Magic Fest Vegas (15th)

Published: 12/27/2023

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My original plan to prep for the event was to build a sealed deck every day in this document and play a few mtgo drafts in addition to writing my set review [1] but that plan changed when Derek DMed me on Twitter asking if I'd be interested in joining a testing discord and I jumped at the opportunity. Actually he DMed me on discord first and I never saw it. But Allen told him he might after better luck on twitter. I have a problem.

Anyway the team was great. I thought I didn't know anyone on the team but I left the first meeting thinking Ben's voice sounded familiar and I realized he actually knocked me out of the semifinals of a lotr RCQ at Cosmic Games in Bellingham. Sort of a funny story: He asked to split loser get's the non invite prizes (Just $60 in store credit. But it was only a 17 person event as I recall so reasonable.). I counter proposed winner takes all and then went to the bathroom to "let him think about it". He turned it down so we kept the even split. I beat him game 1. And I don't know what came over me. Perhaps some deep self sabotage. Perhaps I realized $60 was enough for Klask while $30 was enough for nothing and I was never coming back. But I offered loser takes all and of course, down a game, the split he originally wanted, he accepted. And then I promptly lost the next two. It was actually a very interesting match in which he savagely outplayed me. I still think about my decision to cast Saruman the White image into counter spell instead of double spelling. But we're really getting far afield here. One more story from the event: Another team mate Nico was there reading a book. I asked him if he won yesterday's event because "he seemed to good to not be playing" and he did and I believe Derek was there but I don't think we met.

Two weeks before the event I started a new job. Which meant I had a great lame duck week to get some practice in at my old job [2] followed by almost losing interest entirely when I started my new job [3]. My online results were quite bad. I lost maybe 50 rating points. The highlight of my preparation was losing my mind forcing mono black 3 drafts in a row getting 2-1 all 3 times but sort of convincing myself my 3 losses were to misplays. I half told myself and told other people I'd force mono black if I day 2ed but then didn't have the heart.

Mono black draft 1
Mono black draft 2
Mono black draft 3

The morning of I woke up at 5:43 (So lucky that Google and Fitbit (now owned by Google) are watching me at every turn so I can record such irrelevant details. People don't talk about the other side of privacy: your memory will be forgotten and you will fade from this world entirely. Got to get into those llm weights while you still can) and went for a run to the local convenience store and bought two C4 energy drinks. The run took me right by the sphere. What a miracle. I offered one of the drinks to my hotelmate Mack but he didn't want one. We met Allen, Russell and Daniel for breakfast at Truffles and Bacon where I get a delightful pork belly omelet. The whole ride there the uber driver roasts us for not eating on the strip.

When we get to the convention center I immediately run into Cash and Harold, two old friends from California. I'm starting to feel pretty good about coming to this event. Tournaments are fun.

Deck construction

I was talking to the person across from me who was very friendly and also a dad who is semi retired from mtg. After a bit he said "You know I remember you, you knocked me out of GP San Jose in 2017". At first I denied it, thinking I failed to day 2 that event, but then all the memories of my horrible day 2 performance came flooding back. He said "It's good to have you back. You're a pretty good magic player", which felt good to hear. I opened and built the following:

Vegas sealed build
Vegas sealed list

Round 4

We're in turn 0 of a very interesting match. I have one creature, Spiteful Hexmage image without its role, to my opponent's two tapped creatures. They're at 14, I have Elusive Otter image, Archon's Glory image (which I boarded in a ton and maybe should have mained) and 6 lands. I don't think I can ever win but I make 3/2 a 7/6 with otter. My opponent snaps down Beluna's Gatekeepers and instantly says "oops this is a sorcery nevermind". Which is really good because I think I may have just let it happen without noticing. Now I really think I'm 0 percent to win because they'll bounce it on their next turn and there's no way I'll find 5 damage in my 2 turns starting from 0 creatures in play so I decide to archon's to go to 18 and hope they can't kill me in 3. They may or may not be able to but I think it's my best shot. I put down the archon's glory and even say something like "I guess I'll gain some life". I'm pretty sure my body language could be best described as "defeated". My opponent starts nodding and says "You got it, good games" and starts picking up his cards. I'm taken aback and ask "I'll record it I won 2-1?" He says yes and I do. I wasn't sure if I should even tell me opponent but he seemed friendly and in his spot I'd want to know so I say "You know you weren't actually dead there, I was only attacking for 9" and he says "What are you talking about it was 11" so my opponent was wrong about both their own life total and the power of my creature to concede the match". They were surprised but not visibly disappointed or angry so I'm glad I told them. There was a judge sitting right next to us so I guess everything that happened was kosher. Though the judge did say something like "I'm glad [your opponent] didn't argue". I think it was a pretty clear concession either way.

