The Long Road Back

CVM has re-joined the competitive Magic scene, but after some time away he’s definitely feeling the rust! Read about how he plans to get back on track for #SCGINVI this weekend!

Hello everyone! I hope you had a fabulous weekend. There was a lot of Magic across the globe to be played, or watched, and whether you wanted to battle Standard, Modern, Legacy, or grind those side drafts all weekend, you had plenty on your plate.

While I will be at the #SCGINVI in New Jersey this weekend, last weekend I stayed here in the Pacific Northwest to compete in Grand Prix Portland. It was Standard, and in the wake of the Pro Tour I had a lot to think about. I had a lot of different things that I wanted to work on; but first, I want to do a little bit of self-reflection.

Last weekend was basically my first tournament back into the competitive scene in quite a while, and as such I learned a whole lot about myself.

First off, I have been playing Magic for a long time, and the bulk of the last few years had been on the SCG Tour® constantly being featured. From playing in the first Players’ Championship, to being a writer, and doing videos, I was constantly on camera over the last few years.

For me it had never been unnerving and was something that I had gotten very used to.

I had a Round 2 feature match this weekend and could physically feel my hands shaking at one point in Game 1 while I was misplaying and giving the game away. I thought that I was infallible, at least in this aspect, but that is not the case.

I love Magic and I love competing. I wanted to do very well this weekend so that I could set the stage going into the #SCGINVI. I put too much pressure on myself and it all culminated in that one moment.

Afterwards I took a deep breath, drank some water, and walked around. I didn’t fare too well in the event, but I was able to put it all into perspective and plan to be back in 100% fighting shape this weekend.

I also realized just how much I missed it all. Seeing friends that I used to see on an almost weekly basis was great. I got to sign a lot of stuff and take plenty of pictures with fans of my content. Even though people will always mention that they are sure I’m tired of hearing it, but that they miss me being on the VS. Series, believe me, it never does get old.

Also, I forgot just how taxing it is to be out and battling Magic all day. The mental energy that you have to expend to play this game is immense, and when you add in walking around between rounds and interacting with people, it can be exhausting. Eating right and drinking water help, but, I had been out of the game for a bit and just felt extremely exhausted.

As for the actual event itself, the week prior I had a bit of an adventure in Magic. I found out that Cedric Phillips was heading out for the GP and asked him what he planned on playing. He wasn’t sure yet but had an idea that a Sphinx’s Tutelage deck could be very good. There aren’t a whole lot of ways to answer one outside of Dromoka’s Command, and those are on the precipice of getting the axe in some numbers due to how poor they are against the Emrakul, the Promised End decks.

We also thought that since the Emrakul decks didn’t really have a way to interact with it either, and due to the nature of our deck with Tutelage not being a “may” ability and not targeting, that even if they took control of our turn, it would still be milling them.

We even already had a sweet U/R Thermo-Alchemist deck that Pedro Carvalho went 9-1 with at the Pro Tour, which Todd Anderson ended up taking and changing only a few cards and won the Standard Classic in Syracuse.

I started with four Tutelage and 2 Fevered Visions in the main and slowly edged towards running a full eight enchantments. This created a bit of tension, since Collective Defiance is too good to not play a full set. I even tried out Pyromancer’s Goggles, but all of this leads to wanting a bunch of Tormenting Voice and Magmatic Insight and it just felt wrong.

I kept beating the GBx based decks, whether straight-up Delirium, Jund, or Sultai Control, but I was struggling a bit with Bant Company since we didn’t have all of the burn and removal that the original build had, and even though we were pretty good against the Emrakul decks with the Fevered Visions, we were milling cards but not quickly enough, still potentially losing to Emrakul and Elder Deep-Fiend sequences.

Cedric found some of the same issues and was pretty sure he would just play Humans.

I on the other hand started chatting up Ari Lax to get his opinions on the format. He was going to focus on Modern since he wouldn’t be in Portland, but he had some pretty key observations that were solidified by Mike Sigrist’s article on Premium a few days later. G/B Delirium was still very good but would likely want to go to only Sylvan Advocate and play a bunch of Transgress the Mind in the main.

With this in mind I put together a deck and starting jamming some games on MTGO. I took Sam Pardee’s build from the Pro Tour.

I played this for a bit on MTGO and just kept losing. Fevered Visions was everywhere, and I kept playing against just all kinds of decks and getting crushed. And this was just in the games where I got to play Magic. Flood, screw, you name it, I ran into it.

Variance happens, but I was getting discouraged. This caused me to once again impulsively change to the U/R Thermo-Alchemist deck.

