My name is Korey McDuffie and I play competitive Magic and buy/sell Yu-Gi-Oh cards at my local card store SuperGames in Atlanta GA. There are probably a lot of Yu-Gi-Oh haters out there; it isn't the game Magic is but it's super addictive and fun!
I've been playing U/W Caw-Blade since PT Paris where the deck was virtually created. The ChannelFireball crew came up with the list and the best one at that. Separately my friend David Sharfman and I actually came up with the idea of the Stoneforge Mystic + Sword of Feast and Famine combo in the Caw-Go deck ourselves but we came up with it while we were testing in Paris. If we had more time to practice we probably would have discovered that playing four Stoneforge Mystics instead of two was a better choice. :P I've had good success with the deck so I've continued to play it through all of Standard.
SCG's very own Gerry Thompson helped me realize how to get the most out of my time in preparing for Magic tournaments. There was a time where I would play hundreds—literally actually hundreds—of games with the gauntlet of decks in the format with a few of my friends before a tournament. I felt as though I was gaining so much information and knowledge by just learning interactions with the cards and how to curve out with my deck. I didn't realize that was just the most basic form of “playtesting” and also a huge mistake which many are guilty of. I was not playing nearly enough sideboarded games. So now when I play a game to prepare for a tournament the game may take thirty minutes and may involve four or five people talking about it from each side of the table.
I arrived in Dallas on Friday a little before noon with my BFFL Charlie Gindy. We seriously hurdled durdled and burdled for about four hours while waiting for the infamous Ryan O'Connor to let us into our hotel room. We grabbed Mike Le and AJ Sacher and went to the Mexican Hooters that you have probably read about in every other GP Dallas report. Instead of eating I very casually stared and made a triple-take on every waitress that walked by.
In addition to tournament preparation I usually just stare at my decklist on a scratch piece of paper. It's not just so I can be familiar with my own deck but I'm usually making sure I have good sideboard plans and whether there are any better changes I can make. This was a good opportunity to do this and I came up with the following:
I didn't do much after that as far as preparing for Saturday. I had played my deck enough to where I didn't want to level myself into playing unnecessary cards and I didn't want to stress over my decklist. For the rest of Friday Friday I met up with all my awesome friends and we were all looking forward to the weekend. Ryan O'Connor had me literally actually rolling on the floor laughing while he danced across the tournament hall with his sicko headphones + white-kid mad afro combo to my deathcore music.
I got to 3v3 with SCG grinders Lewis Laskin and Nick Spagnolo and knew I was at home when Dan Jordan started trying to politely harass me. We eventually made it to our hotel room and it took me a long time to fall asleep. I generally get six or seven hours of sleep a night so I still managed to be well-rested.
After some of us went to get breakfast in the hotel lobby I threw $100 at Ryan for his sick headphones. I had brought my iPod with me but seriously avoided listening to it because I didn't like the normal ear buds that I had. I quickly fell in love with them and walked to the tournament site to get ready for day 1.
I walked around meeting up with more friends that I hadn't seen on Friday. After jamming out on my new headphones for a little while the Player's Meeting was announced and after giving a judge my decklist I hurdled around for my three byes. I met up with Dave Shiels and played some games.
The mirror match is one of the most complex games of Magic I've played in my career. We both talked a lot about our games and I actually learned something about my sideboarding plan.
I hadn't played a match in the tournament and already realized I'd made a bad decision in my sideboard. Against the mirror match I thought Mana Leak was a good plan. I thought it had a lot of value when you were on the play because it increases the amount of hands you can keep. I thought that Mana Leak was really good because it would punish loose keeps an opponent would make if they had one of the two important two-drops. I was wrong because I think you should be playing more cards that affect the board state.
