First of all, I love Magic. Now that we have that out of the way, here’s the list I ran for the StarCityGames.com Standard Open: Philadelphia.
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 4 Sovereigns of Lost Alara
- 4 Dauntless Escort
- 4 Baneslayer Angel
- 4 Lotus Cobra
Disclaimer: This tournament was 10 rounds of swiss, I had woken up at around 8am to make my train, and the finals took place around 1:30am. I am trying to recreate the games I played based on my lifepad, so a few of the details may be off. I am doing my best, however, to describe what happened in my games. I wholeheartedly apologize to any of my opponents whose game descriptions I get wrong.
I have been playing Magic since Planeshift, but only started playing competitively during the Lorwyn/Shards Standard. This is the very first tournament in which I have ever made Top 8 with a field containing more than 100 people. It is therefore the first large-scale tournament I have ever won, and I hope it is merely the first of many strong finishes in my personal Magic career.
I’ve been running Bant since Lorwyn rotated, and had made the decision to switch to Mythic Conscription quite early. After running hot in another recent tournament, I grew a newfound confidence for Bant’s position in the current metagame. I really like the deck’s position in the Jund and U/W match-up. This seems to have worked out perfectly, as eight of the ten decks I played against in the swiss were Jund or U/W. After going 0-2 drop at Regionals (National Qualifiers) and 5-3 drop at Grand Prix: DC, I decided to take a hard look at my deck, my sideboard, and my own personal play skill. And you know what? Hilarity ensued.
Round 1 versus Jund
Game 1 I opened with a fetchland and a mana dork. He made turn 2 Putrid Leech and knocked me to 15 before I laid out Baneslayer Angel. I can’t remember the rest of the game, but I believe he could not answer Baneslayer Angel (I either had a Knight of the Reliquary or a Dauntless Escort protecting it). (1-0)
Game 2 I ramped into Baneslayer Angel and was able to protect it to close out the game.
Our Hero: 20, 17, 24
Opponent: 20, 17, 10
I close out this game at 24 life. (2-0)
Round 2 versus U/W
Game 1 went quickly, as I ramped early and got off Baneslayer Angel plus Sovereigns. My opponent notably played a Sejiri Refuge on his turn to drop to one life on my turn, netting him the extra turn to draw an out. He did not, and we moseyed on to game 2. (1-0)
In game 2, I did not get much of anything going at all. I have my life changes at 20, 19, 14, 9, 6, with my opponent gaining a bunch of life. Seems bad for me. (1-1)
In game 3, I decided to play poor Magic. This game is burned in my memory because of how hard I punted into the draw bracket. Here’s the essential board state. He has no creatures except for man lands, and he has popped Elspeth’s ultimate. I have Noble Hierarch and enough mana to beat in for five with my Celestial Colonnade and cast Bant Charm (of which I have two in my hand) on turn 2 of extra turns. He has exactly enough mana to activate his Colonnade and block with one Blue up in addition to his Colonnade. My opponent is at five life. Here comes the punt. I activate my Colonnade, swing in for 5; my opponent activates his Colonnade and blocks. I use my Bant Charm to send his Colonnade to the bottom of his library (did you catch the horrid misplay yet?). He taps his Colonnade and open source of mana for a Negate, and that ends the turn. He moves to untap, draws his card for the turn, and passes back to me. Turn 4 of extra turns begins and I once again animate my Colonnade and beat in for 5. He once again animates his Colonnade and blocks. I use my last Bant Charm and try once more to stick his Colonnade on the bottom of his library (Do you see the train wreck?). He once again taps his Colonnade and free source of mana for a Negate. He untaps and ends the game in a draw on turn 5 of 5. (1-1-1)
I decided I couldn’t psych myself out after that horrible misplay, and cleared my mind after the match. I realized I would never make that mistake again, and chose to focus on the match ahead of me.
Round 3 versus Jund, piloted by Sean McKeown
I remember this match, as my opponent described it as each of us getting mana screwed.
Game 1 I mulliganed (at least I hope I took a mulligan, as my opening was garbage) and played enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands for 4 turns in a row before losing. (0-1)
Game 2 I dropped a Baneslayer Angel, and he was a little mana screwed. We end the game when he’s at 11 and passes to me with exactly 11 points of combat damage on the board. (1-1)
Game 3 I gently curved out into Sovereigns for the kill, as he stalled on two mana and needed one more land to make his hand live in the match-up. (2-1)
For game three I might have brought the Cobra back in, but I’m pretty sure I did not.
