As many of you know I recently moved from Phoenix Arizona to Cincinnati Ohio. Because I have the worst timing in the history of mankind StarCityGames.com decided to bring their fantastic Open Series to Phoenix right after I left. Thanks! Nonetheless I wanted an excuse to visit family and friends so I decided to take a flight down to Phoenix for the Open Series. This article is a bit late because I was so busy with the rest of my trip that I didn't have the time to put metaphorical pen to metaphorical paper.
In the style of Reuben Bresler's excellent "Magic: The Newsening" video series I will blatantly steal his Top 8 stories format. And here...are your Top 8 stories.
1. Drew Levin
I have been of the opinion that Maverick has been the deck to play in Legacy for a while now. I was set to play a Bant version of Maverick as I wanted Brainstorm and Jace to further cement my ability to dominate the fair matchups. I knew that Dredge would be the combo deck of choice for the majority of Arizona Legacy players and I was happy with playing Maverick against Dredge. That is until I read Drew Levin's RUG Delver primer here.
Every once in a while I'll read (or watch!) something that truly inspires me. Drew's article did exactly that. I could read his article copy his decklist and feel confident that I had a grasp on what I was doing. One thing that I do when I pick up someone else's deck that I feel is important is not change the decklist. I played Drew's exact 75 from the SCG Open Series featuring the Invitational in Baltimore.
I could have rationalized a ton of different decklist changes but Drew has done far more work with the deck than I have. There is a reason he feels like the cards in his deck are the correct. Granted I could have made some informed decisions about altering some of the cards such as dedicating SB slots to the Burn and Dredge matchups (both of which are popular in AZ). However when you're wrong about something when you're uninformed you risk disaster.
2. Jon Medina
I don't really have much in the way of Legacy cards anymore. I hate to be the person that always borrows everything but I only have a handful of Legacy staples outside of my Dredge deck. Enter Jon Medina who graciously loaned me everything for my trip. He was even more than happy to build me the RUG deck when I asked for it a few days before I left.
Of course Jon Medina doesn't loan me just any cards. He loans me foil Japanese versions of all of his cards. I was very nervous at many points during the trip as I couldn't remotely afford to replace his cards. I cannot thank Jon enough for his generosity.
3. The Arizona Magic Community
Among many things Arizona operates a little differently than the other places I've been. For many people that played in the SCG Open Series there it was the largest tournament they've ever played in. It was certainly the largest tournament in our state since GP Phoenix many years ago (we drafted Coldsnap for reference). However our community is fairly large—after all Phoenix is the fifth largest city in the US—but we are fairly isolated. It is extremely difficult if not impossible to be a grinder from Phoenix. If you want to play in more than one PTQ a season (and more than one Open Series!) it's a minimum five hour drive to the next major city.
We adjust accordingly—the majority of our players don't have aspirations beyond enjoying the game. Many of our bigger tournaments aren't anything official from Wizards; they are just store run cash tournaments. Personally I miss the Arizona Magic scene as it's more laid back than other places I've been. There are many players that are fairly skilled Magicians but don't have the major tournament finishes one might expect out of them simply because there aren't a ton of events to go to.
Chris Basco Billy Gogol Christian Nickerson Leon Kornacki and Nathan Cardinell are among many Arizona Magic players that had excellent finishes this weekend and they were much deserved. Hopefully Arizona can have a decent sized showing at a future SCG Invitational.
There isn't too much for me to say about Standard. I wasn't inspired for Standard the way I was for Legacy. I played a pretty stock Esper Spirits list very similar to Jon Finkel's PT DKA deck and Tom Martell's GP SLC deck. I started 5-1 only dropping a match to eventual Top 4 competitor Chris Basco. Then the wheels fell off and I lost consecutive matches to G/R Aggro and B/W tokens before dropping to grab some food.
I felt extremely underpowered for most of the day neither equipped to tempo people nor grind people out. I hate playing decks when I'm not capable of doing something concrete. I felt the only thing I had to work for was a double Drogskol Captain draw and that was hard to protect and wasn't even always good! The core of the Delver deck (Delver Snapcaster cantrips Vapor Snag Mana Leak) is so strong that I feel that it's best to supplement it with cards that work within that shell instead of trying to do something else outside of it. I have switched to a classic version with Geist of Saint Traft Invisible Stalker and Runechanter's Pike and I've been much happier with it if only because my deck doesn't fight itself anymore.
