My dreams this year began with an exciting new opportunity in the form of a Facebook message from Chris Andersen about him wanting to form a team for the SCG Tour®circuit. When I agreed to join Team Lotus, I set a few goals for myself.
First, I wanted to qualify for the Players' Championship at the end of the year. Second, I wanted to see if I could improve as a player with this team through more testing and discussion with other like-minded individuals.
Our first official event as Team Lotus was the SCG Tour®stop in Charlotte January 9-10, where I ended up making the Top 64. Not that bad, but it left much to be desired, though I did end up getting a deck tech.
In Atlanta two weeks later, I ended up dropping with three losses in Round 5; I played a ramp deck and faced some matchups I hadn't expected that weekend. We misjudged the meta as a team and we all got punished for it, but that's how it works sometimes.
The Rally the Ancestors deck did well in Atlanta, so for Columbus the next week I decided to pick it up again. It was the deck I played at the SCG Invitational in Las Vegas a month prior, so I had tested and played with it before. My previous experiences with the deck would end up paying off when I took home the trophy later that weekend. I had a pretty great plan for the Company mirrors, mostly leaning on the back of Liliana, Heretical Healer.
- 2 Catacomb Sifter
- 2 Elvish Visionary
- 2 Grim Haruspex
- 3 Nantuko Husk
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 3 Sidisi's Faithful
- 4 Zulaport Cutthroat
- 3 Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim
- 4 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
- 1 Liliana, Heretical Healer
I seemed to be the only one playing Liliana, Heretical Healer, and it put me far ahead in many games because I could just play and flip it immediately.
It really abused one of Rally's biggest strengths, gumming up the battlefield and getting to the late-game where it could just go over the top of everything.
In Louisville, February 20-21, we got to bask in the joys of having a team that worked really well together. Coming off a win at the last event a few weeks before, we were ready to win another. We were pretty well-versed in the Eldrazi Modern deck from earlier this year, so we knew right from the start how we wanted the deck to look. Andrew Tenjum brought the deck to light a week before the event with a MTGO PTQ Top 8, but we all still ended up playing it and putting up some insane results as a team. Lotus took second, seventh, thirteenth, 29th, 31st, and 65th places.
- 4 Drowner of Hope
- 4 Eldrazi Displacer
- 4 Eldrazi Mimic
- 4 Eldrazi Skyspawner
- 4 Endless One
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
My next event was March 19-20 in Indianapolis, where I ended up finishing in the Top 32 again with Four-Color Rally. Kent Ketter narrowly missed Top 8 and he was the only other one of my teammates to do well at the event.
Invitational time was upon us in beautiful Columbus on April 15-17. I didn't do particularly well in either format but managed to grab a Top 64 spot and missed Top 32 by a few percentage point. The weekend was still a huge success for the team because Tenjum managed to make Top 32 and lock our first member for the Players' Championship.
For April 30 - May 1, we were in Milwaukee. I made Day 2 at a spectacular 6-2-1 and ended up in 65th place after fifteen rounds. What can I say? Sometimes you just run hot. Lotus did however pick up another Top 8 from Tenjum; sometimes I wish I could be as good as he is, but I digress.
May 14-15, it was back to Indianapolis for Modern and I decided it was time to Jund 'em. Most of my list came from the capable hands of Chris Andersen; he had a lot more reps with the deck and I trusted his opinion. The list was pretty great. It took me all the way to a near-miss for the Top 8 when I found my bad matchups in Rounds 14 and 15.
Then I hit a rough patch. June 4-5 in Atlanta ended poorly for me and I honestly can't even remember what I played. I know I dropped with four wins and I assume lots of losses. June 18-19 in Orlando went about the same as Atlanta with a few wins and an inevitable drop from the Open, but enter my saving grace: the Legacy Classic. I picked up a few much-needed points to save the weekend with a Top 16 with Storm. Elsewhere on Team Lotus, Lucas Kiefer picked up his first Top 8 with Mono-White Humans, which was pretty great.
I rallied back in Dallas on June 25-26 with another Top 8 in Modern. This time I went back to my old faithful Abzan Company. It was without a doubt the deck I had the most games with in the format and it played to my strengths. I had originally quit playing it because of the rise of Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet in Jund, but I decided I would focus more on the Archangel of Thune / Spike Feeder combo and not use the graveyard as much. The other changes I made were to combat Tron and Scapeshift by fixing the mana in order to cast a pile of Fulminator Mages in the sideboard.
