NFL Conference Championships

Jets @ Indianapolis(-7.5)
I really, really want the Jets to win this game. It would be such sweet, sweet justice if the Colts lost to a team that they tanked a game to, wouldn’t it? (Plus of course I hate the Colts, so it gets the double.) I don’t see it happening, though, as the Colts are just way too good. On the other hand, the Colts have mostly not been blowing people out this year (last week notwithstanding), and the Jets will be way fired up, and can cover a lot better than the Ravens can. I’ll take the points on the theory that the Jets will at least be in the game, probably aided by more inexplicable missed field goals, since Matt Stover is like 62 years old now.

Vikings @ New Orleans(-3.5)
I knew I had it last week when everybody was taking the Cowboys. Well, this time I’ve heard a few pundits and TV/radio talking head take the Vikings… Not a good sign. I said weeks ago that I don’t think the Vikings can win in New Orleans, and I’ve seen nothing since then that changes that. Saints. (But I’ll be rooting for the Vikings!)

FNM Report 1/15/2010

Friday Night Magic at Montag’s Games, the third one of the new year.

OK, so I’ve been hosed the last couple FNMs by trying to outmaneuver the metagame only to end up with horrible matchups. I was planning on skirting that this week and playing Valakut Ramp, but I acquired a third Baneslayer this week and I wanted to go with something I know better, so I went back to Angelfall, playing a very slightly different list than last time:


Creatures & Planeswalkers (20)
4 Steppe Lynx
3 Kazandu Blademaster
3 White Knight
2 Knight of the White Orchid
3 Emeria Angel
2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
3 Baneslayer Angel

Other spells (15)
2 Path to Exile
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Banefire
4 Honor of the Pure
3 Conqueror’s Pledge

Land (25)
3 Marsh Flats
1 Naya Panorama
4 Arid Mesa
3 Teetering Peaks
2 Mountain
11 Plains
1 Emeria, the Sky-Ruin

2 Path to Exile
3 Oblivion Ring
2 Devout Lightcaster
3 Celestial Purge
3 Goblin Ruinblaster
2 Ajani Vengeant

It’s good against Jund, generally stomps random rogue stuff, but it’s not great against control decks, and of course as an aggro deck it can lose to any combo deck that can go off before it delivers 20. The metagame clearly reflected the recent Star City 5K, because there were a lot of Vampires around. That can be a tough matchup since Bloodwitch is a bit of a difficulty, but this deck generally comes out faster than Vampires so the Bloodwitch can be too late; it depends a lot on the draws. Moderate turnout, so four rounds, cut to top 8.

Round 1: Matt, playing a Jund variant with Birds of Paradise, Nighthawks, Hell’s Thunder, and Madrush Cyclopes
I was glad that I didn’t game specifically for Jund, because then I wouldn’t have drawn this matchup.

Game 1: I got turn 1 Steppe Lynx and turn 2 fetchland so he started down 4. He opened with Birds his first two turns and on his third he Jund charmed to put a couple tokens on one of his Birds, and Bolted the Lynx. He also Blightning’d me next turn though I had nothing too important to pitch and I managed a White Knight, which neutralized the Thrinax he had the next turn. I got an Emeria Angel to stick (no fetch, though) and swung with everything to bring him to 7. He swung back. He had more guys (I don’t remember which) and I left the Angel and a couple bird tokens back to knock him to 5 with the Knight. He killed the Emeria, I got an Honor of the Pure, Knight took him to 2, he didn’t draw an answer.

Game 2: Another killer draw for me. Turn 1 Lynx, turn 2 Plains, Lynx, hit for 2. Turn 3: Fetchland, Path his blocker, Honor of the Pure, swing with both Lynxes for 10. I don’t really remember what happened after that, but 10-point lead on life was enough that it wasn’t likely to get close, and it never really did.


Round 2: Paul playing Vampires
He was running a slightly odd build with no Tendrils main, and with Child of Night main.

Game 1: Turn 1 Lynx, turn 2 Plains and some other two drop (I think a White Orchid?), turn 3 fetch, swing for 6. He had a Bloodghast I was ignoring, and he got a Child of Night down and they swung back. I got a White Knight down and held him in place, had a Path for the Nocturnus, and carried through.

Game 2: This was a close game. I had a small edge early, but he Sludged me on turn 5 for three cards: two Conqueror’s Pledge and a Banefire. Ouch. I got down an Elspeth (oops, should have sided that out vs. Vampires). He stuck a Nocturnus, which made my White Knight less useful. He had me at 1, but his guys (the Nocturnus and a Bloodghast) were tapped because they had all swung. I had a token, a White Knight, and a Bolt in hand. With Elspeth, that’s 9 damage… and he was at 10. So, the only chance I had was for him to miss on the Nocturnus the following turn so I could Bolt it, then I could block the Ghast forever if need be with the White Knight… but he didn’t miss on the flip. Oops.

