There's not really much to say in prelude to this tournament report. The weekend
was thrown together maybe not at the 11th hour but at the 8th or 9th when Matt
Hazard and I were lamenting not having been able to attend GP Chicago. I pointed
out that the TMD Open was in two more weeks and that cheap flights were still
available from Columbus to Baltimore, which was conveniently along the route
from Virginia to Connecticut.

"I think I might want to do this,” said Matt, and within two days his flight and
a hotel room had been reserved and we had added Hale Simon and Kyle Guillemette
to our crew for cost deferment and general hanging-out purposes. Fantastic!
Vintage is so much better than Legacy anyway.

I already knew that I'd be playing Belcher on day one of the tournament. Though
I try to not be possessive and jealous, I do think of it as my deck. Mine. Not
playing Belcher would be a grave betrayal of some of my favorite cards. Plus, I
had T4'd in Baltimore two weeks previous and T8'd Pittsburgh the week before.

Choosing a list wasn't difficult. The deck I was worried about was Mystic
Remora, which I hadn't yet faced but which seemed like a beating against my
deck. I didn't want to hear the phrase, "Commandeer your Belcher,” without being
able to answer with Guttural Response. Maindeck Welders and Empty the Warrens
also seemed strong, especially in an environment that's passing on Echoing Truth
for cards that bounce Tinkwell Leviathan.

So I played the following list:

4x Goblin Charbelcher
4x Empty the Warrens
1x Wheel of Fortune
1x Memory Jar
1x Timetwister
1x Tinker

4x Rite of Flame
4x Tinder Wall
4x Simian Spirit Guide
4x Elvish Spirit Guide
4x Chrome Mox
4x Manamorphose
5x Mox
1x Black Lotus
1x Lion's Eye Diamond
1x Lotus Petal
1x Mana Crypt
1x Mana Vault
1x Sol Ring
1x Channel

4x Goblin Welder
4x Street Wraith
3x Guttural Response
1x Pyroblast

I don't think there's too much to explain there, but I'll go over a couple of
things before the sideboard.

Guttural Response takes the bulk of the protection slots because it works with
either Spirit Guide and is better with Chrome Mox, but I wanted a miser's
Pyroblast against Tezzeret, Tinker, and other non-instant spells.

Tinker and Twister make the cut over other bombs like Yawgmoth's Will because
they're good in the opening hand. I haven't had significant problems getting the
blue for them, but I'd mulligan past hands when they're uncastable.

Goblin Welder is so good. So, so good. If you're not playing black, you should
play Goblin Welder. It's not just for getting back a countered Belcher; it works
with Jar, LED, Wheel, and Black Lotus too. Just trust me on this.

Street Wraith is in there because I don't want anything else. The spell that
would replace it is Desperate Ritual, and I don't feel like I need that. If you
have trouble mulliganing with Street Wraith, just pretend it's a mana source.
Two out of three times it will be.

Serum Powder is not in there because drawing it midgame or when you don't need
to mulligan is like finding a Pokemon card in your deck. It's embarrassing and

Pact of Negation is not in there because it doesn't work well enough with your
win conditions. You will never pay the upkeep on Pact, so you can't use it to
protect Empty the Warrens or a Belcher without activation mana.

Black cards aren't in there because they take room away from Guttural Response
and Goblin Welder, which were my maindeck answers to the Drain and Remora fueled
metagame I expected.

Speaking of the metagame, here's the sideboard.

1x Gaea's Blessing - Strictly for Painter. I'm not convinced this is necessary,
but I've had bad experiences versus Painter in the past.

2x Pyroblast - One or both of these come in against Tezzeret, Remoras, and
opposing combo on the draw. I rarely have all six Blast effects in the deck at
one time because I don't want to dilute the combo too much. Usually it's 3x
Pyroblasts and 2x Guttural Response, but I'll mix it up depending on how I feel
or what I've seen in the previous games.

4x Tormod's Crypt - My nod to Ichorid. My plan is to race them anyway, but
Guttural Responses come out anyway.

4x Seething Song - Stax and Workshops can't counter spells, and I've found it's
just easier to race them than it is to try to blow up their lock pieces. Plus,
Song helps me cast…

4x Deus of Calamity! (a.k.a. Mark Trogdon) - It's big and it destroys land, plus
it can't be Commandeered. Normally, Deus and Seething Song would be Storm Entity
and Desperate Ritual, but Storm Entity loses too easily to too much. Go big or
go home!

