6-0 in Standard with U/W Delver (plus two byes) 1-1 in Top 8.
3-4 in Legacy (plus a concession).
A combined match record of 10-5 which was good enough for a plaque and close to $10000 (after a Top 4 split); easily my biggest Magic cash. These SCG Invitationals are sweet!
For this SCG Invitational it was mostly me Brad Nelson Todd Anderson and Brian Braun-Duin versus the world. I was sick of 10% of the Invitational participants playing the exact same thing as me so we took steps to minimize that. It still wasn't good enough. When it came down to crunch time I started talking about decks to people like Ben Hayes Drew Levin and Josh Ravitz.
I didn't have much in the way of technology for Standard but Legacy was a little different. Reanimator was one of the few Griselbrand decks I was working on and Reid's victory at the SCG Legacy Open in Worcester cemented my choice. Naturally I wanted to talk to the man himself about his deck and card choices. It was kind of a waste because we didn't agree on much.
For Standard I was playing Delver. Recently I figured out a better way to play and sideboard with the deck (i.e. focus on aggression and keep it simple) and that had translated into better results. If someone had handed me a decklist with a brand new broken deck I probably still would have played Delver.
I used my knowledge of the archetype LSV's changes to the deck from his WMCQ victory and what I thought the metagame was going to be to build this:
The maindeck is nearly identical to LSV's but the sideboard is a little different. Rather than be super inbred as I have been at tournaments like SCG Open Series: Nashville I opened up my sideboard for this tournament. Not only did I think that Wolf Run Ramp wouldn't be a big portion of the metagame (outside of the Florida contingent of course) but I wanted to go back to the old days where I had sideboard cards for every matchup.
Esper Control used to be an easy matchup when I had a couple Dissipates and some planeswalkers and those cards would help against U/W Midrange as well. Building to a Titan or Sphinx didn't seem like a reasonable plan against aggressive decks anymore so I just played Hero of Bladehold. Rather than play a six-mana creature in order to stabilize I played a four-mana creature that killed them. Hero was excellent throughout the tournament and dodged stuff like Crushing Vines.
In Legacy I played an old favorite:
If you want the info on how the deck came to be and why I played it check out my deck tech.
I'm going to start by saying that I misbuilt the deck somehow but I'm not sure what needs fixing. I don't think I was wrong in assuming once you get a Griselbrand into play the game kind of just ends but that wasn't exactly the case.
Over the course of eight rounds I played against Gilded Drake Karakas Terminus Phantasmal Image Oblivion Ring Sower of Temptation and all these cards that dealt with Griselbrand. Granted I was putting him into play easily and drawing seven or fourteen cards but sometimes I would just brick off and die.
There were a few problems:
1) I couldn't always Reanimate something a second time. Either my draw seven didn't give me what I needed or I didn't have enough life to cast Reanimate. You'd think that drawing seven would be enough but it wasn't.
2) Things like Karakas were very annoying and I didn't have good answers for them. I had no problems putting a Griselbrand into play every single game but sometimes they'd answer it and I'd die with useless cards in my hand.
3) An army of creatures plus anything that got Griselbrand out of the way for a single turn (Fire / Ice Lord of Atlantis) was often enough to win the race. I could draw seven but I had nothing to interact with the board aside from another fatty.
4) The card Reanimate often cost me seven cards and my abundance of fetchlands further complicated things.
5) In Magic and especially in Legacy drawing cards typically ends up with you winning but only if your cards can interact with theirs. Sometimes I couldn't beat the board.
All of those problems reared their ugly head during the tournament. Going forward I'm going to do my best to fix those problems.
Despite the drive from Roanoke to Indianapolis being eight hours which we've done before Kaitlin and I decided to fly. Josh Cho was flying in from DC at roughly the same time. Our plan was to rent a car and stay roughly twenty minutes from the convention center.
You see I lived in Indianapolis for three years and I happen to know a thing or two about the local cuisine. There are places like The Journey Ale Emporium and Kolache Factory that are worth a little driving every day.
Cho had his flight canceled and had to stay overnight in an airport. Thankfully Chris Andersen was able to pick us up from the airport take us to Steak and Shake and give us a roof for the night. The next day Phillip Green drove up from Louisville to hang out and sample some fine dining establishments. Once Cho arrived and met up with Cedric Phillips we picked them up and spent the day relaxing.
I'm somewhat well known for my love of Tombstone pizzas so it's not that surprising that people are skeptical when I recommend a restaurant. I'd like to think that while I know what I want (which is usually a Tombstone or a McDonald's when I'm in a foreign country) I also know what other people will enjoy.
If you ever get the chance to check out any of aforementioned restaurants I highly recommend it.
