This weekend marks my own personal attempt to crack into the ranks of those people who are qualified to play in the SCG Invitational in December. It’s time for the StarCityGames.com Open weekend in Denver!
Now Denver is not exactly my home town. I live in Colorado Springs which is about an hour south of the “Mile High City.” Interesting factoid: Colorado Springs is actually HIGHER than a mile - the elevation at my house is around 7500 feet. But I schlep up to Denver often enough that I thought I might take a little time to point out some of the regular “Magic Player” stops that we frequent after trips up to Denver. Most of these are a short drive away from the tournament site but could be worthwhile if you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to sit around and draft after dropping out of a tournament.
(Okay who are we kidding. Everyone likes to draft!)
The tournament is being held at the Crowne Plaza Denver Airport which has four very large “convention center” style rooms to hold big tournaments. This has been the location of some of the bigger tournaments in Denver over the last couple of years including Grand Prix: Denver in 2008. The space is great and should allow for comfortable gaming all day. The area immediately surrounding the convention center has a wealth of options in both fast-food and sit-down restaurants (including Ted’s Montana Grill which has a great bison meatloaf and Uno’s Chicago Grill noteworthy for deep-dish pizza but I actually love the Chicken Spinoccoli pasta).
But if you’re coming in early or perhaps skipping one of the days while your friends play I recommend the following restaurants:
Masterpiece Deli: 2009 Specialty Chef of the Year (and arguably one of the top chefs in Denver period) Justin Brunson offers quite literally the best sandwich you will ever eat at this little hole-in-the-wall deli in LoHi. We stumbled upon this place completely by accident when our regional TO Scott Marshall moved from our regular venue to a temporary spot by the highway with literally NO food options in sight. AroundMe to the rescue! The sandwiches were so good that we discussed sending someone back over to pick up dinner (they’re only open until 4pm) and we routinely tell anyone that 0-2-drops that they will be responsible for going and getting sandwiches for all of us. Breakfast starts at 9 and they have Taylor’s Pork Roll which is a blast from my past but it might be a squeeze getting back to the tournament site on time because this place seems to ALWAYS have a line out the door.
BD’s Mongolian Grill: BD’s is a small chain that has a location downtown near 16th Street Mall (not actually a mall per se) and this has been our post-tournament tradition since ... well since GP: Denver I guess! They have a reasonably-costed all-you-can-eat pricing model and it’s summertime which means it’s a great time to sit outside.
The Saucy Noodle: Bonnie Brae is a tiny little neighborhood in southeast Denver that contains an ice cream shop a couple of stores and this Italian restaurant with the following slogan across the awning over the door: “If you don’t like garlic ... go home!” They’re what I call a “traditional New Jersey Italian place” and their sauce is tadyfa.
For dessert I recommend Little Man Ice Cream in LoHi (they make all their ice cream fresh and on top of that they make a root beer ice cream which reminds me of my childhood) or Gelato D'Italia in Cherry Creek.
None of these are more than a half-hour from the tournament site and offer you a glimpse at what Denver has to offer besides just the chains around the tournament site. Man just thinking about Masterpiece Deli is making me hungry.
Mile High Ascension
Ostensibly I am a combo-deck kind of guy. For whatever reason I really enjoy the “all or nothing” approach of taking that one giant turn where the entire game could be won or lost. It’s probably the overpowering Johnny-esque “cool factor” of being able to string it all out and pull a victory from a random set of cards. I played Mind’s Desire I played Dragonstorm and now with the oncoming StarCityGames.com Open weekend I will be playing Pyromancer’s Ascension.
And it doesn’t hurt that it’s fairly pocketbook friendly either.
Let’s start with the Guillaume Matignon version from French Nationals:
Yup that’s it in terms of rares and the rest of the deck is dime-commons and uncommons - no hidden $5 uncommons in there.
The deck is not a traditional combo deck - there is no “one turn” where you kill your opponent but multiple turns (fueled by multiple Time Warps) where you do incremental damage. You kill your opponent without them getting another turn but it’s a drawn-out process. Multiplied Call to Minds recur each other and alternately a Time Warp and a win condition so that you can double-Time-Warp and then on your first Time Warp turn blast your opponent in the face for six.
But it’s also important to note that you don’t absolutely NEED the “combo” to win. Once you’re running through two four seven extra turns with multiple duplicated dig spells you will be able to find another burn spell or another Time Warp so the hits keep on coming. There’s a little more resiliency than other combo decks I’ve played; a lot of what I’ve been learning in the early testing is how to maximize what you CAN do and start aiming for the kill without worrying about finding the second Call to Mind for example. Just keep digging and copying and more likely than not you’ll get there.
Gerry Thompson’s version from Midwest Masters:
Patrick Chapin last week recommended cutting out the Halimar Depths to give you some resilience against Goblin Ruinblaster (and I agree with this since you want to be casting a one-drop to filter your draws and help set up the Ascension) but he also wanted to add a pair of Burst Lightnings removing an Into the Roil and a Call to Mind. I think Call to Mind is a critical piece of the puzzle (since the “infinite” portion requires two) so I’m reluctant to cut one but I think going to two Into the Roil is probably acceptable to give you one additional burn spell. As Gerry noted you have Pyroclasm coming in out of the board against Fauna Shaman or anything with a lot of mana donks so this fifth burn spell is just a redundancy in case you need to burn one early.
(Obviously I’d love to just run a fifth Lightning Bolt.)
So here’s where I started testing:
What I discovered:
1. In most cases a hand with two burn spells was a mulligan - not because burn isn’t good in some cases for early defense but you really want as many draw spells up front as you can get and a hand that’s two burn spells three lands and two draw spells could leave you with nothing pretty quickly.
2. It’s better to set up Pyromancer Ascension with early draw spells than to run it out and leave it unprotected. All your draw spells are sorcery-speed and you need one in the graveyard already anyway to put the counter on the Ascension so you may as well spend turns 1-3 shaping your hand. I always tried to hold on to duplicates obviously - if I had two Preordains but no Ascension I’d try and go through other cards trying to find the Ascension before falling back on Preordain as a last resort.
3. Don’t be afraid to burn that Time Warp on turn 5 even if you haven’t gotten Ascension active yet. Getting the card draw and the extra land drop can be critical.
4. Playing out extra Pyromancer Ascensions during your initial extra turns is actually critical especially if you can get them active easily. Having three copies of each spell instead of two is obviously better but I initially found myself reluctant to cast them (figuring I would be better off just continuing to dig for a win condition). A second Ascension increases your victory chances tenfold (in terms of hyperbolic random statistics) ... I haven’t determined what arbitrary number I’d pick for having three but that seems like overkill.
It’s also been mentioned that having a secondary kill condition in the sideboard is a good idea. Guillaume started with Kiln Fiend but I think I’d rather have something that had a little evasion. Part of me wants to try Inferno Titan just because he still punches your opponent in the face even if he has a bunch of chump blockers. Part of me wants to try Lighthouse Chronologist just because I like taking extra turns. Nobody told me taking extra turns was this cool.
Too bad the goal is to not ever trigger him.
Climb The Mountain
That’s it for me. I’m looking forward to getting up to Denver and earning my spot in the StarCityGames.com Invitational. Please feel free to introduce yourself if you can pick me out in a crowd from my profile picture here on SCG. And if you can’t I blame my wife she thought it was a cute picture of me. And if you accidentally introduce yourself to my evil twin Zach Willmon I completely understand we get ourselves confused from time to time.
Until next time...