Again, I kept losing. I generally keep a rule for myself when testing on MTGO where if I find myself getting frustrated, then I will take a break and try to regain my focus. Last week, this all went out the window. I did take a bit here and there to chime in on the Modern chat that was happening with the rest of Team Cardhoarder as they prepared for the Modern Open in Syracuse, which Andrew Boswell and Chris Andersen both Top 8ed with Jund, but other than that I let the tilt get to me.

At some point on Thursday I saw Sigrist’s article and just decided that if the ideas I had from talking with Ari were along the same lines at Mike’s, since they are both incredibly smart, I should just play the G/B Delirium deck and run with it.

I swapped an Ultimate Price for a Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and a Ruinous Path for a Murder in the main. I won on MTGO and even did very well in a four-round side event on Friday before the Grand Prix.

That night, once Brian Braun-Duin finally got to the room, he showed me his version of G/B with Grapple with the Past and some other card choices, and like usual, I jumped right on board! Here is what I played at the GP.

Brian ended up 11-4 and snagged a few Pro Points. I did not even make day two. I made a terrible attack on camera against my W/B Control opponent the turn before I would Emrakul him, and then I even botched the Emrakul turn.

I did get to Caterpillar a Fevered Visions, but my only green sources in the game were a pair of Llanowar Wastes, and I helped my opponent kill me pretty swiftly in that game.

The deck I played was basically the Jund Delirium deck that Team Eureka used at the Pro Tour, which is the same deck that won the whole thing in Portland in the hands of Robert Santana. The big difference is that having access to red and Kozilek’s Return certainly makes our matchup against Bant Company significantly better than the straight G/B version. I didn’t think that there would be much Bant Company after the Pro Tour.

Looking at the results from Portland, Rimini, and the Syracuse Classic, there are still a very large number of Bant Company pilots out there, and being prepared for that matchup is going to be even more important.

I think that the key point of difference between the Jund Delirium list and the G/B Delirium list that I played in Portland is that the Jund deck is much better-suited to take advantage of Distended Mindbender. While I did have Tireless Tracker, using Pilgrim’s Eye and Nissa, Vastwood Seer is going to be better. They both help find more lands that facilitate getting into the end-game, but Pilgrim’s Eye in particular is very good at helping get to delirium for To the Slaughter and Ishkanah, Grafwidow in addition to making Emrakul, the Promised End get down to six mana.

Kozilek’s Return is also pretty huge as a way to completely take over the game with your Emrakul, the Promised End. The ability to deal five damage to everything before you wreck their turn will greatly decrease the chances that they can actually draw out when they get their mercy turn from Emrakul.

Jeff Hoogland also placed in the Top 8 of the Standard Classic with Jund Delirum along with plenty of copies littering the Top 32 across the events of the weekend. The deck is real, but the question will be if it is real enough to play at the #SCGINVI?

There are claims that the U/R Thermo-Alchemist deck is basically an unwinnable matchup, and I think that deck is very likely to be popular this weekend.

On top of all that, I also have to deal with this nightmare.

What were they thinking?

Prized Amalgam and Insolent Neonate have really helped push this deck to the forefront along with the unbanning of Golgari Grave-Troll, but the rest of the deck is a thing of beauty.

What do you think is the best way to combat Dredge? I was leaning towards Infect for the #SCGINVI anyway, but now with Dredge being a thing I don’t know. That deck is extremely fast, and much like the Eternal-format counterparts, there are always lots of sideboard options to fight through the hate.

Comments from Last Week

“I’m curious on where you think Team Eureka’s Jund iteration of eEmrakul will land. Black gets Languish against Company and Humans decks as well as the discard for the Emrakul matchups. Seems like a good place to be in this meta.”

– Jeremiah Kilby

Well, Jeremiah, you definitely hit the nail right on the head. The Jund builds did have a lot of potential and landed in a pretty good spot. It won Grand Prix Portland and placed in the Top 8 of the Standard Classic in Syracuse in the hands of Jeff Hoogland.

Where do we go from here, though? Honestly, I think the Jund deck is great and would not be surprised to be playing it in New Jersey.

“I really like the way you write CVM. Easy to understand and really enthusiastic. You make the reader as excited as you are. I also love the fact that you reply to choice comments from the week before in a nice and supporting manner. Keep up the good work!”

– Chris Orchard

Thank you very much Chris! I really appreciate the kind words. I love doing the “Comments from Last Week” section and hope that it will continue to grow. Any comment on the article has the potential to be highlighted in this section, especially if it is poignant.

I love strategy talk and having a good laugh as well as interacting with my readers. Please keep the comments coming!

The start of my Season 3 is this weekend The #SCGINVI in New Jersey is extremely important to me, and I am going to work very hard to perform well. Make sure you stop and say hi, though, since that never ceases to put a smile on my face.