So my deck was ready to go weeks in advance. Unfortunately when Friday night
rolled around and we were ready to hit the road, Matt's plane was two hours
delayed leaving Tampa, which meant it would get to Columbus late, which meant
instead of getting to Baltimore at 10, it would get in at midnight. Kyle and
Hale were good sports about everything, though and after pizza and games with my
fiancée at my apartment and some test rounds at Hale's, we leapt into the wild
blue Honda for the Nutmeg State, picking up Matt at Thurgood Marshall airport on
the way.

Five hours, one tank of gas, $25 in tolls, and countless lost GPS signals later,
we were pulling into the parking lot of the only hotel in town. Twenty minutes
later, we were all asleep.

The next morning we enjoyed the free continental breakfast and headed for the
tournament site. One-hundred thirteen people registered—I was impressed! This
was the biggest tournament I'd played in for a long time.

Matt, Kyle, Hale, and I rolled dice to see who would sit out of the team
competition. I won. Or lost. Whatever. I wasn't on the team. Who's laughing now?
(Actually, I don't think anybody is. I don't think the team competition mattered
that much to any of us).

Anyway, this intro has gone on long enough:

Round 1 - David - TPS

David was friendly and said he hadn't played Vintage in a long time. After a
little more talk I learned that he knew my carmate Hale from back in the day and
we had a nice relaxing CHANNEL BELCHER

Oh, uh, well, that was the end of game one.

Seemed like a good way to start the weekend—a day one, round one, turn one kill.
I don't think I sideboarded because I saw none of his deck.

For game two, David mulliganed once and I once. I have no notes for myself, but
David played Imperial Seal and cracked Lotus to play Brainstorm and Ancestral
Recall. Then he played Tinkered for Jar and cracked it into Demonic Tutor for
Yawgmoth's Will and the win. I think that went down on turn two or three.

I mulliganed again on the play in game three but still had the mana for a turn
one Jar, which I cracked. He Forced my Manamorphose to stop me that turn, but I
drew Belcher and played it on turn two with mana on board. He Twistered to go
for the win on his turn (and I really hoped to draw three Spirit Guides to end
it there), but even with three floating mana, that play stalled. I untapped and

Matches - 1-0-0; Games - 2-1-0

Round 2 - Eric - Mono-Red Workshop Aggro

Eric was friendly but quiet. After the match, he admitted that he hadn't had a
lot of practice with his deck. We both made several misplays in the Welder

I won the roll and played Belcher and Welder on turn one, still needing
activation mana. He played a Welder to match me and another one on turn two,
making me regret having used Lotus Petal. He attacked me to 12 with one Welder,
and we moved Belcher and Petal back and forth a few times. Then he played a
Gorilla Shaman and my heart sank. Welder + Shaman with a 0-drop artifact in the
yard makes for a little situation we like to call, "Eat your board.” Belcher got
Welded into a Lotus Petal and was eaten. Next turn I drew the last mana I needed
for activation and the artifact I needed to Weld: a Chrome Mox. My hope was that
my opponent wouldn't realize the play of eating the Mox in response to the Weld.
Fortunately for me he didn't. Belcher got Welded back in for the win.

I boarded out Guttural Responses and Manamophoses (which are terrible under a
Sphere effect) for Seething Songs and Dei.

Game two was very interesting. My opening hand had two Welder, a Deus, and some
good, stable mana. He opened with Thorn and I played a Welder and a couple of
Moxes off a Spirit Guide. He answered with a Welder of his own, and I attacked,
hoping he'd block. He did, and I played my second Welder. His Magus of the Moon
was answered by my Tinder Wall, and his Trinisphere kept me from ramping mana to
play the Deus still in my hand. At last I drew a Spirit Guide. Deus rocked the
world and the game was over quickly.

Matches - 2-0-0; Games - 4-1-0

Round 3 - AJ Grasso - UR Landstill

AJ and I had seen each other before at Baltimore tournaments but hadn't actually
played or met as far as either of us could remember. The match was a lot of fun
and felt a lot closer than the outcome indicates. (Maybe I'm just an optimist).

AJ was on the play with no mulligans in game one, and I opened on my turn with
an Empty the Warrens with five storm that came up four goblins short as my
opponent Dazed one copy and Forced another. I left my goblins up to block as my
opponent dropped several Mishra's Factories. Periodically I'd test the waters
with spells that got countered until I drew Belcher and saw it resolve with back
up in hand. I activated on the next turn to finish my opponent off from five

I likely didn't board. If I did, I brought in a Pyroblast for a Chrome Mox or an
Elvish Spirit Guide.

