The Truth About the English Nationals

Dan Paskins
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Dear readers,

Before we start, let’s get one thing straight. There is no happy ending to this story. I do not storm the English Nationals at the head of a Goblin army. In fact I spent the weekend getting beaten in a variety of formats.

This presents some difficulties, in that my normal form of tournament report - writing about myself a lot - would not make for a very interesting read. Despite personal lack of success, however, lots of interesting things happened at the English Nationals which I want to tell you about. So this article is going to be slightly different from normal. It is divided into five parts. In each part I shall write a bit about what went on at Nationals, and then describe a situation and ask you what you would have done. These questions will test your play skill, your ability to evaluate matchups, your ability to select the correct deck to play and your general attitude to the game – all essential skills but not ones which can be honed by playtesting. At the end, depending on how many questions you get right, I’ll tell you which English Magic player you most closely resemble. It is possible that you may inadvertently learn quite a lot from this process; if you find the idea of doing so worrying or upsetting, then read no further.


I began my preparation for English Nationals the same way that I always do.

*ring ring*

“Hello, John Ormerod speaking.”

“Hi John, it’s Dan. Just wondered if you’d got a Red deck for me to play”.

“Certainly. Come round and see it.”

This year’s Red deck was a bit weird, though. John explained to me that because of all the good dual lands which exist, it is possible to replace the pretty crappy goblins in the Red deck with amazing Green creatures - Wild Mongrel, Call of the Herd and so on, and this ridiculous card which gives a creature +3/+3 and makes another 3/3 when the creature dies. The other incentive for doing this is that it means that Violent Eruption only costs three mana much of the time. I didn’t think that there was anything wrong with Violent Eruption when it cost four mana, but, hey, I wasn’t complaining. I did a bit of playtesting, and this Red(Green) deck beat all the other decks. I spent a couple of weeks testing and tuning the deck and sideboard, and was all ready set to play it at Nationals.

Then disaster struck.

I was playing a practice game two days before Nationals with this new kind of Red deck, when all of a sudden, without any warning, I drew an Elf.

After the shock and horror of this had worn off, I found myself faced with a difficult decision. I had tested this Red deck quite a lot, but playing it at Nationals might involve casting one or (shudder) maybe even more than one Elf. As the inventor of the variant of Magic known as ‘All Elves Must Die’ (European Championships 2000), and a valued member of the Goblin community, I didn’t think that I could lower myself to including Elves in my deck. Playing with Forests was bad enough, especially when I almost had to search for one with a Wooded Foothills on one occasion, but Elves really were a step too far.

The day before Nationals there was a Pro Tour Qualifier, and Grinders for Nationals. I went to observe the Standard decks which people were playing in their attempt to qualify, and on almost every table there were green and white decks, Beasts decks, blue-green decks tailored against red-green, and a few dejected red-green players. What summed the metagame for me was watching a red-green player sit there dejectedly and cast an Elf on about turn four, to which his opponent responded by casting a Phantom Centaur to go with his Anurid Brushhopper and Ravenous Baloth.

Later the same day I hear about the four phase PTQ final from Jonny ‘going to Yokohama’ Chapman. Jonny sits down to play the final, and his opponent [name deleted to protect the, er, guilty] declines any kind of prize split. They shuffle and Jonny’s opponent draws seven cards. He is confused to find that they are rather unfamiliar cards, due to the fact that he has managed to draw from Jonny’s deck. That’s a game loss.

They shuffle again, and prepare for game two. Jonny’s opponent draws his hand (from the correct deck this time), and enters his main phase. At this point, the judge stops the game owing to the fact that Jonny’s opponent has eight cards in his hand. The match lasted for one untap, one upkeep, one draw and one first main phase. I went 0-2 in that PTQ. Not that I’m bitter.

Still trying to decide which deck to play, I run into Kevin O’Connor and ask him what he is playing. It turns out that he has been playing a Goblin deck on Magic Online for a number of months, and is intending to play it at the Nationals. I ask him how he beats Red-Green and he pulls a face, but he is confident against blue-green, Psychatog, white- green and mono-black.

