Welcome back to “Game Day Grinder”, the article series that follows a veteran Magic: the Gathering player and his journey to discover what it feels like to try playing competitively whilst constrained by a budget.
If you’re new to the series, click here for links to all the previous articles.
What a perfect weekend to have been lazing around and doing absolutely nothing! I lounged on my bed all day Saturday and Sunday, snacks in hand, with the official MTG Twitch stream blaring on my computer screen. The Khans of Tarkir Pro Tour was in full swing, and I watched dozens of deck techs, interviews, and live matches. As the evening drew on and Ari Lax was crowned Pro Tour Champion, I found myself in a state of misery. The Pro Tour had been too exciting. Too many interesting decks were showcased. There were so many powerful options for Standard going forward, and I wouldn’t be able to try out any of them. Players would be sleeving up new, streamlined decks such as Jeskai Wins, Abzan Midrange, U/B Control, Abzan Aggro, and Jeskai Combo (among many others), and I was stuck playing a budget U/W Heroic deck, the likes of which hadn’t been showcased at the most prestigious event of the season.
I woke up the following Friday morning and made a concerted effort to think more positively. Maybe it was a good thing that I was playing an unknown deck archetype. I would have the upper hand against opponents playing Pro Tour decks, armed with knowledge of their deck inclusions and strategy. Hopefully, my opponents won’t have had enough time to grow accustomed to their new deck and might make some inexperienced decisions when facing my Heroic army.
I knew that I had to make some last minute changes to the deck before the Game Day weekend. My first order of business? Paying my entry fee and cracking the last entry booster pack of my Game Day Grinder career.
I. The Booster Pack
Booster Pack Contents (Notable):
– [card]Bloodstained Mire [/card]
– [card]Monastery Swiftspear[/card]
– [card]Sandsteppe Citadel[/card]
The stars were aligning! The fetchland I had cracked would give me some extra pocket change for some of the new cards I needed.
II. Spending Our Weekly Budget
Week 10 – $5 Purchases
With my weekly budget of $5 and the $7.10 I had saved from previous weeks, I had $12.10 in cash to spend on new cards. Without much time to trade with other players, I decided to exchange some of my more valuable cards to the store in hopes of obtaining enough store credit to push my deck even further.
I was more determined than ever. This would be my last shot at attaining an undefeated FNM record and the last time I would play in a Game Day event for this article series.
I scoured my Game Day Grinder Binder and traded in the following cards:
– [card]Bloodstained Mire[/card]
– [card]Hornet Queen[/card]
– [card]Sidisi, Brood Tyrant[/card]
– [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card] x4
– [card]Soldier of the Pantheon[/card] x4
– [card]Crackling Doom[/card]
– [card]Setessan Tactics[/card] x4
Store Credit Obtained: $45.00
Plus Budget Amount: $12.10
Total Funds Available: $57.10
– 1x [card]Brimaz, King of Oreskos[/card] ($35)
– 4x [card]Seeker of the Way[/card] (0.50 each)
– 1x [card]Flooded Strand[/card] ($20)
I decided to replace my [card]Battlewise Hoplite[/card]s with a playset of [card]Seeker of the Way[/card]. I would often find myself with two creatures on the board, enchanting a [card]Hero of Iroas[/card], [card]Fabled Hero[/card], or [card]Favored Hoplite[/card] and ignoring my [card]Battlewise Hoplite[/card]. If I was going to cast a 2/2 for two mana that would often remain unenchanted, why not instead play a 2/2 that would grow bigger even when I enchanted my other creatures? The worst case scenario would be that I fail miserably because of the change and revert back to my old deck list. The best case scenario would be finding out just how strong [card]Seeker of the Way[/card] really is!
