“Did you know that I’m a boss? Because the rest of the world doesn’t, no thanks to you!” – Joe Van Sickle
Several days prior to the event, Joe (hitherto referred to as jvs) demanded that if I did well enough at the SCG Invitational to get an interview, then saying that he is a boss on camera would be his payment for loaning me thousands of dollars worth of Legacy cards. Assuming that I would not do well enough for this to become a reality, I casually agreed to his outrageous terms. Clearly a mistake on my part! When the time came to pay up, I completely forgot about my deal with jvs, and the above text came about seven seconds after my victory interview.
Indianapolis is only about a two-hour drive from where I live in Dayton, Ohio, so with round 1 not starting on Friday until noon, jvs and I drove up to the SCG Invitational on Friday morning. We arrived at the convention center around 11:40 AM, giving me just enough time to round up the last few cards I needed to register the following:
I’ve been playing U/W Delver in Standard since January. Delver really is the best deck in the format, and it was an easy choice for this tournament. The maindeck is close to a stock Delver list. Some people have chosen to play Blade Splicer instead of Geist of Saint Traft as a hedge against the various aggressive creature decks, but I expected Delver to be close to half of the field for this event so I stuck with Geist in the main and two Blade Splicers in the sideboard to combat the aggressive decks.
I also only played two Mana Leak, instead playing an additional Thought Scour and a maindeck Phantasmal Image. Mana Leak is the worst card in the deck. You sideboard out Leaks most of the time, and it is substantially worse on the draw in game 1. You only really want Mana Leak against slow decks without Cavern of Souls or when they Gitaxian Probe you and have to play around it all game.
The majority of my U/W Delver sideboard is designed to help against the various creature based aggro decks. You typically bring in the six-drops to go over the top of what they are doing, as well as Blade Splicer to help get you to turn 6 alive. Dissipate and Tamiyo are there for the control matchups, which previously had a difficult time interacting with opposing planeswalkers. Unfortunately, the Esper Control decks have adopted Blade Splicer and Restoration Angel, so this plan may no longer be up to date. The Ghost Quarters are for ramp, a deck that was not well represented in the SCG Invitational, but you do need a plan against them if you want to win that match.
The SCG Invitational in Baltimore three months ago was my first Legacy tournament. I played a U/R burn deck that did not interact at all. My plan then was to just play a Goblin Guide and burn them out. Mono-Red Burn with Delver of Secrets, if you will. I went 3-5 with it and had a miserable time. Since then I have watched almost all of the SCG Legacy Open coverage trying to learn enough about the format in order to play a more competitive deck. I had to borrow thousands of dollars worth of cards from several people, but I felt my more prepared this time around and expected better results.
I decided to play RUG Delver in the Legacy rounds. Again, the list is pretty stock. I decided that I wanted Stifles in the maindeck and cut half the Spell Pierces and all of the Spell Snares for them. Like U/W Delver, the maindeck is very tight. When sideboarding, you want to bring in 2-5 high impact cards while leaving the core of the deck intact. In the mirror, you want to bring in the Mind Harness, Submerge, Life from the Loam, and 1-2 Pyroblast. I was boarding out some combination of Daze, Force of Will, and Chain Lightning depending on if I was on the play or draw. Against the control and combo decks you want the Pyroblasts and graveyard hate, if applicable.
In my very first game of the day I lost when I mulliganed on the play and ended the game with ten lands. G/R is a good matchup for Delver, and I would have been a little disappointed to lose to it in round 1. I boarded in the Blade Splicers, Titan, Sphinx, and Images and took game 2.
In game 3 I played an early Phantasmal Image on his Birds of Paradise, as my hand contained both Sun Titan and Sphinx. He immediately played Kessig Wolf Run and killed my Birds. The next turn I played a Restoration Angel on his end step. At this point I was under a fair amount of pressure, with only four lands in play and my hand clogged up with six-drops. I decided to play a second Phantasmal Image copying his Birds again, hoping that he would spend his turn doing something with his mana that did not involve killing my Birds. He did; I drew a sixth land and easily won from there.
