Vintage Avant-Garde – Eternaled My Way Back To The Pro Tour: 12th GP Providence

Brian DeMars qualified for the Pro Tour by making top 16 of the Legacy GP in Providence. He jumped on the Stoneforge Mystic, Batterskull, and Mental Misstep plan early, and it paid dividends.

Tuesday, June 1, 11:30 am

It is almost poetic that after grinding the entire last Extended PTQ season with “un-fairies” and losing heartbreaker after
heartbreaker—including punting the finals, losing to my playtest partner in the 75-card mirror match in the last round playing for Top 8,
watching him eventually win the blue envelope, and losing twice more in the last round of Swiss with an X-1 record unable to intentionally draw into
Top 8—it would be Eternal Magic that would once again earn me a date with the show.

Those old familiar friends—Mishra’s Factory Winter, Brainstorm, Swords to Plowshares, Tundra, and Force of Will—with whom I’ve
battled so many times (admittedly, cards I favored and played with when I was 11 years old in 1994) helped carry me through fifteen rounds of
hard-fought Legacy at the GP.

Before we get to the end, we need to start at the beginning:

Thursday, May 26, 7:00 pm

I am at R.I.W. Hobbies engaged in a conversation with World of Warcraft TCG ringer Dan Clark, as Michael Jacob (not “Jacobs”) comes walking in through
the front door carrying what I assume to be the Ark of the Covenant from Raiders.

I quickly realize that it isn’t in fact the Ark, as it’s much too small and not made of solid gold; it is in fact a card box that really only
resembles the relic in terms of age and dustiness. Mike sits the tiny sarcophagus down on the counter and pops the top, and a plume of thick brown dust
emerges from the box. It’s an amazing discovery that any Magic archaeologist could study for years and never fully understand—Mike’s old Magic
cards found by virtue of treasure map and dug up from beneath two trees where “X marks the spot.” Or, maybe they were buried deep within
the ancient catacombs of his car trunk.

The box is like looking back in time—which is sort of fitting considering we are about to go to a Legacy Grand Prix.

Mike quickly sifts through random stacks of cards, dust flying in every direction.

“Check it out,” Mike says, pulling a dust-caked pile of cards from the box. “It’s my Wandering Mage multiplayer control deck;
what a completely unbeatable card.” First of all, the deck is actually built and themed around the card Wandering Mage. Second of all, I have
known Mike for many, many years now and have never known him to be the sort to engage in multiplayer games. Few things allow gamers to glimpse the past
as accurately as an untouched box of decks and playables.

“Completely unbeatable.”

“A-ha!” Mike exclaims, “Found them.” He pulls a stack of several Revised dual lands from the box. “I knew I had left them
here.” Luckily MJ, in his infinite gamer wisdom, had sleeved the duals, so that they are in the same pristine condition as when he stashed them
away and haven’t succumbed to the wear and tear of time.

Thursday, May 26, 8:00 pm

Ari Lax and DJ Kastner arrive on the scene at R.I.W., and the trip is almost ready to begin. The start of a long road trip is always exciting but in
this case a little bit daunting as our estimated drive time is roughly fourteen hours. We have an odd number of passengers, so we elect to take two
cars but travel in a “caravan” with two cars, splitting the expenses for gas 50-50.

Mike and DJ end up in my car, while the other car takes Ari, and some others and we all head out on the road. I am glad Kastner is in my car, as I
brewed Extended decks with him last season with a lot of success—he won a PTQ; I made a finals; and we had a few other Top 8s between us.

Having Mike in the car is also like having an Oracle on board (Oracle of Mul Daya); he accurately predicts that combo is not going to be a popular deck
at this event and that essentially the good deck for the event is one that beats Team America and Merfolk.

Luckily, we have both already come to the conclusion that Stoneforge Mystic, or Stoneforge “Mistake” as I have been calling it, and Mental
Misstep, or Mental “Mistake” as I have been calling it, are the best cards in the format and auto 4x cards in our deck. Basically, we start
the trip needing to build a very small deck, since we already know that our deck will include:

4 Force of Will
4 Brainstorm
4 Mental Misstep
4 Stoneforge Mystic
1 Batterskull
1 Equipment

Basically, the biggest question we have is whether or not we want to play black for Dark Confidant and/or red for Grim Lavamancer. Eventually, all
useful communication begins to breakdown in our brainstorming session, as my thought processes degenerate into an elaborate discussion of the
“maturity implicit in playing with The Abyss.”

