It's been a long time coming.
It all started in 1987 in the rural town of Somerset, KY.
Okay, let's not go quite that far back. Since this is going to be a lot closer to a tournament report than my usual ramblings, we should just start there.
Before the rush of Double Open Weekends in my new Northwest abode, my loss as to what I should play highly coincided with my absence of cards to play with. Finding a Standard deck shouldn't be all that difficult, but a Legacy deck would be a different beast. Thankfully, my compatriots Glenn Jones and Gerry Thompson (perhaps you've heard of them?) had a few cards lying around, so I was able to piece together a Temur brew and Abzan Maverick.
After going 4-0 in Standard, I fell to the aforementioned Glenn Jones (who ended up top 8'ing!) and then to lots of other decks to finish in 43rd place.
If you'd like more information on this deck, here's the deck tech with the ridiculously handsome Andrew Shrout:
But enough about Standard, let's get to the format that separates the men from the boys, the women from the girls, and the Ashiok from whatever he/she is or chooses to be: Legacy!
You can read all about why I liked Maverick's position versus Treasure Cruise in my last article, and even with me essentially championing the only deck I had access to, I was glad to be battling with it. Now I'm not known to attack all that often, and much less known for playing the three colors that aren't blue and red, but I wanted to win.
We all have opinions and idiosyncrasies that we can choose to believe in. In everybody's Magic career we have to learn to disconnect our feelings with our goals. It doesn't matter if that goal is beating your buddy, going 4-0 at FNM, winning an Open, or even making your own cards. Once you truly have sight of your goal, you should strive to do whatever is possible to meet it.
This is exactly what I did, and am still doing.
We only get game 1s in life. No sideboarding allowed. So why not just build the best deck?
At any rate, I decided to do some last minute changes to my rig. Most of the players there that I respected as powerful mages were also incidentally my friends. The more you play Magic, the more this becomes truth, and I wouldn't have it any other way. As many of them were on Jeskai Ascendancy, I decided that I'd like some more action. I cut the fourth Swords to Plowshares and the basic Plains to fit in two copies of Spirit of the Labyrinth as my peasant copies of Chains of Mephistopheles. I didn't care that it could attack, I only cared that it was easily killed. But it turns out these two little spirits that could were spot on throughout the day. I also bought a last minute Cataclysm to fulfill this deck's need to draw a mid to lategame haymaker versus Jace decks. Miracles was among one of this deck's very worst matchups, and Elspeth, Knight-Errant was a bit too narrow for my liking, and could easily be dispatched through Entreat the Angels or Council's Judgment.
The removal of the basic Plains meant that Marsh Flats just needed to be a green fetchland (to get Dryad Arbor), but I completely forgot about that interaction in my rush to write down my decklist. I could be handed a decklist and 75 cards two years before a tournament started, and I'd still be hastily scribbling down sideboard cards as the player meeting began.
These changes brought me to this final list of Maverick.
- 4 Deathrite Shaman
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 4 Mother of Runes
- 1 Qasali Pridemage
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
- 2 Stoneforge Mystic
- 2 Spirit of the Labyrinth
- 2 Gaddock Teeg
- 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
- 1 Dryad Arbor
Heaven or Hell Duel 1: Let's Rock! (VS Death and Taxes)
I had Mother of Runes advantage game 1, which is enough to give you the advantage the entire match as long as you aren't forced to block with her, then have her die in response to activating her. In game 2, I had Umezawa's Jitte advantage. Turns out, that card automatically makes all of your creatures better than your opponent's! Who knew? I bet that card was good in Limited too…
Most of my hate bears hurt me more than my opponent due to me being more spell dense. Containment Priest also stops my Green Sun's Zenith, but it turns off their Aether Vial. Also for some completely random reason it has flash, so I guess that's neat. Zealous Persecution is how you beat an active Mother of Runes.
The Wheel of Fate is Turning! (VS 12 Post)
I kept a land heavy hand that included a Wasteland, but as my opponent just went double Cloudpost into nothing, I was slightly bewildered. Not a single spell was cast by my opponent for the first six turns of the game! His deck kinda rolled over and died. Game 2 was a quick Show and Tell into Primeval Titan, and that was lights out for me. That card is too good! I'm sure glad it's banned in Commander! In game 3, I arranged a motley crew of hate bears.
Now this is where things get kinda icky. On his main phase, he used Karakas to bounce my Gaddock Teeg and then cast Repeal on my Thalia. I said "resolves," and he immediately drew a card. The only problem was that I still had a Spirit of the Labyrinth in play. We then called a judge, as we both knew what had just happened, and my opponent got a game loss during a game that we both knew I was going to lose.
