“I Could Have Played Better”

Peter Ingram freely admits he could’ve played better at Grand Prix Atlanta! And part of that has to do with his strategy walking into the event. Why is he considering ditching Temur Energy for his next big Standard event? Should you do the same at SCG Baltimore?

I could have played better.

Throughout a single Magic tournament, I think it is incredibly likely that every single person in the room, no matter how skilled the player, will say, “I could have played better.” As a matter of fact, if you’re not saying that, then you should really reconsider, not just from a technical standpoint but a mental one. Did I try to bluff my opponent in all the right spots? Was I conscious of the fact that I could have taken a different line? What is my best draw, and how can I play to make it better?

In one round of Grand Prix Atlanta this past weekend, I found myself sitting against an opponent who wore their feelings on their face. We’ve all been on tilt before when flooding out or being mana screwed, but the best players keep their calm no matter the situation. Physical tells are a real part of Magic, which is one reason I love playing in real life so much more than playing online.

My opponent was playing R/W Midrange, sporting the card Settle the Wreckage.

My opponent drew their card for turn, went wide-eyed, and shook their head. I knew they had drawn yet another land. This allowed me to shorten the clock by a turn because I didn’t have to worry about Settle the Wreckage. On the previous turn I wasn’t paying attention to my opponent’s face when they drew their card, so I cost myself that information. I could have played better without even making any technical errors.

Let’s take a look at a play from the finals of this past Grand Prix weekend.

There is a lot to be said about this turn of the finals of Grand Prix Atlanta. Alex Lloyd has the option to main-phase Cast Out Ben Stark’s Chandra, Torch of Defiance, but chooses to pass the turn with Settle the Wreckage up. This allows Ben to play Hazoret the Fervent and attack into the Settle the Wreckage. Alex chooses to take two more damage from Chandra to try to get ahead of Ben, and this play is quite good.

It could have backfired, however. If Ben were to hit a Hazoret off Chandra, then I think Ben becomes a decent favorite in that game. So there were risks, but I think that Alex made the correct play given his situation. Whether it was correct for Ben to attack into four open mana is another question that is somewhat difficult to answer.

Usually it’s good to make them have it, because if they don’t, they often are going to find it with Glimmer of Genius on your end step. However, Alex Lloyd was at nine with a Ramunap Ruins on the battlefield, so I think I would have left it back. Regardless, Ben Stark is still an amazing player, and like I said, anyone can make a mistake. It doesn’t matter who you are.

Not to toot my own horn, but I feel that when I am at my peak game, I am a forced to be reckoned with. Take a look at this feature match, where I bluffed my opponent on selling them that I had a Lightning Bolt. I think I played very well this game.

Basically, my opponent has lethal and I am trying to represent Lighting Bolt to prevent my opponent from going for it. It’s not something that is going to work every time, but the pump fake on that “Lightning Bolt” allowed me to win that game.

You can also feel free to check out a bunch of other feature matches where I make really bad plays because sometimes I’m a dummy. Like here, where I let a Jace, the Mind Sculptor resolve because I think that I can Stifle to prevent it getting loyalty:

I like to think of playing Magic well as making less mistakes than your opponent and, let’s face it, everyone makes mistakes.

So, what deck did I end up playing for Grand Prix Atlanta?

Out of the ten rounds of the Grand Prix, I played against Energy eight times. I lost twice to the Temur Energy Mirror and zero times to Four-Color Energy. I think that the black isn’t necessary, and I think that is indicative of the results. If it evenly showed up throughout the Top 16s, then I think that it stands to reason that the black isn’t necessary for the deck to do well.

Going forward to GP Portland, where I will be in attendance, I don’t think that I want to play Temur Energy again. The mirror is just rough and the die roll is crucial in the mirror. I lost twice to two control decks in the Grand Prix, so perhaps control will rise again this weekend. I also lost to a R/B Aggro deck sporting Hazoret the Fervent; Yahenni, Undying Partisan; and Bontu’s Last Reckoning , the last of which blew me out in Game 2.

There are ways to beat Energy in this format. So what are the best ways to deal with this midrange menace that can adapt post-sideboard to whatever it wants to? Well the answer is kind of complicated. You could just play Ramunap Red, which has an even matchup against the deck, I think. Anyone who says Temur is favored is kind of exaggerating because there are many games where the deck will get beaten despite how well it draws.

The other answers involve the opposite ends of the spectrum.

It is possible to go under Temur Energy or go over it; they are just going to be able to get closer to your end of the spectrum after sideboarding. A great way to trump them though is to catch them off-guard. A great example of this is when Black Aggro decks sideboard or maindeck the card Bontu’s Last Reckoning. Temur can’t realistically sideboard in countermagic even if they know it is coming, so it is quite good against them, especially when it is combined with indestructible threats or unanimated Vehicles. Think something like this list that fell to Temur Energy in the MOCS this past weekend.

I’m a bit surprised to not see Ruin Raider in this list, as that is what draws me to Mono-Black.

Supernatural Stamina seems a bit weird, but I respect Blossoming Defense and this card is very similar. I’m curious if there is a weird R/B Energy Aggro deck that plays Hazoret the Fervent, Lathnu Helion, and Key to the City. Maybe something like this:

What about control? Well, they can sideboard cards like The Scarab God or even Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, which would give Temur fits post-sideboard after they take all of their removal out for Game 2. Do they bring it back in for Game 3? I can tell you that drawing a bunch of reactive cards against a control deck with Temur Energy doesn’t feel good.

I think getting around Temur Engery this weekend is going to involve putting the deck into spots where it doesn’t know what it wants to do. Alex Lloyd did that with his Esper Approach deck he used to win GP Atlanta.

If I somehow can’t come up with anything the reliably beats Temur Energy consistently, there is a chance I will run it back in Portland. I have been contemplating Saheeli Rai over Nissa, Steward of Elements for the mirror. Likely something similar to this list:

That’s it for this week. See you at Grand Prix Portland this weekend and then the SCG Invitational!