Thursday, May 26, 11:00 pm

After making good time due to light traffic for a few hours, MJ, DJ, and I find ourselves stuck in a traffic jam and barely moving. There’s ample
complaining among the crew.

Eventually, we reach the cause of the jam; there is a car broken down in the middle of the road with its flashers on.

“Is that our other car?” DJ asks half-jokingly.

Five minutes later, my cell phone rings. It’s Ari: “So, our transmission is dead…”

I tell Ari that I’ll pull off at the next rest stop while they await the arrival of AAA.

Once at the rest stop, MJ and I debate whether there is a difference between altruistic and foolish behavior to pass the time. Luckily, I’m able to
force the unintentional draw on behalf of the compassionate, as an hour and a half later, the tow truck carrying Ari, Droge, Jon Johnson, and Brian
Hockey finally pulls into the rest stop.

It is Hockey’s car, and as one would expect, he is done for the trip. However, there are still three passengers from his car—Ari Lax,
Curtis Droge, and Jon Johnson—who still want to journey on to Providence; unfortunately there are only two seats left in my car. Awkward-o.

Friday, May 27, 12:45 am

At a table, at a rest stop, somewhere deep within the desolate wasteland our ancestors’ begrudgingly called “Ohio,” three men flip a coin
to determine who will go forward in my car and who will stay behind and wait for yet another car of Magic players to pick him up hours later the
following day.

Sorry, Jon Johnson.

Friday, May 27, 1:15 am

Ari Lax receives the following text message from Brian Hockey: “The tow truck just hit a parked car.”

Friday, May 27, 8:00 pm

Aside from the mishap with Brian Hockey’s car, the rest of the trip goes down with very little issue. Even the wayward Jon Johnson manages to
safely reach Rhode Island.

I learn many interesting things on this day; for instance, I didn’t know that Pawtucket Brewery, as featured on Family Guy, was a real place, but
I passed the exit for it while driving. I am looking to learn more still.

One very important thing that I learned came from watching Patrick Chapin battle a very long game against AJ Sacher. Patrick was playing a U/W
Stoneforge Mystic brew, and AJ was playing Team America. The endgame of this particular game boiled down to the fact that Chapin only had one
Batterskull in his deck, and AJ was ultimately able to kill Chapin’s Stoneforge and then counter the Batterskull. As a result, Chapin had to
Ancestral Visions targeting AJ to change who would deck first and then won a long and tedious battle where he was able to legend rule AJ’s Jace
with one of his own.

It was a cool game to watch, but what I learned from this scenario is that in the Stoneforge Control deck, Batterskull is literally the only target
that’s really necessary to winning the game.

One of the big issues that DJ and I (and also Paul Mastriano with whom I was corresponding with about the list) had about the Stoneforge deck was
trying to fit enough creatures to make Sword of Fire and Ice good. Once I realized that Batterskull was really the only creature necessary and decided
I would simply play the second Batterskull, I had newfound direction for the deck I wanted to build and play the following morning.

Saturday, May 29, 12:00 am

We get into an elevator with an extremely drunk and disheveled woman. DJ straight-faced asks her, “Do you like bars?” She mumbles

She stumbles off the elevator at her floor, and the doors close. DJ calmly informs us that he could have “hit that.”

Curtis laughs nervously; Paul Mastriano gives DJ a Boba Fett–esque nod circa ROTJ; and MJ goes on three-minute life tilt.

Saturday, May 28, 1:30 am

“I want to beat Merfolk every time I play it—that is really all I care about,” I told Paul Mastriano.

Admittedly, Merfolk was the only deck that we actually tested against, and what we learned was what I had suspected all along. If the Stoneforge deck
plays a Mystic on the second turn and it resolves, the game is over. Merfolk cannot beat a Batterskull.

