As those of you who scour the Internet for decklists and results are probably aware, I sadly didn’t win the big Legacy event at the Bazaar of Moxen last weekend. Actually, aside from doing well in Friday’s last-chance three-bye trial event, my results were more than mediocre, though no worse than my own play. Somehow, after round 5 on Friday, I just lost it,whatever it is.
Instead of being clear-headed and finding the tricky little lines that make Storm the great deck it is, I bumbled through my games and made more and more obvious mistakes, costing me games I had no business losing. Luckily Storm is still an insane deck and carried me to the end of Friday’s event, but the rest of the weekend didn’t go so well. Almost every time there was a close call I somehow chose the wrong option and made all kinds of bone-headed mistakes in addition. Add the natural variance of a card game and success deservedly evaded me on Saturday and Sunday.
That doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a lot of fun though, and I hope you’ll enjoy what I remember of the games, even if there are more tales of tournament defeat than glorious success and significantly more terrible plays than great maneuvers to emulate. In short, enjoy the ride and make an example of me—this is not how you should be playing!
I’ll start today by covering the Friday three-bye trial—the one event I didn’t embarrass myself in too much—and regale you with tales of absurdity in Vintage and Legacy in the main events next week. As such, you’ll get a reasonably detailed and sober tournament report. Hopefully my experience can at least serve to make those of you that beat yourself up about your misplays take heart—even someone with as much experience as I have can end up spilling value left, right, and center sometimes!
While the Legacy main event wasn’t scheduled to start until Saturday, Friday offered players the chance to win a couple of byes in a last-chance trial. The event was going to be seven rounds, with 7-0 records receiving three byes, 6-0-1 paying out two byes, and 6-1 still being good enough for a single free win come Saturday. I entered eagerly, happy at the chance to battle for goods, glory, and the chance to get on the scoreboard early. This is what I brought:
- 1 Tendrils of Agony
- 4 Brainstorm
- 4 Cabal Ritual
- 4 Duress
- 4 Dark Ritual
- 1 Grim Tutor
- 2 Cabal Therapy
- 1 Lim-Dul's Vault
- 4 Lotus Petal
- 4 Lion's Eye Diamond
- 4 Infernal Tutor
- 1 Empty the Warrens
- 4 Ponder
- 2 Preordain
- 4 Gitaxian Probe
- 1 Past in Flames
My secret tech is finally revealed: sideboarded Flusterstorms. I’ve been using these for a while now and been very happy with them. There is this myth that Storm shouldn’t play countermagic since it doesn’t work with Lion’s Eye Diamond –you’ll have to discard it before being able to protect your combo after all. That ignores something important though—there’s actually a game before you’re trying to go off!
I originally added two of them to the board to bring in against tempo decks since I realized that I lost most games not to being unable to go off safely but to getting my fetch lands Stifled and Flusterstorm is actually insane at making sure that doesn’t happen. I rapidly learned that Flusterstorms are also insane in combo matchups, be it the mirror or Griselbrand decks—they allow you to fully enter control mode if you so choose. The rest is pretty standard, with Karakas replacing Pyroclasm because I just can’t stand losing to Mother of Runes.
Alright, time to shuffle ’em up!
Round 1: Sam Black Zombies with Vengevine
This round set the tone of the weekend, with variance making sure to remain somewhere on the outer edge of the Gaussian curve.
On the draw, I kept a greedy hand to start things off:
Pretty dangerous if Probe reveals a counter or I get hit with discard, but easily enough to make a formidable Goblin army on turn 1 otherwise. Obviously my opponent Thoughtseized me and wisely took the Grim Tutor. My deck clearly didn’t want to lose though, as I drew a Dark Ritual of the top and the Ponder cast of off Lotus Petal showed me two lands and an Infernal Tutor. I took the first land and dropped the LEDs into play only to be rewarded by my opponent Mind Twisting the rest of my hand away with double Cabal Therapy. I drew the Infernal, wasn’t hit by discard on turn 3, and therefore won easily with Past in Flames once I drew the second land Ponder had revealed.
Expecting a barrage of discard and possibly a couple of hate bears, I brought in the Ad Nauseam and two Chain of Vapors for three of my Duresses.
My opening hand was two lands, two Lion’s Eye Diamonds, and two Lotus Petals accompanied by a lone Ponder, which my opponent wisely Duressed. I dropped the artifacts into play, and my opponent started the beatdown plan with a Tidehollow Sculler that ate my freshly drawn Cabal Ritual and followed things up with a Lingering Souls and a hard-cast Vengevine. I found a third Lion’s Eye Diamond on my way to topdecking Infernal Tutor when on two life, which again led to an easy Past in Flames kill even without any actual rituals because I had thirteen mana sitting safely in play.
Round 2: Vial Maverick
And the variance pendulum swings in the opposite direction.
I have to mulligan to five to find a remotely keepable hand—another no-lander—but this time can’t find a land until turn 4, when my opponent already has a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and a Sword of Fire and Ice down. I have enough acceleration to actually have a slight chance of winning through the Thalia with perfect rips though and decide to reveal what I’m playing by casting Lotus Petals through Thalia in exchange for the couple of percent chance to actually get there. I end up being one turn to slow to race the additional clock provided by the Sword.