Game 3: I managed for the most part to keep the Nocturni off the board, but couldn’t maintain much of a board presence (Deathmark is pretty good against me) and lost to a Bloodwitch. Oops.

1-1. OK, so I really felt like I must have done something wrong in Game 2 to have done one more damage somewhere, but I can’t put my finger on what I didn’t do right.

Round 3: Jason playing UGB Allies
I need to be a little clearer about this: Jason was playing a deck fairly close to Aaron Forthyhe’s gunslinger deck from the Zendikar pre-release. This was very weird for me, since the first Magic I had played in years was, in fact, a deck very close to the one I was playing against that very deck, as I recounted previously. Jason had swapped out some of the utility cards for Harrow and Mind Spring, which both seemed like good additions.

Game 1: I Path’d his turn two Lotus Cobra, bashed with Steppe Lynx pumped with Teetering Peaks. All he really managed was a Bird of Paradise and Bala Ged Thief with no other Allies in play, and I pretty much just ran him over quickly. I didn’t get to see much of the deck so I wasn’t sure.

Game 2: Exactly the opposite. I got a slow start, he Cobra ramped up and was joined by a Sea Gate Loremaster, got a Turntimber Ranger and a Umara Raptor and a Vastwood. Many cards were drawn. I had an Elspeth and an Honor of the Pure with an Emeria Angel out and was just chumping with tokens. He Pulsed the Emeria and I eventually ran out of tokens, as he drew many cards before I could draw a Bolt to stop the Loremaster, but by then it was just too late. During the “while shuffling” chit-chat, I mentioned that I had played this matchup before, and related some of the Aaron story. So, of course Jason asked how that play turned out. I told him that the White/Red deck won a majority, but mostly it depended on coming out quickly. Foreshadowing…

Game 3: Turn 1 Lynx, turn 2 fetch, Honor, swing for 5. Turn 3 Path his Lotus Cobra, play fetchland (or Teetering Peaks, I don’t remember), swing for another 5. I don’t remember what he did on his 4th turn, but whatever it was didn’t result in a meaningful blocker, and I had another land that pumped the Lynx and swung for another 5. That was pretty much it.

2-1. Eerily familiar.

Round 4: ? (forgot to write it down, my apologies) playing Jund
With good tiebreaks and a smallish crowd, we could draw in, which we did. We played for the fun of it, and of course I wished we had played it for real. He had Jund but with only one Pulse. I rolled the first game on the back of two Honor of the Pures backing up a Baneslayer. I had run out some early guys to draw Terminates, which worked, and the 7/7 Angel did her job. Turns out even two Bolts don’t solve an Angel that big. Second game I had an Honor out and got a Pledge on the fifth turn, then an Emeria with a fetch (Terminated), then another Pledge. OK, then, easy wins for me.


Quarterfinals: Paul playing Vampires
Same opponent as round 2, so a chance to avenge my loss.

Game 1: We spent some time trading guys and removal spells, I had an early Lynx and then an Honor, but he Disfigured it and chumped something else with a Child. He was drawing dead, apparently, and Signed himself when I hit the Pledge, which is very nice in game 1 (no Marsh Casualties main, I was pretty sure). He never answered.

Game 2: I remembered to side out Elspeth this time (duh) and held back removal for Nighthawks and Nocturni. I had an early White Knight and then got a Pledge, but no Honor. He dropped something, and then I drew into two consecutive Honors, and that was it.


Semifinals: Nate playing Runeflare Trap
This was the epic battle of the night, without a doubt. If you’re not familiar with this deck, you should check it out. It’s essentially a combo deck, but a slightly strange one. Against combo, then plan with a deck like mine is generally “race the combo” which is not always a great plan. Turns out that with the sideboard I could do more than that, but read on…

Game 1: I won the die roll and took a draw with Lynx, Honor, Pledge, and four land, more than one of them a fetch. A keeper against combo in general, but this one could defend itself and he Burst the Lynx right away. I drew no gas but did draw and play another Honor of the Pure. He cast a Font on turn 4. On my turn 5 I cast the Pledge. He cast another Font, so I drew a ton of cards, including another Honor, which I played. This was my key error of the game: I actually drew another Honor, but I didn’t see it through all the other cards in my hand. Ugh, absolutely devastating mistake, probably cost me the game. So I swung for only 18. He Bolted one of the guys so he only went to 15 so my Bolt didn’t kill him, and next time around he hit me with double Trap and a Twincast, which of course killed me.

