“Success is not forever and failure isn't fatal.”
Sometimes, things just don't go your way. Sitting there in that Chili's watching all the day before the Super Bowl hubbub, I caught a glimpse of a Don Shula quote on a trophy. Stephen slapped my shoulder and repeated it and at that moment it really helped me.
I've been losing a lot recently in Magic, and it can be taxing. I had a phenomenal first half of last year and have just been gliding along since then, but these last couple months have just been jam-packed with failure.
This weekend I played in three Constructed events spanning three formats, and after my two byes I won a combined total of one match. One habit that I already know I need to get back is not “tilt-dropping” when things so south. I'm learning nothing from that, and it 100% goes against my goal of trying to get better at Magic every day.
Three formats, one win, lots of failure. How did that even happen?
Last weekend the Open Series came to Indianapolis for its second Legacy Open. Even with the impending snowstorm, we were planning on going and there was even a PPTQ on our way to Indy at a shop in Cincinnati on Friday evening. Our plans were to leave early enough on Friday to hit the PPTQ. Since it was starting so late, if we did well, we would just get a place to sleep in Cinci for the night and head to the Open Series on Saturday morning, but as luck would have it, I got to 0-2 drop the 25-person PPTQ.
I decided to play an update to the G/B Constellation list that we played in Washington DC. I felt like the deck was still pretty good and it's only real weakness was game one against extreme control decks like U/B Control. Most other decks just fold to a resolved Hornet Queen or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, and we still had the Constellation engine to out-resource our midrange opponents.
Here's what I battled with:
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Hornet Queen
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 2 Voyaging Satyr
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 4 Doomwake Giant
- 4 Eidolon of Blossoms
This was where BBD and I arrived at after playing all those rounds in DC. We were unhappy with the Thoughtseizes in the maindeck and wanted to shift them to the sideboard, and the Commune with the Gods were just terrible. With the Communes gone, Murderous Cut loses its appeal too.
I was happy with the deck and felt pretty confident going into the five-round event, but that all slipped away. I was paired against a four-color deck in the first round. I guess I would call it Mardu splash Green. He had Seeker of the Way and Heir of the Wilds along with Siege Rhino and burn spells. I never saw any Chained to the Rocks, Butcher of the Horde, or Goblin Rabblemaster although I expect that they were present too.
I was able to snag a game by luckily drawing into a second Hornet Queen after having the first one was Thoughtseized, and that gave me enough time to land an Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and take over from there. The other two games I lost simply by having my on-curve action stripped by Thoughtseize and getting beat down by some 2/2s with a few Siege Rhinos thrown in the mix. I was able to stabilize at a very low life total in one game, but eventually lost to some burn off the top. Turns where my opponent was able to play two spells, one of which was a Wild Slash that negated my prior turn while they also dropped a threat just catapulted him so far ahead that there wasn't much I could do. Frontier Siege does a good job at letting us catch back up, but Thoughtseize and enchantment removal can neuter than plan pretty quickly.
In the second round, I was paired against U/B Control. I knew this because he happened to be sitting next to me in the previous round, where he lost to Abzan Aggro. Our Game One matchup against U/B Control isn't all that great, but if I can steal it, then I like my chances in -post board games quite a bit. When we got deck checked and my opponent received a game loss for a decklist error, while I tried to hide my happiness, truth be told I was feeling pretty good.
For game two I had a good hand with an early Frontier Siege and he mulliganed, so I was feeling very confident. When I ended up losing the game many turns later with a billion lands in play, I just wasn't sure what exactly had happened. One particular spot that really set me back was playing a Frontier Siege on turn three then playing out a second Elvish Mystic in my second main phase and having them Bile Blighted, but even without that, he just had all the right cards at the right time.
For game three I finally got to cut a bunch of dead cards and bring in things like Thoughtseize, Read the Bones and Nissa, Worldwaker. Sadly, I mulliganed twice and had to take a splashed Keranos, God of Storms with an early Thoughtseize and then lose to the wall of countermagic and removal that he still had in his grip.
I was pretty frustrated with how things went and ready to get out of there and make our way to Indy. But before we left, we decided to hit up the Skyline Chili right next to the shop. It was all of our first times, and our waitress was super helpful. Having chili on top of spaghetti noodles was definitely something new to me, but it was delicious. And contrary to my expectations, their hot sauce was even good! The manager ended up comping us some funnel cake fries, which – while being quite unhealthy – were absolutely delicious. I will certainly make it a point to have Skyline again the next time I'm in the area.
I was back on Sneak and Show for the Legacy Open. With Treasure Cruise departing from the format, it is starting to look a lot like what it did pre-Khans of Tarkir: a format in which Sneak and Show was powerful and well-positioned. I was pretty set on just playing the same maindeck that had won the Legacy Premier IQ in Washington DC., but on the drive there I thought back to the last time I had played Sneak and Show to a successful finish, way back in Providence, and asked myself if Jace, the Mind Sculptor would be good in the current format.
Jace does a lot of things for Sneak and Show. Besides being an extremely powerful card, if gives the deck another angle of attack in the Miracles matchup, which is very important. I also felt like there would be a decent number of Tarmogoyfs being played, which Jace is usually pretty good against. I also felt that there would be a significant decrease in maindeck Pyroblasts, which meant that Jace would be much better in our deck now than he was before.
