Through Fresh Eyes

What follows are my experiences at the StarCityGames.com 5k Open Series event in Seattle this past weekend (June 12th and 13th). Seeing as I’ve only been to a handful of Friday Night Magic events and a couple pre-releases before now, this was my first true tournament of any caliber. While I was introduced to and subsequently hooked on Magic: the Gathering in 2000 by my then future brother-in-law, I’ve only been a collector and casual player until recently.

Getting into the competitive side of things became more interesting to me personally during this past year. The last few years saw all my Magic playing friends slowly move away for work, or have less time due to having children including myself. Just this last year my wife took a job in the Northwest. I was lucky enough to be able to have my job transferred to an office in the area as well, so we packed up and moved far away from our family and most of our close friends. Needless to say, I then had no one I knew to play with inside of a two hour radius.

Standard

For the standard portion of the event I played Brian Kibler’s Next Level Bant list, with some minor changes necessary due to not having the requisite numbers of Elspeth, Knight-Errant in my collection. My original plan was to run Mythic Conscription as I was more familiar with it. There’s much to be said about running a deck you know. My brother-in-law and I both put Next Level Bant together the day before the event and had run through as many games as possible when you have a two year old running around the house demanding attention. The deck is awesome, but involves a lot of opportunity for choices that, if you aren’t attuned to the deck well enough, simply lead to mistakes which your opponent can capitalize on. I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t play enough ahead of time to thoroughly understand the deck. Had I had the choice to do it differently I would have simply run Mythic Conscription as I’m much more familiar with the deck.

I won’t go into a full tournament report, but I don’t mind going over play mistakes I made that are still fresh in my mind. The biggest one of the day happened in game three of round one. I was playing against a mono red deck and somehow we went to time. I was trying to play the deck at a good pace, but we only started game three with eleven minutes on the clock. Basically the board position was at a standstill, and I was playing turn five of the extra turns. I had Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Gideon Jura, and Vengevine on the board, and my opponent had a couple creatures on the ground, so I couldn’t get damage through that way. He was sitting at three life. The obvious play is to activate Gideon as a creature, then give it +3/+3 and flying via Elspeth, and cruise in for the win. I think I got a case of the jitters with the judge there, and a handful of people watching over my back, but I rushed the play and stated out loud that I was going to activate Elspeth. The second I said it I knew it was wrong. The key takeaway from this is that once you’re in extra turns, you aren’t timed, so make sure you are not rushing yourself into making mistakes. I punted a win on the third game because I was rushing myself. As the rest of the day wore on and I got more comfortable with the tournament setting, the jitters went away.

Of note in round two, my brother-in-law played against Luis Scott-Vargas and got demolished by the Turboland deck that seemingly all of the ChannelFireball crew was running. You can read about it over in his latest tournament report. I’m really glad that Magic has pros like LSV who are nice guys in addition to being very good at competitive Magic. I was pretty awesome to see some of the people who write the articles I read on a regular basis and who I follow in tournament coverage.

Overall the standard event was very fun. I played against mono red, U/W Tapout, a Pyromancer’s Ascension deck featuring Runeflare Trap and Time Warp that looked really fun to play, U/W Control, and Vengevine Naya. I went there to learn and to focus on tightening up my play. I’d say it was successful in that I didn’t completely scrub out with a 0-x record, I experienced playing competitive magic at a CREL level, and I had a blast meeting people in an environment completely dedicated to the game I love so much. StarCityGames.com and it’s judging staff ran a really smooth event, and if they ever come out my way again I will be there playing in a heartbeat if I help it.

My friends and I dropped after the fifth round, as we had all hit our three match losses and were feeling ready for dinner and drinks back home. We also had some preparing to do for the legacy tournament the next morning.

Record: 1-3-1 (4-7-1), Deck: Next Level Bant

Legacy

The legacy tournament was the event of the weekend I was the most excited about. Legacy seems to have a very wide and rich number of decks that all are capable of competing at the top level. I love seeing the very old cards being slung in decks that embrace stuff that’s even fresh to standard. I have been following the StarCityGames.com legacy events this year closely, trying to get a handle on the deck I wanted to run. I had narrowed it down to Zoo, New Horizons, and Charbelcher combo. I was very interested in ANT and Reanimator, but I didn’t have the play experience, or all of the cards to put them together. After my experience the day before, I opted to go with Matt Elias’ Zoo list from SCG Philly, as it is a deck whose role is clear and one more familiar to me: attacking and burning. I loaned my friend my Charbelcher deck so he would also have something to run.