- 1 Spellskite
- 1 Archangel of Thune
- 1 Aven Mindcensor
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 3 Eternal Witness
- 1 Fiend Hunter
- 1 Fulminator Mage
- 4 Kitchen Finks
- 3 Noble Hierarch
- 2 Overgrown Battlement
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
- 1 Spike Feeder
- 3 Viscera Seer
- 1 Wall of Roots
- 2 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
- 2 Melira, Sylvok Outcast
Worcester, July 9-10, was a historic event for me as Team Lotus was reborn as part of Team Cardhoarder. It was the first time in my life that I had ever worked so hard for something and actually was rewarded in the end, achieving the first of the goals I had set out to complete on the year.
Being part of Team Cardhoarder removed the pressure of having to cash in order to make sure I could pay for next weekend's event. It was like a great weight being lifted from my shoulders. Also, almost more importantly than the extra income, we gained an invaluable testing tool, access to all cards on Magic Online. People may not understand how huge this was to us. Our team lived around the world; we talked and theorycrafted. But being able to just pick up and play whatever we wanted whenever we wanted was a game-changer for us as a team.
Getting back to Worcester, it was Legacy and I played Storm with Monastery Mentors, Deathrite Shamans, and Dark Confidants in the sideboard. I lost a few close matches and ended at 6-3, missing Day 2. As for the rest of the team, Kent Ketter made Top 16, Andrew Tenjum the Top 32, and the rest fell through the cracks just like me.
At Columbus, July 23-24, Team Cardhoarder snagged its first trophy in the hands of Devin Koepke, playing the team Bant Company list. As for me, I ended up playing something else and lending Devin his winning Company deck.
At Baltimore, July 30-31, I played Bant Company to a Day 2 finish but got 68th on tiebreakers. Andersen, Ketter, and Koepke did manage to get fourth, thirteenth, and twentieth with the same 75 I played, so I probably messed up somewhere along the way.
- 3 Duskwatch Recruiter
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 3 Selfless Spirit
- 4 Spell Queller
- 4 Sylvan Advocate
- 3 Tireless Tracker
- 2 Archangel Avacyn
- 1 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
- 2 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
In Syracuse, August 13-14, we were back to Modern, where I played Abzan Company and lost playing for Day 2. While Andersen added another Top 4 to his resume, the rest of the team fell short.
For the New Jersey Invitational, August 19-21, I played Bant Company and Dredge. Standard went very poorly for me; at 1-3 I needed to win four in a row to keep my dreams alive, but I ended up dropping at 2-4 to get a deck ready for the Open the next day. My friend Bobby Graves had a cool Kiki Evolution list I wanted to try, and that's what I ended up playing for the Open. I took it all the way to Round 15, where I had to defeat Ali Aintrazi to make Top 8, but alas I lost and fell to the Top 16. The Invitational was a down weekend for Team Cardhoarder, as we didn't place a single player in the main event's Top 64.
The Richmond SCG Tour®stop on September 3-4 was Standard. I played U/G Crush. It was the last Standard event before the rotation and I hadn't had any luck with Bant Company, so I wanted to play something different. The deck treated me pretty well at the beginning of the day but quickly turned on me in the later rounds; I lost Rounds 7, 8, and 9 to miss Day 2, though I did play Dredge in the Modern Classic to a Top 32 finish for some extra points. Noah Walker managed to Top 8 the Open with Temur Emerge and Tenjum and Koepke made Top 32 with Bant Company, so it was still a pretty good weekend for the team.
At Orlando on September 17-18, in Modern I kept on Dredging my way to the top tables and ended up getting Top 16. There were no other notable finishes by the team in the Open, but Noah and Tenjum managed to get sixth in the Standard and Legacy Classics, respectively.
In Indianapolis on October 1-2, Tenjum broke it again. I made the Top 8 along with two other Team Cardhoarder teammates, Koepke and eventual winner Chris VanMeter. We all played the same 75 for the most part with a few changes to the sideboard.
- 3 Selfless Spirit
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 4 Toolcraft Exemplar
- 4 Veteran Motorist
- 4 Depala, Pilot Exemplar
- 2 Pia Nalaar
This was the first time we had all decided what the clear best deck for a given week was and we put up some fantastic numbers. In addition to the three in the Top 8, Cardhoarder took thirteenth, sixteenth, eighteenth, 36th, and 43rd.
