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.
I may not have gone undefeated last week, but it was one of the best tournaments I’ve played in a while. I had managed to streamline my Green/White midrange deck, locked up a winning record, opened up a bunch of great cards from by booster packs, and had a ton of fun!
In the past few weeks, I’ve experienced intense emotion on both ends of the spectrum. Some days, I leave our local store feeling elated; other days, I’m hanging my head in shame. Having put so much time and effort into perfecting my deck (more so than I would have if I wasn’t constrained by a budget) has made it so that my tournament highs fill me with excitement the likes I’ve never felt before, while my tournament lows sometimes sadden me so much that I feel like quitting on the spot. I had never felt the effects of such mood swings in the past when I was spending much less effort choosing, building, and refining a deck.
My days of building Tier 1 Standard decks are long gone, as is the luxury of caring much less about my match results. I constantly need to be on my toes, playing a game of inches and planning my every move. As such, every game loss feels all the more miserable, while every win feels much more exhilarating.
Having to rely on more than just card quality to win games and seeking success through a mix of clear-headedness, positive thinking, tight gameplay, and small deck innovations, the results of my efforts seem all the more pronounced.
Frankly, it’s exhausting.
But when I’m having fun, playing well, and winning games in the process, there’s no better feeling.
If a malevolent spirit visited you and gave you a choice between being stripped of all feeling and emotion for the rest of your life, or experiencing every emotion at its extreme (having the most pronounced, vivid, staggeringly intense feeling of elation when happy, but then experiencing the most soul crushing, immeasurable pain when depressed), which would you pick as the curse that would haunt you forever?
Would it be worth experiencing those highs and lows to such an extreme? Or would it just be better not to feel anything at all?
There’s no doubt about it. This experiment had certainly got my wheels turning.
I was ready to do battle again and put up a similar performance at this week’s tournament (if not better). As there are Standard events sanctioned on both Thursday and Friday nights at our local store, I would have the choice between playing my pre-rotation or post-rotation Standard deck the following week.
I had put a lot of effort into fine-tuning my current deck, and was already leaning towards playing it both this week and the next. On the other hand, I knew that I would eventually have to prepare for a post-rotation Standard format and figure out the best tools at my disposal for the Khans of Tarkir Game Day event a month down the line.
I would play my Green/White midrange deck this week, but would soon be faced with another tough decision. Should I stick with the same deck for a final week, or move on to a new one?
I. Spending Our Weekly Budget
Week 6 – $5 Purchases
3 [card]Eidolon of Countless Battles[/card] ($1.50 each)
1 [card]Ordeal of Thassa[/card] ($0.25)
1 [card]Ordeal of Nylea[/card] ($0.25)
There was no point in purchasing any more cards for my current deck, so I picked up the remaining copies of [card]Eidolon of Countless Battles[/card] to complete my playset, as well as the final copies of the Blue and Green Ordeals. I now had a playset of the White, Green, and Blue Ordeals.
Figuring out how to tackle the new Standard format with my budget constraints won’t be easy, so I figure the more options I have at my disposal, the better.
II. The Booster Pack
Booster Pack Contents (Notable):
– [card]Hornet Queen[/card]
– Spirit Token
I’ve amassed enough cards in recent weeks that the contents of my booster packs seem less important than they were when I first started this article series. I knew that [card]Hornet Queen[/card] was a decent pull, and I tucked it away in my trade binder before making the final changes to my deck.
III. The Changes
2 [card]Banishing Light[/card]
1 [card]Setessan Tactics[/card]
2 [card]Devouring Light[/card]
1 [card]Hushwing Gryff[/card]
Here’s the list I finalized before the Standard tournament:
[deck title=GW Aggro – Peter Sachlas]
4 Sunblade Elf
4 Soldier of the Pantheon
4 Imposing Sovereign
4 Fleecemane Lion
4 Boon Satyr
2 Scion of Vitu-Ghazi
4 Gods Willing
4 Selesnya Charm
4 Advent of the Wurm
2 Triplicate Spirits
2 Ajani’s Presence
4 Setessan Tactics
2 Reclamation Sage
2 Banishing Light
3 Hornet Nest
2 Glimpse the Sun God
IV. Tournament Report
ROUND 1 – vs Mono Green Devotion
I looked at the pairings and smiled. I would be facing the same local player I had been paired up against in recent weeks. You might remember my past matches against him as he had been playing versions of an aggressive white weenie deck with [card]Precinct Captain[/card] and [card]Brimaz, King of Oreskos[/card], as well as some unorthodox main deck inclusions such as [card]Nyx-Fleece Ram[/card] and [card]Path of Bravery[/card]. I always enjoy our games as they’re full of witty banter. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, and the games are always exciting.
I sat down and mentally prepared myself, knowing that I’d likely have to face a horde of small creatures which would grow fearsome alongside his Archangels of Thune.
“Roll for highest?” I suggested.
He nodded. I threw two 6-sided dice across the table, rolling a nine. My opponent chuckled.