Round one pitted me against Charles Gordon, who ended up in 13th place at the event and having his deck analysed in Chris Jobin’s latest article on StarCityGames.com. He was a really nice guy who obviously enjoyed playing the game. His demeanor really helped set the mood for my day as I realized I came to primarily have fun and sling spells with like-minded people. I won game one, capitalizing on Price of Progress in combination with my aggressive creatures and burn. I sideboarded completely wrong between games one and two, in that I took out a my three Knight of the Reliquary and brought in my fourth Price of Progress and two Pyroblast. I brought in the right cards, but I should have taken out my three Path to Exile as his Landstill deck had little in the way of creatures that I could exile; namely, Mishra’s Factory. I corrected this mistake after the second game, which he won on the back of locking my draws down with Jace, the Mind Sculptor and then using his ultimate ability to give me a library of one card. The third game was fairly close. I was doing well in moving his life total down, but again he stuck a Jace that I found hard to get rid of, so I focused more on trying to go straight to the dome. With him fatesealing me every turn I wasn’t drawing much of anything other than land. In the end I had him at four life, and my only out was to use my Firieblast and hope he had no Force of Will as his Jace had enough loyalty counters to ultimate me the next turn. Unfortunately for me, fortunately for him, he had the Force, countering my Fireblast and leaving me with an empty hand. He then used Jace’s ultimate once again. Overall it was a very fun match and was a great introduction to playing legacy at a competitive level. My opponent was gracious and a blast to play against. He even gave me great advice after the game. His tip was to crack my fetchlands at the end of his turn after he fatesealed with Jace and left the card on top of my library. This would shuffle away the chaff. It makes a ton of sense, and it’s one of those tidbits of knowledge I’ll be remembering in my quest to improve my game. Congratulations to Charles for placing in the top 16 of the event!

The second round I was paired against Steve. I forgot to write down his and my third round opponent’s last name somehow. We both mulliganed the first game, and he started out with a Noble Hierarch, which I killed with Chain Lightning. The next several turns saw him stick a Sensei’s Divining-Top and use it to good advantage, topping into a Counterbalance. At one point in game one he had drawn a card using the top, so it was sitting on top of his library with an active Counterbalance in play. I believe I dumbly tried to Chain Lightning his Trygon Predator, knowing full-well a what was on top of his library. I felt pretty stupid playing right into Counterbalance like that, but it was a good wake up call to really pay attention. I lost that game handily. I brought in the Price of Progress and Pyroblasts again as well as my two Krosan Grips to help deal with his deck. The second game I kept an aggressive draw and won. Steve wasn’t drawing much land at first and that played a large role in the game. In game three he mulliganed and I again had an aggressive hand. Krosan Grip helped to neutralize one of his two Sensei’s Divining-Tops that game. At one point in game three when he was on the ropes, Steve cast Natural Order and searched up a Rhox War Monk, presumably so he could stop my Tarmogoyf and gain life in the process. I’m only assuming he actually had Progenitus in his deck. If he did, I’m suprised by him netting the War Monk instead of Progenitus, as the legendary hydra would have ended me. As it played out, I cast Pyroblast on his Rhox War Monk and snuck through for the game, and match, win with Tarmogoyf.

In round three I faced Mike, who was playing ANT. He mulliganed the first game, and I think I kept a comparitively slow opening hand. This turned out to be a mistake as I didn’t put any pressure on him and he combo’d out on turn three to put me at -24 life. Had I been able to put appropriate pressure on him he may not have been able to grab as many pieces of his combo with Ad Nauseaum. Game two I pulled a great aggressive hand with two Steppe Lynx, an Arid Mesa, Horizon Canopy, Mountain, Wild Nacatl, and a Chain Lightning. I have his life going from twenty, thirteen, then nine. On turn four he decides to chance it and casts Ad Nauseaum. He draws until he’s at two life. He mulls it over and decides to stop there. He then proceeds to go off, and we find that the next card down was Tendrils of Agony, which would have killed him had he not stopped. He got his storm count to eleven and with me at eighteen, it was plenty to kill me off. My friends and I were at 1-2, 1-2, and 0-2 (drop) so the other two of us dropped so we could head out, eat, and then get some cube drafting in that night. I plan on going over our cube draft as we had a great time and some epic games.

I really loved the vibe of the legacy tournament, and hopefully I’ll get a chance to wet my feet in it again. The players that I met were all friendly and I felt that in general it was more relaxed than the standard tournament of the day before.

Record: 1-2, Deck: Zoo

Final Thoughts

I had a great time over the weekend, and would love to do it again. StarCityGames.com and it’s judging crew ran a super smooth event. Hopefully they’ll be back to the Seattle area next year. If they do I’ll be sure to be in attendance again. I really loved the legacy format. Standard is great, but I think I have a real desire to delve further into legacy in the future if I am able.

Father, husband, programmer, gamer. Magic: The Gathering enthusiast who enjoys playing and discussing the game with anyone who is willing.

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Posted in Legacy, MTG, Standard

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