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 was now officially locked into playing Blue/White Heroic for Khans of Tarkir Game Day. I had put up an admirable showing at last week’s tournament and my deck proved powerful enough in the current Standard metagame to warrant being played consistently going forward. Lacking the time and budget to build and test a different deck, I planned to tweak U/W Heroic in the coming weeks and get as familiar as possible with the archetype.
I was relieved to have had such a positive experience playing the deck. I was concerned that it wouldn’t be a good choice going forward, feeling as badly about the list as I had with my Green/White Heroic deck. If that had been the case, I would be left with no other choice than to play a mediocre deck at Game Day.
With the core of the deck streamlined, and with important information gleaned from last week’s tournament experience, I had nowhere to go but up!
With three weekly events left before Game Day, I wished nothing more than to finally go undefeated and add a 4-0 record to my portfolio. I was getting tired of going 2-2 and 3-1, and the fire inside me was burning hot.
I. Spending Our Weekly Budget
Week 8 – $5 Purchases (PLUS: $2.75 saved from previous week)
I made the decision to clear my binder of some of the more valuable cards and trade them to our store for some credit. It was becoming increasingly difficult to trade with other players as I only needed specific higher-end cards to complete my deck. It seemed a rare occurrence for a player to have a card I needed as well as want to trade down for a handful of less valuable cards.
Since my goal was to put up the best results possible during Game Day and not necessarily to gain value through trading, selling the cards to the store seemed like an acceptable option.
1x [card]Empty the Pits[/card] (FOIL) – $12.50
1x [card]See the Unwritten[/card] – $3.75
1x [card]Banishing Light[/card] (FNM promo) – $3.75
1x [card]Waste Not[/card] – $2.50
Cash On Hand – $7.75
Store Credit Trade Value – $22.50
4x [card]Temple of Enlightenment[/card] ($7 each)
1x [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card] ($0.15)
~ $2.10 saved for next week ~
[card]Temple of Enlightenment[/card] was the most affordable card from my current want-list and acquiring a playset would vastly improve the consistency of my deck. Copies of [card]Mana Confluence[/card] and [card]Brimaz, King of Oreskos[/card] were still expensive and adding a lone copy of either wouldn’t do much to improve my deck.
I grabbed my Temples, paid my entry fee, and sat down to open my weekly booster pack. If I managed to open a fetchland, maybe I could trade it for a [card]Mana Confluence[/card] before the tournament started!
II. The Booster Pack
Booster Pack Contents (Notable):
– [card]Necropolis Fiend[/card]
– [card]Incremental Growth[/card] (FOIL)
– [card]Mer-Ek Nightblade[/card]
– [card]Horde Ambusher[/card]
Another unimpressive booster pack. None of these cards would be of much use in trying to get the cards I still needed. All that was left to do before the start of the tournament was to make some small deck changes and prepare for battle!
III. The Changes
Main Deck (IN):
4x [card]Temple of Enlightenment[/card]
Main Deck (OUT):
4x [card]Tranquil Cove[/card]
1x [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card]
1x [card]Swan Song[/card]
Here’s the list I finalized before the Standard tournament:
[deck title=UW Heroic – Peter Sachlas]
4 Temple of Enlightenment
4 Favored Hoplite
1 Hopeful Eidolon
4 Hero of Iroas
4 Battlewise Hoplite
4 Eidolon of Countless Battles
3 Fabled Hero
4 Aqueous Form
4 Ordeal of Thassa
3 Ordeal of Heliod
2 Stratus Walk
4 Gods Willing
2 Ajani’s Presence
3 Hopeful Eidolon
2 Swan Song
1 Ajani’s Presence
2 Glare of Heresy
3 Voyage’s End
2 Banishing Light
IV. Tournament Report
ROUND 1 – vs Black/White Tokens
I recognized my opponent from having played against him during the Khans of Tarkir pre-release, but couldn’t remember whether he was an admirable foe or whether our previous match had been heavily skewed in my favor. In any case, Constructed and Limited formats are vastly different in many ways, so I mentally steeled myself for a challenging match. We shook hands, resolved mulligans, and prepared for battle.