Game 2: I sided in the 3 Oblivion Rings and the 2 Ajanis. I mulliganed down to five figuring that given the matchup, staring a couple cards light wouldn’t be that bad. I had my only early guy Bolted but I dropped an Ajani on turn 4. I kept him slowed down a little, then color screwed a little, but he got a second Island and bounced Ajani with Into the Roil with Ajani on 7 counters. Grr. I put Ajani back down and changed a little, realizing that I might be able to win another way if the Runeflares didn’t come earlier: I Helixed with Ajani and Bolted him twice. He realized this, and threw burn at Ajani. Extra cards on the draw (at least one Howling Mine was out) meant I had the other Ajani, which I dropped, and Helixed again. He again Bolted Ajani, but I had another Bolt and next turn waxed him with a Banefire. I did exactly zero damage with creatures in this game, and still won! Not exactly the idea behind this deck, but I’ll take it.

Game 3: He got an early Howling Mine, but I didn’t bother with it. I did O Ring the turn 4 Font, though. He bounced it. I drew a bunch of cards, played land and an Honor, and O Ringed it again. Same thing. I managed to get down a Knight of the White Orchid that was pretty big due to the two Honors. I got in a couple swings (one pumped with Teetering Peaks), O Ringed the Font again and had it bounced a third time. His one real mistake is that he Burst my Knight (no kicker) which of course did nothing. He Time Warped and cast another Font, then passed. I double-Bolted and he knew he had only one turn to kill me, but he still didn’t have any Runeflare Traps. Amazingly bad luck on his part. So, with him at 11 and me at 20, he threw all the burn in his hand at me: a Burst (18), three Bolts (9), and two Twincasts for the bolts (3). On my turn, I dropped another Peaks, hit with the Knight, Bolted, then dropped Ajani and Helixed for the win. His top card: Runeflare Trap. Whew, that was awfully close!


Finals: John, playing Valakut Ramp
Earlier that evening John noted that he’d found my blog and that I had called him my favorite FNM opponent. During the semis he felt the need to give me a hard time that I had to win so that we could play each other. It was a good point, John, and I think that bit of destiny must have had something to do with the dearth of Runeflare Traps in that last game, right? Anyway, we split the prizes and played fast and casual for the hell of it. Frankly, it was a good thing we agreed to split because I didn’t really put in much of an appearance in either game. Game 1 he had, I think, every single instant burn spell in his deck to wreck all my guys and then just did the turning mountains into Bolts thing and blew up on me, and in Game 2 my deck decided to take a break and took the game off. OK, then.

Still, much fun. Next week I plan to play Valakut Ramp, but I will leave open the possibility that I’ll play UWR control…

NFL Divisional Weekend

All home favorites this week…

Cardinals @ New Orleans(-7)
Gotta like the Saints at home to win, but I’m not so sure about this many points. The Saints did not finish the season looking good, and the Cardinals offense was pretty much on fire last week. Oh, yeah, but their defense failed to show up, and they’ll on the road at New Orleans. No, no, it’s still too many points, I have to take them.

Ravens @ Indianapolis(-6)
I hate the Colts so much for tanking it mid-game against the Jets that and it would be such awesome karmic retribution if they were to lose this game… but I don’t think they will. Flacco is hurt and I really don’t think the Ravens can have, what, 30 yards passing again and win. Give the points, but I’ll be rooting hard for the Ravens.

Cowboys @ Minnesota(-2.5)
Everyone and their brother is taking the Cowboys, who have looked great twice in a row against… the Eagles, a team that has no idea what the phrase “running game” means. Meh. The Vikings will run, and have guys who can actually rush Romo without selling out to blitz like the Eagles. I’m giving the points.

Jets @ San Diego(-7)
I think the Chargers win this game because Revis can’t cover everybody, but I don’t like giving that many points, so I’ll take the Jets.

FNM Report, 1/8/2010

I wasn’t going to write this report because I did so badly, but perhaps this can be an object lesson to others.

First, a bit on the metagame at my local store (Montag’s Games): the last few times I’ve played FNM, I’ve faced a lot of (surprise!) Jund. Also, I always end up facing John’s Valakut Ramp deck. I was planning on playing UWr control last week, then didn’t and played Vampires instead. It was a bad decision, as I missed the top 8 because I lost two matches to, of course, Jund and Valakut Ramp, the generally bad matchups for Vampires. So, this week was going to be UWr, but then LSV won the SC5K in LA with UWr, and I didn’t want to play mirrors, which I thought I’d end up doing. So, I played a deck that tests very well against Jund and Valakut. Here’s the list:

4 Vedalkin Outlander
4 Knight of the White Orchid
4 Emeria Angel
2 Baneslayer Angel
3 Sphinx of Jwar Isle
2 White Knight
2 Devout Lightcaster

4 Fieldmist Borderpost
3 Flashfreeze
2 Path to Exile
3 Hindering Light
3 Spreading Seas
2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
2 Celestial Purge

4 Glacial Fortress
3 Island
3 Arid Mesa
3 Scalding Tarn
7 Plains

1 Oblivion Ring
2 Jace Beleren
3 Rite of Replication
1 Celestial Purge
1 Devout Lightcaster
3 Negate
3 Brave the Elements
1 Spreading Seas

Yes, I’d run more Baneslayers if I had them, but I only have the two. Two last-minute decisions on sideboard cards: Rite of Replication rather than Mind Control and Brave the Elements over Mark of Asylum. I like it because it has some nice control elements, isn’t a netdeck, and wrecks Jund. It’s also very good against Valakut Ramp. It’s not good against Vampires, and it’s spotty against random stuff, particularly other decks running heavy on blue. You can, of course, guess what happened.

