So the awesome Magic weekend that culminated the 2010 SCG Open Series and launched the new and improved 2011 SCG Open Series has come and gone… and if I presented you with a high-level summary of my experience, it would sound fairly lame. I failed to grind into the Invitational on Friday night, I went 2-2 in the Standard Open on Saturday, and I was too sick to make it up on Sunday.
Thankfully, Magic, like Life, isn’t made up of high-level summaries. It’s made up of individual little things, moments that are often ordinary, but are sometimes extraordinary. Keeping an eye on those extraordinary little things are what makes Magic worth playing, just as its what makes life worth living, you know? Today I thought I’d share with you the series of memorable little things that added up to a great time for me at the event.
Every Thursday evening, I pick up the kids from school, and we get to hang out together for a bit before I take them home to their mom, and Thursday last week, I gave the kids some Sharpies and asked them to sign some basic land cards for me. I got the idea from my buddy Josh, who one time got his daughter and little sisters to sign some cards for him to put into his deck. Since the weekend of the Open was the weekend I’d normally have the kids with me, I wanted to bring some of them with me. Of course, me being me, I still wasn’t entirely set on which deck I was going to play that weekend, so I had each of them sign all five basic lands. The kids, being the awesome little people they are, wrote good luck messages along with their signatures!
I took off from work the Friday before the Open Weekend, but our company holiday luncheon was that day, and it’s always a good time—good food, a time to talk casually with coworkers, and they also give away great prizes. I was definitely not going to miss it! In a flash of inspiration, as I was walking out the door, I stuck the kid-signed land cards in my shirt pocket, figuring what the heck? I could use a little luck! My company hands out a fair number of prizes, but there are about 300 of us so the odds are pretty slim of actually getting anything.
Man, they gave out some sweet stuff—an iPad, a 37” flat-screen TV, a Wii, a bunch of nice digital cameras, $50 gift cards to Target, sets of four movie tickets… and all of sudden I realized my name was called! I won… a $100 gift certificate to Hilton Hotel and Spa. A spa? Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I’m still not sure what I’m going to do with that. There’s a nice steak restaurant attached to the hotel I’m hoping I can use the gift certificate on.
So, with the lucky land cards providing mixed results, I went back home and started making decks for the weekend. I decided at the last minute to play U/W Clasp after reading about a U/W deck featuring Glimmerpoint Stag and Venser, the Sojourner. Ever since I watched someone doing sick things with Venser and Frost Titan, I’d wanted to do some sort of “blink” deck, and Glimmerpoint Stag adds some more blink effects to the mix while also providing a decent-sized body. Since I’d be playing Everflowing Chalice and a bunch of planeswalkers, I figured some Contagion Clasps would be a perfect addition. This is what I sleeved up for the Grinder:
I meant to add a couple Tumble Magnets to the mix but totally forgot about them in my rush to get the cards together.
I sit down for round 1 and notice the deck registration sheet my opponent has in front of him. Holy crap, deck registration! I run across the hall, grab a sheet, run back, and write up my decklist faster than I ever thought possible. My opponent, a youngster named Chace, was gracious enough to give me time to finish. Amusingly, he was registered as “Jace” on the match slip, a mistake he said he didn’t mind.
Chace/Jace leads off with Mortician Beetle. I’m staring at a hand with Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Baneslayer Angel, and Frost Titan. A parade of my overpriced mythic rares rain down on the battlefield over the course of the next two games, and I feel dirty and embarrassed, as we sign our match slips. Chace is super nice about it—he’s got that wonderful “happy to be here” buoyancy that’s so nice to be around as he catches up with his dad and his brother afterwards.
The second round I’m matched up against Boros, and while my deck gives me several chances to pull out wins, tight play by my opponent and several stupid mistakes on my part get me swept out of the grinder in two quick games. I realize there’s a pretty big cost to having stubbornly refused to play Jace and other more controlling planeswalkers this past year—I don’t know how to properly protect them and ended up letting them die much too cheaply. Not only am I playing a deck relatively cold, but this sort of play style is out of my comfort zone. I know I can’t play this in the Standard Open on Saturday.
I run into the always awesome Mike Turian, who’s stopped for a weekend of gunslinging in Richmond before jetting off to Chiba for Worlds. I need to get some information from him for an article in the next
magazine, so we make some plans to talk later on that weekend. Then I spy my editor, Lauren Lee, newly relocated to the area, so I go over, introduce myself, and welcome her to Virginia.
A little later, an EDH fan (I’m sorry—
fan) asks for a game playing Kemba, Kha Regent, and when I suggest we try and round up a couple more players, we end up sitting down with two judges who are looking to have some fun before the big weekend tournaments consumes all their time. One is Level 2 judge Louis Fernandez, the Head Judge for one of the Draft Opens. The other is Level 5 judge Toby Elliott, Head Judge for the Invitational. Yep, the same guy
Sheldon wrote about,
playing the same Ulasht, the Hate Seed deck.
Since I haven’t yet had a chance to sleeve up my Vorosh proliferate deck or my Brion Stoutarm deck, I ask them if they’d rather play against my Relentless Rats deck or my Skithiryx deck. Louis perks up, grinning. “Skithiryx is a Dragon, right? You should definitely play that!”