Dave showed me that Condemn was very powerful in the mirror. I had thought about it before but I didn't try it in the mirror. I was sold on Oust because I was more worried about Lotus Cobra. The Condemns were very good against me in combat. Costing a W made it so I couldn't even Spell Pierce it. It gave him a lot of tempo and was not only good in the Sword battles but made it sometimes impossible to attack with my Gideons. As far as my play style goes I think I attack aggressively with my Celestial Colonnades. It crossed my mind I may not be able to play the same way if players had Condemns. After durdling and churdling in the park right next to the convention center I prepared to play my first round.
Round 4: Christopher Blanco with U/W Caw-Blade
I won the die roll and he tanked a long time about his hand. He didn't have a Preordain turn 1 but I had two in my opener. I didn't hit Stoneforge Mystic or Squadron Hawk but I had two Mana Leaks and plenty of land. I kept two open and he played a Tectonic Edge and just ran his Stoneforge Mystic out and I countered it.
I feel players hold onto their Tectonic Edges for as long as possible and play them only if they're one of their last lands. Since this guy tanked and had a Tectonic Edge in play on turn 2 I felt like his keep was fishy. This is obviously not always the case; it was just one of my reads on this guy.
The next turn I Preordained and even found a Squadron Hawk but I decided to ship. He tried to make a Squadron Hawk and I Mana Leaked it and he didn't have a third land. I expressed before that I feel like a lot of players have to keep hands that are light on lands if they have one or even two of the key two-drops. I eventually picked at him with some Birds after landing a Gideon.
Game 2 was miserable for the guy as he mulliganed to five and I Spell Pierced his turn 2 Preordain. We're sorrryyyy.
Round 5: Alex Jerard C Muhich with Tezzeret
I sat down and started shuffling up; when I presented I got deck-checked. Snap-threw my headphones on and birded the matches next to me. Bless my opponent's heart but he got a game loss for a registration error.
He started off the first game with a mulligan to five leading with Mountain Mountain. I put him on Valakut so I played passively leaving open my counterspells rather than casting my Squadron Hawks. The next turn he played a Creeping Tar Pit leaving me puzzled. I guessed he was playing some Tezzeret deck. I played some Hawks and he limped like a dog. I started upping my Jace keeping him away from lands and making my first two matches a cakewalk. We're sorrryyy.
Round 6: James Davis with Aggro Valakut
My opponent congratulated me on my finish in Atlanta and just came off as a really good guy. He asked if I knew Ken Krouner which is awesome because if this guy is awesome enough to know somebody as awesome as KK then he is not a foe.
This guy won the die roll and led with an Evolving Wilds and I remember I got excited because my hand was one of those that had a bunch of counterspells but no Birds or Mystics. I was ready to pounce on his Explore with my Spell Pierce but was blown out when he stuck a Viridian Emissary. I instantly thought this guy's deck to be a joke.
I eventually Mana Leaked an Emissary and Spell Pierced a Tumble Magnet and stuck a Mystic. I was then shocked when he made a Hero of Oxid Ridge and attacked for around ten. I had a Gideon in my hand but he could just activate a Raging Ravine to kill my Gideon.
I continued to be blessed and drew a Day of Judgment and pulled back through a really close game. I remember he had to eventually Bolt one of my guys while his game plan involved sneakily burning me out.
Sideboarding against this guy was difficult. I didn't want to keep in my counterspells because I wanted to focus more on having Oust and Into the Roil for his creatures. I also only saw Explore so I didn't even know if Spell Pierce was going to be enough. I settled on bringing in more of a man plan with Sun Titan and Volition Reins with my two Flashfreezes as my only counterspells. I also kept in my Gideons whereas I normally take them out but they would be especially better against this guy since he had an aggressive side to his Valakut deck.
I remember the next game played out more like a normal Valakut matchup. He was off to a quick start with Explore and I played a Stoneforge getting a Sword. He got really ahead with a timely Acidic Slime. I left my two mana up after playing a tapland and was blessed enough to have the Flashfreeze for his Primeval. I stabilized at a low life and Jaced the top of his library making sure he drew just a few less Mountains than he needed to kill me.