Round 1: Carlos, playing WU
His build was a little bit less aggressive. It had more draw (Divination and Ponder), fewer creatures (including Deft Duelists), 4 Baneslayers, and Ajani Goldmane.

Game 1: He had a terrible draw and didn’t really do much besides play land and draw more cards. He Path’d a couple of my early weenies, but never found enough answers and I bashed him. The only damage I took was from my own fetchlands.

Game 2: See game 1, but in reverse. He had a turn 2 Luminarch Ascension that made this game pretty straightforward for him.

Game 3: This game is the real motivation for writing this report in the first place. He got down an early Deft Duelist that I didn’t get an answer for for a while. That and a Knight of the W.O. were beating on me without opposition. I managed a Knight of my own (I got land, though, because of the Borderposts) and traded mine for his. He stuck an Ajani, and that became a problem as he started pumping up his Duelist and second Knight. I managed an Outlander to chump, his guys got bigger. I managed an Elspeth, which was a good source of further chumpers. Then he dropped a Baneslayer. I managed an Emeria and a fetch for another round of chumping; his guys got bigger again. Then I drew my ninth mana source, and it led to a hugely fun play: a kicked Rite of Replication on a Baneslayer. He attacked with everything and I let a lot of it through, then counterattacked with my flotilla of Baneslayers for a huge life gain. (In retrospect, what I should have done is double-block on two of his guys, including his Baneslayer.) I played a Jace and drew an extra card, which was another Rite. He O-Ring’d one of my Baneslayers and attacked (his Baneslayer was now 8/8 with Ajani bumps.) Next turn I cast and kicked for another mess of Baneslayers. I managed one attack with a whole bunch (put me up to 52 life) and he peeled a Day of Judgment and reset everything. I still had Elspeth and he managed another Ajani. I beat with a pumped soldier token for a few turns and he gained life with Ajani and I realized I’d be facing a huge Avatar token, so I used Elspeth’s ultimate to make my 1/1 token indestructable. Stalemate, but he drew another Baneslayer. It never mattered, though, as time was called on us, so the many Baneslayer battle ended on a draw. (I think this demonstrates how much better Mind Control is than Rite, though, as I would likely have won this had those Rites been Mind Controls. I wanted Rite for Vampires, because a kicked Rite on a Bloodwitch is game.)

0-0-1. Weird.

Round 2: Jeff playing UG Mill
I got rounded down rather than up. He claimed his deck was awful but fun. I had no idea what it would be. What it turned out to be is Crabs, Harrows, Khalni Expeditions, Archive Traps, Traumatizes, and a couple other goodies I didn’t see until very late in Game 3.

Game 1: He did almost nothing but Harrow while weenies pumped by Elspeth beat him up. I had little idea what I was sideboarding for.

Game 2: He got two early Crabs and a Traumatize which hit me for 23 cards. I didn’t have enough guys to be putting on enough pressure. I wasn’t thinking about Archive Traps and got hit by a pair when I cracked a fetch. However, I had a Negate for the second trap. Unfortunately he got a Terramorphic and a Harrow with a Crab in play and he milled me when he was at 4 life with lethal on the board. Ugh.

Game 3: My opening hand was a fetchland and a Borderpost. I risked it and got Archive Trapped on my first turn. Again I got off to a slow start and he had a first-turn Crab. I managed to Flashfreeze something (a Harrow, I think) early but just was not generating enough early pressure. I had to Path a second Crab (milling me with the first). He hit me with a Traumatize and my library was getting mighty thin. He cast a Rampaging Baloths and blew a Khalni Heart Expedition and I realized my life total might actually become relevant. I got an Elspeth and a Knight of the White Orchid (with a Negate in hand for the Archive Trap, which was needed) so I had chumpers. Finally, with only a few cards left in my library, I got out a Baneslayer and whacked him down to 3, bringing my life to 23. Then the killer from him: Platinum Angel. I had no removal. I “killed” him, but I had no way to get rid of the Angel and he basically just sat still for three turns and I lost to not being able to draw. Wow.


Round 3: Mitch playing GU Landfall
I had played Mitch last week when he played a mono-white Kor deck that I wrecked pretty easily (I was playing Vampires). I again had no idea what to expect with this. Was all Zendikar except I saw Terramorphics.

