Sitting in the airport waiting for my 1:00 AM flight home, I was exhausted. I had spent a little over four days in Las Vegas and couldn't wait to go home. If I hadn't been able to hang out with some awesome friends that I hadn't seen in forever, I would have been quite sour about the weekend since I did a lot of losing—in Magic and in the casinos.
I played a lot of Magic and felt good about most of it going into the events. I felt like both of my decks for the Invitational were excellent choices for the weekend. I was much more confident in my Standard choice, R/W/B Burn, but felt like I was in good shape with Sneak and Show for Legacy. In a strange twist of events, I didn't win an actual match of Legacy yet still made day 2 since my opponent in round 8 didn't show up to our match. I skated into the second day with a 5-3 record.
Going into the week of the Invitational, I was pretty sure that I was just going to play the Esper Control deck that Brian Braun-Duin had been working on. He had gotten most matchups into the positive and was winning with it a lot on Magic Online. This was until I found the R/W Burn deck that Darin Minard took to the Top 8 of Grand Prix Dallas-Fort Worth that I wrote about last week. I felt like most of the time the Invitational is full of Esper and U/W Control decks and that this weekend wouldn't be much of an exception, and in testing the R/W Burn deck was doing very well against those types of decks. By cutting the Young Pyromancers and adding Toil // Trouble to the maindeck, we are able to blank a lot of their removal and burn them out fairly quickly.
After playing with the deck for a week, I found that some of the cards I was using in my sideboard just weren't good enough in the matchups where I wanted them. Flames of the Firebrand in particular was quite bad despite it looking like it could be amazing against the W/R and the W/B Aggro decks. Being able to two-for-one your opponent seems like it would be a good thing in a deck with no real card advantage, but it was just really bad. Spear of Heliod and Xathrid Necromancer were both problem cards for that strategy, which was destined to fail from the start. Trying to one-for-one them with our removal and clean up a little bit with Flames of the Firebrand or Anger of the Gods just wasn't going to work since they play way more creatures that we play burn spells that could kill them.
I decided that against those decks I just wanted to side in four Anger of the Gods and use removal spells on just Boros Elite if it was getting out of hand early enough or Mutavault and throw the rest at them and try to race them. Anger of the Gods preventing a turn's worth of attacking and Warleader's Helix buffering us with four life was usually enough to turn the race in our favor.
Besides Flames of the Firebrand performing poorly, I was pretty happy with the deck. Here's the list that I battled with in the Invitational:
I thought that this deck was going to be perfect for the Invitational metagame. I expected to see a lot Esper and U/W Control, against which this deck has favorable matchups. I expected the devotion decks to be the second most popular after the control decks. R/W Burn is pretty even against both of these; sometimes you get to Toil // Trouble them on the play for six or seven damage, and the game isn't even close.
R/W Burn has some pretty poor matchups against the W/R and W/B Aggro decks, which is why we dedicated a significant portion of our sideboard to them. Boros Reckoner, Anger of the Gods, and possibly Mizzium Mortars are all good cards against those strategies, and they are potent enough at stalling so that we can race them with burn.
Another reason that I chose this deck was because I had two byes for the Invitational and the Standard portion was first. I felt like there was a good chance that I would run into Esper and U/W Control after starting out 2-0 since I thought a large percentage of the good players would be on Esper or U/W. I was very confident in our Legacy choice of Sneak and Show, and I wanted a Standard deck that could go 4-2 (after the two byes) to combine with a 6-1-1 performance in Legacy to make Top 8 at X-3-1. I was on track for this goal by going 4-0 in the first Standard portion, but the wheels quickly fell off.
Here's the Sneak and Show list that BBD and I played, though it felt like I actually had 60 Emrakuls in my deck.
I was happy with our list and loved the Sensei's Divining Top that we opted to play. Against any of the decks with Thoughtseize or Hymn to Tourach in them, Sensei's Divining Top is just awesome. A lot of matches tend to go quite long if you aren't able to Show and Tell very early, and Top gives us such a boost in our card selection that we are able to push through comboing a little bit earlier than we previously would have.
I know that a lot of people still prefer to play cards like Daze and Preordain over Gitaxian Probe, but I feel like the information you gain from Gitaxian Probe makes it worth it. Knowing what you're playing around and if the coast is clear is a huge advantage against Force of Will decks. Daze is a card that most experienced Legacy players will be playing around, and in a tournament like the Invitational, I feel that cards like Daze lose value a bit quicker than they would in a 400-person Legacy Open.
We decided on playing Ashen Rider in our sideboard as an answer to Ensnaring Bridge over Echoing Truth. Ashen Rider is also good against Karakas, and while it doesn't end the game as quickly as Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Griselbrand, attacking for five in the air is still pretty cute. The big downside to having Ashen Rider over Echoing Truth is that you can't just cast Ashen Rider when you need it. Echoing Truth allows us to just cast it to not die or to press a small advantage sometimes, whereas Ashen Rider is all in on Show and Tell or Sneak Attack. It also can't be pitched to Force of Will.
I wish I had more information to give about how the deck would have performed with the changes that we made, but I didn't win a single match of Legacy. I went 0-3 and then had my last round opponent not show up. The average number of Emrakuls in my opening seven was probably somewhere around two and a half for the three rounds that I played with the deck. I shuffled every Ponder and drew three lands every Brainstorm. It was unfortunate but just another part of the variance that can happen in Magic.
