Calamity surrounds me on my Magical adventures, but that’s nothing new…
First things first, I quit shuffling and hammering the keyboard for awhile after a long, drawn-out distaste for the game, my inner frustrations, and all the ignorant, delirious mages out there stuck in the moment who can’t get out of it. I was there once upon. Instead of the uplifting, exuberant excitement upon entering each exhibition hall in some foreign city for a major tournament and potential life-changing, financial opportunity, I was becoming increasingly frustrated at the lackluster appeal of the game that I’ve been so tightly wound up in the past few years of my life. So tightly wound up in Magic that my brain thought Magic outside of Magic. Been there?
The worst part is I couldn’t convert the chemical reactions going on in my brain onto the keyboard, and it really had me straight crazy bugging, yo. I’ve got tons of notes on this revolutionary article I’ve stuck in my mind about how Magic is a giant irony but so pure in construction that it’s the best resource
in terms of shaping your mind to think efficiently.
The irony is particularly intriguing because it teaches you how to think extremely profitably, but at its root, Magic isn’t a game that you should play so vigorously, because it’s flat out not profitable in any financial term whatsoever. How many people do you know that plan their lives around whatever upcoming weekend Magic event there is? It’s actually pretty sad; you get hung up on testing and practicing for this tournament, go to great multi-hundred expenses to gain the resources to enter battle properly, place emotional pressure on succeeding and doing well, but then there’s just another tournament the next week you have to devote even more resources into!*
I was so wrapped up in that next GP, that next money tournament, that next PTQ, I couldn’t see the dynamic of what was really happening. Weeks pass, tournaments come and go, months get torn off the wall calendar, then years. All the while, 3+ years, I was churning out half-assed articles just to get by on meager comings. Not to say that all of them were half-assed; whenever I had the itch to write something meaningful or a lighthearted tourney report, I think those works stood out, but I’ll be the first to admit to laziness and burnout.
Another one of my irritations is my increasing tendency to gauge everything in respect to how much money it generates, as if money is the ends-all definition of efficiency. It’s not. But, with a seven-day workweek from 8-5, I find it hard to un-wire myself from that logic pattern because I’m the one responsible for bringing in all the Benjamins to my business. If I don’t operate efficiently within the guidelines that modern society a.k.a. “game play rules” has labeled as “success” a.k.a. “money-making ability,” I’ll go broke, my baby ABC Shelving will die, and my future will become befuddled and hazy like a mono-red deck in topdeck mode with the opponent sitting comfy at a double-digit life total.
There’s a whole lot more I can ramble on about profitable game plans in life, maximum usage of your resources, and that entire hullabaloo, but the average Magic reader’s patience wears out on average by paragraph six, so I don’t want to push my luck on this first leap back into the creeping tar pit.
I didn’t FNM the night before and was excited to play a mono-black Vampire brew I’d been working on for the last couple weeks. For reference, here’s the deck that I didn’t play that probably has no importance to you whatsoever, but like I mentioned earlier, as a writer, you have to sculpt your words to be attractive to the reader, and it’s common knowledge that the majority of people just scroll for decklists. So here’s to catering to those poor souls with no appreciation or patience for perspective…
- 4 Bloodghast
- 3 Vampire Lacerator
- 4 Vampire Nighthawk
- 4 Kalastria Highborn
- 3 Pulse Tracker
- 4 Bloodthrone Vampire
- 2 Guul Draz Assassin
- 4 Viscera Seer
- 4 Captivating Vampire
Basically it’s a lean, creature-packed version of Vampires. I don’t want to mess around with Vendetta, Gatekeepers, or Hexmages. I want cheap dudes, and lots of them, to maximize Blade, sac synergies, Captivating Vampire’s Control Magic, Highborn, etc. There are so many internal synergies between all these dudes that I didn’t feel it necessary to slow the deck down with reactive cards in the main. I want to be a lean, mean, blood-sucking machine!
I ditched on this one and instead left it in the incapable hands of Billy Moreno, who proceeded to screw up the mana with lots of red sources, cut a bunch of creatures, added Bolt, and Mark of Mutiny to capitalize on the sac creatures. I like Mark, I like Bolt, but I don’t like playing less that thirty creatures. I could see cutting the Grim Discovery, Monument, and a Nighthawk for Mark, but then I’m not sure it’s worth the red mana liability of Lavaclaw Reaches and friends.