Game 1: He dropped a turn 1 Zephyr Sprite. Zephyr Sprite? Really? OK, Knights and Outlanders and Elspeth beat him down. I took a few pokes from the Sprite and some fetchland damage, but that was about it.

Game 2: I had a couple of 2/2s to his 1/1 Frontier Guide that he used on his turn 4 to generate another land. On his turn 5 he got land and played a Baloth Woodcrasher. Elspeth allowed me to fly over him and hit him to 9, then cast an Emeria Angel and cracked a fetch for two bird tokens. However, I had no removal for the Baloth. He got all giddy and thought he had won the game since he had two Harrows, but I had a Flashfreeze for one of them, so the Baloth only came for 12, which I let through. I swung for lethal, he again was sure he was going to win because he had a Fog, but I had another Flashfreeze.


Round 4: Kevin playing Vampires
This time I got rounded up, and got rounded up into a matchup that wasn’t especially good for me. Still, not unwinnable, and at least I knew what to expect.

Game 1: I opened with two Spreading Seas, which turned out to be not very good against a monocolored deck. His turn 2 play was a Child of Night, which is a bit odd in Vampires, but that was better than my turn 2 Outlander in this matchup. I got a Knight of the White Orchid (and land) but I had already taken a bunch from his guys (my Outlander died to a Gatekeeper). On turn 5 I cast a Sphinx and we traded swings for a couple turns, but all I drew after that was land and I had to leave my Spinx back to block. He managed to Tendrils my Knight and then killed the Sphinx with a Gatekeeper, and I just drew more land and died.

Game 2: At least I had a sideboard into more removal, for a change. In went the extra Lightcaster, the extra Purge, all the Rites, the ORing, the Jaces, and a couple Negates for all the Outlanders, Flashfreezes, and Spreading Seas. My draw had one Island in it. Mulliganed to six, no land at all. Mulliganed to five, which was four land and a Baneslayer. My draws were Sphinx, Path, Baneslayer, Brave the Elements… notice no land? Couldn’t cast anything. I finally drew an Emeria Angel, cast it, drew another land, and used Brave the Elements to save it from an Executioner’s Capsule. I tapped out for a Baneslayer, he had the Tendrils, game over.


Well, ugh. I brought a deck tuned for a specific metagame, and then got a completely different metagame. The irony is that if I had played this deck last week, I would have done much better and if I had played Vampires this week, I would likely have done much better. Moral of the story: stop picking decks based on an expected metagame and just play a deck that’s either good, or fun, or both. I’m thinking Valakut Ramp next week, or back to the WW/r deck I went undefeated with back in November.

As far as Valakut goes, I’m on the fence about Oracle of Mul Daya in the deck. Sometimes it’s nearly useless and just draws out a removal spell or chumps, and sometimes the extra land drop or two just wins games. The one card I’m not going to run is Grazing Gladeheart, which is common in sideboards for this deck, because nobody at the store runs Boros Bushwhacker, though I’ve seen one or two RDW variants, it’s still not frequent. I like Acidic Slime better in that sideboard slot.

NFL Wild Card Weekend

Jets @ Cincinnati(-2.5)
I don’t like this game at all. I know the Bengals were tanking it last week and Benson didn’t play, but I’m also not confident that they can just flip the switch. This is a coin flip, so I guess I’ll take the points.

Eagles @ Dallas(-3.5)
Wow, two teams with spotty late- and post-season records. However, Romo has been absolutely on fire lately and the Eagles still have to deal with the loss of their center, which I still think is a big deal. I’ll give the points.

Ravens @ New England(-3.5)
All the pundits are downgrading the Pats because of the loss of Welker and how badly they played the run against Houston last week. (That was quite a game, by the way.) However, Wilfork was out last week, and he’s their run-stopper. I think they can overcome the loss of Welker for one game; Edelman played really well against the Texans. Also, the Pats are at home and they play much better there than on the road. I’ll give the points, though I can’t see how the Pats can win on the road next week.

Packers @ Arizona, pick
Since the Vikings had won, the Cards had nothing to play for and showed nothing last week. They’ll play better this time and I don’t think they’ll get blown out. On the other hand, the Packers’ O-line has been playing better of late, their defense looks good and, most importantly, Boldin is probably out for this game. OK, that means Green Bay.

NFL Week 17

The final season comes to an end, and this is always a tough week for picks, since different teams have different things at stake and different approaches to games that “don’t matter.”

Sunday 1:00
Colts @ Buffalo(-8)
I think the Bills are so bad that the Colts can play their practice squad and only lose by a TD, so I’ll take the points.

Saints @ Carolina(-7)
New Orleans has nothing to play for and the Panthers, while eliminated, actually do, which is making sure that Fox really gets to keep his job. They’ll be up for the Saints’ second team, and will cover.

