Game Day Grinder – Week 7

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.

Remember the last time I tried building a Heroic deck? Remember how I got stomped and quickly moved back to a safer deck choice?

When I had first tried building a Green/White Heroic deck, it was more out of curiosity and in hopes of getting a head start on refining a post-KTK Standard deck than it was out of necessity. This time around, I had little choice in the matter. Many of my cards had rotated and I would need to settle on a new deck for the coming weeks and for the Khans of Tarkir Game Day.

The difference this time around? I wouldn’t have the luxury of falling back on a safer choice should the deck play terribly.

I had made the decision to trade my Forests for Islands, benching my [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card]s and Ordeals of Nylea for [card]Battlewise Hoplite[/card]s and [card]Aqueous Form[/card]s. Khans of Tarkir had just been released, and I planned to dominate the new Standard metagame.

With any luck, I would go undefeated at this week’s Friday Night Magic tournament. If I couldn’t manage a 4-0 record, I hoped to put up a better performance than when I had first played the Green/White version of the deck.

If the deck doesn’t perform well in the coming weeks, I’m not sure what I’ll do. I’ve invested all of my time, effort, and budget into creating my new deck, and to have to backtrack would be crippling.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that!

I. Spending Our Weekly Budget

Week 7 – $5 Purchases

2x [card]Stratus Walk[/card] ($0.15 each)
3x [card]Voyage’s End[/card] ($0.15 each)
2x [card]Glare of Heresy[/card] ($0.25 each)
4x [card]Tranquil Cove[/card] ($0.25 each)

Total: $2.25

~ $2.75 saved for next week ~

There weren’t many inexpensive cards left to purchase for my deck. I knew that I’d have to put in a lot of effort (and get really lucky) to work towards getting the more expensive cards like [card]Temple of Enlightenment[/card], [card]Mana Confluence[/card], and [card]Brimaz, King of Oreskos[/card].

Having purchased the final pieces for my Heroic deck, I decided to save the remaining budget amount for a following week. I love buying new cards as much as the next person, and I had an urge to splurge on even more items, but I restrained myself and pocketed the extra cash. I hoped that it would come in handy in the near future.

II. The Booster Pack

Khans of Tarkir is shaping up to be one of the most popular and best-selling sets yet. And can you really blame all the players scrambling to get their hands on booster boxes, fat packs, and new cards? With fetch lands reprinted and many cards that’ll shake up the Standard format, it’s no wonder booster packs are such a hot commodity!

Gone are the days of opening Magic 2015 booster packs when entering a weekly tournament. My chances of opening valuable cards has increased tenfold now that Khans of Tarkir is on the market. I grabbed my booster pack and held it tight, my thoughts drifting to a fantastical universe in which I would open a [card]Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker[/card] and foil fetchland in the same pack…

Booster Pack Contents (Notable):

– [card]Ghostfire Blade[/card]
– [card]Murderous Cut[/card]
– [card]Mardu Heart-Piercer[/card]

Disappointed yet again! No fetchland and no exciting Mythic Rare. There was nothing left to do but shake off the frustration and take one last look at my deck list.

III. The Changes

It’s finally time to test our Blue/White Heroic deck in a new Standard metagame!

Here’s the list I finalized before the Standard tournament:

[deck title=UW Heroic – Peter Sachlas]
4 Tranquil Cove
11 Plains
6 Island
4 Favored Hoplite
1 Hopeful Eidolon
4 Hero of Iroas
4 Battlewise Hoplite
4 Eidolon of Countless Battles
3 Fabled Hero
[Other Spells]
4 Aqueous Form
4 Ordeal of Thassa
3 Ordeal of Heliod
2 Stratus Walk
4 Gods Willing
2 Ajani’s Presence
[/Other Spells]
3 Hopeful Eidolon
3 Swan Song
2 Deicide
2 Glare of Heresy
3 Voyage’s End
2 Banishing Light

IV. Tournament Report

ROUND 1 – vs Jeskai Midrange

Over ninety players came to our local store for the Friday Night Magic Standard and Draft events on Khans of Tarkir Release Day and the energy in the room was palpable. You could tell how excited everyone was to play with cards from the new set. As I shook hands and introduced myself to my first round opponent, he explained excitedly that he was attending his first ever sanctioned tournament. He was a kitchen table player who had little time to play in sanctioned events because of his schooling, but he had so much fun opening his booster boxes of Khans of Tarkir that he had decided to build a deck and play at the last minute.

