The Southern California native and third-ranked player on the #SCGPC Season Two Leaderboard faced a tough decision after his second-place finish in the Legacy Open in Dallas earlier this month. Knowing his finals appearance would move him into fourth place on the season, Joe Lossett had to decide whether to make a run at earning a qualification by becoming the Season Two points leader sooner rather than later.
With the remainder of the Season Two Open Series schedule taking place in the Midwest and on the East Coast, a commitment to chasing the points lead would require flying across the country almost every weekend. Lossett weighed his options and came to the conclusion that if he was going to reach the SCG Players’ Championship, Season Two would be his best chance to do so.
“When the points reset after Season One, I saw how high I was on the Season Two Leaderboard, and after my finish in Dallas, I figured I probably wouldn’t have a better opportunity than now to do this,” Lossett said. “It hit me that it is possible to qualify and would be difficult over the long term because of geography, but with where I stand and because Season Two isn’t that long, if I am going to try to do this, it has to be now. It wasn’t an easy decision. It’s a big time commitment, and airfare definitely isn’t free. But I really think it is worth it, and it is super exciting.”
After making this decision, Lossett knew he had to start scheduling trips and finding lodging for various Open Series. He followed up his success in Dallas by making the trip to Detroit the next weekend. A Top 64 finish in Standard and a Top 16 finish in Legacy gave him enough points to move into third in the race, just five points behind Chris VanMeter. Lossett will be in Cincinnati this weekend for #SCGCIN and has plans to stay on the East Coast with a friend so he can play in Knoxville next weekend to avoid more flights.
Lossett, an avid streamer on Twitch under the name of Oarsman79 (a moniker that refers to his time as a member of the crew team at the University of Colorado), has made his name on the Open Series in large part due to his Legacy play and his championing of the Miracles deck he has piloted since the spring of 2012. While two of his three Open Series wins have come recently in Standard in San Diego and Oakland, his work with the Miracles deck can be traced back to his Legacy Open win in 2012 in Denver with U/W Miracles. He has eleven Open Top 8s, nine of which are in Legacy Opens, and a Top 8 at the Invitational in Charlotte at the end of March this year, where he went undefeated in the Legacy portion of the Swiss with U/W/R Miracles.
Lossett came across Miracles in an article after moving on from Cephalid Breakfast, another Legacy deck he is known for. A combination of people figuring out how Cephalid Breakfast worked and incidental hate cards meant for other matchups having splash damage on his deck choice led him to look for a new weapon. The first Miracles build he had success with in local events didn’t even include Counterbalance, instead opting for Squadron Hawk as a card advantage engine.
After reading an article by Carsten Kotter that mentioned the use of the powerful Coldsnap enchantment in conjunction with Sensei’s Divining Top, Lossett talked with Kotter on message boards to help tune the deck. It didn’t take very long before they realized that Counterbalance was a much stronger card than Squadron Hawk and settled on the Counter-Top shell you can still see today. From there Lossett dived into the deck that would lead him to many strong finishes, including a Top 25 finish at Grand Prix Denver in 2012.
“I am someone who gets a lot of satisfaction out of playing one thing a ton, learning all the tricks and all the potential cards, and I really enjoy getting into the nitty-gritty of a deck,” Lossett said. “There are times where I think I’d like to play another deck, but I still enjoy playing Miracles and haven’t got bored with it. And at this point even if I wanted to try out something different, now that I am trying to get points for Season Two playing another deck would be a little foolish. I am not going to fly across the country and try out some new deck.”
While playing one deck consistently is a big factor in Lossett’s success, another is the fact that he has played Legacy competitively since 2010. He even dabbled in the format back when it was called Type 1.5. His familiarity with the complex format is his biggest edge in Legacy events.
“I would say for Legacy playing one deck a lot definitely helps, but playing a format a lot helps more. I really like the Legacy metagame because there are a huge number of playable competitive decks,” Lossett said. “The format is so diverse that you can run into anything. I’d take someone playing a tier 3 deck that knows the format and knows their deck over basically anyone that is inexperienced playing a tier 1 deck, every time. And that is what is so telling about Legacy. People that know the cards and the decks have a huge edge.”