AJ dropped an Island and used it to Daze my Mana Vault. I paid the extra, but
that prevented me from Emptying the Warrens. I played a Welder instead. He
Chained my Welder before it became active and I played Empty the Warrens for two
storm. I got some damage in, but my opponent put me under a Standstill and
played Factories to keep me out of the game.

Finally on the play in this match, I made the most of the opportunity by
mulliganing to five. My opponent mulliganed once as well, and we played draw-go
for a couple of turns while I waited to draw mana. Instead, my opponent played
Standstill. Twice. I can't play through that kind of card advantage and lost the
game in short order. He Fired me for the win.

Matches - 2-1-0; Games - 5-3-0

Round 4 - Stephen - Angel-Dragon Oath

I don't remember much about my fourth-round opponent. Just your average friendly
Magic player, I guess.

I won the die roll and went first, launching a turn one undisrupted Belcher and
Welder off a Lotus. Unfortunately my opponent played a Lotus of his own and
Demonic Tutored for Echoing Truth to put the Belcher back in my hand. I played
draw-go then for a couple of turns, as my opponent played Oath and activated it
once to Hellkite me to 10. On my last legs, I topdecked Channel! I Welded in my
Lotus, played Channel, and launched the returned Belcher for the win!

No sideboard.

My opponent opened with nothing serious as I mulliganed into an Empty the
Warrens for 10. He Impulsed twice off Lotus to find an answer but struck out. I
attacked, he drew and conceded.

Matches - 3-1-0; Games - 7-3-0

Round 5 - Raf Forino - 5c Stax

This was one of the more intense, fun matches I can remember playing. I hope to
run across Mr. Forino again at future events. He was friendly, a challenging
competitor, and completely invested in the match outcome.

Game one, on the play, I Emptied the Warrens for 16 goblins and played a Welder,
probably off Wheel or something. Unfortunately, Raf had Powder Keg in hand and
blew my hopes out of the water. The Welder couldn't keep me from being locked
down for long, however, and I scooped to save time.

I boarded out Manamorphoses and Guttural Responses for Seething Songs and Dei.

I mulliganed to four for game two and figured I was done for. I played a Mox,
Sol Ring, and Mana Vault, and Raf played a Trinisphere. I topdecked Belcher and
played it, waiting for activation mana. Raf Tinkered for Karn and ate one of my
Moxen, but I topdecked a Spirit Guide for the win on the last turn before Karn
ate the rest of my mana. Whew! I was relieved to win this game, even more so
because I thought it was game three. It turned out we still had one more to go!

After the match, Raf said he made the wrong Tinker choice. He could have gotten
Pithing Needle to shut of my Belcher. I think that was probably a better choice
for him. Dealing with Pithing Needle at that point would have been really
difficult for me at that point.

On the play in game three, Raf mulled deep to find a first turn effective lock
piece against me, eventually opening from three cards with a Thorn of Amethyst.
I kept a seven card hand that allowed me to play two Moxen and Mana Crypt off a
Spirit Guide. After mulliganing so far, he couldn't lock me out from playing
Belcher on turn two and activating on turn three.

Matches - 4-1-0; Games - 9-4-0

Like I said, that match was intense. I got lucky at all the right times and
pulled out the win, but it could have been far worse for me. From this point I
only needed to win one more round to earn a top 16 spot.

Round 6 - Michael - Oath

I don't remember much of my opponent this round either (something about Oath
opponents, I guess), but my notes and the games are pretty good.

I mulliganed to five on the draw in game one and opened with an Empty for eight
goblins on my first turn. Not an especially quick clock, unfortunately, and my
opponent played Oath on his turn. I got in for eight and he Oathed up Inkwell
Leviathan. "Not what I really wanted", he said. I swung in again and he blocked,
going to four. Then he Oathed up Hellkite and Time Walked for the win.

I probably didn't sideboard here either. I'm more worried about the artifacts in
Oath than the counters, so I just want to be fast.

On the play in game two, he Forced my Belcher on turn one, but I recovered on
turn two with an Empty the Warrens for eight tokens. Fortunately for me, he had
kept a one-land hand to get that Force and was unable to deal with the goblin
horde before they finished him.