Billz wasn’t as high on Nighthawk, but during my not-so-extensive testing, I found the Hawk with a Blade in hand was unbeatable opposite the majority I played. It was to the point that I didn’t even want to skim any for Gatekeepers to keep the curve lean. Ditto with Captivating; there’s a certain edge you get when you can consistently gain control of their best creature on turn 4 every game that you draw him. If they aren’t playing Day and can’t kill you out of nowhere with Valakut, they can’t possibly put up enough of a fight to quell all the little black dudes in any kind of a fair fight.
I didn’t play this pile and instead chose to audible into my trusty U/W Control that I Top 8ed states with and got 9th at the last 2K I played in. At States, I swept the Swiss, putting up 7-0 before losing to Valakut in game 3 to excessive mulliganing in the Top 8. Then at the 2K, I went 6-2 and got 9th on tiebreakers, losing only to Valakut here too. With my 10-0-2 this weekend, and I don’t
to boast, but I’m a very solid 23-3-2 over my past three tournaments with this exact list, losing only to Valakut three times. It’s also noteworthy that in the two previous tournaments, I had no idea Leyline of Sanctity existed, but with it in my sideboard, I calmly took down two Valakuts in Austin. Here’s the list…
It’s a lean metagame brew that has a very low casting cost suite of removal, which benefits the planeswalkers greatly because you can do lots of stuff and have many lines of defenses with a relatively low amount of mana up.
I went up to three Baneslayers, cutting a Sun Titan, for this tournament because I felt the field was really aggressive, and I wanted to have an “I win” creature to punish all the stupids out there running low amounts of removal. I’d definitely go back to splitting it 2-2 and putting the third Angel in the board over a Flashfreeze or Leyline. Being able to get Sun Titan + Tectonic Edge going is something you want to aspire to do whenever you can because it gives Pierce and Leak more value in the late game when they’re typically invalidated because the opponent has lots of lands on hand.
–ASIDE POINTED AT YOU PREORDAIN (and Frost Titan) IDIOTS–
Stop. They’re both garbage. The curve is very important in a format where you’re just as likely to have pieces from your hand stripped as well as lands destroyed (especially post-board against this deck), and playing more than six five-casting-cost drops is suicide. Not to say that both cards are crap everywhere else, but in here, you don’t want to be casting a 6/6 do-nothing that clogs up the curve, and you don’t want to spend a mana just to dig one or two cards deeper. You also don’t want to keep a hand that has 2-3 5+ drops. There were so many games where I’d have three or four spell hands, and they were all one or two-drops. In a control deck where you have virtual inevitability, I never felt like I could lose a game where I started up-to-speed with the opponent. You’ve got lots of good spells to play; I’d rather play actual cards than stupid filterers that just take up mana, time, and card slots in a very tight list.
It’s a logical fallacy to assume Preordain is great in every single blue deck, because it doesn’t always perform the same role in every deck like Mana Leak or Jace does. In combo blue decks like U/R, it’s obviously important to assemble all your ducks before you duck the opponent. In U/G, much like U/R, they’re trying to land their two-mana all-star card in Fauna Shaman to start chaining some Vengevines. In U/B, they’re overlapping them into a tutor package to ensure you can assemble the various blowout one-ofs.
In U/W it’s a much different story. I’m playing a highly concentrated and versatile removal suite, and I don’t want to skim any numbers to include a card that digs for answers; I’d just rather play the answers. The deck is set up so I can one-for-one the opponent, recover with the greedy cards like Jaces, Day, Gideon, etc., and then kill them in a few attack steps with the heavy hitters I’ve got.
I dunno how long you’ve been playing Magic, but Sleight of Hand and Serum Visions weren’t auto-includes for the blue-based decks of their Standard generation, and it’s pretty silly to come to the assessment that it’s the case for this format. If you’re brewing and conform yourself to that kind of logic, you’re just limiting your creativeness.