Jaguars @ Cleveland(-1.5)
Absolutely everything has to go right in terms of other teams for the Jags to make the playoffs, but that slim chance will keep them ahead in this game. Give the ball to MJD!!

Bears @ Detroit(+3)
The Bears aren’t very good, but the Lions remain terrible; give the points.

Patriots @ Texans(-7)
So, I’ll be at this game, and it could be really interesting. The Pats secondary is bad, and the Texans can throw. Houston’s real problem has been closing out games, but will New England be resting their key guys by then? Also, the Pats have been horrible on the road this year. So much uncertainty… I like the Texans to win, but I cannot in good conscience give that many points, so I’ll be picking the Pats.

Steelers @ Miami(+3)
Will Polamalu actually play? That’s clearly the big question here. In this game it probably matters less than in some other matchups because the Dolphins don’t throw that much. I just hate the way the Steelers have been all over the place this season, and I think it should cos them, so I’ll take the Dolphins here.

Giants @ Minnesota(-8)
Err, I don’t know if people have noticed this, but the Vikings are looking mighty dysfunctional of late. The Giants still have some heart left, so I like them to keep it closer than this.

Niners @ St. Louis(+8)
The Rams won’t even try to win this because they won’t want to jeopardize that first overall pick. Oh, and the also suck, so it won’t be a problem. Niners blow them out.

Falcons @ Tampa(+2)
Atlanta looked good last week, but playing the Bills often has that effect. The Bucs seem to have a little fight in them, but I think the Falcons can cover the small spread.

Sunday ~4:10
Eagles @ Dallas(-3)
Ahh, the official “we’re just as clueless as everyone else” spread, home team by three. Dunno, it’s actually a big game because the Iggles could take the #2 seed if the Vikings stumble, which they easily could. On the other hand, Dallas seems to have gotten over their December woes, and hey, it’s not December anymore anyway. If the Vikings lose then the Eagles will have it locked up and will rest guys. If the Vikings win, the Eagles will go all-out for the #2 seed. So, my pick hinges on whether the Vikings win… ugh. I don’t like the Vikes to cover the big number, but will they actually lose? Hard choice. Can’t do it, have to take the points.

Packers @ Arizona(-3.5)
Weird, seems like too many points in a game that neither team needs for anything. Err, wait, if both the Vikings and the Eagles lose, they can get the #2 seed, whereas the Packers have nothing at all on the line. In fact, the seeding is such that the Packers will face the Cards in Arizona if the seeding doesn’t change, so with that possibility on the table for Green Bay, they’ll play close to the vest and won’t show anything. OK, I’ve talked myself into it, Cards cover.

Chefs @ Denver(-11)
Really? Eleven? I mean, yeah, KC is bad, but that seems a little excessive, especially with the Broncos in self-destruct mode at the moment. I’ll take 11 points, that’s way too many to give here.

Ravens @ Oakland(+10.5)
Baltimore is playing for their playoff lives, and I believe Oakland is back to JaMarcus at QB. Give the big number.

Redskins @ San Diego(-3.5)
The Bolts have the #2 spot wrapped up and will sit guys. A lot of the guys on the Skins are playing for their jobs next season. Take the points.

Titans @ Seattle(+4)
Err, has nobody seen the Seabags the last few weeks? They’re… atrocious, and CJ has a shot at the 2000 yard mark, so Tennessee, while having no shot at the playoffs, will still be going for it. I’d give 8 here no problem, so 4 is a gimme.

Bengals @ New Jersey Jets(-10)
Wow, that’s a big number, but Cincy has already checked out for this game, no matter what anybody is saying in public. Nice for the Jets to be handed two games at the end of the season to lock up their playoff spot, isn’t it? Total BS, but what can you do? Ugh, give the points.

FNM Report, 1/1/2010

So, my brother was supposed to be in town for this, and he was going to play Vampires, and I was as late as Thursday still fiddling with a White/Blue aggro deck that was great against Jund (Hindering Light rocks in that matchup) but only so-so against anything else. I tore it apart and went with every intention of playing a Blue/White/Red control deck (modeled more or less on the Austrian deck from Worlds), and I also had a Valkut Ramp deck with me.

