Latest Update
9 September, 2007

GB Nationals 2007: a Case of Déja Vu? Surely Not…
Part 3

Matteo Orsini Jones

With both OJs on a 6-1 record going into day 2 it was once again important that we arrived at the Pavilion on time – so for the second time in my life, ever, I witnessed my brother in a hurry to get to an event before it started. Weird. If you read the second part of my report, you’ll you that I have somewhat of a penchant for drafting white, and forcing my first pick colour ended up rewarding me – I ended up with a savage tempo deck that racked me up a 4-0 record in the pod I was in, judging creatures unworthy to the sheer powah of my deck left right and centre! Muahahahahahaha!

Going into the second draft I felt I only needed a 1-2 record to go into the standard still with a ‘buffer’ of one loss, having been told that 10-4 should make it in. Obviously though I would have preferred a winning record, and 3-0ing the pod would have made an infinitely happy panda – something much more seemingly impossible than X-0ing my 2-1 pod. Why? Because this time I sat down facing Reigning national champion Craig Stevenson; Craig ‘the Professor’ Jones – one of England’s very few regular PT players; Stuart Wright, deck building extraordinaire, and long-time player and multiple PT contender Tom Harle.

1Going into the draft, as with the previous, I didn’t want to force a strategy (those of you who read part one will know that I learnt on the Thursday that forcing draft strategies is a bad, bad thing to do). Unless of course that strategy was being in white. And, lo and behold, as I opened my first pack the best card by far to be staring at me was in fact a Duskrider Peregrine – fast, flying and efficient beats in my all-time favourite draft colour. Having started off with a good white start though, I took a Crookclaw Transmuter in an otherwise mediocre pack, and then was faced with the decision of taking a Benalish Cavalry and continuing the white fun or taking the superior Looter il-kor and possibly abandoning my first pick (though UW tempo is a viable strategy with the Infiltrators, Knights of Sursi and Whipspines filling the common slot in Future Sight). I grit my teeth and took the Looter, then sadly started to abandon white for a stream of green cards – Phantom Wurm, Search for Tomorrow and Gemhide Sliver. A reasonably late pick Fortify slight re-ignited the white spark, but it was short-lived, with Fortify being the only real playable pick in the pack anyway (I’m always surprised to see this being passed around so late).

Going into planar Chaos I was pretty much certain in green, with the option of either blue or white still open – as I opened the pack I was faced with a very, very difficult decision – Shade of Trokair, ultimate efficient beats in any heavy-white deck, putting me heavy in white, or the ultimate combat wrecker Serendib Sorcerer, edging me towards a heavy blue deck. I grit my teeth and placed the Sorcerer in my underpowered pile of cards, a decision that proved to be useful – I got passed no more white for the rest of the pact, and as it turned out Tom Harle (to my left) had been drafting white quite heavily (a good decision by me). That decision did seem to be rewarded as I got passed some decent playables in the form of Erotic Mutation and a pair of Pongify, but still nothing amazingly bomby that I would have hoped for (like, say, Shaper Parasites).

And then Future Sight was no better – some early picks provided me with an Infiltrator il-kor, a Foresee, the “OMG DEAL WITH ME NOW OR LOSE DA GAME” creature Nacatl War-Pride, and the all-defending Cryptic Annelid, but other than that nothing at all special. Sigh. With the draft over I sulkily made my way to the deck building table, where I faced both my brother and Dan Gardner (read part 2 to find out more), giving them both a “seriously, don’t ask” shake of the head. Once building started I found myself looking for cards to add, not cards to cut. It really wasn’t my day.


“That Makes Me a Saaaaad Panda”

A Timespiral-Planar Chaos-Future Sight draft deck by Matteo Orsini Jones


1 Looter il-Kor
1 Infiltrator il-Kor
1 Gossamer Phantasm
1 Giant Dustwasp
1 Gemide Sliver
1 Duskrider Peregrine
1 Serendib Sorcerer
1 Cryptic Annelid
1 Crookclaw Transmuter
1 Durkwood Tracker
1 Sporoloth Ancient
1 Nacatl War-Pride
1 Phantom Wurm
-13 Creatures-

2 Pongify
1 Search for Tomorrow
1 Aether Web
1 Fortify
1 Gaea’s Anthem
1 Erratic Mutation
1 Foresee
1 Logic Knot
-9 other spells-

2 Plains
8 Forest
8 Island
-18 lands-



As can be seen from the list, the deck was terrible. It had a terrible manabase, a shoddy curve, a lack of real removal, and more combat tricks than creatures. It was bad. After my power-ridden deck from the first draft I’d lost control of the wave and was now clutching onto my surfboard to stop myself from drowning in a pool of jank (metaphorically speaking of course, I had to give up my professional surfing career when I took up Magic). 1-2 was pretty much all I could hope for this deck, putting me in a position of having to win 3 rounds of constructed for the last round ID to put me in the top 8. Fingers crossed, and surely one of my opponents would manascrew in two games.