I decided to mainly prepare for hate bears, risking the instant loss to Mindbreak Trap by bringing in two Karakases and three Chain of Vapors for five of my six discard spells.
My opponent mulliganed and on six announced "I guess I’m supposed to keep this." Uh oh, that really sounds like Mindbreak Trap. I mulliganed once and took until turn 3 to be ready to win, when a freshly found Gitaxian Probe confirmed my suspicion that my opponent was holding a Mindbreak Trap.
I had just ingeniously shuffled away my best way to try to get around the Trap—the Empty the Warrens I could have used to bait it out—and never found my remaining Cabal Therapys or any of my sideboard cards (meaning even if I’d kept a little more discard in I’d have been cold to Trap) in spite of cantripping like a madman. I got beat down by Gaddock Teeg and Sylvan Safekeeper, both protected by Mother of Runes.
Well, just like that, my back is against the wall. At least I paid for the nutty rips in round 1.
Round 3: Omni-Tell
I faced a really friendly Englishman this round who told me on Saturday that he really enjoys my articles, admitting he didn’t want to mention it during our games in case it broke up my lines of thought. Very much appreciated, though I’m always happy to hear you enjoy my work! Sadly this round somehow has faded totally from my memory other than the pleasantness of my opponent, and as I can’t remember names for the life of me, I can’t even give you a real shout out. Still, I wanted to say thanks for the good games and attitude!
My life pad tells me that in game 1 I Gitaxian Probe my opponent on turn 1 and saw:
I literally don’t remember anything else about the games this round other than that I won game 1 of off Past in Flames and game 3 by resolving Ad Nauseam from eighteen life. While all three games were pretty non-interactive—I suspect Xantid Swarm was involved—our banter and my opponent made them a pleasant experience anyway.
Round 4: Miracles
In which we learn the importance of masquerading as something other than Storm.
After mulling I kept a one-lander that otherwise had the perfect makings of a natural Tendrils hand (double Probe, a Tendrils, and a bunch of mana). My opponent opened by fetching an Island to play Sensei’s Divining Top, and true to plan I just played a Scalding Tarn and passed the turn back. He played a fetch land and passed. I passed again and so did he after playing another land. Now with eight cards in hand, I Probed him, seeing:
I happily told myself that he must have been playing around Spell Pierce—my trusty Angel token still resides on top of my sideboard for big tournaments—and resolved a ton of rituals and cantrips (courtesy of Lotus Petal), Duressed his Brainstorm, and ended up with a perfect RBBBBBBB on eight spells to make Empty the Warrens spell number nine and Tendrils spell number ten. What a lovely way to win!
This matchup is always tough, especially since you never know if they have Leyline of Sanctity or not. I decide to hedge after my experience against Maverick in round 2 and boarded thusly:
+3 Abrupt Decay
+1 Ad Nauseam
+3 Xantid Swarm
+2 Chain of Vapor
– 2 Cabal Therapy
– 2 Preordain
– 2 Gitaxian Probe
– 1 Lim-Dul’s Vault
– 1 Lotus Petal
– 1 Cabal Ritual
I kept a hand with two lands, a Cabal Ritual, Brainstorm, Ponder, Abrupt Decay, and Chain of Vapor. He had the turn 2 Ethersworn Canonist, and I started cantripping to get to a hand that could not only kill the bear but also win the game. He dropped both Counterbalance and Sensei’s Divining Top on turn 4 just when my hand is ready to go for it.
I tried to Chain of Vapor the Canonist in response to the Top (he could have just recast it if I had bounced in response to Counterbalance), but he had a Pyroblast on top. On my turn I Abrupt Decayed the Canonist, and he tapped out to activate Top in response to a Lotus Petal but missed. When my follow-up Cabal Ritual and Lion’s Eye Diamond resolved, I managed to power into a lethal Ad Nauseam using only zeros and twos. Sometimes the lock just isn’t enough.
Round 5: Jund with an Underground Sea and Swan Song in the sideboard
Well, this time I had the rejuvenating experience of learning what my opponent was playing only once the round was over—oh the beauty of playing combo!
I had a hand of two lands, a Brainstorm, a Ponder, a Dark Ritual, a Lotus Petal, a Lion’s Eye Diamond, and an Empty the Warrens. I promptly made eight Goblins on turn 1, and my opponent scooped them up after doing a little bit of calculating.
Well, I hadn’t seen anything but suspect my opponent is playing a fair deck—almost any combo deck has at least an outside chance of racing my squad of Mon’s Goblin Raiders—so I should probably hedge a little and bring in something to deal with hate bears. So in spite of my gut telling me my opponent was on Jund, I swapped out the Preordains for Chain of Vapors.
My opponent had to mulligan and started off with a Bayou. When I Probed him, I saw a hand of Wasteland, Dark Confidant, Liliana of the Veil, and Swan Song—clearly he has to be playing BUG. Cabal Therapy made short work of Bob Maher, Jr., and my opponent never drew another mana source until I won on turn 3 after having Duressed him again for good measure.
