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POLLUTEDxDELTA    1889

I definitely "refuse to accept the reality of the situation", but I also haven't come to the point where it is detrimental yet. The only complaint with myself that I currently is that 4/5 of my last PTQs I have gone 6-2 (3 of those 4 I needed to 7-1, because of 200+ people). It's been awkward that I am performing better at GPs than PTQs. It's a pretty small sample size, because I don't think I have been playing optimally up until these last 5 PTQs, so I don't mind letting it go to variance. But these next 3-4 months, with the rest of Sealed and Modern, I will be trying to do atleast 7-8 irl PTQs, and if I can't win one by then, I feel like that is where I have to seriously question myself (especially because of my confidence and ability in Modern).

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IamPro    13
Next weekend, many mages will be traveling across the United States to battle a few different formats. The Standard season is in full swing with Journey into Nyx, but we must not forget about Modern! Grand Prix Minneapolis is approaching fast, and I've been playing a lot of Modern on Magic Online, because, you know, the format is actually fun now. Without Deathrite Shaman stinking up the joint, boring old Jund decks aren't nearly as good, and we have a lot of room to work with. But we'll get to that in a bit.

Standard with Public Enemy #1

First on the docket is Standard, and last week we traveled to Cincinnati for the StarCityGames.com Open Series. Journey into Nyx is finally here, and we have our first results from the Standard Open that took place. The deck of the week?

It's all your fault, Andrew Tenjum!

[View Deck]


Not again!

Well, actually, yes again, but you get my drift. I, for one, thought an influx of new cards, and potentially new hyper-aggressive decks, would push Black Devotion to the side, leaving room for Blue Devotion and a host of other archetypes, but somehow Pack Rat just finds a way to ruin the party.

Much like Return to Ravnica Limited, losing to an opposing Pack Rat is a frustrating occurrence. In actuality, no one is having fun, as this "army in a can" is just too powerful when combined with everyone's favorite Minotaur tribal land: Mutavault. Yes, Pack Rat is a good card, but the rest of the deck is just as good. If Pack Rat isn't going to get the job done, then Desecration Demon and Gray Merchant of Asphodel come in and wreck up the place.

There doesn't seem to be a specific deck that can really take down Black Devotion, and that is mostly due to the existence of this nightmarish reprint.


They reprinted Mutavault AND Thoughtseize? What did they expect? Pack Rat is just the new Bitterblossom, wherein you will get outclassed quickly if you don't apply enough pressure. The difference is that Bitterblossom was actually just an unreal win condition that didn't force you to commit more mana or cards to dominate a game. At least Pack Rat forces you to discard cards and use most of your mana every turn, though the Rat gets out of hand much more quickly.

But enough about why we all hate Black Devotion. Let's talk about why you should love Black Devotion. With all of the Temples from Theros block in rotation, easy access to green mana gives you some new tools to work with. Abrupt Decay is a strong addition to the strategy, giving you answers to a host of cards you couldn't normally interact with.

Detention Sphere, Underworld Connections, and a few other annoyances were basically daggers given the right set of circumstances. The fact that there were so few removal spells for two mana that could kill Nightveil Specter was also a pretty huge beating. Now, with Abrupt Decay, the Black Devotion decks have a versatile answer to a variety of cheap threats and no longer have dead removal like Bile Blight against control decks.

One thing I'm not too keen on in Andrew's deck is that he is pretty soft to Master of Waves. Yes, you have Abrupt Decay to interact with the early creatures from Blue Devotion, but normally the two-drop slot usually killed Master of Waves too, giving you a reasonably number of answers for their couple thousand elemental tokens. At this point, all we have in the maindeck is Hero's Downfall, and that is just not a place I am happy to be.

I have a pretty big problem with Devour Flesh. I understand that it is one of your only ways to kill Blood Baron of Vizkopa, but it doesn't actually see all that much play. You also have four copies of Lifebane Zombie and Thoughtseize to keep it from hitting the board in the first place. I suppose that Devour Flesh completes the safety net, but it seems like a lot of work just to make sure that Blood Baron doesn't run rampant.

The upside to Devour Flesh is that, in a lot of matchups, using it on your own creatures can occasionally buy you enough life to survive an alpha-strike, or potentially just provide you with a huge life barrier against a burn deck. There are times where Devour Flesh is actually just a much better card than Diabolic Edict, but I'm not sold that it is better than having removal spells that can kill Master of Waves.

And what about an opposing Pack Rat?