III. The Changes
Main Deck (IN):
4x [card]Seeker of the Way[/card]
1x [card]Brimaz, King of Oreskos[/card]
1x [card]Flooded Strand[/card]
1x [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card]
Main Deck (OUT):
4x [card]Battlewise Hoplite[/card]
1x [card]Fabled Hero[/card]
1x [card]Hopeful Eidolon[/card]
1x [card]Ordeal of Heliod[/card]
1x [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card]
Here’s the list I finalized before the Standard tournament:
[deck title=UW Heroic – Peter Sachlas]
4 Temple of Enlightenment
1 Flooded Strand
4 Favored Hoplite
4 Hero of Iroas
4 Seeker of the Way
4 Eidolon of Countless Battles
2 Fabled Hero
1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
4 Aqueous Form
4 Ordeal of Thassa
3 Ordeal of Heliod
2 Stratus Walk
4 Gods Willing
3 Ajani’s Presence
3 Hopeful Eidolon
2 Swan Song
1 Ordeal of Heliod
2 Glare of Heresy
3 Voyage’s End
2 Banishing Light
IV. Tournament Report
ROUND 1 – vs Abzan Midrange
Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir had transpired over the weekend, and I had been glued to my computer screen for the entire three day-long period of the highest level of competitive Magic. Having watched many of the interviews, deck techs, and much of the live match coverage, I had committed the top deck lists to memory. One of the decks showcased over the weekend had been Ari Lax’s winning Abzan Midrange deck, which I found myself facing in the first round of the tournament. Luckily, I was equipped with knowledge of the Pro Tour lists; I wouldn’t be caught off guard this week!
My opponent led with a [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card] on the second turn after having played a [card]Sandsteppe Citadel[/card] on the first. The inclusion of [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card] meant that I was more likely facing a midrange version of the deck, rather than Mike Sigrist’s Abzan Aggro list. To my surprise, my opponent immediately blocked my [card]Favored Hoplite[/card], allowing me to cast [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card] and rid myself of the pesky hexproof creature. I then followed with a [card]Seeker of the Way[/card], later enchanting my hoplite with an [card]Ordeal of Thassa[/card] and [card]Aqueous Form[/card] as my opponent tapped out for creatures such as [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card] and [card]Siege Rhino[/card].
My opponent seemed to be lacking removal spells, and the inevitability of my unblockable creature, paired with the life point swings from my [card]Seeker of the Way[/card], made it difficult for my opponent to fight back. I handily won the first game.
I had a full grip of creatures and enchantments in the second game, but lacked a [card]Gods Willing[/card] or [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card] to keep them safe. My three first creatures met grisly fates as my opponent chained copies of [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card] and [card]Abzan Charm[/card]. I then found myself facing a [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card], but it seemed as though my opponent was out of gas and it was safe to start piling enchantments onto my remaining creature. I had brought my opponent down to a precarious life total, but an [card]Ajani, Mentor of Heroes[/card] wound up fetching two copies of Elspeth which put a damper on my plans. Without a copy of [card]Aqueous Form[/card] to race favorably, my creatures were quickly outranked by an army of tokens, and I fell quickly.
We both kept six card hands in the final game, but I couldn’t have sculpted a better hand. An early [card]Hero of Iroas[/card] was enchanted with an Ordeal and protected by a copy of [card]Gods Willing[/card]. I kept on the pressure, taking significant chunks out of my opponent’s life total, and met little resistance. He had cast a [card]Siege Rhino[/card] and an unraided [card]Wingmate Roc[/card] in a feeble attempt to defend himself, but the two copies of [card]Glare of Heresy[/card] I had drawn made my job easy. I removed his lone bird and attacked for the win!
ROUND 2 – vs Jeskai Wins
I was met with another Pro Tour deck list in the second round. Although there were some slight differences between Jeskai Wins decks, the core of each deck remained the same. Having to play around playsets of [card]Magma Jet[/card], [card]Lightning Strike[/card], [card]Jeskai Charm[/card], and [card]Stoke the Flames[/card] wouldn’t be easy. Being patient would definitely be the key to victory.