6Round 8: Vs Craig Stevenson

Yippee, I got paired against the reigning English champion. Then again, looking at the rest of my pod, he was pretty much the best I could be hoping for at the time. I started the ball rolling by suspending an Infiltrator, giving the impression that I actually had good creatures, while Craig entered the game on the back of a Llanowar Augur, giving the impression that he didn’t. Was there a silver lining to the wretched black cloud? Here’s to hoping. The game stalled out somewhat as our equally bad blue-green decks faced off, until I passed the turn to see Craig carefully tap 5 mana. “Nooo! That card breaks so many dreams!” was my first reaction, and to my lack of surprise Craig showed me the Sprout Swarm that suddenly produced an even bigger, even blacker cloud for me to deal with. Luckily, though, I had both a Crookclaw and a Dustwasp entering the skies for some action, powered up by the Gays’ Anthem, and managed to race Craig to the goal before he could swarm the ground for sufficient damage – I finished the game on a rather precarious 6 life, but more importantly I finished it intact!

Game 2 and once again I started on the aggressive with both shadow men and flyers, but Craig did his best to keep them out of the skies with a Shaper Parasite and a Dream Stalker. We both dug for some action with a Foresee each, and I finally managed to counter the second Parasite and get a Dustwasp to stick, and with Craig at 7 life he had to find an answer soon. So he put Arcanum Wings on his Dream Stalker. What the…? Gee. His deck really was worse than mine. Then, to really mock me, he started making sprouts again. Then, to really mock him, I topped the plains I needed for the Fortify I had from the start, and killed his 1/5 flying with a Fortified Dustwasp, and managed to race him out, once more, in the air. How? I don’t know. Did I care? Hells no! I won a match 2 nil! I beat Sprout Swarm! I beat the current National Champion! With my awful deck! I’m da bomb!!!


Match result: 2-0
Matches so far: 7-1

Marco had lost his last round, putting me at the front of the Coventry representative, though at 6-2 we still had Marco, Bas and Bogi (I think at least, maybe Bogi was 5-3 at this point). I had achieved the 1 win I needed from the draft, and could still lose the next two to still stand a chance of top 8ing. Though this wasn’t what I wanted, it seemed like a sad inevitability – I was bound to play against a good deck eventually.

7Round 9: Vs Tom Harle

Woot! Feature Match! When we sat down we had a chat and it turned out that Tom was very happy with his deck – all I could do was reveal that I really wasn’t, as no amount of bluffing could stop me from folding to a deck with creatures that did more than sit there scratching their nose. Game 1 and it seemed the gods of fate were in fact on my side – Tom was on the play, but mulliganed down to five cards, and had to keep a 1-land hand. Fortunately for me, I suspended an Infiltrator turn 2, made a Gossamer Phantasm turn 3, then flashed in a Crookclaw turn 4 to keep the beats going while he continued to draw with a hopeful look on his face, frown, and pass the turn. Tom did manage to produce a Sinew Sliver towards the end of the game, but by then it was far too late. While we shuffled up for the next game Tom commented that if he’d drawn the land a bit earlier he probably would have won. This worried me just a little bit.

Game 2, on the play, Tom started the beats with a Blade of the Sixth Pride, Ghostfired my 2-drop, made a Calciderm turn 4 and a Pulmonic Sliver turn 5. Could I beat this deck provided no mulligans took place? I didn’t think so. Game three and I drew my hand, looked at it for a while, and decided that winning was unlikely with 7 cards; winning was impossible with 6. I grit my teeth, drew my card for the third turn, and passed the turn without making a third land drop. As in game 2, Tom just threw creatures at my face relentlessly, and when I did manage to flash out a Crookclaw to try and block some men he threw a Ghostfire at it, retained priority, and Lightning Axed it. I wasn’t amused.

Match result: 1-2
Matches so far: 7-2

As expected, I got utterly smashed. My deck was nothing compared to his, and I picked up the loss I deserved – had he played it like an absolute idiot he probably still would have won, and I assumed Tom was going to 3-0 the draft to put him in a pretty much certain top 8.


8Round 10: Vs Andy Morrison.

