Grinding the StarCityGames.com Open in Indianapolis

Wednesday, February 16 – Julian Booher is a young and rising star in the Magic community and ran Valakut and Goblins in Standard and Legacy, respectively, two decks ripe for the next SCG Open in Washington DC!

You never hear about the guys who take a shot and miss. Here’s what happens; they end up sitting at their computer screen on Monday morning, trying to
write a report wondering where they came up short. An image recurs in their heads of seven lands in hand with more in play, facing down three Goblins;
there’s an image of your opponent activating Metalworker, revealing three irrelevant artifacts and a Myr Battlesphere.

Until I got approved to go to Indianapolis for the StarCityGames.com Open Series, I had planned on going to my school’s winter formal dance with a
wonderful, young lady. I made a pretty outstanding mashup and everything to ask her, but duty called, and I made an executive decision to go to Indy.
School functions are fun, but I’m really attempting to go to every nearby tournament I can, and ten hours for an Open Series is a must, since it’s the
closest one until the StarCityGames.com Invitational in Indianapolis. Judge me if you like, but I picked a card game with pictures of dinosaurs over a

The squad for Indy was Gerry Thompson, Jason Ford, Steve McKenna, and myself. I had never met Steve until this trip, but he’s an awesome guy that’s
been playing in Minnesota forever. In the car, Gerry and Steve would recant stories from the good, old days about all the cheaters and Gary Wise
crusade against evil. The previous weekend at the Prerelease, he told me and Jason about a feature match between Gary and Chris Benafel that took three hours.

There really isn’t passion in the game like that anymore. People either don’t know who the scumbags are anymore, or are too scared to say anything.
Sometimes people want to be adults about a children’s card game, but a little name-calling never hurt anyone who deserved it.

We arrived late, ate at the TGI Friday’s in the hotel, and split off into our hotel rooms. JFord and I would be staying with Ben Hayes and Josh
Jacobson, whereas Gerry and Steve were with John Penick and his buddy Will Shafer. Everyone came to our room to jam games, talk about their decks, or
just tell stories. I was kold by 1 o’clock while the lights were still on and there were seven people in the room talking over the TV. At least it’s
reassuring to know there’s a good chance I’ll die peacefully in my sleep when the 2012 apocalypse happens.

The next morning, I had to stop by Josh Rayden hotel room to scoop up some cards and scramble to get my deck together at the site, part of my crusade
to not pay a dime for any new cards. Bobby Graves and Penick got me, and soon, I had my 75 sleeved up in sleeves that I later realized were from GP
Columbus as they got progressively more disgusting throughout the day.

Here’s the Valakut list I played:

Vs. Aggro:

+ 5 Sweepers

+ 1 Obstinate Baloth

– 3 Khalni Heart Expedition

Birds of Paradise

Joraga Treespeaker

– 1 Oracle of Mul Daya

Vs. Control:

+ 3 Summoning Trap

+ 3 Gaea’s Revenge

+ 3 Thrun, the Last Troll

– 3 Khalni Heart Expedition

– 3 Harrow

– 2 Slagstorm

– 1 Obstinate Baloth

The list is a little different from the one I posted in my last article. I
wanted to play some sweepers in the maindeck to steal some games from the aggro decks game one, since for the most part, the only other thing I can do
is play a turn 4 Titan on the play, but sometimes that isn’t even good enough. I weighed the options of Pyroclasm, Ratchet Bomb, and Slagstorm.
Slagstorm, while completely ruining these aggressive strategies, also can kill a Jace in a pinch or kill BUG’s Lotus Cobra. Basically, I wanted
something that was good enough to beat all the aggro decks but also was not dead everywhere else. Even in the mirror, killing a Cobra or a Joraga
Treespeaker on the play could set you up to win after casting your own ramp spell on turn 2.

