"Congratulations! I didn't even know that you play Magic!"
This is what I was greeted with from a coworker when I returned to StarCityGames.com HQ after SCG Open Series: Columbus, where I made Top 64 at the Legacy Open with my Hypergenesis deck. But let me start at the beginning.
Although I remember seeing kids playing Magic in the corner of the lunchroom at middle school, my direct involvement with Magic began a little over three years ago. While on a blind date that my friend had set up for me, the gentleman across from me admitted that he played Magic competitively on most weekends. I think I surprised him by being interested, and I attended my first tournament with him a couple months later.
That first tournament I went to lasted until 3 AM, but Orrin Beasley, who I ended up dating for a while, won it and qualified for Pro Tour Austin. From then on, I was hooked. Although I wasn't very interested in playing myself, I really enjoyed hanging out with all the people I met at tournaments and traveling to different places. Instead of tuning out during Magic discussions at tournaments, I found myself listening in so I could understand what was going on. I was pretty bummed when I had to miss going to PT Austin since I was studying in Japan (although Japan was AMAZING!).
When I returned to the US, I immediately made plans to attend PT San Diego (which Orrin had qualified for at Austin). We decided to make a weeklong trip of it and attend GP Oakland the week before as well. As he was preparing for the tournament, on a whim I decided that I'd like to try playing in the GP. Since I was going anyway, I figured it couldn't hurt. I just wanted to play for fun and to see what it was like.
I was given an Extended Burn deck and told to cast my burn spells at my opponent's face as much as possible. One of Orrin's friends, Pat Cox, played a few practice games with me, and then I was sent off into the tournament. Although I don't remember much about my matches at that event, I do know that I must have won at least one because to this day I find it hard to drop from a tournament until I achieve that. Funnily enough, GP Oakland is also where I first heard about Hypergenesis.
Orrin was playing to make Top 16 with his Scapeshift deck. This was a big deal for him because he was not qualified for the next PT in San Juan at the time. After his opponent beat him, Orrin asked if he was planning on going to San Juan. His opponent was a local player who didn't even know that making Top 16 would qualify him to San Juan, so he said he didn't think so. Orrin then asked if he'd like to concede, since Orrin definitely wanted to attend. His opponent responded with the iconic:
"I just really want to take Hypergenesis to the top."*
As I don't want to turn this article into a book (yet), I'm not going to go into much detail about my Magic history after that. Suffice it to say that I continued traveling to many Magic tournaments (playing Burn decks at first and later Jund; what can I say, I'm a cascade aficionado), Orrin broke up with me, and I later started dating "the" Gerry Thompson (who I had met at PT San Diego).
My interest in Hypergenesis was first piqued when I watched Gerry play it on camera at SCG Open Series: Boston (the first tournament I didn't actually attend with him). The deck looked like a ton of fun to play, especially when his opponent countered his cascade spell instead of Hypergenesis. You can read his deck tech here, and this is his list from the tournament:
When he called me after that match, I said, "I want to play that deck!" I told him the above story from GP Oakland, and he thought it was hilarious that I wanted to pilot this deck that dreamcrushed my ex-boyfriend. Even though I'd had a terrible experience the last time I played Legacy (GP Columbus with Burn), I was willing to give the format a try again if I could play Hypergenesis (and, oh, if someone would actually teach me how to play the format before sending me into the tournament).
At the next SCG Open Series we attended in Atlanta, Gerry built the deck for me. I ended up bombing out early in Standard, so I played in the Legacy Challenge to practice for the Open the next day. I went 2-2 and had a blast learning how to play the deck. I was lucky to play against two awesome opponents, Michael Mills and JR Wade, who graciously helped me learn more about Legacy.
However, the next day I ended up chickening out of the Legacy Open. I guess I just felt like I didn't know the deck well enough yet, and I didn't want another disaster to happen (like at GP Columbus) that would make me hate Legacy again. I ended up having tons of fun instead with Kenny Mayer, Josh Cho, and Cho's fianc©e Crystal at the World of Coca-Cola. If you ever get to go there, don't try Beverly at the tasting station!