I vaguely knew Andy from the fact that he was one of Coventry player Bogi’s Scottish friends, and so knew his name and face more than anything. I was back out of the feature match zone, so the pressure was off and I could feel a little more relaxed, though maybe I relaxed too much – on my first turn of the match, with Andy on the play, I forgot to draw my card for the turn. I had no idea what I was thinking, and I guess I still don’t – I just… forgot, like any new player would…
Turn two I suspended a Duskrider Peregrine, while Andy led off with a Skycutter, and then two more creature turns three and 4. I continued to rip lands straight off the top, and when the Peregrine hit play with a fresh Graft counter from my land it was bounced straight back to my hand by a stingscourger, and after a quick bit of maths the rest of my cards followed. Game 2 was pretty much the same, except this time with some mulligans on my side – but then again his blue-red tempo deck with more bounce than Michelle McManus on a rollercoaster was a lot better than mine, and it was unlikely my high-cost creatures would have stuck around for the win anyway. I asked Andy to play out another game, just to see if I could win at least one game, and I did! (yay) but this time he mulled down to 5 (nay).

Match Result: 0-2
Matches so far: 7-3


Well well well. I managed to rack up a 3-4 record in games with my absolutely awful deck, which was pretty much the best I could hope for, and was now going into the final standard portion before the top 8 with winning out as my only option. 1 more loss and I was no longer in (those who previously said 10-4 was in had reconsidered). Marco had 2-1’d his pod putting him back in pole position in the OJ race.

Round 11: Vs Martin Dingler

Game 1 and I started well on the play – I built up my board while Remanding and Wrathing his Rakdos-y threats. A resolved cantrip Chronicler started getting the beats on while I fed my Signets into his Hits, and I managed to kill him while I myself was at a rather comfy 14 life. It seemed like I was up against a favourable matchup (though then again I thought this in the first round), and my win-out situation was off to a good start.

Game 2 and, as usual, I took some early beats from creatures while fixing my hand and trying to build up my mana-base. I managed to clear the board of any creatures and settle at 8 life, but Martin still had a card in hand and 2 Megaliths in play with the mana to use them. I suspended a Chronicler that, aided by my Sunhome, would be hitting for lethal the turn after, and passed the turn. Martin thew a Char at my face end of turn and pinged me with his land. Oops, 3 life. He then drew his last card, Hit a Signet and pinged me with a Megaliths. These decks seem to be drawing the piece of burn they need before losing to a mahoosive Chronicler every single time! You know how much of a sad panda that makes me? This much:


Game 3 and it seemed the gods of luck had seen my sad pandaness and decided to shaft Martin’s manabase – he started well off Fanatic beats, but when he failed to make his third land there wasn’t much left in the game – I took complete board control and finished the game with a life total still in double figures.

Match result: 2-1
Matches so far: 8-3

10Round 12: vs Geraint Morgan

Wahoo! Another red aggro deck! And this time it was mono red – all my least favourite 2-drops in the form of Dark Confidant and Tarmogoyf were nowhere to be found, and no nasty un-helixable Trolls in sight. Game 1 and Geraint started beating, as expected, with some small men while I Wrathed some away, dug deeper and deeper into my deck with Hussars, and cast a Bust when I realised that his Ghitu Encampments were starting to cause a problem, what with me at 3 life an’ all. This left me with 4 mana sources and 2 1/3 vigilance men, and Geraint with no mana sources, no cards in hand, and a pair of Magus of the Scrolls. It seemed good for me but despite digging through half my deck with yet more Compulsive Research I still failed to find the Helix I needed to make sure I could safely pass the turn in the knowledge that no burn would do it. It seemed my opponent was drawing slightly better than me, and was making a stream of lands and creatures, but eventually the Helix popped up, shot down the first thing it saw, and secured the first game with the help of Hussar beatzz.

Game 2 and I found myself up against the ropes from the start – I was forced to start hardcasting Chroniclers to stand in the way of his small men, but an Angel soon joined the fray to help me race him back while still keeping the necessary blockers back. With Geraint at 3 life with no cards in hand, and with me at 4 life with a well developed board and plenty cards in hand (though I knew none were Remand or Helix), I passed the turn and admitted that if it was a Char I scooped – a situation I had found myself in so many times over the weekend. Geraint considered for a while and realised that Char would be the only card that could save him and went for the Craig Jones style smash – it turned out to be Incinerate. Whew. 1 life ftw.

Match result: 2-0
Matches so far:  9-3

Wahoo! Now all I needed was another win and I was sorted – top 8 for me! Marco had lost a match to Tom Harle putting him, like me, at 9-3 and with another win needed before we could ID into t8. Sadly though this meant we could get paired against each other – should this happen, we decided, we would ID so not to knock each other out.

11Round 13: Vs Craig Jones

Now when most people get paired against Prof they probably start to panic, but not me – he was running Gruul, a fun matchup for me, and on top of that he was tuned for the aggro mirror with Gargadons and Mogg War Marshals. ‘Beat for 1’. ‘Sure’. ‘ Sac some lands to Gargadon’. ‘Hmmm, Remand’. To make it better we were in the feature match area, so the whole world would watch me Wrath my way into the t8! Also Marco was next to us in the other feature match area against Stuart Wright – we were all famous-like. I had been paired up to Craig, so he was in a seeming lock for t8 anyway, but even so he refused my cheeky offer for him to concede, just in case he got savaged by pairings. I for one knew exactly what he was talking about.

