Living The Dream: #SCGINVI In Las Vegas

Read about Mark Nestico’s experience at SCG Open Series: Las Vegas featuring the Invitational, where he got ninth place in the Standard Open with U/W Control.

Eventually, there is that moment when a boy becomes a man.

For me, it happened at 27 . . .

Or more aptly, Las Vegas happened. Allow me to explain.

StarCityGames.com held its Invitational in Sin City this time around, and since I had never been, I decided to roll the dice (*rim shot*) and try my luck (*additional rim shot*) in order to get a much-needed vacation. Basically, I would fly to Dallas-Fort Worth, battle in the Grand Prix, and follow that up with a rousing day at home playing with my cat Bynx before boarding another non-Spirit Airlines plane to Vegas. This would entail roughly two solid weeks of gaming.

Strangely, I was ok with this.

Pretty early on I figured that I’d be on U/W Control. I love Ratchet Bomb because it gets around Brave the Elements, which I figured might be popular. I love Divination since drawing copious amounts of cards is the best way to beat decks that Thoughtseize you. I love Elspeth, Sun’s Champion because she gives me a reason to use my Pichu tokens—in the end, isn’t that what’s really important?

As for the Legacy portion, I was on Shardless BUG. Why?

Because you voted for it! Let me tell you, dearest of readers . . .

Y’all Fudged Up

What were you thinking? I know I said that it plays all the cards I like, but dear sweet infant baby Jesus I told you guys I have no idea what I’m doing in Legacy. Here’s an excerpt from every single conversation I had with every single person I told I was playing Shardless BUG.

Everyone Ever: "So Mark, what are you battling with?"

Me: "Shardless BUG."

Everyone Ever: "Seriously? That deck isn’t super great at the moment."

Me: "My readers picked it."

Everyone Ever: "Your readers must hate you."

Me: "They do not!!!"

Everyone Ever: "What’s your plan for dealing with True-Name Nemesis?"

Me: "I play Thoughtseize, and I can Force of Will it! I also have Golgari Charm!"

Everyone Ever: "Haha ok, man. Good luck."

I didn’t understand what they meant, but boy howdy did the Legacy portion of the Invitational learn me a lesson. It learned me real good.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Our adventure begins at 4 AM in the Fort Myers International Airport as I lay completely passed out in a chair that I didn’t intend to pass out in. I’m gently awoken by the iron-like grip of a desk clerk who squeezed my arm so tightly I jolted back to reality with the immediate fight-or-flight response (*third rim shot*). Sometimes not sleeping for 36 hours sneaks up on you and you succumb to slumber without your consent, but luckily for me the nice man let me know my plane was almost finished boarding and that I needed to get on or be left behind. What a pleasant guy! Let the run-goods begin!

The flight was relatively uneventful mostly because I don’t remember any of it except for this crazy reoccurring dream I keep having where a muscular man with a snake head keeps trying to strangle me. I could have done without that, but thankfully he failed again. I landed safely in Las Vegas.

Me: 1
Snake-Head Nightmare Man: 0

I met up with my traveling companion Bronson Magnan, aka Poppa Bear, and we made our way to the Golden Nugget hotel in order to fulfill a fantasy I have had ever since I saw Vegas Vacation when I was a child . . .

To eat at a Vegas buffet.

To say it was everything I expected would be a lie. It was more. I ate French Silk Pie as an appetizer. Ziti was intermingled with steak, sandwiches, and teriyaki chicken. This was it, man—once I had a taste, there’s no going back to the nonsensical garbage that is Golden Corral. That place is rubbish, and a Vegas buffet was the garbage man. I worked in fine dining for over three years; I’ve served thousand dollar bottles of wine and infused just about everything you can think of with white truffle oil. All of that? Nothing. I don’t care how white trash it sounds! This was it, y’all.

Once we destroyed a buffet, it was time to get down to business. We had a reason for coming to Vegas, and we would be damned if we were going to squander it.


