Life Lessons At #SCGORL

Mark Nestico writes about the lessons he learned at SCG Open Series: Orlando last weekend, where he played U/W/R Control in Standard and Jund Depths in Legacy.

"You did this to yourself."

"Did I?"

"You wrote that article talking all that crap about Mono-Black Devotion, and it just bit you right in the ass."

"I can’t argue with that logic."

This past weekend was the StarCityGames.com Open Series in . . . sort of cloudy and not even sunny Orlando, Florida. Given that it was so close to me, I decided to join the festivities. Several local degenerates were going as well, so I figured at best I would do well and win a bunch of matches and at worst I would get hammered at Texas de Brazil.

Not hammered on alcohol, no . . .

Meat drunk, kids.

Meat drunk.

Have you ever eaten so much steak/pork/chicken that you thought you were going to die? This weekend was a grim reminder that we are mortal, for I feasted as if it were the Bacchanalia, and when all was said and done I was certain that the Grim Reaper was going to claim my unworthy soul. I don’t think I’d ever eaten so much meat in a single sitting, and I also had a salad.

God bless these Brazilian steakhouses. Without them, we as a species are nothing.

I’m sure you didn’t come to read all about how sweet it is to eat copious amount of food, but it just needed to be said.

We can talk about Magic now I guess.


This weekend I was all set to jam B/W Midrange. In fact, the same build that saw my good friend and future husband Brennan Michael DeCandio all the way to a second-place finish was the exact 75 I had sleeved up the night before.

I was very apprehensive to battle with this deck since it is completely out of my comfort zone. For those of you familiar with my stream, I often battled with Mono-Black Devotion, but since I took some time away from streaming, I hadn’t really played with it much, eschewing it for the U/W Control builds that have been so good to me the last month.

After last week’s little tirade against MBD, I was all but certain to play either it or a derivative of it. I couldn’t stop losing to it, and it was making me miserable that everything I tried was failing against it.

I resolved to battle with the best version of the deck (in my humble opinion), one splashing white for cards like Last Breath and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. _Batutinha_, an online grinder and beast of a player, had been obliterating events with it online, including a few Daily Events as well as one of the latest Premier Events. Aside from it doing so well, it wasn’t extremely popular, and my friends commented that regardless of what they were playing in (two-man queues, eight-man queues, Daily Events) that this deck was extremely scarce and not an entirely known entity.

This is great for two reasons:

1. If it’s unknown, you get the element of surprise. Sure, Grand Prix Dallas-Fort Worth saw a very similar deck win, but for some reason it hadn’t caught on despite outrageous matchups against the top two dogs in the format, Mono-Blue and Mono-Black Devotion.

2. It had been winning in their hands. Without fail, it was steamrolling everything they played in, making it even more attractive. People were not ready for it.

My expectations going into the event were fairly high, as my teammates and I were fairly convinced we were walking into a knife fight with a loaded gun . . .

That is until I received a Facebook message from Christian Calcano.

Damn it.

I respect the hell out of Christian and think he’s one of the best players in the game right now, so when he sent me a copy of his latest incarnation of U/W/R Control it was very hard to ignore.

The more I looked over it, the more I liked it. The more I liked it, the more I wanted to play it. The more I wanted to play it, the less I wanted to play B/W Midrange. The less I wanted to play B/W Midrange, well . . . you get the idea.

You can view the deck I played along with a neat little video about it here.

Everything about it looked amazing to me on paper, but it’s entirely possible it was the wrong choice for me.

Life Lesson #1: Don’t Be Afraid To Switch Things Up

Leaving your comfort zone can be scary, and sometimes playing a deck that you can really get behind will yield better results for you. In this scenario, however, I knew that I shouldn’t play U/W/R Control, but it’s in my wheelhouse and I felt much safer with a Sphinx’s Revelation deck than I did with a black-based midrange one.

I usually preach against that kind of mentality, but I succumbed to it instead.

For this event I should have gone with my team and played the same deck they did, but I wanted to wrap myself in the safe cocoon that is a blue control deck. Yet I didn’t emerge a butterfly. This doesn’t mean the deck is bad because it isn’t. When it ran well it made me feel unstoppable, and I had a ball casting Assemble the Legion and Sphinx’s Revelation. However, control decks just don’t feel like they’re in the best place possible at the moment. I knew this. I preached this. I wrote about this. For some reason, though, I just didn’t listen to my own advice.

I guess my main point is that evolving your game sometimes means doing things you’re not entirely comfortable with but that are at least in your best interest.

The tournament went reasonably well, but I dropped at 5-3.

Why, you ask?

Life Lesson #2: U Mad, Bro?

It’s easy to tilt when you play Magic. A lot of people experience it in different ways.

Some people shout.

Some people swear.

Some people berate.

Lately I just get really irritated.

I’ve come a long way from letting Magic get to me; when I was younger, I’d throw fits if I lost, which is totally unbecoming and not indicative of adult behavior. Now I just vent a little to my friends after shaking my opponent’s hand and wishing them luck. That’s what’s important—being a good sport.

This weekend however tested the limits of that patience, but luckily my opponents were such nice people I couldn’t even be upset.

Two rounds in a row saw me play against a Mono-Black-Devotion player who cast four Thoughtseizes against me before turn 6, ripping up my hand and making winning extremely difficult. In both scenarios I didn’t come close to drawing out of it, and in both matches I lost because I couldn’t come back from that much hate.

But let’s be honest here—I deserved it.

I spent the week running my mouth about Mono-Black-Devotion, and I had offended Erebos, who is a god apparently and rained his wrath down upon me like arrows belonging to a thousand of the Persian Empire.