Round 7: Christian Calcano with RUG
Christian Calcano is a part of The Glub Club so as one of my friendly fishies might say I knew it was going to be an upstream battle. Calcano is a really good fish of mine that I met from my Japan trip for Worlds last year. He is so pro and there are many other people who I would rather be playing against than somebody in my very own clan. I actually thought he was playing U/W because he was talking to one of my friends earlier in the day and I thought they were talking about sideboard strategies for U/W but I had just completely misheard them.
He won the roll and led off with Lotus Cobra. I remember that when he cast the Cobra I was shocked that he wasn't playing U/W but it made a Day of Judgment in my hand a little better. I peeled Mortarpod off the top and slammed it into play. Calcano just ran a Jace out into my Squadron Hawk and one untapped Island but I luckily had Spell Pierce.
This game was actually looking grim as I wasn't drawing many threats and Calcano kept playing a big boom-boom every turn. I had a Gideon Jura in my hand generally not good against RUG but with the combination of the two Day of Judgments and my two Tectonic Edges I tried to draw the game out long enough to where Gideon could stick and stay alive. Calcano kept tapping out every turn for a threat and I cast all three Days before I finally cast my Gideon to seal the deal.
Game 2: Calcano made a Lotus Cobra on turn 2 but I once again had my one Mortarpod. This game I never played my fourth land. I managed to Mana Leak a couple spells but Calcano just finally cast a Jace the Mind Sculptor and managed to protect it. I didn't stand a chance this game.
Calcano mulliganed this game and my hand was really good. My board plan involved bringing in Kor Firewalkers against RUG. I took out my Squadron Hawks as I don't think they impose enough of a threat. When Kor Firewalker picks up the Sword it can be problematic for the RUG player. The likelihood of your RUG opponent siding out their Precursor Golems against you is high so Jace is the only other card that deals with Kor Firewalker + Sword easily.
I got the Firewalker beats in early and there was a turn that Calcano messed up that probably cost him the game. He had a Lotus Cobra in play on turn 5 and tried to make another Lotus Cobra so that he could sacrifice his Scalding Tarn already in play and the one in his hand to make an Inferno Titan with his own Mana Leak backup. I Mana Leaked his Lotus Cobra and he sacrificed his Scalding Tarn thinking that he'd get the mana for the Lotus Cobra on the stack so that he could still Mana Leak mine and cast his Titan. This cost him as it was an awkward use of an important turn so I was allowed to connect with my Sword and cast a Sun Titan. It was a really weird scenario because we both played really well through the whole match but it just goes to show that slipping even once can be all the difference.
Round 8: Carlos Romao with U/W/B Darkblade
He won the die roll and we both had Stoneforge Mystic on turn 2. It looked like he was playing U/W until he played a Darkslick Shores and Inquisitioned my Sword away on turn 3. My hand was really bad after he took my Sword. It was a Day of Judgment two Gideon Juras a Tumble Magnet and lands. I played the Tumble Magnet and hung in the game by trading Gideons. He eventually broke through with a Sword and landed an Elspeth Tirel. It was a long game and we went to game two with less than thirty minutes on the clock.
I honestly only remember that he got unlucky in some way game 2. I don't know if he just missed land drops but I know that he never cast an Inquisition of Kozilek.
In the last game we had about ten minutes to finish and we both mulliganed. I was worried that just from shuffling we wouldn't have enough time to finish. Luckily on turn 2 Carlos's greedy mana base served him a tapland which allowed me to get ahead by playing Squadron Hawk and Jace Beleren. I landed a Gideon which helped me connect with a Sword on turn 0 after time and I won the turn after.
Round 9: Josh-Utter Leyton with U/W Caw-Blade
I won the die roll and we both led with our favorite Stoneforge Mystics. I've played against Wrapter before and he annihilated me playing perfectly on every street.