I mulliganed twice again for game three, but again had a turn one Belcher, which
got Negated. Dang. And then he played a Null Rod. Double dang! Welder resolved,
but suddenly became a liability as my opponent dug for Oath with Lim-Dul's
Vault. No problem, though. When he activated Oath (getting Hellkite), he dumped
a Mox Sapphire to his yard, allowing me to Weld out his Null Rod. On my turn, I
Welded in my Belcher and activated for the win at one life.

Matches - 5-1-0; Games - 11-5-0

So that was it. I was able to draw in to the top 16 at 5-1-1. I ate some
packaged crackers my fiancée had packed for me and waited for the final rounds
to begin.

When they did, I was at once pleased and disappointed to be facing the Dark Lord
himself, Stephen Menendian.

Steve is a lot of fun to play against, but he was playing a new version of GAT.
Six Duresses, Disrupts, Force of Wills and a pair of Mana Drains is pretty bad
for Belcher. I definitely had to go broken on my first turn, when all he had
were the quartet of Forces.

So that's what I did game one. I played a Mox Sapphire and got him to counter a
Mana Crypt. Then I pitched two Elvish Spirit Guides to play Timetwister. A few
more mana spells went through and I Emptied the Warrens for 16 tokens. Steve did
some digging, took sixteen damage, did a bit more digging and scooped.

He asked if I was bringing in the Dei of Calamity that I'd showed him earlier in
the day, and I was coy but made no changes.

Game two was much more interesting. Steve Ancestral'd himself on my upkeep and
had Force of Wills for my Tinder Wall and Goblin Welder. Next turn, he Duressed
the Charbelcher I was going to play and the turn after he Thoughtseized my
Memory Jar. That was plenty good enough to keep me down, as he started attacking
with Dark Confidant, but Steve decided to play Yawgmoth's Will and Duress me
twice more and Tinker up Inkwell Leviathan for good measure.

Game three was similar. I kept a hand with Black Lotus, Channel, and Belcher,
and Steve Force of Will'd the Lotus. Steve is one of the best at mulliganing to
Force against me, so I knew he had it, but I can't reasonably throw that hand
back. Anyway, Steve kept me off my game by Duressing and countering mana (I
found out later that he had two Forces, again!) and preventing me from resolving
Welder. I died to a Tarmogoyf and a Tinkwell again.

Matches - 5-2-1; Games - 12-7-0

I can't really imagine a worse matchup in the top 16. That ended my day. I
walked away feeling pretty good about myself for having done well. Plus, I got a
nifty free playmat and two draft sets!

My carmates and I headed to a grand feast at T.G.I. Friday's or Applebee's or
one of those restaurants. It was okay. No Thurman's, but okay.

I was pleased with my performance and how the deck played all day. If I were to
play this build of Belcher again, I wouldn't make any changes. Even to Deus of
Calamity. Each card has its role and performs it well.

If my carmates (and I) hadn't wanted to leave early on Sunday, I would have
played Belcher again, but the RUGBurn version with Black. I'm still in the
process of comparing them to see which versions to play in which situations.
These are the changes I would have made to get that version:

-4 Goblin Welder
-4 Guttural Response
-4 Empty the Warrens

+4 Dark Ritual
+3 Wild Cantor
+1 Necropotence
+1 Yawgmoth's Bargain
+1 Demonic Consultation
+1 Demonic Tutor
+1 Tendrils of Agony

RUGBurn Belcher is more explosive, and I'm finally pleased with how the mana
works together (you can imprint Street Wraith for black!), but I still win a lot
of games with Goblin Welder and counter backup. Both versions are strong; your
own play-style matters more, and I think there are some metagame factors that
should be considered. For example, RUGBurn Belcher would be much better in an
environment with lots of Shops and few counters.

This is the end.

Ray, Gaming ETC, and the judging staff for putting on a fantastic event
Southwest Airlines for $49 flights from Columbus to Baltimore
Team Serious for putting up with reading about a deck that only I have interest
Team I-95 Billboards (Go Humans Go!) for splitting tolls and gas, staying awake
for all 11 hours in the car, and being all-around great traveling company
All of my opponents for being generally awesome and good competition
Stephen Menendian for quadruple Force of Will

Twaun P. Pownerton, Jerry Yang and the other road warriors from Team Serious -
Next time I expect to see you there!
Southwest Airlines for mechanical problems
Stephen Menendian for quadruple Force of Will

And last but not least, many thanks and great love and affection for my fiancťe
Elizabeth for understanding and accepting my need to game.