May 3, 2019

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Experience vs. Experience; Grand Prix Niagara Falls

Hey, MTGCanada readers! I'm back, and this time I'll be speaking about my experience at MagicFest Niagara Falls. I recently wrote an article (here) lightly covering the game plan for a few of the cheaper Legacy decks out there. The purpose was both to figure out what deck I wanted to play and to help people in the same boat I was in; new to the format, looking to start playing on a smaller budget, and with limited access to card-share networks.

Originally I had planned to write an article just before MagicFest Niagara Falls titled "Experience vs. Experience". It would have focused on how I prepared VERY little for the tournament and began to contemplate what I was really getting out of making the trip. The way I was looking at it, I felt like it was more about the atmosphere, the people, and the love of the game rather than the expectation of results or valuable in-game experience. The fact of the matter is if you want to be a serious Magic player, you shouldn't play a deck for the first time at the level of a Grand Prix.

However, I'm horrible at following my own advice and I ended up on a deck completely not on my radar. It was too cute - my online name is GoblinCredible, and a good friend and teammate of mine Frederico offered to lend me the full Goblins deck at the last minute. At this point in time, I was feeling poorly about how Goblin Charbelcher was performing and I was planning on switching over to Burn (which I was also not very confident in). It seemed like I was going to get some first-time experience, get beat up on a bunch and experience the electricity and love of the game in the environment I enjoy the most.

Things definitely didn't go as planned, and I couldn't be happier about it. My actual goal for this event was to win a single match and finish the day with a 3-5 record, after having two byes. That's all I wanted, and I found myself learning things at a pretty quick rate, starting to pick up on some of the subtle nuances of each deck in games two and three. I felt very good about my play and never could have predicted the results that ensued. I didn't take any notes or anything, but will recount small pieces of the day. My record was as follows:

R1: Bye

R2: Bye

R3: (W-L-W) vs. Death and Taxes - As this was my first game played with the deck, I was astonished to do well early on in game 1. I got to cheat out an early Goblin Trashmaster, which ended up being the all-star of the match for me. Being able to deal with Sword of Fire and Ice, Umezawa's Jitte and Batterskull all pretty easily was nice, and Stingscourger also helped bounce problem creatures. Pyrokinesis out of the sideboard was insane here for me, and was usually a 4-for-2, or 3-for-2 trade.

One time, I was able to wipe a Mother of Runes, Flickerwisp and Phyrexian Revoker (naming Aether Vial) by first cycling a Gempalm Incinerator targeting Flickerwisp, then casting Pyrokinesis when Mother of Runes tried to protect the Flickerwisp. Goblin Cratermaker was also very good to me in this match, always threatening to kill a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Aether Vial, or other powerful support artifacts.

R4: (L-W-L) vs. UW Stoneblade - I took the exact same approach in this match up as I did against Death and Taxes. Once I saw a Stoneforge Mystic, I decided that with little information on what my opponent would be doing, Goblin Cratermaker and Goblin Trashmaster would probably be pretty useful. I remember getting really land light draws and losing game three when the opponent was stuck on three lands but had triple True-Name Nemesis. It was slightly demoralizing. My opponent Wastelanded my only Cavern of Souls which is where I think I lost this game three. After that happened, most of my important spells got countered.

R5: (L-W-W) vs. Storm - What a ride this one was. I got absolutely pumped game one because I had zero clue what was going on. With my supreme inexperience and inferior knowledge of the format, I didn't realize what my opponent was playing until I was dead. Looking over the top deck lists in advance could have helped a bit here, but I'm okay with it. I got Thoughtseized and Inquisition of Kozilek'd early on, so it had me thinking something like Death's Shadow.

Luckily, I mulled to four in game two. I kept Goblin Lackey, land, land, Aether Vial and won. I'm told this is supposed to be one of Goblin's worst matches, but when you rip a Chalice of the Void off the top and slam it for zero, sometimes you just get there. In game three, I kept a double Leyline of the Void hand that stifled my opponent's plans long enough for me to find a Goblin Warchief and some other goons for pretty honest beat-downs.