He was itching to play with his new deck, and so was I. With so many people in the room having in-depth conversations and heated arguments about Khans of Tarkir, I was getting antsy to play. We shuffled our decks and drew our first ever KTK Standard legal opening hands.

My opponent had won the die roll and was on the play. His first couple of turns consisted of playing two tap lands; a [card]Mystic Monastery[/card], and [card]Swiftwater Cliffs[/card]. It seemed as though he was playing a Jeskai deck. Knowing that he was likely playing a suite of burn and removal spells, I opted to wait until the second turn to cast my [card]Favored Hoplite[/card], keeping a land untapped for [card]Gods Willing[/card] should I need to save my little soldier.

I needn’t have worried though, as my opponent was stuck on two lands and spent his next three turns discarding spells that cost three mana. With my opponent faltering and with a copy of [card]Gods Willing[/card] in hand, I started building a fierce warrior. Equipping an [card]Ordeal of Heliod[/card] to my hoplite on the third turn, followed by an [card]Ordeal of Thassa[/card] on the fourth, I took impressive chunks out of my opponent’s life total. Having already seen a copy of [card]Winterflame[/card], [card]Banishing Light[/card], and [card]Jeskai Windscout[/card] discarded, I asked my opponent whether he’d like to concede at the end of his turn rather than have to show me another card from his hand, as I had lethal on board and he clearly hadn’t drawn an answer to my 6/7 hoplite. He didn’t quite grasp the concept of keeping as much information hidden as possible and must have thought it ridiculous that I was asking for a concession, so he instead showed me a copy of [card]Jeskai Charm[/card] and passed the turn before taking the final hit from my soldier.

With no [card]Gods Willing[/card] or [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card] in hand in the second game, I had played a [card]Hero of Iroas[/card] on the second turn, followed by a [card]Fabled Hero[/card] the next. My opponent had spent his time setting up his three colors and had played a [card]Jeskai Windscout[/card] on his third turn. I had cast a second [card]Fabled Hero[/card] and was holding several Ordeals in hand, waiting for the right moment to unleash a brutal attack. The first time my opponent played a noncreature spell (a [card]Winterflame[/card] targeting one of my Fabled Heroes), he proceeded to declare an attack for two with his bird.

Having forgotten his first Prowess trigger, would he forget the next couple of triggers as well?

Unfortunately for my opponent, he seemed oblivious to the fact that his Windscout could grow bigger every time he played a noncreature spell. As he bounced my creatures and drew cards, he continued to peck at my life total for two damage at a time. Eventually seeing a clear opening, I cast both Ordeals and an [card]Aqueous Form[/card] on my [card]Fabled Hero[/card], attacking for 14 points of damage at once and bringing my opponent to 3 life. He couldn’t find an answer to my creatures and scooped shortly thereafter.

SCORE: 1-0

I was having a lot of fun playing my new deck. The synergies seemed strong and the deck seemed consistent. I was ready to take on a new challenger.

ROUND 2 – vs Mono Green

My second round opponent and I had some friendly banter prior to shuffling our decks, and I was happy to be playing against someone so sociable. I won the die roll and we both took mulligans before I played my first land. My opponent started off with an untapped Forest and passed the turn. I had a feeling that I’d face a lot of green-based decks during the tournament, as it seemed to be one of the strongest colors post-rotation. With all-stars such as [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card], [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card], [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card], Polukranos, [card]Prophet of Kruphix[/card], and [card]Nissa, Worldwaker[/card], I had accepted the fact that I’d likely play many midrange decks during the course of the evening.

I had both a [card]Gods Willing[/card] and [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card] in hand, so I decided to wait until the third turn to cast my [card]Hero of Iroas[/card]. Although there were few removal spells in the format at two mana for a deck that had just played a first turn Forest to be casting, I didn’t want to take the chance and have my Hero fall victim to a [card]Lightning Strike[/card] or [card]Magma Jet[/card] should he be splashing red as his second color.

Having played two more untapped Forests and a [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card] on the third turn, I then realized that my opponent was playing mono green and the only card to be wary of was [card]Setessan Tactics[/card]. I cast both an [card]Ordeal of Heliod[/card] and an [card]Ordeal of Thassa[/card] on my Hero, swinging for six damage, gaining ten life and drawing two cards in the process. I still had [card]Gods Willing[/card] and [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card] in hand to protect my creature, and I felt unstoppable. The pressure was too much for my opponent, and he quickly fell to my enormous warrior.

