I think I’ve gone mad, all I can see is fire and lightning. I look around for familiar faces but all I find is my worst enemies. The last thing I remember is sending my friend a message. I pull out my phone and check what I sent:
no… it can’t be… I’d never…..
“Ben Johnston: I hate myself but do you still have burn together? I wanna play it at the pptq”
How could I betray my beloved Jund deck like this? After all we have been through together. We’ve been together since Bloodbraid Elf was still legal. I mean sure I’ve fooled around with a Delver of Secrets or two in my time but never in a serious tournament, not when I had the chance to play Jund…. what have I done?
So yes, I have given up and joined the “Dark” side; I am playing Naya Burn in modern now. Sometimes you just have to put aside your prejudices and pick the deck that has the best chance to win the tournament. I spent two weeks testing a few variations but I just gave up and went with the list that Brandon Burton used to take down Grand Prix Indianapolis. Here is the list that I registered on the day:
4 Goblin Guide
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Wild Nacatl
1 Grim Lavamancer
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lava Spike
4 Atarka’s Command
4 Boros Charm
4 Searing Blaze
3 Rift Bolt
3 Arid Mesa
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Wooded Foothills
2 Copperline Gorge
2 Stomping Ground
3 Sacred Foundry
4 Path to Exile
2 Deflecting Palm
3 Destructive Revelry
3 Kor Firewalker
1 Lightning Helix
Once again I’m lucky and this is a local tournament so I make the 10 minute drive down the road to the venue. I have my pump up playlist all ready and it sets me up in a great mood for the day. I make it to the venue and I hand off my Jund deck to my friend Jake; if I can’t use it then at least someone else can. We have twenty four players in attendance so its going to be five rounds with a cut to top 8. Everyone is burning to go but we have to wait a little bit due to a problem with Wizards’ event reporter (what a terrible program sometimes); eventually it’s fixed and we are off and running.
Round 1: Ryan, GW Tron
Game 1: I start off with a Lava Spike into Eidolon of the Great Revel. He starts setting up his lands and I land a second eidolon. Ryan plays Path to Exile on one of my Eidolons and then lands a Spellskite. This gives me enough mana to cast Searing Blaze on his Spellskite twice and he scoops.
Game 2: I play Wild Nacatl on the first two turns but he lands a Thragtusk and gains some life. I Searing Blaze it and then trade off a Nacatl for the beast token it leaves behind. Eventually he deals with the other Nacatl but he is at a low life total. We sit there and top deck for a while but eventually I draw enough burn to finish him off when he taps out for a Wurmcoil Engine.
Round 2: Patrick, Grixis Control
Game 1: I’m on the play again (always lucky). I lead with a Nacatl which draws out a Lightning Bolt. I follow up by playing 2 Monastery Swiftspears then another Nacatl. Then an Atarka’s Command off the top pushes through lethal damage; quick and fast is the way to go.
Game 2: Patrick unfortunately has to take a mulligan down to five cards, while I start with a Nacatl again. Pat plays an Engineered Explosives with 1 counter so I keep a Swiftspear in my hand until he cracks it. I keep attacking until eventually he has to sacrifice his explosives to kill the Nacatl. Swiftspear comes down but gets met by a bolt. I fling a few burn spells at his face but he starts to put a clock on me with two Snapcaster Mages, but once again the deck saves me and I draw a Lava Spike which plays around his Dispel and I finish the job.
Round 3: Josh, Kiki Chord
Game 1: I keep 3 lands, 2 Searing Blaze, Goblin Guide and Atarka’s Command. It seems like a good hand but I don’t draw a single spell and Josh kills me with an infinite number of Restoration Angels while he is at one life.
Game 2: This one goes a lot better for me. Goblin Guide gets in some early damage and I begin throwing all sorts of burn spells at him. He lands a Kor Firewalker which slows me down but I still have too much burn in hand and finish him off.
Game 3: Now I keep the dreaded one lander and get severely punished. I have Searing Blaze and then only one mana burn spells but I don’t find my second land until turn five and at that point he has a huge board of creatures and is well above twenty life, oh well.
Round 4: Jake, Jeskai Nahiri
Game 1: I come out of the blocks pretty fast but he has Lightning Helix to deal with my creatures and gain himself some life. Nahiri, the Harbinger also comes down and threatens to ultimate very quickly. My hand is full of some expensive spells(two mana) and two blazes. Luckily for me Jake gets a bit greedy and attacks with his Celestial Colonnade which lets me use my 2 blazes then untap and finish him off.
Game 2: I play a few creatures to start off the game, which get in some damage but Path to Exile and Snapcaster Mage manage to clear my board. I switch to just throwing burn spells at him and trying to play around any counterspells. Jake is getting pretty low and I start holding up Skullcrack in case he has any life gain, but I decided to say Yolo and just use everything I have left and Jake shows his hand of just lands and scoops.
