Miracles in Cincinnati

I decided to go to Cincinnati for the SCG Open because I felt like playing Modern and had the time off to do it. I posted on Facebook to ask if anyone was interested in going, but as I had assumed the 1250 km drive was too far for anyone local to be interested – and I didn’t blame them – it’s a ridiculously long drive that I generally would have laughed at, I went alone.
I took my time for the trip, leaving Montreal on Wednesday, and not getting back until the following Wednesday – but it wasn’t too bad a drive despite rain, freezing rain, and snow falling at different points along the way.

On the Friday evening before the event I noticed a lot of Magic players hanging around and playing cards in the lobby of the hotel. I joined in and got in a few practice games, but I had previously decided I was going to go to a local FNM to play Modern as I wanted to get in rounds, and figured with the SCG Open in town, the turnout would be pretty good. Two Headed Games was a decent store and ran their FNM well, even with the 30 people who showed up for it; my only issue was that it was 5 rounds and started at 7 p.m. which meant that after going 4-0-1 it was already 11 p.m. and I needed to get back to my hotel and be up early the next morning. To make the situation just a bit worse and confusing, the Mcdonald’s near the hotel for some reason closed at 11, leaving IHOP the only restaurant in the area that I knew to still be open – I just wanted to eat and get to bed, so I went in anyway – Chicken and Waffles were good . . . But I’m guessing the wafflehouse I noticed the next night would have done it better and faster.

I like Modern as a format in general, but it is a frustrating format. There are too many decks and angles possible for control decks to really be good, and even though I love running my UW Control list, I know it’s not that good in a diverse field I expected to see at the Open. I have had fun playing GR Tron in the past, and so I went with it as my deck choice, with some tweaks on recent lists I’ve seen and what I thought would be good for the event. I cut all the [card]Pyroclasm[/card]s in favor of more Ulamog and [card]Spellskite[/card]s, and I believe that it was correct despite my poor performance with the deck, as [card]Pyroclasm[/card] would not have helped in any of the matches I lost.

RG Tron – David Schnayer

[deck]
[Lands]
1 Eye of Ugin
1 Forest
2 Ghost Quarter
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower
[/Lands]
[Spells]
4 Ancient Stirrings
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Chromatic Star
4 Expedition Map
4 Karn Liberated
3 Oblivion Stone
2 Relic of Progenitus
4 Sylvan Scrying
2 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
3 Spellskite
2 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
3 Wurmcoil Engine
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
1 Batterskull
2 Crucible of Worlds
2 Rending Volley
2 Boil
4 Nature’s Claim
2 Pyroclasm
1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
1 Crumble to Dust
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

I wasn’t even thinking about writing an article at the time of the event, so I didn’t take many notes about it, so here are the things I remember.

Before the event started, there were a lot of people in the event location – I’ve been to enough GPs to know that there were more players than the TO expected, just given the size of the room. When the number of 1022 people in the main event was announced and that it was the largest SCG event yet, I wasn’t surprised given the amount of people in the room, but if I had thought the tournament was going to be that big, I likely would have stayed home.

My first opponent was on Infect, I had [card]Spellskite[/card] turn 2 every game, and he never managed to deal with it.

My second opponent was on Affinity; this is the match that not having Pyroclams in my main deck should have hurt . . . I won game 1 with [card]Oblivion Stone[/card] against his slow start. In game 2, I counted things out and was dead on his turn 4 regardless of my turn 3 play if he had any 2 or less cost artifact in his hand of 4 cards thanks to a [card]Cranial Plating[/card], 2 [card]Darksteel Citadel[/card]s, and a [card]Master of Etherium[/card] in play, so I played to my out of him having all blanks.

He started his turn by playing a second [card]Blinkmoth Nexus[/card], which meant he had enough on board to put me to 0, if he simply activated both of them and attacked me. Thankfully for me, he decided that playing [card]Blood Moon[/card] was better, and so only attacked for 10 or so before playing it, and that made his 2 guys small enough that [card]Pyroclasm[/card] killed them both on my turn. I had multiple chances throughout the game to kill that [card]Blood Moon[/card], and yet it hurt him more than me at every point in the game, including giving me the red mana to cast the [card]Pyroclasm[/card]. Please Affinity players, don’t play [card]Blood Moon[/card], it’s not even good in one of the major matches you’re supposed to side it in for.

