When I get home, I like to watch the past weekend's coverage. I'm a big fan of the quizzes and especially the Wheel of Fortune-style puzzles. Unfortunately, I spoiled the ending of the show for myself already.
- 3 Anointer of Champions
- 4 Dragon Hunter
- 3 Expedition Envoy
- 2 Hanweir Militia Captain
- 4 Knight of the White Orchid
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 4 Town Gossipmonger
- 3 Kytheon, Hero of Akros
Same strategy, different tournament. First or dead last. Realistically I would be happy with a Top 16 finish that would recover my trip expenses while keeping up a decent pace toward a Season Two points qualification for the Players' Championship. Top 16 was where I was aiming in #SCGATL. Again, I overshot expectations.
I even got the same number of Planeswalker Points from both tournaments. If the multiplier was the same as for Grand Prix, I'd be PP rich.
Me and Gerry Thompson booked flights from Roanoke to Orlando on Allegiant. Their 1.5 star rating had us on high alert, but we were confident things would go smoothly as long as we kept our wits about us. Just a backpack and an arrival time 25 hours before we needed to play in the tournament seemed like enough room for any unexpected beats. We pleasantly landed in Orlando Friday only 20 minutes past the expected time on the boarding pass. So far so good.
The hotel room was Gerry, Todd Stevens, and me. No big deal. Only the top 3 from #SCGATL. We joke about how we're obviously running back 1st, 2nd, 3rd, this time in a different order.
Charles Gindy, aka “thekid," aka the most commonly forgotten player to win a Pro Tour, took the list I won #SCGATL with and had been working on it over the week leading into #SCGORL. He messaged me on Facebook looking for advice. Since I shifted focus from Standard to Legacy for #GPCOL, I hadn't touched the deck recently and basically said, “LOL, you know more than me prob LOL!”
He moved the Hanweir Militia Captains to the maindeck, replacing an Expedition Envoy and the Consul's Lieutenants. I really liked the move; I feel like Hanweir Militia Captain is a better maindeck card, since it's better in Game 1 before the opponent sideboards in a bunch of removal. Also, the switch freed up room in the sideboard.
I convinced Gindy to play just two Hanweir Militia Captains and up Anointer of Champions to three, so as to keep the same one-drop and two-drop ratio as I had in #SCGATL. He had three Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in the sideboard and I liked one Secure the Wastes over the third. Overall, drawing one of each ought to be better than two of either in most circumstances. Secure the Wastes is also pretty tight with Reckless Bushwhacker.
After some quick discussion, me and Gindy registered the same 75. Gindy was silently my pick to win the tournament. I think if I didn't show up to #SCGORL that he would've actually won the tournament.
There were many good Floridians in attendance. Ben Stark, Charles Gindy, David Sharfman, Chris Fennell. These guys typically stick to Grand Prix and Pro Tour circuit. Not sure if they came out to try to run my streets or I was in their territory running theirs.
I had two byes based on my ranking on the SCG Leaderboard, so I started my day at Round 3.
Round 3 - Harrison Edwards - Naya Midrange (2-0)
I won the die roll. He mulliganed to five both games and I gave him no time to develop. A freebie to start the day didn't hurt (me).
Round 4 - John Bueno - R/G Ramp (3-0)
I made a poor joke to those around me about being paired against “The Spanish John Goodman." No one laughed.
Ramp is a good matchup as long as you're mindful of Kozilek's Return. Get creatures up to three toughness as soon as possible, even if it means getting an Always Watching down before further developing your battlefield. Keep in some removal, as they usually sideboard in creatures to match yours.
Round 5 - Brad Carpenter - G/W Tokens (4-0)
Brad was playing a weird version of G/W Tokens with Elvish Visionary, Planar Outburst, and Stasis Snare maindeck. He eschewed Sylvan Advocate and Dromoka's Command for these changes. It's more of an Evolutionary Leap G/W Control deck that's built to beat the mirror. Still, even without Dromoka's Command in his maindeck, I had to respect and play around it. Without Sylvan Advocate to stunt my early aggression, I was able to get enough damage in the early turns to finish him off after Planar Outburst. Elvish Visionary isn't so great at blocking once my creatures have more than one toughness.