I started things off with a first-turn [card]Favored Hoplite[/card]. My opponent played an untapped Swamp and passed the turn, and I already had a decision to make. I could either enchant my creature with an [card]Ordeal of Thassa[/card] or play a second [card]Favored Hoplite[/card], playing a tapped [card]Temple of Enlightenment[/card] to scry. I had an [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card] in hand, so I decided to wait until the third turn to cast both my Ordeal and have the [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card] as back-up. I passed the turn and crossed my fingers; if my opponent was playing [card]Bile Blight[/card], I would have played into a devastating two-for-one. Luckily, he cast a [card]Temple of Silence[/card], scryed his card to the bottom, and passed the turn.
I slammed the [card]Ordeal of Thassa[/card] and swung for four, eager to crack my Ordeal the following turn and get even further ahead than I already was. Unfortunately, [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card] is useless against [card]Banishing Light[/card], and my enchanted hoplite disappeared into the aether. I enchanted my second hoplite with an [card]Eidolon of Countless Battles[/card] and took another chunk out of my opponent’s life total. If I could keep the pressure on, it shouldn’t be too difficult to deal the final points of damage. My opponent played his fourth land and passed the turn. I still had the [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card] as back-up and was only afraid of [card]Silence the Believers[/card]. I had no other creatures in hand, so I decided to go all in, casting another [card]Ordeal of Thassa[/card] on the lone survivor. To my surprise, it resolved, and I declared my attack phase, sacrificing the [card]Ordeal of Thassa[/card] and putting the draw trigger on the stack. I was in the clear!
Or so I thought…
My opponent had decided it was best to cast his copy of [card]Silence the Believers[/card] after the draw trigger was already on the stack. Although he removed both my Hoplite and Eidolon, I still got to draw two cards. Unfortunately, they were two lands. With no pressure on the board, my opponent cast a [card]Sorin, Solemn Visitor[/card] and continued to make an army of tokens which eventually took over the game.
The second game played out similarly to the first, with two [card]Favored Hoplite[/card]s taking up arms on my side of the battlefield. I mimicked my play from the first game, enchanting one of them with an [card]Ordeal of Thassa[/card]. My opponent fell for the bait, attempting to remove the enchanted Hoplite with a [card]Banishing Light[/card] yet again. Luckily, I had a [card]Gods Willing[/card] to save my creature, allowing me to draw an extra couple of cards on the following turn. I was met with little resistance as my creatures took large chunks out of my opponent’s life total.
My opponent then laid down his sixth land and cast [card]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/card]. I thought he might decide to destroy both of my large creatures (my hoplites had grown to be of considerable size), but he instead decided to hide behind a wall of tokens. Luckily for me (and unluckily for my opponent), I drew an [card]Aqueous Form[/card] to deal the final points of unblockable damage.
We both had to take mulligans in the last game, and I had decided to keep a slower hand. My first play was a [card]Fabled Hero[/card] on the third turn, which met a miserable fate when my opponent cast [card]Drown in Sorrow[/card] on his turn, forgetting to scry. Playing an [card]Eidolon of Countless Battles[/card] on the following turn and laying down a Temple, I decided to keep a [card]Favored Hoplite[/card] on the top of my deck. I had a second copy of [card]Eidolon of Countless Battles[/card] in my hand, and wanted to diversify my threats against his spot removal. I played my [card]Favored Hoplite[/card], attacked for two with the Eidolon and passed the turn, hoping to set up a big play, but it was not meant to be.
My opponent cast his second copy of [card]Drown in Sorrow[/card], forgetting to scry yet again, and then cast a [card]Thoughtseize[/card] to remove my only other creature from hand. Drawing a land for the turn, I dejectedly motioned for my opponent to draw his next card. Once more, I found myself facing an Elspeth and her army of tokens. My only chance was to play the [card]Favored Hoplite[/card] I had drawn on the following turn, enchant it with an Ordeal and [card]Aqueous Form[/card], and try to race the tokens after taking down the Elspeth. Unfortunately, my opponent’s last card was a [card]Bile Blight[/card], and I fell to the army of soldiers.
From what I could tell after playing all three games, my opponent’s deck consisted of four copies of [card]Thoughtseize[/card], Elspeth, Sorin, [card]Sign in Blood[/card], and a slew of removal spells. Not once did I see an actual creature card. I was pretty bummed about the loss, but knew that a deck packed to the brim with removal spells was probably a bad matchup.