Here is the list that I went with.
With these events being fifteen rounds over two days and going in with two byes, I felt like I should have had a decent chance at making Day Two and at least min-cashing. Ya know, given decent play and average luck. That all being said, I played poorly and tilt-dropped at 2-3.
I could try and blame it on different things. I did mulligan to five multiple times. My Reanimator opponent did turn-one and then turn-two me in two consecutive games with Force of Will and/or discard backup. I drew poorly. But ultimately, Magic is the sum of a bunch of different things, and we have to try our hardest to offset the bad with excelling at things that we can control.
Deck choice. Mulligan decisions. Building a sideboard. Sideboarding correctly. Format knowledge. Practice.
These are all things that can be focused on and honed to help offset the bad strings of variance that are destined to happen. I mean, look at the team Grand Prix that was in San Jose this weekend. Efro, LSV, and Cheon along with Sperling, Reitzl, and Dave Williams met in the finals. These are names that are constantly in the Top 4 of every team event. Utilizing things that can equalize variance is one of the most important ways to be successful in Magic.
After taking my beating in Legacy, I was pretty sad but I wanted to keep battling. I know I should have just stayed in the event, but now it was time for some side events. I had my trusty Tarmo Twin deck with me that I was going to play on Sunday morning in the Modern Premier IQ, but the Modern Win-a-Boxes just weren't firing so I hopped in a $10 Booster Draft.
I ended up with a very tempo-y U/R deck with multiple Goblin Heelcutters which were definitely the all-star of the deck. The other card that was just awesome was Pyrotechnics as I got to two-for-one people quite a bit. Between Manifest in Fate Reforged and Morph in Khans of Tarkir, there are a lot of X/2s that will see play, and turns where you get to take out two of them always end up feeling great.
I finally got to meet Brian DeMars too by running into him in the draft. His deck was pretty sweet, but he got color screwed one game, and then flooded a bit in the last game while I had plenty of gas. These victories would be but a brief intermission, alas.
The next morning I decided that I would play Phyrexian Zoo in Modern if I could find all the cards for it, but it just was not to be. I did get my first Constructed match win of the weekend in Modern, at least. Playing the same Tarmo Twin list that Todd Anderson played in DC, I got paired against a B/W Midrange deck and was able to get a Splinter Twin on a Snapcaster Mage in game one to stabilize at very low life against a bunch of Lingering Soul tokens. Chaining Cryptic Commands and Electrolyzes went a long way towards giving me the time I needed to attack with a Tarmogoyf for the win.
In game two I was able to stick a Keranos, God of Storms and just ride that to victory. I was feeling good. I played the match well and drew decent in the few spots that I needed to. That wouldn't last for long.
I lost the second round to a Naya Burn deck. I lost a close one after stabilizing at one with lethal in play against a hellbent opponent. He obviously had a lot of outs, but it would have been nice to steal one against the odds on my mulligan to five. I then lost the second game pretty handily, despite him missing some Eidolon of the Great Revel triggers on my spells while I was reminding him of them on his spells. He did remember it on the last spell, when that two damage was really needed to kill me though.
I lost the next round to Mike Pozgay playing Amulet Combo. Game one was a heartbreaker, as I had him dead in two turns and saw his hand of five lands and two Primeval Titans. He drew an Amulet of Vigor, and with only three lands in play, I couldn't Cryptic Command it and he got to transmute for a Pact of Negation. I Cryptic Commanded his bounceland, leaving him with just two Gemstone Mines, setting it up so that the next turn would have been a lethal attack.
I say “would have been” because the next turn he drew a Summer Bloom, went absolutely beserk and just flat-out killed me. Gross.
Yet again I tilt-dropped and joined another draft while waiting for the rest of my carmates to finish up. Stephen was dead too, so he hopped in the same draft as I did - and sadly we got seated such that we would be playing against each other in the first round. Luckily I opened an Ugin, the Spirit Dragon in my first pack and ended up with a pretty sweet Temur deck that just one Treasure Cruise from being just actually insane. I ended up losing in the finals to a Sagu Mauler + Silumgar, the Drifting Death deck after I missed a million land drops.
My prize packs from the previous draft happen to yield a foil Monastery Mentor, and that helped take a little bit of the sting of failure away.
With the snowstorm looming, we ended up leaving around six o'clock, dodged all of the bad weather and even had a pretty enjoyable ride east with no snow at all. It was freezing in Indy, but for those of us with hairy “beastmode” legs it wasn't too much to handle.
This weekend is the StarCityGames Regional Championships and I'm going to try and “Plant my Flag” in North Carolina. I'm not really sure what I want to play, but I know that I want to be as aggressive and proactive as possible. Sorry, Eidolon of Blossoms, but I think it might be time to don the less-impressive beard of Ross Merriam and sleeve up R/W Aggro.
Make sure you stop by and say hi if you're at the North Carolina Regionals this weekend and check out just how awesome the CVM/BBD playmat is.
Lastly, I just want to say that I would have ran the ball, but I'm not going to crucify someone who literally almost won back-to-back Super Bowls - a pretty amazing feat. I don't even think anyone can say it was a bad call. It was risky, but you don't win championships by not taking risks. We'll be back next year. #GoHawks