Since I did not stay for Sunday, I figure I might as well get a report up now
before I forget it all.

My tournament started a couple weeks before.  I had not really planned on
playing, but since it was only an hour or two away, I still was gonna make the
trip to hang out.  However, I played a really powerful Slaver deck in the ICBM
Tourney leading up to Nats, and was extremely impressed with how it functioned. 
I checked out the NEOH boards and figured that if Twaun decided to play Dredge,
I would use his power and if he played a real deck, I would just try dredge or

Fast forward to a couple days prior, and I make plans to go down to IL with Soly
and his friend Steve Ferry.  We eventually decide to leave Thursday night and
arrive at the hotel around 2am.  Twaun and Brian Demars come down to greet us
and we all take a short walk to check out the venue, discussing the format and
things of that nature.  Everyone gets to sleep pretty soon thereafter so we are
rested for a day of spell slinging.

People trickle out of the room in the morning and eventually Jerry Yang, Mark
Trogdon, Soly, Steve, Twaun, Randall, Nam Tran, and I head down to breakfast at
the hotel buffet.  At this point, I have decided I'm playing dredge, but I have
scrounged up a bunch of power so I'm 2 moxes short of playing Saturday.  The
buffet is pretty good, but ends up costing like $10 and coffee and OJ are like
$5 each as well.  This is clearly insane, and none of us is particularly excited
about that.

We get to the venue, chat around, I get to meet a variety of Canadians and
Americans.  I win my first round but then do extremely poorly in the next 2 and
drop in disgust, confident that I am never playing Dredge again.  I spend the
rest of the tournament just walking around and checking out what people are
playing, chatting with everyone there.  Andy Probasco's deck in particular is a
lot of fun to watch, as I love Life from the Loam and his turns are full of
lands entering and leaving his hand.  Jim Gaffney (Godot) ends up winning the 2
byes playing Lou's Ichorid deck, which he has to give back and cannot play it
Saturday.  We order some Giordano's pizza, and after the event I am sitting and
talking with Smennen and the usual Ohio crowd.  At this point, none other than
Erik Lauer and Alan Comer come over and sit down, and ask Steve what he thinks
about the recent changes, the format, and the job they are doing.  The following
2 hours are extremely interesting to me as there are discussions about Gro,
Combo, Memory Jar, Necropotence, Gifts, Scroll, Gush, old Restrictions, possible
unrestrictions, and everything in between.  At one point, after arguing about
Will versus Lotus as the most powerful card in the format, we ask everyone at
the table if they could only use one, would it be Lotus or Will.  Everyone at
the table except Brian Demars picked Will.  Eventually Lauer and Comer have to
go as the conversation had gotten quite long, and we start to head back to the
room and build our decks and prepare for the main event.

Staying in our room for the weekend are the 8 mentioned at breakfast plus
Smennen and Brian Demars.  Demars was playing either 1 or 2 Strategic Plannings
in his list day 1, at Steve's suggestion, and he and I begin discussing a way to
fit in 2 more.  At this point, I have found all the cards I need except a Pearl,
and have decided to just play without it.  Anyway, Demars and I eventually come
up with a list we are happy with and work on the sideboard.  We start with his 3
Crypt, 3 Sphere, 1 3Ball, 3 Wasteland, 1 Thran Foundry and do some work on the
last few.  He ends up with a Shattering Spree versus my second Rack and Ruin
(for painter), and we both play a singleton Pyroclasm.  The last card we decide
on is Sower of Temptation, for things like random fish, Man-Plan TPS, and
Tinker-DSC decks.  We never really decide on a good 15th card, and Brian runs a
second Sower while I play an Engineered Explosives.  Brian had talked to Rich
Shay earlier about the deck and Rich said he would think about it and decide if
he wanted to play Slaver or TPS in the morning.  Steve has a playset of
Plannings, which Rich has first dibs on, so I secretly hope Rich will play Combo

In the morning, we stop down for breakfast again and Rich leaves Steve a message
signaling his intent to play TPS.  With that, my deck is filled out and I am all
ready to go.  After picking up the rest of the power I needed from Ben Carp, I
register and get ready for a long, difficult day of magic.  