For Milwaukee's October 22-23 Modern Open, I saw no reason to stop playing Dredge; the deck had actually gotten an upgrade since the last time I played it, Cathartic Reunion. I thought it was great before, but now it was turbo-charged and I quickly converted most of my team to the new Modern powerhouse. Dredge took Ketter and me all the way to the Top 8, though we had a few variations in our lists, mostly because I thought there would be lots of others playing Dredge and so I wanted Leyline of the Void.
Golgari Charm was our biggest improvement as a team over my past iterations of Dredge. The card did everything you wanted. It still kills cards like Rest in Peace and Leyline of the Void, so we could cut some of our copies of Nature's Claim to have an out to Anger of the Gods.
At Baltimore, November 5-6, I played U/B Reanimator and dropped from the Legacy Open at 4-3. I then played my Dredge 75 from the week before to a Top 16 finish in the Modern Classic. Andersen made Top 8 of the Standard Classic.
Columbus, November 12-13: more Modern, more Dredge. The only real changes I made were cutting Leylines for Ravenous Trap and Thoughtseize. I added another Top 16 to my list of many with Dredge; if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Jack Kiefer took down the Standard Classic, accompanied by Andersen in the Top 8, both with W/U Flash. Noah also made Top 8 of the Legacy Classic with none other than Grixis Delver; no surprises there!
Knoxville, November 19-20, Standard: I managed to fall short. With all of my effort basically riding on this event, I just needed to do better than Brad Nelson and Todd Anderson. I missed Day 2 playing W/U Flash after a good start led to a bad finish, losing the last three rounds. I went on to play in the Legacy Classic with Miracles and got Top 32 on breakers after losing the last round playing for Top 8.
That was the good news. Brad ended up winning the Standard Open, so he jumped me in points, and Todd made Top 4 of the Legacy Classic, so he did as well. Now everything was riding on the Invitational; I had to make Top 16 and Nelson, Anderson, and Ted Felicetti had to not Top 32 for me to be guaranteed a spot.
The Atlanta Invitational, December 2-4: I knew I was going to play Dredge in Modern, but I was pretty lost on where to go in Standard. The weeks before, I tried lots of different W/U Flash lists but none of them could consistently beat B/G Delirium if the Delirium opponent played well, so I moved on to testing with B/G Delirium, but I couldn't seem to beat Aetherworks ever with Delirium, so I went back to the drawing board.
I came up with some interesting G/W decks with lots of Sigarda, Heron's Grace and ended up showing them to Tenjum after playing a few Leagues with them. He was working on his R/W Nahiri Vehicles deck at the time and had completely forgotten about Sigarda stopping Emrakul, the Promised End triggers.
Soon he was interested in testing a Naya deck that combined what he liked about our two decks. We spent about 30 minutes drawing up some monstrous Naya brew with Thalia's Lancers and lots of legendary Angels, Spiders, Eldrazi, and Nahiris and ramp. We then played a League with it so we could see if it was a functional deck. It seemed to work, but something was missing; we gave up for a time and I went to do other things. A few days later, Tenjum came back with a list that had combined R/G Aetherworks and our Nahiri monster. I had been testing Aetherworks and it was the deck I was leaning towards playing. After one League with this version, I was sold.
The rest of the team was skeptical and stuck with the Temur Aetherworks list we had been testing the weeks before, but I was pretty happy with what I ended up with.
On Day 2 I managed to sweep Standard, going to 11-1, and then go 1-1-2 in Modern to lock my Top 8 spot. I made a weird draw in Round 15 going into Game 3 with Jim Davis because I was more concerned with locking my Top 16 spot than I was with making Top 8. We also both had the ability to draw in if we didn't get paired down, but we both did and had to play out Round 16. We both won our win-and-ins and moved on to the Top 8 the next day.
Eventually, this happened.
And these are the decks that got me not just to the Players' Championship but the Pro Tour:
- 4 Bloodghast
- 4 Golgari Grave-Troll
- 1 Haunted Dead
- 4 Insolent Neonate
- 4 Narcomoeba
- 4 Prized Amalgam
- 1 Scourge Devil
- 4 Stinkweed Imp
I am truly blessed to have been given all the opportunities I have received this year and to accomplish all of the goals I set for myself. I want to thank all of my teammates for all they have done for me this year and for driving me to get better. Also, a big thanks to Cardhoarder for all they do for Magic Online and to SCG for all they do for paper Magic.
I'm looking forward to testing my skills with the best the SCG Tour®has to offer in the coming week. Wish me luck!