After that, I started coverage running at most SCG Open Series I attended, so I didn't have many opportunities to play Legacy. I also started working at StarCityGames.com and was eventually moved into my current position as Copy Editor. Although I was constantly surrounded by Magic, I still didn't find the time to play that often even though I traveled to tournaments almost every weekend.
You see, while I enjoy Magic culture and most of the people I meet at tournaments, I don't actually enjoy playing the game all that much. I often tell people that I feel like my brain just isn't built to be successful at a strategy game like Magic. Although I earned a Master's degree, I've always felt more at home in physical activities like gymnastics and tennis. Playing Magic simply isn't that fun for me.
Hypergenesis changed that. Even though I was pretty busy, I decided to take time off from work just to attend the Legacy GP in Indianapolis (and to eat Kolache Factory and Ale Emporium). Gerry built me this:
(I'd provide you with the decklist I played in that tournament, but it was a stinker. I tend to put my faith in Gerry because most of the time he's got a solid decklist, but let's face it, he's played some reaaaaally bad ones. *cough* PT Barcelona *cough* I'll just say Mikaeus, the Unhallowed was in my deck and leave it at that.)
I watched him play some practice games, and we talked through sideboarding decisions. One of the reasons Gerry is such a great Magic teacher is that he really encourages you to think for yourself. He doesn't make me a sideboard guide for tournaments; instead, we talk through my sideboard before the tournament and highlight which cards I probably want against common archetypes and which ones I probably want to take out. I think this has helped develop my Magic skills more than using a written sideboard guide would.
I started off 2-0, my best start ever in a Magic tournament. Although I eventually died in round 6, I was very proud of how I did at GP Indy. One of the most amusing things for me was watching two of my opponents counter my cascade spell instead of my Hypergenesis. That's always fun! It was also pretty nice that Gerry dropped at 5-1 after I lost (because he hated his deck) so that we could eat deep-dish pizza and the best wings ever at Ale Emporium.
One of the weaknesses in the deck that I noticed at the GP was its mana base. I often found myself with enough mana to cast my spells but not the right colors. Being forced to have white in the deck for the cascade spell Ardent Plea put a big burden on the deck's mana base. I felt like I lost games that were winnable because of that.
Luckily, Hypergenesis needs white no more! When Gerry told me that a new cascade creature was going to be in Planechase 2012, I was super excited! Although we at first thought that the creature was only going to cost two, when we saw Shardless Agent we weren't disappointed.
The card's colored mana costs, one blue and one green, mean that the mana in Hypergenesis could be shaved to RUG with the replacement of Ardent Plea. Even though I really hate shuffling, having fetchlands in the deck makes the mana base much more reliable. Also, Shardless Agent being a creature instead of an enchantment can sometimes matter in tight game situations.
After I told Gerry that I wanted to play in the SCG Legacy Open in Columbus, he went outside, smoked a cigarette, and built this deck for me in about five minutes:
- 4 Shardless Agent
- 4 Elvish Spirit Guide
- 4 Simian Spirit Guide
- 4 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
- 4 Griselbrand
- 4 Progenitus
You can check out our deck tech and adorable picture here. While I rode in the car on the way to Columbus with Gerry, Todd Anderson, and Brad Nelson, the subject of my deck came up. Since I don't play very often, people tend to get really excited when they hear that I'm playing. The difference this time was that Todd and Brad were actually also excited about the list I planned to pilot. In fact, both of them wanted to play it themselves!
While Brad ended up staying on Gerry's Dredge plan, Todd busted his ass all day Saturday trying to get cards to build Hypergenesis. He even bought two sets of Planechase 2012 to get four Shardless Agents. He also used two Maelstrom Wanderers from the sets and tried to convince me to play it as well. Gerry and I decided that I should stick with my Akroma's Memorials instead.