R6: (L-W-W) vs. Turbo Depths -Turbo Depths rolled me game one as I was unaware of the blazing speed of the deck and exactly what the important pieces were. Once I saw a Crop Rotation, I knew to expect some Marit Lage shenanigans and ultimately wasn't able to find a Stingscourger to clean up the mess.

It's worth noting that I had not picked up on the fact that I'd need Stingscourger and an Aether Vial on two here to be same. Luckily, I had double Stingscourger in game two, so I opted to throw one early and just bounce a Vampire Hexmage to buy some time. This didn't tip my opponent off to the second one, and so I main phased their creation of Marit Lage. I guess they were playing around Wasteland here, but I had the Stingscourger and brought it home. Game three included a lot of Wasteland action and mid-game Blood Moon to help secure the game.

R7: (W-W) vs. UW Stoneblade - This one was quicker than usual due to a Goblin Lackey connecting in game one and throwing in a Goblin Piledriver. Then another and then another - get in, get out. Attacking through True-Name Nemesis never felt so easy. It's also really nice when your opponent plays a Palace Jailer and it backfires. In game two, I forgot you could even become the Monarch in this format, but it was pretty sweet when I got my hands on it. Goblin Ringleaders are nice here as they just keep filling up the hand if they land, so the onslaught never ceases!

R8: (L-L) vs. Dark Depths - I'm pretty sure I made some questionable decisions in game one, as I thought I was playing against something VERY different. This was the slower Dark Depths deck and once I figured that out, it was already too late. I saw a Dark Confidant and I thought it was a BGx - Rock style deck. Game two was a bit closer because I sort of knew what to look for, but unlike earlier where a Stingscourger was enough, my opponent waited to make Marit Lage on my end step when I had no Aether Vial, which left no way to deal with their big 20/20.

R9: (W-W) vs. Sneak and Show - I only had two poor personal experiences at this tournament and this was the second one. The first wasn't really that bad, just seemed like very clashing personalities. This time, my opponent just got very upset. I had no idea what they were doing in game, as I Goblin Lackey'd into a Goblin Piledriver in turn one and turned the heat on too quick.

My opponent cast Show and Tell in game two and put in an Emrakul, the Aeon's Torn. I didn't have Goblin Cratermaker, but I did have Goblin Matron even though I was stuck on two lands. I proceed to Goblin Matron for Goblin Cratermaker, untap, and rip the third land. Then I cast Goblin Cratermaker, and sacrificed it to eliminate Emrakul and get in for the last couple jabs. I suppose it's pretty upsetting to lose a 15/15 wall of ability texts to a simple 2/2 Goblin, but hey, I'm happy I was on top of my lines.

R10: (W-W) vs. Mono R Prison - I don't mean to be rude whatsoever, but this was the closest thing to a bye I have ever felt. My friend Frederico told me this was essentially unwinnable for the opponent, and now I believe him. Goblin Cratermaker went a heck of a long way in this match, as did Goblin Trashmaster.

Ensnaring Bridge, Trinisphere and the like were all susceptible to my overwhelming Goblin-Fu. Not only that, but Goblin Cratermaker helped me pick off an opposing Legion Warboss (VILE TRAITOR!!!) and stop an onslaught of opposing 1/1 turncoats. The opponent was clearly frustrated at the match up but kept their cool, and I really appreciated their gentle and joking nature.

R11: (W-L-L) vs. UR Delver - I'm not really recalling many of the specifics here, but the big pick-up I got from this one was improper side-boarding. I didn't recognize what I was playing against as the opponent only Ponder'd and Brainstorm'd game one while I started with a Goblin Lackey beat-down special. Unfortunately, this bit me in game two as I had taken out Goblin Sharpshooter, not recognizing I'd need it to shoot down an army of Young Pyromancer/Elemental tokens. I mulligan down to 5 in game three, and my only important spells got countered.