I wasn’t sure what two-drop I wanted to cut for Slagstorm, but Lotus Cobra seemed like the one to cut. For one, it dies to Slagstorm, which could be
pretty embarrassing. Blue decks definitely counter or kill Lotus Cobra, since it attacks various Jaces, but they may be less inclined to kill a
Battlement. Aggro decks have cut down on Lightning Bolt and removal in general for that matter, but Boros can Spikeshot Elder your Cobra, and Overgrown
Battlement seems more valuable in general against non-Kuldotha Red aggro decks.

With the exclusion of Lotus Cobra, there was a need for more two-drops, and Green Sun’s Zenith for Birds of Paradise would fill that hole. While it’s
not usually that important to hit a four-drop on three, turn 4 Titan is very important; after sideboarding against the control decks, you want to
maximize two-drops to cast turn 3 Thrun and give ‘em the business. While being forced to cast Zenith for Birds of Paradise feels as though you’re
reducing your threat density, you don’t often do it in game 1, and if your hand contains lands, a ramp spell, and Zenith, it’s not like you were in
good shape to begin with.

The sideboard and maindeck seemed nearly perfect when drawing it up on the car ride there. My sideboard swapped flawlessly, and the maindeck numbers
felt correct. Lotus Cobra is good, but something had to go for those sweepers. Overgrown Battlement feels universally better, but who knows.

Some people, who I think are clinically insane, play 27 lands in this deck. I think that they probably get off on the thrill of peeling their sixth
land to play Primeval Titan, but I like to have it the whole time. 28 is acceptable, but I want to get value out of my Oracles. This deck can function
when you’re flooded; you have plenty of things to do with a bunch of lands between Raging Ravine and Valakut with Oracle of Mul Daya, but when you’re
stuck on two or three lands, you can’t do anything.

Round 1 was against a nice man playing U/B.

I quickly lost game 1 to a good draw by both of us; however he had all the answers for my quick mana and quickly finished me with a Grave Titan.

I grinded out game 2 with a 1/1 Thrun, the Last Troll and Raging Ravines. He didn’t kill them for a while, and I just attacked him for five and six a
turn. Presumably his hand at the end of the game contained five counterspells and a land or something. Classic Rock deck syndrome.

Game 3 was the first interesting moment of the tournament. He Inquisitioned me early, seeing a Gaea’s Revenge and an Oracle of Mul Daya. I opened with
an Oracle of Mul Daya with four lands, played one off the top but didn’t play either of the lands I’d drawn on the same turn. I wanted him to play
right into my Gaea’s Revenge, and he did exactly that by playing Jace and brainstorming. I played the lands in my hand, and Gaea’s Revenge quickly took
the game along with Oracle.

Round 2 I played against Caw-Go (second place for worst deck name in recent history behind Solar Flare).

Game 1 I got embarrassed pretty quickly after resolving a Primeval Titan and losing, which happens often against blue decks with Tectonic Edge.

Game 2 was the first real big sweat.

At some point in the game, the board was as follows:

His four lands + Jace, the Mind Sculptor, just brainstormed, and only one white source.

I untapped and had a leveled Joraga Treespeaker, an Oracle of Mul Daya, three Mountains, and two Forests.

I drew a Thrun into a hand of Gaea’s Revenge, Thrun, and a second Oracle of Mul Daya.

There was an Evolving Wilds on top, which I played, revealing a shiny, Japanese gift of Primeval Titan on top.

Here, I have a few options:

I can play Thrun, with three untapped, but I want to kill Jace, so I won’t have mana to regenerate. This leaves me in decent shape if he Wraths because
he won’t have Jace, and I’ll be able to untap and play Oracle with a fetchland to filter my top card with all business after that. If he doesn’t Wrath,
I can play Gaea’s Revenge and will be in great shape.

If I play Gaea’s Revenge, I’ll probably have to attack Jace with it so he can’t dig two deeper for a second white source if he doesn’t hit it anyway,
and if he Wraths here, I’m not exactly in the best shape, as I can’t regenerate a Thrun the next turn either. God forbid he untaps and plays an Elspeth
Tirel after Wrathing me.

