The hordes scrambling into the hallway made it clear that pairings had gone up. I waded through the crowd to find my own table number and scanned the
area for the best route, careful not to bump into anyone. James Elliot’s glorious voice announced the feature matches over the loudspeaker, and I
briefly listened for my name. With my record, it didn’t seem likely, but that hasn’t stopped them before.
With the concern over where I’d be sitting out of the way, it was time to get down to business. I said a thing or two to my opponent, but he
didn’t seem interested in small talk. I obliged him.
While I won the die roll, I had to take a mulligan. It didn’t seem to be my day. I knew I probably made a few bad choices while building my deck,
but at least give me a shot. Don’t let me go out like this. Thankfully, my six was fine, and we were off.
After we both opened on Creeping Tar Pits, I figured he was playing “Bertoncini’s list,” as that’s what one of my previous
opponents told me he was playing. It’s kind of annoying having to fight the same 75 you engineered the week before, but I’ll definitely
take the enemy I know over the one I don’t. After all, I know his deck better than he does.
There’s a ton of play in the mirror match, but there’s also the chance they run away with the game after getting Mystic, Hawk, Jace, or
Equipment advantage. For the most part, you have to match them in each of those areas. If you can pull that off, the games are actually very
On turn 2, my hand was
Go for the Throat
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
I didn’t have a lot of action, but if I could prolong the game, I’d be solid. My hand was perfect for protecting Jace, so at least
I’d have that advantage. If my first Brainstorm yielded anything of value, I’d be in the driver’s seat.
Duressing on turn 2 didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I’d rather wait until he searched up a Batterskull with Stoneforge Mystic, and I also
wanted to Mana Leak his two-drop if he had one. Waiting on Duress allowed me to see an extra card of his, which would give me additional information
but also give me another chance to snag his Jace.
He shipped the turn right back with no play. I fired off Duress on turn 3, fully prepared to Mana Leak his Leak, but he just revealed his grip:
Go for the Throat
Into the Roil
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
We had similar hands, but I was golden. I knew I was taking his Jace but wanted to finish thinking before I gave him any information. I sculpted what
my next few turns were going to look like, pointed at his Jace, and told him to go.
He drew a Duress, cast it, which I was more than happy to Leak. I knew all of his cards and knew that Jace was resolving. Since I had perfect
information, I could afford to fateseal him, since I knew exactly what I did and didn’t want him drawing. His top card was Inquisition of
Kozilek, which was annoying but certainly better for me to have him draw that than some other random card. I’d rather keep my Go for the Throat
for his Tar Pit, but I didn’t want to give him the chance to draw Mystic, Hawk, or Jace, so I kept it on top.
On his turn, he quickly played a Jace, and warning bells went off. I had my own little DarkestMage screaming that something was wrong, but I ignored
it. I figured that my gut was angry that he had a Jace in the one-turn window I gave him, and that further compounded how I was already feeling given
my bad couple of weeks.
I quickly drew, played the Sword of Feast and Famine I had, and passed back, knowing full well that I was likely to lose now. When he started his turn,
my DarkestMage was still yelling at me, but I didn’t know why. Finally, I checked his graveyard and saw Into the Roil and Jace.
Where was the Jace that I took with the earlier Duress? Why was that Into the Roil there instead?
I questioned my opponent about it, and he told me, very matter-of-factly, that I took Into the Roil with Duress.
I thought I was very clear. I pointed at Jace and said, “I guess I’ll take Jace.” Granted, I wasn’t the loudest I could have
been, and the room was full of people, but it was straightforward. I looked down at my score pad where I recorded his hand. Jace was still crossed off.
I questioned my opponent again, but he was adamant that I pointed at Into the Roil.
I knew that the game had gone too far to “repair,” but I got a judge involved anyway. When he gave the ruling I expected, that the game was to remain
the same, I didn’t even bother appealing. My opponent wasn’t very apologetic, nor did he seem startled by the fact that I didn’t
expect the Into the Roil to be in his graveyard.
I went on to lose that game, mulligan the next, and lose that one as well.
As Ryan O’Connor said, “The world is #&$%ed up.”
I made a major mistake last weekend in Louisville, alongside a couple minor mistakes like not watching my opponents closely enough. The decks that Drew
Levin and I played in both events, Darkblade and U/W Control, were the best decks the week before, and we adapted them to fight mirrors and additional
hate cards that might pop up like Thrun, the Last Troll.
Awkwardly enough, that may have been a kneejerk reaction to a lot of people asking both of us for our thoughts on the decks that we played. That led us
to believe that a higher portion of the tournament would consist of mirrors. We felt ready, but in the end, we may have done more harm than good. Our
decks became too inbred, and the mirrors weren’t prevalent.
Our Landstill list for Legacy was most of the same, but Drew convinced me to cut the Repeals. I didn’t want to, but we needed room for maindeck
Merfolk hate in Humility and trumps for the mirror like Decree of Justice. In the end, both cards underperformed, and I lost handily to Joe
Bernal’s Bitterblossoms. I was literally drawing dead to it.
I felt like Conley Woods. I chose the cards in my deck to be “cute” or “smart” or “clever” or whatever and ended up
with a couple of heaping piles. This is the lesson in action kids. Play real decks if you want to win games.
Rather than being one step ahead, I was either three steps ahead or two behind, and I’m not sure which. I would have performed much better had I
just copy/pasted my decklists from last week, as odd as that is. I mean, our Humilities sounded good in theory, especially since notable players like
Jesse Hatfield and AJ Sacher were both playing Thrun in their sideboard.
