Some of you are probably pretty excited to read an article about humble brags and not losing a match to Delver this weekend however that's not even close to what it's about. I'm Jeremy Dombek a 21-year-old "grinder" from Western Massachusetts. If you're from the area you've probably seen me in the top eight of many PTQs or large events but you know I lost in the finals at best.
The truth is maybe it's luck maybe it's a curse or maybe it just hasn't been my time but I finally broke whatever it was and took down a big tournament. I've consistently top eighted PTQs and top sixteened a few StarCityGames.com Opens but I could never actually seal the deal. I've got to say now that I've finally accomplished something I've wanted to do for a while it feels great and it feels deserved.
The past few weeks I worked pretty hard testing the Standard format for this event. It was important to me to play a list that I was very comfortable with against Delver since I knew I'd probably play against it six out of ten rounds. It wasn't easy but being a true control player at heart I started back with the deck I've been playing since Innistrad came out Solar Flare.
Solar Flare has had a lot of recent success lately winning two huge tournaments; the Edison NJ Diamond TCQ and the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Columbus OH. I started with both those lists read Matt Costa's article about "Tuning Other Decks For A Delver Metagame" and went from there. Before reading Costa's article I ended up cutting some mediocre cards for two Tamiyo the Moon Sage refined some of the numbers and then realized how similar our lists were afterwards.
The final list ended up looking like this:
After playing countless games watching lots of video coverage and reading many articles and a total of two hours of sleep I was happy with my 75 and was ready to battle at SCG Standard Open: Worcester. I knew going into it I'd be keeping opening hands that were good against Delver or various aggro decks so I was kind of always hoping that'd be the case.
Round 1 – U/W Delver (Michael Hopkins)
I started off the tournament keeping a pretty great hand against Delver exactly what I wanted and now was just hoping he played turn 1 Seachrome Coast which he did. My hand was Ponder Phantasmal Image Lingering Souls Forbidden Alchemy Seachrome Coast Plains and Isolated Chapel. He started the first couple turns Pondering and Gitaxian Probing so right off the bat I knew he was clearly heavy on Geist of Saint Trafts and Restoration Angels in hand. As the game progressed his three Geist of Saint Trafts all met a Phantasmal Image and after two Restoration Angels met a Doom Blade and a Mana Leak Gideon Jura did some work on his life total and we were off to game two.
Game two started off how a Delver player really wants to against a Solar Flare opponent. He played turn 1 Delver of Secrets and Gitaxian Probe but seemed disappointed after he saw my hand of Seachrome Coast Drowned Catacomb Island Ratchet Bomb Phantasmal Image Forbidden Alchemy and Lingering Souls. His Delver flips off of Gitaxian Probe and he's on the beatdown. Surprisingly Ratchet Bomb doesn't get Mana Leaked and after my opponent missed his third land drop for a few turns it was over shortly after.
1-0 2-0 in games.
Round 2 – U/W Delver (Robert Barone)
Game one my opponent played turn 1 Ponder shuffled and immediately said frustratingly "enjoy your free game." Now I obviously assumed he was playing Delver and didn't have another land and that's exactly what ended up happening. I landed a Gideon Jura on turn five to his one land and it was quickly over.
Game 2 was actually pretty intense and had a great run of draws on my part. My opponent had a turn 3 Geist of Saint Traft that I was pretty cold to because I mulliganed to 6 and kept two Forbidden Alchemy three lands and a Ratchet Bomb but I drew a Phantasmal Image off the top to kill the Geist. He then played another Geist which isn't too much of a problem because I was only going to take one hit before the Bomb went off. After that exact sequence happened he plays a fifth land and passes the turn. After I cast Lingering Souls with flashback I was expecting a Restoration Angel but he didn't even have that. I then had to assume he had a Consecrated Sphinx on turn 6 but in fact didn't have that either and just flooded out hard.
2-0 4-0 in games
Round 3 – Mono-Green Aggro (Jackie Lee)
I knew this round wasn't going to be easy; however I did at least know she was probably on R/G Aggro based on previous tournaments I've seen and read about. I won the die roll and led off with a Ratchet Bomb on turn 2. She had played Forest Bird of Paradise turn 1 then a Strangleroot Geist with no second land so I immediately blew the Bomb up. She untapped and played a Llanowar Elf and then it was pretty apparent she wouldn't be able to actually get in the game at that point. I had Gideon and Tamiyo going while she was still stuck on one land just waiting to draw a Day of Judgment and when I eventually did; we were off to game two.
I assumed she was on R/G so I sided out Mana Leaks on the draw which ended up being quite wrong and she had cards such as Garruk Primal Hunter and Revenge of the Hunted however she made quick work of me this game. She landed a Sword of War and Peace after I cast Lingering Souls then Phyrexian Metamorphed it the next turn because I killed her creature in response. The next turn she cast Strangleroot Geist equipped a Sword and bashed for nine bringing me to eleven. I untapped played an Island and slammed Tamiyo hoping it'd buy me enough time keeping the Strangleroot Geist tapped. She then cast Garruk Primal Hunter and drew four cards then the next turn played a Strangleroot Geist and killed me. By the way she had all Forests in play and that's when I realized I didn't have to play around Bonfire and that's what I did game 3.