I don't have to preface my opponent's spell resolution by saying "You don't get to draw a card."
I'm not fishing for a game loss. I truthfully don't like to win that way. Who would? But like I said before I want to win the tournament. I'd like to think that I'm a fairly nice guy, and I've let multiple people take back plays that have honestly cost me a lot of money during my time playing Magic. If we're in a tournament with a sizable prize, I'm going to play at a competitive REL, and abide by the rules just like anybody else should.
I've talked to multiple judges about the situation, and my conscience is clear. But I've played enough Unreal Tournament to take some flak every now and then.
If you're casting removal on one of their fatties, you've most likely already lost. Abrupt Decay can hit Candelabra of Tawnos or a random hate card, but you're better off cutting them off at the pass with Containment Priest or Thoughtseize. Ethersworn Canonist slows them down ever so slightly, and blue and green aren't known for their ample quantities of mass removal.
Get ready fighters, Go for it! (VS Jeskai Stoneblade)
Finally! A normal Legacy deck! I'm not sure anything interesting happened here besides my opponent having to discard his cards due to cruising too hard. My deck is just well set up to fight a Lightning Bolt/Treasure Cruise deck, and as long as they don't equip a True-Name Nemesis with something, I can generally handle the rest.
Pretty much everybody who decided to play Jeskai Stoneblade is just playing BBD's 75 from Grand Prix New Jersey (and I wouldn't say they're wrong for doing so). But being as intimately familiar with the decklist as I am with the deckbuilder, I knew that they weren't aggressive enough for me to warrant the Burrenton Forge-Tender as Forked Bolt protection, and I can often beat a Batterskull by just going bigger, or through Mother of Runes.
Live and Let Die: Fight! (VS Death and Taxes)
I didn't think I could lose game 1. I had everything I could ask for. Except we were racing, and then Mirran Crusader hit the table. I couldn't attack into it, block it, or kill it very easily. I was barely treading water by chumping with my few white creatures when Spirit of the Labyrinth struck again: this time with a freshly drawn Horizon Canopy that my opponent immediately cracked when he played it. We both realized it right as the card got to his hand, and he immediately went to put it back. While I explained to the judge that I while I was positive the card that was put back was indeed the correct card, the deed had been done, and we went on to game 2.
This was the most grueling game I had with this deck. First came the Rest in Peace. This turned off my Knight of the Reliquary as well as my Deathrite Shaman, and I had already used two Abrupt Decays on an Umezawa's Jitte and a Mother of Runes. That meant two outs remaining. He then followed it up with a Savannah that gave him access to Aura Shards. While I've lost to this card many times in 100-card formats, I had yet to lose to it in a 60-card one. After it killed my Sylvan Library, my Sword of Light and Shadow, and with it my hopes of winning, we were off to the final game.
The only problem was that there were only four minutes left on the clock due to the grind fest.
My opponent mulled to five, and I had Mother of Runes into Stoneforge Mystic for Sword of Light and Shadow. We were both playing extremely quickly, and my opponent was extremely professional and understanding of the situation, and was even playing much faster than he was accustomed to. The game was assuredly going to time, but I was assuredly going to win. He was then gracious enough to concede to me when by all means he could still play at a reasonable pace and survive long enough for the draw.
I felt even worse about Spirit of the Labyrinth's second OHKO, but after expressing my empathy and immense gratitude, I was on to focusing on the next round.
That's how I've found to do well at Magic. Just focus on one round at a time.
Readyyyy! Fighhhht!! (VS Jeskai Stoneblade)
I was pitted against Nathan Holliday this round, a wizard who I knew from my constant F5ing of Twitch's Magic streams. I also knew from watching a previous match that he was on BBD Jeskai Stoneblade, so I knew exactly what I was up against.
Game 3 went on for quite a while, and I engineered the boardstate of Spirit of the Labyrinth, Sylvan Library, and Sword of Fire and Ice. Now see, we in the biz call that a "nombo." But as long as my opponents aren't drawing extra cards, I should be happy right? This time Spirit of the Labyrinth received no free wins, but it did turn his Ponder into an Elemental Augury activation. Take that, you Merfolk Goons!
Which one of these is better?
I eventually equipped a Knight of the Reliquary with a Sword, gave it protection from white, and swung with all of my tiny (and one huge) creature for exactly lethal after I played my fetchland. I messed up by playing a non-fetchland for one turn, which easily could have mattered. Hey, we're all bad in some way or another. The trick is just to be less bad than your opponents.