My first loss was to the Burn deck splashing for [card]Wild Nacatl[/card], [card]Boros Charm[/card], and [card]Atarka’s Command[/card]; the match is basically unwinnable for Tron in my experience. A turn 3 [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] gives you a slight chance, but with [card]Atarka’s Command[/card] in the main deck, it’s rarely good enough, and after board, unless you have devoted 10+ slots to it, you are still going to be unfavoured. (This is the most frustrating thing I find about the format, every deck is either completely fair accross the board (and probably slightly unfavored in most matches) or must give up some matches to have good matches elsewhere.)

After that, I beat Brad Nelson who was playing Abzan in 3 close games. My next 3 matches also ended up pairing me against Abzan; I haven’t played enough Modern recently to know just how bad the matchup is, but it felt bad. Between hand disruption, [card]Path to Exile[/card], and land destruction ([card]Fulminator Mage[/card]), unless I won the roll and got on board before I was disrupted, I was dead and so I lost 3 in a row against Abzan, dropped, registered for the Legacy Open, and went for dinner.

Legacy is a format that I like a lot, but never get the chance to play so I was actually pretty happy that I didn’t make day 2 of the main event.

I’ve been playing the same, more or less, Miracles deck in Legacy for as long as I can remember. [card]Counterbalance[/card] with [card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card] is just super fun and anyone who would like Wizards to ban the card doesn’t know how to enjoy playing Magic correctly.

Miracles – David Schnayer

[deck]
[Lands]
4 Flooded Strand
4 Island
2 Karakas
1 Mystic Gate
2 Plains
3 Scalding Tarn
3 Tundra
1 Volcanic Island
2 Wasteland
[/Lands]
[Spells]
4 Brainstorm
2 Council’s Judgment
4 Counterbalance
1 Counterspell
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Entreat the Angels
4 Force of Will
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 Sensei’s Divining Top
1 Spell Pierce
1 Supreme Verdict
4 Swords to Plowshares
3 Terminus
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
2 Monastery Mentor
2 Snapcaster Mage
1 Vendilion Clique
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
1 Terminus
1 Pyroblast
1 Red Elemental Blast
1 Enlightened Tutor
3 Rest in Peace
1 Helm of Obedience
1 Moat
1 Humility
1 Venser, Shaper Savant
1 Wear // Tear
1 Circle of Protection: Red
1 Vendilion Clique
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

My first round opponent was on Burn, splashing green for [card]Atarka’s Command[/card]. I was rusty at Legacy and made at least 2 minor misplays that likely lost me game 1. In game 2, being on the play allowed me to kill his first 2 guys with a [card]Brainstorm[/card] into Terminus, followed by getting [card]Counterbalance[/card] and [card]Circle of Protection: Red[/card] on board. In game 3, he was on the play, and I mulliganed and kept a mediocre 6, and proceeded to be killed on his turn 3 as I had nothing to stop it.

A round 1 loss in a matchup I feel I am favored in felt bad, but I was now awake and ready to face my round 2 opponent . . . who didn’t bother even showing up. So after waiting for 10 minutes, I got up and sold a bunch of cards to American vendors.

Facing round 3 with a much fuller wallet, I felt like I had already just won the day. When my opponent started playing [card]Island[/card]s, then a [card]Merchant Scroll[/card] for a [card]Force of Will[/card], followed by a Candelabra, I knew they were on [card]High Tide[/card]. The fact that I had already resolved my turn 2 [card]Counterbalance[/card] seemed even better. We played the draw, land, go, game for a few turns until I found my Top. They tried to Force it, I Forced back, they played [card]Cunning Wish[/card], to which my blind [card]Counterbalance[/card] revealed a land; the [card]Cunning Wish[/card] found a [card]Pact of Negation[/card] in hopes that I didn’t know how [card]Counterbalance[/card] worked . . . Fortunately I wasn’t that rusty, and the opponent conceded as soon as Top resolved. I’m not sure why the concession came so quickly, I had seen a [card]Turnabout[/card] at some point, and that could have been used to potentially get out of the lock.