A lot of my issue with Preordain is that it’s not an actual spell, and a fair majority of the time it’s just a Sleight of Hand, despite having the potential to dig you three cards deep. I understand the concept of wanting to set your game plan up as early as possible, but why not just play cheap one and two-cost spells instead that can counter many of the troublesome starts that people have. There have been many times in years past when I’ve had those blue decks with lots of cyclers and digging spells and fallen into the trap of just drawing those same spells over and over again and not have any meat to go with my gravy. YOU CAN’T HAVE MEAT WITHOUT GRAVY!?!?!
–END ASIDE POINTED AT YOU PREORDAIN IDIOTS–
The removal suite is particularly inspiring…
From an aggressive deck’s point of view… do you want to be sitting across from all this? Nope! That’s the edge this deck has over U/B; you get to play the
removal in the format, and you get to mix and match the slots because the U/W pool is so deep.
This suite has five Wrath effects for creature-heavy decks, five ways to remove Vengevine from the game, cheap, troublesome countermagic that has the potential to let the opponent make mistakes, and the best two planeswalkers in Standard! Seriously, why isn’t GJ getting any love? Against mono-red, which is a very favorable matchup btw, there were so many games where I’d only need to cast four or five spells to win. Early removal spell, early countermagic, then all you need is Jace: Fateseal, then drop Gideon, and it feels like they just can’t win. Not only do you have two walkers with 5+ loyalties, but Gideon protects Jace, who protects Gideon when he starts drawing cards. They’re the ultimate Bromance. Don’t let Baneslayer’s gorgeously endowed rack and glorious spreading wings confuse you; the most powerful interaction you can have is Jace + Gideon.
Enough with all the tit for tat; hit me up in the forums if you think I’m wrong, and I’ll tell you why you’re insane and aren’t as good at Magic as me.
There was also a terrific deck analysis if you
click this link
Like I said, calamity surrounds me on my adventures…**
I left FNM early with the intention to get my drink on, but I was bordering delirium, so I crashed out at the early hour of ten and slept a good seven hours before waking up at five to get all my doodads in order. When I awoke, I was refreshed and had an excitement in my belly with tons of positive affirmation pointing toward a fat-pocket payout later in the day!
Showered, sh**, and shaved, then hit the corner for some pocket change.
Amazing what my people will do to chase this Magic game.
The plan was an hour trek to Canyon Lake to pick up Heroes & Fantasies card shop owner, the esteemed Michael Conley, who has blindly sponsored Bill and me for years with all the cards we need for whatever foray we jump into. Then, we’d pick up Billy and my best friend of twelve years, David, in San Marcos. I was to be surrounded by lots of good friends on the journey… until of course I had a savage blowout on a Texas country road with no spare tire on hand.
In the frigid 50-degree weather, I waited as snot poured out my nose and hardened on my upper lip. My iPhone, recently broken beyond any audible conversation, only made the situation more frustrating. Many cumbersome text messages to all parties involved to coordinate an alternate plan took up a lot of time. I remained high-sighted the entire while, waiting patiently as I filled my stomach with an unappealing bean and cheese taco and jalapeÃ±o sausage wrapped in a bland tortilla from Buddy’s gas station that I managed to hobble into on a flat tire.
Mike arrived with a spare tire and jack about an hour later… BUT NO TIRE IRON!?!? So he drove another thirty minutes to his house and back. Luckily, I managed to save some time by borrowing an iron from some folks and finished up just as he was pulling into the lot.
Sped to his house, picked up his crap,
Made enough time to jot down this rap,
Downed some drinks, but they were only a trap,
Because Mike spilled one all over his lap!
Then, shortly after, his unopened Red Bull flew from the center console cup holder when I braked too hard, hit the single screw that’s located at the center of my stick shift, which burst a hole in the aluminum can, which exploded everywhere within the cabin in a blast that was like Hiroshima + Manny Pacquiao. We already used all my paper towels to clean up the spilled beverages, so now we were covered in sticky Red Bull foam and couldn’t help but laugh hysterically at the troublesome start and the bubbled Red Bull splattered across every window in my truck.
Then we only got lost a couple times en route to scoop Billy and David, which put us on a serious time crunch if we were going to make it there by 10 am for registration! Panic was the mood, but we stayed calm and smooth.