R12: (L-W-L) vs. Storm - Both of my Leyline of the Void's got Echoing Truth'd in game two, but I was able to hold on long enough to assemble a mediocre beatdown squad of Goblin Lackeys and Gempalm Incinerators. I couldn't find an early Chalice of the Void by mulliganing in game three and got throttled pretty quick.

R13: (L-L) vs. Grixis Control - Out of all the matches I played all weekend, this was by far the worst. I didn't even really do anything obviously wrong. Every play I dealt was made to feel unimportant and outclassed by the opposing deck. Kolaghan's Command was an absolute thrashing, more than once snagging a creature and an Aether Vial. This match felt utterly hopeless - I felt like the Mono R Prison player felt against me earlier. The words "Why bother?" come to mind.

R14: (L-W-L) vs. Show and Tell - Well, it was cool learning that there was another form of this deck. My opponent never went for Emrakul first and always led with Omniscience into a flurry of digging spells and Cunning Wish/Intuition type stuff. It was really neat to see this version of the deck, but I'm not sure I have a great handle on all of what was going on. I like how much it resembled Storm when it got going, and I'll be certainly looking to learn more about the variants of this deck.

R15: (W-L-W) vs. Dark Depths - I was able to hold back an Aether Vial and a Stingscourger to protect against Marit Lage in game one. Next came two fortunate Wastelands off the top to really ensure my prevention of Dark Depths/Thespian's Stage comboing. In game two, I got torn apart by a bad keep with 1-land and Aether Vial, which got Abrupt Decayed. In game three, I was able to keep a double-Wasteland hand that also had a Rishadan Port, a Mountain, and a Blood Moon.

The Aether Vial and Goblin Lackey I had didn't do much early on, but with a great selection of disruptive elements, I was able to hold off until turn three to Blood Moon and start snowballing like the Goblins do. Zo-Zu the Punisher came in handy here as my opponent struggled to cobble together a plan, all the while taking damage from playing lands after being Wastelanded a few times.

Final Thoughts...

When considering skipping this tournament, I began to think about experience (just being there, enjoying the atmosphere) vs. experience (relevant time spent in-game, sharpening skills). I thought that because I lacked the discipline and some of the resources to prepare myself better for this tournament that I wouldn't become the high-level competitive grinder I wanted to be.

Part of what I learned this weekend is to stop taking myself so seriously. I was so nervous about this event that I didn't even play a local weekly with some friends just because I was nervous about misplaying and "looking stupid". Sometimes you need to go and have fun, but also not expect to do poorly "just because".

This weekend turned into a viable lesson on how to appreciate myself and recognize the things I can do well and poorly. I wouldn't recommend under-preparing on purpose, but sometimes it's worth a shot even if you aren't ready.

I always say to people I'm not a very good Magic player because I still make a lot of elementary mistakes and have poor tendencies. Times like these at the GP are nonetheless very positive experiences, and I'm sure they'll help build some sort of foundation for confidence. I don't think a bad magic player could day two a Legacy GP on their first try.

I'm not saying any of this to brag. I'm light-years away from where I want to be as a Magic player, but I wanted to talk about how having confidence in yourself can be beneficial. Not only may it reflect in your results but it will reflect in your friends, your attitude, and your overall trip experience. Having self-confidence and eliminating negative speech will do wonders for any player.

Lastly, I'd like to send out a special shout-out to my new friend Jamie Archdekin. He's one of the more well-recognized names in Ontario Magic and is incredibly talented. We've traveled together to a few local-ish events and he ended up in ninth place in Niagara Falls on tiebreakers. I wanted to congratulate him on a super-deep run with Steel Stompy and say that even though it didn't come together this time, it'll happen. Just be patient.

If you'd like to follow my Magic: the Gathering journey a little more closely, come follow me at @GoblinCredible on Twitter!