1 Black Lotus
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Lotus Petal
1 Mana Vault
1 Mindslaver
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Sol Ring
1 Sundering Titan
1 Tormod's Crypt
1 Triskelavus
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Yawgmoth's Will
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Brainstorm
1 Echoing Truth
1 Fact or Fiction
4 Force of Will
4 Mana Drain
1 Merchant Scroll
1 Misdirection
1 Mystical Tutor
4 Strategic Planning
4 Thirst for Knowledge
1 Time Walk
1 Tinker
2 Goblin Welder
1 Gorilla Shaman
1 Rack and Ruin
3 Flooded Strand
3 Island
2 Polluted Delta
1 Strip Mine
1 Tolarian Academy
2 Underground Sea
3 Volcanic Island

1 Engineered Explosives
1 Pyroclasm
1 Rack and Ruin
1 Sower of Temptation
3 Sphere of Resistance
1 Thran Foundry
3 Tormod's Crypt
1 Trinisphere
3 Wasteland

The skill level of this field was really high, with the posted top 8 plus
DicemanX, Shockwave, Rich, Andy, Seroogy, Smennen, Jim Gaffney, Fuckin' Lou, Dan
Carp, Mat Endress, Brian Fisher, and many more really strong vintage players in
the field.  The pairings are called, and the most prestigious tourney of the
year gets underway.

Round 1: vs. Derek with TPS

Derek is a guy who has played at the ICBM Opens in Milwaukee, and in fact
purchased the Lotus I won a few months ago.   We exchange pleasantries and get
under way.  Game 1 is pretty sloppy, and at one point, I declare my end of turn,
Derek fetches, so I say "I'm still done, do you have any more effects?"  Derek
plays a dark ritual, and I try to think what he could be doing.  I let it
resolve, and he looks very upset and just burns for 3.  It turns out he had a
Grim Tutor and just spaced out, as he would have won on his turn if he had not
played the ritual there.  However, that time lets me get some control and I
eventually kill him by attacking with a Welder and later a Gorilla Shaman (as he
had done 11 to himself).  In game 2, Derek brings in Negators.  He gets 2 of
them in play early, but I respond by tinkering out Triskelavus.  They stare each
other down for a turn or two, and then Derek decides to attack.  His board
consists of 2 Negators, 3 mana sources, and a tormod's crypt.  I block one
negator with my 3/3 Trike and let the other through (leaving my other token out
of combat).  We stack damage, and I remove both my tokens.  I let damage
resolve, and then with the Negator trigger on the stack, I ping the one who has
taken 3 damage.  I let the ping resolve, and then respond again to the new
trigger by pinging it again.  Derek's negator dies to state based effects, and
he is forced to sacrifice all 5 of his other permanents.  From there, I play a
sphere or two and get crucible strip waiting and Derek scoops them up.

Record: 1-0
Times I used or even put Mindslaver into play: 0

Round 2: vs. Greg with TPS

Game 1, I keep a kinda sketchy hand, which is really solid against everything
but combo.  Unfortunately, Greg kills me on his second or third turn and I play
no disruption of any kind.  For game 2, I start with land, sapphire, mana crypt,
Tinker.  It resolves and trinisphere appears.  I get a wasteland or two and
eventually play a huge robot.  In game 3, I again am able to use Wastes and
spheres to mana screw him and eventually tinker up the titan.  However, he
floats mana and rebuilds me, killing all my lands as well.  My hand still has
the Crucible though (since I had tinkered during a Will turn and had drawn a few
cards there as well), and I am able to rebuild and get out 2 spheres and the
3ball.  Eventually I generate about a thousand mana and cast Titan followed by
Trike with 3 mana drains waiting in the wings.

Record: 2-0
Times I used or even put Slaver into play: 0

Round 3: Edman from RIW with Slaver

Edman is also playing slaver, although it is not Strategic Slaver.  Game 1, I
generate a bunch of mana and get Strip lock active on turn 3, and he scoops when
I cast demonic tutor.  In game 2, we trade a few draw spells and then do nothing
for 5 turns.  I draw a DT and a Force, but have no blue card to use with it. 
Unfortunately, Edman drew a drain for his DT, so he gets mindslaver and wrecks
me and I lose.  In game 3, neither of us is doing a lot but I have more mana.  I
let his welder resolve, then play Sower to steal it and play my own.  I attack
and a turn or two later add a gorilla shaman, and they just beat him down over a
couple turns.