ROUND 2 – vs Naya Planeswalkers
When I had first built my Heroic deck, I had thought that games would be decided pretty quickly. I would either successfully set up an aggressive line of attack, and depending on my opponent’s deck, know when it was safe to pull the trigger and pull ahead, or my opponent would have the tools necessary to remove my threats and handily regain control of the board. However, many of my games were going longer because I could reset and continue to grow a small creature monstrous even after having lost one at a crucial moment. My first game in the second round was one of those longer games, taking over half an hour before a victor was decided.
Having taken a mulligan to six, I had begun to set up a miniature army of multiple Heroes of Iroas and a [card]Favored Hoplite[/card], all enchanted in one way or another. In the meanwhile, my opponent had ramped spectacularly, playing an [card]Elvish Mystic[/card] on the first turn, followed by a [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card] and then a [card]Xenagos, the Reveler[/card]. As my creatures held the tokens at bay, the [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card] that was played shortly thereafter would end up showing me another Caryatid and two more copies of Xenagos on the top of my opponent’s library.
Knowing that I would fall behind trying to target the Xenagos only to have a second (or third) copy replayed, I focused on dealing as much damage to my opponent as possible. After having revealed his third copy of Xenagos, we were both privy to some important information. A Nissa Worldwaker sat atop my opponent’s library and would surely enter play the next turn. I had spent a good five minutes trying to envision all the possible lines of play and thought I had figured things out, attacking Xenagos with a firm belief that my opponent would sacrifice one of his tokens to save it, giving me more time to set up a large swing and not falling prey to Nissa’s lands. My opponent simply let the Xenagos be destroyed and I immediately saw my mistake. He would now be able to play his second copy of Xenagos and swing for lethal with another hasty token. I cringed and mentally berated myself.
Luckily, my opponent hadn’t seen the winning line of play and instead tapped out for Nissa, animating one of his lands. Unluckily, I drew no relevant cards and folded shortly therafter.
Finding myself on the play once more, both my opponent and I had to mulligan to six cards. I played a [card]Hero of Iroas[/card] on the second turn but found myself stuck on two lands, having to play an unbestowed [card]Hopeful Eidolon[/card], with another copy in hand. A key turning point presented itself early on in the game however, as my opponent attacked his early [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card] into my Hero and Eidolon, allowing me to double block. Declaring my [card]Hero of Iroas[/card] as the first blocker, my opponent was unprepared for the [card]Gods Willing[/card] that would save both my creatures and spell doom for his. Drawing my third land, I immediately enchanted my Hero with an [card]Eidolon of Countless Battles[/card], followed by the [card]Ordeal of Thassa[/card] I had freshly drawn. My opponent was too far behind to stabilize.
The third and final game was riveting. My opponent had played an early [card]Elvish Mystic[/card], allowing him to cast a [card]Purphoros, God of the Forge[/card] on his third turn, followed on the fourth by a [card]Xenagos, the Reveler[/card]. The Satyr tokens created by Xenagos ended up dealing a boatload of damage when they came into play thanks to the ireful God, but I had managed to enchant a [card]Hero of Iroas[/card] with a [card]Hopeful Eidolon[/card] and [card]Aqueous Form[/card], gaining too much life for my opponent to keep up. I then began diversifying my threats, enchanting a [card]Favored Hoplite[/card] with a second copy of [card]Hopeful Eidolon[/card], but was met with a mid-game [card]Deflecting Palm[/card]. Sitting at 23 life after the [card]Deflecting[/card] Palm had resolved, I was in no immediate danger, but knew I’d have to play around other copies of the card going forward.
With my opponent sitting on an empty board save for his Purphoros and [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card], I decided to attack with my smaller creature in case there was a freshly drawn [card]Deflecting Palm[/card] waiting to turn the tides of battle. My opponent blocked with his [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card] and instead cast a [card]Devouring Light[/card] with only one card left in hand. To my dismay, it was a second copy of [card]Devouring Light[/card] which took out my [card]Hero of Iroas[/card] the following turn. I had been playing around [card]Deflecting Palm[/card], but should have instead been playing around a removal spell.
Luckily, my opponent was already at a low life total, and the [card]Fabled Hero[/card] I had played was able to grow bigger with the help of an [card]Eidolon of Countless Battles[/card] and I finished the game with a [card]Gods Willing[/card] to make my Hero unblockable.
