Down And Dirty – My SCG Dallas Open Tournament Report *11th*

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Wednesday, January 13th – At the SCG Dallas / Fort Worth Open weekend, Kyle Sanchez was in a do-or-die mood. He dropped his eccentric Hedron Crab deck at the last moment, opting instead for a pink-sleeved Boros Bushwhacker build… and his tournament result, alongside many stories full of fun, served to revitalize his view of the game we all love…

It’s been many fortnights since I’ve been able to spread my fingers to get down and dirty on a tournament report, and my times in Ft. Worth this past weekend really inspired me. It was a roller coaster of emotions… it was good, pure, honest, and unadulterated Magic like I haven’t experienced in too long. Usually when I fall short I’ll go into a fit of depression, resting the blame entirely on myself, wondering why I invest so much time and energy in the game. This time was different; I was reminded how the lighter side of Magic can lift you up to the clouds, just as much as the darker side can knock you down to purgatory. So if you’re going through a Magic dry spot and looking to refocus yourself, don’t skip a word here. You wouldn’t skip your draw step, would you?

I made the journey with the esteemed James Wise III and Mandee “The Mauler” Peralta, a San Antonio pair that will surely go down in the history books for their unrelenting love for the game. We got into Ft. Worth on Friday night around nine, with winds boasting fifteen miles per hour and a wind shield temperature of sixteen degrees. After a hot shower to warm up, I was all dressed up with nowhere to go, so I played the Crab deck I was intent on playing against Jund and Esper Control for a few matches. Here’s the brew…

This is different from my last Crab builds, as this one has Gift n’ Grim as my two-for-ones to counteract Jund’s removal. I’ve cut the crappy Traps and Snares for Baneslayer Angel and Maelstrom Pulse, giving me a midrange Junk kind of feel. Most importantly, I’m abusing the dominating Voices from the Void, which is a four-for-one in its own right that gives me a huge edge against slower decks with lots of removal. If I pull off a turn 3 or 4 Void, it’s very hard for them to also combat my numerous two-for-ones, and Baneslayer Angel is obviously much more versatile than Traps.

I’m actually going to look into a legit four-color Voices deck once I have to play Standard again, but right now my focus is on Extended (Gawd, I love this format!), and I’ve got an ill looking Ranger of Crabs deck featuring Scapeshift to play this weekend in San Antonio! Archive Trap is MUCH better in Extended, and on top of that there’s less removal for my Crabs! Ding!

So I’ve got this weird looking half combo, half midrange, half control deck (three halves?). I’m not too confident, so I do what I always do in these perilous times of indecision… I hit the streets in an expedition for a solid looking pub to drown my questions about life away.

At the last Open, all the Texas players rented out the top floor of a very fine establishment called Jake’s, which is only three blocks up from the convention center. While I was there I made very good friends with Christi behind the bar, and she was drinking me under the table the whole night, so that was my first stop. To my displeasure, they were closed; however, a homeless homey was sleeping on that corner, and escorted me around the city in search of a solid spot.

His name was Clemons, and he was missing his front two teeth. Apparently he didn’t get what he was looking for this past Christmas. Walking around reminded me of my urban adventures in New York City, since the streets were still lined with trees wrapped in gloriously illuminated Christmas lights. Walking in this kinds of cold always takes me back to the North East, and I love it. Once your face goes numb, the frigid winds don’t hurt nearly as much, and you create an interesting body high that gives you energy to keep on trucking.

We talked about jazz while circling the freezing city for a good twenty minutes, showing me the hot jazz spots around town. He spit me the story that he’d been sleeping on the streets the last couple of nights because he was six bucks short of making rent. My heart felt for poor Clem, so I kicked him a twenty spot and told him to go take a hot shower and get a warm meal in him.

He eagerly blessed me and exclaimed “I’m feelin’ to go do that right now! God bless you!”

Little did I know I’d have another run-in with Clem the following evening…

On my walk back to the Park Central Hotel, I stopped in a dive bar called Mambo that Clem recommended to me, and propped myself down on their stained glass bar that had lights underneath, creating a brilliant glow on the ceiling above. It was like drinking on top of the Aurora Borealis. The bartenders, Sadie and Heidi, were a bit shy at first, tending to the small crew of other alkies across the bar, but they soon realized what a true O.G. I was and turned their attention, questions, comments, and giggles my direction.

They had a pretty sweet mix tape on that included all kinds of indies from Decemberists, Death Cab, Modest Mouse, and all the other stereotypical college hyped bands that I haven’t indulged in a good while. It took me back to the swell ol’ days when I used to drown my thoughts out with my iPod and a bottle of Johnny Walker Red. Ever since I got iPhoned, I haven’t really listened to music as much as I used to, and lord knows there isn’t enough battery or pocket space to keep both handy.