“There’s no way I can beat a nine!” he joked. “I can never win dice rolls. Even if you let me roll three times I wouldn’t be able to beat a nine!”
He rolled a five.
He then shot me a conspiratorial look.
“I told you,” he said. “Watch this.”
He re-rolled and got a four. He flung the dice for a third time and rolled snake eyes.
I admitted that he had some pretty bad luck when it came to dice rolls. I had decided to play first, and we presented our decks to one another. I drew my opening hand and sighed.
“No lands!” I exclaimed. “Time to take a mulligan.”
“That’s the only way I win,” he joked. “I make sure that my opponents get terrible hands!”
I then took two more mulligans and settled on a four-card hand with a couple of lands and small creatures.
“I would have rather you won the die roll and not cursed my draws,” I chuckled.
I played my land and cast a [card]Soldier of the Pantheon[/card].
Instead of the Plains I expected to see from across the table, my opponent laid down a Forest and passed the turn back to me. He had switched decks!
Although I had managed an aggressive start with my Soldier and second turn [card]Sunblade Elf[/card], I was stuck on two lands and got stone-walled by a third turn [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card]. With nothing to lose, I attacked with my [card]Sunblade Elf[/card], holding my soldier back in an attempt to convince my opponent that I was holding a [card]Selesnya Charm[/card]. The bluff had worked and I dealt an extra two points of damage!
I eventually drew two copies of [card]Advent of the Wurm[/card] and had four lands in play, but only had one Forest and couldn’t cast either of them. My opponent had played an early Polukranos but was wary of a potential [card]Selesnya Charm[/card]. He eventually figured out that I didn’t have one and wiped my board with his hydra.
My four card hand was not powerful enough to clinch the first game. Who would’ve thought?
I took a mulligan to six cards in the second game but had a much stronger start this time around. I played a [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card] on my second turn, followed by a [card]Sunblade Elf[/card] and [card]Imposing Sovereign[/card]. My opponent couldn’t do much with his creatures entering the battlefield tapped. He eventually cast a Duress (as he was splashing black), and I cast my copy of [card]Advent of the Wurm[/card] in response, showing him a handful of lands. Lacking any appropriate removal for my creatures and struggling to set up a good line of defense due to my [card]Imposing Sovereign[/card], my opponent scooped shortly thereafter.
We shuffled up for the third game.
“I know you wouldn’t keep this,” my opponent declared. “But, I have to try it.”
My heart skipped a beat. My opponent was keeping a risky hand and he wasn’t even drawing a card for the turn. I was ready to capitalize on my opponent stumbling. He played a Forest and passed the turn.
I played a [card]Sunblade Elf[/card] and motioned for my opponent to draw his first card of the game. I had hoped to hear groans of agony from across the table when he realized that his risky keep wouldn’t pay off.
“Oh, thank goodness!” he cried.
He played a second Forest which he had clearly drawn off the top of his deck and then cast a [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] into a [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card]. I played a [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card] on the second turn, hoping to remain aggressive. My opponent untapped and played a Polukranos, having drawn a Nykthos for his turn.
He had taken a big risk in keeping a one-land hand, but had reaped the rewards. He activated his Nykthos, played a Nissa, and pummeled me into the ground.
As much as I would’ve liked to win the first match in hopes of going undefeated, I couldn’t be too hard on myself. I knew that all of my mulligan decisions had likely been correct, and I felt as though I had played well.
ROUND 2 – vs U/W Heroic
My opponent for this round was playing a budget version of Blue/White Heroic, which was perfect for me! I hoped that, by the end of the match, I’d be able to tell what worked and what didn’t work and apply my experience to building my post-rotation Heroic deck.
My opponent won the die roll and decided to play first. He kept his opening hand but I had to take a mulligan. I had been having a string of bad luck with my opening hands, but I wouldn’t be discouraged. I then had to mulligan twice more, having seen two more unkeepable hands, and kept at four.
“You cursed me!” I yelled across the room to my first round opponent. “I’ve been mulliganing into oblivion!” We both chuckled.
Luckily, my opponent had a very slow start, playing a [card]Heliod’s Pilgrim[/card] on his third turn and searching for a [card]Spectra Ward[/card]. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been able to capitalize on his slow start and knew that I couldn’t race a [card]Spectra Ward[/card] should he enchant one of his creatures. I had decided to play more cautiously, but my opponent was taking different lines and seemed to have abandoned the [card]Spectra Ward[/card] plan altogether. He eventually played a [card]Fabled Hero[/card] and used a combat trick to grow it while taking out one of my attacking creatures. He rode his [card]Fabled Hero[/card] to victory.
The second game went much more smoothly. I had established early board presence, casting a [card]Sunblade Elf[/card] into a second-turn [card]Soldier of the Pantheon[/card]. My opponent had played a [card]Fabled Hero[/card] on his third turn, but was tapped out and couldn’t protect it in any way. I cast a [card]Setessan Tactics[/card], growing both my creatures, fighting my Elf with his Hero and then attacked for three damage with my Soldier. I later bestowed a [card]Boon Satyr[/card] onto my Soldier and had cast a [card]Selesnya Charm[/card] for the final points of damage.