Once Bile Blight was printed, I thought it was an unwritten rule that all black decks should play three copies of Bile Blight, just to make sure Pack Rat didn't get too out of hand in the mirror. Before Bile Blight, the mirror almost completely revolved around Pack Rat, and eventually Underworld Connections once all the Pack Rats were dead. But even if you were ahead on cards thanks to Connections, there was a chance that your opponent could just peel Pack Rat and end the game in a few turns.

Now don't get me wrong, I think that Tenjum's list was very good, and he played well enough to win the tournament. I don't want you guys to think I'm just jumping down his throat. But I want you to know that I think the deck can be built better, and is absolutely a deck you should be considering for the Standard Open in Knoxville this weekend. I know I am, anyway.

Here's what I'm probably playing this weekend in Knoxville, and how I would sideboard in the most important matchups:

[View Deck]

With so much control running around at the moment, in all forms and flavors, I think that Nightveil Specter is exactly where you want to be. Lifebane Zombie is a nice card when you're battling against G/R Monsters or White aggressive decks, but he's not exactly stellar outside of those matchups. He does have three power, which is quite relevant, but Nightveil Specter has always been one of the best cards in any Black Devotion mirror, coming in right after Pack Rat and Underworld Connections.

When everyone has access to Abrupt Decay in the Black Devotion mirrors, overloading them on threats that are important to hit with Abrupt Decay is exactly what you want to be doing. I would much rather have them kill my Nightveil Specter than my Underworld Connections, where they can generally ignore Lifebane Zombie until they get to a fairly low life total.

I also advocate trimming one copy of Hero's Downfall in favor of another cheap removal spell. Since you aren't playing straight Mono-Black, there is merit to having your removal spells be cheaper, as you will have lands coming into play tapped or dealing damage to you. If you stumble at any point against a fast draw from an aggressive opponent, it could be lights out.

I know that the there aren't a significant number of changes, but I think they will be important for the decks I expect to face.

Now, let's go over some of those matchups and figure out exactly what we want to be doing.

Black Devotion

Out:

Desecration Demon

Desecration Demon

Desecration Demon

Desecration Demon

Gray Merchant of Asphodel

In:

Dark Betrayal

Dark Betrayal

Erebos, God of the Dead

Duress

Devour Flesh

Desecration Demon is easily the worst card in the deck after board, as it can often come down too late to affect an early Pack Rat. It is also one of the lowest impact cards when fighting an attrition battle, since it will always die for less mana than what you invest in it for very little gain. And even if you connect with a Desecration Demon once or twice, that doesn't actually do a whole lot.

The name of the game in the mirror is to kill everything, force them to discard their most important spells, and keep the engines running with Underworld Connections. It will be a slugfest every single time, and generally ends when one person draws a Pack Rat later in the game and the opponent doesn't have an answer. The best way to keep that from happening is having cards that answer a variety of threats.

I'm ecstatic that all of our removal spells can kill Nightveil Specter, but that may not be much of an issue if everyone keeps on playing Lifebane Zombie instead. In that regard, we will have a significant advantage in the matchup. They will be forced to leave in Desecration Demon, siding out Lifebane Zombie instead, giving us a three-drop threat that they must deal with or just get buried in card advantage.

While not all flavors of Black Devotion (or Black Control) will be the same, you can adjust your sideboarding strategy based on what you see from them. If they have Blood Baron and Obzedat over Gray Merchant of Asphodel, then Lifebane Zombie can come in over the last three copies of Gray Merchant. He isn't all that spectacular when most of your relevant board presence is immediately dispatched or discarded.

Blue Devotion

Out:

Pack Rat

Pack Rat

Pack Rat

Pack Rat

Underworld Connections

In:

Pharika's Cure

Pharika's Cure

Pharika's Cure

Devour Flesh

Golgari Charm

The fact that Golgari Charm can kill Bident of Thassa is huge, as Bident is one of their best cards against you. It also does double duty against Master of Waves in a pinch, but overall it is pretty narrow. There will be some points where they will pump their Frostburn Weird into a 4/1, allowing you to kill it, but that won't happen all that often. Golgari Charm does gets better if they're splashing for Detention Sphere, though.

Pack Rat is not a terrible card in the matchup, but I find myself just trying to kill every creature they play. They have so many threats that you rarely have time to get Pack Rat online and actually beat them with it. If they're playing Cyclonic Rift or Detention Sphere, this plan is much harder to get online.