Stand by OK? FIGHT (VS Shardless Sultai)
This was played on the second camera, and I really wish people (including me) could watch it. I was faced against the previous Portland Legacy champion James Nguyen and his Ancestral Visions. Dryad Arbor ate a Liliana of the Veil activation, and I was even able to win after getting Toxic Deluged. What a nightmare card to play against! Often you just have to hope they don't have it. Thankfully a Shardless Agent hit a Disfigure when my board was empty, and my 3cmc creatures turned out to be better than his.
Game 2 I died to lots of Disfigures and Jace.
He mulled in Game 3, and I was already feeling pretty happy that my extremely formidable opponent was going to be on two less cards than me. After turn 5 when he Disfigured my first two plays, and then played a Jace onto an empty board, well let's just say I was feeling much less than happy. I was able to play a Knight with a Sword of Fire and Ice on it to protect it from any shenanigans from Jace. Unfortunately, I couldn't bust through his green creature army in time to finish the match. It was then I drew World of Warcraft's third expansion, and Jarvin IV's Ultimate killed a planeswalker, four creatures, and six lands, while it left me with all I needed: a knight and her sword.
I can handle Tarmogoyf, and Gaddock Teeg doesn't actually stop anything outside of Jace. This deck used to play a copy of Umezawa's Jitte, so I kept in the Qasali Pridemage to hedge. Hey, it can also kill Shardless Agent or Baleful Strix in a pinch. Ethersworn Canonist stops the scary part of Shardless Agent.
One neat thing to say about Cataclysm is that it is possible to keep three creatures alive with this card, as long as two of the creatures are an enchantment (Spirit of the Labyrinth) and an artifact (Ethersworn Canonist). Neat!
Fighters Ready: Engage! (VS Death's Shadow)
This deck is listed as Sultai Delver, but let's be real. It's playing 13/13s for one. The second I saw Watery Grave, I knew what my fate was going to be. I obviously died to three 12/12s at the end of game 1, and game 2 wasn't that different. Abrupt Decay handled my equipment and Thoughtseize handled everything else. This was one of those matchups that proved that maybe, just maybe these blue cantrips I hear so much about really give your deck consistency. I dunno. I only play creatures and turn them sideways.
This is the rare blue deck that I want all of my removal, and Zealous Persecution doesn't cut it. Choke is slow and can get Abrupt Decayed, and most of my cards don't do anything. I pretty much always keep in Qasali Pridemage. No, they probably don't have very many targets (if at all), but you never know. I've had my equipment stolen by the greatest thief in the multiverse, and have had no way to win against that play. Never again!
Who Will Eat and Who Will be Eaten? (VS Reanimator)
All I saw game 1 was Island, Underground Sea, and Ponder. This narrowed it down to either Reanimator or Storm. During our game, he wasn't tanking while looking at all the cards in his hand like a Storm player might, so I put him on having a bad Reanimator hand.
I'm sure my Deathrite Shaman wasn't doing him any favors either…
Most of the hate crosses over anyway, and I was fairly confident on my read, which turned out to be correct. I naturally drew my Karakas, so he was forced to Entomb for Tidespout Tyrant. The game progressed for many more turns than it probably needed to. I had him in a full nelson with every hate bear I could throw at him. I had gotten Massacred earlier in the game, but the kithkin with the huge forehead kept that card at bay. I was slightly leery about attacking, because it opened me up to losing in some way. I'm not entirely sure what could kill me, but I sure as heck was a lot more confident in sitting back until he was dead for sure. Patrick Sullivan later alerted me that Echoing Truth was a card that could have been extremely bad for me to attack into. Hurray for my natural hesitation!