I'm pretty sure we just Spell Pierced each other's Jaces but I ended up playing a Gideon that he was forced to attack and I managed to get in damage. He eventually Condemned one of my Squadron Hawks which was good information to have because I had another Gideon in my hand. I played the Gideon and made him attack it while getting in three poison damage with my Inkmoth Nexus. I eventually hit him with it twice and played a Stoneforge to get Mortarpod—Wrapter has been poisoned!!!
Game 2 was similar to game 1 but there was a turn where Wrapter hooked up his Stoneforge Mystic with two Swords of Feast and Famine tapping him out. It was rather greedy but I'd never really represented Condemn so his read was correct.
I did have Into the Roil however which blew him out hard allowing me to play my Sword connect and land a Gideon to push me far enough ahead to where he wouldn't come back.
It felt rather strange to have just 9-0ed the first day of a Grand Prix. Every time I've Day 2ed a Grand Prix I always feel so much pressure as it's usually a grind with a loss or two. Alex Bertoncini and I high-fived each other both of us stoked that we were undefeated. I got some food with people I was staying with downtown. I got back to the hotel early enough get enough rest.
I was more than ready. I had forced myself the whole night to stay focused and not let my emotions affect the way I was going to play.
I live in a house full of professional poker players in Atlanta and this rule flows in our community. It's just a good way of avoiding tilt and making sure that you're playing your 'A' Game. I don't believe in perfect play but I felt like I was playing some good Magic this weekend and I knew that just because I was undefeated it was not even close to over. There was Alex Bertoncini X-0wen Turtenwald and some Texan that I would play. I was not happy to see I had to play Owen as he has crushed me every time we've played and he is a very good wizard.
Round 10: Owen Turtenwald with RUG
This match was not fair. Both games he just played Lotus Cobra when I played Hawk. He played Jace and Titans. My deck didn't really perform at its best in game 2 when I didn't draw a fourth land but there was a good shot that I didn't have a chance even if I did. It took only a second to realize that this was only my first loss and I was much more in it than a lot of others.
Round 11: Ari Lax with U/W Caw-Blade
So game 1 he Stoneforged up a Sword and I got a Mortarpod since I already had my Sword. He punted super hard by just going all in on his Hawk one turn when I had Mortarpod in my hand which I flashed in with Stoneforge Mystic. I then was able to connect with a Sword and play a Gideon. We went deep into the game and I literally punted the last turn. It was just a stupid mistake. I had five lands untapped with an Into the Roil in hand and he Tectonic Edged one of my untapped lands and I float the mana. He went into combat and I allowed it using Into the Roil after he attacked. He only had the one card in his hand which he had just drawn and it was Mana Leak so I lost to exact lethal.
I don't remember the next game but we were covered under the camera on GGsLive. I remember not running as hot as I had the rest of the tournament and started to shake it off and told myself I was about to have to play some good Magic if I wanted to Top 8.
Round 12: Joe B. with UW Caw-Blade
This kid was younger than I was and didn't play as though he should be in day 2. His deck wasn't very good either. Despite these facts I was getting crushed game 1. I swear I almost conceded on turn 7 because I was so behind but I somehow managed to beat him down with Squadron Hawks and he just burned out. He just kept playing a land every turn as I just pecked him away. CAWWW.
I was not very surprised to see Blue Sun's Zenith from this kid. The grind was still on.
Round 13: Nikkoli Wilson with Mono-G Elves
Nikkoli was actually a local at SuperGames in Atlanta but just recently moved to Texas. Game 1 he won the die roll and just smashed the crap out of me. It was funny because earlier in the day I was telling Ryno that I wanted to play against Elves because I would smash the crap out of them. Nikkoli just curved out and cast some Green Sun's Zeniths to get some Vengevines to fight through my Day of Judgments.
Game 2 was very long and drawn out. It involved my flooding the board with Hawks + Mortarpod + Sylvok Lifestaff. He kept drawing well so it was very necessary for me to have all three of my Day of Judgments this game as I barely won. We shuffled up for game 3 very fast with only nine minutes left on the clock. This matchup seemed pretty easy as long I had Day of Judgment and Gideon Jura.