Record: 3-0
Times I used or even put Mindslaver into play: 0

Round 4: Owen with Painter

This round is covered pretty well on WOTC's site.  Game 1, I literally drew
almost all mana sources and never had a chance after mulling to like 5.  In game
2, I definitely could have won, but on the last turn where I played Shaman, I
could have held up Rack and Ruin instead.  However, that plan left me dead to
any counter, while Shaman only made me lose if he had Painter, Red Source, REB
as his 2 cards + 1 topdeck.  Sadly, he had it and I died.

Record: 3-1
Times I used or even put Mindslaver into play: 0

Round 5: Dave Caplan (Goobafish) with UR Landstill

Game 1 is a slaughter.  My hand is kinda slow, and Dave opens on Library on turn
1.  I try desperately to do anything, but he plays a null rod to shut down 3
mana artifacts and then stifles two of my fetches on the same turn.  He also
resolves his ancestral, my ancestral, and 2 standstills all in his favor.  I
scoop when he shows me a hand of like 10 counterspells against my 1 island
manabase.  In game 2, I am able to get off the ground faster than he can and
kill him before he can get any standstills going or draw any real cards.  In
game 3, he plays fetch go.  I open on volc and try Goblin Welder.  He says "I
guess we'll try this" and fetches and tries Ancestral.  Sadly for him, I have a
MisD, and he has no pitch counter so I draw 3.  A couple turns later, I play my
own ancestral and manage to resolve Crucible (baiting with a welder first to eat
his drain) and waste all his non-islands.  Pretty soon, I cast echoing truth on
his Null Rod followed by Yawg Will and it's all over.

Record: 4-1
Times I used or even put Mindslaver into play: 0

Round 6: Edward with Mono Red Shop Aggro

Game 1, I keep a pretty bad hand with a land and ancestral, and Edward kills me
on about his 4th or 5th turn without me playing a spell.  In game 2 though, I
start with Wasteland, Sol Ring.  Edward plays a juggernaut, and I cast Tinker
but both my robots are in hand, so I just get crucible.  I also manage a welder.
 A turn or two later, when juggernaut attacks, I cast thirst discarding Trike
and Titan.  I tap my welder and Edward just picks them up.  In game 3, we both
start kinda slow, and I counter 2 Solemn Simulacrums (Edward has no red mana,
and I have 2 drains in hand I am trying to get online).  Eventually, Edward gets
out 4 spheres and chalice at zero and I play a welder and and have 4 mana
available.  On his end step, I weld my mana crypt into play for a mox, and untap
to play Engineered Explosives for 1, paying 2UUB.  Next turn, I waste his shop,
blow up his spheres, and then on his end step weld out his sol ring (which is
his only other non-chalice permanent) for tormod's crypt.  He has only chalice 0
in play, and I just attack with a 1/1 for a while until I finally find a big
dude like 12 turns later.  Meanwhile, Edward never draws a mountain.

Record: 5-1
Times I used or even put Mindslaver into play: 0

At this point, I unfortunately know that we must play the last round.  Due to
the number of 5-1 players, none of us can draw and so it's win-and-in at 4
different tables.