Instead of putting my faith in Supreme Verdict, I decided to put it in blackjack. Within a few hours I was up almost $500. An hour later I had lost $500. This was like a rollercoaster, baby, and I didn’t want to ride anymore. After achieving some level of equilibrium, I was able to sleep while visions of that stupid old woman who hit against a six danced through my head.

Thursday was a day set aside for testing, and thankfully a friend of ours, Peaches, opted for an absurd suite at the Venetian, meaning we’d have multiple rooms and tables for playing. This gave a more relaxed feel to everything since clutter was at a complete minimum while an insane view of all of Las Vegas was at a maximum. We spent hours jamming games and tweaking our decks to our liking as we were eventually joined by a cast of characters from across the States, including our very own Brian Braun-Duin.

I felt a little more comfortable with Legacy after spending a while battling against a few different decks, and a lot of the apprehension I was feeling began to melt away. This is foreshadowing, people—the part where your hero is most at ease before things begin to erupt around him like a volcano.

I went to bed about as ready as I could possibly be. Or as drunk. A little from column A, a little from column B.

I awoke the next morning refreshed and primed for some awesome games of Magic. The Invitational field looked deep, but that didn’t bother me. I couldn’t wait to shuffle up. For reference, these are what I battled with:

I had the utmost excitement for my Standard deck since I played it last week in Dallas and missed out on day 2 with some pretty rough mulligans, but the version I was piloting paled in comparison to the one Huey rattled off a finals appearance with. His version felt infinitely more efficient and less vulnerable, and I liked that it allowed a lot of wiggle room to play.

In the Standard portion of the event, I was able to go 3-1, beating two Mono-Blue Devotion decks and one Mono-Red Devotion deck. The victories were fairly one-sided, and I finished off all three opponents with about 25 minutes to spare in each round. The loss came during round 1 against Mono Black Devotion, which saw us go to a game 3. After destroying everything on my opponent’s side of the table, I was able to cast Sphinx’s Revelation for six. He looked like he was ready to scoop them up but decided to continue on with things. What he didn’t know was that my Revelation hit five lands and a Divination. I drew seven straight lands while he hit runner-runner spells and killed me with a huge sigh of relief. Variance, man. Variance.

With a 3-1 record, I felt a lot more comfortable going into the Legacy portion of the event. 5-3 would be a passing grade for day 2, and I felt confident that at worst I could put up a 2-2 performance before getting to step into my Standard deck again the next morning.

That. Did. Not. Happen.

I was brutalized by Merfolk and Esper and lost a very close match against U/W.

My lack of experience showed pretty heavily as the comfort zone of playing with my friends disappeared. Legacy is complicated, and although I understood the basics of the deck, I was still a novice in the ways of how the format worked. My Thoughtseizes were amateur at best, and my lines of play were convoluted and mostly incorrect. I’m pretty sure that if I could have screwed it up I did.


Dreams dead.

Thanks for playing!

I was quite disappointed, but to be fair this was the first time I’d played Legacy in a tournament in years. Going forward I will be far more practiced, and there’s no doubt that I’ll spend a ton more time understanding the format as a whole. This is True-Name Nemesis’ world, and I am just a Shardless BUG girl. Or boy. Whatever.

There wasn’t really time to lament my failures because I was too busy thinking about the Standard Open the next morning.

Playing Huey’s U/W list had me very excited to play in this event. Doing well during the Standard section of the Invitational only fueled my desire to register it, so I decided to not change a single card and play it just the way it was the day before.

For those that were following the coverage, I put together a 5-0 start. Round 3 gave me a match against Brian Kibler, who was playing his excellent G/B Aggro deck. He stumbled on lands game 1, allowing me the opportunity to land an Elspeth he was kold to. Game 2 was much more involved, and there were multiple points where he was close to killing me. But Quicken + Supreme Verdict gave me a clear path, and a Ratchet Bomb that never left one counter to prevent any Mistcutter Hydra shenanigans kept me safe enough to pull it out.

