I'm not going to lie.
Shaking Charlie's hand at the end of Game 3 of the finals was quite a bittersweet moment.
I knew that he was very happy to have won. He was extremely excited the night before when we took our intentional draw in Round 10 of the Open, and he was just as ecstatic when I came back over to the feature match area after he had won and congratulated him.
I've been going over that Game 3 in my head ever since I shook his hand and walked away from the table.
I can pinpoint the exact moment when things turned south, and I know that if I had taken another line on my Turn 4, the game would have been much different, but without the knowledge of all that would have happened on his Turn 4, the line that I took was correct and the safest line.
Because of his sideboard, I knew that he would have an abundance of removal for my creatures, so I valued Xenagos, the Reveler extremely high. When I got to jam the Xenagos and keep my Sylvan Caryatid on defense from his Mutavault, I felt like I was in good shape. My hand was Polukranos, World Eater; Stormbreath Dragon; and Vraska the Unseen. I pushed images of shaking his hand and going back to the hotel room to get my clippers to the back of my head. I told myself that I still had to actually win this game and focused on that.
Then he cast Lifebane Zombie and Thoughtseize in the same turn, leaving me with just a Stormbreath Dragon. I bricked after he used Doom Blade on my dragon, and then he used another Doom Blade on one of my Satyrs. A few more bricks later and I was done. He had even given me extra outs by shocking himself to play the Elspeth on Turn 6, but I couldn't find one of my three remaining Stormbreath Dragons or two remaining Rakdos's Returns.
Had I just cast a Polukranos, World Eater, it would have blanked his Lifebane Zombie and he would have had to use a Doom Blade and a Thoughtseize on his following turn, which would have left me with one more threat in my hand. Casting the Polukranos would have been madness, and I'm pretty sure that every time I will cast the Xenagos, the Reveler, but hindsight is always 20/20.
The beard is still here … at least for now.
I had a lot of people ask me over the weekend how the poll went that I put in my article from last week. Well, see for yourself.
Over 4500 votes (!?) and I am just blown away. How many people visited my article last week and took the time to share their thoughts on whether or not I should shave from winning States is just awesome. This thing really is for all of you, and it warms my heart to see so many people participate.
The interesting thing is just how close the votes are. Over 4500 and they are separated by less than 250 votes; 52.66 % in favor of shaving.
Here are my thoughts on the whole ordeal, and what my decision is for the beard, at this current time.
A lot of people think that I deserve to shave. I said in the beginning that I would shave when I won a tournament, and when I won that Super IQ a while back, I said that I didn't feel like it was big enough and said that I would have to be PTQ level or higher.
There seems to be a lot of "hate" on the difficulty of winning a tournament like States, or that it being a particular state diminishes the accomplishment. I don't see it as this. Any tournament that's seven or more rounds, in my eyes, is "PTQ level". There is always going to be a handful of good players at events, and in order to win something, you have to play well and have a little "run good" on your side, whether it's a PTQ in So Cal or the West Virginia State Championships.
A lot of people contacted me personally and brought up that they felt I would be selling myself short if I were to shave off of the States win. This whole thing was born on the Open Series, and not doing it on coverage at an Open Series event takes away from an awesome opportunity that will be immortalized. I actually agree with this 100%. Nothing would make me happier than to shave on camera at an Open Series. We were close this weekend; oh so damn close.
There were also a lot of comments that my beard is my signature and that I should never get rid of it. It's my calling card. What I'm known for. This is also becoming more and more true by the day, and something that I'm definitely taking into consideration. Facial hair grows back, and I plan on growing a beard again (not saying it will be this long), but I understand where everyone is coming from.
Taking all of this into account, I have made my decision.
I will not be shaving.
I don't think that winning States is good enough, and even though the poll was just under 3% in favor of shaving, that definitely isn't unanimous enough for me to get rid of my calling card.
I have however, made a decision that will hopefully come to fruition in three weeks' time.
If I don't win an event between now and the Season Two Invitational, I will shave at the Invitational if I qualify for the Players' Championship as the Season Two points earner (or winning the Invitational, but that would qualify for a shave regardless).
With my States win last week and my second place finish this weekend in the Standard Open, I have put myself in a decent position to try and achieve this.
I will be attending Indianapolis and Providence in the hunt for even more points, and then it will all come down to my performance in Columbus for the Season Two Invitational.
Now I just need to pick a Legacy deck and hope they don't emergency ban Stormbreath Dragon.
All right, now that that's out of the bag, let's talk some Monsters.
