There has been a lot of talk about the fire recently; what it is how to lose it how to get it back how to lose it again how to get it back again etc. Here is my story.
The week after my finish at Pro Tour Avacyn Restored I was left disappointed with 3rd place. Sure I had done the impossible: triumphed over many more talented Magicians in my very first taste of the highest level of competition that our game has to offer. But still I had a desire to accomplish even more. I wanted to win. You could even say that the fire that burning force that compels us to travel across the globe to compete was burning strong in me. I was on top of the world at that time eager to travel farther work harder and play smarter to overcome that final barrier and take down a trophy.
However when I stepped off the plane from Barcelona finally home after a week in Europe I realized something; the fire was gone. I don't know where it went but I had lost my drive to compete. Back in the office I went about catching up on the work that I had missed on my travels. The world went back to being a grind.
That Friday I trekked down to Comics & Gaming my local game store and signed up for the draft. After my stellar performance with zero mispicks at the Pro Tour (paging Brad Nelson) I thought that I was ready to crush it. At the end of the draft I was left with a U/B Mill deck something that I would have loved to play…in Innistrad Limited.
After losing in the finals of that draft I was left wondering where it all went wrong. That weekend several of my friends were competing in Grand Prix Minneapolis and the StarCityGames.com Open Series Orlando and they were having great success. As for me the weekend held a lot of virtual birding via GGsLive and SCGLive. I could only watch my friends succeeding and wonder where my fire had gone. That weekend I had no desire to crush each of my opponents. This set me down a short road of self-discovery that I will share with you now.
I started feeling down about my body image. In high school I played a lot of sports. I would use sports to stay in shape never going to the gym dieting or pushing myself to be in any greater shape than was absolutely necessary to stay on the team and hang out with my friends. I wanted to get back in that mind set so I did something that I hadn't done in days: I went to Five Guys Burgers and Fries and had a cheeseburger. And I plan on eating another cheeseburger tomorrow. And the day after. And quite possibly the day after that.
Now this isn't an article about fitness and I'm not a scientist (much to the chagrin of my stereotypical Asian parents) but I've found that there's a direct correlation between being satisfied with food and successful tournament results.
Satiated with burgers I placed a phone call to GerryT to talk about the lack of fire I was experiencing. A good friend I knew that I could always count on him to pick me up and set me on the right track of relighting my fire. Here is how that conversation went.
Me: "Hey man I'm feeling pretty down about my results lately. I went to an FNM and didn't win the draft. I feel like the fire is going out."
Me: "… Hello?"
GerryT: "****dial tone****."
Satiated with burgers and emboldened by my brief conversation with Gerry I started to look ahead to the weekend. The only event to consider was the StarCityGames.com Open Series in Nashville. I thought to myself that this would be the best opportunity to rekindle the flames that had been dwindling since my return from Europe.
Feeling the fire starting to build I made plans to drive to Roanoke pick up Gerry Drew Levin and Kaitlin and from there make our way to Tennessee. Also making the trip were fellow Team SCG Blue members Brad Nelson Todd Anderson Kenny Castor Charlie Gindy and Brian Braun-Duin. Early on in the car ride we decided to go all-in on U/W Delver with Restoration Angel. The numbers from Gerry's list looked alright but there was still some tinkering to be done.
With John Cuvelier's victory with Wolf Run Ramp the previous weekend we knew that we had to have a plan for the R/G Menace. After a night of testing (or drinking and playing video games at Dave & Buster's) I felt refreshed and ready to take on the world.
Here is the 75 that Gerry and I ended up sleeving with the rest of the team on approximately 70 of the 75 that we played.
The morning of the event we noticed that there was an abundance of Wolf Run Ramp at the event. The sideboard plan for this matchup was to bring in the Ghost Quarters Images Metamorph Amass the Components and the Consecrated Sphinxes. The idea behind this strategy was to morph into a control deck buying time until you could drop a Sphinx which they did not have a reasonable answer for. You could take out a Moorland Haunt some number of Snags Gut Shots Leaks and Geist of Saint Traft depending on how you felt the matchup was playing out.
For a more in-depth look on sideboarding strategies check out Gerry's article here.