I drank there until they closed, and they were inviting me to drink some more and chill while I’m staying in the hotel. My one problem was that James and Mandee were clearly not down to be kept up by me and two twenty-year-old hotties all night, so I figured we could hang out in my restroom for lack of a better plan… When we looped around the bar back to the hotel, an all too familiar friendly smile was sitting at the desk… Melissa! The same Melissa that I had an hour long philosophical discussion with at the last Open! She kicked me a key from an unclean room for us to hang out in! Talk about random hook up encounters of the third kind!

I was honestly trying to get in with Sadie, but with Heidi there it made things a little more awkward, and she clearly wasn’t taking the hint. We took a few shots and chilled, watching stupid infomercials. Like that Magic Jack… it’s pretty awesome. For ten bucks you get a Bluetooth plug-in to your car radio that enables you to talk without using a phone! Amazing… and if we would have acted then, we could have gotten two of them for the price of one! Why the hell would anyone need two of those pieces of crap? Modern phones have a speakerphone option that should invalidate the mere existence of this trivial late-night selling item, but perhaps they’re banking on the stupid inebriated market to make their sales.

A couple of warm hugs, a bottle of water, and a Benadryl later, and I was drifting to sleep at around five thirty…

My morning alarm went off and, thanks to all the carbs (not to be confused with crabs) I downed the night prior, I was up, ready, and in the shower at 8am sharp! Unfortunately, James Wise used the restroom before me, so I was stuck in a hot stinky mess of a shower without a clothes peg to keep my nose shut. Thanks James!

Another unfortunate circumstance is that I forgot to brew up a better Crabs list, so when I went trolling around the event site in the morning I settled on a pink-sleeved Boros Bushwhacker list.

Yup, you read that right. I, Kyle Sanchez, of all the magicians in the World, was piloting a pink-sleeved Red/White Aggro/Burn deck. I didn’t have the popped collar to match, but I was debating on acting like a glorified D-bag the whole day to provide some kind of consistency to the pink-sleeved posse. I had a good feeling about it, though… I talked myself into thinking this was the change of pace that might light a spark in my Magical mudslide of a slump.

After making a couple of cuts and going out of my way to find Earthquake, which was the bane of my deck on the day, I registered and was ready to attack for six on turn 2!

I just realized how bad my notes were for this tournament… I usually take pretty precise notes with important cards from each game, but here, that just doesn’t seem to be the case overall, and I’m instead going to take a look at the big picture rather than reciting boring game details. I’d imagine this will make it a better read for those that hate the details as much as I do, and a worse read for the sticklers that want the ultimate Boros Bushwhacker beatdown guide. Pfft.

Round 1 — Jeffrey Chen with Jund

I lost game 1 without getting too much damage in, which is a really bad way to start a tournament. Losing the first game can often send weak-hearted mages into a downward spiral, but whenever this happens, and it’s happened a fair number of times, I always try and take a step back, refocus, keep my head in the game, and attack the situation at hand. I had to beat Jund two games in a row if I wanted to have any sort of a stake in this tournament, and that’s what I did.

Game 2 wasn’t close at all, as he didn’t do a single damage to me, and in game 3 I’m assuming I got off to a pretty nice start since his life total goes 19-16-12-0. Woo-hoo, go Boros.

Winning the first round of a tournament might be the most important of all. If you don’t start the day right, you really can’t get yourself into a positive mind set, since you’ll be playing on your heels the whole time. And beating Jund in the first round of a tournament is surely a sign of good things to come.

Round 2 — James Wise with Esper Control

This was a feature match, which can be found here.

I absolutely mauled James. Was never close. He affectionately called me “Daddy” for the rest of the weekend. Game 2 his life total went 16-7-5-scoop. I just kept vomiting creatures into play and he didn’t have anything near quick enough to recoup. He also said he had trouble sitting down to play every round afterwards, and even on the car ride home.

Round 3 — Maurice “Mo” Bennett with LSV’s UWR Control

This match was pretty funny, and one of the ones I remember vividly. Game 1 Mo got mana screwed, stuck on two lands after casting a couple of Spreading Seas, so I just attacked with my dudes over and over again.

Game 2 I faltered on mana while he got his life gain on by resolving no less than three Lightning Helixes from Ajani Vengeant. The key play was his Earthquake that killed my only two creatures this game, but Ajani was definitely a problem since I had no dudes to attack it.