I smell shenanigans. “You’re playing Karrthus?”
He flips up his general, and it is indeed the greedy Dragon collector. I go with Marrow-Gnawer and his relentless legion instead.
Everyone else gets some action going first, between the mono-white equipment deck, an early Karrthus beating down, and lots of token craziness from Toby. Then I draw Thrumming Stone! In all the times I’ve played my Relentless Rats deck, this is the first time I’ve drawn the Stone. A Cabal Coffers in play ensures I can play the Stone and play a Relentless Rats in the same turn. I’ve already got three Rats on the board, so I can’t wait to see how things shake out.
I play the Stone and then play a Relentless Rats. Everyone grows extremely concerned as I reveal three Relentless Rats from the ripple ability. Louis has an instant-speed answer for the Stone and quickly nukes it before things get out of control. Rats! Toby nails my Coffers with a Strip Mine for good measure.
I draw a Sensei’s Divining Top, check the top of my library, and find a Yawgmoth’s Will staring back at me. Round 2, ding ding! I cast the Will, play the Coffers from my graveyard, cast the Stone, and then play another Relentless Rats. The ripple reveals two more Rats. I play one and ripple again, revealing a few more. Toby starts sacrificing a bunch of tokens to draw with Fecundity until he finds another instant-speed way to kill artifacts and hits the Stone with it. Sadly, being the same turn as the Will, it’s removed from the game. When everything finishes up, I end up with a boatload of gigantic Rats on the board; not quite the “nearly every Relentless Rats in the deck” finale I was hoping for but pretty good nonetheless!
Louis plays a Steel Hellkite, but thankfully Karrthus was handled earlier so the Hellkite doesn’t have haste. Unfortunately for Louis I’m going to have to kill him before he can fly over my relentless horde and activate the Hellkite’s ability for three to nuke my board. So I attack him with everything and even with chump blockers, it’s lethal. He shrugs and smiles as I apologize.
“You had to do it!”
While the guy playing Kemba has a decent board position, it’s pretty obvious that I have to attack Toby, since he has Fecundity, Goblin Bombardment, a ton of tokens on the board, and a fistful of cards thanks to Reliquary Tower. Toby goes to work drawing a bunch of cards, playing spells, generating mana. He then does a huge Genesis Wave for like eight cards, and I can see the writing on the wall. Though he has to sacrifice nearly everything, I go down a point at a time to Goblin Bombardment. Kemba has to scoop it up shortly afterwards.
I bump into Sean McKeown, who qualified for the Invitational with his Top 8 appearance at the Boston Open
I really like his deck and have some questions about it, so I’m glad to get a chance to chat a bit. I tell him how impressed I am with Copperhorn Scout, that it’s like a mini-Time Walk in the deck. Normally in an aggressive Elf deck, you run across situations where you have to decide: do I attack or do I tap the Elf for mana (or, with Fauna Shaman, go nuts tutoring)? With the Scout, you get to do both, so my idea is to add some Vines of Vastwood, so if your Scout would meet his demise from a little chump-blocker, you can have him live to the next attack step.
Sean just shakes his head and waves me off that train of thought. “Look, if you get to pull off the attack-then-tap maneuver even just once, you’ve gotten plenty of value out of a one mana 1/1, right?” Hm, good point—why try and push the matter?
I ask him what he’s playing for the Invitational, and he says he’s leaning strongly towards Elves, the maindeck mostly the same with some tweaks to the board. Sean explains that the deck has good game against Valakut, and he expects to see a lot of that. Since I also expect to see a lot of Valakut, that pretty much sealed my decision to play Elves as well.
Here’s what I sleeved up:
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Elvish Archdruid
- 2 Arbor Elf
- 4 Joraga Warcaller
- 4 Joraga Treespeaker
- 1 Vengevine
- 4 Fauna Shaman
- 4 Sylvan Ranger
- 4 Ezuri, Renegade Leader
- 4 Copperhorn Scout
Sean will go on to get 46th place at the Invitational playing Elves again; you can
see his deck here.
As luck will have it, I get paired up against Valakut round 1. The first game, I run him down before he gets a giant on the board and manage to swarm around it for the final couple points of damage.
The second game, I’ve got to mulligan, and he proceeds to explode on me, getting six mana out by the third turn while I’ve got a couple Elves on the board. Since I’ve just fetched up a Swamp, I say a silent prayer to the Magic gods and my good-luck lands and peel a Memoricide off the top. I call Primeval Titan, and my opponent sadly reveals his two-card hand—two Primeval Titans! Fetching out his other two Titans, I don’t notice anything unexpected and feel pretty good about my odds—two less action cards means a greater chance of ripping lands in an already land-heavy deck. He draws a card and plays it—Pyroclasm, nuking my team. Ouch! My deck fires back with Vengevine, swinging in for four! He draws a card and plays it—Explore, draws a card, keeps. I draw an Elf and play it, swinging with Vengevine. His turn, he draws and plays… Inferno Titan, blowing away my Vengevine. Aw man, talk about a comeback. I don’t draw anything to counter that guy and quickly die in two swings. I can’t complain about that game; it was truly an epic turnaround!
