That went downhill fast.
Wait, I guess I shouldn't start there.
Maybe the beginning would be a better starting point.
I really like Legacy tournaments. They're like other Constructed tournaments but without all the hard work. I don't have to choose a deck or get cards together; I just spend a few minutes thinking about whether I want to update anything in my Zombie deck, pick up the deck box, switch a couple cards, and head out.
I didn't even know what to do with myself during the two days before the tournament.
I didn't play exactly the same deck that took me to the finals of SCG Legacy Open: Los Angeles. I realized that now that I had Deathrite Shaman to give me non-black mana against Wasteland decks, I could sideboard Swords to Plowshares, which I didn't like before because there was too large of an overlap between creature decks and Wasteland decks. This made having white mana unreliable, but Deathrite Shaman makes the mana consistent enough that I can easily support it. I'm very glad I went with the full four instead of the three I'd been considering. I only wish I'd played one of them main over the Tragic Slip.
It turns out that Swords to Plowshares is reallygood. You're probably not stupid, so it's likely that you already knew that, but wow. A+, would play again, will not be cutting. As I assumed but hadn't tested, the RUG Delver matchup is a lot better with Deathrite Shaman and Swords to Plowshares.
So that was my deck: exactly what I played before but with four Swords to Plowshares instead of four other sideboard cards. For those of you who haven't memorized my decklist, which I assume is all of you:
Oh, and I cut a fetchland for a Scrubland to support the additional white requirement. It doesn't change my odds of being able to have one mana, but it makes it safer to lean on white spells against Wastelands—I've been hurt before.
As for the tournament, the (relatively) recent popularization of the Sleep-In Special has opened up the option of flying to tournaments Saturday morning instead of Friday. I still think it's absurd to have to pay $20 for this privilege, but that doesn't mean it's not worth doing, particularly when it lets me spend one less night in a hotel.
Luckily, there was a pretty cheap direct flight from Madison to arrive in Denver at 9:30 AM, which is pretty much perfect for the Saturday travel plan, so that's what I did. I arrived at the site comfortably before my round with plenty of time to talk to people, get some cards, eat a burrito, and still hang out for a while before my tournament started.
I don't have lot of details about my matches, particular during the first day, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time on that. I beat Omni-Tell in the first round, which is a deck I'm generally pretty happy to play against. Obviously, their deck is powerful enough that they sometimes just win, but discard is amazing against them so they usually don't.
I believe I played against Shardless BUG after that, and I lost game 1 because he chained Shardless Agents and Baleful Strixes after I played a bunch of discard spells since I never got a Goblin Bombardment going. But I won the next two, largely on the strength of Lingering Souls I think. Swords to Plowshares was also very good, as I needed to beat a few Tarmogoyfs to win the match.
My next match was against Sneak and Show, which is maybe a little better for me than Omni-Tell but maybe not. They're basically the same deck as far as I'm concerned. This opponent had Leyline of Sanctity, which is huge against me, and I would have lost except he somehow deeplyleveled himself.
It was game 3, and he had Leyline of Sanctity for the second game in a row, so I had almost no way to interact with him and just passed after playing a fetchland on my second turn. He played Show and Tell and set a card aside. I said, "Wait," and sacrificed my fetchland to find Scrubland and Disenchanted his Leyline of Sanctity. At this point he said he needed to think, picked up the card he'd set aside, thought for a while, and set a different card aside. I'd set my card aside as soon as I cast the Disenchant.
Maybe you'd like to pause for a moment to consider what card I'd chosen given my play.
I revealed my Tidehollow Sculler, the only permanent I had that would make me immediately need to target him, and he revealed Sneak Attack and showed me the Emrakul in his hand, which the Sculler removed.
Feel free to take a moment to check my 75. I believe you'll find an Oblivion Ring as my only card that can possibly beat an Emrakul in play before my third turn.
My opponent had somehow convinced himself that the reason I Disenchanted his Leyline of Sanctity was so that I could put Liliana into play and make him sacrifice his Emrakul. This was a reasonable concern. Liliana might be unlikely, but it would be one of the few cards he could reasonably see me having that would beat him.
But why did the Disenchant indicate that to him? I could just Disenchant his Leyline of Sanctity at the end of his turn since there would be no reason for me to give him additional information and myself fewer options by doing it in response. Imagine if I'd had the Liliana and he'd done this—I'd have wasted the Disenchant that could have killed his Sneak Attack. I'd feel pretty terrible. That was the feeling he was hoping to leave me with, but I think he got too excited by the dream of punishing me and didn't think through why I would do what I did if I was a rational experienced player.
Anyway, he drew an Echoing Truth on his turn, got back his Emrakul, hit me to clear my board and put me at three, and we were back in the danger zone. Fortunately, I was able to play a land to return a Bloodghast from my graveyard and play a Carrion Feeder, and he failed to draw a creature before I finished him off.