As we were pulling into downtown Austin, traffic and parking was crazy like Debra Jeter. We circled a couple of streets before driving the street parallel to the convention center in a desperate search.
This was the moment that I knew I was going to win the tournament.
Amidst all the comic con crazies, hoopla, busses, and streets filled with grown men in Halloween costumes, a lone parking spot directly in front of the entrance door remained unclaimed. Seriously, there were three parking meters coned off, reserved for the Bat Mobile, a short, special-education bus, and some really old car I couldn’t identify. Then, two parking meters up, right on the corner of 4th street where the convention center is, a lone meter with no one parked there. After the very rocky start, all of the morning’s misfortunes vanished because I didn’t have to pay for a parking garage, and I got to park exactly thirteen steps from the front door. Must. Is. K. Thx.
This proved quite handy, since I could make frequent car runs without the trouble of walking three blocks to the nearest parking garage! A perfect situation, especially considering Mike had over 40k worth of cards including several sets of power cards, multiple money-rare, foil binders, and at least twenty copies of every hot card in Standard available only a stone’s throw away without having to cart all that work around on his broken collarbone. Â
(It’s so damn boring when writers recount every single game and make up the small details to fill in the blanks. But who
done that, amiright?)
Round 1 Beat Valakut easily.
Round 2 Cracked Kudoltha Red easily.
Round 3 Bounced U/B Control.
Round 4 Creamed Valakut again.
Round 5 Bashed U/B Control again.
Round 6 Wrangled R/W Boros.
Round 7 Put to rest another R/W Boros.
Round 8 ID
Round 9 ID
During the draw rounds, I got to cut loose and ordered up a chicken double-fried steak along with some beverages to relax for my two hours off. There was a group of about twelve people dressed as Ghostbusters sitting near us, and I had to stop myself several times from walking off with one of their numerous intricate power packs that were set unattended in a blind corner of the restaurant while the oblivious Busters ate and reminisced on their ghostly catches of the day.
Top 8: Made B/r Vampires bleed out.
Top 4: I wrestled with R/U/G, making a goofball near-punt play in game 3 where I went all-in with Tec Edge to destroy his two Ravines, keeping him off green with only two Islands and a Mountain while I had three lands and Jace to recover. I should’ve done it a turn earlier!
Finals: Eldrazi Green scooped to me so I’d split, but I can’t imagine losing that matchup despite what Flores keeps saying. I beat it once at States during the Swiss, but they aren’t nearly as scary on the surface as Valakut, so I can’t imagine why everyone says I should’ve lost in the finals.
Point is, sometimes you just run hot. Like that mono-red player who keeps drawing the turn 3 Devastating Summons + Bushwhacker, or that mono-white kid who keeps dumping his hand on turn 1 in an aspiring combination of Memnites, Mox Opals, Glint Hawks, and Quest for the Holy Relic. Same goes for those dang Valakut players who
have the turn 4 Titan with a backup in their hand. I was fortunate enough this tournament to have the right answers at the right time and lucky enough to have my Baneslayers stick most of the times I cast them.
If you plan to play this deck at all, I’m sure you’re starving for a sideboard guide. Keep in mind I’m going to add another Sun Titan main in exchange for moving the third Baneslayer to the sideboard over the fourth Leyline.
If you’ve got counter backup, it’s very important to just Fateseal them out of the game. They have no card draw outside of Explore or Titan, so you can pretty much just lock them out of the game if you’ve got a couple answers in hand. Sun Titan + Tectonic Edge is great to handle their Ravines and Kuts, but if you’ve got a Mask in play, its important to try and back it up with as much countermagic as possible since they can’t beat you when you’ve got Day. I’ve never really felt too out of control against Valakut; it always seems like they’re more worried about what I’ve got than vice versa.
I’m honestly not too familiar with all the different U/B Control decks, but if they’ve got Vat, it could be a problem, so having Condemn and Journey is key to handle Persecutors and Titans. Day is also needed, but not everyone has Duress or Memoricide in their boards for me. If I get wrecked by them game 2, I’ll board in two Leylines for a Day and a Condemn.