The third option is what I expect Drew Levin would do, attack him for three and pass with five mana open.

I decided to cast Thrun and kill Jace; no gambol, no future.

He untapped and played a Glacial Fortress. My heart sank, and I swallowed heavily, expecting the worst. I knew exactly what was coming before he even
played it. I would have to sign the match slip and walk away in disgust, wondering where I went wrong. He tapped four and played a Leyline of Sanctity.

I played Gaea’s Revenge the next turn with regeneration mana up on Thrun and then won game 3 handily.

I’m unable to recall a single game from rounds 3-6 aside from beating Ben Hayes at 5-0 with some fairly uneventful games.

In round 7, I played against mono-red Panic Spellbomb, Slagstorm beatdown. Looking at his list after the tournament, he had 22 lands including four
Tectonic Edges, but that didn’t stop him from demolishing me.

Game 1 I kept Valakut, Raging Ravine, Explore, Slagstorm, Khalni Heart Expedition, and Primeval Titan on the draw. It was basically the nuts, since I
knew what he was playing thanks to watching AJ’s feature match. He played a turn 1 Goblin Guide, and my first two draw steps yielded nothing. On my
turn 3, I again did not draw a land and cast Explore, drawing another Khalni Heart Expedition (also known as the worst card I’ve ever put into a
Constructed deck).

Tim Aten 4:10 pm

Julian should call his deck “27”

Tim Aten 4:10 pm

b/c that’s how many lands are left in his deck when he gets destroyed by some random goblin

Game 2 I kept four lands with perfect mana, Primeval Titan, Overgrown Battlement, and Ratchet Bomb. Pretty close to the stone-cold nuts as well. I had
a removal spell and a possible turn 4 Titan if I hit one of a few draw steps. He played a Goblin Guide, and all of a sudden, I was dead with a hand of
six lands and a Primeval Titan.

I can’t handle the swings.

I got destroyed in comical fashion in my round 8 feature match against roomie Jason Ford (second person in my room I’d played against…). Anyone who
watched the match can write it off as a public embarrassment. He looked like a professional while I was walking around juggling some colorful balls
with my floppy clown shoes on.

After this, we went to eat noodles, and I unleashed whatever fury I had inside me on a wonderful bowl of Pesto Cavatappi. Noodles are probably the most
un-tilting thing in the universe.

The next two rounds were against mirror matches. The only game I can remember is the one where I mulled to five, kept four Mountains and Green Sun’s
Zenith, and casually played the Primeval Titan off the top on turn 4 as though I knew it was there the whole time.

Round 10 was like having a conversation with JFord where a match of Magic just happened to be going on. He was sitting next to me playing for top 16 as
well, and I don’t think I could tell you about a single turn of the match. I think I won the die roll and played my Titans first.

I congratulated Drew “Play My Second Thrun” Levin on Top 8ing and wandered off with my favorite drunk, Patrick McGregor, as well as other Minnesotans.
If you ever walk up to Pat and out of the blue ask him: “So Pat, how many Lokos?” he will probably reply with: “F$@KIN’ FOUR!!!!”

We played Catch Phrase for what seemed like two hours; all the while, I was begging to go to Steak ‘n Shake. I found out that it’s probably more useful
to have a person from the remote regions of Russia than Brandon Nelson, and we ended up wandering around the skyway not eating Steak ‘n Shake.
Eventually, everyone walked into a parking ramp, and I assumed they were just going home, so I made my way back to the hotel. I found out later that
they did in fact go to SnS and had some wild times. In the meantime, I was trudging through the snow in my slippers trying to find my hotel.

I ended up getting back at about 1:30, greeted by my roomies and a Gerry. He told stories from the “good” old days, and I fell asleep at 3 in the
middle of one. Apparently, he was in our room until 5. They never end.