Round 4 versus Jund, piloted by Mark
Game 2 I had either Firewalker or Baneslayer Angel up and running, as I gained life and began a comeback. (1-1)
Game 3 I mulliganed to 5. I was the target of Blightning three times in this game. He beats me pretty harshly, ending the game at around 14-0. I congratulate Mark and his win, wish him luck, and then we were on to round 5. (1-2)
Mark comments after the game that he cast Blightning on me a total of five times that round. Seems good. Mark ended up going 8-2, with a top 16 performance.
At this point in the tournament, I ask my friend Chas if I can top 8 at X-1-1. He tells me I can… I just need to win out. I decide to believe him, and away we go.
Round 5 versus U/G Turboland
Game 1 I cast Sovereigns pretty early and all I get to see of his deck is Oracle of Mul-Daya. (1-0)
Game 2 I sideboarded badly, and he ends up “going off” at around 5. He then whiffs on getting any sort of card that could affect the current board state, and was finished by my permanents. (2-0)
Round 6 versus Next Level Bant, piloted by Toby
Game 1. I have written that each of us was at 19, and nothing else. This means I must have used Sovereigns early and he did not see the cards he wanted. We move to game 2. (1-0)
Round 7 versus U/W Control
Game 1 it appeared I had the nuts, or something close, as I have his life total dropping from 18 to 6 before we move to game 2. (1-0)
Game 2 I get beaten down with a Baneslayer Angel with no exciting board presence to offer of my own. I have this game ending with my opponent at 30 life. (1-1)
Game 3 is one on which I’m a little fuzzy. I have the game ending with my opponent at 1 to my 18. (2-1)
Keep in mind this is a 10-round tournament, and I had left for the train at 8am. At this
point in the day the exhaustion is hitting hard, and the rounds seem to be getting longer and longer.
Round 8 versus Jund
Game 1 I had the nuts and have only one life total change written down for my opponent (a single, lonely 7). (1-0)
Game 2 I had some kind of combination of Kor Firewalker and Sovereigns, and closed out the game 22-2. (2-0)
Round 9 versus U/W Control
Game 1 I had a turn 3 Conscription and we quickly moved to game 2. (1-0)
Game 2 I don’t get much of anything going, and the game ended with my opponent at 19. (1-1)
Game 3 my opponent was stuck on two mana, and I have multiple Negates for his Everflowing Chalices. We go over this line of play after the game, and I do believe I was likely misplaying here; whether my denial of his mana really mattered in letting me get there or not is debatable. In all honesty, I should have just held onto my Negates for his removal, but I was nervous to let my opponent begin any sort of gameplan. (2-1)
Round 10 versus U/W Control
This round was a feature match, and was streamed live on ggslive.com.
Game 1 boiled down to the following board state:
My opponent tapped out to play Baneslayer Angel (5 mana sources) and passed to me. I had a few mana dorks (a Birds and a Hierarch), drew my card for the turn and peeled Eldrazi Conscription with exactly enough mana to hard cast it and attack with an 11/12 Conscripted dork. My opponent played to his outs and sacrifced his Baneslayer Angel and a land to the annihilator trigger, drew his card for the turn, and scooped.
Game 2 I had a solid hand, as close to the nuts against U/W as is necessary. It appeared my opponent did not have a very good hand, and thus I won my win-and-in round.
At this point, I’m feeling ecstatic, and I take a walk around the room to try and calm down so I can focus on the upcoming Top 8. Finally, a judge announces the Top 8 and starts rolling off those with my record (25 points) that are in…
Turns out I was in 8th going into the Top 8. Let me just throw this out there: it was absolute torture not hearing my name until the last one was read. I really had the fear set in; I looked at Phil Li, and he looked worried too. The 8th name is mine, and I erupt into what feels like the most epic high five of my life with Phil, and we go to the feature match area for Top 8 procedure.
The judges take our decks for inspection, and we all fill out bios and read through the split procedure rules. A judge comes back with my list and pulls me aside (I’m not really surprised here; for whatever reason, I have fairly bad yet fair luck with judges and my sleeves. Something about the way my hands sweat, how hard I shuffle, and how long I tend to be in these tournaments leads my sleeves to get really beat up through the course of the day). Anyway, he tells me how beat up my sleeves are, and I am asked to re-sleeve, so I go purchase my second set of sleeves for the day, pull my buddy Evan from his casual match, and we begin tearing my deck out of its current sleeves and re-sleeving it in brand new sleeves.