ROUND 3 – vs Abzan Heroic
I had been paired down in the third round. I was pleasantly surprised, but happy knowing that my opponent had yet to win a match. It would be easier to work my way towards a 3-1 record if I could clinch a win at this point in the tournament.
My opponent was on the play and, after both having taken a mulligan, he led with a tapped [card]Sandsteppe Citadel[/card]. If he was playing a midrange Abzan deck, then I surely had the edge! I played a [card]Favored Hoplite[/card] and passed the turn. To my surprise, my opponent played a [card]Phalanx Leader[/card] on his second turn and I furiously began mentally listing all of the cards that might find themselves in an Abzan deck based around putting counters on creatures. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see cards like [card]High Sentinels of Arashin[/card], [card]Anafenza, the Foremost[/card], and [card]Ivorytusk Fortress[/card] making an appearance.
I played a [card]Hero of Iroas[/card] on the second turn and found myself facing a Brimaz on my opponent’s side of the field. Although I was wary of black and white removal spells, I banked on my opponent’s deck being heavily creature-based. Throwing caution to the wind, I suited up my [card]Hero of Iroas[/card] with two Ordeals of Thassa, drawing four cards in the process. My opponent had the upper hand during the next few turns as the token he produced with Brimaz could chump block my Hero. Unfortunately, my opponent was stuck on three lands for quite some time and was falling behind on board presence. I had even found a copy of [card]Aqueous Form[/card], and my advances were no longer being held at bay by his small creatures.
Sensing that the end was nigh, my opponent cast a [card]Devouring Light[/card], hoping to remove my enormous soldier. Luckily, I had drawn a copy of [card]Gods Willing[/card] to close out the game.
The second game was a true race. While my opponent played a first-turn [card]Favored Hoplite[/card] followed by a Brimaz on the third turn, I had started piling enchantments onto my [card]Hero of Iroas[/card], most notably a [card]Stratus Walk[/card] and [card]Aqueous Form[/card]. Although I was taking chunks out of my opponent’s life total, the amount of damage I was taking in turn was considerable. Unable to block with my flying Hero, I was committed to racing my opponent. I had since drawn a copy of [card]Eidolon of Countless Battles[/card] but was wary of having to cast my [card]Gods Willing[/card] and have the Eidolon fall off if I were met with another [card]Devouring Light[/card].
I did some quick calculations and decided that it would be difficult to race should I play the Eidolon on defense, so I decided to further grow my [card]Hero of Iroas[/card] and prayed that my opponent had not drawn any removal. Luckily, there was no [card]Devouring Light[/card] to be found from my opponent, and I handily won. My opponent couldn’t deal with 10 points of damage in the air, and had quickly conceded.
I’m no stranger to finding myself sitting at 2-1 before the last round of the tournament, and I was ready for an exciting last few games! I knew that my tie-breakers were probably terrible, having lost the first round and having been paired down in the last, but I was hopeful. Even winning a couple of packs would be fantastic!
ROUND 4 – vs Mono Red Aggro
I had been paired down in the last round and now I was paired up against one of the few undefeated players left in the tournament; what a roller coaster ride of emotions! Should I manage to snag a win, only one player would remain undefeated and I’d be near the top of the rankings. I needed to clear my head and focus on tight gameplay if I wanted to win the match.
I was lucky enough to be on the play in the first game, playing a [card]Favored Hoplite[/card] with options galore in hand. My opponent started by casting a [card]Foundry Street Denizen[/card], at which point I knew I was in the clear. I enchanted my hoplite with an [card]Ordeal of Heliod[/card], growing him to a 3/4 after the attack and out of range of a second turn [card]Magma Jet[/card] or [card]Lightning Strike[/card]. My opponent cast two more 1-drop red creatures, hoping to race. Unfortunately for the red deck pilot, the ten life gained from my [card]Ordeal of Heliod[/card] paired with an [card]Aqueous Form[/card] and blue Ordeal was too much to handle. I had won the first game in short order.
The second game was looking better than ever. Although my opponent had cast a [card]Monastery Swiftspear[/card], followed by an [card]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/card] and [card]Goblin Rabblemaster[/card], I had managed to enchant my first-turn [card]Favored Hoplite[/card] with two consecutive Ordeals of Heliod. While my opponent took large chunks from my life total, the twenty life I had gained had made for a nice cushion.