Oh my goodness I made top 8! Step 1: Check. It had been quite a while since I had the made top 8 of one of these things. This would mark my eighth since I started going to them four years ago. Odds are I should win one by now, right? Little did I know…
Grab the Coins! (VS Temur Delver)
Here I was playing against an old adversary playing an old deck. But just because they are not "new" doesn't mean they aren't good. Temur Delver is always going to be a fine choice for a tournament. It's got game against everything due to it just being a pile of good, cheap spells. Stephen Mann also has game against everybody. I defeated him last time we met in Modern, so that meant it was his turn to win, right? While I don't believe in those things actually affecting the outcomes of matches, I still can't help but remember…
Nothing terribly interesting happened until game 3 when he played a Delver on Turn 2 and on Turn 3, while I had a two copies of Mother of Runes (one active) and a Jitte in play. He tapped down to one land, and then attacked me with an unflipped Delver. Naturally I don't block, right? Why would I trade my Mother of Runes for a Lightning Bolt I know he has, since he attacked? Well, dying to a quick Delver is the quickest way to lose to Temur Delver, and I knew he still had Stifle in his deck postboard (as he should). I didn't want my Jitte trigger to be Stifled, so I gladly offered the trade. I had other spells to cast in my hand, and Lightning Bolt was becoming old news anyway. These decks also board out all their Forces, so if I can live long enough to play a Choke on four or five mana (he was on the play, and therefore, almost certainly kept in his Dazes. I even advocate keeping some number of them in on the draw vs. me anyway), then I knew I would be gold if I wasn't nearing death. And that's exactly what happened.
Zealous Persecution can kill powered down Delvers and Nimble Mongooses. Choke is sometimes not where you want to be, as you are most definitely the control deck in this matchup. Yes, he has Brainstorm and counterspells, but all of your cards are better. You just need time to cast them, as this is one of the few decks that attempts to Stifle your mana. All in all, this matchup feels about two years old, and shouldn't' really be a thing in our new Treasure Cruise laden society. But hey, that's Legacy. You can win with anything as long as you know what you're doing.
This Battle is About to Explode (VS Burn)
I won't lie: as soon as I saw the decklist, my heart stopped. There about about a 1% chance that I was beating a deck with Grim Lavamancers, Searing Bloods, Searing Blazes, and Price of Progress (Why oh why did I take out the Plains??).
But sometimes that little percentage, much like my weight after graduating college, gains a couple of zeroes.
Don't play more lands than you have to, conserve your life total, and give them fewer draw steps. Knight of the Reliquary is how to win. That's all you really gotta do. My hand at one point contained three Swords to Plowshares. Another time? Five lands. I did not think that I was going to be winning this match at either point.
The turning point was when I equipped my Knight of the Reliquary with a Jitte game 3. I knew he didn't have a three damage spell, as he allowed me to untap with it while he had a mana open. After I played Jitte and carefully watched my opponent react, I was about 90% sure he had a Fireblast. An uncomfortable wiggle and the word "curious" was all it took.
Any card can be a Gitaxian Probe if you pay close enough attention.
While it turns out I wouldn't need to put my successful Sense Motive role to the test, I was too washed with relief to really care. I had slain the giant (my name is David, see?), and I was on to collect my prize.
Except for the final battle awaited me.
Triumph or Die (VS U/R Delver)
The other David in top 8 had also slain a couple of giants on his way here. And it was no surprise that U/R Delver, one of new kingpins in town, was his weapon of choice. I had planned for this. I had prepared for this. I have been in the finals exactly twice before. I wasn't about to leave without a trophy a third time.
This deck was much easier for me to deal with than the previous round's. Brainstorms don't actually kill my creatures, and my deck is already well-suited to battling blue cards.
The match went exactly as I planned. He killed a couple of creatures, drew some cards, and then died. His deck needed to have an exceptional draw to not succumb to my Selesnya onslaught of creatures.
I can't even begin to express the amount of happiness I felt when I resolved a Burrenton-Forge Tender versus a Monastery Swiftspear. It's delightful, you should try it sometime! After my opponent tried to Treasure Cruise with me having a Gaddock Teeg in play, I knew it was all over there. I had been pleading for a third land from my deck for a while, and a basic Unglued Forest from the top allowed me to play a Scavenging Ooze and feed it enough to kill him.
I had never been happier to draw a basic Forest in my life, and I doubt I ever will.
That was that. I had done it. I won. There was nobody else to beat. They had all fallen in a flurry of green and white creatures. The irony that I had to defeat my native guild in the finals was not lost. I think it was a good bookend to a good story. I recently left StarCity to move to Seattle in hopes of something more. Following a dream as it were. One of my dreams was definitely winning an Open, and here on the very last 10K tournament that people could enter, I took it down.
I had watched so much from the sidelines all these years; I almost forgot what winning felt like. It was the first time I'd actually won anything, and I daresay it's the perfect memory to cast the largest Patronus Charm anybody's ever seen. It's a fox by the way.
So if you enjoy my content or my company, my Commander musings, or my game philosophy, thank you. Nothing makes me happier than bringing joy to other people, and learning that I've made a difference in other people's lives.
Actually, on second thought? Winning a trophy just might.