While most people know that Charlotte, North Carolina, was where the StarCityGames.com Open Series began, much less people know that it’s where I began
my Magic run. Two years ago when they were still called StarCityGames.com 5ks and were just starting, my friend told me about these Magic tournaments
that were going on where we could make cash prizes. I decided to take the trip with two of my friends, grabbing a Standard deck about an hour before I
started the drive. Without really knowing what my deck was or what it did, I showed up to the Standard 5k on Saturday with a sweet Elementals deck and
ended up getting second place to Vincent Lanceford, who has now been my friend ever since and the cause of my only two losses on the day with Kithkin.
I woke up the next day and was told that I was going to be playing a format called Legacy. I, at the time, had never heard of the format and had no
clue what it was or how to play it, but my friend gave me a Goblins deck, and I ended up making Top 8 until I played against a Lands deck and realized
that I couldn’t beat him… ever. This was the Goblins list that I played way back then:
- 3 Mogg Fanatic
- 3 Goblin Matron
- 4 Goblin Lackey
- 4 Goblin Warchief
- 4 Goblin Piledriver
- 3 Gempalm Incinerator
- 3 Siege-Gang Commander
- 4 Goblin Ringleader
- 3 Mogg War Marshal
- 1 Goblin Chieftain
The weekend was fun, and in the next few months, I ended up winning two PTQs, playing in two Pro Tours, making Day 2 of my first GP, making the Top 8
of Regionals, doing well in Nationals, and then deciding it was time to take a little break from competitive Magic after I wore myself out. Doing well
at these 5ks gave me the confidence to realize that I could get to the next level in Magic and gave me the drive to play more and play harder.
Coming back to Charlotte this weekend for the first time since then was a huge emotional rollercoaster for me, as a lot of memories came back, and I
realized the city had a lot of meaning to me. Knowing that I was going to be in the same room in the same building where I started out brought chills,
and I was ready and prepared to play to my fullest and make some Open Points.
I decided to take almost the whole week off from Magic to focus on my health. However, it didn’t stop me from making plans, and when Friday rolled
around, I met up with the guys and started to mentally prepare myself for the weekend and the Magic grind.
After an eight-hour drive with Dave Sharfman and Joe Leigh, we got a few hours of sleep before heading to the tourney site on Saturday.
I had four Jace, the Mind Sculptors and the desire to play Caw-Blade. I had a list in mind that I mentioned in last week’s article and thanks to help
from a few of my friends, I got my deck ready with five minutes to spare before the player’s meeting. I hadn’t played more than a few games of testing
this season with Caw-Blade. I played a variant of the deck in DC, but that was nearly two months ago, and the deck has totally changed since. Luckily,
I’d played against the deck enough to know what it did, and I was ready to battle a short Standard tournament of only nine rounds.
After a win in round 1, I played against Nate Pease round 2 in a video feature match and ended up losing in a quite disappointing mirror. I won round
3, then lost round 4 to a U/W Planeswalker deck. Feeling down on my luck and being knocked out of Top 8 contention so early, the fight-or-flight
instinct kicked in, and as has happened in so many tournaments before, I knew I had to win out to be able to cash and pick up some extra
StarCityGames.com Open Points.
With five rounds to go, I racked off win after win and ended up being 7-2, making 23rd and yet another Top 32, missing Top 16. Missing Top 16 at 7-2 is
pretty rough, as making five points instead of three is a fairly big deal. I know that once I get up to Level 4 and 5, I’ll have byes to improve my
tiebreakers, making it easier to make top 16 when I go X-2. Â
Getting byes helps your tiebreakers because you start the day at 2-0 against opponents who have zero losses and two wins, making their win percentage
higher than a real opponent’s, who would start 0-2.
Going into Sunday, I knew I was going to try to play Ad Nauseam again and see what happened. I wasn’t very happy with the deck or my knowledge of the
format, but I feel I have to keep trying to figure it out, slowly but surely. This week, I sat down in the first round in front of none other than SCG
Charlotte Open Champion Vincent Lanceford. The match ended up taking all of ten minutes, as he was playing Zoo, and I won on turn 2 in game 1 and then
turn 3 on game 2. I had avenged my defeat from two years ago and started the day out well. A few rounds later, I found myself 2-2 and decided that I
was going to do the Draft Open, as I usually do.
The Draft Open this week had 51 people in it, and I was in one of the pods with eight people. My pod was fairly soft, as I had never met any of the
people in my pod, and I felt fairly positive about my chances to Top 8. I ended up with a pretty mediocre G/R deck with a white sideboard for Priest of
Norn, Revoke Existence, and Arrest. The deck wasn’t the best or the worst. I thought I could get there with it.
The first two rounds were not easy wins, as my opponents’ decks were both much better than mine, and I had to outplay them. This is the reason that I
like Limited so much though, specifically in this format. Your play is nearly as important as your deck, and play skill and reading the draft correctly
can help you win most games. Reading the draft consists of remembering what you opened, what you passed, and who has the cards you’ve passed. It allows
you to play around key tricks and gives you an advantage in knowing what cards are in your opponents’ decks as soon as they play their first land or
two. Knowing how many Untamed Mights or Mirran Mettles your infect opponent has can make the difference between winning and losing. Small advantages
like this separate good Limited players from great ones.
After winning my first two rounds, my opponent and I decided that we could both draw into Top 8, but we decided to play for fun. I still found a way to
beat him and would’ve gone 3-0 in my pod.
Sitting down for Top 8, I found it to be another fairly soft pod, as I only recognized two or three facesâ€”although one of them was Grand Prix Paris
Champion David Sharfman. He happens to be a pretty close friend of mine, as he lives in the same city as I do, and we play together a lot. The pairings
were based on draft seating, and I knew from the second we sat down that David and I would be playing against one another in round one. Not excited by
this, I put on my game face.
My first pack was really strong but very infect heavy, and I ended up mis-picking, as I took Thrun, the Last Troll. I mis-picked in pack 2 when I took
a Blightwidow over a Mortarpod, and I feel these two decisions put me in the wrong colors. I should’ve first-picked Burn the Impure and second-picked
the Mortarpod and then taken a few fliers, which would’ve put me in my favorite archetype. Instead, I ended up with a G/B deck with some infect
creatures and some non-infect creatures. The deck wasn’t bad by any means, but I feel I could’ve made it better.
My match with David went to three games, but I ended up losing to his U/R deck with Contagion Engine, a card I should’ve had. David won the entire
Draft Open without losing another game in the Top 8 and continued his reign of the MSS Limited format, going 6-0 on the day.
The weekend in general was a fairly successful one, as I got Top 32 in Standard and also another Top 8 in Draft and ended up making five
StarCityGames.com Open Points, going up to 33 and making me a Level 3 player on my quest to join the other four Level 8s.
“The Road” is a long grind with many weekends left, and I’m excited for each and every one of them. As I’m spending the next two weeks with Alex
Bertoncini at my house in Orlando, there will be a lot of testing with New Phyrexia to be done before the next Open, which happens to be in my home
town of Orlando, FL, on May 14. Look back next week to see what sweet new decks that Alex and I brew up in both Legacy and Standard, and we may even
have a little feature on some cards that we’re going to add to Alex’s cubes and type 4 stack.
P.S. I’d also like to congratulate Alex Bertoncini, Edgar Flores, and also AJ Sacher for all joining the ranks of Level 8 and showing their complete
mastery of the game. I look forward to seeing you all at every tournament for the rest of the year and want to thank you all for being such great guys
to travel around with.Â