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 3 Ghor-Clan Rampager
- 3 Scavenging Ooze
- 4 Stormbreath Dragon
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 3 Courser of Kruphix
- 4 Polukranos, World Eater
Here's the list I played this week to a finals appearance and I couldn't be happier. It is one card off my list from States, and as I alluded to last week, I was unimpressed with the Bow of Nylea and would probably make it a third Nylea's Disciple, which I did and it was perfect.
I played against myriad decks over the tournament, with Hexproof being the only real deck that I missed playing against.
My MVP for the weekend was definitely Golgari Charm, doing everything from killing Elspeth, Sun's Champion tokens so I could swing for the win; to killing a Gnarled Scarhide and two Brain Maggots to three-for-one my opponent and draw me two cards with the -1/-1 mode; to killing Detention Spheres to get back a Planeswalker; to regenerating my team from a Supreme Verdict or an Elspeth, Sun's Champion's -3 ability.
Golgari Charm is very good, especially when you play to a point where it is a blowout and it's the last spell you use.
I was very happy with every card in the deck, and after the tournament I was asked a bunch of times if I would change anything from my list and I'm in this awkward spot where I can't come up with any changes that I want to make. I thought about it a lot on the ride home, and after talking to my buddy Stephen Horne on our trip back from Somerset (who also placed ninth at 8-1-1 with the exact same list) I came to a conclusion on what, if any, changes I would like to make.
The only card that I feel is flexible right now is the third Nylea's Disciple in the sideboard. Here is the list of decks where you would want Nylea's Disciple: Burn, Brave Naya, G/W Aggro, Hexproof, Mono Black Aggro, Mono Red, and potentially some number against Red Devotion.
My thought process is that Burn is the only deck where the third Disciple is better than another removal spell in my opinion.
Against all of the other decks, I would rather have another card like Abrupt Decay or Mizzium Mortars than the third copy of Nylea's Disciple. The only problem that I could think of about running a third Abrupt Decay in the sideboard is that we would then need another card to side out against the control decks so that we could play all three Abrupt Decay, but that could be wrong anyway since we already have four ways to interact with their Detention Spheres.
If I feel like Burn will be on a decline, then I will consider playing something over the third Nylea's Disciple, but for now I'm probably just going to keep it as is.
Other than that, I felt like every card has a place and performs a role in every match. I have kind of missed Chandra, Pyromaster as a good way to punish Lifebane Zombie, but it was a necessary cut to make room for the Nylea's Disciple.
I'm still at a loss for Legacy, but I think it's finally time to just listen to Alex B, who's been telling me for weeks to just play his Deathblade list. He's cashed just about every Legacy Open with it and it might be time to stop lollygagging and make the switch.
I "played" Reanimator this weekend, but didn't really. After losing the finals, I composed myself and got ready to play in the Legacy Open. During the first round I felt extremely worn out and my stomach was hurting and I was feeling very lightheaded. I also had to go to the restroom before the round started to redress my bandage.
I had my gallbladder taken out on Wednesday of last week and made the trip after having a couple days' rest, and I felt it taking a toll on me. Up and down all day and walking around the tournament hall (even the minimal amount that I did) really wore me out, so as much as I didn't want to, I dropped and just went back to my hotel room and rested.
I basically passed out instantly and slept for a few hours. I felt much better afterwards and really look forward to resting up this week with the holiday on Monday, but I played the first round, punted and played terribly, noticed what was going on, and took my point with the drop and rested.
Monday, before heading back to Roanoke, I went to Flemington to some outlet malls and got a couple awesome pairs of Nike running shoes for like 50 bucks total because of the holiday sale.
All in all, I'd say it was an amazing weekend.
If I could change anything about the weekend, besides me actually winning in the finals, it would have been meeting Gerrard in the finals rather in the Top 4. Apparently he and Eric Rill wanted us to meet in the finals so they could show up with hair clippers, which would have been pretty hilarious.
I also want to give a huge shout-out to my good buddy Stephen Horne. He has only been playing Magic since M13 and has made it his quest to play as much as he can to try and get better. I'm sure many of you have noticed me hanging out with a giant seven-foot-tall dude at most events. He cashed the Legacy Open in Knoxville and got ninth on breakers in the Standard Open this weekend.
A lot of people always ask me if I have any advice for how they can get better at Magic.
Play as much as you can, and be honest with yourself about progress and limitations. Ask yourself what you could be doing better and act on it. Magic is an amazing, dynamic, simple yet complex game, and to focus on improving rather than results will yield the most growth.
The beard is here for now, but let's see what happens between now and Columbus.