So, to finish part one, here is question number one. You are, um, me, and you have to decide which deck to play at Nationals. It has to have Mountains and small creatures in it (you are disqualified if you ask why), which narrows down the choice to Red-Green and mono-Red Goblins. Traditionally at English Nationals, the deck perceived to be the ’best’ deck gets hated. Everyone who turns up, barring the very hopeless, will have tested against it and often go to extremes to defeat it. Equally, the raw power level of Red-Green is much higher, I have tested with it and the internet says it is a better deck.

For reference, here is the mono-red listing (life is too short to type out the standard Red-Green deck listing, I’m sure you’ve seen it before):

7x Mountain
4x Sparksmith
4x Goblin Piledriver
4x Goblin Grappler
4x Goblin Sledder
4x Grim Lavamancer
4x Lava Dart
4x Volcanic Hammer
4x Blistering Firecat
4x Wooded Foothills
4x Bloodstained Mire
4x Barbarian Ring
3x Goblin Burrows
2x Firebolt
2x Goblin Raider
2x Clickslither

4 Stone Rain
4 Pillage
4 Ensnaring Bridge
2 Fledgling Dragon
1 Firebolt

The question is:


and the bonus question is



…and the correct answer is…


This is something that I know now, because I know how many people played each different kind of deck at Nationals. It turned out that far and away the most popular archetype was blue-green, with Slide, Tog, Reanimator, Red-Green, Wake, Beasts and White-Green (in roughly that order) being the other decks that showed up in significant, though much smaller, numbers. Out of all the decks that the ten people who tested at Hampton Court Palace played against, nearly half were blue-green, four times as many as played any other deck.

There is no objective way of knowing which deck is going to be the best to play in a particular tournament before the tournament takes place. But often you will have the choice between playing a slightly rogue deck and one of the top decks in the field. There is no hard and fast rule about which deck is the right one. In many local tournaments, where players who turn up are more likely to play experimental decks, playing the tried and tested, ‘best’ deck is usually the way forwards. At the very highest level of play, such as at a Pro Tour, the argument is finely balanced, as can be seen from the results in Venice where anti-Slide decks did well, but a Slide deck still came out on top.

At a tournament like Nationals, however, the arguments in favor of the rogue decks are more persuasive. Just about all the players at the tournament are good enough to know that Red-Green is a deck which they HAVE to be able to beat, and so will have turned up with a strategy about how to do so. They will probably be relatively experienced in the Red-Green matchup, and know which hands to keep and which to mulligan, which cards to sideboard in and out and other important pieces of information. At the same time, the level of overall play skill is far lower than at a Pro Tour, which means that they will be less likely to be able to adjust to unfamiliar situations, will make sideboarding errors and keep poor hands and generally give me an advantage when facing a deck which they have not tested against. The land destruction in the Red deck takes advantage of the fact that many decks use very shaky mana bases due to the fact that landkill is very rare, and the big creature decks which beat up on red-green often have a nightmare dealing with Sparksmith. Playing the Red deck, in other words, was a bet that was based on there being many more anti-Red-Green decks than Red-Green decks and decks that Red-Green crushed.

Kevin O’Connor took the Red deck to a 5-1 record (a feat matched by only one Red-Green player, Craig Stevenson – and there were plenty more Red-Green decks than mono-Red decks), beating Red-Green, Slide, Blue-Green twice and Psychatog and losing only to Black-White Slide 2-1.

I did very badly. But that was not because of the deck choice. It was because I made a big mistake. I reckoned that since I was playing a Red deck, and all the choices looked quite straightforward (tap Sparksmith, point at a creature, wait for opponent to put it in graveyard, that sort of thing), I could work out the sideboarding as I went along. I managed to combine this with some truly terrible play. I lost 2-1 to a Slide deck, 2-0 to a Red-Green deck, beat another Slide deck 2-0, contrived to lose to a Blue-Green deck 2-1, lost to a Reanimator deck 2-1 and in the last round played against a blue-black aggro control deck with a result that I’ll tell you about later.

The Reanimator and Slide decks were fair enough, the matches I lost were close, and the match I won was very easy. The Blue-Green and Red-Green losses, though, were inexcusable.

Against Blue-Green I won the first, then for the second brought in 4 Ensnaring Bridge, 4 Stone Rain and 4 Pillage taking out a random collection of creatures. I got justly punished for this by dying with a Bridge in play but four cards in my hand because I couldn’t cast the stupid and irrelevant land destruction fast enough. That was a game in which my opponent had no permanent removal of any sort, so if the land destruction had been 1 casting cost Goblins, I’d have won easily. Game three I took out my Bridges to try the fast beatdown backed by landkill strategy. This, unsurprisingly, is not a very good strategy, and I lost that game as well.