My next round was a video feature match against Matt Nass playing Elves. In the past, my games after sideboard against Elves were extremely easy, but Deathrite Shaman is a huge problem in that deck. It's hard for me to kill with Goblin Bombardment, particularly if he has a Wirewood Symbiote that can protect it, which I'll have to kill first, and then it can remove the creature I was using to fuel the Bombardment. I can't save a Bloodghast with the fetchland trick because he can use a Quirion Ranger or Wirewood Symbiote to untap the Deathrite Shaman.
Ordinarily, Deathrite Shaman is a little too slow to be that great against me, but in a deck that can generate lots of mana and use it several times a turn, it starts to resemble a Scavenging Ooze, which is nearly unbeatable. Matt drew several Symbiotes and Shamans per game and crushed me despite my drawing of Goblin Bombardment in both games, which is usually enough to win by itself.
My final match of the day was against U/W Counterbalance. Game 1 he kept Top, Counterbalance, and lands, and I Thoughtseized his Counterbalance after he played the Top. He then failed to get much going with his hand of all lands, even with the Top to dig him out of it. Game 2 was interesting in that he played a Baneslayer Angel, which I wasn't particularly prepared for (which is to say I didn't have any Swords to Plowshares in my deck), but I had Goblin Bombardment and Lingering Souls, so it wasn't a problem.
The tournament was only eight rounds on Day 1 (which led to a 150-person Day 2 and meant that in my last round I was playing for 9th/10th or 34th), so it ended relatively early. I had some friends who had cars, so a group of us drove into town and went to an African place for dinner.
I wasn't sure what to expect from "African" cuisine. I know that I like Ethiopian food quite a bit, but I had no idea how similar this would be. The answer turned out to be "not very." However, it was still fine for me. Our waiter was an extremely friendly and enthusiastic African man. (I'm not trying to say he was black, which wouldn't be particularly relevant. I'm pretty sure he'd grown up in Africa, though I certainly don't know exactly how old he was when he came to America or anything). He asked if we'd ever had African food before, and we said no, so he said he'd go over the menu for us.
This wasn't your typical "answer any questions you may have" going over the menu; he meant literally reading the menu, telling us a story about every single item, and describing where it came from and how it was made despite the fact that there were both pictures and descriptions in the menu. Note that I didn't say he "offered" to do this, just that he said he would do it.
Fortunately, I was not among those of us who were extremely hungry.
After about half an hour of listening to a variety of items most of us had no interest in, we placed our orders. Well, almost—we tried to place our orders, but he had us pause in order to get something to write with. I guess he hadn't considered that we might eventually try to order things. As soon as one of us mentioned drinks, he had to tell us about this drink he'd made by putting cinnamon sticks and a bunch of roots and stuff in a bottle of vodka.
He was extremely proud of it, told us about how others loved it, and said that it would make "women flexible—and men stiff." He was extremely emphatic about this point, coming back to it several times. Three glasses were ordered. I think the verdict was that it was strong and very bitter. Anyway, three people ordered the extremely simple meat kabobs they'd intended to order before he started, and I asked which of two vegetarian dishes he recommended, as I would have done from the beginning, so basically no value was gained from the reading.
Our food came out sequentially with fairly long pauses between different people's dishes, such that everyone had pretty much finished and we were asking for the check by the time Gau started eating one of his items. Friendly and enthusiastic, but not very professional. (I found out late in the meal that they were out of the appetizer I'd ordered.)
My boiled plantains with spinach stew were fine, and I was happy to have tried something both new and vegan, as I've been increasingly avoiding dairy. I'm starting to think I should be stricter about that.
And this is what happens when I try to tell you about my trip rather than just Magic. I see other writers doing it so much that I figured I'd give it a shot.
Day 2 started off well. I won my first two rounds against RUG Delver and…um…something else.
My third match of the day was a video feature against LSV. You may have already heard something about it.
Game 3 was going very well for me. I had his Wirewood Symbiotes locked down with Pithing Needle and had taken control and was finishing him off. Then he drew Qasali Pridemage, blew up my Pithing Needle, and used his two Wirewood Symbiotes to draw cards with his Elvish Visionary, making things go out of hand very quickly. Soon he was comboing off, and I was going to die.
He had two Glimpse of Natures going with Nettle Sentinel and Heritage Druid. He'd already put Progenitus into play. At this point, my only hope was that he'd pass the turn without playing many more x/2s since he probably couldn't kill me because his Craterhoof Behemoth was already in the graveyard. He might realize that I could have Perish and would want to have a very good follow up. If that happened, I could draw Faithless Looting into my one Zealous Persecution AND a Goblin Bombardment so that I could attack with everything and finish him off with the Bombardment. I was not likely to win, but it was the last game so I had to hope. Besides, it would have been pretty epic.
