Feature Article – GerryT at the StarCityGames Standard Open

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Wednesday, May 21st – In a break from his usual articles, GerryT regales us with the tale of his own personal quest to take the crown in the StarCityGames Standard Open tournaments. While he didn’t have as successful a weekend as Alex, he made the Top 8 on the second day, and his own home-spun brand of Faeries has been the talk of the town. For his own particular take on the highs and lows of the metagame, look no further!

I have to apologize to everyone. I had a sick article that everyone would have loved regarding a deck that my team was working on for the Pro Tour, but my team “No Sir-ed” me at the last minute. Hopefully the deck will still be good post Hollywood, and I can write about it then.

I would probably be lying if I said the Star City tournament was anything except for a disappointment. Clearly if I am investing roughly $300 to make a trip to a cash tournament, I am doing it because I expect to win that money back. That means I would basically have to win one of the tournaments, and I thought I was going to do just that. As you probably already know, I only managed to Top 8 the second day, and fell to the eventual double winner. So what went wrong? Was I unlucky? Was my deck terrible? Am I terrible? Perhaps all of them.

The tentative plan was for me to leave my home in the lovely ghetto of Indianapolis at about 3am Friday morning, go to Ian Gossett’s house and pick up a Faerie deck, and then head over to Tom LaPille crib and meet up with him and some other Ohio natives and hit the road. However, like most times I leave the house, I got blown out pretty hard.

I went to sleep at 9am on Thursday after being up for nearly 24 hours. At roughly noon, my phone’s miserable ring woke me up. Nothing was more important than sleep at that very moment, so I didn’t answer. For some reason, I have an answering machine. I spent the next two minutes struggling to go back to sleep while being forced to listen to Tom LaPille voice. I wouldn’t say Tom’s voice is annoying, just that it’s not exactly the voice you want to wake up to. He was apparently confused and didn’t know whether or not I would be meeting up with him for the road trip, despite me confirming the details several days earlier.

At that point, after Tom’s incessant ramblings and unnecessary use of big words that I didn’t comprehend, I was wide awake. I can’t seem to fall asleep when I’m wide awake. It was time to get up and let Tom know that I was still planning on going. I spent the better part of the day doing pretty much nothing, with some writing sprinkled in. By the time I finished my article, it was 1am. If I’d taken a nap, there was a huge chance that I wouldn’t have woken up, so I toughed it out. I burnt some CDs with people screaming on them, and headed out. I was briefly halted in my living room by a pant-less and drunk Gabe Walls, but after I made him another drink he allowed me to leave.

I’m honestly not sure what I should be listening to while I’m driving tired. You would think that loud, screaming music would keep me awake, but it just doesn’t.

At some point it started raining, which was a problem considering my windshield wipers don’t work, but I powered through it.

I had never been to Ian’s before, but thankfully I didn’t get lost. He shipped the cards I asked for, including some that I didn’t just in case I wanted to audible. He only had 73 out of the 75… once he’d profusely apologized, I forgave him.

After a few minutes, his sister (and guardian) woke up. Ian told her that I would be driving him to school, and I introduced myself. She seemed skeptical for some reason. She even asked me if I was a good driver. How exactly do you answer that question? She seemed pretty serious, so if you say no, she’ll probably get mad. If you say yes, she probably won’t believe you anyway. For some reason, I didn’t immediately understand that she thought I was one of his 16 year old friends from school. She felt better once I informed her that I was an old man.

Dropping off Ian and getting to Tom’s was easy enough, but Tom didn’t give me his apartment number and the mailboxes weren’t numbered. I sat outside his place before deciding to go find a payphone. My cell phone got destroyed in Valencia and I hadn’t picked up a new one. I barely scraped together enough change for one phone call and let it ring a few times. His voicemail picked up, and I quickly tried to hang up in order to get my change back, but to no avail. That was my one shot, and Tom didn’t pick up.

There was nothing else I could do except park outside his address and wait. It was already about the time we were scheduled to leave so I couldn’t be left waiting that long… right? Sadly, I was outside for about an hour before Tom and GP Top 8 competitor Ben Weinburg emerged. It was about time too. I got several odd looks from various pedestrians who probably thought I was a stalker.

Tom informed me that he had bad news. We were going to be joined by a fifth person. I honestly don’t know how this trip could get any better. I assumed that it was going to be a random idiot, but thankfully it was Reuben Bresler. Poor Reubs got ditched by GPT master Adam Yurchick.

When Magic Online went down, Sam Stoddard sent Yurchick on one mission: touch a breast. Apparently, Adam had completed this mission and was no longer interested in Magic.

The ride to Virginia wasn’t very interesting. Even if it was, I wouldn’t have known since I was passed out for most of it, so I will just pretend that I didn’t miss anything. JR Wade and I snuggled up, and I slept soundly until we arrived.

Initially I was just going to sleep some more, but that would mean I would be up at about 3am which wouldn’t be any good. I needed this money to pay rent after all, so I decided the best course of action would be to crush a trial and stay on a normal sleep schedule.

