Samite Belcher

There's No Substitute for Practice.

Look at that smile Grrr I usually try to avoid playing in high rules enforcement tournaments because I don't enjoy them so much. You can end up playing against some really arrogant, self-opinionated, hopelessly addicted, social lepers (mentioning no slightly German sounding names) and this ruins the joy of playing for me.

But when Stu arranged for me to be able to play in the Grand Prix at Gen Com and lent me his 'Birdy' deck I thought I ought to give it a go.

The atmosphere was terrific, with nearly 700 players you couldn't hope for a bigger event.

But I was still nervous about being put off playing Magic permanently by my opponents' lack of bon homie.
I was enormously relieved when all five players I met in my matches were pleasant, friendly individuals with no apparent personal hygiene problems. They were three French players, a Dutchman and a Portuguese (English players take note!).
The only strange thing to happen was that one of my opponents took a picture of me.
I hope that it was only to prove that you could find at least a few Englishmen sober at midday, contrary to the popular continental belief, and not for some more sinister or less tasteful reason!

As I mentioned earlier, I was playing a hand me down 'Birdy', Odessey block deck. I had only played the deck in about four friendly matches before starting but it seemed like a mighty strong deck.
Indeed it was. In fact I should have gone unbeaten all day.

Very few of my opponents were expecting it or knew of the token triggering graveyard effects rule that underpins the growing birdies theme of the deck by stacking counters on Soulcatcher and Soulcatcher's Aerie.

My first match went far too well and I saw off a green/red beatdown and burn deck to go 1/0.
It still took me 50 mins to do this despite playing a super fast deck (but that's me all over).

Blue/green Wonder came next and we fought to a honourable draw at the end of the round, 1/1/0.

My next duel was with a fast cycling Psychotog deck.
I won the first game as he couldn't find either a Mutilate or 'Tog in the top of his deck, phew!

But now my lack of playing time was going to show.
I was commanding the second game and played a Screech with an Envelop in hand and one extra mana available. Next turn win.
He plays Mutilate in his turn.
I look down to cast my Envelop to find only a white land untapped, Doh!
Scrub mistake number 1 looses me that game.
I am now disheartened with my performance and make a pig's ear of the final game, feeding creatures in piecemeal to his removal, never to be done against control decks!
A 1/1/1 record instead of 2/1/0.

The next match went my way against another Wonder deck in short order.
2/1/1 and still in with a chance.

My final match was against yet another Wonder deck but this time with a Speculation twist to up the pace of the beatdown.

The first game went his way when I lucked out on mana against his fast start.
I was still in with a chance after side-boarding.
Now was the real test of my lack of familiarity with game-play situations with this deck.
To Burst or not to Burst that is the question?
Knowing he would side in Bursts and that 2, 4 or 6 of my tokens could disappear in a twinkling with no gain if enough Bursts were in the graveyard I passed them by.

Big mistake.

Had I been more confident of the deck I would have realised that slowing his rush was more important than the losses I might sustain from the Bursts.
And so the rush was not slowed and I crashed and burned out of the Grand Prix.

The deck was brilliant in the environment but the player was less so.

It all goes to prove that even the best deck can lose in the wrong hands and that -

'There's No Substitute for Practice'.