Round 6

My opponent was Pascal Maynard. This was the first round after I talked to Allen about my deck construction who recommended splashing blue for just hatching plans image. We're in a top decking situation and I draw the hatching plans without a way to crack it and think "Fucking Allen" and then next turn I drew Grapple image so I guess that's why Allen is a PT Champion and I'm always one match away.

Another spot from that match: It's my main phase and Pascal has one green up and Sleep-Cursed Faerie image with two stun counters. I think he's <5% to have royal treatment image because he let me grapple image something on his turn. I go for Rip the Seams image (Destroy target tapped creature) and he plays Leaping Ambush image and I instantly say okay. Honestly I think I misplayed this spot in two ways:

Day 2 Draft 1

Vegas draft 1

Obviously busted deck is busted. Allen tells me I should have played good cards instead of gingerbrute image but I'm standing by them. They stole a lot of games.

Funny story from deck construction: I sat next to Will Krueger. I didn't even realize he was playing the event. Anyway we sat next to each other building for 15 minutes super focused on our decisions when suddenly he looked up and was like "What? Hi Jake, I had no idea you were even here".

Round 9

I beat Jason Ye the eventual winner of the tournament. In their report they say the event was weirdly soft. So hey! My primary memory of the round is they used Nicole Dubin tokens so I told them we'd almost teamed at an NRG event after Thanksgiving in 2021 but then my daughter was born early and I didn't play for a while.

An interesting spot was when I blocked Hylda of the Icy Crown image with 4/4 Unassuming Sage image because they missed Syr Armont, the Redeemer image. They started resolving damage and said "so sorcerer dies" and I said "No syr" and they tried to then cast a combat trick and the judge ruled we were in damage. Honestly I was a little worried about that spot. I think it can be genuinely ambiguous where in combat you are. The questions: "So your creature has 5 power?", "So you take 5?" or "So you would take 5 if damage resolved?" are all sort of the same question but just asking them in those ways has implications for where in the turn you are. A little strange.

Round 10

I've never seen an opponent so angry. Honestly it's half my fault and I feel a little bad about it. As anyone who's played this format in paper knows it can be really hard to find the right role. I mostly did a good job of it all weekend but game 1 of this match is really dragging on and I have an incredible number of permanents in play. (I have never played a tournament with so many two game matches that went to time or <10 minutes. Round 5 I don't play with much vigor (didn't make attacks I should have) but I win game 1 and I feel close to 100% to win game 2 but there's 2 minutes left on the clock and I just ask my opponent "Hey would you just like to concede?" (hopefully in a friendly way not a rude way but either way I don't expect him to say yes) and he suddenly looks very relieved starts nodding and says "yeah, that sounds good, I didn't realize we were so close to time". I thought it was a pretty funny moment because of course he could have conceded any moment but I don't think he would have ever considered the option if I hadn't pointed it out.) I have two knightly valor image, I was going of with Tanglespan Lookout image. I have Slumbering Keepguard image. But it's actually a very close game. They'd gotten me to 4 earlier and stab wounded my Tanglespan. I had stayed alive with 2 gingerbrutes (Allen suggested cutting them for garbage 4 drops but they literally won every game) and a tough cookie. But anyway I put the monster role on my one drop and attacked with it and two vigilant 5/5s when they're at 8. But the monster role is just a scrap card with no text (i think wotc sort of made a mistake putting 4 roles on one card because you'd think you have a monster role handy but then you use your sorcerer role and now you don't. Or maybe they should have found a way to get the role count down to 4 so every role card could have all of them? idk what a good solution is but I found it very difficult to get correct roles down though I mostly succeeded present story excepted). I sorta thought my opponent was just dead either way since I had another 6 points of life gain behind and was at 3 and had 7 enchantments for the Slumbering Keepguard image. Since there was only 20 minutes left and the role had just come into play and the game was about to end I thought it was fine. My opponent went to blocks, chumping the 1 drop and one of the vigilant creatures and I pumped once and told them they were hella dead and he was really surprised and got angry and called a judge. He kept saying stuff like "You have to keep your board clear". Which is fair but his board was also complicated and a mess. He had written wicked and food on a scrap of paper that was floating ambiguously above a creature (it was a wicked role but I don't think a spectator without a memory of the game would have been sure which). More than once he cracked a food and left the paper scrap he'd written food on on the table until I reminded him to remove it. I thought about saying these things to him but I sorta thought they'd make him angrier and I was pretty sure the judges were about to inform him he couldn't go back to declare blockers so I figured why bother. It was game one and there was 20 minutes on the clock and there's a trade off between representing the game state accurately and playing fast and I was happy with where we both were.