Mono-Red // Boros
I usually go back and forth whether or not I want to board Leyline in here. Spell Pierce is just as good a lot of the time to counter a kicked Burst Lightning or the second burn spell they aim at Baneslayer, but I don’t want to have more than two in the deck after boarding. There are also a ton of different Red decks out there; Kuldotha has less burn and more creatures. However you need to counter their equipment and that damn Goblin sorcery spell. Against the dedicated red decks with just burn, Leyline is an obvious include, but you really have to play it by ear as to when it feels right to board it in.
This one feels like a cakewalk. Their threats are Frost Titans, vomit, and Avengers, double vomit. Both suck against me; however when combined with Cobra and Oracle, things can get muddy. They’re still screwed to a Day in every situation, and all they’ve got to disrupt me is the same countermagic I’ve got and some Ruinblasters. You could make an argument to include three Flashfreezes over the other three Walls of Omens, or a fourth Condemn over Wall, but I’ve found Wall to be pretty helpful in this matchup since it absorbs all the little two-power dudes that R/U/G has in the early game.
If you want to know anymore sideboarding plans, hit me up in the forums or on Facebook/Twitter with that decklist you’d like me to sideboard against. I’m familiar with the general trends of the format, but I’m not practiced enough to know all the ins and outs of the Tier 1.5-2 decks.
Upon exiting the event, I was met by several crowds of the aforementioned costumed conventioneers roaming the halls looking for company while hiding in their masks. The girls were dressed scantily; many men were sporting massive amounts of face paint; spandex a plenty; Mario was flirting with both busty Supergirls; Juggernaut was trying desperately to pick his wedgie in his red tights; Luigi was inebriated in the corner wishing he hadn’t gone down this long, desperate green pipe; lonely Anakin Skywalker was bleeding from his forehead, ears, and lip while his lightsaber hung from his custom-made utility belt, quietly overseeing the whole gathering; the few Jokers and Batman seemed to get along well; however there was clear disdain between the two matching, zombie Wolverine costumes.
There are different names for the same thing.
So the crew was San Marcos bound, and we recounted the day’s toils at Bikinis. It’s kind of like Hooters, except, well, they’re wearing bikinis!
they had a wicked-hot DJ who was playing a bunch of the hottest modern rap ballads. The Pacquiao fight was on, and to some degree, I related on a personal level with the boxing legend. He and I both were victors on that Saturday; we both left our blood in the ring after hours of rigorous combat; we both played a luring control game before exploding out of nowhere to finish the opponent off.
In fact, I look at myself as Manny’s superior, since after all, he just had to beat up on one measly opponent, while I stared no less than twelve challengers in the face and finished without a blemish on these perfectly freckled cheeks. Yes, one day you might know greatness like me, but until then, “like” this article on Facebook, give me a shout out in the forums at how awesome I am and how much you missed me gracing these SCG pages, reread all my past great pieces of work that inspired you to be more than just a Magician lost in the shuffle, and then send me excessive amounts of cash money. No checks, no credit, no gift cards, just cash money, please.
No savior like yours truly can make it on SCG article payments alone.
Haha, sorry for the ego rant. I just finished watching Season 2 of Eastbound & Down and had to get that out of my system while I’m still a “winner” by definition, and, yah know, not getting decks stolen, losing a piece of myself at these events, or being hassled or arrested en route and/or at event venues by the damn popo.
Thanks for reading,
Top 5 Picks
1) Lua — Bright Eyes
2) El Manana – Gorillaz
3) All I Want Is You — Barry Louis Polisar
4) Romeo — Dawn Landes
5) Tighten Up — Black Keys
*Time is the greatest resource; don’t abuse it! Get up off your lazy, pink-sleeved-backwards-hat-too-tight-shirt-wearing-hoodie-covering-your-face-reciting-how-many-PTQs-you’ve-Top-8ed ass, and do something with your life! You’ve got plenty of time left. Approximately two years and seven days until December 21, 2012!
**For that youthful bunch that might not be familiar with my past tournament traumas, here’s a short list of homework that might make you feel a little better about your Magical endeavors next time you complain about losing or the long drive home.