I played Goblins in Legacy, changing a few cards from my Kansas City list:

The Arid Mesas should’ve been Scalding Tarns. Doesn’t matter about 99.9% of the time, but you might as well give someone a false impression

Again, I was playing one (or even two…) more lands than most stock lists, at 24. Rishadan Port and Wasteland are insane, but do you know what’s
better than locking out your opponent’s mana? Doing so while being able to cast your own spells. I don’t understand how anybody wins with 22 lands in
this deck, but I assume it has 80% or more to do with opening hands with Aether Vial. Some insist it’s luck; others say they deserve it. People justify
it by saying they’re not the best players, so their only chance is to draw the nuts anyway. I don’t even feel the need to address that argument, but
I’ll retort by saying “I’m not the best player in the tournament, so I’m going to make my deck more inconsistent and further handicap myself.” I guess
someone did Top 8 the San Jose SCG Legacy Open with 16-land Merfolk. Scoreboard and whatnot.

I lost round 1 to Merfolk after some bad draws and keeps. I kept Mountain, triple Goblin Lackey, Gempalm Incinerator, Goblin Ringleader, and Warren
Weirding on the draw, which, in retrospect, is definitely a mulligan. I like to handicap myself.

Game 2 I kept three lands (with Port), Goblin Piledriver, Warren Weirding, Mogg War Marshal, and Gempalm Incinerator. This hand is the nuts if I peel a
Vial, but instead I ended up not drawing a land for the entire game, made one fairly large mistake, and got…

Stifled out of the match.

I was under the impression that Stifle had found its way to the dollar bin by now, but maybe that’s not the case.

At some point during the day, one Michael Pozsgay (who also got caught drawing extra cards at GP Atlanta and got off with just a game loss) was
disqualified from the event for bribery. This does not surprise me at all, and everyone made fun of Ben Hayes for scooping to him the day before so he
could go get food.

While that was going on, I was talking to AJ, Gerry, and others about how people used to cheat and get out of it. I said, “Soon we’re going to be
reading a post on Bill Stark website titled: ‘Michael Pozsgay: My Story.'” Then Drew Levin popped up over my shoulder wondering what we were talking

The situation was kind of like how I would always say “Heeeeeeeey Gaaaaaaaary, will you sign my playmat?” to Gerry, since a lot of people don’t know
how to pronounce his name; then one time at the Minneapolis SCG Open, I said it, and a man immediately asked him to sign his playmat using that exact
phrase. I know how to call a shot.

I racked off six unnoteworthy wins (aside from getting three-outered once and two-outering Reanimator) and found myself in Top 8 contention round 8
against a Metalworker deck. During this match, I felt like the kid who shows up to a Vintage tournament with his sweet, new, edited precon. I got turn
1 Metalworkered games 1 and 3; God forbid I draw Pyrokinesis in game 3 to destroy him. I kept a hand that probably beats a turn 2 Metalworker, but I
shouldn’t expect my opponents to draw such average hands. That deck seems like a Belcher deck that’s worse against Swords to Plowshares but has a few
live draw steps once it gets Force of Willed. I might just be making a fool out of myself when it Top 8s the next few StarCityGames.com Opens.

I lost the next round to U/W Landstill. I played very conservatively game 1 when I was on one land on turn 12 with my one-land, Aether Vial keep. Game
2 I got Moated again but still had a good Siege-Gang Commander plan. Unfortunately, about three turns into that, he flipped Humility off the top of his
deck, and my tournament was over.

I snuck into Top 32 for $50 but was still pretty shook up after that downfall. I always say I have more respect for the guy who Top 16s every
tournament than the guy who spikes two Top 8s in a year, but I guess that doesn’t pertain to me in these StarCityGames.com Opens. Maybe after a few
tastes of victory, I think too highly of myself. Maybe I’m just oblivious to my own luck. Maybe I’m just sick of every tournament feeling like a copy
of the other. Maybe I’m just lying to myself to stay on the hook.

I just can’t seem to get away from the grind.

Either way, I’ll be in Los Angeles to do it all over again.


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