I find that most games I win against Blue Devotion involve killing their first two creatures and then sticking a Desecration Demon. When that happens, the path is pretty easy to find. However, there are games where they can beat you on card advantage, and you must rely on Underworld Connections, Nightveil Specter, and Gray Merchant to finish them off.

This is as close to a 50/50 matchup as I have ever played, and will mostly come down to mulligan decisions or who draws better than the opponent. If you make a mistake, it will cost you greatly, but the same can be said for them. Sequencing their spells correctly is crucial, and if they misstep, they will give you a window to resolve a big threat and start crunching down on their life total.

U/W Control

Out:

Bile Blight

Bile Blight

Bile Blight

Devour Flesh

Pack Rat

Pack Rat

In:

Golgari Charm

Erebos, God of the Dead

Duress

Duress

Duress

Duress

In Game One, Pack Rat is absurd. You have a lot of mediocre removal that can be discarded and turned into actual threats, though you must still battle through Supreme Verdict and Detention Sphere. After sideboard, Pack Rat loses importance because you have fewer dead cards that you want to discard.

The tough thing about boarding in this matchup with the green splash is that Abrupt Decay has significant value thanks to them having Detention Sphere and possibly Banishing Light. Underworld Connections is one of your most important cards, so keeping those active is huge. Golgari Charm can also add pressure to their Detention Sphere effects, but also gives you a sweet bonus mode against Supreme Verdict if you have an army of Pack Rats or Desecration Demon beating down.

Normally I am a fan of siding out all of my removal and bringing in more threats like Lifebane Zombie, but in this version I am actually siding out threats. This means the matchup is probably a bit better, as Lifebane Zombie isn't exactly an all-star against a deck without creatures, but a body is a body.

G/R Monsters

Out:

Bile Blight

Bile Blight

Bile Blight

In:

Lifebane Zombie

Lifebane Zombie

Lifebane Zombie

If G/R Monsters starts to rise again in popularity, I don't recommend playing this version of the deck. We don't have any copies of Doom Blade, as this is a highly metagamed version of Black Devotion. Of course, the numbers could be tweaked to have a better matchup against this deck, but I would rather focus on strategies that are more common.

I am aware that a reasonable number of people, including Brian Braun-Duin and Chris VanMeter, played Monsters in Cincinnati, but only one copy broke into the Top 8 of the tournament, and it ultimately finished in 8th place. I am not implying that Monsters is a bad deck, but it honestly didn't gain a lot from Journey into Nyx, leading me to believe that it will not be something people actually want to play with.

Domri Rade is still a fantastic threat for midrange and control strategies to deal with, but this version of the deck can actually kill it thanks to Abrupt Decay. Unfortunately, Bile Blight kills exactly Elvish Mystic out of the deck, so our removal package is pretty narrow against them.

My advice: scrap that matchup and move on. If you play against them, cross your fingers and play your best. Thoughtseize and Desecration Demon are still tough for them to beat, but you will probably need to get a little lucky to win.

Red Aggro

This matchup will be difficult to sideboard in, because these decks can be built a number of ways. For the most part, Pharika's Cure will be fantastic against any build, as basically every version has Mutavault or some other juicy target. The life-gain aspect is huge here, but won't win you the game by itself. It just buys you enough time to find cards like Desecration Demon and Gray Merchant to beat them.

This is another matchup where Nightveil Specter is miles ahead of Lifebane Zombie, as the three points of toughness and flying are crucial against Chandra's Phoenix. It doesn't do a great job of pressuring them, and also still dies to Lightning Strike, but that just means they aren't progressing their board. I would much rather have a three-drop creature that can block Ash Zealot!

If they are a burn-based deck, then Duress will be key. Thoughtseize is still reasonable, generally buying you a point or two of life, but it is a terrible draw later in the game. Duress is almost always great, though.

The key point here is that you just need to figure out which version of the deck they are on before you know what you should sideboard in. Removal is great if they have a ton of dorks like Burning-Tree Emissary, but worse if all they have is Chandra's Phoenix. For the most part, Thoughtseize, Pack Rat, and Underworld Connections are your worst cards.

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POLLUTEDxDELTA    1889

http://www.starcitygames.com/article/28827_The-Grand-Prix-Experience.html

 

Pretty interesting article about Grand Prixs from judge's perspectives. The bottom half of it is pretty boring, but the first half has some good information. Also found this bit interesting:

 

The venue is one of the most prolific sources of complaints among Grand Prix attendees, but I'd be willing to bet that the vast majority of you had no idea that the popularity of Magic has essentially made comfortable venues a mix of impossible or untenable, and that's before we even consider the additional costs of thing like unionization and arbitrary “security” fees placed by convention centers that have had bad Yu-Gi-oh! experiences. It's truly a problem that has no solution right now, because what we're doing is creating a completely unique demand on a market neither prepared for us nor motivated to support us.