My opponent was on the play and had spent his first few turns setting up his mana base and sitting on his arsenal of burn spells. I waited until the second turn to cast my [card]Favored Hoplite[/card], saving it from a [card]Magma Jet[/card] with a copy of [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card]. On my third turn, I drew my one copy of Brimaz and beamed. Not only would I be able to cast the powerful Lion King, but I was able to cast him on the most optimal turn! I swung with my hoplite and then cast the king of all cats.
The smell of singed cat hair was nauseating.
My opponent had immediately cast a copy of [card]Stoke the Flames[/card], incinerating Brimaz and ripping my heart in two. At least my $35 purchase had prevented four damage to my face and saved my smaller creatures. Although Brimaz’s life was cut short, he would live on in my heart.
I drew a timely [card]Gods Willing[/card], allowing me to enchant my hoplite with an [card]Ordeal of Thassa[/card], protecting my creature from another burn spell, and drawing two additional cards. My opponent seemed to have run out of spells and conceded the game.
Interestingly, I wasn’t aware that my opponent was playing Jeskai Wins at this point. I had only seen red and white lands on his side of the field and thought that he might have been playing some sort of Boros Burn deck and sided accordingly. I should have realized that the first game win had been too easy. He had scooped his cards with a full grip, and it should have clicked that he was likely missing a third color.
I only managed to play three lands the entire second game, but I had drawn the nuts. Not only had I been able to enchant an early [card]Favored Hoplite[/card] with an [card]Ordeal of Thassa[/card], protected by two copies of [card]Gods Willing[/card], but I eventually drew into two additional copies of the card. The game didn’t last long. I chained two copies of [card]Gods Willing[/card], effectively time walking my opponent as he struggled to remove my pesky creature, and still had two others left in hand at the end of the game.
I had lucked out and easily clinched another win!
ROUND 3 – vs Budget U/R Artifacts
I had been paired down against an eccentric fellow with a bubbly personality in the third round. I had watched him cast a winning [card]Shrapnel Blast[/card] on the third turn of his last game that had gone to time in the first round, and knew he was playing a budget version of Blue/Red Artifacts. Although the majority of his deck was made up of underwhelming cards, I knew that I’d have to be wary of multiple copies of [card]Ensoul Artifact[/card] and [card]Shrapnel Blast[/card].
We sat down, greeted one another, and shuffled up for one of the craziest games I’ve ever played.
My opponent took an early lead as I had to mulligan to six cards, keeping a handful of enchantments and instants with only an [card]Eidolon of Countless Battles[/card] filling my creature slot. He played a [card]Bronze Sable[/card] on the second turn and I let out a sigh of relief. With my opponent playing 2/1 creatures, I would have all the time in the world to set up an impressive army. Or so I thought…
The [card]Bronze Sable[/card] was immediately enchanted with a copy of [card]Ensoul Artifact[/card] and a quarter of my life total was lost in the blink of an eye. I held my Eidolon, playing a scryland and hoping to set up a meager line of defense the following turn. My opponent brought me down to ten life and passed.
I cast my 1/1 Eidolon and wiped the sweat from my brow. Winning this game seemed nigh impossible. My opponent swung in for the third time with his 5/5 weasel and I blocked, saving my Eidolon with one of the copies of [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card] I had been holding. Neither creature had been destroyed. My opponent then followed up with a 5/3 Scrapyard Mongrel. I looked at the round clock and seriously considered conceding. I was dejected and felt miserable, knowing that it’d be difficult to outplay my opponent when all he had to do was keep attacking me in order to win. But for some inexplicable reason, I soldiered on.
I enchanted my Eidolon with an [card]Ordeal of Heliod[/card] and [card]Aqueous Form[/card], growing it to a 3/3 and passing the turn without attacking. My opponent seemed confused by my play and attacked with both his creatures. I blocked the Mongrel and cast my second copy of [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card], going down to 4 life. My opponent then cast a [card]Rummaging Goblin[/card] and passed the turn.