On to the tournament!
Round 3: Jeremy Stowe U/W Delver
I don't remember much about this one aside from having Geist advantage. Sometimes it's as simple as that.
Round 4: Ben Friedman U/W Delver
Coverage of this match can be found here.
Round 5: David Thomas RUG Delver
This was a video feature match. For a long time I struggled to find a deck that smashed RUG but Reanimator is it. If they adapted their deck to beat a 7/7 lifelinker they'd probably have an easier time. However they aren't winning any counter wars over Reanimate anytime soon.
Round 6: Nils Tolpingrud BUG Control
Nils went from playing Tempered Steel in Standard to BUG Control in Legacy which has to be one of biggest demonstrations of range I've ever seen. First game went according to plan—I Reanimated Griselbrand and stopped his attempts at getting back in the game.
The second game was a little more complicated. I stumbled early while he played a quick Standstill and Mishra's Factory. On turn 4 with Factory and two Underground Seas he played a second Factory fired up the first with a Sea and attacked. He considered pumping with his second Factory but ultimately decided he didn't want to walk into Daze.
I drew Force of Will and Reanimate in back to back turns decided I didn't have much of a choice and went for it with two mana open. He drew off Standstill Brainstormed and Forced which I Forced back. Griselbrand came into play countered his Jace and the game ended.
Round 7: Michael Hetrick U/W Stoneblade
I'm not quite sure what went wrong here. Both games I was able to Reanimate several times per game and still lost. Game 1 I lost because he had his Path to Exile instead of Swords to Plowshares. When I was testing with Brian Braun-Duin we quickly realized Path was superior to Swords because Swords allowed the Griselbrand player to draw another seven. Once he switched his Swords to Paths the games became more difficult.
I could have gone for Tidespout Tyrant on turn 4 (after my Griselbrand was Pathed) and bounced most of his board but instead I went for Griselbrand again. That play lost to Jace and I was punished for my mistake.
In the second game I Careful Studied away Iona and Griselbrand but felt like he had Surgical Extraction. I baited it out with a Reanimate on Iona but he had Pierce and Daze to stop it. My second Reanimate on Iona earned the Surgical. When I went for Show and Tell he had Snapcaster Mage to get my Griselbrands and that was it.
His Jace left me basically drawing dead but I wanted to play it out. When he fatesealed me he left a fetchland on top which I played. On his next turn he alternated to Brainstorming with Jace and I laid into him with a sarcastic jab.
Me: If you're never going to fateseal me just because I have a fetchland why leave a fetchland on top?
Hetrick: Brainstorming seems like better value right now.
Naturally I agreed. The very next turn he went to fateseal me again but I had a plan. I've been on the Jace side of the situation before and if they knew enough to crack their fetches after I left something on top I would look at the top card as if it were nothing relevant and leave it there. Regardless of what they thought it was they would fetch.
Now I assumed Hetrick was on the same level. There was an incredibly small chance I could get back into the game and I would need him to mess up and leave me with a good top card. When he peeked at my top card he didn't immediately leave it on top but once he placed it back on top he took a cursory glance at my graveyard.
I fetched end of turn and he said "You give me no credit."
Me: I give you plenty of credit actually. If you didn't make a half-second pause and glance at my graveyard I probably would have just drawn my card.
Hetrick: I didn't pause!
Me: It was less than a second but you paused. Plus you can't train yourself to look at my graveyard like you did. It was a dead giveaway.
Sure enough the top card was a Reanimate and I had nothing in my graveyard.
0-2 but moral victory!
Round 8: Michael Jacob Sneak and Show
I Reanimated Blazing Archon relatively early but he seemed unconcerned untapped and cast Sneak Attack with a mana open and card in hand. Rather than play out a ridiculous game where he was trying to deck me with Emrakul I told him I had a Tidespout Tyrant in my deck. Knowing that MJ considered his options and packed 'em up.
Second game he mulliganed but started strong with land Lotus Petal Grafdigger's Cage pass. I told him to hold on and Forced his Cage but he Pyroblasted. After that we settled into a longish game of draw-go. We cast the occasional cantrip and I Thoughtseized him every once in a while when I thought I was in danger. He found a second Cage but I wasn't concerned.
Eventually I found Echoing Truth for his Cages and brought Griselbrand into play. That was probably my last chance to Reanimate anything as his Cages came right back down. A fatty flier was basically all I needed though as he couldn't ever put anything together through my disruption.
I ended Day 1 at 7-1 which I was very happy with.
Round 9: Brian Boss U/W Midrange
I won game 1 easily enough but game 2 was more difficult. I was light on action so when I Probed him and saw Day of Judgment Gideon Jura Sun Titan and Restoration Angel I needed a plan of action. Basically I needed to bait out his Day Leak his Gideon and Snapcaster Leak on his Sun Titan.
