It’s been a wild ride, but we got there.
While I was very happy that my hard work last year paid off with an invite, I was also very disappointed with my finish at the Players’ Championship. A
match I would have won if I had played faster against BBD coupled with an awful attack against Tom Ross in my elimination match, and just like that I was
out of the event.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do the yearlong grind again this year, but when I saw I was pretty high up on the Season One Leaderboard, my path became
pretty clear. An avenue to a Players’ Championship berth without having to grind all year was laid before me, and I set out on my journey to win Season
One. Once my choice was made, I went about planning out my weekends, booking flights, and most importantly, closing the Season One Leaderboard.
It didn’t matter what anyone else did; it mattered what I did.
January 3-4 – Open Series: Columbus
My quest almost faltered before it even began, as my planned ride with Gerard Fabiano and crew ended up falling through on the Wednesday before the event.
Plane tickets were outrageously expensive, and it didn’t seem like I was going to find a way there. Luckily for me, I have an extremely supportive
girlfriend who also plays from time to time, and she made the arrangements to drive with me on extremely short notice.
Well, I think she was being supportive.
She might have just heard about how awesome Melt is, which is also completely understandable.
Despite not actually getting into Columbus until almost 5am, I was ready to battle.
I was once again rocking the U/W Control deck I used to top 4 the 2014 Season Four Invitational a few weeks prior, as the format hadn’t really shifted
much, and the deck was very good. Round after round, my poor opponents would try to play their Siege Rhinos, and round after round, they would see them
Nullified and Dissolved.
I would play an extremely interesting match against Chris Andersen in the top 8 where I would emerge victorious, but then I had to mulligan a number of
times against Matt Anderson’s R/W Aggro deck – in about ten minutes my event was over.
Still, it was an excellent start.
January 10-11 – Open Series: Philadelphia
Up next was Philadelphia… only not actually Philadelphia but an expo center in a suburb. The site was extremely underwhelming, made much worse by the
distinct lack of Reading Terminal Market – aka The Most Awesome Place In The World™.
The format was Legacy, and Treasure Cruise was still a legal and fair Magic card. I had played Storm at the 2014 Season Four Invitational because of its
excellent matchup against ‘fair’ Treasure Cruise decks like U/R Delver, and I saw no reason not to run it back again. While I really don’t enjoy playing
the deck, I had a bit more experience with it now and was fine with it.
Unfortunately, day one of the event I went seven and Jessup, as my two losses were to my friends and carmates: the Jessup brothers. Still in good shape on
day 2, things completely fell apart. Storm is a fickle deck at times, and it is also very difficult to pilot. I would finish day two at 2-4, but luckily
for me, my fantastic tiebreakers would place me in exactly 64th place – good for some cash and some extra Open Series points.
January 24-25 – Open Series: Washington DC
After a short break for the Fate Reforged Prereleases, we were back at it in Standard. Fate Reforged seem primed to shake things up, but it was difficult
to tell in which way. Cards like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Monastery Mentor were very hyped, but they did not immediately slot into existing decks.
So what was I to do?
Just run back the obvious.
I tried a few new decks, but nothing really seemed to work, and I was more than content with staying with old faithful. While the deck was fine, it wasn’t
really exceptional and was also not great against the many R/W Aggro decks that were present. A fast clock backed up with Stormbreath Dragon was a bit of a
Still, I was able to scrape together a reasonable finish, making top 32 for more points and cash.
One of the most important things about the grind is understanding that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. You can’t win every event (unless your name is
Gerard, of course, as this was the event he unveiled his Sultai Control deck and took it down), but it is very important to keep up a good pace and make
sure you pick up a few Open Series points each week. The Open Series points from those top 32s, top 64s, and random occasional IQ top 8s accrue faster than
you might think.
January 31- February 1 – Open Series: Indianapolis
Next week I would find myself in Indianapolis, one of my favorite tournament locations, for what would be the most memorable event of my season.
Picking up the trophy for this event was fantastic, as not only was I able to add some hardware to my shelf, but I also picked up a truckload of Open
Series points. My Sultai Delver deck was nothing too fancy, but it was a solid and powerful tool.
I’ve spoken a good amount about this event in previous articles. This was
definitely the highlight of my season. I also had an awesome time hanging out with a bunch of cool people and partying while watching the Super Bowl, which
made it extra awesome.
February 14-15 – Open Series: Houston
From first to worst!
However awesome Indianapolis was, Houston was everything but. I wasn’t thrilled with U/W Control anymore since it seemed like the format had really moved
past it, but I was at a total loss for what to play otherwise. Dan Jessup’s flight in was delayed by a number of hours, so we were unable to really test at
all, and I decided to just stick with U/W Control.
Everything that made the deck good before had been flipped, and U/B Control was clearly the superior control choice for the format moving forward. I lost
to basically everyone and everything, failing to make day two the only time this season. I don’t even have a decklist to show for it, as 200–
something place is not worth SCG’s time to report.