Either way one thing I've learned is that you need to dedicate lots of cards to the Zombies matchup if you want a realistic chance. Geralf's Messenger is the least fun card in Magic these days in my opinion. Interacting with it is so impossible much like a Titan that costs three mana. I'm going to try to play four Celestial Purge whenever I can until rotation simply because I hate losing to Messenger. The worst thing is that I still lose value when I use the best answer as I am still down two life out of the exchange.
Jason and Jeff Abong are identical twins that are responsible for quite a bit in the Arizona community. First they started and operate AZMagicplayers.com which is a great place to find out about events in Arizona. Sometimes word is slow to get around from store to store. Second they often host many of the tournaments which are always well run. Finally they are essential to the Legacy scene in Arizona.
They don't often play Standard but I'm sure a huge amount of players were able to play Legacy on Sunday because of their generosity with cards. They did well on Sunday both finishing in the Top 16. Even better they either both won or both lost every single round and managed to dodge the Abong mirror match all day. If only I could tell them apart....
6. John Pershon
This picture was the beginning. This seemingly harmless photo of yours truly involved an accidental photo bomb by my mustached friend John Pershon. The rest of the weekend was spent trying to get John in as many photos and videos as possible. My favorite is the finals match where he can be seen behind both Sherwin and me. John shows up many other places in the background of coverage.
Yes the mustache is real.
7. Sherwin Pu
Sherwin is one of my favorite players and I expect big things from him in the near future. There aren't very many players that combine passion skill and perspective like Sherwin does. Our finals match was one of the most comical matches I've played in a long time. I knew that I would struggle to get out of the early game because I have no basics. In addition Sherwin had access to the Wasteland + Surgical Extraction combo to potentially just make me unable to cast spells.
As it turns out that's exactly what happened. I even got a little fortunate to take game 1 drawing a few correct lands off the top. However during games 2 and 3 I was simply taken off of mana and could not operate. At one point coverage reporter Dane Young asked if they had spoiled a miracle Black Lotus then commented that I could really use one right now. All in all Sherwin is a deserving champion and our match was a pleasure to play. From watching the videos afterward the commentary by Brian Kibler and Patrick Sullivan was excellent as well.
Merfolk Looter is my favorite card of all time. Land is my favorite card type. I think I'm in love.
When Tiago Chan won the Invitational he submitted a land that you could discard and pay some amount of mana to counter a spell. Wizards nixed that as too powerful so Tiago changed it to Snapcaster Mage which clearly has an appropriate power level. I have always said that if I had the opportunity to make a card that I would put the Looting ability on a land. I would have started the ability at 4U or 2UU. 1UR is just absurd. You can bet that I will play a bunch of extra lands and lots of copies of Desolate Lighthouse.
While you may only want one a game you can just discard the rest as you get flooded. I am just so excited to get to play Desolate Lighthouse and I'm going to be upset whenever a good card that is white green or black gets spoiled. I'm just not going to be able to play it because I will be busy with my Lighthouses. If the Delver decks have taught us one thing it's that being able to sculpt our draws is incredibly powerful. If the Delver decks have taught us two things it's that maybe the counterspell land wasn't that bad of an idea.
In any event I'm going to start brewing up some sweet Lighthouse decks in the near future. I'm probably going to start with something like this:
That's one place to start although fairly basic. Another option could be to abuse Chandra's Phoenix as a draw engine not intending to cast it very often but instead discarding it. Arc Trail Geistflame and Chandra the Firebrand would be featured in this type of deck. If you're playing the Lighthouse then counterspells become much stronger. You can hold up mana and simply loot if the opponent passes without a play. This is basically the land form of playing Think Twice or Desperate Ravings.
It's entirely possible that you don't need the draw package but it would be nice to have a way to get ahead on cards. The other thing I'm not particularly fond of with this list is the large amount of main phase cards. Much like Nephalia Drownyard the Lighthouse is maximized when you have a large amount of instants in your deck. Unfortunately the best red cards are played at sorcery speed. I am excited by the possibility of a Dungeon Geists->Tamiyo->Frost Titan curve. Perhaps that deck shouldn't be a Lighthouse deck but I feel that curve is fairly powerful if you have Slagstorm type of effects to go with it.
I for one will fight the good fight and not succumb to mono creatures anytime soon Cavern of Souls be damned.
Thanks for reading