So game 3 he snap-kept his hand and I had no lands. I quickly shuffled and drew my six to look at a hand of no lands. I sighed and quickly shuffled again. It seemed hopeless. I was starting with five cards on the draw with six-and-a-half minutes on the clock in a matchup where I was usually just using all of my resources to stay alive. So game 3 I ended up casting Stoneforge Mystic to make sure I had my Lifestaff. I sent a Vengevine on a Journey to Nowhere and then destroyed all of his creatures the next turn. I peeled a Jace into Gideon and somehow won right before turns were called. Nikkoli had one thing to say “SICKSICKSICKSICKSICKSICKSICK.”
Round 14: Austin Bursavich with U/W Caw-Blade
I really didn't want to play against sneakyhomunculous as he was better than most people I could be playing against at X-2. He was a good wizard; we had met before in the Digital Objects realm. I knew he was playing U/W and I was paired up against him. I didn't know how well he was set in the tournament but I was just going to play to win. If I won this match I could draw into Top 8.
I won the die roll and we both led with Stoneforge Mystics. He stuck an Emeria Angel which was actually a big problem. Not only did I not see it coming but it really worked well for him. It beat through my Jace and forced me to Day of Judgment on a turn he was tapped out where I could've successfully landed a Gideon instead. He then got ahead in our Gideon trades and I eventually got my Sword online before he recovered.
Sideboarding in this match was a little different because he had Emeria Angels and it seemed like his deck would have Sun Titan. I had to keep in my Day of Judgments so it was hard to make room for the cards I was bringing in.
Game 2 he played a Seachrome Coast and shipped. I played a Celestial Colonnade and before he drew his card he said “I just want to let you know I don't have a single land in my hand.” I didn't think he could be telling the truth but surely enough he slowly looked at the top card of his library and quickly slammed it down and played a Stoneforge and ended up winning this game.
Game 3 he played a Jace Beleren and tried to keep it alive while I just kept adding Hawks to the board. I sat back on my counterspells and pecked his life total away. He didn't stick an Angel or Gideon this game so I eventually ended up winning when he Tectonic Edged his own two lands.
Round 15: ID with David Shiels
We both knew that if we drew we would Top 8. We were in fifth and sixth before this round and we saw that two people who had lower tiebreakers we did drew this round so we knew we were locked.
Top 8: Owen Turtenwald with RUG
Well here I was. My first Top 8 of a Grand Prix and I was playing against a master. The match was covered on MagicTheGathering.com but the match was depressing. It was rather similar to our match earlier in the tournament. He won the die roll had his Cobra survive and stuck a Jace. Game 1: I actually fetched a Mortarpod for his Cobra but it was just too late. He played some big nasties and I was never in either game.
It was a very fun weekend. My first Grand Prix Top 8 included a bunch of children which was super awesome. I just hung out the rest of the evening mostly out in the park just burdling and durdling next to a pond since the weather was really nice. I refused to team draft against people and just wanted to relax. It felt good running hot in multiple Magic tournaments in a row.
There are usually only good things that come from weekends of Magic even if my performance isn't good in the tournament.
As far as changes in the deck I want to add a second Inkmoth Nexus. Since the metagame has evolved with an even larger portion of U/W Caw-Blade I think going to two Day of Judgments in the maindeck is good. I'm still convinced that Condemn is important in the mirror so I'll probably cut the Into the Roils for those. In the sideboard Kor Firewalker should probably be something else. It was mediocre and I think the Day of Judgment from the main should take up one of those slots and another Volition Reins is probably what I want. Volition Reins seems like a good choice against RUG but it depends on how the metagame shifts.
I have a good start in the StarCityGames.com Open Series and Pro Points for the year so I'll be playing a lot of upcoming Magic. See those of you in Charlotte!