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+mmf    23362
ROFL

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»ACP    33376

This is one of the best articles I've read recently. Very rarely do I find myself agreeing with so much that a writer has to say.
 

Practice and Consistency, By Shaun McLaren

I'd like to kick things off with a little story from the book Art & Fear by David Bayles.

The ceramics teacher announced he was dividing his class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right graded solely on its quality.
 
His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would weigh the work of the "quantity" group: 50 pounds of pots rated an A, 40 pounds a B, and so on. Those being graded on "quality", however, needed to produce only one pot --albeit a perfect one --to get an A.
 
Well, come grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity!
 
It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work --and learning from their mistakes --the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

 
Imagine a similar story instead featuring a course that teaches you how to play Magic. One group of players is graded based on their ability to play one perfect match of Magic and complete one perfect draft, the other group is graded based entirely on volume. It makes sense that by the end of the course all the best drafters and players would be the ones who put the most time in.
 
Well sure, obviously the more Magic you play the better you get, but how can we use that to get better other than by just playing more Magic? While every game of Magic you play might make you a better Magic player, the most important games to win are going to be the ones at Grand Prix, PTQs, Opens, Invitationals, and Pro Tours, and the best forms of practice will be the games you played with the deck you end up playing at the tournament.
 
Modern has been heralded as a format where you pick a deck and master it. I think many people take a similar approach towards Legacy, perhaps even more-so. Was Standard this season so different? How about when Delver was the best deck? Or Caw-Blade? Who fared better, the people in on the ground floor of the best deck, or the ones desperately trying to beat them while still having a respectable game against the rest of the format?
 
Solved Formats
 
A format can probably never be completely stagnant since even the tiniest shift in a decklist should cause at least some small ripples throughout the metagame. Still, formats are very difficult to break wide open nowadays, and it seems like a best deck that is resistant to hate will usually emerge.
 
Tournament Magic might be a "victim" of its own success. With so many good competitive players constantly playing in competitive tournaments, it's hard to imagine a format that isn't carefully scrutinized and churned through countless gauntlets until it comes out the other side relatively clean and solved. I imagine the average skill level of tournament level Magic players is the highest it's ever been, and all the excellent resources and information online keeps everyone on the cutting edge.
 
While some formats might encourage more brewing thanks to less oppressive ber decks, there is no going back to the way things were in the Good Ol' Days. Back when the tournament scene was young and unexplored, if you discovered a nutty combo deck that no one else had you could more or less win the tournament with your eyes closed. The last time a completely busted deck was discovered was when Stoneforge Mystic got paired up with Sword of Feast and Famine at Pro Tour Paris. Teams are breaking formats less often, and they even removed the Block Pro Tour, which was basically the least explored format.
 
This isn't necessarily a bad thing or cause for concern, it just means things are different now.
 
Deck Mastery
 
So if the grinders who are masters of their archetypes are benefiting, who is suffering? The rogue deckbuilders. The brewers. The metagamers hopping from deck to deck. The window of time where it's worth it to try and find a new breakout deck is narrow. That time is probably better spent practicing with your archetype of choice and understanding how it interacts with the format. Not to say there isn't room for innovation and big gains for people willing to pioneer new strategies, but that skill seems to be on the decline.
 
Magic is already a game with chance baked into its core. This is a good thing. New cards are constantly being added, and there are a lot of Magic cards in existence. They all interact with each other for nearly limitless possibilities. You must be a rock, stoic and unafraid, with a studious understanding of your format of choice, weathering the RNG. It is rare you'll lose a match where you couldn't have played just a little better, if you had some key piece of understanding that you missed, to turn things around.
 
Pack Rats Makes Perfect
 
When I draw Pack Rat, my eye automatically goes to the Pack Rat. All is becoming Pack Rat.
 
What's so special about Pack Rat? Well it has a lot going for it, but for one thing, it's a consistent card. It turns every other card you have into Pack Rat. Lands become Pack Rats, removal becomes Pack Rat, you can completely change the way any game is played into a Pack Rat game.
 