When I arrived to find it more full than expected, looking around there appeared to be a fair amount of white and blue, and John convinced me to play Vampires since I had it with me. Here’s what I played:

4 Bloodghast
3 Vampire Hexmage
4 Gatekeeper of Malakir
4 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Hypnotic Specter
4 Vampire Nocturnus
4 Malakir Bloodwitch
1 Ob Nixilis, the Fallen

3 Disfigure
4 Tendrils of Corruption
1 Sorin Markov
2 Mind Sludge
2 Sign in Blood

1 Gargoyle Castle
3 Verdant Catacombs
3 Marsh Flats
16 Swamp

3 Marsh Casualties
2 Sadistic Sacrament
3 Black Knight
4 Duress
3 Deathmark

I know, there are some slightly odd choices there (Ob, the Hyppie), but it’s basically the same kind of Vampires deck people have been playing ever since Zen rotated in. It’s completely mindless to play, which was the goal since I wasn’t planning to pilot it. There were, I think, 24 people there, meaning 5 rounds cut to top 8. I believe only 4 were playing Jund, which is not the best matchup for Vampires, so I decided against my better judgment to go in with it. You can guess where this went…

Round 1: Marvin playing Jund
Of course. His build was a little different, with Borderland Rangers (OK, not that weird) and Thornlings. It’s not an un-winnable matchup, but I would to get a bit lucky to have a shot.

Game 1: I was not particularly lucky. It wasn’t a bad game, but Jund has more and better removal, and I just didn’t draw well enough to win.

Game 2: This was a total disaster. I got stuck on three land with various expensive cards in my hand, got Thought Hemmoraged for Vampire Nocturnus (I did have one on my hand) on turn 4, then on the next turn got hit with it again for Tendrils. OK, then. I stayed on my three land with nothing interesting in my hand for a while, and just got beat up.

After this quick beating, I took out my UWR control deck and played that, and just crushed him with it.

Round 2: Hunter, playing R/B Eldrazi Goblins
Well, I thought, hopefully I’d get an easy match in the loser’s bracket. And so it was. This deck had cards I had never seen or heard of before (like Karathi Bomber) and was kind of interesting, but it was in no way a good matchup for him. There’s no point in going game-by-game, I just rolled him. The play of the game was the finish in game 2 when he was at 17: I hit him with a Nocturnus and two other vamps for 13, then played a Bloodwitch to drain for 4. Nice turn.

After this also very quick round so afterward we played with his deck against my Valakut deck. That was actually a much better matchup for him. The humorous part of this matchup was that he played a Coat of Arms, then a Siege-Gang Commander. Then I played a Siege-Gang Commander. Then he played another one. Then I played another one. Whee, very, very giant Goblins!

Round 3: John, playing Valakut Ramp
My favorite opponent, which is good, because I swear I always play him in FNM. This is a matchup that favors the Valukut deck, though it’s winnable by Vampires if the draw is fast and some life is gained. If the Valakut deck ramps up quickly, however, anything other than an optimal draw is an almost certain loss for vamps.

Game 1: My draw was mediocre but he didn’t ramp too quickly, but still just fast enough to beat me.

Game 2: I sided in 2 Sadistic Sacrament and 4 Duress for this one. I got Duress on the first turn and killed a Harrow, and got Sacrament on the third turn and got 3 Valakuts, but unfortunately he had already drawn the first Valakut. I had a fighting chance but he had all the removal when he needed it, wiped out a bunch of stuff with a Hellkite, and then got Valakut active and took me out.

Unfortunately, two losses put me out of contention for the top 8. I came to play, though, so I stayed in.

Again, after this match we played, this time the Valakut mirror. I won two of those and we didn’t quite have time to finish the third, but I had better board position there. He doesn’t run Ruinblaster or Lavaball Trap main, which I did, and that made the difference in the mirror.

Round 4: Mitch, playing mono-White Kor
This might have been a completely Zendikar deck, though maybe there was a Path involved at some point. Kor Duelist, Armament Master, Hookmaster, Kor Skyfisher, Kor Aeronaut, etc. Even Grappling Hook.

Game 1: I know I Disfigured his turn 2 Aeronaut but he never really had much going and a Bloodwitch finished him off. I was at 18 when it ended.

Game 2: More senseless beatings. I got a 2-for-1 on a kicked Marsh Casualties at one point, but he managed to get a lot of other guys out and we were kind of stalemated for a while. He had gained a fair bit of life off a pair of Kabira Crossroads that had been bounced with Skyfishers. I eventually got control of the board and managed to Tendril a Grappling Hook-equipped Skyfisher and finished off with a Nighthawk and a Bloodwitch; I was at 28 life at the end.

Round 5: Nick, playing White/Green/Blue Allies
I know this was not strictly Zendikar because I’m pretty sure something got Path’d at some point in one of the games. That may have been the only non-Zendikar card, though.

Game 1: Early on I got out a Bloodghast and a Hexmage while he got an Oran-Rief Survivalist and a pair of Ondu Clerics. He blocked the Hexmage with the 3/3 Survivalist, not realizing that I could sac the Hexmage to strip the counters off of it after first strike damage. From there he could chump with the Clerics but he chose not to hoping for more life gain. He did chump with one of the Clerics against my turn 6 attack, and then I cast Ob and cracked a fetch to bring him to 9. He cast some other ally to gain 2. 9/9 Ob and the Bloodghast were chumped the next turn, and I played another fetch to bring him down to 5 and cast a Nighthawk. That was it for this one.