I was feeling great until I took a painful loss to the B/W Control deck that won Grand Prix Dallas-Fort Worth. In both games he was able to string together multiple discard spells before turn 6 and leave my hand devastated. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to draw into anything good, and he took the match quite handily. This left me at 5-1 and with my back against the wall, but things weren’t about to get any easier.

I found myself paired against SCG Open Series superstar Joe Lossett. Our game 1 was an extremely intricate affair; Joe put the squeeze on me with a Counterflux on Elixir of Immortality, making winning a lot more difficult. We spent some time dealing with each other’s threats until I finally stuck a Jace, Architect of Thought and started to tick it up. Protecting it as best I could, eventually Joe scooped to the impending ultimate of the planeswalker.

Game 2 was much worse for Joe, however, as he was forced to mulligan and proceeded to get stuck on just a pair of lands. When I cast a Jace, Memory Adept on turn 5, he had a small window to Detention Sphere it, but he didn’t have it. I untapped with four counters and proceeded to mill him out before he could get anything going. Joe was classy in defeat and wished me luck. He was every bit the nice guy I’d heard him to be.

Eventually I sat at 7-1, and with tremendous breakers I should have been able to draw into the Top 8 with a win next round. The higher tables were flush with Mono-Blue decks and other matchups that made me salivate, but what I got was Owen Turtenwald and his Mono-Black Devotion deck that he pilots like a master.

The match was on camera, so I won’t go into too much detail. I mulliganed both games, Owen had multiple discard spells on the early turns both games to ensure I didn’t get much going, and the match was over pretty quickly. Generally I feel this matchup isn’t too bad, but it’s pretty difficult to beat that much discard that early on top of starting at six. Owen played perfectly as expected, so losing to him had very little sting to it. I was happier just to have gotten a few laughs out of him.

The last round put me up against friend Christian Calcano, who was playing U/W/R Control. Assemble the Legion is a potent threat from this deck, but what makes the matchup a pain are cards like Wear // Tear out of the sideboard and the maindeck Counterfluxes that can invalidate a lot of your countermagic. We needed a lot to go right for us to have a shot at the Top 8 but eventually found out we were both dead for it, essentially playing for ninth. We split the first two games; Aetherling proved to be way too much to handle in game 1 for me, and a late Jace, Memory Adept backed by Gainsay in game 2 to mill him out sent us to the bubble game with about seven minutes to go.

We both played quickly, trading haymaker after haymaker. Onlookers gazed on in boredom as we both said "land, go" for about ten turns before the action started, but when it did we didn’t take our feet off of the peddles. Eventually, turns were called. I landed a Jace, Memory Adept and started to mill him. On his turn 5, with few cards left in his library, Christian cast Detention Sphere on my Jace. I showed him the other Architect of Thought in my hand, and he flipped over a land, graciously conceding. Thankfully, he came right in at 32nd place for the best possible cash scenario.

I was met with the obligatory pats on the back for ninth, which yes—it is as depressing as it sounds, but I was actually pretty happy about all of it. My road was paved with playing the best players in the tournament and falling short. This was the kind of ninth I was proud of. I earned it.

I took Sunday off and slept in, waking up only to play in some side events before winning the last draft that fired that afternoon. It was the kind of relaxing day that I needed, spent bantering with friends, eating, and just having fun.

No worries.

No cares.

Just the essence of Magic: fun.

. . .

. . .

. . .

This weekend was a blast, but as I write this from miles in the sky en route back home, I can’t help but be thankful. I didn’t get the result I wanted, but maybe that isn’t the point. I haven’t had this much of a good time since God knows when. I’m peaceful. I’m doing what I love, and I get to finally go home to my wife and Bynx just in time for Christmas.

Sick life, readers.

Sick life.

Catch ya on the flip-

Watch me stream! http://www.twitch.tv/Mark_Nestico
Check me out on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/mnestico
Gaze in awe as I attempt to tweet things! @DynamoNestico
For those of you that are fans of retro video gaming, make sure to check out my group Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SWFLGamers