After fighting back from a mulligan to five in round 2, I faced Adam Prosak in the third round. Back in the golden days of my youth I used to play Vs. System with Adam. The game died, Adam moved to Arizona, and I did not see him for a number of years, but now he lives in Cincinnati and I see him at FNM all the time! Adam was coming off of two byes and was playing Esper Midrange. His deck is somewhat similar to Delver, but with a better top end. There is a deck tech in the coverage if you want to see his deck.
We split the first two games, and I had a slow start in game 3. At one point Adam played Forbidden Alchemy on his turn, tapping down to one open mana. I played a fifth land and cast Sword of War and Peace; Adam Steel Sabotaged it and easily won after resolving a Sun Titan. Afterward, Adam revealed that he in fact should not have played Alchemy in his main phase, as he knew the top card of his deck was a basic land and he needed it to cast Titan the following turn. When he Alchemied for the land, he switched plans and took Sabotage, knowing he would lose to a resolved Sword. Had he played a creature he would have lost to my Sword of War and Peace, and if he passed with four up he would have gotten extremely lucky and hit his one-out Sabotage off of Alchemy and beat me anyway. Adam then proceeded to go 2-3 in the remaining Standard rounds in a vain attempt to ruin my tiebreakers!
Round 4 against Sam Buchanan was my first time playing against the Zombie Birthing Pod deck. I knew it existed, but I did not have time to play against it in testing. Game 3 was very interesting, and I should have lost. Sam played a turn 2 Blood Artist, which I copied with Phantasmal Image. Blood Artist is a key card in the matchup, and you want to maintain Blood Artist parity with your Clone effects if you can, as at some point you need to race them and Blood Artist tilts any racing situation greatly in Zombies’ favor.
Sam then played Pod, and I played another Phantasmal Image, making another Blood Artist. Sam used his Pod to fetch out a second Artist of his own, and then the board cluttered for several turns with neither of us making much progress. I had a Delver of Secrets that failed to flip for five consecutive turns, and on the sixth turn he was dead on board if it flipped and I would lose on his next turn if it did not. It did not flip; I attacked with my Restoration Angel, putting Sam on three life, and passed my turn. Sam untapped and immediately activated Pod (paying two life), losing the game because his Artist goes on the stack followed by mine, because it is his turn, and mine resolves first to end the game. Oops!
Round 6 (round 2 of Legacy) was my first experience facing down an early Griselbrand, and it did not end well for me. For game 3 Jeff Daran, running Sneak & Show, was on five cards to my six. I applied some early pressure and got him down to nine life, at which point he felt he needed to go off or lose and played Sneak Attack into an open blue mana with no defense for it. I failed to have Stifle, Force of Will, Spell Pierce, or Daze, and Emrakul was soon attacking me. I Lightning Bolted Jeff to six life and sacrificed all of my permanents. I drew for my turn and did not have a land, so I passed back.
Jeff said something along the lines of, ” Huh….they usually just scoop to Emrakul!” and then passed the turn back. At this point, Jeff had Sneak Attack in play but only eight actual live cards in his deck, and it was a race to deal him six damage before he found one. We played draw-go for six turns until I found a land. He Dazed my first attempt at a Nimble Mongoose. The next turn I stuck Delver of Secrets, and we traded Force of Wills (his hard cast). He untapped on six life facing down a potential 3/2 with Lightning Bolt in my hand, drew Griselbrand, and killed me. Looking back, I feel like I got pretty unlucky to lose this game, although Jeff did mulligan five times in the match.
The last two rounds of the day were uneventful wins. I was happy finishing Day 1 at 6-2. In my first SCG Invitational in Baltimore, I went 4-0 in Standard then quickly lost three rounds of Legacy, having to win the fourth just to make it into Day 2. It was refreshing to not have to rely so completely on the Standard rounds this time. Jvs also finished the day at 6-2; not too shabby for his first Constructed tournament in a decade!