Thrun isn’t the be all, end all in any matchup. It’s still a creature that takes five turns to kill. Sure, it can fight a Jace in a few
turns, but I can even race it with Decree or Celestial Colonnade. Trust me when I say it’s not even good in the matchup, especially if you play a
list like Drew and I did last week.
Merfolk is also a large portion of the metagame, but it doesn’t make a difference. We should have just kept it as consistent as possible rather
than watering down both our maindeck and sideboard. The U/W Legacy deck was streamlined as is. I took a beautiful thing and destroyed it.
This is what Drew and I played to top 32 finishes:
The Dust Bowl was pretty awesome. While it’s worse than Wasteland when you have Crucible, if you don’t have Crucible, it really shines. I
Spell Snared one of my opponent’s Life from the Loams until I could Dust Bowl all of his Tropical Islands. While this was happening, I was also
casting Standstills. Whee!
Dust Bowl is also awesome in the mirror. They’re usually forced to Wasteland your Factories early. Once that’s out of the way, you can drop
your sandbagged Dust Bowl and start going to town.
Our mirror plan was to out manland them, since we had two additional manlands and the Dust Bowl in place of a Wasteland. Celestial Colonnade was
fantastic, and I would definitely play one again.
The Decrees were cute but mostly useless. It was rare that I had more than six lands in play, so it was never very effective. We considered an Eternal
Dragon but deemed it too slow.
Humility would have been okay had I drawn it against Merfolk, but I played against too many decks with Equipment. For the most part, Humility is
useless when they already have a Sword of Fire and Ice in play.
Our sideboard was a step up from last week’s, but ultimately not what I wanted. While the Enlightened Tutor strategy is cool because it lets you
sideboard against a lot of decks using minimal sideboard slots, it’s not what I want. I didn’t play against Affinity, Painter, or Dredge,
nor do I expect to. Most of those matchups are fine anyway, and I probably don’t need to use the slots to fight them.
The plan for the fishy menace was to beat them with four-mana enchantments. Daze is a problem, as is Coralhelm Commander to some extent, but we thought
it would be fine. It wasn’t. I wanted Peacekeepers and more pitch-magic like Misdirection to deal with stuff like Echoing Truth that they might
You probably did a double take at one of the cards in my sideboard, but no, that’s not a typo. I did register (and cast!) a Take Possession last
Sunday. It was Drew’s idea for the pure mirror match. The idea is that you’ll sit on Take Possession if they resolve a Jace and let them
ramp it up to twelve, at which point you’ll steal it and ultimate them.
I’m not sure if it’s actually good in practice, but it sounded like fun, so I ran with it. There are plenty of things I regret about last
weekend, but registering a Take Possession isn’t one of them.
Squadron Hawk was absent in my Standard deck, as I based my list loosely on Lewis Laskin’s deck from Orlando. He went with Vampire Nighthawk,
Spellskite, and a clean mana base, splashing white mostly for Stoneforge Mystic. I must say, my mana base was wonderful, but the lack of fliers was
not. My maindeck was soft to the mirror, and I went 2-2 in the mirror (and only) matches I did play.
Chris Andersen showed the world that you can, in fact, function without Hawks by putting two of his buddies into Top 8 with a Mirran Crusader build of
Darkblade. Crusader seemed weak to Hawks, Into the Roil, and Jace, but they don’t give your opponent much room to make mistakes. The clock they
provide is fierce and unforgiving, but I’m not sure that’s what you want with Caw-Blade.
I’m more than fine with prolonging the game, but that’s just more of my play style as well. I could see a U/W version of Caw-Blade, with
Crusaders instead of the Caw aspect, if only because the mana base would be a lot better. Playing Creeping Tar Pit and Darkslick Shores in my Mirran
Crusader deck isn’t something that I’m likely to do. If anything else, I’d be looking to play Phyrexian Crusader. It’s a shame
that Batterskull makes that plan a lot worse.
A few other random tidbits from the weekend:
On Sunday, I was about to win game one when the judges walked over and informed me that there was a problem. Apparently my opponent had been playing
with a 59-card deck for a couple of rounds because they neglected to give him back a Mother of Runes after a deck check. He did pile shuffle before our
game and counted 59 but just assumed that he miscounted.
The judges decided that, because the missing card wasn’t my opponent’s fault, that we’d just restart the game. Interesting…
My flight was scheduled to leave at 6 pm on Monday, and I nearly missed it because of some stop-and-go traffic. Thankfully, the Louisville airport is
rather small, and their security checkpoint didn’t feel the need to inspect my Magic cards unlike other airports.
I had a layover in Charlotte that was delayed, so my three-hour wait turned into five. Then six, and then seven. I was scheduled to arrive in
Minneapolis at about 2 am and barely missed the last light rail running for the night. I could have grabbed a cab home but decided to wait three hours
for the next train instead.
It didn’t end up being too bad, as I got to talk Legacy with LSV, dust off Tactics Ogre (the best strategy RPG of all time), and I think I
figured out how to re-break Legacy and Standard. All in all, a productive night.
I’m going to spend the next two weeks putting my theory into practice and get my lists ready for the StarCityGames.com Invitational. I also need
to clear my head and get myself back to where I was six months ago when I hoisted that first trophy.
Wish me luck.