Round 5: Ben, Merfolk
Somehow I have some of the worst breakers in the tournament and coming into the final round I am in 8th place. I consider playing this round to try and improve my seeding for top 8 but I am not confident in the merfolk match up so I take the intentional draw to lock 8th place in the top 8 and go get some much needed lunch.
I get a sandwhich from the cafe in the venue and it’s not great. Someone brings me some chips from a takeaway place and I get pretty excited until I realize that there is spices and chilli on the chips and now my mouth is burning. I take it as a blessing from the burn gods and I now know they are watching over me. Enough of my desperate ravings, lets move on to the top 8.
Quarterfinal: Josh, Kiki Chord
Game 1: I don’t wanna repeat myself too much but this game was nearly 100% identical to the first game we played in the swiss. I keep an Ok hand and somehow only draw lands until he attacks me with an army of infinite flyers.
Game 2: These are the types of games I love. I curve out with creatures and I have Path to Exile for his Kor Firewalker. Josh has to take lots of damage from Eidolon triggers and I am able to burn him with a combination of Searing Blaze and Boros Charm.
Game 3: Josh has to mulligan to six and has a pretty slow start. I play an Eidolon and I’m able to hold up Skullcrack for the rest of the game if he has any life gain. I am able to suspend a few Rift Bolt/s and hold open my mana. Josh has to take a lot of damage of Eidolon and when he taps out for a large Chord of Calling I am able to burn him out while falling down to two life thanks to Eidolon.
It ended up a lot closer than I would have liked but Josh played great. I also wanna say congratulations to Josh for making his first ever top 8 and at 1st seed as well, great job Josh. I know this is just the first of many.
Semi Final: Chris, Jund
It wouldn’t be a magic tournament if I wasn’t playing against Chris. I really wish it was the final so at least one of us could walk away with the qualification but sadly we meet one round too soon.
Game 1: I have a quick start with Swiftspear into Eidolon which deals a decent amount of damage, Chris manages to control the board with a Tarmogoyf but I have too many burn spells and we move on to the next game.
Game 2: Chris starts with an Inquisition of Kozilek to take my Eidilon and then plays a large goyf, more discard rips apart my hand and a Scavening Ooze comes down to gain some life for Chris. I can’t keep up with his fast clock and we move on to the next game.
Game 3: We both take a mulligan down to six cards. I keep an Eidolon on top of my deck where it’s safe from discard spells and lead with a Swiftspear. The discard was indeed there and Chris isn’t happy when I slam down the Eidilon off the top of my deck. A goyf comes down but I play a Goblin Guide and swing all my guys into the goyf, I lose the Eidolon but I take Chris down to seven life. Once again Chris tries to destroy my hand with discard but I point a Lightning Helix at his face and reveal the land in my hand. I’ve been holding on to that land for a few turns in case I draw a Searing Blaze off the top. Just like I hoped I find a Searing Blaze off the top and I kill his scooze and swing in for exactly lethal. Unfortunately, Chris didn’t see any of his sideboard cards but these were some incredibly close games.
Final: Ben, Merfolk
Game 1: I get stuck on two lands and I fall even further behind when he has Spreading Seas for my only white source. I manage to stay in the game but I have to use my burn spells on creatures instead of his face and eventually I die with two Boros Charms stuck in my hand.
Game 2: I have a nice curve this time of Goblin Guide into Eidolon and Ben has to take a decent amount of damage to try and get onto the board. I have Atarka’s Command to get through a decent amount of damage and then a Searing Blaze clears away the last blocker and we move on to game three.
Game 3: It looks like the Burn gods have abandoned me and I have a very slow start while Ben comes out of the blocks very quickly. I have to use my burn spells to control the multiple lords he is playing every turn and that is just the beginning of the end. I can’t compete and Ben crushes me with a wave of Elementals and gigantic Merfolk creatures.
All Burnt Out
I suppose it is fitting to lose in the final to merfolk as everyone knows that fire’s greatest weakness is always water. I wanna say a huge congratulations to Ben. I am disappointed that I didn’t get the invite but I know Ben is a great magic player and I hope he crushes it at Regionals and makes it on to the Pro Tour. Once again I’ve made a deep run in a tournament but I’ve fallen just short. This makes twelve top 8’s out of my last thirteen events (stupid Grand Prix ruining everything). I have to admit I am feeling pretty down when it comes to magic lately, so I’m taking a break from playing competitive magic for a month or two and I’m gonna focus on doing some coverage and going back to my casual roots a bit more. Thanks for reading and I hope you wanna continue this long journey to the Pro Tour with me when I come back.