A lot of people have questioned this decision, but I stand by it. Because I still have a lot of trouble with combat math in tournament situations, the vigilance from Akroma's Memorial is very relevant for me. However it is nice that Maelstrom Wanderer is another fatty and can be pitched to Force of Will. There was only one time during the tournament that I can remember Akroma's Memorial rotting in my hand with no fatty, but I may consider switching it for Maelstrom Wanderer or another fatty in the future.
Here's how my rounds went in Columbus:
Round 1: Mono-Blue Something
Adrian Sullivan happened to be sitting next to me, and when he looked over at my Emrakul, the Aeons torn in play, I proceeded to do the Emrakul Dance. I don't think my opponent was amused, but I continued to do the dance throughout the day (usually when talking to my friends, not at my opponent during a game!).
Round 2: Counter-Top
I saw a little more from my opponent this match. When I cascaded to Hypergenesis the first game, he laid down Back to Basics, Counterbalance, and Vedalken Shackles (I believe). He still died pretty quickly to my Emrakul and Progenitus. The second game went similarly, although I believe I just put Emrakul in play for that one.
Round 3: Dredge
I only got to two mana and drew no Spirit Guides during the first game. My opponent proceeded to tell me how bad of a keep I must have made. Although I don't mind opponent's pointing out mistakes to me after a match, there was no way that he could have known if my keep was a mistake or not so I was a little perturbed. I proceeded to smash him fairly quickly the next two games.
This was the first time I had ever been 3-0 in a tournament, so I was pretty excited. Gerry, Todd, and Glenn Jones were also 3-0, so I was afraid I would have to face one of them the next round.
Round 4: Dredge
I KRUSHED SOME NOOB.
Just kidding. When I saw that I would be facing Gerry this round, I just knew that we would be on camera. Although I'd said earlier that I would refuse a feature match if I was given one, Gerry being there with me actually gave me the courage to go through with it. Here's our already classic feature match:
My explanation for cracking my fetch on turn 1 in game 2 is that I thought I had two Spirit Guides in my hand. I don't know why I thought that, but I did. I'm sure everyone's had that moment where they mistook a card in their hand for something else. This, apparently, was my moment to (not) shine.
This match was the first time I remember putting Griselbrand onto the battlefield. Being able to draw seven or fourteen cards is just so unbelievably powerful, especially in this deck. Although I never got to live the dream of putting Griselbrand into play, drawing more cards off him, and cascading into Hypergenesis in the same turn, it's definitely possible (I'm pretty sure that Todd did it at least once during the tournament). I definitely still miss a lot when I'm playing and probably had the opportunity to do this at some point but didn't take advantage of it, and I probably won anyway.
Some people may think I was trolling Gerry at the end by emptying my hand out onto the battlefield, but I just wanted to make sure that he wouldn't be able to get back into the game with any trickery. I don't claim to be a Magic or Legacy expert, and I definitely don't know all the ins and outs of Dredge; I just know that it can kill very quickly. I bet it made for a good show though.
I really can't thank Gerry enough for being a gentleman and making my first feature match on camera a great experience. Although I was extremely nervous, his presence calmed me and helped me play to the best of my ability. He was also a good sport when I did the Emrakul Dance between games 1 and 2. I made sure to tell him, "I love you," after I beat him. :)
After the match, Dane asked if I'd conceded to Gerry off camera.** Honestly, if I'd thought about it, it's hypothetically possible I'd do that, but it didn't even cross my mind. Maybe it would have if there was something more important on the line, but I think at this tournament we were both playing for the glory.
At this point the tournament felt surreal. I had never won four matches of Magic in a row before, and I'd never beaten a boyfriend in a tournament. In fact, I'd never even played against Gerry seriously (and I think I'll try to avoid it again in order to always be up on him!).