I also wanted to test whether or not the Ancestral Visions that Chapin was playing were any good. What I ended up finding was kind of surprising to me.
Even against Merfolk, which is a deck that has more ways to win without playing spells (Mutavault, Wasteland, and Aether Vial vs. our Wasteland and
Mishra’s Factories), Standstill is always a more useful draw than Ancestral Vision. It seemed like half the time Standstill was a dead draw, but
the other half of the time, it was the nuts; however Vision seemed to be too slow in this matchup.

We switched out Vision for Standstill and decided the cost of adding Red Elemental Blast to our sideboard to further crush Merfolk and give us a plan
against BUG’s Jace, opposing Stoneforge’s Jace, and well, Jace in general was where we wanted to be.

About an hour and a half later, we had a deck and a sideboard:

After it was all said and done, the three of us had decided that the deck was very mature and ready go.

Paul Mastriano played the deck with a few different choices, one of which was a Sword of Fire and Ice instead of a second Batterskull—a selection
that he admitted turned out to be mistaken. He did however have the foresight to play a fourth Wasteland and Standstill—whereas we had a third
Volcanic Island and Repeal—you win some, you lose some.

Both DJ and Paul narrowly missed Day Two, going 6-3 and 6-2-1, respectively.

So, overall the deck we designed together had a total record of 24-8-1, not too shabby.

Saturday, May 28, 11:00 am

I had two byes and ended up having to face Merfolk in the first round. It was sort of a moment of truth—do I actually beat Merfolk, or do I just
think that I beat Merfolk?  

As it turned out, I was greatly relieved to find that I actually beat Merfolk. In fact, in the tournament I ended up playing against Merfolk five
times, more than any other deck, and going a perfect 5-0 against it.

My sideboard plan for Merfolk was also very strong.

+3 Red Elemental Blast
+1 Grim Lavamancer
+1 Firespout
+1 Threads of Disloyalty
-3 Standstill
-1 Repeal
-2 Force of Will

I had multiple Merfolk opponents, who were polite but noticeably a little rattled, tell me things like “I just can’t beat that much
hate” or “I can’t beat a Mystic”…

The rest of Day One is kind of a blur, as seven rounds of Magic always are. One of my opponents was kind enough to give me a second Germ token for my
second Batterskull; having two copies of the powerful Equipment in play was turning out to be a very frequent occurrence and a key element of the deck.

Saturday, May 28, 11:00 pm

At the end of Day One, I ended up with a record of 7-2. I was obviously excited to have made Day Two; however, it was still a little bit unfortunate
that I started out 7-0 and lost the last two rounds.

My last round was an absolute backbreaker of a game. Game three against a Zoo player, he accidently flipped over Choke while shuffling, which was
awkward for both of us. I was a little bit soft to the card.

I pulled my sideboard back out and brought in my Oblivion Ring, just in case.

We ended up in a situation where I read that he was sandbagging a Choke and played around it. I was going to be able to easily win the game, as he had
little pressure (a Steppe Lynx), and I could tell that the Choke was basically his “ace in the hole.” He tapped out for the Choke, and I
untapped and Oblivion Ringed it. He untapped and cast a second Choke with one card left in hand.

However, I still had a Plains, Mishra’s Factory, and Wasteland for mana and a Stoneforge Mystic with Mental Misstep backup. I played my Stoneforge and
got a Batterskull. End of turn, he used Swords to Plowshares on my Mystic, and I Misstepped. He untapped, drew a second copy of Swords to Plowshares,
killed my Mystic, and ended up winning the game.

MJ also figured out a few spicy new tricks with Batterskull and Stoneforge Mystic over the course of the day that he shared with me.

1. Against Dredge, a player can pay three to bounce Batterskull, which will kill the Germ token and end up exiling Bridge from Below.

2. The proper way to sequence Stoneforge Mystic’s ability and Batterskull’s return-to-hand ability is to activate Stoneforge Mystic’s
ability and then in response bounce Batterskull, as this sequencing is strictly more mature than bouncing and then activating Stoneforge Mystic after
the Equipment goes back into your hand.