One key thing I want to address this week though is the sheer number of people who keep losing their minds when they aren’t winning. Twice this weekend I had to ask someone not my opponent to calm down and stop swearing their heads off at the person sitting across from them. It’s difficult enough to focus on a game of Magic with the thousand lines of play swirling around your head, but when someone two feet away from you is spewing venom in a loud uncalled for way, it can make your game even more difficult to play.

I’ve talked in the past about keeping your cool during a match and usually I get some great responses from everyone, but I felt this weekend was a huge step backward in the conduct I witnessed.

Personally I was on the wrong end of luck during the Standard portion, but I made friends with the people that beat me. Throughout the day and in between rounds of the Legacy event, we were all checking up on each other and congratulating one another, which is how it ought to be. Just because someone ends your tournament life doesn’t make them a bad person. It literally gets under my skin to the point of having to tell them to mind their manners, and I shouldn’t have to be the good behavior police.

In short, being a butthead is unacceptable.


My last foray into Legacy didn’t go so well, so I was mostly planning to play side events and probably draft a little when I saw this:

Oh man.

"Coach," as he is nicknamed, made a pretty sweet deck, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to play it.

I phoned a friend and asked him if he could supply me with the exact same 75 (minus the Phyrexian Ingester, plus The Abyss), and he told me it wouldn’t be a problem.

I love my friends!

Without hesitation, I put some adorable Liz Nugent Turtle sleeves on this sucker and immediately learned a few more life lessons.

Life Lesson #3: Just Because You Don’t Understand It Doesn’t Mean It Can’t Be Fun

I suck at Legacy because I don’t understand it, but that didn’t stop me from trying to have a good time.

One common thing I heard all weekend from people—and I’m sure you hear this a lot as well—is that if someone doesn’t fully grasp a format they decline playing it out of fear of failure, as if losing means you can’t have a good time.

Whelp, turns out failure can lead to some awesome and fun games.

I went into this Legacy event with little to no expectation of doing well and emerged with my eyes wide open. Is this what I was missing all along?

The games I played were interactive and fun, and the opponents were all extremely pleasant. I ended up having one of the most entertaining experiences that I’ve had in quite a while, and it was all because I decided that I was going to do something different for a change.

I started out 3-1-1, but the record is . . . complicated. Read on. We’ll get to why.

Life Lesson #4: To Scoop Or Not To Scoop—That Is The Question

This weekend presented a very interesting set of dilemmas, and I seriously want all of your input on what you would do or recommend doing in the future.

Draws happen. Sometimes two players reach board states that are very difficult to play through, and occasionally you will get locked into a stalemate, meaning your match will go long enough that time is called.

During two matches this weekend my opponent and I agreed that if the other person was considerably ahead that we would scoop. Starting off the tournament at 0-0-1 meant that all draws from that point on were pretty bad—not end-of-the-world bad but still pretty rough.

In my second round during game 3, I was pretty far ahead of my opponent in turns: basically I had established a Wasteland lock coupled with Life from the Loam, limiting him to just a Mox Diamond and a Bojuka Bog in play. I also had a Liliana that I was content to tick up until an eventual ultimate forced him even further down the hole.

When we reached turn 5, I asked for if he’d like to concede, and he declined. I’d like to point out that it is 100% within his right to draw with me and that if someone isn’t comfortable scooping I understand.

Myself? I almost will never draw if it would end someone’s tournament life, and if my opponent is way ahead on board and a second draw would put us in much worse shape, I’d rather just concede than take us both down.

My opponent however despite agreeing with me that the other player should scoop to the other reconsidered this at the end of the match. Without much hesitation, I extended my hand and offered him the win because taking us both down didn’t make sense to me. He was very thankful, and I didn’t feel even the slightest bit bad.

At 0-1-1 I rattled off three straight wins and found myself doing pretty well. I was paired against an extremely nice Jund player, and at the start of game 3 we made the same agreement because a draw at that point (3-1-1) would eliminate us from Top 8 contention.

My opponent played a Blood Moon late in the game and locked me out of colors, but I had The Abyss in play, which killed every creature he had. Eventually I drew my Mox Diamonds and started to go to work, heavily tilting the game in my favor.

With about fifteen cards left in my deck, it was clear that eventually I was going to hit my Ray of Revelation, and when I did my land state was a virtual lock, with multiple copies of Maze of Ith, Dark Depths, Thespian’s Stage, Wasteland, and The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, not to mention The Abyss making his creature situation even more bleak.

He declined to scoop and said he’d rather draw instead, again after we both admitted the better board state should get the nod.

I did the same thing, giving him the win rather than taking us both out of a possible Top 8 shot. I won’t lie—he made the most of it and almost made Top 8, losing in the last round, so that made me feel really good that he rallied that hard, but many of my friends said that if a person is unwilling to scoop when they are beaten and would rather take the draw you should just take the draw—not because you’re being a nice guy but because they don’t deserve the win.

I countered with "neither do I," but when about twenty people came up to me afterward and said "you shouldn’t have scooped to him—he couldn’t possibly win and should have done the ‘right thing’ instead of taking you both down," it really made me think about what I was doing.

Was I wrong to scoop to them even though I had the match all but locked up? I was playing the deck as quickly and efficiently as I could and think my opponents were doing the same thing, but sometimes things go long and it can’t be helped.

I’d love your comments about this, as it will help me gain a better perspective on it.

. . .

. . .

. . .

Thanks for reading, kids!

The next few weeks are going to be bonkers with multiple PTQs and other events, and all of it is leading right up to Grand Prix Richmond, which I will be attending.

So much Magic, so little time.

It’s time to get my rear in gear, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Thanks for stopping by Orlando, StarCityGames.com.

This weekend was ridiculous.

Catch ya on the flip-

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