Round 5: RUG Delver
My second-ever feature match, but this one wasn't on camera. I have to say that at this point I was already feeling fatigued. I think the adrenaline from my match with Gerry left me feeling a little rundown during this match. I don't remember all of my misplays; I'll summarize with this: my opponent countered my cascade spell in game 1, and I actually countered his counter. Yeah, it was that bad.
Round 6: Reanimator
This match also went poorly for me. I had never played against Reanimator before, so I didn't really know what was going on exactly. I do know that he played Iona twice against me, naming blue both times when I had Show and Tell in my hand the first game and Shardless Agent in game 2.
Round 7: Burn
I was officially out of contention for Top 8, but I had never made money at a tournament before so my goal became to stay in at least the Top 64. Luckily I had it pretty easy this round. Although he got me in the second game, my fatties hit the battlefield too quickly for him in games 1 and 3. After the match, I told my opponent that Burn was my first Legacy deck and that I still love slinging red spells for the most part.
Round 8: Zoo
I basically mulliganed to oblivion in both of these games. After mulliganing to four in game 2, I found out later that I did my combat math wrong and conceded too early when I still had a chance. I definitely need to improve that aspect of my game.
Also, I want to take the time here to highlight one of my Magic etiquette pet peeves: I think that it's rude for the winner of a match to extend the hand for a handshake, especially if the beating was particularly brutal. Notice that I didn't extend my hand to Gerry after thoroughly smashing him. I think that the loser should always be the one to go for the handshake if they feel like it for good manner's sake, but I will admit that I was raised to use polite Southern manners.
Round 9: Esper Stoneblade
I had the best tiebreakers of those at 5-3, so Gerry told me I could sneak into the Top 32 with a win here but still be safe for the Top 64 with a loss. Even though my opponent wanted to draw, I rolled out my WoW TCG bunny playmat and told him I was there to battle. I managed to get one game off of him, but again mulliganed to lose the other two games.
In game 3 when I was obviously mana screwed, my opponent told me, "I feel bad. I just want to play a real game of Magic."
I replied, "That's OK; I obviously don't." I mean, come on, my deck's goal was to cheat as many legends into play as quickly as possible. I clearly was not there to play real, fair games of Magic.
I was so amused by this exchange that it made me feel a little better about losing, and I was glad to see that my opponent was able to make Top 32 with his win against me.
Although it was a letdown to lose so many matches on the back end of the day, I was ecstatic that I made Top 64 and won my first Magic tournament money. I was also very happy that Todd made Top 8 with (almost) the same deck as me. We showed that the new version of Hypergenesis is a force to be reckoned with in Legacy, and made Shardless Agent go up to $10. Now I know how Gerry feels when he makes such an impact on the game (which, to be fair, he might be immune to now since he seems to do it every week).
Some things I need to improve upon in the future are my tournament endurance and slowing down my play. I think just playing more tournaments on the SCG Open Series will help me get better in both of these areas. I'm still very self-conscious when I play and tend to let my opponent set the pace of play; if I slow down and think about my decisions just a little more before I make them I think my results will improve dramatically. I also, funnily enough, need to work on my shuffling so my opponent can't see the cards I'm playing (yeah, that was a little awkward).
I definitely recommend Hypergenesis to anyone looking to play a fun deck in Legacy that also actually has a chance at being successful. I don't even like playing Magic and I had fun running it in Columbus! I sadly won't be able to play it at any SCG Legacy Opens any time soon, but I do plan on bringing it to Grand Prix Atlanta at the end of the month.
Until then, have fun doing the Emrakul Dance!
*In case you were wondering, Orrin's opponent actually did end up attending San Juan, and despite getting 51st place at PT San Diego, Orrin eventually qualified for San Juan off of his rating.
**This actually wasn't the most insulting thing I was asked regarding my match with Gerry. My dad later daggered me by asking if Gerry let me win. In case you were wondering, the answer is: "NO."