Round 6 - Tom DiGirolamo - Bant Humans w/ Eldrazi Displacer (5-0)
Not much here. His mana got the best of him as he naturally drew Wastes and had a hard time casting much. This is a common theme among my opponents. Playing an (essentially) mono-color deck has its upsides.
Round 7 - Kevin Jones - Bant Company (6-0)
The Dad-Father himself. I remember smushing him Game 1. Game 2, I remember him double-blocking with Reflector Mage and Duskwatch Recruiter while he had an Eldrazi Displacer on the battlefield and me foolishly choosing to kill Duskwatch Recruiter. He went off with Eldrazi Displacer on his Reflector Mage and I couldn't keep any ground. Game 3, he's stuck without enough green mana and conceded with two Collected Company in hand.
Round 8 - Aaron Sorrells - B/W Control (7-0)
Ah, B/W Control, the matchup where I get full use out of the "Reckless Bushwhacker, Needle Spires, Secure the Wastes, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar" plan. I sideboarded in thirteen cards. He didn't have a bunch of timely Languishes, so I got him pretty easily.
Round 9 - Andrew Jessup - G/W Tokens (8-0)
I'm starting to have quite the “Tom Ross show.” History begins to repeat itself here, as I played Andrew in Day 1 of #SCGATL, where he beat me. He also finished 11-3-1 at #SCGATL with G/W Tokens, just outside of the Top 8. At #SCGORL he hit what's known as the “9-0 curse." His first four rounds of Day 2 netted him just one match point and he finished just outside of the Top 8 at 11-3-1 again.
In #SCGATL, Andrew beat me with Archangel Avacyn into Hangarback Walker for zero both games. No other G/W Tokens player has done this to me. Again, Andrew won Game 1 with the combo to sweep my battlefield of creatures. Game 2, I decided to play around Dromoka's Command to the fullest and ended up missing some points of damage and losing a close one.
I ended Day 1 at 8-1, better than my record at #SCGATL, and 125 players make it into Day 2 at 6-3 or better. I need a 4-2 record to make the Top 8.
For no particular reason, I have trouble sleeping that night. I get about seven hours of “quiet wakefulness” before getting one hour of actual sleep. I should've brought my Zzzquil.
I'm notorious for losing the first round of Day 2. Dunno why. Trouble sleeping during tournaments. I tend to “hibernate” the days before tournament weekends, storing up sleep during twelve-hour nights. I don't scientifically recommend this pattern but it seems to somewhat work for me.
Round 10 - Joseph Pressley - Sultai Control (8-1)
He's 7-1-1, giving a good feel of what range of deck he could be on since he has a draw. The matchup goes similarly to B/W Control, where he leans on Languish and I aim to reload as best I can afterwards. He doesn't draw a Languish in the match.
The final turns of Game 2 end with him tapping out for Dragonlord Silumgar at three life against my board of Thraben Inspector and Dragon Hunter with a Gryff's Boon in the graveyard. Once Dragonlord Silumgar hits the battlefield, he suddenly realizes what's about to happen and sheepishly takes control of Thraben Inspector. I attach Gryff's Boon to Dragon Hunter and fly past a scared Dragonlord Silumgar for the win.
Round 11 - Jeff Hoogland - Abzan Seasons Past (9-1)
Jeff was plowing through the tournament with a build that looks great against both Humans and G/W Tokens while not giving many percentage points to other matchups either. I recommend his build if that's your style. I ended up losing the match to multiple Languishes Game 1 and not drawing my anti-Languish cards Game 3. Good beats.
Round 12 - Lucas Kiefer - W/R Humans (9-2)
I wasn't feeling too well and neither was Lucas. The judge came by, letting him know that if he needs to leave the table for any reason, it's perfectly fine. I was also fine letting him take whatever he needs to make it through.
I ended up getting run over in three games that take about fifteen minutes anyway. I didn't see him make any mistakes. My edge typically comes from creature combat and he gave me no window to capitalize.
Round 13 - Justin Gregory - G/B Aristocrats (9-3)
@Boss_MTG not feeling well. Will be happy to get outta here with a top 16— Tom Ross (@Boss_MTG) June 19, 2016
At this point I told Gerry that I'd gladly accept going 2-1 in my last three rounds. There was no way I wanted to finish out a Top 8. I just wanted to go back to bed.
The Hanweir Militia Captains really shone here in combination with Gryff's Boon. It's really tough to get through on the ground through Blisterpod and Catacomb Sifter. I won a close one in three by containing his Nantuko Husk plus Zulaport Cutthroat combo with removal while flying over in the air.