I drew a [card]Stratus Walk[/card] and panicked. I had no other creatures to chump block and I was in dire straits. I was one [card]Shrapnel Blast[/card] away from death and things looked bleak. I attacked with my Eidolon, adding a counter with the Ordeal and scrying with the [card]Aqueous Form[/card]. I saw a [card]Fabled Hero[/card] on the top of my library and left it there. On my second main phase, I enchanted my Eidolon with the [card]Stratus Walk[/card], drew the [card]Fabled Hero[/card], and immediately cast it.
I was all but dead. My Eidolon could now only block flying creatures and I would be forced to chump block with my [card]Fabled Hero[/card].
Miraculously, my opponent passed the turn without attacking while I was tapped out. What was he afraid of? He played a Morph creature and passed the turn. Even with my opponent having given me an extra turn to survive, I was dead on board. If the face-down creature had more than two power, or had a relevant effect (such as on [card]Thousand Winds[/card]), I was done for. I drew a Plains to go with the other one left in my hand, sighed, and swung with my flying Eidolon. I kept a second copy of [card]Aqueous Form[/card] on the top of my library and had accepted my grisly fate.
My opponent unmorphed his creature on his turn, revealing a [card]Jeering Instigator[/card], and I prepared to scoop. He could simply steal my only blocker and attack for the win.
Just then, something miraculous happened. Instead of stealing my [card]Fabled Hero[/card], he chose to take my [card]Eidolon of Countless Battles[/card]. Was this really happening? Was I actually going to win this game?
My opponent swung with my Eidolon and his 5/5 sable. I re-read both [card]Ordeal of Heliod[/card] and [card]Aqueous Form[/card] and my heart skipped a beat. My opponent controlled the Eidolon, but I still controlled the enchantments. The third counter was added to the Eidolon and the Ordeal was sacrificed, and I gained ten life! I took all of the damage and stabilized at 4. My opponent tapped out and cast a Glacial Crasher, clearly surprised at how his plan had backfired. I drew the [card]Aqueous Form[/card], enchanted my [card]Fabled Hero[/card], and attacked for 13 points of damage, stealing the win.
I was shell shocked. My mind was reeling. I had somehow won from an unwinnable position.
The second game was a haze, but I remember that it wasn’t particularly close. I led with two [card]Favored Hoplite[/card]s, saving one from being bounced by a [card]Force Away[/card] with a copy of [card]Gods Willing[/card]. With a lone [card]Aeronaut Tinkerer[/card] as a line of defense, I enchanted my hoplites with a couple of Ordeals and quickly won the second game.
The pressure was mounting. This was the last chance to go undefeated before Game Day and I felt sick to my stomach. I had fantasized about going 4-0 in my final week and then winning Game Day, and the first part of my dream would come true if only I could win the final game.
ROUND 4 – vs Abzan Aggro
I had been paired down for the second time this tournament, but was happy to see a familiar face smiling back at me when I went to sit down. I had played my opponent once or twice before, and had had positive experiences all around. Regardless of the outcome, we would end the day with a fun and exciting match.
My opponent led things off with an early [card]Rakshasa Deathdealer[/card], and I thanked the heavens for knowing the Abzan Aggro deck list card for card. Mike Sigrist had made Top 4 of the Pro Tour with the deck and I was more invested in his results than anyone else’s, as he was a part of Team Face to Face Games. I had pored over his list during the weekend and watched intently every time he was on camera. I had an advantage knowing what to play around and what the aggro version of Abzan had as a game plan.
While my opponent kept the pressure on with the Deathdealer, I was forced to go all-in on one of my creatures as I lacked a spell to protect it. A timely [card]Abzan Charm[/card] cleared the path for the Deathdealer and a later [card]Siege Rhino[/card] clinched the game for my opponent.
Just then, his cell phone started ringing.
“Sorry about that,” he said. “It’s just a friend calling. I’ll just ignore him until after the match.”
I nodded graciously and we began to pile shuffle, preparing for the next game. The cell phone started ringing once more and my opponent groaned. He apologized and picked up the phone.