Against the Red-Green deck I lost the first, and decided to bring in Bridges and Dragons (go me!!!). I won the second, but lost the third after my opponent pulled out of his mana stumble early in the game. I wander over to watch Kevin systematically deny his Red-Green opponent enough red mana to cast Violent Eruption at any stage in the game to win the third with a barrage of Stone Rains and Pillages (the second had been decided by a very, very large Fledgling Dragon).

The mono-Red deck is a metagame choice (as mono-Red decks have been every year since 2000 when Wizards decided that Red shouldn’t get cards which were as powerful as those in other colours). If you expect lots of Red-Green and Reanimator then it is a very poor choice. However, against the decks which did well at English Nationals, it is a fine choice. The top eight decks at Nationals were Tog, blue-black control (more on that later), 2 blue-green decks, a Wake deck, a blue-black-green Opposition deck, one Reanimator deck and a Black-White Slide deck. Kevin, who finished 9th, had a favorable matchup against five of those decks, and the other two lost in the quarter-finals.

To recap, the real skill in selecting a deck to play at a big tournament like Regionals or Nationals is to pick a deck which beats the decks which most other people decide to play. This requires either the ability to mass-mindread or the ability to make an informed guess about the sorts of decks which people are likely to turn up with. But there’s no point getting the deck choice right if you can’t play it optimally.

Anyway, on to this part’s question. It is round six of Nationals, and you are once again me. It has been a pretty poor day, and you/I find yourself having gone 1-4. In the final round you are playing against a blue-black aggro control deck with Mesmeric Fiends, Shadowmage Infiltrators, Nantuko Shades, Braids, Memory Lapses and the like, similar to the not very good Odyssey Block Constructed deck. Naturally, you win the first, but somehow contrive to lose the second. In the third game your opponent slams down an early Engineered Plague on Goblins and another on Wizards (shutting down Grim Lavamancer). He follows this up by casting Haunting Echoes to remove Volcanic Hammers and Goblin Piledrivers (which could still be a threat with Goblin Burrows). So to win I had 3 Firebolts, 4 Barbarian Rings, 4 Lava Darts, 2 Clickslithers and 4 Blistering Firecats. And my opponent was on 16 life.

The game continues, and I manage to use a Lava Dart to kill a Nantuko Shade (there is far from perfect play at the 1-4 table of English Nationals). He gets out a Shadowmage Infiltrator and attacks with it, drawing a card.

Seen the problem yet? Shadowmage Infiltrator is a Wizard, so is a 0/2, so doesn’t damage me, so my opponent drew a card when he wasn’t allowed to. He is a fairly inexperienced player, and certainly didn’t mean to cheat. When the offence is pointed out he goes to put the card back on top of the library. Drawing an extra card is an offence which according to the rules should result in a game loss. And there are witnesses that he drew the card.

So the question is


The bonus question is



I cannot stress enough how much more fun it is to play tournament Magic against someone who does not play sloppily. Someone who does not put their Quiet Speculation in the graveyard before searching their library. Someone who gives time after each action to find out if you have any responses before rushing on. Someone who shuffles their deck properly and does not object if you shuffle their deck. Someone, in short, who plays accurately, according to the rules of the game.

But not everyone plays like that. And there are players who take advantage. In the top eight, one of the players playing a blue-green deck cast Quiet Speculation and put it in the graveyard, and the judge ruled that that meant he had chosen not to search his library for any flashback cards.

There is, just about, an argument for that ruling in the top eight of a National Championship. It is just about possible to argue that playing the game according to the letter, and not the spirit, of the rules is an important part of what makes a top level Magic player. The reason why I would disagree with that is that I remember Grand Prix: Birmingham in 1998, which was the first and last Grand Prix run to rules enforcement level five.

The result of penalizing players for not sticking to the letter of the rules was that many players (especially more experienced ones) adopted a strategy of trying to win by getting their opponent to break some trivial rule and then calling them up on it. This resulted in an astonishingly unpleasant atmosphere and meant that games were decided not on play skill or skill in deck building, but on ability to trick people and knowledge of arcane and obscure rules. This, in case you were wondering, is a Bad Thing.