Then he drew three cards when he played a Quirion Ranger because he'd just drawn three cards when he played an Elvish Visionary. He caught himself immediately. I'm really not sure if I would have or not. He says he could have gotten away with it if he hadn't said anything, but there's no way to know for sure. A lot of people were watching, and no one else had time to react. Anyway, he asked me what to do about it, and I shrugged and asked the judge at the table.
At this point, as far as I can tell, half the Internet decided I was some kind of cheater or something for not telling him it was fine and conceding. I think that's pretty messed up.
Yes, I believe that Kenji Tsumura would have conceded, as would several other players who don't want to win just because the rules are too strict/not good. I respect those people, but it simply isn't how I play. I expect that I will be held to the rules, I want the game to be fair, and I want to be able to hold my opponents to the rules as well. I'm very active in the community and in talking to judges, and whenever I find a rule that I think is bad, I try to discuss it with judges to work to get it changed. That's the way that I believe in fighting against bad rules, not by simply pretending they're different when I'm playing a match and sacrificing my own chance in a tournament.
Put differently, lots of players lose lots of games for sloppy play. Luis "had the game won" but performed a sloppy action, one that the rules very explicitly state results in a loss. I understand that it's frustrating because it's a tournament rule rather than a rule on a card or because it wouldn't happen on Magic Online or whatever, but the bottom line is that he got punished for a mistake.
It never feels good to win when your opponent is mad at you over something and it feels much worse when you learn a lot of other people are also mad at you, but I knew I'd be frustrated with myself if I'd declined a win because I felt sorry for Luis. I knew I wouldn't do that for someone I didn't know, and we're not close enough that I want to give him special treatment.
I know I wasn't the hero here, but I don't think I was the villain either. I know that there are some people who disagree with me though.
My next round was against undefeated Vidianto Wijaya with Esper Stoneblade, which is a matchup I've done very well in in the past. I won game 1, and in game 2 he used Engineered Explosives with Academy Ruins to clear by board and then started hitting me with a Stoneforge Mystic with Sword of Feast and Famine. I drew a Bloodghast, and I was far enough ahead on life that it was a big deal.
I hit him down to four and passed, saying, "Come on Bloodghast." He didn't attack, and I drew another Bloodghast and attacked with both to put him to two. I don't remember exactly how things went after that, but somehow we ended up in a position where both of my Bloodghasts were in the graveyard, I had a land in hand, and it was my second main phase. I assume this involved him returning and reusing his Engineered Explosives in combat, but I'm not entirely sure.
I passed with the land since if I played it and got back my Bloodghasts he could Explosives them again, and they'd have haste, so if he did something else I could play the land on my next turn and kill him. He drew Surgical Extraction, I played my land, he Extracted my Bloodghasts, it wasn't a fetchland, and I lost.
Game 3 I led with Faithless Looting, discarding two Bloodghasts, but he had the Surgical Extraction, and then I failed to find a white mana while holding Disenchant and watched him kill me with Batterskull.
The next round I played against a Bant creature deck. I could have played a discard spell, but instead I did something else (I think it was play Deathrite Shaman), and he played Scavenging Ooze, so I lost. I hadn't considered that he might have that, so I didn't play the discard spell and got punished.
The next game I had a discard spell and some Bobs, but he had three Swords to Plowshares with Umezawa's Jitte and a good mix of lands and spells. I drew a bunch of lands, so I couldn't stop his Jitte from connecting.
I went from needing to win two of my last three matches to make Top 8 to trying to win my last match to Top 12.
I was paired against Esper Stoneblade again, won game 1 again, and was feeling pretty good about my chances.
In game 2, I played Faithless Looting, discarding Bloodghast and Lingering Souls with two Lingering Souls in my hand. I felt like I'd basically won the game right there since I had fast pressure with a lot of threats he wouldn't have great answers to, and then he played Extirpate on my Lingering Souls. Suddenly, I had absolutely nothing, and I lost to Jace very quickly.
I don't remember game 3 exactly. I know I went to six and my hand was pretty bad, I think I got Extirpated again, and I think I didn't have discard to stop his Stoneforge Mystic, which he beat me with, but I could be wrong.
I finished 34th, and it wasn't even 3 PM, which is pretty impressive. I had another excellent evening hanging out after the tournament. I played some Werewolf, and Dan Burdick taught me Great Minds (which is a variant of the Newlyweds Game that I think has a chance of gaining popularity at future events), which I had a lot of fun with.
My big lesson? Swords to Plowshares is good. Losing when you're so close isn't. I still love my deck.
Thanks for reading,
@samuelhblack on Twitter