Once the match was over he revealed that he was actually playing Jund but had an Underground Sea in the board because otherwise the combo matchups are just too terrible. Even good preparation doesn’t protect you from bad draws. Also, I should really learn to trust my intuition!
Round 6: Death and Taxes piloted by GP Strasbourg champion Thomas Enevoldsen
Well, at least I had a pretty firm idea of what my opponent was playing—little white (wo)men and mana denial against sinister rites and demonic influences it is.
I luckily won the roll and had a reasonably fast hand with three lands and at least a cantrip in it. I opened on Underground Sea, which got instantly Wastelanded, fetched out an Island on my second first turn to cantrip again, and won a turn later by straight tutor chaining after Probing a hand that had nothing of importance in it.
I decided to hedge a little more than against Maverick and boarded out just the Duresses this time, which meant I had to shave a Preordain to make room for the Chain of Vapors and Karakas.
His turn to go first, with Rishadan Port, Aether Vial being the play. I Probed him, seeing a Mother of Runes; a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben; an Ethersworn Canonist; an Aether Vial; and a Serra Avenger in it. After I cantripped my hand had an Infernal Tutor, a Cabal Ritual, a Lion’s Eye Diamond, and two Lotus Petals in it but couldn’t reach threshold.
I decided to drop the two Lotus Petals to play around him drawing a land for Thalia. He didn’t have the land, and when I wanted to go off on my turn, I realized that dropping the Petals left me a storm short of actually killing him with a Past in Flames loop now and I can’t float red mana through the will-kill to make Goblins either. Oops! I guess thinking about your plays before making them is actually a good idea. I passed the turn, and Vialed in hate bears locked up the game in short order. Note to self: stop being an idiot.
I had the easy Past in Flames win on turn 2, which meant there weren’t any little creatures to mess me up. His hand obviously had the bear, but luckily I’d won the roll. Sometimes Magic can be so easy.
Round 7: U/W/R Delver (supposedly with True-Name Nemesis, though I never see one)
Alright, one last round: the winner takes home a FBB Underground Sea and doesn’t have to play round 1 tomorrow. The loser just gets to go home and sleep.
A naturally drawn Empty the Warrens led to eight Goblins and a scoop on turn 1. Luckily I already knew my opponent was on U/W/R Delver.
I suspected he had Ethersworn Canonists and wanted two Flusterstorms to fight the Stifle war, so I boarded out two Preordains and two Gitaxian Probes for two Chains and the countermagic.
This game was . . . special. I’m pretty sure I had to have played utterly terribly, but I’m totally unsure what exact mistakes I made. I was exhausted enough that I simply didn’t see the lines anymore, which lead to far more durdling than is good for anybody.
By turn 3 Duress and Cabal Therapy had stripped my opponent’s hand of anything useful—he literally had just lands left and a blank Stoneforge Mystic in play—but I cantripped and did nothing for enough turns that the little Squire that could took me from sixteen down to eight, at which point my opponent obviously was back to having a full hand with multiple Force of Wills, Stifle, and Spell Pierce as I unhappily learned when I Duress him. I didn’t find a way through, and an Ethersworn Canonist locked things up next turn.
What an ordeal. I definitely deserved to lose that one. I shook my head and tried to mobilize every last bit of concentration my brain could still provide for the decider. I also brought in the last Chain of Vapor now that I knew he really did have Canonists.
With a Past in Flames kill ready to be unleashed next turn, I Duressed him on turn 3, seeing:
And took the Daze for some reason. He dropped the Mystic, leaving him with one open mana. I untapped, acknowledged I was out of cantrips, and decided I needed to go for it now. The problem? I only had a single Duress in my graveyard and none in hand, meaning I couldn’t actually beat the two Stifles I left him with. I considered and decided I couldn’t wait anyway, so I went for Past in Flames, betting that the two Ponders in my graveyard would find some way to win. I went through the motions of making mana and tutoring up Tendrils and then start the real gamble.
At this point I had exactly seven mana floating, which meant the first Ponder only had to find any discard spell to combine with the Duress in the yard for me to win while the second one had to hit exactly Cabal Therapy. I cast Ponder number one, saw lands and a Dark Ritual, shuffled, and cast the second Ponder. As I gripped the top cards of my deck, someone pointed out I hadn’t drawn my card for the first Ponder. I couldn’t believe how bad I was playing and called a judge, who told us to shuffle and for me to draw the card now before resolving the second Ponder. Obviously, the second Ponder hit both Cabal Therapys for the rub-ins and I won, not that I deserved it.
I collected my Underground Sea and moved on home, happy to have escaped with something to show in spite of myself. It was definitely time to go to bed.
And like I did in Paris, it’s time for me to take a break now. The last two rounds are a little taste of what my play looked like for the rest of the weekend, and that odyssey of misplays and stumbles needs to be told in its very own way—one at odds with such a sober tournament report I delivered today. I mean, you might actually learn some solid plays from this one!
Until next time, do as I say, not as I do!