Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My Magical Comeback: Dark Clouds, Silver Linings, and Conclusions

This weekend I played in the SCG Legacy Open in Orlando.  In short, I didn’t do well.  0-2 drop.  That is pretty much the definition of scrubbing out if I’m not going to mince words.

Dark Clouds

In round one, I played Eric Gustafson, who was piloting RUG Delver.  I absolutely crushed him in game one.  Not the nut draw, but a turn 3 Geist followed by Unstable Mutation gets there against a deck whose only removal is burn spells.  In Game Two, I kept a one land hand, because it two accelerators, Geist, and a pump aura.  Essentially, I would have two draw steps to find a land, and if I didn’t get one on the second turn I had a Ponder in hand to get me there, albeit a turn late.  Unfortunately, I drew blanks, and Ponder failed to find the land I needed.  Once he realized I was light, he threw fire at my accelerators.  That, combined with a fast start for him (Delver, Delver, Gofy) left me dead before I could drop any creature of value.  Game three was very close.  We raced each other, and he killed me on 2 life.  Had I top decked any one of sixteen possible outs on my last turn I would have landed enough damage to win. 

It was a close game, and in retrospect I only made one critical mistake.  He only had two lands out (and this was turn 5 or 6) and I Wastedland-ed he Volcanic Island to cut him off Blue mana.  I then cast my Geist, which would have been game over had it resolved.  Unfortunately, he had the Daze.  Had I not used the Wasteland, the Wasteland could have blanked his Daze and I would have won with relative ease the next turn.  Why did I make this mistake?  First, I am still very rusty when it comes to technical plays at a high level.  Also, it is “common knowledge” that people sideboard out their Dazes when they are on the draw.  Except, apparently, when they don’t.  I assumed that he sided them out on the draw like any one would expect him to, and stopped playing around them.  Unfortunately, he either next leveled me, or I next leveled myself because he kept them in. 

In Round 2, I played Dakota Mitchell who was piloting Maverick.  Game One I mulliganed away a hand that was keepable, but I didn’t think it would be able to win the game against a good draw from a reasonable opponent.  My second hand was also keepable, but worse.  I probably should have gone to five, but I kept and got stomped rather quickly without casting a spell.  Since all he saw from me was 3 lands, he had no idea how to sideboard against me.  In Game Two, I came out of the gates with a turn 2 Geist.  Turn 3 Spectral Flight, attack for 9.  He cast a Knight of the Reliquary, and on my turn I cast an Unstable Mutation on my Geist and attacked for lethal.  In Game three my draw was slower, but still good.  I got in with a Geist in the air for 10 thanks to two Exalted triggers, and could have won next turn but he Green Sun-ed for a sideboard card that actually had good game against me: the Protection from Blue fairy.   The fairy meant my Geist wouldn’t be landing any more hits, but I could still get in with the Angel, and then Psionic Blast for the win.  Unfortunately for me, he also top decked a Maze of Ith to stop the Angel.  From that point on I had no outs except a Troll Ascetic with Spectral Flight.  Before I could draw that unlikely combination, he was able to get 3 8/8 Knights of the Reliquary on the board and kill me.

All in all, it was a close match, and I don’t think I made any technical play mistakes.  My big mistake was in mulliganing or not mulliganing in the first game.  There is a good chance that I would have lost had I kept the first 7 or mulled to 5, so either way I probably would have lost anyway.  But clearly I had no idea which play was more optimal, except to say that of my three choices, an initial marginal 7, a worse 6 or an unknown 5, I picked the worst of the three options, and I paid for it.

So yeah, that was a quicker than anticipated end to my tournament. 

Silver Linings

So what did I salvage from this abortion?  First, Eric ended up in 25th place, and Dakota ended up in 12th, both well into the money.  So I didn’t lose to scrubs, I lost to a guy who had a very solid finish, and another who almost made top 8.  And I didn’t roll over to either of them, and especially with Eric in the first match had I not played into getting blown out by his Daze I would have won.  So while my record was as bad as possible, I played competitively with two clearly good opponents.  This might sound like I’m reaching in order to make myself feel better, and maybe it is.  But losing two people who finished highly is still better than losing to two terrible players.

I also learned a lot about my deck.  First it is way high variance.  It is more than capable of beating any deck in a total blow out if I get the right draw.  And that draw isn’t exactly tough to get, since so many of the cards are redundant.  The problem is, like any tempo based deck, when you don’t get the fast start the deck cannot play catch up.  I should probably mulligan more aggressively in order to make sure I get hands that could potentially win, especially when I’m on the draw.  On the play a turn 3 threat is OK, but on the draw it isn’t.  So on the draw I have to just muck any hand that can’t stick a turn 2 three drop.  I’m not sure I would play this deck again, though.  It’s not my playstyle.  I’m an agro-control player, and all my best tournament finishes in my career were with mid-range agro-control decks.  Stoneforge Mystic Bant is still too slow for my liking, but I think a NO-Bant deck is definitely feasible right now.

The most important thing I learned was where I stand on the competitive ladder.  My opponents were both strong, and I didn’t feel overmatched by either.  I hope they wouldn’t take offense to this, but based on raw talent I would say that I’m better than they are.  But from a technical standpoint, and practice makes perfect, they were better than I am by a significant margin. 

That said, I have no doubt that if I played a few hours everyday against good players, in 6 months I would be good enough to finish in the money in a tournament like that every time.  When I was in high school and playing a professional level, I was playing in online tournaments every day after school for several hours a day.  And then I would play in a paper tournament every weekend.  30 hours a week is a lot of practice time and it really is probably approaching what you’d need to be these days to be consistently competitive in big events assuming you are an intelligent person as a base.

Unfortunately, I can’t and won’t commit that time to Magic anymore.  I bike around 14 hours a week, and that eats up most of my leisure time.  So even if I stopped cycling, I wouldn’t get to play Magic enough to be truly competitive again. 


What I take away from it all is where my limits are and how to move forward.  I will definitely play in any Orlando/Tampa Legacy events as they come around, and since I’m extremely time crunched my only way to competitive is to play one deck and get good at that deck.  I don’t have the hours to be good at a variety of Legacy decks, good at Draft, and also good at a variety of Standard decks; but I do have the time to be good at one Legacy deck if I play it exclusively and learn it inside out.  Since there isn’t a big local Legacy scene, I’ll have to sharpen my technical play in Limited, which is definitely possible.  So that’s it.  I probably won’t write about Magic unless something comes up again, but I’m not going to give it up, and hopefully next big event I can throw down.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Questions?


  1. My son is sort of going through the same thing. He went to a GT and played Stiflenaught well until he hit the guy that wound up winning the tournament, at which point he lost and lost hard. That threw him and the rest of the tournament was shaky at best. (finished top half)

    He's now rethinking his deck and competitive play. I don't see anything wrong with that; re-evaluating is an important part of MtG. So is being honest- if you delude yourself, you'll just get roflstomped and no one wants that.

    I'll miss your commentary. You have a good understanding of the game and can actually think about not just what the addition of a card could do but also how that single card would change your whole deck.

  2. Sorry to here you had a bad start. Two rounds seems a bit quick to just jack it in though? Was there another event about to start that you played instead?

    I know what you mean about practising with one deck; I lost at our local weekly event with my burn deck because I forgot I could use my Magma Jet in my upkeep to sort out my draw for the turn when my opponent was on 3 life.

    1. Yeah I wasnt officially out of the money but I didnt like my chances of a 5 0 run. the idea of gwtting to sleep in my own bed was more appealing than trying to go on an uphill battle.