Game 3 he got mana screwed again, this time having several lands to cast spells but no Red mana to clear the field of my numerous creatures. Ranger of Eos sealed the deal here by tutoring up a Lynx and Bushwhacker.

Round 4 — David Uriell with Jund?

I lost my notes from this one, but I won, so all is right in the universe. After this match I was sitting on 4-0, which usually gets people really excited, but in the back of my mind I know my journey isn’t even halfway done. This is one of the reasons I hate it when people ask me how I’m doing, give me a thumbs up/thumbs down expression, and ask my record in between rounds. I usually just shrug and respond good or bad, but I find a lot of younger more eager and impatient Magicians really get wrapped up in the early rounds of play, as if they’re some kind of barometer of how you’re going to do or how good a player you are.

Anybody can 4-0 a tournament, just as anybody can make Top 8 at any given tournament. Sometimes it just your week, and we’ve seen this on many different occasions. There’s a crap ton of variance within a game of Magic; this is well documented. However, what people don’t realize is how little variance there is when you take a step back and look at the grand scope of tournament Magic. Take, for example, PV. If you got a Top 8 pin for every tournament at which you made Top 24, he’d be one of the most accomplished Magic players in the history of the game. The guy is as consistent as the microwave that cooks my popcorn in exactly two minutes fifteen seconds every time. The guys who make top X at every tournament they play are on a level far more prestigious than those that can win a tournament here and there and piss the rest of their career away, and I don’t feel these guys get the respect they often deserve.

My point being? I don’t like it when people get too wrapped up in short-term results, and all you peeps going around asking everyone you know how they did each round is just buying into the indulgence of short-term Magic. Not to mention 80% of the time people only ask you how you’re doing just so they can follow it up with some trivial story about how they won their round. It happens every time.

“Yo Fernando, how you doin’ homey?”
“Ey Pepe, I won my round whey, it was loco!”
“Bueno, I won my round too whey, blah blah blah nonsense and irrelevant details….”

Happens every time, right?

Now, before I stick my foot ankle deep in my mouth, I’ll also clarify that I like a good original story if it bears merit enough to be discussed. I don’t want to hear any “OMG! I topdecked a Burst Lightning to kill him when he was at 4!” stories. But if you come at me with something like: “My opponent had diarrhea during our match, I waited twenty minutes for him to finish his business, and when he came back he untapped, drew, and Burst Lightning me FTW, then shoved his unwashed palms in my face,” you can start barking boldly, my brother.

Round 5 — Roy Spires with GWB with 90% Match Up versus Boros

When I first arrived to the site Bill Stark asked me what were the names he should be looking for to feature. The first out of my mouth was none other than James Wise, then Mandee Peralta, Hunter, Scotty Barantine, and a few unique others that always show up with a good head on their shoulders who can finish a tournament. If I had to pick the one person in the tournament he should never feature, I’d have to think a bit, but it’d probably be Roy Spires.

I happily 2-0d him with ease. It was the most satisfying thing I did all weekend.

This was the first time we’ve ever played in a sanctioned tournament (I believe), but a few years ago he wouldn’t stop talking trash to me. This was vindication at its best, which is also a dish best served cold given our chilling climate that weekend.

Game 2 I had an awesome draw with Steppe Lynx and Geopedes and all kinds of crazy good stuff. He held off by casting Fog two or three turns in a row, and I was honestly sweating a Day of Judgment, but he didn’t have it so he just up and died. While we were de-sideboarding, he informed me that Boros is a 90% matchup for him, that I got insanely lucky, and his deck crapped out on him worse than it ever has in his 3000 games of play testing.

Sigh… good times.

Round 6 — Brian Tidwell with Jund

Brian made the Top 8, and from his play was a pretty tight player. I came out the gates game 1 and quickly took him down with no mana problems and a stream of small critters. Game 2 was really frustrating because I mulliganed to five and got stuck on three lands with TWO Ranger of Eos in my hand that would have bought me enough time to set up the win easily.

Game 3 rolls around, naturally I’m on the play, and I get this hand…

Steppe Lynx, Goblin Guide, Marsh Flats, Scalding Tarn, 2 Arid Mesa, Plains.

What do you do?

There’s several ways to analyze this hand, and in hindsight it was the turning point of the tournament for me, so this is the kind of decision that you might face sometime soon that will rack your brain for some time.

The first and most important thing to realize is that a fifth land in this deck is a dead card the majority of the time. The second most important factor is the sheer amount of removal Jund has. I am going to come out of the gates very quick, six damage on turn 2, I can assume that they’ll be at 8 life before they cast a spell turn 3 if they don’t have a Lightning Bolt or Terminate, which is obviously the kind of start I want. I’ve got lots of fetch lands to reduce the potential amount of lands I’ll draw also, but that is pretty minor.