Game 2: On my third turn I Deathmarked a Kazandu Blademaster to get a Hexmage in. He one again got down multiple Ondu Clerics and kept gaining life, but I always had better board position; I had out a Hexmage and Bloodghast when I got a Nocturnus and hit on the flip, then next turn cast a Bloodwitch. The game ended with me at the 24 life I had from the Bloodwitch drain.

So, basically, I played two decent competitive decks and lost to those 0-2 each time, and played three basically bad rogue decks and crushed them handily. I remain unconvinced that Vampires is a Tier 1 deck, though I guess more help is supposedly coming in Worldwake. I have probably three more constructed FNMs before Worldwake becomes legal and I certainly won’t play Vampires in any of those.

I of course missed the top 8. However, I did watch most of the top 8, which was instructive about the metagame. There were three Jund decks, one UWR control, a Vampires, John with Valakut, a G/R Eldrazi Elves, and one rogue W/B Ranger of Eos/Steppe Lynx/Soul Warden/Nighhawk/Zealous Persecution deck.

None of the Junds mirrored. The four matches were Valakut vs. Rogue, Jund vs. Vampires, Jund vs. UWR control, and Jund vs. G/R Eldrazi. John’s Valakut crushed the rogue. Amazingly, the other Vampire deck in the tourney won vs. Jund. UWR of course beat Jund, and the Jund deck easily handled the Elves. So, in the semis, it was Valakut vs. Vampires and Jund vs. UWR control. Valakut and UWR control took it and split the top prizes.

So, next week I think it’s UWR control for me or maybe Valakut; I’m not sure, but I do know it won’t be Vampires.

Bowl Picks

Oh, yeah, bowls. Obviously I’ve been more out of it than usual this year…

1/1, Outback (neé Hall of Fame): Northwestern vs. Auburn(-8)
If there’s a reason to think Northwestern will be in this game, I can’t come up with it. Give ‘em.

1/1, Gator: West Virginia vs. Florida State(+2.5)
Ah, yes, the “Bobby Bowden is retiring so he’ll get special treatment” bowl. VA Tech should be ticked, they should have gotten this bid. How much more compelling would VATech vs. WVU have been? Seriously. Mountaineers roll.

1/1, Capital One (neé Citrus): Penn State vs. LSU(-1)
When in doubt, pick against the Big Ten.

1/1, Rose: OSU vs. Oregon(-4)
Same rule as last game. Plus, there is simply no way I can root for the Buckeyes, , so I have to pick this way.

1/1, Sugar: Cincinnati vs. Florida(-12.5)
Wow, I figure Florida as a lock for this one, but that’s a boatload of points. Too many for me.

1/2, International: South Florida vs. Northern Illinois(+7)
Wow, Directional State U as a bowl game. In Canada. If ever evidence was needed that there are too many bowls, this has to be it. Give the points, the MAC sucks.

1/2, South Carolina vs. UConn(+4)
For no good reason, I’ll take UConn and the points.

1/2, Cotton: Oklahoma State vs. Ole Miss(-3)
I have no idea why the Rebels are favored here—I would have guessed the other way around—so I’ll take the points.

1/2, Liberty: Arkansas vs. East Carolina(+7.5)
Ugh, a C-USA team in a bowl. Gotta go with the team that actually plays somebody, so I’m going Razorbacks.

1/2, Alamo: Michigan State vs. Texas Tech(-7.5)
Well, the Mike Leach media feeding frenzy is in full swing. You’d think that’d be a distraction, but Texas Tech will have the stadium packed and MSU sucks, so I’ll take the Red Raiders.

1/4, Fiesta: Boise State vs. TCU(-7.5)
TCU is better and will probably win. However, I like Boise to keep it close enough to be interesting from a point spread perspective, so I’m going with the Broncos.

1/5, Orange: Iowa vs. Georgia Tech(-4)
Tech has that gimmick option offense. That’s great when you never see it and have only a week to prepare, but Iowa is a well-coached team (they certainly aren’t in a BCS bowl on talent) and they have time to prepare. I like getting more than a FG here, so I’m picking the Hawkeyes… but rooting for Tech! Go Jackets!

1/6, GMAC: Central Michigan vs. Troy(+3.5)
Whatever the O/U is, take the over. The Trojans will have a strong home-field advantage as nobody in Michigan has any money to travel. CMU’s losing their coach and sucks in bowls, but this is Troy State we’re talking about here. Nope, can’t talk myself into it, taking the points.

1/7, BCS Title: Texas vs. Alabama(-4)
Smaller spread than I would have thought. Frankly, I think the UT offense will struggle like they did against Nebraska, only Bama has a better offense. Again, picking the Tide, but rooting for the Longhorns.