We got a cheap hotel for the night and headed out in search of food. After ten minutes of looking, we decided to take our chances at a Chinese buffet called “8 Lucky Buffet.” I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. Outside of what I normally find at similar establishments, 8 Lucky Buffet also had sushi, steaks, and a full desert table. Jvs was not so fortunate, as after half a plate he was incapacitated. We made our way back to the hotel around midnight, jvs moaning about his stomach the entire way.
I awoke at a brisk 7 AM the following morning, and we made our way back to the convention center, ready to battle. I felt good about my chances of cashing the event at this point, and I knew that with a little luck I could go deep.
Orrin was on the play and had opened on Cavern naming humans into Delver. This hand is a clear mulligan to me; Orrin knew I had Sword of War and Peace in game 1 but had not seen it in game 2 so his Divine Offering was likely to be blank with only TWO targets in my deck. He had to draw a blue source early to do anything, and even if he did he was still left with a Geist and a Divine Offering that he could not cast. Orrin missed his second land drop and drew an Island on turn 3, but he fell too far behind after I killed his Delver of Secrets.
I got lucky to win game 3 against Matt Costa in round 12. I had no answer in hand to his turn 3 Geist of Saint Traft, but I immediately drew Phantasmal Image for my turn. Matt played another Geist the next turn, and I drew another Image. At the end of the game, Matt had a Snapcaster Mage to block my Sword-equipped Geist and fall to two life, and he also had a Restoration Angel threatening lethal on the swing back. On four mana I cast Thought Scour into Ponder, shuffled, and drew Gitaxian Probe. On three life I decided to pay life for Probe, leaving me the outs of drawing Phantasmal Image, Vapor Snag, or Ponder into Vapor Snag. I drew the third Phantasmal Image and won when Matt bricked.
In round 14, jvs & I had featured matches next to each other. While getting ready for game 1, jvs wondered why he was being featured with a X-4 record. I replied that I assumed it was because he was a decade older than anyone else in the tournament, which he did not believe. Curious to see for himself, my opponent Sam Black leaned over the divider to get a good look at this relic of a human being. After getting a good look Sam confirmed that jvs is, in fact, the oldest person alive today. Unfortunately, our match was not as interesting as the pregame shenanigans. I did not know what any of Sam’s cards did, but luckily they did not interact well with Tarmogoyf and I easily won both games. Afterwards, Sam explained that his deck was built to prey on the control and combo decks with early disruption and recurring threats, but it has a hard time with decks like RUG and Maverick.
Round 15 was a win-and-in against Brian Braun-Duin Esper Stoneblade deck. I won game 1 with a couple Nimble Mongooses; he won game 2 with a Batterskull. I boarded in both of my Ancient Grudges and my Pyroblasts for the deciding game. I applied early pressure, while Brian resolved Umezawa’s Jitte and tried to stick a creature to equip it to. He had Riptide Laboratory in play, so him untapping with Snapcaster Mage would be very bad for me. I killed his first Snapcaster Make with Lightning Bolt, but on the following turn he Thoughtseized me with two cards left in his hand. I responded with Brainstorm and ended up with the following five cards before returning two:
Being somewhat inexperienced at Legacy, this decision took me a while. I ended up putting Mongoose second to top and Bolt on top, but it’s possible that Tarmogoyf should have gone back instead. I was hoping that he would see the Goyf as my only threat and take it, but he chose Stifle instead. Brian then played a main phase Snapcaster. I drew Lightning Bolt, killed his Mage, and my Tarmogoyf ended the game a few turns later.
I drew the final round with Adam Boyd and ended up in fourth place heading into the Top 8. After the photos and interviews, I dropped off most of my belongings in jvs’ car, as he had finished in 20th and was leaving for Dayton that night. I grabbed a quick meal at Steak and Shake and looked over the Top 8 decklists. I was in for a Delver mirror the next morning against Max Tietze, and I felt that my time would be better spent sleeping rather than playtesting the Delver mirror.
The next morning I arrived at the site early and watched some of the SCG Standard Open finals. I also caught the live broadcast of Reuben Bresler Magic: The Newsening. After that, it was time to battle! They had informed us the evening prior that there would be no Top 8 split, so the quarterfinals were the most important round of the tournament as far as cash went.