The last game, my opponent mulligans, then stalls on two Forests for a bit (but plays two Khalni Heart Expedition), and I get some Elves out and beat down. I’ve got Memoricide but worry about thinning cards from his deck, so he’ll start drawing land. When he draws and plays his third land, I go ahead and pull the trigger on Memoricide, calling Primeval Titan. His hand is pretty ugly – Pyroclasm, Inferno Titan, and three Lightning Bolts. I push my little Elves into the Red Zone and play Nim Deathmantle. His turn, he draws and plays Raging Ravine. I attack, play another Elf, boost it with Oran-Rief. He untaps, plays another land, Bolts an Elf, and then sacs off the Expeditions, suddenly having all the land he needs. I know what’s coming next turn! On my turn, I rip Eldrazi Monument and swing. His turn, he does indeed play Inferno Titan and sends the burn to my face. On my turn, I sac a creature… and then realize that that my Nim Deathmantle can feed the Monument for a cost of four mana! I’m down to just two creatures, but I’ve got him low enough to clinch the game in two turns.
Go Nim Deathmantle! I threw one in the sideboard as a multi-use card to bring in against Wrath decks but also to help against Sword of Body and Mind, which is otherwise Protection From My Deck. However, Nim Deathmantle gives me a big, black Zombie to stop unruly Sword-bearers. It hadn’t even occurred to me it was a way to feed the Monument!
The second match, I run into a U/W Jace deck stuffed to bursting with creature removal, with like eight Journeys to Nowhere, five or six Days of Judgment, and infinite Ratchet Bombs. It’s a slaughter for the little green men.
The third match is against a U/B Jace deck splashing white for Venser, and I win two out of three mostly on the back of his mana issues.
Feeling pretty worn out from my struggles against Jace the Balrog, I check the drop box, though by the end of the day X-2 is getting paid outside of Top 8, so perhaps I was hasty. Local rogue deck hero, Michael Rooks, stuck it out and nabbed twelfth place at X-2 with the only actual interesting deck
in the entire Top 16. If you haven’t seen
his Furnace Celebration deck
you should definitely check it out!
After dropping, I wander over to the Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author] Podcast crew and chat with them about EDH. Dan Sale’s got an EDH deck he brewed up with Intet, the Dreamer, so we go a little 1v1 with my Brion Stoutarm. The first game, I realize I haven’t mixed up my deck from where it was laid out in casting-cost order, spells, and then lands, so when I shuffled, it really didn’t mix things up enough. I decide to stick it out and see what happens, but Dan just crushes me. I spend time getting the deck randomized and mixed together for the next match, and it’s closer. I get him down to single digits, but a few counterspells on his side stops me from pushing through, and he takes me down.
I spend a pretty good amount of time being recorded for the podcast, so unless I get edited out for being dumb, check out this week’s Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author] podcast!
I wander over and watch two titans of the Magic community – Pete Hoefling and Mike Turian – duke it out with each other at the gunslinging table. Afterwards Pete and I chat a bit, and then he asks if I have two decks we can duel with. He picks the U/W deck and proceeds to destroy my Elf deck over and over and over again, drawing just the right cards to wreck me every time—if I get the Ezuri, he’s got the Journey to Nowhere; if I don’t have Ezuri, he’s got the Day of Judgment. In fact, in one game, I get hit with Day, and knowing that there’s only two in my deck, I go ahead and unload my hand with Elves, and two turns later, I get hit with the second Day.
Jace the Balrog I tell you!! Evil incarnate.
Still, Pete’s fun to play with even as he crushes you, so we have a good time. Turns out it’s actually been a while since he was able to just sit down and enjoy some games of Magic—see, running StarCityGames.com isn’t all just fun and games!
Soon duty calls, and Pete takes his leave, and I’m soon playing another game of EDH when Adam Styborski of MagicTheGathering.com (
the Casual Fun weekly column
) and ManaNation.com sits down to chat. We’re about twenty minutes into talking before I realize that this is actually an interview of sorts and that he’s taking notes on his netbook (and wrote
his own column
about the weekend). We’ve made tentative plans to go out and have a few bourbons and nab some BBQ, but he got up at 4:30 in the morning and doesn’t think he’ll have the energy for that considering he’s going to have a long day Sunday. Ah well, Adam—hopefully next time!
I wrap up the day celebrating Michael Rooks’ success, then sit down with some of the Richmond Comix crew for a game of EDH before we head out. I grind my teeth a bit at the Forced Fruition that threatens to deck us all, though eventually Jess hits it with Venser and then Brain Freezes us all to death. Sigh. Not exactly the sort of game I was hoping for, but what the heck, even the lamest game of Magic is a heckuva lotta fun when you’re chilling with your friends.
Unfortunately, a bug of some sort cut short my weekend on Sunday so thus ends my tale. Join me next week as I stir up some conversation regarding the big news announcements for EDH… or rather, Commander!
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
Make sure to follow my Twitter feed
, I’ll be tweeting all weekend!