The one rule that I would like to see enforced more often is the warning for unsportsmanlike conduct applied to people who call the judge over time and again to try to get free wins out of games which they are about to lose. That’s because at heart I think that Magic is a game and that the winner should be the person who outplays their opponent, not the person who knows all the rules best. Strange, I know.

In any case, sitting at the 1-4 table, not caring about the outcome of the match and faced with an opponent who made an honest mistake, it would be absurd to call a judge over so that I could get a free game win. I just told my opponent to put the card back and continue the game. Throughout the rest of the game I fail to draw a single Blistering Firecat or Clickslither.

Instead, I draw a steady stream of Firebolts, Lava Darts and Barbarian Rings (I have threshold as a number of Goblins make their way straight to the graveyard), while my opponent draws an awful lot of land and never sees another creature. Good karma, y’see. I get to win the game anyway without involving the judges in anything more complex than taking the match result form away.

The Excuses Metagame

When reading coverage of major tournaments, there is often information about how many people played each decktype. As an experiment, I thought I would collate the results of a slightly different survey. Throughout the weekend, I noted every single reason which players gave for why they lost a match or a game. The results are very interesting:

“I was mana-screwed” – 75
“I was mana-flooded” – 54
“My opponent cheated” – 7
“My opponent was so lucky and topdecked the only possible card that could have saved him” – 62
“I made a mistake” – 2

What a dreadful game Magic must be. Almost every defeat is a result of mana-screw, mana-flood, or good fortune on the part of the opponent. And yet, I kept a tally of the reasons why people gave for winning games and matches:

“My deck was better” – 44
“My opponent made mistakes” – 35
“I outplayed my opponent” – 29
“My opponent got mana-screwed/flooded/I got really lucky” – 8

What a wonderful game Magic must be. Almost every game is a result of skilful choices, with bad play being punished, and luck playing a very small factor.

Tony Dobson is one of the finest Magic players England has ever produced. He has made a PT top 8, been on the Masters and designed some extremely innovative decks. He hasn’t played much recently, but for a couple of weeks before Nationals had been practicing draft on Magic Online pretty solidly. He made the pretty sound choice of Slide as his deck for the first day. And lost the first two rounds. I was playing some games for fun with him after round 2, and he was explaining about how the only reason he lost was because of mana screw. As he was explaining this, he cast a morph creature. In my turn I Firebolted it, and he removed it from the game using Astral Slide and a cycling card. When it came to his turn, he attacked with his morph. The people gathered round the table looked at him curiously.

“Why is that still a Morph?” Ben Ronaldson asked.

“Because I used the Slide to remove it and now it is back in play”, explained Tony.

“So it should be face up”

“You mean Astral Slide returns creatures face up?”

For some reason, Tony’s protestations about how his defeats were a result of mana screw weren’t much believed after that.

I’m sure you see the point I am laboring to make. The truth, of course, lies somewhere in the middle. Every match is decided by a combination of luck and skill. If you lose, you remember the luck, if you win you remember the skill. It is worth remembering, though, next time you start whining after losing a game.

The reason I mention it, though, is that it gives me the opportunity to have a little rant about a couple of things which I found really irritating at Nationals, but which can be found at every tournament, great and small.

The first is the players who got pissed off about every single thing. They whined about having to take a mulligan, about their opponent casting a Wild Mongrel, about losing a game, and on and on and on. It is something which the attitude of ‘whenever I lose it is because I got unlucky’ does tend to promote and is deeply tedious. There is nothing wrong with occasionally getting cross after losing a game in a frustrating fashion – part of playing well is really caring about the outcome, and that can spill over when things don’t go to plan. But constant whining, slamming down cards to show frustration and the rest of it isn’t necessary. It doesn’t make you a better player, it just irritates everyone and makes the game less fun. It even spills over to other things on occasion. The same player who was complaining about how unlucky he was while playing at the table next to mine regaled the table with his fascinating theory that the judges weren’t advertising the side events because they couldn’t be bothered to judge them.

Anyone who has ever judged at a big event, or who has half a brain, knows that the idea that people who give up their time to judge events are work-shy layabouts is utter drivel. But I suppose that if you really, honestly believe that it is deeply unfair that occasionally you draw seven cards in your opening hand and none of them are land, then you can believe anything.