I was happy that I made it into day 2 at 5-3, but I felt like even if I were to make it into the Legacy portion of the second day I was going to just get slaughtered again. Having a negative mind state like this can be quite detrimental to your success, and it's something that I'm constantly working on.
The first four rounds of day 2 were Standard, and I was dispatched very quickly by Mono-Blue Devotion. Being one turn or a Chained to the Rocks off from killing him each game was quite saddening. I opted to drop from the Invitational since I thought that I would likely have to 7-0 the rest of the tournament to min-cash and joined the Standard Open. I knew I didn't want to play R/W Burn in the Open with the field being much wider and went back to the W/R Aggro deck I'd worked on the previous week.
- 4 Banisher Priest
- 3 Boros Elite
- 4 Daring Skyjek
- 4 Dryad Militant
- 3 Imposing Sovereign
- 4 Precinct Captain
- 4 Soldier of the Pantheon
I felt like going into an unknown field I wanted to play something that I had experience with and that wasn't a huge dog to any deck. W/R Aggro fit these terms perfectly, and while I got off to an awesome start at 7-0, I lost both of my win-and-in feature matches and drew into Top 32 in the last round.
In round 8 I got slaughtered by Mono-Black Devotion. Game 1 was close, as he was dead if he didn't draw a non-Temple land on the last turn to cast a Gray Merchant of Asphodel that I knew was waiting in his hand. I made an attack to sacrifice most of my board against his double Desecration Demon to put him at exactly eight with double Boros Charm in hand, but an untapped land off the top sealed my fate. In round 9 I ended up losing game 3 on camera with my double Boros Elite draw with multiple Mutavaults when he had the Shrivel to three-for-one me and take control of an otherwise tough-to-win game.
I did have some very interesting matches earlier in the tournament. In round 1 I played against a gentleman who had traveled to the United States all the way from Australia to play in some of the Opens and then come to Las Vegas for the Invitational. When he told me where he was from and his trip here, he thanked me for the content that I provide. I was awestruck and humbled.
He was on Mono-Blue Devotion, and in game 1 we got into a board state where he played a Master of Waves for six tokens but couldn't block that turn because of an Imposing Sovereign. I had to orchestrate an attack that allowed me to block most of his team with Brave the Elements and not die and attack back to put enough pressure on him so that he would die if he attacked wrong and had to give up a lot of his creatures if he attacked correctly. He ended up attacking correctly, but I drew a Banisher Priest, which let me put even more pressure on him, and took the game.
I also got to play against Craig Wescoe and his G/W Deck. Both games were back and forth to the extreme. Every turn one of us would untap while far behind, draw a card, and maneuver a sequence of plays and attacks to get way ahead, and it went that way for the entire match. In game 1 I was able to steal the game with an attack that put me in a position to kill him with Brave the Elements, Ajani, Caller of the Pride, or Boros Charm off the top. Thankfully I drew a Brave the Elements to take it.
In game 2 I was far ahead with an Imposing Sovereign, a Frontline Medic, and a few other creatures in play attacking him with no creatures in play. He was able to Advent of the Wurm on my end step, untap, and cast both Glare of Heresy on my Frontline Medic and Unflinching Courage on his Wurm token and swing. I luckily drew a Banisher Priest for his Wurm on my turn and took the momentum back. Over the next couple turns Scavenging Ooze was deployed and a Last Breath and another Glare of Heresy were cast, and I ultimately was able to take the game by putting enough pressure on with Spear of Heliod and having a Glare of Heresy for his second Unflinching Courage. It was a very hard-fought match, and I was lucky to have the answer one more time than he did.
I ended up staying out pretty late and only getting a few hours of sleep before the Legacy Open on Sunday. I wanted to try out Ad Nauseam Tendrils, and my friend had a deck that wasn't being used so I played it. I got dispatched quickly and dropped at 1-2. In one game against Miracles, I cast Ponder turn 1 on the play and passed. He cast Sensei's Divining Top from his mulligan to six and passed back to me. I cast Duress and saw two lands, a Terminus, and two Vendilion Cliques. I took the Terminus and got the Cliques with Cabal Therapy. He Topped in his upkeep, drew, and played a land. When I went for the combo on turn 3 with rituals, casting Infernal Tutor, retaining priority, and sacrificing my Lion's Eye Diamond, he was able to draw a card with his Top and Force of Will my Infernal Tutor.
I knew that this just wasn't going to be my weekend.
I should have took that knowledge and saved some money since I ended up playing some Black Jack with BBD later that night and spewing off $200 very quickly. At least the buffet there had some awesome smoked sausage and a killer three-bean salad.
Overall I had a good time, but like always I was ready to come home. Every time I go to Vegas, regardless of how long I'm there, on the last day I always feel like I was there for one day too long.
There are some awesome changes going into place for 2014, and I'm looking forward to playing in as many opens and IQs as I can to try to qualify for the Players' Championship. I've pretty much already been doing that, which has allowed me to stay in the Top 10 point earners for most of this year (since I started playing again in April), but I'm going to try to hit even more events now that there's more value than just the byes for getting as many points as you can.
SCGLive already had an awesome coverage team, and I'm excited to see that they are working to streamline the commentators to provide us all with the best possible live coverage experience for our Opens and Invitationals.
Oh, I'm getting a token too, so that's cool. Let's make Young Pyromancer a force to be reckoned with!
I'll probably be at a Super IQ somewhere this weekend, so keep an eye out on my stream this week to find out where.
Happy Holidays everyone! Remember to spend time with those you love and let them know how much you care because we aren't going to be here forever.