Round 7: Phil (MoxLotus) with UBG Fish

I was later told that this was Becker's new deck.  Anyway, in game 1, I mulligan
down to 3 on the play before finding more than one land (with no mana in my 5
and 4 card hands).  I play land welder and he forces, leaving me with emerald in
hand.  Phil then strips my land.  Awesome.  I draw ancestral and mystical before
finding a land, at which point Phil has 3 lands, a mox, a Tarmogoyf, and a Dark
Confidant in play.  I resolve ancestral and draw a bunch of moxes.  I still have
a chance to win, but the next turn Phil plays a cursecatcher, stifles my fetch,
and puts lethal on the board.  Instead of being able to Mystical for and resolve
Tinker, I die.  I think Phil would like me to point out that Cursecather was
quite terrific right there, keeping him from losing to a mull to 3.  However,
sadly for Phil,  I get some sweet revenge.  In game 2, I play land-Mana Crypt
3ball.  Phil plays a dual, and I waste it.  Phil plays a fetch, so I draw Tinker
off the top and get Triskelavus.  When Phil draws his next card and has no land,
he scoops.  In game 3, Phil duresses me to start, seeing Strip Mine, Sapphire,
Jet, Demonic Tutor, 3ball, 2 Fetch.  He takes the 3ball and I draw, play my
moxes, cast DT (which he counters), and strip his land.  Phil plays a land and
passes, and so I play land, Crucible.  Phil does not have a dude the next turn
and never gets above one land again, while I draw a ton of cards and eventually
tap my Academy for 8 mana to play Sundering Titan.  Next turn, I tap it for 9
and play Triskelavus and beat down my opponent who controls no permanents.

Record: 6-1
Times I used or even put Mindslaver into play: 0

With that, I make it into the top 8.  I look around, and Soly, Myself, Paul, and
Jason (the Oath player) had all won to join Owen, Nighbor, Tommy, and Brian in
the top 8.

Quarters: Chris Nighbor with Dredge

My hands in this match were insane.  In game 1, I lead with welder and tinker in
Trike turn 2.  I make a mistake a turn later but manage to squeak it out.  I am
able to remove all his bridges and he uses all his black cards bringing back
Ichorids, leaving himself with just 4 cards in his deck.  He can only attack for
one less than my life total the next turn, and I have Demonic and Thirst in hand
so all I need to do is dig up a black source and I win.  I draw, play thirst,
and draw Will and Lotus, so I just DT, Recall him, Will, and Recall him again. 
In game 2, Chris serum powders 3 times, removing his Angel, 2 Narcos, 3
Therapies, and a bridge.  He keeps 3 cards and plays a bazaar.  I open my hand
and keep 3 Tormod's Crypts, Brainstorm, Land, Mana Vault, and Triskelavus.  My
brainstorm finds me Sapphire, Lotus, and Sphere, so I just put back the 3rd
Crypt and the Trike on top.  I play out Mox, Vault, Lotus, Crypt, Crypt, and
then crypt him since there is a troll in his yard.  He bazaars on his upkeep and
discards another dredger so I crypt him again before his draw step.  I take my
turn, cast Trike, cast Sphere, and pass.  From there, he misses dredgers for
like 2 turns and I play a 3rd crypt.  My two hands this match were unbelievable
and I could not have asked for more.

Semis: Tommy Kowolith with TPS

Ah, finally, a match I was looking forward to.  Tommy is like 5-1 all-time
against me, including in the Finals at Rochester, in the top 4 in Milwaukee last
month, and day 2 in Chicago at 4-0 for the chance to draw in.  However, I
believe my deck is really strong against combo, particularly post board, and was
looking forward to playing against TPS.  The coverage at WOTC's site is pretty
good.  I managed to get a pretty early tinker in game 1 and stole his ancestral
and was able to hold on to kill him.  Game 2 I countered a couple early plays
and then he resolved twister, played ancestral (which I let go), played Tinker
(which I thirsted, then Forced) and passed.  My hand was crazy, so I played a
bunch of mana, cast demonic tutor for time walk (with Force in hand), tinkered
up Titan, and passed.  Tommy tried some bomb which I forced pitching the walk
(my only blue card), and I attacked him.  He missed that turn, and I put him to
1.  He said "I have a lot of outs", which I didn't doubt, but all he drew was a
dark ritual and I killed him.  That was a very satisfying win, and it left just
Paul and I to battle for the title and the painting. 