That plan didn't exactly work because I wasn't pressuring him enough. He waited until he got to nine lands before he started jamming Titan. He was at five life with a Spirit from Moorland Haunt and nothing relevant in his graveyard besides Phantasmal Image. When he targeted the Image with Titan I Vapor Snagged it in response putting him to six life.
End of turn I cast Restoration Angel which was Vapor Snagged. I drew Sword of War and Peace and thought I might have actually won! As it turned out he had nothing except another Sun Titan in hand and took exactly lethal the turn before I would have died.
Now if he had kept that Snag it would likely be a different story...
Round 10: Dustin Taylor U/W Delver
Coverage of this match can be found here.
Round 11: Shaheen Soorani Esper Control
Shaheen was lamenting his Delver matchup especially on the draw but I wasn't exactly confident considering my opening hand after mulliganing.
Clearly that hand can beat him but I needed a little help. Since I had almost everything I could ever want I kept. Second turn I drew the Island I desperately needed and ran out Snapcaster Mage on turn 2. I wanted to apply pressure likely wouldn't get a chance to Mana Leak anything with it and didn't want my Geist to die to a Liliana of the Veil.
Sadly he had the Tragic Slip but he didn't have the second black mana! Lingering Souls was a fine response but I played my Sword. Shaheen failed to find black mana again which gave me time to draw my fourth land equip my Geist and attack and Mana Leak his Liliana.
In the second game he ground me out with Mortarpod and Lingering Souls. I drew more lands than him and didn't have any way out of it. In between games he was talking about how scared he was to be on the draw again.
Naturally I let him play first.
Wait what? Surely I must be insane.
Not quite. Shaheen's deck could kill me with Gideon Batterskull and Lingering Souls tokens. The rest of his deck was filled with good cheap answers like Tragic Slip and Despise. If I kept a hand that relied on Geist of Saint Traft I would likely run out of gas and lose. In my opinion the matchup was more about attrition especially postboard than Shaheen seemed to think.
I don't regret my decision in the slightest and that's not just because he mulliganed to five. Regardless it was still a close game. I paid a lot of life for Phyrexian mana and he got aggressive with Lingering Souls. His hand was Day of Judgment and Liliana of the Veil so I had to make sure I didn't give up too much of my edge to those cards.
Eventually I baited out his Day with double Restoration Angel. His Spirit tokens had beaten me down to three life so I was glad to be rid of them. Hero of Bladehold came down next which he didn't have a good answer for. A couple swings later it was over.
Round 12: Brian Braun-Duin Frites
This was another video feature match.
As happy I was to see BBD at the top of the standings I wasn't all that happy to have to play him. For one he's a good friend of mine that I thought was due for a breakout performance. Second I wasn't too sure about the matchup. It felt like it could go either way depending on how insane our draws were.
Thankfully my draws ended up being superior. He was never able to get much going after some mulligans and Hero of Bladehold tends to end things rather quickly.
At 11-1 I was in first place and it was incredibly difficult to not make Top 8. I've crashed and burned from better positions so I wasn't about to get ahead of myself. It felt pretty awesome to go undefeated in Standard but it was back to Legacy.
I hoped my Reanimator deck was good enough for a win!
Round 13: Adam Boyd Merfolk
He started with an Aether Vial and while I was able to put Griselbrand into play he was able to kill it with Phantasmal Image. A few turns later when I set it up again he had another Image. Soon after I died to a bunch of fishies.
The second game I started with a Careful Study discarding Elesh Norn Grand Cenobite. I decided to Thoughtseize Adam before going for it just in case he had Gilded Drake Sower of Temptation or Phantasmal Image. He ended up having a Faerie Macabre which exiled my Elesh Norn and a Sower which I took.
A turn later I had a Griselbrand but couldn't beat his Lord of Atlantis. That's not to say there wasn't anything I could have done differently though. First of all I could have found Iona Shield of Emeria instead of Griselbrand but I didn't board it in. My other seven targets seemed more important and now my Elesh Norn was gone.
Blazing Archon was another fine choice but that left me at the mercy of the top of his deck. He had several live draws including things like Spellstutter Sprite that would allow him to block for a turn. In the end I got too scared about what may or may not have been there. I assumed that Griselbrand and the fourteen cards he gave me would be enough to find a Blazing Archon but apparently I was wrong.
Round 14: Max Tietze Reanimator
Remember when I was talking about information leaks earlier? This was the one match that truly came back to bite me. Not only did Max have Animate Deads instead of some Exhumes but he had the sideboard City of Traitors that probably helped him get there and Coffin Purge.