For those of you who couldn’t care less about my life, you’re in luck! The rest of this article is going to be about Magic: The Gathering. This is the 75 I sleeved up:

I have to thank Ben Steinburg for most of the changes to this list. Pestermite is still better than Vendilion Clique. Mite helps your bad matchups instead of cementing your good ones, which is exactly what you need that slot to do. Goldberg just figured out that Nameless Inversion does everything you want Pestermite to do, but better. Their threats are better left dead, not tapped. Faeries is a control deck, after all. The only part I was slightly worried about was drawing multiple Inversions against decks like Reveillark, Juniper, or RG Ramp, where they are actually close to dead, whereas Pestermite can help kill them.

The Mawcors were courtesy of Zack Hall. Yes, they can kill it; yes, they can counter it; but it wins the game almost straight up by itself. It blanks their Bitterblossom, while still being insane if they don’t draw Bitterblossom. Ancestral and Bitterblossom can get countered too… should you cut those?

In the first round of the trial, I played against a Reveillark deck. He was a smallish child so I didn’t really put my thought into mulliganing my hand with two spot removal spells. Thankfully, Reveillark doesn’t do anything at all, and despite my Ancestral getting Vensered, and my Mistbind dying because of Momentary Blink on Venser, my turn 10 Bitterblossom killed him.

I boarded in Thoughtseizes for Namelesses and a Scion. Afterwards, it was pointed out to me that Nameless is probably better than Terror since it can potentially pump your Mistbind, but Terror allows you to bounce and counter Crovax. I think I would stick with Terrors for the future. Not being able to deal with Crovax is a bigger deal than maybe missing three points of damage.

In the second game, Gaeries does what it does and his deck rolls over and dies.

In the second round I sat next to GP masters Owen Turtenwald and Ben Burglestein. This trial was going to be very difficult, and I knew I would have to tighten up if I wanted to get through the winner of that match. Thankfully, my opponent this round was playing a GW Ramp variant. He started out with a surprise Ohran Viper. I managed to Terror it but his second one stuck and drew him seven cards over the course of the game. Obviously the game wasn’t close. Mistbind Clique stole his turns repeatedly. Despite him having a grip full of cards, he couldn’t use them.

I sided in Flashfreezes and Thoughtseizes for Namelesses and Scions. Scions come out against most decks because they don’t help you win. They also just die to stuff like Squall Line and Cloudthresher. You are almost never in a race situation. You are either firmly in control or you’re not, and Scion wouldn’t help you win at that point anyway.

For the second game, I used my only counter on a turn 3 Ohran Viper, and luckily peeled a Thoughtseize to take his Oversoul of Dusk that he could have cast the next turn. Lesson learned. After that, he was out of gas, my Ancestral came off, and that was that.

Owen managed to best the up and comer and I was left to face his Elf deck and defend the Gaerie deck’s honor. In testing, Owen is claiming a 66% win over Faeries in testing, but I beat him 2-0. The first game was extremely tight. I was already behind and Owen had slipped a Colossus into play, but I formulated a plan. I ran out a dry Spellstutter and Cliqued him for two turns while chumping, then traded two Mistbinds for the Colossus and his turn. After that, I Mistbinded him again, but we were at a stalemate. I was at three life (should have been four but I punted and took an extra point from Bitterblossom) and couldn’t attack or else I would die on the swing back. Owen could attack and force me to lose two guys, but he would lose basically his entire team. He decided to play some guys and hope to kill me next turn, but I had peeled Scion on the perfect turn and killed him in the air for exactsies.

I sided in Damnations, Inversion, and Flashfreezes, and took out Snags and Scions. If I were on the play or was against anyone other than Owen I would keep in the Snags. I don’t expect most Elf players to side out Profanes, but that’s what Owen does. After I lock up the ground, the only thing I have to fear is getting burnt out with Squall Lines and Commands, but since Owen doesn’t have any relevant Black spells in his deck, Flashfreeze is just better. Snag is also kind of sketchy on the draw against a deck with six mana Elves. On the play I would expect it to connect every time.

Second game he mulliganed to five and got destroyed.

For the final round and all the byes I would be playing a GW beatdown deck or a Mono-Red burn deck. Thankfully, GW beats burn which probably beats me, but I beat the GW deck. Classic Rock, Paper, Scissors, always ending up in my favor.

This matchup was a lot easier than I expected it to be. He played some slow, powerful animals but then skipped a bunch of turns while I repeatedly Mistbind Cliqued him. Mana Tithe was not enough to stop me.

I ran the standard sideboarding strategy I used against Owen.

Naturally, going 4-0, 8-0, even though it’s such a small sample size, made me feel even better about the following day. I didn’t get a chance to play the mirror thoroughly, but I figured I would be fine. I decided not to change a card, and neither did Ben, Tom, or JR. Reuben was running RG Ramp because his “friend” screwed him over (again) and didn’t show up with the deck he promised.