Lossett’s natural ability at Legacy is fitting because he started playing in high school with Revised. And while he didn’t begin playing competitively until he was finished with college, notably not getting a DCI number until a few years after completing his schooling, he is no stranger to the Pro Tour. His first Pro Tour Qualifier experience was during Mercadian Masques block, and he won his first blue envelope in a PTQ for Pro Tour New Orleans in 2003.
“That PTQ win started a string of me being able to win a PTQ every other year or so and get crushed at the PT, win another one, and then get crushed yet again,” Lossett said. “That was basically where I topped out, being an above average player in my region and then getting smashed on the bigger stage. And I didn’t think I’d progress pass that—I honestly didn’t and still haven’t really besides my Legacy play.”
Joe plays in the quarterfinal of the SCG Season One Invitational in Charlotte in March.
Though Lossett has Legacy down to a science and openly admits he spends most of his time playing it, he can’t overlook Standard. Each SCG Open Series starts off with a Standard Open that deals out just as many points as Legacy, and Lossett knows he has to work on the format to help supplement his race for the SCG Players’ Championship. His Standard Open wins with U/W Control and Human Reanimator prove he can perform in a format where his dual lands deal him damage to come into play untapped.
Lossett has been preparing for Standard by reading as much as he can about the new format with the introduction of Journey into Nyx, but his testing has been limited with his primary place for it being Magic Online. Until he has access to the new cards online, Lossett has said he’ll probably stick with a deck he already knows.
“I look at the format a lot and read about Standard, but I don’t play a ton of it. Once Journey into Nyx is online, I will start playing significantly more because I can’t handicap myself by not knowing Standard that well,” Lossett said. “I drop games every time I play in a Standard Open that afterward I realize if I knew what I was doing I could have won. Would I have won the tournament? Probably not, but I certainly would have won an extra game here and there, and that definitely adds up.”
Lossett wants to improve in Standard because he knows VanMeter, his main competition in Season Two, is normally at the pulse of the format. While Lossett said he’ll probably stick with an older deck he knows, possibly U/W Control or R/W Burn, the deck he played in the Invitational, VanMeter could have a big edge on Saturdays for the remainder of the season.
“Standard is going to be rough because I am not as prepared for Standard. VanMeter is ahead of me right now, and I fully expect he will have a good idea of what he is doing in Standard and I won’t. It’s possible he could play something new and have quite an advantage,” Lossett said. “In fact, I’d say for the next few Opens—maybe for all of them, but definitely the next two—VanMeter has a big edge over me in Standard. However, I expect I have a significant edge over him in Legacy, but his edge in Standard is bigger than mine is in Legacy, so hopefully I can make up the difference.”
Lossett isn’t overlooking his other competitors in Season Two despite focusing on the man who is in front of him. He can ignore Season One points winner Brian Braun-Duin, who occupies the top slot again this season, because his qualification to the SCG Players’ Championship last season means he can’t block another qualification. Lossett is also keeping an eye on William Jensen, Gerard Fabiano, and Eric Rill, who all trail him by a few points. He does think however that Jensen’s attention will be on the Pro Tour instead of #SCGPC this season.
“I don’t even question that Jensen is a much better player than I am, but with him focusing on the Pro Tour that gives me an advantage over him,” Lossett said. “It is weird because I shouldn’t have an edge because he is better than me, but I do. It will be an interesting in the next month or so between me, CVM, Fabiano, and Rill. That’s for sure.”
The idea of the SCG Players’ Championship is something Lossett is a big fan of and thinks is a great end goal for competitive Magic players. Though he has his sights set on reaching the 16-player tournament at the end of the year, he also knows the experience and attention he gets from competing can help his audience for his stream, which is something he has put a lot of effort into over the past three months.
“I am really into this race. Before SCG announced the Players’ Championship, I had this idea and drew up something about a big tournament as a fun idea, and when SCG announced it, I was disappointed they didn’t use mine. But of course mine was a piece of paper in my closet,” Lossett said. “I’m not someone who will be competing in the Pro Points race—that has been clear to me forever—but this is something I can compete in. Even if I don’t make it, competing in the race will help my stream, and it will be a great event.”