I added three copies of [card]Voyage’s End[/card] from my sideboard for our second game, and they paid off tremendously. My opponent had started the game by playing an [card]Elvish Mystic[/card] into a second turn [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card], followed by an [card]Arbor Colossus[/card] shortly thereafter. I was busy setting up my side of the board, and was ready to do battle with another [card]Hero of Iroas[/card]. With a Nykthos and [card]Arbor Colossus[/card] sitting across from me, and seeing a [card]Nylea’s Disciple[/card] on the top of my opponent’s library, I decided to cast my [card]Voyage’s End[/card] on his [card]Arbor Colossus[/card] on my main phase, equipping an [card]Ordeal of Thassa[/card] to my Hero and started putting on the pressure.

My opponent simply recast his [card]Arbor Colossus[/card] and passed the turn, which allowed me to attach an [card]Aqueous Form[/card] to my Hero and start taking huge chunks out of his life total. Even with his lifegain of ten on the following turn with two [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card]s and a [card]Nylea’s Disciple[/card], he had no [card]Setessan Tactics[/card] and no way of dealing with my unblockable Hero. He made a desperate attack on his last turn which wouldn’t have been lethal in any case, and I swung back for the win.

SCORE: 2-0

I had yet to lose a game and I was feeling good about my deck. My opponent agreed that an aggressive Heroic deck was a good choice for a fresh new Standard metagame and jokingly complained about his inability to deal with unblockable creatures with his mono green deck. We wished each other luck and waiting for the next round to start.

ROUND 3 – vs Black/White Midrange

I had been paired down in this round, and was unsure whether it was good luck or bad. Although I wasn’t paired against another undefeated player, I was banking on having decent tiebreakers should I lose one of my next two matches. My opponent was friends with my second round adversary and had seen us sitting across from each other not moments before.

“Who won in your last match?” he asked his friend.

“I got crushed!” his friend replied. “His deck is a force to be reckoned with.”

“Uh oh. That definitely doesn’t bode well for me!” my opponent exclaimed.

We both chuckled and drew our opening hands. I had to take a mulligan and decided to keep a sketchy hand with only one land. I played my [card]Tranquil Cove[/card], gained a life, and passed the turn.

“If only that [card]Tranquil Cove[/card] was a [card]Temple of Enlightenment[/card]…” I pined. “I’d take the ability to scry over the measly lifegain any day of the week!”

My opponent kicked things off with a [card]Bloodsoaked Champion[/card] followed by a [card]Gnarled Scarhide[/card], but I seemed to have the edge even though I missed my next three land drops. The [card]Favored Hoplite[/card] I had played on the following turn had allowed me to set up a favorable block with a [card]Gods Willing[/card], and was proving to be an annoying little wall for my opponent.

I finally drew my second land and equipped an [card]Ordeal of Heliod[/card] to my Hopite, allowing me to gain ten life and start racing. My opponent cast an [card]Indulgent Tormentor[/card], but I had decided that the three life I would lose a turn in favor of my opponent only drawing one card was insignificant as I then enchanted my Hoplite with an [card]Ordeal of Thassa[/card] and replenished my hand. I made my [card]Favored Hoplite[/card] unblockable the following turn and stole the win.

“I just lost with you having missed three land drops. How the heck am I going to win!” joked my opponent.

In the second game, my opponent played an early [card]Master of the Feast[/card], but I was lucky enough to have drawn a [card]Voyage’s End[/card] that I had brought in from the sideboard. I drew my extra card and bounced the demon back to his hand, setting up what would amount to a vicious string of Auras to my [card]Hero of Iroas[/card] shortly thereafter.

I was getting too excited at the thought of winning three matches in a row. On the next turn, I misplayed and cursed myself. I had drawn yet another copy of [card]Voyage’s End[/card]. With a [card]Stratus Walk[/card] attached to my Hero, all I had to do was take five damage from Master of Feast and bounce any additional flyers at the end of turn. Instead, I cast it during my opponent’s upkeep after having drawn an extra card, which had allowed him to recast the Master of Feast as a blocker.

Luckily, the pressure from my Hero was too much, and I pushed through a boatload of flying damage throughout the next few turns.

SCORE: 3-0

I exhaled deeply. This was the closest I had ever come to an undefeated record. I psyched myself up and sat down for the final match of the evening.

ROUND 4 – vs Jeskai Control

One of the players who was drafting sauntered over to my last round opponent.

“I can’t believe you’re winning with that deck!” he decried.

“I know! I can’t believe it either,” my opponent declared, clearly in disbelief. “Thanks for lending me all the cards I was missing. They’ve been putting in a lot of work!”

