I suppose the story of this tournament begins a full month ago, on the Saturday of Pro Tour Philadelphia.
I was drafting (a side draft, naturally I had been eliminated from the main event). That is to say, I was sitting at the draft table, but I wasn’t really there. In my mind I was multiqueuing Magic Onlineâ€”Sarkhan Jund and Elf Combo…no, maybe it was Extended Bant and Zendikar Sealed Deck. These days, the long sessions of MTGO which used to give me so much joy were few and far between. I looked back at the boosters piled up in front of me, and a tear welled up in my eye.
Magic Online is where I got my start. I qualified for three of my first four Pro Tours by winning MTGO tournaments. The world of real life Magic has been good to me also, but I’ll always have a soft spot for my homeland. By September, the better part of the year had passed me by, and I wasn’t qualified for the Magic Online Championships. Nine of the twelve slots had already been decided, and all that remained was one final monthly championship, the LCQ, and the Player of the Year Tournament, which the top 100 players on the MTGO leaderboard qualify to play in. For anyone not familiar, here are the details of the Magic Online Championship Series.
It was during that draft that I resolved to return to my former glory as a respected Magic Online grinder; I would qualify for the MOCS at all costs. I began to plan for the final three tournaments when it occurred to me that, while I had started the year on the MTGO leaderboard, I had long since fallen out of the top 100. I made my final pick and looked at my hands; even the “F2” callous on my index finger had faded to nothing. The tear rolled down my cheek and stained the cards in front of me.
Because of MTGO’s lag time, the final monthly championship and the POTY tournament would be old Standard. That meant that while the rest of the world got to drool over the Innistrad spoiler, I was stuck playing endless gold queues (1v1 matches) in a dead format.
I had started the season with enthusiasm about U/B Control but eventually gave up on it because of the bad Tempered Steel matchup and the deck’s general lack of power. Nothing could even come close to filling the hole that Jace, the Mind Sculptor had left. U/B is built around efficient one-for-ones, but I felt that without the endless stream of card advantage that Jace provides, a single setback like a mulligan or missing with a discard spell could make the game plan completely unfeasible.
After trying and giving up on a few other decks, I was given some hope by the success that Ali Aintrazi, Shaheen Soorani, and Christian Calcano had with U/B Control towards the end of the live Standard season. Apparently Jace had been overkillâ€”training wheelsâ€”and true masters could still make U/B work with tight play. It was also a good choice for the metagame, as Tempered Steel had lost popularity and U/B was the only deck with favorable matchups against both Splinter Twin and Valakut. I got to work on my list.
At this point I had a realization that, in my eyes, was a miracle. You see, once upon a time there was this format called Extended. I actually liked it. I was near the top of the MTGO Extended leaderboard and therefore didn’t have to worry about getting back into the top 100 overall. Instead of having to multiqueue unimportant formats to grind qualifier points, I could spend my practice time more efficiently by playing private games with my friends and gold queues. This had the side benefit of keeping my decklist private.
U/B was one of the most fun decks I’ve ever worked on because of how much room there was to play with the list. The core of the deck, really, was twenty-six lands, four Preordains, and four Mana Leaks. Beyond that, everything was flexible, and there was tons of space for spicy one-ofs. Fine-tuning the deck, I felt like I was playing Duels of the Planeswalkers, and each day I was “unlocking” a new card for my deck. Things got better and better as I continuously diversified my threats and answers.
Jarvis Yu’s Manpurse
MOCS number ten came, and I got massacred yet again. Thankfully, though, something good came out of it: the final one-of I needed to tie my deck together.
More than once, I’ve taken useful tech from Chris O’Bryant. This time, my friend and rival from last year’s MOCS took his European shoulder bag to an eleventh-place finish. More importantly (for me) his trendy pocketbook caught the attention of another intrepid adventurer in need of a tote bag to fill with secret tech.
Jarvis Yu quickly adopted Druidic Satchel for his own decklist and insisted that I try it. While I was skeptical at first, it only took a handful of games for me to see its power in any game that went long. It almost served as additional Jace Belerens, except that it couldn’t be killed with damage or legend ruled, and it never had to give the opponent a card. Jarvis also promised that his pouch packed a punch against Mono Red, and boy was he right! It served as a win condition in the sense that it locked up a game once I’d stabilized. To win the game with a card like Grave Titan, you risked immediate death when you tapped out for it, and then gave the red player an extra draw step or two while you had to attack. Chris O’Bryant’s knapsack really changed the way I could play the matchup.
