My weekend started late Thursday night, when one Andrew “Box” Klein messaged me on Facebook:
After a few minutes, I decided not to go:
Box didn’t know it, but those were the exact words to convince me to play. Magic players tend to be fiercely competitive. Some, such as myself, are also petty. Heck, I don’t even have anything against Tenjum, I was just indignant at the idea of being considered dead money.
I wonder how many of my finishes have been fueled by a silly “I’ll show them!” mentality.
My Friday night stream was a bit shorter than usual. I was cold, shivering, and sweating at the same time, and wasn’t sure if I had a fever or not. I kept losing with Bant Spirits—my draws were poor and my Companys kept missing. Someone in the chat suggested scrapping the deck entirely. I looked over at the physical version I’d set out for the next day, all sleeved and ready.
If I were just trying a deck out for the first time, the losing streak would’ve been enough to discourage me, but over many matches of Modern I knew I had the best win rate with it, and I liked my matchups.
I woke up at 5 a.m. on Saturday to fulfill my streaming obligation for my 365-day challenge. Even on the short days when I have to fit the stream in around travel or something else, I try and at least get a few hours in to give people something worth watching.
After that, it was a short hour+ drive to get to the site. The best thing about Milwaukee is that it’s so close to Madison.
The short version of the tournament is that my Collected Companys hit when they needed to, I generally played fine, and I knew my matchups.
One question that I get a lot is “has streaming full time improved your game?” Conditioning-wise, the 24-hour streams definitely helped. I was a bit sick over the weekend, but whenever I got into a match my discomfort kind of fell away as I focused on the game.
I went 8-1 on Day 1, picking up my loss to one Peter Tragos on Infect. If memory serves, this was my second time losing to him with that deck.
At one point I faced Jund, which can be a tougher matchup depending on how the hands match up, with new Liliana being one of the scarier cards you might face, but my draws lined up well. He had a Night of Soul’s Betrayal on game 2, which is incredible against a Noble Hierarch draw, but I had a Drogskol Captain hand instead and ran him over.
My Lantern opponent was in the middle of a family crisis and kept receiving bad news about an elderly family member as our match went on. He got a game loss in our first game for having a sideboard card, and game 2 he got locked out by a Stony Silence. Rough stuff.
My last round of the day was Bant Eldrazi, which is yet another draw-dependent matchup. Spirits tends to win the games where you have time to develop, and Bant Eldrazi tends to win the games where it plays a turn 2 Thought-Knot Seer.
The key play came down to the first Thought-Knot Seer. I didn’t even have a 1-drop this game, just a Rattlechains, and his Seer saw a hand of Path to Exile, Phantasmal Image, and Drogskol Captain. Now, the intuitive line here would’ve been to fire off the Path with the Thought-Knot trigger on the stack to make sure I could answer it, but in this case if he takes the Path then I can end-of-turn Drogskol (thanks to Rattlechains), untap, and cast Image to win with double Drogskol. Similarly, the Drogskol isn’t worth flashing in in response, because if he takes it I can just Image the Thought-Knot and Path the original.
My opponent didn’t know it, but my best card against Bant Eldrazi was actually Phantasmal Image, and that was probably his only pick to stay in the game.
At dinner I couldn’t eat. I’d ordered a nice meatloaf hoping it would be good for my stomach, but the tomato-based gravy turned out to be a little too acidic. I drank some hot tea and felt better.
When I travel, I need to make sure I can stream from whatever location I’m staying, and hotel internet isn’t good for that. In this case, Greg and Colette had graciously allowed me to stream from their apartment so I could continue my 365 days of streaming challenge. After meeting their various feline friends (one of which had a giant framed portrait on the wall), I downloaded XSplit, took a few screen captures, and fired up a janky version of my regular stream.
Exhaustion made it hard to focus, but it helped that other people were there hanging out, and we plugged the laptop into the big screen so that the group could critique my amazing Draft skills. Colette threw chocolate at my face until I modded her on my stream, which is exactly the sort of abusive behavior I look for in my mods anyway.
I didn’t sleep well, but I wouldn’t have slept well anywhere. I kept waking up in a cold sweat, tossing and turning before finally drifting off for a few more fitful minutes of sleep. Finally, I found some Robotussin and passed out.
My Day 2 gauntlet was basically the Top 8:
- A fellow Madisonian on Dredge
- Jim Davis on Dredge
- Paul Myers on Affinity (T8)
- Samuel Jadin (DaSneakyPete) on Ad Naus (T8) 0-1
- Jeremy Jung on Scapeshift (T8)
- Michael Janny on Zoo (T8) 0-1
Dredge is one of those spell-based combo decks that turns out to be a good matchup. The combination of flyers and counters for Cathartic Reunion makes game 1 surprisingly winnable, and then you bring in some hot Rest in Peace action to put them away.
Affinity is a good deck, but it’s used to flying being a relevant form of evasion, and that’s just not the case against Spirits. Rattlechains eats Signal Pests, Selfless Spirit bricks entire attack steps, and Cranial Plating is often irrelevant.
Paul Myers was my first (and only) Affinity opponent on the weekend. Our Swiss match came down to an early Stony Silence getting me pretty far ahead, to the point where a topdecked Ghirapur Aether Grid wasn’t enough to get him back in it.
Samuel Jadin was my second loss on the weekend with Ad Nauseaum. Now, I’ve played against Ad Nauseum a decent amount on Magic Online, and it’s a pretty good matchup since they need to resolve a five-mana spell. This means they have a big problem with Mausoleum Wanderer, especially if you can pump it up on their turn and disrupt their mana development. Usually, you have time to Company for Wanderer as well.