I faced an early [card]Fabled Hero[/card] for the third time during the final game, but had no [card]Setessan Tactics[/card] to deal with it. My opponent had played a [card]Cavalry Pegasus[/card] on his second turn, and was taking huge chunks out of my life total with his Flying Hero. Sitting at thirteen life, my opponent attacked with his 4/4 [card]Fabled Hero[/card] on the sixth turn, casting a combat trick and growing him to a 6/6. I barely survived the attack.
“Oh, darn,” pined my opponent. “I could have attacked with my Pegasus as well and won this turn…”
I drew a land for my turn and conceded the match. I had been granted an extra turn to stabilize but couldn’t find an answer to his Pegasus.
I was nervous. I had found myself in this same situation two weeks prior while playing my G/W Heroic deck. I had lost my first two rounds and was on the way to another miserable record. I needed to win the next to matches or walk home with my head hung low and my knuckles scraping the ground. I knew that I would feel even more embarrassed ending the tournament with a losing record playing with my refined G/W midrange deck.
At least I had learned something from our match. Having seen the power of [card]Fabled Hero[/card], I knew that it would make a great budget replacement for [card]Brimaz, King of Oreskos[/card] should I choose to play U/W Heroic in the coming weeks.
ROUND 3 – BYE
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s fun to trick people. Hearing that many of my loyal readers had been duped two weeks ago with my fake third round write-up had left me feeling warm and fuzzy.
I couldn’t try to trick you guys a second time; it would be wrong! Besides, how many of you would have actually fallen for it again?
I had been awarded the proverbial “crown of loserdom” for the second time this month. I had been given the third round bye and had to wait an hour before the next round would begin. I was bored out of my mind. I paced back and forth between games but was easily distracted, my attention waiving.
Luckily, one of my friends had finished his game early and we played some games for fun, waiting for the next round to begin.
By this point, I was getting bored of my current deck and was itching to build U/W Heroic.
ROUND 4 – vs Jund Planeswalkers
My opponent in the fourth round was pretty quiet and serious, so we played all of our games in silence. Being so quiet actually makes me mellow, and I knew that my attention was drifting and that I didn’t care about the outcome of the match. We weren’t playing for any prizes, and by this point, I had already made the decision to retire my deck and build U/W Heroic for the first ever post-rotation FNM event the following week.
My opponent had taken a mulligan to six and was on the play. I cast creature after creature into my opponent’s spot removal. Although my graveyard was quickly filled with the corpses of lions and elves thanks to three copies of [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] and a copy of [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card] from my opponent, I finally managed to stick a [card]Soldier of the Pantheon[/card] and [card]Sunblade Elf[/card] in the same turn. My opponent was stuck on three lands and made a desperate play, casting a [card]Domri Rade[/card] with nothing to protect it. I quickly disposed of the Planeswalker on the following turn, playing a [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card] and activating its Monstrous ability the turn after. My opponent saw no fourth land and conceded.
I had only seen a slew of spot removal and [card]Domri Rade[/card] in the first game, and thought that my opponent was playing an old version of Jund Monsters. I sideboarded incorrectly, and fell to an army of Planeswalkers in the second game. An early [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card] had helped my opponent churn out his Planeswalkers, and I soon found myself facing a [card]Xenagos, the Reveler[/card], [card]Chandra, Pyromaster[/card], [card]Domri Rade[/card], and [card]Nissa, Worldwaker[/card]. I had little way to interact with them and fell to an onslaught of 4/4 trampling lands.
My opponent had another early [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card] in the third game, which would normally spell doom for my midrange deck. Fortunately, every land that my opponent had played was a Green/Black scryland or shockland and he was missing a second red source. He tried casting a [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card] on the fourth turn but I pointed out his error and he was forced to return it to his hand.
Clearly discouraged, my opponent put up little resistance and quickly fell to my multiple copies of [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card] pumped by my [card]Sunblade Elf[/card]. He had no way of casting his Dragons or his Chandras and had lost because he lacked a second red source.
Thank goodness I won at least one of my matches!
V. Week 6 Wrap-Up (and trades)
Overall Record To-Date: 13-13
Well, I narrowly dodged a bullet. I would have been terribly upset with myself should I have lost all three matches. My mediocre results made me question whether I was just having a bad day when I first tried playing Green/White Heroic a few weeks prior. Maybe I gave up too easily and it just needed more testing.
In any case, I had decided to officially retire my Green/White midrange deck, opting to build a variation of Jared Boettcher’s Blue/White Pro Tour Block Heroic deck to play at our local store’s first ever Khans of Tarkir Standard FNM next week.
Wish me luck!
Week 6 Trades
No trades this week. I already had most of the cards for the U/W Heroic deck and I wasn’t looking very hard to find a trade partner. Maybe my hoarding will pay off with a big trade in the future!