 
Usually the "best" deck in a format is very consistent. What makes a consistent deck? Consistent decks will often be able to follow similar gameplans each game and have redundant cards. Think Affinity in Modern, many of the cards serve similar roles, or Birthing Pod, tutor effects are very consistent. Cantrips smooth draws. Thoughtseize is good against most decks no matter what cards they have. Burn runs lots of burn spells. Mono-color decks rarely get mana screwed since they only need one color source. Temples can help you find what you need. These are all tools that keep your deck consistent, streamlined, able to accomplish what they're trying to do. Consistent decks win more. Consistent players win more.
 
Theros block is the poster child for a consistent block. Devotion encourages mono-colored decks. Scry keeps decks humming and reduces flood or screw. Toss in Mutavault as a split land/creature card and you have an idea what kind of decks are going to show up without even looking.
 
What's the takeaway? Sometimes it's best to go with the flow. Keep it simple! Sometimes you should just get really good with Mono-Red/Black/Blue/Green/White because that's the correct strategy, and trying to break Maze's End isn't going to work out.
 
Failure
 
Sometimes you get into a rut. If feels like you're banging your head against the wall, and nothing you do works. It's natural for there to be downswings and upswings, and it's apparently natural to take these things personally based on almost every chat box on Magic Online.
 
You can't win them all. Well, technically you probably can win them all; you know what, in some statistically insignificant corner of the infinite multiverse you are winning them all. But it's very, very unlikely you will win them all, much harder than catching them all. Let's just say you won't win them all.
 
If you want to win very badly enough, you might be frozen by inaction or nervous it won't be perfect and that will hurt your game. Recognize that you will make mistakes and just try to minimize the amount of mistakes you will make by being familiar with your deck. You will learn from your mistakes even if you aren't consciously trying to. People who win tend to keep winning. They are used to winning and know how it goes. They are practiced winners.
Keep learning, practicing, searching for the best strategy, and once you've found it, keep doing what you know to be right even if it isn't paying off in results just yet. It will eventually.
 
When you are in a losing cycle, abandoning ship from your deck of choice too soon and too often will mean you're starting to play...
 
Ping Pong Magic
 
Let's say you're not winning as much as you want, because you have ridiculously high standards and expect to win the vast majority of games. You could even have the best deck in the format and be winning 55% of the time, but the losses still feel bad and are what stick out in your mind. You might think that you should be winning 80% of the time, absolutely crushing! Winning should be a breeze!
 
Well that isn't usually how things work. It might cause you to abandon your deck and pick up something else which also ends up falling short of your standards. What you end up missing is that you can only start squeezing out more percentage points from your deck by mastering it. You can only unlock a deck's full potential once you are familiar with the format and start piloting your deck really tight, especially in the tricky matches.
 
Don't end up good with many decks but masterful with no deck.
 
Creativity
 
Once you have the fundamental interactions and matchups etched onto the surface of your brain, making creative plays becomes much easier.
 
Card interactions are often complicated and unintuitive, but once you've seen a situation a couple times, it becomes easy to build on that play with more cards and interactions.
 
Take Yuuki Ichikawa's masterful Golgari Charm play seen here at 45:20
 
He made that play instantly. Golgari Charm is a complicated card; it has multiple modes and Yuuki used it to trump another Charm which also has three modes. I expect Yuuki has cast Golgari Charm hundreds of times and is very aware of what it can do. Maybe he drew on knowledge from a similar but different situation, like shrinking an Aetherlings power to avoid an Elspeth, Sun's Champion minus ability. That sort of intimate knowledge of how your card can potentially interact with other cards, even complicated cards that you don't even know are in your opponents hand, is great creative play that comes from a solid foundation of having seen the card cast many times.
Fatigue
 
The foundation of skills you build through practice is also very helpful when your brain is tired. You might not be in any condition to make excellent plays and are just clinging to what mental strength you have left to get through your match. It's hard to make the same mistake twice, even harder to make the same mistake for a fifth time, no matter how tired you are. Put in the reps to prevent dumb mistakes we all make, and you'll be able to kick butt in your sleep.
 
Process
 
Explore the format with an open mind, testing new decks, eliminating ones you aren't interested in, circling in on ones you want to play. Once you are fairly confident, begin to focus on that deck against the major matchups. Continue playing and tweaking as much as you can. Learn which cards are essential in each matchup. Learn how most games play out and what to watch out for from your opponent's decks.
 
To a certain extent you must grind. Putting in the hours just works, and there is no real replacement for it. This is why you'll find many pros started playing Magic when they were younger; they had a great foundation of play skill built up. Don't grind until your eyes bleed, but recognize that you need to put some time in to be top tier, this will remind and encourage you to find time to play.
 