In the morning I happily did a deck tech with Evan Erwin, which I would gladly do again. After that, I tested some miserable mirror matches and did some railbirding. The first two feature matches were Faerie mirrors, so I wasn’t expecting to get a feature match round 3. Good thing I didn’t get my hopes up, because I believe Peebles got featured, thanks to him playing some terrible, outdated Reveillark deck.

My round 3 opponent was playing RG Ramp, which I luckily knew from my earlier scouting. I mulliganed a terrible hand on the draw into a solid hand, but with only Island and Mutavault for lands. Any Black source and I was in business. Sadly, I spend most of my turns discarding.

I was in complete control game 2. I had lethal tapped tokens in play with a few Snags and Flashfreezes in hand. He could only attack with Treetop, I would chump, go to two, one from Bitterblossom, and then kill him. The problem was, I didn’t have a pen was just going off his life pad the entire time. I thought I was at four, but he informed me I was actually at three and I died. I could have easily kept an extra guy back and it wouldn’t have been relevant, but there was nothing he could have done the way I played it, unless I got my life total wrong.

So am I an idiot? Yes. However, this is why I hate real life events. This situation would never happen on Magic Online. If play in a Premier Event and make a terrible play and lose, there are always more events to join, at any time you want. When you travel to a Pro Tour, Grand Prix, or other large event, this is basically your only chance. You spend all this time testing, traveling, and then think your life total is one higher and that’s game. You’re out of the tournament.

Granted, I wasn’t out of the tournament yet, but I got paired against the 75 card mirror round 4. After that, I was officially out.

Round 5 was interesting. My opponent won the roll and lead with Plains. His second turn Treetop was depressing. You would think that some people would avoid playing with their hand face up. When he tapped out turn 3 for a Finks or something, I main-phased a Scion on my turn 3 and passed. He ended up losing that game after showing me Mana Tithe later on.

In between games he asked me if I was the Gerry Thompson. I replied that I was. He then asked me why I would main-phase a Scion if I was supposed to be a good player. Then I explained to him why I was 100% sure he had Mana Tithe, and he seemed to understand the depths of my mastery.

I stuck in for the remaining rounds, hoping to lock up that cool Top 16 prize, but my pizza arrived and I scooped to Owen so I could eat. He was up a game though, and probably could have won.

Ben Swartz was 7-1, but unfortunately got paired down against Brett Blackman and lost the 57 card mirror.

For the Sunday, I decided to not change anything. I lost to a huge punt and a 75 card mirror and was beating everything else. I needed more information at the very least. Ben decided to cut the sideboard Damnations for Sowers, which he would later regret, but he ended up winning a bunch of matches and ended up in the finals.

There’s honestly not much to say about the Sunday tournament. I beat a UG Scryb and Force style deck (minus the Scrybs and Forces from what I saw), RG Ramp, Faeries, Faeries, and Dragonstorm before IDing with Evan Erwin into Top 8.

Once there, I mulliganed my opener both times into playable, but not great hands against Alex Bertoncini. At no point did I see a Bitterblossom or Ancestral Visions, while he had two and three Ancestrals per game, respectively. I was on the play both games and can safely say that both hands he kept were kold to Bitterblossom if I had drawn it.

Round 1 on Sunday, Alex and Ben were playing the mirror. Game 3 Alex kept Mistbind Clique, Scion of Oona, and five lands on the draw, which Ben got to see when he cast Thoughtseize. I don’t want to knock Alex as he played fine against me, but his mulliganing skills and rules knowledge were lacking. His list wasn’t the best Faerie list in the universe; he just got a little luckier than everyone else.

So was it simply a disappointment? Yes and no. I had some success, but I didn’t win enough to recoup the cost of the trip either. I feel as though this format would be awesome if Bitterblossom didn’t exist. That card singlehandedly makes other decks unviable, and makes the UB mirrors luck dependant, in otherwise what would be a skill intensive matchup. I drew well to beat my two mirrors in the swiss, but got unlucky in the Top 8. I mulliganed semi aggressively for the cards that matter and didn’t get there. Meanwhile, my opponent had solid enough openers to beat me.

If Alex were willing to keep hands like he kept against Ben, how often do you think he just drew the nuts in both tournaments, especially if his record in the mirror was something like 9-1? Again, clearly he has to be able to play fine in order to win all those matches, but first you need to draw the relevant cards.

The 5k was a blast. I would definitely do it again since I’m mainly there for the times, but being able to get rich is nice too. Anyone who didn’t go should be ashamed of themselves. Your mother will understand if you ditch her on Mother’s Day to battle. My only complaint was that the matches were too cramped, despite there being ample space to spread out the games.

As always, Faeries is the backup plan for the Pro Tour. I had a very cool deck that I was excited about, but once the Faeries lists got better, it couldn’t really put up the numbers. Some of my crew might be running it regardless, as they think they have a chance, so good luck to them.

I generally don’t like to write articles like this. I prefer to provide information more than car trip stories, but I hope you guys enjoyed it anyway. Next time, it’s back to the tech.