First-Time SCG Experience: Syracuse, NY
Over the weekend of September 15 and 16th, I attended my first StarCityGames.com Open event in Syracuse, NY. It was nothing like what I expected and was an absolutely fantastic trip for my group of friends; so I wanted to do some reflecting.
Looking back, one of the big lessons of the weekend was sticking to what you know and like in Modern. I've seen Burn do pretty well across the board, and recently had a large PPTQ Top 8 with Burn. However, it still didn't feel great. I think half of the problem is just not feeling like I was in enough control of my own fate. Let's be honest, Burn is a great deck but you HAVE to draw well.
I felt like I'd played so much burn lately that I was getting a little tired of it. Every deck has to draw well, but other decks seem to have a little bit more wiggle room. Other decks feel more forgiving to me.
Side note: I think I got food poisoning the night before the Open. Whew, I can't remember EVER getting that sick. Felt fine all through dinner, all night, then woke up at like 3:30 am getting violently ill. I felt fine the whole day of the open, just couldn't stomach food. Weird. Take care of yourselves, Planeswalkers.
I entered the main Modern Open with Burn, and lost my chance at day two pretty early on. However, I was still having a good time, enjoying my matches, playing decently, so I stuck it out, and ended up 5-4. Didn't feel terrible, but I'd have really liked to day two that tournament.
Before I jump ahead to what I did for the rest of the weekend, I want to put a personal congratulations out to my car-mate and friend Shawn Dhaliwal. He ended up rallying all the way to the finals of this tournament for a split, and unfortunately a devastating loss due to a misplay. But it was also Shawn's first SCG Open and he KILLED it. So I don't think there's anything to be ashamed of. Nice run with Humans!
As for myself and my other boys Adam F and Spencer B, we decided to jump into Modern Classic the next day. Again, I was super down on Burn lately and felt I wanted a little more. But, like the genius I am, I didn't bring another deck. Just like Detroit last weekend.
Luckily, Adam F had my back and lent me his copy of my favourite Magic deck of all time, Living End.
It's the strategy that I have the most time playing. I've spent time designing different versions and I'm most comfortable playing it. Even in the difficult situations, everything feels second nature. The problem was, Adam didn't have some of the cards that I felt were necessary for the current meta.
Some of the things I'm talking about are multiple copies of Shriekmaw (which I like in the Humans match-up among other aggro/mid-range decks), multiple copies of Archfiend of Ifnir (he only had one on him), Forbidden Orchard (which I like vs. control for Demonic Dread target), Boils in the sideboard, and Grove of the Burnwillows (which Adam did have, I just forgot to grab).
The end result was a cobbled-together version of the deck with its heart in the right place. Without further ado, let's take a look at the 75 I played in the Classic:
15th Place, 6-2
The day's match ups were as follows:
R1 - 2-1 vs. Burn
R2 - 2-0 vs. Burn
R3 - 2-1 vs. Jund Death's Shadow
R4 - 2-1 vs. Mono U Turns
R5 - 1-2 vs. Burn
R6 - 2-1 vs. Ponza
R7 - 1-2 vs. Burn
R8 - 2-0 vs. Bridgevine
Burn is easily one of Living End's hardest match-ups. Burn decks look to clean the opponent up by turn 3-4 whereas Living End usually doesn't do much but cycle cards until turn three. The nature of our deck composition makes it very difficult for Living End to compete with Burn, especially in game 1.
As you can see, I was fortunate enough to start out 2-0 against Burn. Don't ask me how I did it, but it was a combination of my opponents having bad luck, and just enough disruption. Fulminator Mage came up big shutting down dual colour spells, such as Lightning Helix and Boros Charm. I took the land destruction line, and was fortunate to see my opponent missing land drops directly after.
R3 - I'll be completely honest, this was not my round to win. My opponent this round made a few technical errors which swung the match in my favour, but this should have been an L. Essentially, I was able to win one game because my opponent double-fetched, rather than doing them individually. After responding to the two-fetch lands being both placed on the stack simultaneously with a Violent Outburst, it was apparent there was a Stubborn Denial intended for me. Oddly enough, in game three whilst facing down my opponent's Nihil Spellbomb, I bravely and confidently cast Violent Outburst into Living End. At this point I asked, "does Living End resolve?".
Wait, what? Hold up.
No joke, after this I replied with, "so no response to Living End?" Baffled by the Nihil Spellbomb miss (which was an 18-for-1 already). "No."
Okay... Well, looks like we did it!
Turns out, the opponent had misspoken and did not intend to let Living End resolve. With some discussion, a few witnesses at the table, and a Judge call, the opponent was honest about their misspeaking and it was ruled that Living End would resolve.
I think the big lesson here is to be VERY careful about what you say in Magic. Words like "Yes", "Okay", and "Sure" can all be interpreted differently by different people. Some people may say sure to acknowledge you casting a spell, when others will say sure as they intend to let said spell resolve. I don't fault my opponent for being very upset at this, but I have also made this type of error before. A typical one for me is when someone announces combat, I'll say "sure", without giving it a second thought. It's almost a reflex, so learning how to clearly enunciate the different intended steps and actions in Magic is crucial to tightening up one's in-game communication.