The judge asks me two questions with the opponent away from the table:

The judges confer away from the table and rule that we're post blockers. I actually try to push the ruling because I think actually we should be in damage because my opponent asked how much he was taking. Also I sort of thought my opponent was going to appeal. But my opponent didn't want to appeal (he sort of had his hand up a bit? I actually say "I'm not sure this is that important because I think my opponent is going to appeal either way but I think we should be in damage) and when he heard the ruling he just conceded and we went on to game 2. Game two was another close one that was surely quite frustrating for my opponent where I went to <8 and valued my way back). I also played a lot of Cooped Up images for very bad value against celebrants and 2/3 rat. These were mostly calculated risks in spots where I wanted to save life more than preserve optionality and had rebuys if I needed them but I kinda think from opponent's perspective I was just playing bad but they were losing anyway which is always a frustrating spot.

Draft 2

Vegas draft 2

I don't know what I was thinking with this draft. Absolutely horrible. I should have been green. I should have been anything else. Pack 3 I open Gruff Triplets image and I still think about how the universe was conspiring for me to win and I let it down. I should have taken it and just abandoned white. I lost to it round 2 of the draft. Ah well. I lose that one and Round 1 to Jesse Hampton. I beat my round 7 opponent (my only loss day 1. He actually cheated by putting 4 counters down with Picnic Ruiner image and I didn't notice until after I conceded.) to finish 11-3 and 15th.

One more story from the draft: A guy in the corner, sitting next to Jesse Hampton, was angled in. Jesse was understandably perturbed and called a judge. But we sort of kept drafting. I didn't really know what do do. I was trying to focus on the draft after all. I definitely think that guy shouldn't have been sitting like that. But I also didn't think it was that big a deal. I should have stopped drafting and called a judge and I guess someone else would have called for us once we got out of sync. But I didn't think of it at the time. Ah well.

Final story from the draft: After my loss to Jesse Hampton that guy came up to apologize. I'm pretty sympathetic since it's (according to him) his first day 2 draft and he was nervous and he didn't even understand what Jesse was complaining about at first. And after all he came over to apologize. He could have just said nothing. But Jesse won't let him off with an "It's okay" or "No worries" or "Thanks for apologizing". He talks about all the known cheaters at worlds. He talks about how we're playing for a lot of money and we need to take this seriously. He looks to me to back him up. The interaction ends with Jesse saying "Do better".

Day 3

There weren't any events I wanted to play Sunday. I joked to Allen that it'd be fun to play mindbug all day and then we actually did it. I sat down with Mack a little before eleven and started playing. Allen and Daniel showed up after a bit. Jacob and others filtered in and out. One copy of the deck has enough cards to play two games simultaneously if you proxy the mindbugs. And we didn't stop playing until after 5 when we went to get dinner at Gordo's tacos.

I was pretty surprised how fresh the game stayed for the whole period. I'd played less than 2 hours total at that point mostly pick up at one ltr rcq. All kinds of cards that I'd thought were sorta bad kept finding exceptional spots. People kept finding different ways to sequence. I wasn't close to bored even after over 6 hours of consecutive play. And it was constant play; the game involves very little shuffling or setup.

[1] Honestly I think writing these has made me so much better at limited. I kinda think they're a little cringe and a little noise. Everyone depending on their skill level would be better off reading LSV's or just reading the cards and forming their own opinions. And what is the point of writing without an audience? But my limited results have improved quite dramatically. Anyway one thing my reviews generally have is they are FIRST, posted the same day or day after the full spoiler. The one time I missed that a new set was coming out a posted it a bit over a week late I was totally roasted for how garbage it was. But as long as I'm pareto optimal along the dimensions of quality and speed I think at least some peope will appreciate what I'm doing here.

[2] I have enough trouble focusing as it is I can't really get anything done during two week notice periods. I said a few goodbyes and documented a few things but didn't do much. Sort of a character flaw.

[3] Which is why this report (which I mostly wrote on the plane back) (on my phone) is so late.