Round 14 - Jeremy Norsworthy - W/U Humans (10-3)
W/U Humans is typically a good matchup, as my cards are cheap to recast from Reflector Mage and their manabase just isn't as smooth as mine. Past experiences held true as I was always about a half-turn faster.
Round 15 - Michael Turner - W/U Humans (11-3)
Really just a repeat of last round. I was lucky enough to get some favorable matches in the final Swiss rounds of the day. I heard that Gerry won against Jeff Hoogland to give him his first real loss.
We made back-to-back Top 8s!
Quarterfinals - Charles Gindy - W/R Humans
I was against Charles Gindy in the 75-card mirror. He had the higher seed, which has me concerned for my chances. Gindy is probably the best player in the room that nobody knows. Game 1 was really tight and involved uncontested transformed Hanweir Militia Captains on both sides for a long time. Game 2 was also tight, except I had an Always Watching before he did.
Semi-Finals - Jeff Hoogland - Abzan Seasons Past
A rematch versus #1 on the SCG Leaderboard who's been crushing the tournament. Game 1 was one of the best of the tournament, even though I lost. I've never bought back Gryff's Boon so much. Games 2 and 3 were rather anti-climactic as I killed Jeff on turn 4 on the play of Game 2 and he mulliganed to five in Game 3. Such is the life with a three-color deck full of enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands.
Finals - David Bollenback - Naya Midrange
Naya Midrange looks like a good deck on paper against W/R Humans. I've had good success against it recently, though. Their removal is mostly sorcery-speed like B/W Control. I won Game 1 by having two different four-toughness creatures before he can cast Radiant Flames. Game 2, I tried to win with Secure the Wastes plus Gideon Emblem and fail. Game 3, I ran him over with an eighteen-power attack on turn 3 thanks to Reckless Bushwhacker. He blunted some with a block and Stasis Snare and took eleven. The final turn, I needed to draw any untapped land, Thalia's Lieutenant, Gryff's Boon, Always Watching, or Reckless Bushwhacker… so approximately half my deck.
I did and begin desideboarding. The applause from across the room broke my trance and I realized that I'd won.
Humans Is a Powerful Deck
I'm happy on the play or draw. I'm happy if they know what I'm playing and mulligan. I'm happy if they keep a slow hand. Attentive people would've noticed that I used the same Kitten sleeves from #SCGATL.
I wrote about W/R Humans last week. People should be prepared by now, but Humans is tough to play against.
W/R Humans has been a great choice the past two Opens because people aren't playing the right cards against it. Ross Merriam wrote a great article on how to beat Humans starting on turn one. These are some of the cards that I was glad not to play against at #SCGORL.
While Languish, Kozilek's Return, and Radiant Flames are all great sweepers that set up your deck's end-game, you really want to be doing stuff on the early turns. Thraben Inspector is surprisingly annoying for my deck full of 2/1s to get through. Sure, Humans has Anthem effects, but something like a 1/2 Thraben Inspector or a Jaddi Offshoot allows you to avoid panicking and firing off a sweeper early.
Fiery Impulse and Dead Weight are narrow but are some of the cards that really halt the early aggression from Humans. It's true that, if people want to beat Humans, they have the tools to do so. It will come at the cost of other matchups. Pick your poison.
To fight Humans, you need to be playing Magic against them starting on turn 1. The trick is to find a spot where you're comfortable shaving percentage points in other matchups, specifically G/W Tokens.
Not 1st, 2nd, and 3rd this time.
We ended up 1st, Gerry 7th, and Todd 61st for an average of 23rd place. More realistic than a 2nd-place average.
Gerry's back-to-back Top 8 was overshadowed by my wins. He lost fewer matches total than I did between the two weekends. If you count the Invitational in Columbus as a Standard event, that makes three Standard Top 8s in a row. Nuts.
I'm going to #SCGDFW instead of #GPPitt this weekend. As much as I'd like to play W/R Humans again, I want to lock up a Season Two invite for the Players' Championship. Perhaps after that's locked up, I'll spend Season Three more on the Grand Prix circuit, getting back onto the Pro Tour.
Or maybe I'll chase Jeff Hoogland down and be the SCG Player of the Year. We'll see.