The other thing I find deeply irritating is how there are many players who feel that making a mistake in a game of Magic is a reason to do an impression of someone with cerebral palsy. This is something I find inexplicable, just as a few years back I couldn’t understand why some people insisted on using the word ‘gay’ when they meant to use the word ‘bad’. Happily, that is increasingly uncommon these days, but what is still relatively common is to find people doing what when I was of primary school age used to be called ‘spaz’ impressions. Which is pretty irritating.

I mention this not because such impressions are deeply offensive and a sign of the widespread prejudice that people with disabilities face in modern society, nor out of a manic desire to look politically correct. It is merely a desire to help the people who are confused and lack the common sense to realize that this is an inappropriate reaction to making a mistake in a game to become more worthwhile human beings.

When that one has been sorted out, we could move on to dealing with the misogyny and anti-semitism which are kicking about in a few places. But that’s a rant for another day.

Anyway, enough ranting, and more than enough about appropriate behaviour in Magic tournaments which will have been common sense to nearly everyone reading this. It’s about time for another question.

Play or Draw?

In large tournaments, be they Pro Tour Qualifiers, Nationals, Regionals or any such similar, the last round of the tournament offers a dilemma to the successful. The aim is usually to make the top eight, and the question is whether that is best achieved by agreeing an intentional draw or by playing the final round. This is a subject which the internet has offered little advice on, so I thought I’d see whether you could work out which the best option is in a pretty difficult situation.

I didn’t follow much of the second day of Nationals, having dropped out to play in a Pro Tour Qualifier. But when I turned up to watch, the penultimate round had just finished, and the standings were as follows:

1. Artturi Bjork (a Finnish student studying in London) 27 points, tiebreaker 64.2%
2. Chris Clapton, 26, 66.5%
3. Mike Major, 26, 62.9%
4. Simon Marshall-Unitt, 25, 61.0%
5. Oliver Schneider, 25, 60.5%
6. Scott Wills, 25, 57.4%
7. William Turner, 24, 60.3%
8. Jonny Chapman, 24, 56.7%
9. Tom Harle, 24, 56.3%
10. Quentin Martin, 24, 53.1%
11. Michael Groves, 24, 49.8%
12. Ben Martin, 24, 48.7%
13. Mark Glenister, 22, 59.2%
14. Kevin O’Connor, 22, 56.0%
15. Martin Swan, 22, 53.3%
16. Craig Stevenson, 21, 67.4%

Just to explain for those who might not know, it is three points for a win and one for a draw, and for players on the same number of points, the tiebreaker (which is the match-win percentage of all your opponents) is used. The above table is slightly simplified – tie-breaker is given to one digit rather than four as I am not bored enough to sit here typing out four irrelevant tie-breaker digits.

The pairings go up, and because it is draft, people have to play someone in their draft pod. This means that the pairings are as follows:

Artturi (27) – Chris (26)
Mike (26) – Simon (25)
Ollie (25) – Scott (25)
Michael (24) – Quentin (24)
Tom (24) – Jonny (24)
Ben (24) – Martin (22)
William (24) – Craig (21)

The rewards for making top eight are hundreds of dollars, qualification for the European Championships, a chance to qualify for the World Championships, and a chance to play for the National Championship. The prize for 9th place or lower are a box of boosters. The question is this


And the bonus question...



Right, let’s sort out this top eight. First the easy stuff. It is going to take at least 26 points to make the top eight, unless something very weird happens and everyone draws despite the fact that it would knock half of them out of the top eight. Artturi and Chris are both definitely in, as Artturi already has 27 points and Chris has excellent tie-breakers which can only get better from playing against the top player in the standings. Because 26 points is required, none of the people with 24 points can draw. This means that there will be five people on 26 or more points (Artturi, Chris, Mike and the winner of Tom/Jonny and Michael/Quentin). In addition, Ben and William could get 27 points if they win, and one or both of Ollie and Scott will have 26 or more points, depending on whether they play or draw.

This leaves Simon with a tough dilemma. If he offers the draw, then Mike will definitely accept. However, there is a chance that this will knock Simon out of the top eight. If Artturi and Chris draw, Ollie beats Scott, and every match involving someone on 24 points results in a win for a person who has 24 points, then there will be eight people on 27 points and he will be 9th.