The Legacy Premier IQ the following day was even more comical. I ran back my Sultai Delver deck and played poorly/ran bad the entire event. Some weeks you
have it, and some weeks you don’t.
My tournament weekend ended fittingly, as at 3-3 in the Premier IQ playing for perhaps a min-cash, I shuffled up for round 7.
My opponent wins the die roll and pays two life to Gitaxian Probe me. After a quick glance at my hand, he says “that’s fine.”
“You’re not even gonna write it down?”
He shrugs at me, and my fate becomes clear.
“I’m dead, aren’t I?” I chuckle, as his Oops, All Spells! deck casually turn 1s me. I lose an absurd game 2, and my tournament is happily over.
Thankfully, the trip itself was a lot of fun, as there was a sweet card show at the convention center on Friday, and I was still able to have a good time.
February 28 – March 1 – Open Series: Baltimore
After skipping Los Angeles for a few local IQs because tickets were just too expensive, we were back at it in Baltimore. This time we were playing Modern,
which is definitely my least favorite of the major formats.
I had won a Modern Elite IQ earlier in the season with Burn and decided I was happy to just run it right back. The deck was powerful, consistent, and
fairly hostile to anyone who stumbled. It also was very interesting to play, as while cards like Lava Spike are pretty stupid, Eidolon of the Great Revel
would always create very interesting gamestates.
After a somewhat frustrating loss in my first round, I was able to rattle off six in a row to finish day one at 8-1. I was a bit perturbed by the amount of
Splinter Twin decks at the top tables, however, and would then take losses to them the first two rounds of day two. This was made even worse by an awful
attack against Todd Anderson in a game 3 I most definitely would have won otherwise.
A very surprising loss to Jund followed, where my hand game 1 was so bad I couldn’t beat an Olivia Voldaren, and just like that I was dead for top 8.
Extremely frustrated with my three straight losses to start the day, I still pressed on and was able to win out and just narrowly miss top 16 on
tiebreakers. An unfortunate result, but still, a salvaged weekend.
March 14-15 – Open Series: Dallas
After a nice two-week break afforded by Grand Prix Miami, I was once again off to the great state of Texas. This time I was able to fly in early and meet
up with Anthony Lowry, who was exuberant over his first ever time on an airplane, and we were able to get to the hotel early in the afternoon with an
entire day to figure out what we wanted to play.
I tried U/B Control and a few other decks, but we quickly gravitated to the idea of R/W Aggro splashing Mantis Rider and the bare minimum amount of blue
cards. I had already been a fan of the R/W deck, and it seemed like a very natural progression. Many games were played, and we both settled in on lists
that we were happy with (with a few differences).
I was able to Treasure Cruise through day one, losing only to friend and travel partner Dan Jessup. (Again! Stop beating me, Dan!) Day two
also went fairly smoothly; the deck operated very well, and I felt I was playing fairly well.
In top 8 I would play one of the most enjoyable matches I’ve played in a long time against JB Milo and his Mono-Red Aggro deck. While he made the mistake
at the very end of not leaving Searing Blood as an out, he played extremely well all match, and I felt like it was the most high-level match I’ve played in
a while. Definitely keep an eye on him in the future.
I would finally take down good buddy Dan Jessup in the semis before losing a rough finals I’ve already written about in depth.
While I really wanted another win (what can I say, I’m greedy), it was a great feeling knowing that this finish basically locked me for my Season One
March 27-29 – Invitational: Richmond
With Season One mathematically locked up, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. There would be no pressure going into the Season One Invitational, and in
a lot of ways, I was simply viewing it as a victory lap. While I definitely wanted to win and do well, my heart was not completely in it.
I drove down to Virginia Beach on Monday to visit my best bud Matt, who is stationed there as part of the Navy. We spent the whole week hanging out,
relaxing, and catching up. When I got into Richmond Thursday night at about 10pm, I didn’t even know what I wanted to play in either format. I had some
ideas for new decks, but I had no time to really implement them.
I ended up just playing Jeskai Aggro in Standard, and Sultai Delver in Legacy again, with both lists being extremely similar to my prior lists. I was
definitely behind in both formats, and my results reflected that. I also was not playing very well.
But you know what? No regrets. I needed to breathe the sigh of relief after a long season, and I was super happy to hang out with my bud and all my friends
and just have a good week. I played some poker, explored Virginia Beach, met up with old friends, went to GWARBar, and just had an awesome time.
I’m looking forward to being able to play Magic a bit more on my own terms for the rest of the year, and most importantly, getting to go back to the
Players’ Championship for a chance to redeem myself.
I also want to say thanks to everyone for the support. It was awesome having people congratulate me all weekend for winning Season One, and it’s always
nice chatting with people at events.
Next stop, Providence, RI!