Jarvis Yu’s handbag will certainly have future applications, especially as blue’s best planeswalkers rotate and get banned. Along the same lines, it can provide a Jace Beleren-esque effect for a non-blue deck. It’s a noncreature permanent that provides a long-term advantage. A card like that, no matter how underpowered it may seem, will always have its uses. It reminds me of Urza’s Factory in the sense that it seems at first glance to be overcosted and unrealistic, but in spite of that can break certain matchups wide open. Those of us with longer memories can think back to cards like Thawing Glaciers, Browse, Library of Alexandria, Jayemdae Tome, and Disrupting Scepter.
I can’t be certain what the future holds for our unisex carryall, but I’m grateful that my friends convinced me how well it matched my outfit for this one special occasion:
I only played one Satchel because I was afraid of getting bottlenecked on mana. Nevertheless, it showed up right on time in the very first game.
Round one I faced a Mono Red player, and in the first game he had exhausted himself as he staggered toward the finish line… seven life… five life… three life… when I finally picked up my suitcase from baggage claim and drove the game home, two life at a time. Unfortunately, this ended up being my one loss of the tournament, as my scheming opponent Manic Vandal-ed my Satchel in game three and then was able to narrowly race my Vampire Nighthawk.
The story of my tournament is a story of every single one-of in my deck (there were ten) saving my skin at least once. I exiled a Hero of Bladehold with Karn Liberated when it had protection from black with Sword of Feast and Famine. I equipped Batterskull to put myself out of range of a giant Shrine of Burning Rage. The cards that really stood out, though, were the last two cards I added to the deck (other than the Satchel): Consume the Meek and Ratchet Bomb.
Consume the Meek cleaned up the mess that the aforementioned Hero of Bladehold left behind. After Memoriciding Deceiver Exarch, it combined with my one-of Doom Blade to kill a Wurmcoil Engineâ€”my opponent’s alternate win conditionâ€”which would certainly have otherwise done me in. Most notably, in the final game of the final match, I main phased the instant sweeper to kill a Deceiver Exarch and the Spellskite which would have protected it from Doom Blade or Into the Roil.
All that out of Consume the Meek, and I still considered Ratchet Bomb the MVP of the tournament. It took out Deceiver Exarchs, Pyromancer Ascensions, and Swords of Feast and Famine all day, and those were the cards whose very existence made me scared to play control. The most spectacular moment, though, was when I destroyed two Oblivion Rings at the same time: one freeing Jace Beleren and the other Consecrated Sphinx. You can imagine where things went from there!
As an aside, I predict Ratchet Bomb will have its moment in the sun in New Standard. At zero, it clears the board of tokens and flipped cards. It interacts great with Sun Titan and Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, which are sure to be two of the format’s defining cards. If those reasons aren’t enough, I can say for certain that the simple fact that Ratchet Bomb can kill Oblivion Ring will make it a serious consideration for every single control deck in New Standard.
I filled my deck with diverse threats and answers in expectation of a diverse metagame, and I wasn’t disappointed. After losing round one to Mono Red, I rattled off wins against another red deck, U/B Control, Pyromancer Ascension, Splinter-Twin, two Caw-Blades, and two Dungrove Elder decks on my way to the finals.
And then there were two. There I was, eyeball to eyeball (metaphorically of course) with none other than the fearsome Owen Turtenwald… the ruthless Owen Turtenwald… the potential player of the year Owen Turtenwald. As that idea came to my mind, my heart stopped dead and then began to race. While Mr. Turtenwald is, in his own right, one of the absolute best Magic Online players in the world under the handle qazwsxedcrfvtgbyhnuj, I needed him to be satisfied with one player of the year title. After all, the terror was still fresh in my mind…
Last year, no one could stop the mighty Brad Nelson from taking one of the spots in the Magic Online Championships. The World Championships came around and locked up his chance to play for live MTG’s Player of the Year title. It was only the concerted efforts of Carlos RomÃ£o, Akira Asahara, Logan Nettles, and Christopher O’Bryant that narrowly kept him from claiming the Magic Online title as well.
I had this one chance to stop history from repeating itself. I had to prove that those who dominate live MTG can’t push around us online grinders! And for that one match, I was the old reiderrabbit again, defending my home turf.
Both games I stuck an early Jace Beleren and gained what advantage I could. My star players, Ratchet Bomb and Consume the Meek, worked overtime. True to form, Owen played great and gave me every chance to misplay and himself every chance to topdeck. Particularly in game two, he had to draw blanks at the right time for me to win, but I did everything I could, and in the end the cards came the way I needed them to as well.
So that’s the story of how I became the
first best-looking player to ever qualify for the MOCS twice. The chance to compete in this tournament again really means the world to me. Through all my joy and celebration, though, one thing bothers me. I sure do feel bad for my buddy __SipItHolla. The poor guy thought he’d seen the last of me when he beat me in the finals of MOCS seven earlier this year. I hope he doesn’t lose too much sleep over it…