Hello and welcome to my article series where I talk about Magic. I took a break from competitive Magic for while after a year of falling just short of the Pro Tour, but now I’m back in action and ready to take on any tournament I can. Here is my first tournament of the year and my first step back into Magic. I decided to go with Jeskai Black as I had some experience playing it at a few FNMs, plus it was probably the only deck I could almost build in the format (taking a break hurts your standard collection). Here’s what I played:
4 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
2 Monastery Mentor
2 Soulfire Grand Master
2 Chandra, Flamecaller
2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
4 Painful Truths
1 Transgress the Mind
4 Crackling Doom
3 Fiery Impulse
2 Dig Through Time
2 Disdainful Stroke
1 Murderous Cut
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Flooded Strand
4 Polluted Delta
2 Mystic Monastery
2 Prairie Stream
2 Shambling Vent
2 Smoldering Marsh
2 Sunken Hollow
1 Ob Nixilis Reignited
1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
1 Dragonlord Silumgar
1 Transgress the Mind
3 Radiant Flames
1 Disdainful Stroke
1 Utter End
I pick up my good friends Tyler and Matt and we head down to Hornsby to play in Pop-a-lot event three. Matt ends up being head judge for the event so I know we are going to be here till the very end. Me and Tyler joke that we have to both make top 8 just so no one has to wait around for a few hours. There ended up being 33 players in attendance so we were in for 6 rounds of Magic.
Round 1: Chris Sha, Mardu green
Game 1: Things start off slowly as we both mulligan to 6 cards and are stuck with 2 lands each. Luckily I hit my 3rd land first and I’m able to cast Painful Truths for full value and begin to pull ahead. An unchecked Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet was able to create enough threats to close out the game pretty quickly.
Game 2: This one wasn’t so good. I kept a land light hand and it cost me. I was able to survive for a while as Chris began to flood, however he started drawing spells before I could hit my 4th land drop and quickly finished me off.
Game 3: This was probably my favourite game of the day as it was so back and forth. We traded removal spells for multiple turns until we both were very short on threats left in our decks. Just as I was getting ahead a Goblin, Dark Dweller recasting a Kolaghan’s Command put Chris back in control. Luckily I was also able to top deck Kalitas into removal and ran away with the game.
Round 2: Tony Martinelli, Jeskai Dragons
Game 1: I know Tony from my local store but I was unsure of which deck he was playing for the first few turns of the game. He played several pain lands before a Duress revealed that he was playing Jeskai dragons and was having a very top heavy draw. I tapped out for a Monastery Mentor on turn 3 and proceeded to kill three Thunderbreak Regents as I swung with my ever growing monk army.
Game 2: I see him side in about 10 cards and I prepare myself for a longer game. An early Duress reveals he has multiple Silumgar’s Scorn but no dragons. I have the option to play Chandra, Flamecaller and leave up one mana or I can play Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. He has one new card that I do not know about. I go with Chandra and I’m punished as his one unknown card was a Dragonlord Ojutai. This puts me incredibly far behind, but I am able to use a Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy to dig deeper into my deck for an answer. I set up a double Crackling Doom turn backed up by a Dispel to take care of his only threat. Gideon quickly ends the game for me before he can recover with more dragons.
Round 3: Tyler Visser, Jeskai Black
Game 1: I am hoping to avoid this match up until the finals but we get paired and have to bash. It’s been a while since I’ve played the mirror match and I think it shows with some of my plays early in the game. I take a little bit too much damage and at the end of the game it costs me. I was able to cast all four of my Painful Truths and both Dig Through Times but sadly fell one point short of killing a tapped out Tyler. He untapped and punished me for doing too much damage to myself.
Game 2: This game just proves how much more testing I really needed to be confident in the mirror match. I mulligan to six cards and decide to keep Shambling Vents, Smoldering Marsh, two Painful Truths, Ob-Nixilis Reignited, and Chandra, Flamecaller. I scry a Duress to the top of my deck thinking that I’m going to play the long game and would like to slow down Tyler a bit. In hindsight this was a clear mistake if I was really hoping to hit my third land drop on time. I Duress Tyler and see he has quite the aggressive draw of Jace, Mentor and Tasigur. He manages to play all three of them before I hit my third land drop and I scoop em up.
I have a talk to Tyler about the mirror and we agree I should have shipped the Duress to the bottom of the deck and just tried to hit the land drop as quickly as possible. I learnt that in the mirror match you always want to be the pro-active player and try to leverage every bit of board advantage you can get.