I’ve been told my quarterfinal match with Max Tietze went for almost three hours. It’s harder to keep track while playing, so this surprised me a little bit. Max did receive a warning for slow play at one point and I did not, so I assume that he was taking more time than I was, but I cannot say for sure. We went to five games, three of which were on camera. The most interesting part of the match was that it could go to five games, and in the Delver mirror you never really know what they are bringing in. Did he bring in Sun Titan? Sphinx? Day of Judgment? I tried my best to play around Day of Judgment in the games where Max was on the draw (as it seemed much more likely he would bring it in on the draw than on the play), but there is not a ton you can do about the six-drops. After boarding, I had three Phantasmal Images to copy them, and that would have to be enough.
I boarded in both Phantasmal Images, Mental Misstep, and Divine Offering for the two Mana Leaks, one Gitaxian Probe and one Thought Scour every game. In the games that I was on the draw I also cut a Geist of Saint Traft and a Gitaxian Probe for the Blade Splicers. After winning the match, Max told me that he had in fact brought in both six-drops for all of the sideboarded games, although I never saw any out of him.
I played against Ronnie Ritner in the semifinals. I know Ronnie from some local events. He had beaten me for a foil set of Avacyn Restored two weeks ago at the Origins Game Fair in Columbus, and I was looking for revenge! Our match took under an hour; all three games I played a turn 3 Geist of Saint Traft and had multiple Restoration Angels to prevent it from dying in combat.Â Â
The finals was a rematch between me and Michael Hetrick, this time in Standard. Michael was playing RUG pod, a deck I knew little about. A combination of elements led me to play game 1 miserably. We had split the money in the Top 4 and were playing for the title and Open Points at this point, it was my nineteenth match of magic in 48 hours, and I was very tired. After embarrassingly flipping my Delver of Secrets while Michael had an active Daybreak Ranger and then being a few points short at the end, I decided it was time to wake up. I brought in both Celestial Purges, Mental Misstep, Sun Titan, Consecrated Sphinx, Ghost Quarter, and Divine Offering. I was looking to play a slightly longer game, but that is not what happened. I won all three of the next games with aggressive draws, applying too much pressure for Michael to have time to get Birthing Pod active effectively.
Going forward, I would recommend both my Standard and Legacy decks for upcoming tournaments like the SCG Open Series in Detroit this coming weekend. You can play Geist of Saint Traft or Blade Splicer depending on whether you expect to play against aggressive creature decks or Delver and Esper decks. I would advise changing the Divine Offering to an Oblivion Ring as well as cutting a Ghost Quarter for something else, possibly a second Oblivion Ring or Gideon Jura.
The most important thing you can do when playing Delver is to not over-sideboard. The maindeck is so tight that you only want to bring 2-5 cards in most matchups. The maindeck of RUG Delver is also very tight, and while you can choose to play Spell Pierce and Spell Snare instead of Stifle, I was fairly happy with Stifle throughout the tournament. Most lists don’t run Stifle, and it catches a lot of opponents off guard.
The SCG Invitational is one of, if not THE, highest EV tournaments in Magic. The one in Indianapolis paid an average of over $300 per player. You only need to go 9-6-1 to lock up $250, and some people even cashed with a worse record! That’s winning less than 66% of your matches! If you want to win money playing Magic, then qualifying for and playing in one of these events is the best thing you can do. I highly recommend driving to any SCG Open Series and SCG Invitational Qualifiers in your area!
I want to thank everyone who Lent me legacy cards, jvs, Matt Farney, and David Pittstick for driving me around Indianapolis, and Epic Loot Games & Comics for providing an awesome place to play. If you live in the Dayton, Ohio area you should come down for Friday Night Magic! Thanks to StarCityGames.com for putting on the event and to all the judges who put so much time and effort into the game. I will be at the SCG Open Series in Detroit this weekend; come by and say hi if you see me! Thanks for reading!