Consider the following: I tap and activate Stoneforge Mystic and put her ability on the stack; in response, I return Batterskull. Batterskull goes back
to my hand, and then Stoneforge Mystic’s ability resolves. This is non-trivial if my opponent has Swords to Plowshares or any other removal
spell. If I bounce Batterskull, my opponent can respond by playing Swords on my Mystic; the Swords will resolve; Mystic will die; Batterskull will go
to hand; and I will have no way to end-step it into play.

The sequence is really, really cool, and I expect it will become more well known as Caw-Blade mirrors involving Stoneforge and Batterskull become more

Sunday, May 29, 10:00 pm

I ended up putting together a 5-1 run on Day Two, which allowed me to finish twelfth at the Grand Prix!

My goal for this Grand Prix was to finish top 16 so that I could get the invite to Pro Tour Philadelphia, and while I was really excited to accomplish
my goal, I was a little bit disappointed because, as it turned out, I could have drawn into Top 8.

When I looked at the standings, it seemed that I would’ve been likely drawing into ninth place, and in such a situation, I would much rather have my
fate in my hands than in somebody else’s. Unfortunately, I lost the last round in turns—a situation where I would have undoubtedly won the
game with more time.

Another table decided to draw when it appeared to me that they would need to play, since one or both of them would for sure be drawing himself out if I
played and won or if I drew. As Ari put it afterwards, it was an “immature Top 8,” and there were some guys who were not playing for Top 8
but rather only playing for top 16, and it ended up working in their favor this time.

Oh well. While it is unfortunate that I could have made Top 8 but didn’t, it’s exciting to know that I have qualified for the Pro Tour, which was my

Another thing: It has been exactly five weeks today since the last time I smoked a cigarette—and for those of you who don’t know me in real
life, I was definitely a degenerate chain smoker.

I don’t actually think that it is any coincidence that Grand Prix Providence was the first event I played in since I quit smoking and that it was
the best finish I have ever had at a professional level event.

For all of you who smoke cigarettes and want to get better at Magic, I would for sure say that one very direct way you could improve is to quit
smoking. I noticed as the Grand Prix went on that I didn’t have those anxious moments late in rounds where I wanted to smoke or thought about
having a cigarette after my match. I also noticed that in between rounds I was less rushed trying to balance finding restrooms, food, water, another
score pad, or a die with the be all, end all activity of having a cigarette, especially when I had a round that ended with only a few minutes left.

Also, I noticed that I felt more laid back over the course of a 15-round tournament and was much less high strung in high-pressure moments during games
throughout the event.

For me, quitting cigarettes was one very real way changes in my life helped improve my Magic game.

Tuesday, June 1, 12:00 am

Quote from Brian DeMars on April, 21, 2011, 8:08 pm:

I wouldn’t be surprised if [Mental Misstep] was the single most represented card in the Top 8 of the Legacy

Quote from Smmenen on April, 21, 2011, 8:49 pm:

I would be.

Let me be clear: I think Mental Misstep is playable and very good in Legacy. It will see plenty of play. It will be used in a variety of archetypes
over time.

But I think people are being more than slightly hyperbolic about how good it will be, and I think the above sentence is a good example. There is no way it will be the single most represented card in a Top 8 of the Legacy GP.

Quote from Brian DeMars on April, 21, 2011, 9:30 pm:

I am not being hyperbolic. I actually think it is as good as I said it is.

By the way, Mental Misstep was, in fact, the most represented card in the Top 8 of the Legacy GP.

Steve, I’m sorry that I keep rubbing this in, but I literally can’t help myself. It would be pretty sick if I had called Mental Misstep as
the most played card in Top 8 the day before the tournament. I called Mental Misstep as the most played card the day I learned it had been spoiled over
a month ago.

Also, for the naysayers out there who say that Eternal Magic (Vintage and Legacy) don’t matter, all I can say is: playing Legacy just qualified
me for the Pro Tour.

If only I could qualify for Worlds by running good at the Vintage Championships, Wizards of Coast. Wink, wink, nod, nod.

Thanks for reading.

Brian DeMars