That said, Jadin (a.k.a. DaSneakyPete) was my best prepared opponent on the weekend, and something of an Ad Naus expert. Online, he has 14 listed finishes with Ad Nauseum, which is more finishes than most people have total.
Our match was uneventful. In game 1 he had the win + Pact on turn 4. In game 2 I tanked on a hand based on Geist of Saint Traft, which is the best pressure in the matchup, but there was no disruption. Of course, post-board there’s more disruption and fewer dead draws, which is why I ended up keeping the hand, but the Geist got Thoughtseized and I flooded out and died.
I was pretty happy to be playing against Scapeshift for my win-and-in, as it’s another one of those spell-based combo matchups where Wanderer and Queller do way more work than they should, and Selfless Spirit protects everything from Anger of the Gods.
In game 1 I got to Spell Queller an early Explore before untapping and slamming a Steel of the Godhead on it against a tapped-out opponent—doubling my clock and protecting the Queller from Lightning Bolt.
With my current sideboard, I don’t bring in anything against Scapeshift. It’s important to leave in some number of Path to Exiles, as you can beat a Primeval Titan in some games and sometimes they board in more creatures.
The final round was a little screwy, where there were three 12-2s but none of us could play each other. I’d already played the X-1 (Ad Naus), as well as Myers on Affinity, which lead to a pair down against Michael Janny on Zoo. From my impression of my breakers from a few rounds previous, I was under the impression that I might have to win this round to Top 8.
Michael himself was not someone you’d expect to face in the last round of a Magic tournament. He had a relaxed air, and seemed confused about how many rounds were left. I complimented his playmat, which had a bunch of sweet dead bodies on it, and we small-talked about metal.
I’ve messed around with Zoo on Magic Online a decent amount because it’s a pleasant deck to stream with, but eventually set it aside after losing to Dredge (and specifically Gnaw to the Bone) a bunch of times in a row. Michael had been chewing through Dredge all weekend, but also hadn’t seen many Gnaw to the Bones.
From the Spirits side, I was going in blind. I knew what cards I had that were good in the matchup, and I knew it’d probably play out close to a creature-heavy Burn hand, but I hadn’t actually faced Zoo in all my months of testing Spirits. Zoo just isn’t a popular deck on MTGO.
Going into game 2, I was so pleased to see Blessed Alliance in my sideboard, and so tired from the weekend that I plum forgot to bring in the Rhox War Monk. Fortunately, it wasn’t necessary. I Pathed a creature in response to a Ghor-Clan Rampager, and closed out the game at 2 life.
In game 3 we got to a critical turn where he played his last 2 cards—Ghor-Clan Rampager and Atarka’s Command—to kill me from 10 before I could untap and stabilize.
Overall this was my closest, most intense match of the weekend, and I lost. I figured I was dead for Top 8, and went into the hallway to grab a sadness hot dog from the concession stand.
Fortunately, the other matches in the last round ended in my favor, and I heard them announce my name from the hallway. Nick Miller tracked me down and herded me, floppy sadness dog in tow, over to the rest of the group and through the paperwork.
My quarterfinals opponent was a rematch of Paul Myers on Affinity, and I no-sir’d the Top 8 split. Not because Myers was bad—I respected him from our Swiss match—but because Affinity was one of my best possible matchups. You can lose games, but it’s hard to drop a match, and I’m something like X-2 versus it lifetime.
Myers looked like he was fading. I’m sure I was too, but I felt fine. Our match played out in typical fashion, with a slight divergence in game 2 when I needed to use an Engineered Explosives to deal with an Etched Champion.
My semifinal opponent was a rematch of my Day 2 Scapshift matchup, and he was also fading. He hadn’t expected to make it that far, and I could tell it was wearing on him a bit.
People that watched the match have been asking me what was going on at the end of our match where he cast a Primeval Titan instead of a lethal Scapeshift, and the answer is that he was simply exhausted.
On the one hand, you’re seeing the players that hit a sweet spot in the meta, players that knew their deck and played well to get there, but you’re also seeing them at their worst, tired from travel and some 18 rounds of Magic.
The finals was yet another rematch, this time my Ad Nauseum loss. I’m not sure how Jadin boarded, but it’s possible he over-reacted to the Stony Silences and boarded out some amount of artifact mana. This seems fine in theory, but in that case the Stonys have already done their job—the idea is to hinder the opponent’s mana so that Mausoleum Wanderer is more effective.
I bungled my last turn of the tournament pretty badly when I cast a Drogskol Captain instead of simply activating Gavony Township, which allowed him to Pact. I then compounded my error by sacrificing Wanderer, thinking that then he couldn’t hold up Angel’s Grace and I could get in for lethal. He paid, my Captain got countered, and I no longer had lethal. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but he didn’t have it—paying the Pact of Negation trigger, drawing, and packing it in.
They took a few photos and did a short interview. Fortunately, Sam Black had run deep in the Standard event, so I caught a ride back with him/Severa/Louis Kaplan and Eddie’s car didn’t need to wait for me.
As far as changes to the deck going forward, I’m sure I’ll be tweaking things as the meta evolves, but for now I like this 75. After Day 1 I wasn’t sure about Steel of the Godhead, but it put in work on Day 2. Anything you end up with in that slot is going to be hit or miss, and so long as Geist of Saint Traft is good in the meta, I like having the potential to derf combo people.