R4 - I got to have my daily fun with Ricochet Trap. One of my favourite plays of the entire tournament was tapping out on my turn three to cast a Choke vs. Turns (while I had Simian Spirit Guide and Ricochet Trap in hand). I was able to have the opponent tap out for a Cryptic Command, and because the modes Counter and draw were chosen, Cryptic Command only had one target. Therefore I was able to change it's target with Ricochet Trap, my Choke resolved, and I locked down my opponent's four islands tapped to cast the Cryptic Command. DANG. That's the stuff.
It's worth noting I couldn't use Ricochet Trap if my opponent chose modes counter target spell and bounce target permanent. It's really hard to see a Ricochet Trap coming off of a mana monkey, though.
R5 - A very close match with Burn. Gnaw to the Bone wasn't enough this time, as I got beat down game three by triple Goblin Guides and a Monastery Swiftspear on my opponent's one-lander. Super nice guy, glad to see him lock Top 8!
R6 - Another one of my favourite moments of the tournament happened this round. I resolved a MASSIVE Living End against this opponent. Being all cool, calm and collected, my opponent cracked back with Blasphemous Act grilling my whole board state and evening the game up in an instant.
I was able to squeak it out after losing game one handily to a Blood Moon. Fetched properly the rest of the match, was able to fight through multiple Blood Moons and Trinisphere. I got lucky and top deck'd my one of Forest directly after the Blasphemous Act, and if I didn't, I'm almost certain I'd have lost this one. This guy was also a beauty. Really started taking notice of how nice my opponents were. That always really helps me enjoy the experience, even when it's getting intense.
R7 - Another very nice guy, and a SUPER close games. He went on to win the whole Classic and made me feel very good about myself, complimenting my play and adding that, "Living End is usually a bye, but you made this VERY difficult." Or something to that extent.
I was probably dead for Top 8 by then, but I still felt really good. Especially when I hear that from my worst match-ups. Small victories.
R8 - No joke, I feel like I played the absolute best Magic of my life in the first game of this match. We played until about 18:00 left on the clock for game one. My opponent had a lot going on. Multiple Stitcher's Suppliers got the graveyard filled in a hurry and every cog in their machine was turning.
My rushed version of Living End only had access to one Archfiend of Ifnir, so I knew that I had to make use of it when I could. On board I was staring down about six zombie tokens, two Vengevines, two Greater Gargadons and a bunch of one toughness creatures.
The line I took was to Living End back all of his powerful stuff, because I could get Archfiend up in the air to get through. My opponent was at eight life when I cast Living End. I had one cycler in hand and knew I'd need to get a LITTLE lucky. But there were 20 cycle cards in the version I played, so it was a good chance.
I brought back the Archfiend and friends, as well as my opponent's thick graveyard. I proceeded to combat and attacked with Archfiend of Ifnir alone, bringing my opponent to three. When I shipped the turn back, my opponent swung for the fences and I cycled my lonely cycle card to put -1/-1's on all of his creatures (which wrath'd half of their board already). Draw from cycle and HEY! There's a Desert Cerodon!
Cycle again, kill all of the opponents zombies, Vengevine's are now 2/1's and I can chump the Gargadon's! The lonely Archfiend of Ifnir got to untap and get in for the final blow. What a crazy game.
It's worth noting that this grind fest went so long that I was fully aware that the mill-plan was alive and plausible. My opponent had three Stitcher's Suppliers in play at one time, they got killed, then brought back by a Living End, then killed again. You do the math, haha. Pair that with the amount of times my opponent Faithless Looting'd, and that's a recipe for disaster.
Overall, I learned a lot about myself as a player and gained a little bit of confidence this tournament. Even though Humans is the reason I put Living End on the shelf, Living End won the Modern Open, and I Top 16'd the classic with an unfocused version of the deck.
Sometimes, you do just have to play what you know. Or at least what you like. I avoided Humans ALL day. Sure, that's a stroke of luck in itself, but I also learned that I'm EASILY more confident with this deck, even through the hardships, than with any other deck in any format.
This tournament was a breath of fresh air for me and great experience. Lots of on-the-edge-of-your-seat moments, great friendships made, great friendships continued, new things learned and a spectacular finish for a friend.
If you enjoy competitive Magic, or even semi-competitive Magic, I definitely suggest trying an SCG Open Event. The set-up was great, the coverage is fantastic (I am a bit of a Matthias Hunt fan) and the atmosphere was nothing less than inviting. Hopefully I'll be back, and a little bit higher up in the Top 16 of the Classic next time. Or better yet, the Open.
Thanks a lot for stopping by and reading my thoughts and stories!
If you'd like to follow my adventure a little more closely, check me out on Twitter - @GoblinCredible
Until next time,
It's been a slice.