I kept, and the only spell I drew FOR THE REST OF THE GAME was a Path to Exile. Seriously, I went land-land-land-Path-land-land-land then died. That’s all she wrote, and I’ve no one to blame but myself and my mulligan insecurities.

I remember when Zvi wrote those all too famous and “magic” words nearly a decade ago…

“A mulligan is an opportunity.”

I think that every single time I mulligan, and I feel it puts me in a better mind set going to six, or five, or (god forbid) four. It’s something you should do too. Mind sets going into matches and going into drafts are very important. Don’t forget it, keep your head on your shoulders, and be positive in every play you make. Oh, and do that in life too. It makes it easier to get up every morning when you go to sleep with no worries.

Round 7 — David Brubaker with Jund

This was a pretty fun match despite having to play against Dave and his dirty Jundies. He gave me some hell before we started playing because I’m always bagging on Magicians who use pink sleeves, but what’s a guy who picks up the deck that morning supposed to do? Unsleeve my entire Crab deck to put Green sleeves on a R/W deck? Or stick to my guns sporting the color that I loathe so much and learn to live with the guilt? Do you know what I went through every time I reached with my left hand to draw a card? It sucked. It was always a pink sleeve!

Game 1 was freaking hilarious… sorry Dave. We both had very good hands, him with Blightning into double Bloodbraid into Bituminous Blast, and me with the stereotypical aggressive Boros draw that puts the opponent on their heels that I don’t need to elaborate on. The game settles down, I’m in virtual top deck mode with me at seven. He’s got a Putrid Leech in play and I use my freshly drawn Bushwhacker to put him to six with a few creatures out.

Dave draws for his turn, immediately plays Bloodbraid Elf for a removal spell (I believe), and then goes into the tank. When he cast Bloodbraid Elf I seriously thought about conceding, being at seven life and all, but slowly and surely it became clear he didn’t see the painfully obvious attack. Brain farts happen to everybody, but it’s usually best to avoid them when you’re 5-1 and looking to win a couple of grand. He just attacks with Bloodbraid Elf, putting me to four, then, when he passes the turn, he realizes the insane mistake he’s made. We go another five turns or so, but I eventually get back in the game and win one that I really shouldn’t have.

Game 2 we get deck checked, and I narrowly miss a game loss for having an extra unsleeved Baneslayer Angel in my sideboard. I was keeping it there so I could just push it on top of a dead card, like a land or something, in my hand, using it whenever I got into some real trouble where only the best creature in Standard could bail me out. Luckily, they bought the excuse that I got it five minutes before the round started and didn’t want to put a $60 rare in my pocket to get muffed up. Whew, close call.

Game 2 was another semi-close one. I mulliganed, but on the draw it didn’t hurt too much, until of course I got stuck on three lands and his Blightning killed my Ranger of Eos engine. From there he finished me off in short order.

Game 3 comes around and of course I get a nutty hand. His life went 16-15-5, so even though I don’t remember it too well I’m pretty sure I just got the lucky Boros draw to catapult myself to 6-1; a.k.a. Ball Lightning status.

Round 8 — Kevin Yu with Mono White Aggro

My tiebreakers are bonkers right now, and if I win I’ll be the highest X-1 putting me within drawing distance of Top 8. For all intents and purposes, this was my bubble match. I win, I’m in, I lose, I’m probably going home with $400 less.

This was the most painful experience of the weekend, which caused a brief fit of depression after the round. He’s playing Mono White Aggro with a bunch of various Knights of various White varieties. I got a great start game 1, but again, I was stuck on three with two Ranger of Eos in my hand. Meanwhile his deck was up and running, and had two Honor of the Pure in play, and eventually he built up a mass large enough to Brave the Elements me out of the game.

Game 2 I get an awesome draw and use my one-mana removal spells to kill all his two- and three-mana creatures. He’s stuck on three and four lands though, having to use his Paths as bad Sakura-Tribe Elders, so he never really had a chance to build up.

And here it happens again, as it does at the end of all tournaments. I have a great start, get a Ranger to resolve, get him down to two life… when the board clogs up with Emeria Angel tokens and other whatnots. He’s got a four Knights in play – two White Orchid, two White Knight – a Steppe Lynx, an Emeria Angel, and a couple of Birds. We sit like this, playing draw go for five turns. He’s at five, I’ve got BOTH Earthquakes in my hand. I would simply cast for two then cast for three, but it would wipe out all my chump blockers, giving him and his double Honor of the Pure more than enough to finish me off. At this point I don’t have much longer because he keeps building his forces, but he’s making the play mistake of not squeezing through damage when he’s dramatically ahead on board…

Blah, blah, blah, bad beat story, I didn’t draw a land in five turns, and he topdecked Brave the Elements to squash all my hopes and dreams.