Ollie and Scott have a different kind of dilemma. They are friends and would both like to make top eight via an intentional draw, but this requires fewer than seven people to get 26 points, as Scott’s tie-breakers are far behind Simon’s. For this to happen both Ben and William would have to lose, or Simon would have to choose to play and get beaten and one of Ben and William would have to lose.

One additional complexity is that matches where only one player can make top eight are very strange. In the particular cases there is not even the slightest hint of collusion (as the results would demonstrate). However, the player with the possibility of top eight is likely to have more incentive to win, meaning that players who are paired down tend to have a slightly better chance of winning.

Trying to analyse all the possible permutations for every player can only get us so far, and is a largely irrelevant exercise as you are unlikely to ever be concerned about more than whether one particular player (hopefully yourself) can draw in. So, player by player:

Artturi and Chris are in whatever they do
Michael, Quentin, Tom and Jonny have to play
Ben and William have to try to beat Martin and Craig
Mike would like a draw, which would guarantee his top eight
Ollie and Scott can draw only if other results go their way but since they could both miss out if results go wrong and they draw, have to play
Simon has a difficult choice, and there are good arguments in favor of playing or of drawing

Having spoken to him during the round, I strongly suspect that Simon had not done all of this analysis when he decided to offer Mike a draw.

Every single match which was played went to three games. When Ben levelled his match and William was beating Craig, it looked like Simon would be 9th. When Craig levelled his match, a win for Martin and for Craig would let Ollie and Scott draw into the top eight. In the end, after five minutes of extra time, the final results were as follows:

1. Artturi Bjork, 28 points
2. Ollie Schneider, 28
3. Chris Clapton, 27
4. Mike Major, 27
5. William Turner, 27
6. Tom Harle, 27
7. Michael Groves, 27
8. Simon Marshall-Unitt, 26
9. Kevin O’Connor, 25

To recap this rather convoluted analysis, first work out how many points are needed to make the top eight. Then work out who is definitely going to finish in the top eight regardless of result, and who can’t make it even with a win. And then look at the remaining relevant pairings (of which there should be about half a dozen), and make a decision on whether you can draw or whether you have to play. And Good Luck!

So the pairings for the top eight were as follows:

Artturi (playing Wake) vs. Simon (playing Reanimator)
Mike (playing Opposition) vs. William (playing blue-green)
[winners of those matches meet in semi-final]
Ollie (playing Tog) vs. Michael (playing blue-green)
Chris (playing Bullet Proof Monks) vs. Tom (playing W/B Slide)
[winner of those matches meet in the semi-final]

I suspect that seven of those decks will be familiar. There was nothing interesting about the blue-green or Tog decks, the Wake deck had 4 Exalted Angels in the sideboard but was otherwise unremarkable, the Reanimator and Opposition decks I don’t know, but there are versions on the internet, the B/W Slide I’ll give the list for and is a previously discussed deck, but Bullet Proof Monks???

    Bullet Proof Monks Chris Clapton    
   Nationals 2003: England - 3rd - 4th Place Format: Type2    
Main Deck

2 Chainer's Edict
3 Circular Logic
3 Compulsion
4 Counterspell
3 Cunning Wish
3 Deep Analysis
3 Force Spike
4 Innocent Blood
4 Smother
4 Standstill

1 Cephalid Coliseum
4 Darkwater Catacombs
5 Island
4 Nantuko Monastery
4 Polluted Delta
3 Riftstone Portal
2 Swamp
4 Underground River
2 Callous Oppressor
1 Chain of Vapor
1 Coffin Purge
3 Duress
2 Engineered Plague
1 Ghastly Demise
1 Haunting Echoes
1 Opportunity
1 Ray of Distortion
1 Ray of Revelation
1 Renewed Faith
Total deck value: $223.6       

Average Casting Cost (ACC)= 2.27
Spells by Color:
Cards by Type:
*Hover mouse cursor over pie chart to see ==>> COLOR/TYPE : # CARDS : % OF CARDS.
*Left click on pie chart or legend to isolate a field.