“Sorry, I’m in a match right now,” he hastily announced. “I’ll call you in five to ten minutes.”
He hung up and I made an exaggerated gesture with my hands, opening my palms towards the sky.
“Only five to ten minutes?!” I sarcastically shouted. “That’s how short you think the next games will be?!”
The players around us burst into raucous laughter. We joined in, laughing heartily at my joke. Even if I lost the match, at least I felt good about having made others chuckle so vigorously.
“All right, all right,” I teased. “I guess you’re right. I’ll just win the second game in three minutes and the third game in seven.”
We smiled and shuffled up.
I led the game with a [card]Favored Hoplite[/card], refusing to enchant it with anything for several turns. My opponent cast another early [card]Rakshasa Deathdealer[/card], and we began playing a game of cat and mouse, neither of us willing to make the first big move. My opponent eventually tapped out to cast a [card]Siege Rhino[/card], and I saw my opportunity. I drew my card, slammed a [card]Hero of Iroas[/card] onto the table, and spent my remaining three mana enchanting my hoplite with two Ordeals of Heliod and an [card]Ordeal of Thassa[/card].
“I attack with my 7/8 hoplite, gaining twenty life and drawing two cards.”
“Oh, is that all? Only twenty life and two cards? Geez, that deck is sure fair, isn’t it?” joked one of the players sitting next to us.
My opponent took everything in stride, joining in on the fun, but eventually called it quits and scooped.
A different player sitting near us looked at his watch and jokingly offered: “That was three minutes!”
As much as I’d love to regale you with a gripping tale of the last match, I seriously don’t remember anything from the game. My notepad remains blank, as does my memory. I guess I was too excited to take down notes, having won the last game and finally going undefeated!
As I was packing up, one of the players next to us offered his congratulations.
“Way to go! That deck seems really strong. Have you read the weekly article on ManaDeprived.com about the guy playing it at his local FNMs?”
I tried to keep my emotions in check, but failed miserably. A huge grin spread across my face and I couldn’t help but chuckle.
“That’s me!” I blurted. “I’m the author of Game Day Grinder.”
“No way! You’re the Game Day Grinder? This week was your last chance to go 4-0! Holy Moly! Way to go, man!”
I was flying high. Not only had I achieved an undefeated record at the last event before the KTK Game Day, but a fan had emerged from the woodwork. Knowing that he enjoyed my articles and read them on a weekly basis, and that he was happy that I had managed a 4-0 record was almost surreal. It filled my heart with joy. Even if I failed miserably during the Game Day weekend, I wouldn’t soon forget how happy I was in this moment.
V. Week 10 Wrap-Up (and trades)
Overall Record To-Date: 25-17
I was on cloud nine.
I had finally achieved an undefeated record, I was getting recognition for my article series, and I felt as though I actually had a shot at making Top 8 at Khans of Tarkir Game Day.
I sat down to crack my winning pack, as giddy as a schoolgirl.
Winning Pack 1 (Notable Cards):
– [card]Hardened Scales[/card]
Winning Pack 2 (Notable Cards):
– [card]Rakshasa Deathdealer[/card]
– [card]Suspension Field[/card]
– [card]Chief of the Edge[/card]
Winning Pack 3 (Notable Cards):
– [card]Rakshasa Vizier[/card]
– [card]Opulent Palace[/card]
Winning Pack 4 (Notable Cards):
– [card]Sage of the Inward Eye[/card]
– [card]Sultai Charm[/card]
I was so happy about my 4-0 record that I didn’t care in the least that I hadn’t cracked anything too valuable. If people started playing Abzan Aggro, then the value of [card]Rakshasa Deathdealer[/card] might climb a bit higher, but it didn’t matter to me. I packed up and headed home. I had a big day ahead of me. I planned to get a good night’s sleep and eat a hearty breakfast. With the addition of Seekers of the Way and Brimaz to my roster, I would be unstoppable!