Pink sleeves loses to Mono White. I’m man enough to admit it was justice, but the bitter taste in my mouth… Well, that’s the whiskey, which is a completely different kind of justice.

This was one of those rounds where I knew from my opening hand how it was all going to play out, but yet I couldn’t avoid it. I dotted my t’s and crossed my i’s, but I still just couldn’t get there. This was when the floodgate to my irrational emotions came out, and I had to go sit down outside the event hall to gather myself before the next round. I tried to stay focused, and whenever I’m in times like these I always recite the most important quote of my entire life.

“Life is a tragedy for those who feel, and a comedy to those who think.”

I don’t think you can shrug off bad beats any better than by embracing that quote, smiling, and moving on with your life. It’s just a comedy, and if there’s one piece of knowledge I could bestow upon you avid readers, it would be this.

Round 9 Adam Dean with Mono Red Burn

Ah, more justice. Mono Red in the last round… Who the hell wants to play Mono Red when your tournament life is on the line?!


But that didn’t change my opponent, so I muscled up, kept my head up when I was down to two life game 2 with him at 17, and found a way to win around his triple Goblin Guide start. I willed myself to win. Because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be able to brag about how awesome it is that I got 11th at the StarCityGames.com Standard Open Tournament in Forth Worth this past weekend. I was also dead set on quitting Magic if I didn’t do “well” this tournament, so I was fighting for my very life in the game, and I think I found it.

I found a renewed faith in the game, actually. A faith I’d unfortunately lost sometime last year, and I’d been on auto-pilot ever since. That’s all done with, Extended is on the horizon, and I’m going to get back to doing what I do best: brewing. Both brewing up neat-o fringe decks that everyone will criticize and flame until I Top 8 three PTQs in a row with them, and indulging in my favorite brew: Shiner Bock, which coincidently is brewed only sixty miles from where I write.

After Jared Sylva – who ran one hell of a tournament – filled out my W-9, I was off to Jake’s to meet Mandee, Wise, Benito, and some other kids in the SA crew for some dinner.

The night was very cold again, and it brought a sound relief from the emotional roller coaster ride that is big tournament Magic. The lights were even more beautiful given I was $100 richer than I was the night before (yee-haw). Two blocks into my trek, and I ran across Clem again! This time he was yelling at a very thin attractive blond lady that truly rivaled Heidi Klum. I said “what’s up Clem, how’s life?” He looked at me blankly, and asked if we had met before, with his two front teeth replaced by the same gaping hole. I responded, “Yes, I’ve got to meet some friends right now, but you take care.”

He spit an entirely different story this time, minus the jazz and church group routine, telling me his car just broke down and he needs a buck or two to call his wife since all he had on him was his credit card. I didn’t bother informing him I was the strapping young lad that donated a sizable chunk to his crack fund last night, and continued on my way with a big smile on my face.

When I got to Jake’s, the San Antonio table was filled up with little squeezing room, so I plopped it down at the bar, blew a warm breath into my frozen palms, and took my jacket off to get comfortable. I didn’t notice it at the time, because my thoughts were on crack head Clem, but when Christi turned around from the well, she gave me a long hard look and asked if I’d been to this establishment before. I said yeah, I’m Kyle, I was here four or five months ago. She exclaimed “I remember you! I’m Christi! Remember me?” and brought me my usual crown and sprite without even asking! Ft. Worth is quickly becoming one of my favorite cities to visit…

The Cowboys game was on fresh out of halftime, and I was exchanging pleasantries and life stories with the guy next to me. Despite being very busy, the very busty Christi made it a point to talk to me every few minutes, and the coy winks she was giving me are definitely encouraging me to lose the PTQ in SA this week (like I can ever win one anyway…) so I can hang out with her next week at the Ft. Worth PTQ.

After the Cowboys stomped the Eagles’ beaks, it was time to bid Ft. Worth adieu. Christi gave me a big bear hug, and we were through. So long Ft. Worth, I barely know you, but I’ll be sure to come back a time or two.

My belly full of alcohol and lungs full of sticky mucus, I was awake for no more than twenty minutes of the four-hour drive home. Life is good… thanks to Magic. And I hope I don’t forget it again.

Thanks for reading…