She mulliganed cast a Strangleroot Geist on turn 2 then didn't cast a spell until it was a Dungrove Elder on six mana to play around Mana Leak and then just continued to play a bunch of lands due to a terrible draw. I had a Tamiyo turn 5 and was getting her up to ultimate Day of Judgmented away the creatures and after creating a Tamiyo emblem Gideon quickened the clock.
3-0 6-1 in games
Round 4 – Naya Humans (Carlos Fontes)
Carlos and I had a great conversation and I knew it wouldn't be too cutthroat of a match despite knowing what's on the line. It's nice to sit down at 3-0 and have opponents like him. Anyway game 1 he curved out like his deck is supposed to with a turn 1 Birds of Paradise turn 2 Avacyn's Pilgrim and turn 3 Wolfir Silverheart to start the beat down. After stabilizing with a Terminus at six life due to some attacks and a miracled Bonfire infinite Sun Titans joined the party and the game was over shortly after.
Game 2 he ended up curving out again and bringing me at a low life total pretty quickly. He brought me down to five life through a Lingering Souls and a Go for the Throat and when I finally cast a Gideon Jura to stabilize Zealous Conscripts does what it does best and we were off to game 3.
This game went a lot better than the previous two. I had a turn 4 Day of Judgment a turn 6 Terminus and ended up sticking a Gideon Jura with blockers so a Zealous Conscripts couldn't be too effective. When I finally cast a freshly peeled Elesh Norn Grand Cenobite he picked up his cards and we wished each other good luck.
Round 5 – B/W Humans (Tyler Dean)
Tyler was a really nice guy the problem is there's not much to write about our match. Game 1 he had a quick clock with Mirran Crusader and an Honor of the Pure but a Tamiyo solved that problem and eventually the Titans came in trips. Game 2 he was really land screwed and did nothing but stick three Honor of the Pures after a Thalia Guardian of Thraben got Phantasmal Imaged. It was his first big tournament so I wished him good luck and hoped for the best for him.
Round 6 – U/W Delver (Kei Rong)
This round was pretty intense and even though the ending result was a draw Kei Rong is always a troublesome opponent. Game 1 he didn't have an early Delver and a couple of Geist of Saint Trafts died to some Images. Eventually I stuck a Gideon as usual against the Delver deck and we were off to game 2.
Game 2 was a pretty grindout game where I lost eventually to Moorland Haunt and Sword of Feast and Famine. He had killed a Gideon and I never had an opportunity to cast Sun Titan on nine mana so when I went for it on eight when I had to he had the Mana Leak and we were off to game three.
Game 3 was quite sloppy starting with my keep of two Islands two Lingering Souls Gideon Jura and Ponder. I had the Ponder which hopefully was fixing my mana but the hand was crappy and we had three minutes left so I kept and played quite fast. My Lingering Souls got Dissipated and Mana Leaked and he had a couple Restoration Angels but after five turns was up it wasn't clear to me that I was going to lose as I had a Forbidden Alchemy in the graveyard and two cards in hand. We drew and I wished him luck because he's always been a good opponent.
Round 7 – Solar Flare (Timothy Wegman)
Timothy had played a friend of mine in a feature match previously so I knew he was on Solar Flare and I knew he was light on win conditions as well so I thought there was a good chance at a draw so I played quite fast. He made quick work of me game 1 by playing two Blade Splicers and me missing me third land drop for multiple turns. When I finally cast a Lingering Souls to try and stabilize into a Day of Judgment the following turn he cleared my blockers and took the game. Game 2 was a grindout game with lots of Sun Titans Elesh Norns resolving lots of Spirit tokens and at the end me with two Consecrated Sphinxes to lead me to the win.
Game 3 was just like another game 1 however he was the land screwed one this time. A Gideon Jura stuck to his twwo lands and a few attacks later I was 6-0-1.
Round 8 – U/W Delver (Lloyd Kurth)
I got the pair up against undefeated Lloyd Kurth this round which is always a reassuring thing and again I guess I was hoping he was on Delver. Game 1 was pretty quick as he had a Geist that naturally met a Phantasmal Image and after a couple bad Ponder shuffles by him and a Tamiyo sticking locking down a Moorland Haunt he conceded.
Game 2 was a another grindout game with a Moorland Haunt and many Restoration Angels possibly four to be exact. I had four Lingering Souls to even the game and the late game Forbidden Alchemys slowly pulled me ahead. After finally resolving a Sun Titan into two more and a Dead Weight I was now 7-0-1 and had a win and in match next round.