Round 4 I played against Lands. I had turn 2 [card]Counterbalance[/card], but no Top, he had [card]Exploration[/card], [card]Life from the Loam[/card], [card]Wasteland[/card], and [card]Ghost Quarter[/card]. I likely would have lost the game if not for my opponent’s [card]Ghost Quarter[/card] giving me several shuffle effects to find a Top and a 2 drop to leave on Top to counter his [card]Life from the Loam[/card]. I stabilized the game with 0 basic lands left in my deck, but from there I had a lot of time as he would never be able to resolve [card]Life from the Loam[/card] again; I eventually found my [card]Wasteland[/card] and [card]Crucible of Worlds[/card] and locked out my opponent. In game 2, I quickly cast a [card]Rest in Peace[/card] once there was a [card]Life from the Loam[/card] in my opponent’s graveyard; he dealt with it eventually, but by that point I had a second one ready to go and my [card]Helm of Obedience[/card] to finish the game on the next turn.

I unfortunately don’t remember which opponent was which deck between Rounds 5 and 6, another was playing UR Delver Burn, and I don’t remember the last one. The Delver deck was interesting to play against but between [card]Counterbalance[/card] and COP: Red, I felt pretty in contorl the whole time despite me stabilizing at very low life totals both games. I was also lucky enough to manage to [card]Brainstorm[/card] then shuffle and blind flip a [card]Force of Will[/card] to counter my opponent’s [card]Force of Will[/card] when I tried to resolve my [card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card] in the middle of the game.

After starting the day a 1-1 (losing round 1 and then beating the bye), my tie breakers going into the last round were the lowest of the 5-1s, so I couldn’t draw and have even a little hope of making it in.

Round 7 was playing a Sultai strategy. I believe this match went to 3 games, with my sideboard [card]Rest in Peace[/card] and [card]Helm of Obedience[/card] combo getting there both games 2 and 3. Making [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]s into 0/1s and [card]Gurmag Angler[/card]s effectively uncastable helps a lot. My opponent raged a little after losing the match, as apparently, he has lost a few win-and-ins recently at these events. I didn’t take it personally, but it was a little awkward.

The top 8 was announced, and at that point because I hadn’t looked yet mainly because Star City’s website was somehow down for the entire weekend. I had a judge fill me in on the prize structure of the event. The prize payout was the same for the entire top 8 and was pretty good (1800 prize wall tickets, which turned into $450 of SCG credit or 5 boxes of BfZ depending on what you wanted), the big thing still to win for me was that the top 4 gets invites to one of the next 3 Star City invitationals, which seemed like pretty good value. More points get awarded the higher you finish, but honestly I can’t see myself having enough time to play enough SCG events to compete in the points race.

My top 8 match was against a guy playing Death and Taxes, the slowest grindest control deck in the format. Our match took forever, but in the end I won. I’ve always liked my matchup against that deck, but it’s never easy nor straightforward.

We managed to finish our match fast enough that I had a chance to get up and scout what was happening in the other top 8 matches. I saw Storm versus Grixis Delver and Sneak and Show versus Temur Threshold, and was informed that I would be playing the winner between Sneak and Show, and Threshold.

I was very happy to sit down in the semifinals against Temur Threshold since my experience with the match has been that I’m favored. My deck and from was I saw of the Temur Threshold deck have changed maybe 5 cards in the past 5 years (outside of the season of treasure cruise). I even got to start the match since I was in 6th, but my opponent with in 7th going into the top 8. I don’t remember much of what happened, although apparently my supreme verdict took him by complete surprise as it killed 3 of his guys on turn 4, when he was holding something like 2 force of wills and 2 dazes.

I again managed to finish my match before other match, but not by much – enough to see that the Grixis deck had [card]Winter Orb[/card] in their sideboard, and was going to win the match.

I was pretty relaxed going into the finals, as I didn’t care about the trophy nor the points at all, so I had already won everything I wanted to win. I lost game 1, won game 2 on the back of my [card]Crucible of Worlds[/card] and my opponent’s [card]Winter Orb[/card] hurting him more than me, and lost game 3 quickly due to a fast clock from him and me not being able to deal with it.

Pleased with my trip to the city of Cincinnati, I now look forward to playing in an SCG Invitational.