Game 1 and the Gargadons entered the aether while some small men slapped me round the head. Normally I’d say ‘beat me’ but I think the appropriate term for what a War-Marshal token might do on the 3rd turn to hit somebody down to 19 would be ‘slap’. I Wrathed some guys away (luckily I drew 3 during the game), remanded some Gargadons and started flying in with an Angel. I passed the turn with a Gargadon looming over my shoulder, ready to come in, and realised as I did so that I hadn’t left Remand mana open. I sighed, but then realised that I had the 3rd Wrath still in hand, and if he went all in on the ‘Don I could chump with an angel, Wrath it, and leave him with an empty board and me at a comfy 10 life. I therefore tried to overact the ‘darn no remand mana’ a bit more, and was rewarded with an all in from Craig. I showed him the Wrath and Chronicler I had in hand and we swiftly moved onto the next game.

Game 2 wasn’t particularly exciting – the Pyroclasm I brought in proved to be useful (sigh, Marco was right) against to Magi of the Moon on his side of the board, though my signets would have sorted me out fine anyway. I killed some men, remanded others, and showed the ones that remained the Wrath of God. All in all, a great matchup for me, and a great way to put me in an ‘ID and in’ position.

Match result: 2-0
Matches so far: 10-3

OMG HL! I had racked up the 3-0 I needed in standard, and now it seemed all I had to do was sit down for my next round, go through all the pleasantries, and offer the hand for the draw. Of course this year I wasn’t going to get too excited because those of you who were around me last year will know exactly what happened. I quote the famous words of James Back:

“But what if you get paired down and they can’t ID and then you lose?”

An impossibility I had discarded as silly nonsensethe year before happened to come true – I faced Andrew “Boomer” Clayton on a down-pair, he savaged my zoo deck with Condemns, Hussars, Wraths and Hierarchs, and I came 9th on tiebreaks.

And Guess what?

12Round 14: Vs Stuart Wright

Stuart had just so happened to ID with my brother in the last round after they got to 1-1 and didn’t want to gamble top 8 on who drew or didn’t draw Withered Wretch or Pithing Needle. For this reason Stuart was on 9 wins, 3 losses and a draw. Could he ID? No. Could my deck beat dredge? No. Was I about to get pairings-shafted in the exact same way for the second year running? Indiddly-deedy!

As we sat down in the feature match (again) the head judge came over and changed the pairings board from ‘Stuart Wright and Marco Orsini Jones’ to ‘Stuart Wright and Matteo Orsini Jones’. I guess it’s nice to start off with a joke or two, but nothing could lighten up the block of lead that had settled down in the bottom of my stomach.

Game 1 and I sat there drawing some cards and making some mana while Stuart did his thing. My hopes of savage mulligans and/or manascrew were not going so well. Game 2 and I sat there behind three Tormod’s Crypt while Stuart tried to do anything without losing his entire graveyard. Game 3 Stuart sat there behind a Pithing Needle while doing his thing – irrelevant really as I didn’t draw a Crypt, but anyway.

Match result: 1-2
Matches overall: 10-4

I was just a little bit bitter.

Rich Hagon, having watched the match, extended the hand and offered me his commiserations, then I sulked off to the cafeteria for some comfort-pizza, which I then ate while watching Marco win his way into t8. Sigh, This nationals was mine!

I decided that standing there wasn’t helping my distraught situation so I went for a prowl to see all the other Coventry players having fun with their various random format tourneys, while I realised that, for the second year running, I had battled for two days to put myself in a seeming lock for t8 only to come out of it with some boosters and pats on the back. Meh. The announcements came and it was verified that Marco was in the top 8 – I came 12th (which is better than 9th I guess), and picked up 28 boosters for my work. Into the bag with the others I guess.

And that’s the end of my Nationals adventure. I did enter the PTQ the next day, and might give a write-up if I find the time / will, but won’t be making any promises (a busy week leading up to Florence!). Off home it was for a very busy night testing Marco’s top 8 matchups, and analyzing every possible way of playing, mulliganing, sideboarding and choosing whether or not to go first. I did have some fun times and some not-so-fun times, and all in all it was an enjoyable weekend with a smoothly run tournament. Though I wasn’t able to make the most of the side events due to playing in nationals, I did enjoy watching Chris Harrold draft his 8-booster uberdraft into a bomb-ridden deck, only to scrap it all for a deck that won only with Whetweels and Millstones. Teehee.

Signing off.

Matteo “too sad to make up an unfunny nickname” Orsini Jones



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