Round 4: Jonathan Yuen, 4 Colour Aggro (not black)
Game 1: At first I am unsure of what I am playing against but I quickly work out it isn’t the most conventional of decks. I quickly flip my Jace and play a Soulfire Grandmaster to gain some life. Some Roasts manage to gain me a large amount of life but I lose control of the board as he flips a Jace of his own and plays some Hangarback Walkers. I am setting up for a Chandra to either wipe his board or swing in for lethal when he plays a Jeskai Charm to gain 10 life and put him out of Chandra’s range. I use her to wipe the board but he is left with several thopter tokens that finish me off thanks to three more Jeskai Charms to pump his team and clear my Kalitas.
Game 2: Now that I know what I am playing against, I know how to approach the match up. He keeps a sketchy hand and his deck is not kind to him. I have removal for the few threats he can play and I play Chandra to finish the game just as he hits his third land drop.
Game 3: We only have ten minutes left on the clock so I change my approach and try to be more aggressive in my plays. This leads me to making several misplays that give him more outs then he should have. Early on, I pick apart his hand with Duress and Transgress the Mind, Jace flips and lets me cast them again to really control his hand. I start to flood and decide to use the zero ability on Chandra. I discard four lands and Painful Truth and draw three lands, two Crackling Dooms and a Jace. The Dooms take care of his creatures and a Mentor shows up right on time to create an army of monks and swing in with help from Chandra’s elementals.
Round 5: Chester Swords, 4 colour rally
Game 1: I know what Chester is on and I’m a little nervous as I know how good a player he is. I am also very unfamiliar with the Rally match-up. He mulligans to five and I play Jace into removal into Kalitas. Chandra and a Mentor overwhelm his board before he can deal with the Kalitas.
Game 2: It’s my turn to mulligan this time, but I stay at six. I begin to draw my side-boarded Radiant Flames but I can’t draw a threat to go along with them. I manage to keep the board clear for a decent amount of time, but without a threat Chester eventually finds a Rally the Ancestors and I can’t keep up with the card advantage that that gives him.
Game 3: We only have six minutes left on the clock when this game starts so it is unlikely I will be able to get a win here. I try my best but it is quickly apparent that if I keep Chester from overwhelming me I can get the draw and let the next round decide my top 8 chances. I play every removal spell I draw, and when we enter turns it’s clear that neither of us can win and we shake hands and take the draw.
This was a big confidence boost for me during the day. I kept up with a very good player in a match-up I was very unsure of. I was feeling good about my chances of making the top 8. Tyler was already locked and as I was driving him home. I was hoping to join him in the top 8 so I didn’t have to have him bragging the whole trip back.
Round 6: Rangor, 4 Colour Rally
I am paired against a friend of mine and we are both a bit sad that only one of us can make the top 8. We get called to be in the feature match, which is where I feel most comfortable.
Game 1: He spends his first few turns playing Elvish Visionary which helps him keep his hand very full. I don’t have much going on and don’t want to waste my removal on Visionaries. I decide to take the risky play and just tap out on turn 4 for Kalitas. I’m pretty sure he has a Collected Company but if he fails to deal with Kalitas then I can quickly win the game. He casts a Company and only gets a Jace. We both curse his terrible luck and I’m able to clean up his board and make a zombie army that finishes him quickly.
Game 2: I keep a hand with multiple Radiant Flames and Soulfire Grandmaster. I take some early damage, but manage to cast Radiant Flames to kill four of his creatures and my Soulfire gains me a huge chunk of life. We both begin to rebuild the board when I draw my second Soulfire and make almost the same play, except this time I flip my Jace and begin ticking it up. We both start flooding out to the point where we are unsure if we have any fetchable lands left in our decks. I draw action first with a Painful Truths which Jace kindly lets me cast again. I show Rangor my multiple threats and he scoops them up.
I’m pretty stoked to make it into top 8. A few people from home even see it on stream, so I get some congratulatory messages to boost my confidence even more.
Quarter-final: Henry Sams, Abzan Blue
Once again we are chosen for the feature match to be streamed online.
Game 1: I’m on the play thanks to finishing 4th in the swiss; which I love in this match up. He plays an Oath of Nissa turn 1 and reveals Wingmate Roc. It sounds simple but I make it a priority to kill all his creatures and stop him from triggering raid. I kill multiple creatures over multiple turns until I am able to play a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and hold up Disdainful Stroke for anything he attempts to play. He can’t answer Gideon and he quickly dies to it.