This was the deck that tore up English Nationals. Pete Norris took it to a 4-2 record, and Chris Clapton finished 7-1-1 with it, with a game record of 18-3. Besides which, it is pretty cool to play a blue-black deck which kills with lands which require white and green mana to activate. It is not at all the sort of deck that I would ever consider playing (notice the missing color?), but I guess that having a ridiculous quantity of removal, being able to combine Standstill with an uncounterable win condition which does not require a spell to be cast and having lots of white enchantment and artifact removal is pretty good. And the name? Well, it kills with Monks, they don’t tend to die in combat, and Chris and Pete love crappy American films. Or something like that.

[Yer, yer, I know it should probably have Upheaval and Psychatog. But just for once in your lives can’t you control deck lovers play a deck which is slightly out of the ordinary and a bit more fun than your usual fare. It posted pretty good results, after all.]

And now, the final question:


If it helps, the night before the top eight I made some predictions. If you look back to my Onslaught Preview, you’ll see that these predictions might be useful, if only to know what not to predict:

Wake to beat Reanimator
Opposition to beat Blue-Green
Tog to beat Blue-Green
Bullet Proof Monks to beat Slide


Wake to beat Opposition
Tog to beat Monks


Tog to beat Wake, Ollie Schneider to become National Champion for a fourth time.


By the time you read this, the coverage of the Nationals should have gone up on the Sideboard, but hasn't. Right here there should be a link to the coverage that I did on the quarter-final between Chris Clapton and Tom Harle. Since the coverage hasn’t appeared as of yet, the brief version is that the matchup is totally in Chris’ favour, assisted by Tom’s decision to present a deck in game one which was missing 4 Smothers and a decision to sideboard out his Spirit Cairns in game three when according to John Ormerod they were the best chance he had of winning, Engineered Plague in Chris’ deck notwithstanding.

I just remembered that I forgot Tom’s decklist:

    Do Not Try This At Home Tom Harle    
   Nationals 2003: England - 5th - 8th Place Format: Type2    
Main Deck
4 Exalted Angel
3 Undead Gladiator

4 Astral Slide
4 Duress
1 Haunting Echoes
4 Renewed Faith
4 Smother
2 Spirit Cairn
3 Tainted Pact
4 Wrath of God

4 Barren Moor
3 City of Brass
9 Plains
4 Secluded Steppe
7 Swamp
4 Cabal Therapy
2 Disrupting Scepter
4 Ghastly Demise
1 Haunting Echoes
2 Spirit Cairn
2 Visara the Dreadful
Total deck value: $251.5       

Average Casting Cost (ACC)= 2.9
Spells by Color:
Cards by Type:
*Hover mouse cursor over pie chart to see ==>> COLOR/TYPE : # CARDS : % OF CARDS.
*Left click on pie chart or legend to isolate a field.

I have no idea whether or not this is a good deck, but it did get crushed under the heel of some pretty vicious Monks.

In other quarter-finals, Ollie lost 3-0 to Michael’s blue-green deck. Ollie’s explanation for this was that he got mana-screwed twice and then mana-flooded, an explanation with which I dealt in part three. Artturi defeated Simon 3-1 and William beat Mike by the same score.

In the first semi-final, Artturi took care of William to advance to the final, and Michael won a nail-biting fifth game to end Chris’ Nationals dreams. The final saw Artturi do to the other blue-green deck what he had done to the first, and become National Champion. Meanwhile, Chris made up for his disappointment by sweeping William to complete the English National Team for the World Championships.

That brings to an end my coverage of the English Nationals. Many congratulations to all, sorry, both who are still reading – I hope you enjoyed it. Many thanks to Ben Martin, Richard Edbury, Paul Hawkins, Jonny Chapman, Graham Baker and Lee Garner for lending me cards for the Red Deck, and to all the too numerous to mention people who make English Nationals and the English Magic scene such a pleasure to compete in, and congratulations to the many who did better than I did at Nationals. Any comments or questions can go to the forums, or to

Oh yes, and of course one final thing. How did you do on answering the questions?

All correct – You are English National Champion, Artturi Bjork
One wrong – Close but not quite. You are English National Team Member Chris Clapton
Two wrong – In the Top Eight but no further, former National Champ Ollie ‘Callous Oppressor’ Schneider
Three wrong – Outside the Top Eight, you are Jonny Chapman
All wrong – You scrubbed out early, and suffer the fate of being that notorious past-it Magic player, Dan Paskins.

And now, if y'all don’t mind, I’m going to go to bed and sleep for rather a long time.

Take care,

- Dan Paskins

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