At this point, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but quickly realized that I was up against another Jeskai deck when my opponent played two tap lands, gaining him a life each. With no [card]Gods Willing[/card] or [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card] in hand, I played a [card]Hero of Iroas[/card] on the second turn and crossed my fingers. If my opponent lacked the removal for my Hero, then I would set up a devastating attack on the following turn.

He untapped and played a copy of [card]Searing Blood[/card], incinerating my Hero and dealing three damage to me directly.

“God dang it,” I mumbled to myself. “Who the heck plays [card]Searing Blood[/card] in their main deck!?”

My opponent thought that playing [card]Searing Blood[/card] in his main deck was a wise choice, and I had to admit he was right. My [card]Fabled Hero[/card] met a similar fate the next turn.

I was running out of options. I was also running out of creatures. I played an [card]Eidolon of Countless Battles[/card] as a lowly 1/1 and hoped for the best.

Instead, I was met with the worst.

My opponent untapped and cast [card]Chandra, Pyromaster[/card], pinging my last threat and only chance of survival. A [card]Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker[/card] took on his draconic form the following turn and I quickly scooped my cards.

I got creamed in that first game and was getting nervous about the next.

In the second game, I had met little resistance from my opponent and was building up an army of creatures. Although I had no [card]Gods Willing[/card] or [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card], I was diversifying my threats, and had a [card]Fabled Hero[/card], a [card]Hero of Iroas[/card] equipped with an [card]Aqueous Form[/card] and [card]Eidolon of Countless Battles[/card], and a [card]Favored Hoplite[/card] all putting pressure on my opponent.

What I hadn’t been prepared for was the [card]Satyr Firedancer[/card] that enabled a devastating [card]Searing Blood[/card] chain, disposing of my two smaller creatures and shrinking my life. He then cast a [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card] and attacked me down to five life.

I counted my opponent’s lands. Six. Not enough to activate his dragon’s ability. With only two cards left in his hand, I had no choice but to cast a [card]Banishing Light[/card] on the [card]Satyr Firedancer[/card] and try racing the dragon.

My opponent confidently untapped and attacked.

“Okay, I’ll take four,” I said.

“Nope! I’ll monstrous my dragon for the win!” my opponent happily exclaimed.

“You don’t have enough mana to do that…” I pointed out.

“Oh…” My opponent looked crestfallen. He showed me a land in his hand. “I had this…”

I was feeling generous and quickly told my opponent that it didn’t matter and that I would concede the match. He had played well and would have won in any case. I would have felt bad for stealing the win should that have turned the tide of the game.

It didn’t end of mattering in the end as he also showed me his last card, a Chandra that could have pinged me for a lethal point of damage. I would have been dead either way.

SCORE: 3-1

I congratulated my opponent on his undefeated record and went to collect my prizes.

V. Week 7 Wrap-Up (and trades)

Overall Record To-Date: 16-14

I was upset that I hadn’t managed an undefeated record. I was so close. But, to tell you the truth, I was still happy. Every player I had been paired up against was sociable, friendly, and a blast to interact with. Not only that, but I had managed to snag an FNM promo [card]Banishing Light[/card] and three booster packs of Khans of Tarkir for my second place finish!

I quickly scurried to the back of the store and cracked my packs.

Winning Pack 1 (Notable Cards):

– Empty the Pits (FOIL)
– [card]Dragon-Style Twins[/card]
– [card]Abzan Charm[/card]
– [card]Despise[/card]
– [card]Hordeling Outburst[/card]

Winning Pack 2 (Notable Cards):

– [card]See the Unwritten[/card]
– [card]Treasure Cruise[/card]
– [card]Suspension Field[/card]

Winning Pack 3 (Notable Cards):

– [card]Flying Crane Technique[/card]

Talk about some fantastic pulls! The most exciting card I had opened was the foil [card]Empty the Pits[/card] ($18 at time of opening), followed closely by [card]See the Unwritten[/card] ($6 at time of opening). I now had even more trade fodder and was trying to figure out what I would work towards acquiring first. Should I try to get a playset of [card]Temple of Enlightenment[/card] since they’re the cheapest cards I’m missing and to help smooth my draws? Should I try working towards a couple of copies of Brimaz to slowly replace my Fabled Heroes? Or should I focus on color fixing and try to get a copy of [card]Mana Confluence[/card] or some [card]Flooded Strand[/card]s?

Join me next time as I work towards perfecting the U/W Heroic deck in hopes of attaining a 4-0 record before Khans of Tarkir Game Day rolls around!