Here is how the Swiss portion of the event went:
Ryan Dampf W 2-0
Anthony Phoneuf W 2-1
Cole Pearson W 2-0
Gerry Thompson W 2-0 (75 card Mirror) (#undefeatedlifetimeversusGerryT)
Justin Uppal W 2-0
Kenny Castor L 0-2
Danny Strunk W 2-0
Ben Yampolsky W 2-1
Randy Davis W 2-1
Joe Bernal ID
As rewarding as it was to make Top 8 again the opportunity to bomb a couple friends' photos was the most rewarding of all. In order for me to reach my old levels of success I had to get back to what I knew best.
With Operation: Photobomb complete it was time to actually get down to playing the games.
After being dispatched by Brian Eason (who played very very well) I was back to the rails to bird the finals. I thought that I had played pretty tight in our match but a mistake was pointed out to me by Adam and Adrian who were doing coverage. The crucial turn where I had popped Ratchet Bomb and Metamorphed Brian's Geist of Saint Traft should have been done in the opposite order so when he Vapor Snagged both of them I would've been left with a Metamorphed copy of Ratchet Bomb that I could've used later on in the game. This is one of the best ways to get better: have other people viewing your match to point out mistakes so that you don't make them again in the future. However there wasn't a lot of time to reflect on this missed opportunity as I had another tournament to enter.
The Legacy Open did not really go my way but I had an awesome time meeting new people and playing a very wide-open format. All joking aside it really is the best part of going on these trips: meeting new people and seeing amazing places like the Gaylord Opryland. Thanks to everyone who came up and said that they read my articles and for the congratulations on my finish in Barcelona. You guys are awesome.
A special shout out to Mark Reed my last round opponent in Legacy for being an awesome dude. But the real treat in meeting new people had to have been Phillip Green. He was an awesome guy who was always ready for a drink run in the middle of the tournament and introduced me to the concept of trampoline dodge ball. And yes it is exactly what it sounds like. Hopefully there will be time for this in the future.
After mediocre results in the Legacy Open I could only watch as my friends went on to the Top 8. Gerry and Todd made it to the elimination rounds and I could feel the fire growing again. As happy as I was to see my friends succeed I wanted to be there. I wanted to be battling under the lights not watching from the sidelines. Here is a picture that I will use to motivate myself. Never again will my face show this sadness.
On a side note how sick was the weekend that Gerry Thompson had? Not only did he break the metagame with his version of Delver (placing four of us in the Top 8 three in the Top 4) he won the Standard Open. Then he went on a tear in the Legacy Open eventually placing second. Here is a picture to describe the difference between Gerry and me.
As far as any changes that I would make to the deck going forward it's really strange because I felt that the 75 that Gerry and I had was as close to perfect as I've ever seen. You might want to consider changing between Sword of Feast and Famine and Sword of War and Peace depending on what you expect to face in your upcoming games. Just keep in mind that you can't target your Sword of War and Peace equipped creature with Restoration Angel.
You may also consider some other options for the sideboard like Celestial Purge or Oblivion Ring as more specific hate cards for what you expect. Outside of that I utilized every single one of my fifteen sideboard cards which is a rarity. I would probably just sleeve up the same 75 if I were to attend the StarCityGames.com Open Series in Columbus.
I've come to realize that I was a fool for the entire reign of Caw-Blade. After playing with this build of U/W Delver it felt like I was in control of every game. It can be the most rewarding choice because every game can turn based on your decisions. Win or lose there are very few times where you feel like you are completely out of the game. I wanted to be the one that others would have to prepare for not the other way around.
Turning over to the dark side was another factor in reigniting my fire. No longer would I fight Caw-Blade with Vampires. Part of doing well in tournaments is playing the best deck something that I feel that we accomplished this past weekend. Sometimes it pays to be the bad guy.
We will definitely see a shift towards an even more Delver centric metagame and I suggest that you get really comfortable with the mirror. Learning how to play around certain things will take some time but you will be greatly rewarded for it.
A lot of words have been written this week on the dominance of U/W Delver and comparisons have been made to Caw-Blade of last year. I personally don't feel strongly one way or another when it comes to banning a card; it very well could be that we just had a spot-on read about the metagame for this week and this particular event. There are a lot of very smart people who spend a lot of time building decks and I do believe that there is a correct build out there for someone to take advantage of this week's Delver success.
Needless to say the fire within me is building yet again. I want to get third in even more events photobomb even more pictures and possibly eat even more cheeseburgers. The StarCityGames.com Invitational in Indianapolis is coming up and I don't know if it will have my name in the Top 8. But if it does watch out quarterfinalists: I'm coming for you.
As always thanks for reading.
Follow me on Twitter: @jcho18