Finals: Paul "Mr. Type 4" Mastriano with TPS

I ask Paul if he wants to split or play and he says "Let's play" so we get
underway.  Game 1 is pretty awful, as after that opener, I did not draw a
nonland for the whole game.  Literally the only spells I cast were Sol Ring,
Crypt, and Titan.  In game 2, it was close, and when Paul sent me that gifts, it
really got my hopes up that I could still win.  Sadly I missed on a couple
draws, and when I demonic-ed, I went for ancestral since I couldn't cast Tinker
or Sower that turn (he was tapped out and had 3 cards off ancestral), hoping to
hit some action and a counter.  Instead, I missed on even finding a blue card,
and so when my Strategic Planning hit next turn, it was Force, Welder, Land, but
the Force was uncastable so I took the welder and hoped to get a way to get him
going the next turn.  Instead, Paul hurkyl'ed me, mystical-ed for Will and
untapped.  Since I know I would have wanted to do it, I made him play it out and
it ended with Paul casting demonic, finding tendrils, and windmilling right into
the middle of my cards, in epic fashion.  I shook his hand and tried to think
about what I could have done differently to win the game, as Paul got his
picture taken with his new prize.

Final Record: 8-2
Number of Times I used or even put slaver into play: 0

Afterwards, I sat at the table for a while and Erik Lauer, who had been watching
the finals, sat down and we chatted along with many of the other OH guys for a
while.  I took apart my deck and gave back the power to the many people who
helped me out, and talked to Erik about the deck, the format, and many other
things.  At one point, he asked what cards could reasonably be reprinted, I was
able to pick out maybe 15-20 cards, mostly from the maindeck, that all seemed
pretty reasonable.  Patrick Chapin came over and sat down for a while too and
talked about vintage and standard and everything in between, every bit as
interesting as the Chapin you see on The Magic Show.  Patrick also said he would
play Will (as long as everyone else has to make the same choice).

Mike and Steve wanted to leave that night, so we started to pack up and get set.
I said my goodbyes and as we left the venue, Twaun and Randall... well, they made
some slightly questionable choices which we will not get into here.  We hang out
in the room and talk about eventually, Soly, Steve, and I leave Chicago around
3-3:30am.  I get home around 6 and immediately fall asleep.

My list can be found at the official wizards site, I actually played -1 Mox
Pearl +1 Mana Crypt since I could not find a pearl on the day.  I was extremely
happy with the deck, and think it is absolutely one of if not the best deck in
the format.  Out of two players, there were two copies in the top 4 (including
one in the top 2) and a total record of 14-3-2.  This deck is the real deal, and
there's probably not a card I would have changed from the ideal list (with pearl
over lotus petal).  Some props and slops (apologies to anyone I forgot):

-Paul Mastriano for becoming the 2008 Vintage Champion
-Brian Demars for being a ridiculous deckbuilder and creating a monster of a
deck (and letting me play with it too =p )
-Ben Carp for lending me 4 pieces of power
-Nam Tran for lending me 2 pieces and 4 FoW
-Steve Ferry for lending me a piece
-Mark Trogdon for lending me a piece
-Jerry Yang for lending me basically everything else
-Steve Menendian for lending me 4 Strategic Planning and a Thran Foundry
-WOTC for running a pretty solid tournament
-That top 8 for being unreal strong
-All the Ohio dudes for being awesome and helping me play at all, and letting me
have a place to sleep
-Everyone who I met this tournament for either the first time or just in general
-Erik Lauer for taking the time to come and talk with people who actually play
and enjoy vintage, and hopefully for taking into account our opinions
-Bill Stark and WOTC for actually covering the event and putting up some good
descriptions of the top 8 (and giving me a feature match, even though I lost!)
-Rich Shay, for playing Combo so that I could play Strategic Slaver

Me, for losing game 2 to Owen due to just being worse at magic than him
Me, for not winning a tournament that I was good enough to win and that my deck
was good enough to win
Me, for not keeping up the Champs Winner precedent (Meandeck every other year,
somebody from some regional 'team' in between)
Me, for being 0-3 in the Finals of big tournaments (losing to TK, Rich, and
Soly for not beating Tommy in the top 8
The OH crew for having an awful day (I'm looking at you, Jerry!)

Alas, I was close, but not quite there.  This is not the first time, but I'm
hoping it will be the last. Next year, I will be on a mission to bring home a
painting of my own.  I'll see everyone at the next big event.

PS Friday night, Brian and I agreed that our goal was to make Strategic Planning
a $100 by Monday.  When I got home, I checked SCG and lo and behold, they were
listed at just that (and sold out).  Mission Accomplished!