Once my deck was sleeved up and ready to go, I rushed over to the Top 8 tables and sit down at the feature match spot once again. My games in the quarter and semifinals are broadcast on ggslive.com.
Quarterfinals versus Ali Aintrazi with U/G Turboland
I felt pretty good going into this matchup, since my opponent’s rogue factor had been spoiled when I played his friend, who was piloting the same list in round 5.
Game 1 I had Sovereigns going, and our game ended at 18-5 before shipping to game 2. (1-0)
Semifinals versus Mike Ragusa with Mythic Conscription
Game 1 was an epic grinder that I believed I was losing for the longest time. We both nearly received slow play warnings for the sheer length of our game. Eventually I stabilized with a Baneslayer Angel and was able to grind out the game.
Game 2 Bant Charm went all the way, and Baneslayer got me there.
Finals versus Kenny Mayer
Bill Stark covered this match, so I will simply comment on the change of venues that took place.
After the semis ended, we found out that the Convention Center was closing (or was already closed), and the final match would be conducted in the lobby of the Holiday Inn Express.
We get to the middle of game 3 and Kenny looked to be in a good place… when the cops showed up to kick us out of the lobby. The judges quickly found a way to preserve the game state and grabbed our decks for us and we headed upstairs to finish game 3 of the final match in one of the judge’s hotel rooms. Along the way, I told Kenny I believed he has this one, and he said, “I don’t know… You have Kor Firewalker.” I couldn’t have known how right he was, as when we got back into the game, I proceeded to get out two more Kor Firewalkers to stall the board until I could get the Sovereigns for the win.
I have to say, Kenny was a good guy, and I really did have fun playing the final match against him. Plus he put up with my corny demeanor (although to be fair, he probably appreciated that most when I made a play mistake game 3 by fetching up an Island instead of a Forest… although this play mistake ended up not meaning anything, as Kenny had the immediate removal spell, a play mistake is a play mistake).
How I Boarded:
For Jund, I find the Planeswalkers to be rather clunky, particularly Jace. I consider Gideon what I like to call “badgood” in this match-up. He can be perfectly fine sometimes, and other times he is too slow to be relevant or he just Fogs for a turn. I find him to be better than Jace, and usually keep one copy of him in there, but I tend to play it by ear depending on the Jund build as to how relevant he might be in the match-up.
I also find that Lotus Cobra is pretty weak against Jund (at least on the draw; he can be pretty hot on the play sometimes, but he’s just too vulnerable). Against Jund you really need to minimize your dead draws late game.
I used to board out the entire Conscription combo against Jund (opening up six slots), as they have the instant speed removal to deal with it, but I’ve found more and more that the combo is pretty live in this match-up. As they should be worried about you initiating a “play Baneslayer and protect it” game plan, pulling out a Sovereigns for the win as a fail-safe seems to work well (and was specifically the card that I had to top deck to win game 3 of the finals). Kor Firewalker is really important in this match-up.
Against U/W, I board out Baneslayer because she’s just too slow. By the time you drop her, they can Jace and bounce her or can remove her far too easily. Also, Lotus Cobra can often walk you into overextending against them, particularly on the draw. I find the best course of action is to play beatdown with some small effective drops and secure a Sovereigns for the win. Negate is far and away the most important card in this match-up. On occasion I will board the Cobras back in on the play; again, you really need to figure out which plan of action you want to take for games 2 and 3 by the end of game 1, as each U/W build plays a little differently (similarly to how Jund comes in a billion different forms, but maintains a few consistent ideas to the stock game plan).
I’m not advocating that I sideboarded perfectly each and every round; these are just the rough theories I was working under when I peeled through my sideboard after each game 1.
Evan Blake for hanging out with me all day after dropping at 2-2.
My Mom for waking up and driving into Philly to pick us up since the finals ended after the trains stopped running.
Chas Hinkle and the entire AU crew.
Fred Chang, Brad Robinson, and Jim Edwards for showing me the ropes of competitive Magic.
The entire TDS crew for holding up and continuing to play at AU every Friday.
Andrew Fonseca for lending me 4 Dauntless Escort.
The judges who hung in there and had us finish the final match in one of their hotel rooms.
Bill Stark for doing an awesome job with the match write-ups.
Not eating all day.
The Holiday Inn Express for having the cops remove us from the lobby.
My sleeves for not making it through 10 rounds of magic unscathed.
I want to extend one last big thank you to StarCityGames.com for running such a successful tournament series. It really makes a huge difference in the Magic community to have big tournaments outside of the PTQs. occasional Grand Prix, and Nationals Qualifiers.