My opponent was sitting at 10 life while I was at 15. I had a 6/7 [card]Favored Hoplite[/card] and four untapped lands, two of which produced white mana. With a [card]Gods Willing[/card] and [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card] in hand, I enchanted my hoplite with yet another [card]Ordeal of Heliod[/card] and swung. I had locked up the game and the match. Taking two damage from the [card]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/card] and gaining another ten life from the attack, I was sitting at a healthy 23 life. My opponent only had two creatures left to block as he had attacked with most of his team the previous turn; a [card]Firedrinker Satyr[/card] and the Eidolon were his only defensive options. My opponent had two choices; he could either chump block with his Eidolon and lose an attacker for the following turn, or let my 8/9 through, hoping that I had no [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card] in hand. I did a quick calculation and knew that my opponent had no string of draws which could deal the final 23 points of damage next turn.
My opponent snap blocked with his Eidolon, and that’s when I shot myself in the foot.
“Wait, wait, wait!” I cried. “I have something before blockers! I cast my Gods Wi-”
“Damn it Peter, what the heck are you doing?” I thought to myself. “That’s only nine damage and not ten!”
“Uh, uh…” I stammered. “Oops, wrong card! I ACTUALLY meant to cast my [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card], making him a 10/11!”
My opponent shot me a sideways glance. He must have thought me a fool.
“You take two damage from the Eidolon, and then I’ll still chump block it,” he declared.
My jaw dropped. What had I done?! I somehow convinced myself that I had had some mystical, magical hybrid card that cost one white mana which could turn my creature unblockable and deal the final points of damage. I started hyperventilating. Had I just lost myself the match?
Only one blue mana remained untapped, but I still had a 10/11 on the board with a [card]Gods Willing[/card] ready to turn it quasi-unblockable with protection from red the following turn. I recounted the creatures on the other side of the board, did some lightning-speed calculations, and exhaled deeply.
“Phew! He still doesn’t have enough to deal 21 points of damage to me,” I thought, wiping the sweat from my brow. “That would have been really embarrassing…”
“I cast [card]Harness by Force[/card], targeting your 10/11 hoplite and then I swing for 27,” my opponent declared excitedly.
At that moment, I felt worse than I had ever felt before during my decade-long career. I had thrown away the game in an impressive display of stupidity. We now had to play a third game to decide the outcome of the match.
I had to take a mulligan to six in the third game and kept a land light hand. My mind was still reeling from my misplay. With no play during the first two turns and with a couple of Fabled Heroes in hand that were uncastable as I drew no third land, my opponent’s explosive start was unbeatable. He played a [card]Monastery Swiftspear[/card] on the first turn, followed by a [card]Firedrinker Satyr[/card] and second Swiftspear the next. A copy of [card]Titan’s Strength[/card] and [card]Dragon Mantle[/card] later and I was all but finished.
Although I had had the upper hand in both first games, the mono red deck that my opponent was playing seemed like a force to be reckoned with. For those that love aggressive strategies, I would highly recommend trying the deck. I was too embarrassed and mad at myself to stick around and ask for the full deck list, but it looked something like this:
4x [card]Monastery Swiftspear[/card]
4x [card]Foundry Street Denizen[/card]
4x [card]Firedrinker Satyr[/card]
4x [card]Frenzied Goblin[/card]
4x [card]War-Name Aspirant[/card]
4x [card]Goblin Rabblemaster[/card]
4x [card]Titan’s Strength[/card]
4x [card]Stoke the Flames[/card]
4x [card]Dragon Mantle[/card]
V. Week 8 Wrap-Up (and trades)
Overall Record To-Date: 18-16
The tournament was bittersweet. I had played some of the worst Magic in my life and had thrown away the last match and felt terrible about myself. I had taken the time to map out all possible lines of play and solved the puzzle which would lead to my victory, only to make a ridiculous line of play and undo all that I had worked towards.
The good news?
Despite how terribly I had played, I had won two matches and could have easily won the other two should things have gone slightly differently. I was confident in my deck and was happy to be playing it. I never wanted to feel as badly as I had during the second game of the last match again, and I promised myself that I would try to focus more going forward.
With only two events left before the big day, could I finally manage a 4-0 record?