It was my second foray into the not-as-desert-as-I-thought twin cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, and the only thing I could think about was
bacon-wrapped shrimp. I’m not big on heavy sugar, but that ice cream parlor on the Fort Worth strip is so good, even Dan Jessup conceded to behemoths like
That ain’t right.
The weather was predicted to be really, really bad; featuring strategies such as mono-tornado aggro, dark cloud mid”rain”ge, and Storm Crow Combo. My
preparation for the event was a bit off, to say the least. My sideboard included a pair of shorts, which is weak against the expected field; a hoodie,
which is super awkward; and…
Oh, you meant what actually happened?
I met up with Dan Jessup at the airport in the mid-afternoon. I told him I was going to play whatever build of Abzan Aggro Gerry was going to play, as I
had some familiarity with the deck a while back, and it was basically the best deck in the format at this point. Dan said he was probably going to do the
same, but I was also entertaining the idea of Collected Company decks, especially the three or four color variety. I wasn’t too excited about Mantis Rider,
but Savage Knuckleblade was an easy sell. If there was any way to add some stability to a Temur deck, then Collected Company was it. The Temur color
combination itself was so unbelievably inconsistent and lackluster that I’d rather just not take that gamble at an Open. One of the bigger things I’ve been
working on lately is consciously playing better decks at bigger events, especially at events further from home. I don’t travel around the country grinding
the Open Series because of money or fame or anything of the sort. I do it because it’s super fun, and contrary to popular belief, it’s possible to enjoy
Magic while not being the best player around. At the same time, I still try to win. Part of this involves just listening to players that are better than
yourself and/or are more well-versed in the fields where you aren’t as adept.
For this event, I was going to do damn near everything Gerry told me to do, even if I didn’t understand why at the time. It’s a privilege in itself to be
under his wing for an event, and there was no way in hell I was going to take it for granted. My only push for Abzan Aggro was the fourth Self-Inflicted
Wound. While the three copies were probably sufficient enough, I didn’t mind having the crutch for the mirror. This is probably worse against a sideboard
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion gameplan, but Wingmate Roc and Glare of Heresy should be more than enough for that, on top of the couple of Hero’s Downfall. It can
be very easy (for me, especially) to change cards because you “like” or “dislike” certain aspects of a card, deck, or strategy. I’m slowly but surely
starting to believe that that’s just a cover up for convincing myself to make inferior choices. Sometimes the best thing you can be doing isn’t the most
appealing, but willingly taking away your best chances of winning is even less appealing. Do I “like” 26 lands in Abzan Aggro? Do I like playing this over,
say, Temur Aggro? No. But you don’t get better that way. Preferences should take a backseat when opportunities to get better arise.
Dan, Gerry, Todd, and I all wound up playing the same deck, and there were a ton of great things going for it. I’m sure they’ll cover all of the details
later this week, so stay tuned for that. Unfortunately, I was not successful in making day two, as I faced a ton of Elspeths and didn’t play nearly as well as I would have liked during the
more crucial moments. It’s very easy to oversimplify and downplay a given deck’s best games as: “Oh, just do this and this, and it’s easy,” but Abzan Aggro
is one of the more punishing decks to play. Even the slightest misstep can result in a game spiraling out of favor, especially since there are so many
cards that are just insane against you, like the aforementioned Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. While I didn’t do as well as I’d like, I’d definitely play the
deck again but with more ways of handling the more glaring problems in the sideboard.
As I got ready for Sunday, I also wanted to look a bit further ahead. The Open in Worcester is Legacy, and I already had a few ideas on what I wanted to
play. Show and Tell decks have been my jam for quite a while, and Omni-Tell has quietly taken over as the best Show and Tell deck in Legacy. I actually
don’t think it’s particularly close, either.
It’s not that Sneak and Show got worse. Not by a long shot. It’s that Dig Through Time stuck around and gave an already well-oiled machine some serious
transmission upgrades. In my year and change playing this deck almost constantly, I don’t think it’s ever been stronger.
One of the big draws to the deck now, aside from Dig Through Time itself, is the ability to play every cheap cantrip you could ever want, further
increasing consistency and stability. You don’t need to play nearly as many combo pieces in general since you can just fill your deck to the brim with
velocity. Omniscience itself keeps things going even if you don’t have a way to kill your opponent yet. Dream Halls was never a very powerful way of
winning, but it was the next best thing available. Now, it is merely an option as maybe a one-of, and often times it’s relegated to the sideboard if you
feel that you need another piece to dodge Surgical Extraction effects or anything like that. Enter the Infinite is no longer needed since you can just
chain Dig Through Times until you hit an Emrakul or a Cunning Wish, then go from there. This is actually huge, because now you play about half the amount
of pieces needed to combo, and half of those pieces intertwine with just playing Magic in general, so rarely is your hand cluttered with nonsense early on.
Lastly, you can choose to build it as aggressively or conservatively as you’d like. I was always in the “jam as hard as you can” camp, so I tend to lean
more toward jumping out of the gates quickly. Lotus Petal, while not very common, is great with Dig Through Time and can push through your Show and Tells.
Yes, you don’t necessarily need it, but I want to be as aggressive as possible, and nothing else. I think Blood Moon is also powerful out of the sideboard,
even though it’s kind of high variance. Leyline of Sanctity is also another tool for the sideboard, as is Defense Grid. I basically want to have the best
combination of aggressive, in-your-face sideboard cards while also having enough room for Cunning Wish spells. I can’t really think of a reason why we need
Release the Ants anymore, but I’m sure there’s some case for it. For now, I’ll omit it. I think most graveyard decks are pretty good matchups anyway, so
I’d only go as far as a Noxious Revival for utility purposes that could also be applicable against Reanimator if I need it. Even so, it would primarily be
a functional counterspell against Surgical Extraction or the like. Maybe we only need about seven wish cards, but that’s pushing it.
This, of course, isn’t a finalized build, but it’s where I’m going to start. Again, I want to be as no-nonsense, Chromatic Spheres-to-the wall as I can be.
It isn’t perfect, but that’s what I have the week for. Other decks I’m looking at include a Jeskai Delver deck with Young Pyromancer and Monastery Mentor.
Being able to generate a massive army of tokens that quickly spiral out of control seems super powerful, and I want to try and maximize that.
What are you bringing to Worcester for the Open? Is there anything you’d like to see?