Game 2: This game confirms my thoughts on the match up. It was a super drawn out game that focused on how each player was able to gain card advantage. He tore apart my hand with disruption and forced me to use my removal on his smaller threats. We began top decking and that is an ideal scenario for Abzan. Tasigur, The Golden Fang came down and was able to get my opponent an Abzan Charm which pulled him further ahead. My top decks were less impressive and I slowly died to his card advantage and small threats.
I notice that my opponent is a bit nervous so I try to relieve the tension by talking about our local stores and how his day has been. I’ve been nervous about matches before and it really helps to just take a step back and disconnect from the game, even if it’s just for a minute or two.
Game 3: I am back on the play and feeling confident. Unfortunately for my opponent, he mulligans to five and has to keep a bad one. I Transgress the Mind him and take his Abzan Charm. He has no lands and a bunch of five drops. I play a Mentor and he brings along his monk friends. Chandra shows up right on curve to finish the match.
Semifinal: Tyler Visser, Jeskai Black
I have to verse Tyler once again. I take the lessons I learnt from our swiss match and approach the match with confidence. I am also comforted with the fact that at least one of us will make the finals.
Game 1: I resolve two Painful Truths while Tyler takes some time setting up his board. Soulfire comes down and combines with multiple Roasts to clear the board and gain me plenty of life. A Mentor swings with his monk army a few turns later to finish Tyler off.
Game 2: Much like our game two in the swiss, I mulligan to six and keep a sketchy hand. This one was two lands and some early interaction. I Duress and see Tyler has Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, Soulfire Grandmaster, Monastery Mentor and Tasigur, the Golden Fang. I manage to deal with Jace and Soulfire, but I can’t find a third land before Tasigur and Mentor kill me.
Game 3: This time Tyler has to take the mulligan. I Duress him and see a pretty stacked hand, but he is missing the mana to really press the advantage. I am able to deal with the threats he plays but I am not able to find a threat for myself which gives Tyler too much time to draw the lands he needs. Dig Through Time finally shows up and finds me a Roast and Painful Truths to pull further ahead. Truths finds another Truths, however, I am really starting to flood now. Tyler takes advantage of this and starts finding all the right cards he needs. Ob-Nixilis Reignited comes down for him and starts drawing him cards. Neither of us is able to stick a threat for long. Tyler takes a risky play and casts Painful Truths, putting him down to a very low life total. It does not pay off though as I am able to resolve two Crackling Dooms with help from a Duress to deal the last points of damage and book myself a spot in the finals.
I am pretty pumped to make it into the finals, but by this point I am incredibly hungry and can feel the effect it is having on my body.
Final: Dennis Chan, Abzan Aggro
Game 1: Dennis keeps a bad six and I take his Abzan Charm with a Duress. He was leaning pretty heavily on the Charm as the rest of his hand is two Siege Rhinos and Wingmate Roc. I deal with the few small threats he plays and kill pretty quickly with Gideon.
Game 2: We both keep good hands and I’m settled in for a really long game. I Transgress a Gideon from his hand the turn before he can play it and feel pretty safe knowing he has no other threats in hand. Unluckily for me, he draws Gideon for the turn and slams it down. It takes me two turns to finally deal with the Gideon with an Utter End I find off a Dig Through Time, but once again Dennis rips another Gideon off the top and I can’t keep up.
At the this point I realize just how tired and hungry I really am. My hands are starting to cramp while shuffling and I am losing focus. I take about thirty seconds during side-boarding to count my breathing and have some water to try to refocus.
Game 3: I keep a very decent hand that is perfect for the long game, however Dennis picks it apart with multiple Transgress the Minds and a Duress. I am playing catch up for most of the early turns and the longer the game goes the further I fall behind. He lands a Gideon and I have no answer for it at the time. A Kalitas and removal spell give me hope for a come back but Dennis hits one of his many removal spells and both Kalitas and my hopes of winning are gone.
Can’t win ’em all.
I shake his hand and congratulate him on his victory. I am a little disappointed not to take down the tournament, but I am honestly too hungry to dwell on it much. I collect my prize money and return some cards I borrowed for the event, then immediately head for the bistro to quiet my stomach. I didn’t really set myself goals for this tournament, so in hindsight I am very happy with the second place finish. It was my first competitive event in a few months and it definitely reignited the fire again. You can find the top 8 deck lists here: