 8 means I’m essentially dead for winning the tournament now. This is why I don’t like straight Swiss, though its benefits could easily also outweigh the drawbacks. However, there are still magic games to be played. Round 3, I play against someone else I’ve only faced online before and who turned out to be great to chat to, in this case Rob Hackney whom I last played in the top 8 of the 2021 Summer Derby. He is as usual on Tax-Edge aggro. I lose one game to him taxing and then resolving Land’s Edge. In one of the other two, I think I just take control with a book, and the last game is a race where my Serra takes it down after I swords my Factory to stay alive against the burn. Once again, bolts were good to handle the early pressure.

Round 4 I play against Andy Blaufarb, but as his decklist isn’t available I don’t remember anything about the match, not even what he played. The life totals say I probably won with some power g1 as he has 23 life when the game ended, and in game 2 he mulled to 5.

Round 5 is Ben Katz, someone else I’ve only played online before. I think I get Hymned, then after a few turns Ben passes on his third land, no factory, and a Ruby. I have a Disenchant in hand but as he hadn’t missed a land drop yet, I save it. It then turns out he plays his fifth source, casting first Sol’Kanar and then a Sengir, which swiftly do me in. The other two games I win quite easily, and I think I remember something about a Timetwister. I see a Black Knight which surprises me, but it turns out Ben was actually on Sleight-Knight with 8 knights and 4 sleights, not just any random B/u/r midrange hymn deck! It never turned out to be very relevant in our match, but still cool.

Round 6 is Will Parshall, on a very black-heavy Bw deck. He plays around my Fellwar Stone expertly, refusing to play his City of Brass, making none of us do much for a long time. Eventually, I draw the mana I need and do powerful things. I think there was a lot of Timetwister and Mind Twist action going on here, and I win with books. In fact, I think books might be important enough to keep as the main plan even in the face of 4-8 white artifact removal spells postboard. They are just so strong in general, and especially as a way to come back after black disruption.

Then in round 7 I play against Seth Roncoroni, whom I’d playtested against a lot, not only now, in his kitchen, but before N00bCon as well as he was one of my primary testing partners there. Seth was very graciously putting me and Olle up for the better part of the week in NYC, making us have a wonderful time there, basically making us feel totally at home, a huge reason why this trip was so fantastic. And now we’re playing late in the tournament. Seth is on his trademark no-Dib Lion Burn deck and he’s a very tight player so anything can happen. However, I’m used to drawing very well against him and this was no exception. I am probably a slight dog in the matchup, but not when I draw Ancestral and Mind Twist every game. In game 2, I get a book online and draw very much ahead in the card advantage game, but I’m stuck on only 3 blue mana, one of which is a City, and also low on white. This means there are many lines where burn spells and power could contribute to me getting burned out, as even though no creatures really connect after a few random hits from an Atog, a couple of Psionic Blasts have taken me down from 15 to 7. Then I have the opportunity to play a Demonic Tutor. I choose to take the City pain to cast it, going to 6, but finding CoP: Red, turning off a bunch of Seth’s potential offense. I think it was the correct choice, and also a reason to have that card in the sideboard. I apologize for the power, I think, but we both are very aware of that’s what’s the game is mostly about. I also think there were some unfortunate draw-7 which gave me way more gas than him, but that might have been in playtesting earlier.

Okay, 6-1 and I don’t feel bad about my results anymore. A win in the last round would land me in the top 8, probably around 4th or 5th or so. So in round 8, I face Dennis Spiegel, the eponymous Sped of the team. I had no idea what he was playing. Turns out it’s an insane non-blue midrange build full of Derelors, Serras and Shivans. I win game 1 easily, then in game 2 I take a bunch of damage from two Derelor hits before I find a Swords, then some random Factory or something. I’m at 6, having only had 1-for-1 answers and no way to get ahead. He has 8-9 mana due to a Mana Vault probably, and I have 6 mana. A few cards in hand. Here I tap down to one mana to cast a Serra, probably with no white up, and he has the Fireball. Maybe it was a mistake, but I felt like he might have gone for it anyway. Like, he’s probably a Fireball deck, but what should he wait for, really? REB? Seems like a larger chance I will draw a Counterspell or some way to get ahead. Game 3 is wild. He plays a quick Derelor which I swords right away, and he starts taking damage from his Mana Vault. 24, 23, 22, 21 … Once again, I don’t get any book or power online, so a string of 1-for-1 answers leave me somewhat low on cards. With 8 mana up, he plays a small Mind Twist for 3 which I counter. Then he casts Armageddon. I had played out too many lands, I think, and I had also drawn no artifact mana at all, so I lose all my permanents, something like 7 lands. But Sped has no artifact mana besides his now-tapped Mana Vault. We do nothing for ages, but his life goes 20, 19, 18, … all the way down to 8 when he finally disenchants his own mana vault. Meanwhile, I’ve found some off-color artifact mana but still no action and no reliable UU or W mana. At some point, I think I go lotus, regrowth a land, but it might also have been against Will Parshall in round 5. Anyway, in the end I draw my own Mind Twist and manage to close the game out with a Factory or two. A nail-biter in any case. It turned out that the Armageddon was a sideboarded 1-of. Good game to finish the day! Dennis was a really nice opponent, as was mostly everyone I faced.

It turns out my result was good enough for 2nd place, which is probably due to faulty Tolaria-based tiebreaker math. But 3-5th would have been fine as well. I wanted to win, of course, but you can’t really ask for more, especially not when there’s no top 8 to be had. At this point I also didn’t complain about that issue as I definitely felt like going for beers and dinner with the core of the Sisters of the Flame crowd instead. Afterwards, I made probably my biggest misplay when I didn’t stay for late-night ante games at the pub, or rather heading back there once I had met up with Team Sped and Olle at a nearby taproom, but at this point I was just too drained. 

What else is there? Tons. But I leave most of it out of this. Rather, there are so many people I want to give a shout-out. To Seth, for letting us stay at his place in New York for several days and being the best host imaginable. To Mano, for setting up a Team Sped Broken Draft, letting us stay at his house for a night, and driving us from NYC up to Boston while introducing us to fantastic Sally’s pizza on the way. To DFB for organizing the tournaments and for the barbecue. To Paul, for the lunch hangs and taking me to see a fantastic show that Tuesday. To every other friend I met, new and old, people I hadn’t seen in a long time, people I’d only met online before, people I’d never met but are friends now: the Sisters of the Flame crowd, the New England crowd, people like Robin, Emily, Will and everybody else I can’t mention now. And to Olle, the best of travel companions, for all the coffee and beers and walks and everything else that makes life worth living. I’ll be back.

Bonus round:

Best beer: Trillium taproom. Or actually maybe the Trillium Summer Street I had at a restaurant on Elm Street.

Best food: the kimchi fried rice at Osamil at 31st and 5th, the Sally’s white pizza with fresh tomatoes and garlic, and the deep-fried cauliflower at Little Donkey in Boston.

Eventually, sadly, I could not stay in this magical dreamland of walking around huge cities, drinking coffee, looking at architecture, visiting famous university campuses, having beers, finding new bookshops, buying science fiction novels and reading them, planning all the stuff I never get around to write; and it was time to go home.

Final thought: there’s just not much comparing to going end of turn, draw a card.

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One thought on “Consider the Lobster

  1. So DFW wrote Consider the Lobster and DFB is the organiser of Lobstercon. Coincidence? I think not! Must be a glitch in the simulation. Nice report!

    Liked by 1 person

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