Round 9 – U/W Delver (Shawn Herr)
Shawn Herr was 8-0 at the time and he's a mutual friend of ours through Brandon Gade and Jake Miller and I've played Shawn's brothers a couple times in tournaments so I figured it wouldn't hurt to ask for the concession. He agreed to it as he knew he was a lock and after a big "thanks" afterwards I realized I finally locked up my first SCG Open Series Top 8 and it felt great.
Round 10 – G/R Aggro (Jake Moldowsky)
We intentionally drew and were onto Top 8. I was quite sleep deprived so it was nice to chug down a couple of waters and try to regain some energy.
The top eight was announced we took pictures and filled out some paperwork and I apologize for my terrible snapshots but that's how I look after sleeping two hours then playing cards for twelve hours. I was ready to battle.
Top 8 – U/W Delver (Lloyd Kurth)
We had a rematch in the Top 8 but I got to chose to play based on the higher seeding rule that's been in effect for a couple months now. I won't go into too much detail as the written coverage can be found here.
Game 1 went both ways for quite a while and until I stuck a Gideon Jura I wasn't actually sure who was going to win the match. Tempo and momentum changed many times as we both had a good sequence of draws in the mid game. Game two I ended up having a decent start with an Alchemy and Lingering Souls but got crushed by a Sword of War and Peace. Game 3 he was aggressively Thought Scouring early and ended up milling his Sword of War and Peace so playing the entire game knowing he wouldn't have that was nice. I played around a Mana Leak and eventually resolved a Sun Titan. Soon after I was onto top 4 and soon after realized I had my work cut out for me. Both Dave Shiels and Matthew Costa won their matches along with ringer Shawn Herr so tomorrow morning was going to be a run for my money.
Top 4 – U/W Delver (Dave Shiels)
Again I played this match on camera and I'm writing this before the replays went up but it was a very good match despite getting crushed game 1 due to a terrible draw on a mulligan. Dave played great and even though we talked about the match after and realized there was a small misplay he wished me good luck and I was ready to literally play my best I could play.
Finals – U/W Delver (Shawn Herr)
Nothing against Shawn because he's a great player and ran over the tournament in the Swiss facing other great players but I thought I'd end up playing Costa in the finals because his list was really good in the mirror match. That was not the case and as we sat down took a couple pictures wished each other the best of luck and agreed to a nice cash split we were ready to battle. I again played this match on camera so I don't want to write too much because the replays will be up shortly.
Game 1 he got off to an aggressive start with a Delver Geist and Snapcaster Mage however I had a Lingering Souls and a Day of Judgment to bounce back. He had a perfectly timed Vapor Snag draw to kill a Gideon Jura but then the seven mana Legend came down and put the game out of reach.
Game 2 I had an early Image for his Geist of Saint Traft which literally just happened all tournament long. A couple of resolved Forbidden Alchemys late made my hand very good and it had answers for almost everything. Finally I stuck a Sun Titan bringing back a couple of Images and he extended the hand. I had a sigh of relief took a big breath and smiled big. I realized I've finally done it and I did it against great players playing the best deck in the format.
Now I'll tell you this probably isn't the best article you've read or most interesting but it's my first one and I promise if I keep up the results and keep writing they'll get better. Anyways after finally winning the tournament after thirteen rounds of Magic I've got to say there are a couple things that I want to share that helped a lot. Here are a few tips:
- Try and get a good night's sleep the night before – It's pretty important to not end up fatigued during the crucial rounds of the tournament and even though I somehow got through it all and battled through I definitely wish I had felt a lot better.
- Don't be so cutthroat and be an enjoyable opponent despite the end result – You feel a lot better about yourself when you play a match and your opponent can shake your hand and wish you genuine good luck. Be enjoyable don't express anger based on plays in the game because everybody gets lucky and everyone makes mistakes.
- Take each round one round at a time don't think how close you are at top eight – This is the most important one in my opinion. I've watched multiple videos by amazing players such as Luis-Scott Vargas and Gerry Thompson constantly talk about taking each round one round at a time and I realized why. When I was 7-0-1 going into my win an in round I realized how important it was but I also realized I haven't lost a match yet so I wanted to just play great and let fate decide. I was always an enjoyable opponent despite being very tired at some points and I never thought about how many more wins I needed to make top eight. Also when you do make top eight the job isn't done. That's not why you play a tournament nor do you want that attitude ever.
- When you've finally won the tournament take a big breath smile big and give your friends lots of "thank yous" and hugs – There shouldn't be a negative thought in your head when this happens and your friends are very supportive. I just want to say thank you to all of my friends and acquaintances that congratulated me on my win along with Zack Hall and Adrian Sullivan.
To wrap it up I wanted to specifically thank:
- Mike Bregoli and Lost Harbor Games for turning me into the player I've become and for supporting me all weekend long. My friends are great and each round cheered me on and congratulated me on each win.
- Shawn Herr was the concession in round 9 to lock my first Top 8. He's a great player and a good guy.