I wasn't pleased that my edge was gone but I was more than happy playing a mirror that I had plenty of experience in.
1) He wasn't very experienced in the mirror.
2) I was dead.
My hand wasn't great but I'd have to cherry-pick a hand that would be able to beat me through my Daze and Thoughtseize. I let his Entomb resolve planning on taking his Reanimate and Reanimating on my turn but his hand was too good:
Round 15: Ali Aintrazi RUG Delver
In our pre-match banter I mentioned to Ali that I was being paired down again for umpteenth time and he offered to concede. With a win I would likely be in Top 8 while he needed to win twice. After being on top of the world and now with my back against the wall I wasn't about to turn down his offer.
Thanks again Ali!
Round 16: Ronnie Ritner U/W Control
I could have conceded to Ronnie in order to let him into Top 8 but I had just met him. On top of that I had numerous friends on the bubble like Kenny Mayer and Michael Jacob who may have needed the extra slot in Top 8. Additionally I would be one of the highest ranked seeds if I won and would be able to play first for the majority of my matches in Top 8.
I also wanted to earn a win!
Buuuut then I lost.
Game 1 was pretty awesome as I assembled Tidespout Tyrant plus Animate Dead. Whenever he went to Swords my creature or Terminus I cast something bounced my Animate Dead and brought the Tyrant back next turn. Control decks basically can't beat this combination.
Second game I fought through double Relic of Progenitus and then cast Show and Tell. He slammed a card immediately so I knew my Griselbrand wasn't long for the world. Sure enough it was an Oblivion Ring but I had seven fresh cards. From there I cast Animated Dead on Tyrant. My hand only had an Entomb to protect it but I figured he wouldn't try to cast the Swords to Plowshares I knew he had.
He took a few hits and eventually settled on casting Jace. Unfortunately my hand hadn't gotten any better. If I had another spell or two I could have bounced his Karakas then his Oblivion Ring and then drawn seven more cards. Instead I basically died to Jace.
Third game he mulliganed and kept a hand with a single land. I Thoughtseized away his Sensei's Divining Top and he Brainstorm locked himself. Sadly I had Show and Tell but no fatty and Entomb but no Reanimate so I gave him a few turns to draw out of it. His second land was Karakas and the turn after he drew a Tundra.
Quarterfinals: Adam Boyd Mono-Blue Delver
Coverage of this match can be found here.
My matchup seemed like it would hinge on whether or not he could assemble Invisible Stalker plus Runechanter's Pike. Other than that it looked like I was doing everything better than he was aside from his two-card combo.
I was going pretty deep trying to find answers to his combo. Mana Leak seemed very poor considering his spells all cost one and two mana. However I could easily see a game where he played around Mana Leak only to walk into Dissipate. After playing a couple games it became quickly apparent that Dissipate was not where I wanted to be.
Since his deck relied on Pike to actually kill me I decided to side in my Surgical Extraction. Not only was he Thought Scouring himself but it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for me to Thought Scour him hit something good and then Extract him. I wouldn't normally use that strategy against anyone else since being down a card isn't usually worth that effect but like I said I was scraping for ideas. If nothing else it seemed like I'd be able to Extract his Vapor Snags which were his next most important card.
If I was able to do that then Hero of Bladehold became a huge threat. I was in the market for something that raced Runechanter's Pike anyway. Despite the fact that siding in Hero of Bladehold against a deck with Snapcaster Mage and Vapor Snag seemed suspect I needed to find a way to win. As it turned out Hero was quite good.
Adam was talking some trash on Facebook the night before so it was very satisfying to knock him out of the tournament.
Semifinals: Michael Hetrick RUG Pod
Hetrick's deck was another archetype that I hadn't played much against if at all. Sadly I couldn't play against the "normal" decks in the Top 8 as I had a much better chance against the enemy I knew.
In the four games we played he got on board quicker than me and I wasn't able to get anything to come together. Game 4 was particularly rough since he resolved a Daybreak Ranger and had a Birthing Pod in hand neither of which I could beat.
I was pigeonholed into an aggressive stance because I certainly couldn't take the control role and it didn't work out.
My flight was at 5 PM so losing in Top 4 after splitting was about the best-case scenario anyway. I have no regrets.
Seeing as how nothing was banned I probably won't be getting away from Delver of Secrets anytime soon. As for Grand Prix Atlanta I'm seriously looking at playing Reanimator again although it won't be the same list as the one I played at the SCG Invitational. There are several problems that need to be addressed.
Thanks for the congratulations everyone! It's always great playing in a tournament when you know someone is rooting for you. I'd also like to congratulate my friends who did well at the SCG Invitational specifically BBD.