What happens if you need to audible? Changing decks a week before a tournament isn't usually a big issue, but doing it the night before usually is. Some decks have a lower barrier to gain competency with. Less interactive and proactive strategies are generally easier to pick up and play although any deck will still benefit quite a bit from mastery. These are the type of decks that would be best to pick up the night before a tournament.
 
I remember years ago, it was right before a Modern PTQ, and I saw G/R Tron posted online in a Daily Event. It had just been made, and I knew barely anyone would know about it. Jund was running rampant and the deck seemed fantastic. So naturally I scrambled to borrow cards and get it together to play at the PTQ. Well the deck seemed simple enough, but it still required mechanical skill. I ended up facing Delver with maindeck Molten Rain in round 1 and sideboarding out my Emrakul for the loss in round 2. I didn't have the practice I needed to become competent with the deck. Perhaps it was still the right decision to play Tron, since the deck was powerful and unexpected, but I would have greatly benefited from some practice.
 
Results
 
Khans of Tarkir might change things since multi-color sets are usually fertile brewers paradises, and Magic follows a cyclical path, changing the strategies that work from set to set. Still, practicing and finding a consistent deck will always be an important part of preparing for any Magic tournament.
 
What are some takeaways you can apply to improve your game?
- Lock in your deck earlier than you have been. Audible rarely and only if you are confident it is the right move.
- Practice more matches versus the decks you most expect to face, as well as the complicated decks. Play sideboarded games, even over game 1's if time is an issue.

 

Not exactly new advice or reinventing the wheel, but we don't have to! The hard part is often just following the correct path.
 
You can apply some of these ideas to almost any aspect of life. Hopefully, what you choose to do corresponds with what you love to do. Makes things much easier. Having a deck you love to play or a job you love to do means you'll do it more, and thus, get better at it. If you want to write great Magic articles, keep writing them, even if it involves writing an article suggesting people practice more to get better. Want to be a Chef? Cook. Artist? Draw. Wine Taster? Taste some wine.
 
You are what you eat. You become what you do.
 
Expect results to come eventually, based on the quantity of games and effort you put in. Allow them to come to you by eliminating your resistance to the wins. This is the tricky part because we want the good stuff before we put in the work, and the good stuff always comes after the work. If you want to win, you have the tools. Lady Luck might have it out for you, and you won't end up winning despite giving it your all. You can and will win. With the attitude that there is no rush, and that it's more important to keep making pots than to struggle and fret about making the perfect one.
 
The only thing that can stop you is if you stop playing. Be consistent with your practice.
 
Now go and play some more games!

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+mmf    23362

http://magic.tcgplayer.com/db/article.asp?ID=12007

 

one of the better articles i've read in a good while

 

edit: he links this within the comments as well, which turned out to be an excellent literature review on mulls, which i figure is particularly relevant here given the mulligan thread that's exploded recently

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http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/mm/metamorphosis

All I can say is wow, probably my most important read in the last month or so.

 

To summarize, after Khans block, we are switching to a 2 set block cycle and eliminating the core set. We will be moving to a 18 month rotation cycle for standard.

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HeyyQT    47

Thats pretty huge. The only concern I have as a player is that my "$25 sphinx revs" are going to devalue a lot quicker. I have noticed that this point is a reason alot of players stray from standard. I wonder what the ramifications will be.

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~NettLEs~    73

I've been playing proxied UWR Miracles for about a year now, and have read a few articles that some friends have shown me, but is there anything that is a must-read for Miracles players?

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+Gemstone Mine    2582

There's some article written a couple of weeks back or so thats a primer on miracles, idk how useful it'll be, but it was written on like scg premium. From what I understand of it (don't have premium), its a great intro, but if you've played a bunch of miracles already, its nothing new

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»ACP    33376

I liked Glenn Jones' article today: http://www.starcitygames.com/article/29624_Ticking-Clocks-In-Standard.html

 

He made some good points about how the emphasis on tempo makes being on the play a bit better than it used to be. For this reason, I would actually argue that Elvish Mystic is the overall best card in standard, as silly as it sounds.

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»ACP    33376
I feel like that article has already been written several times. I could be wrong though and it wasn't bad regardless.

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POLLUTEDxDELTA    1889

#1 is really big. I only recently started thinking that way - I remember for the longest time, I would over analyze every loss I had. I was never okay with simply losing (the point about two equally skilled players, and neither getting lucky or unlucky, but someone has to lose). 

 

Even though I've picked up on almost all of his points, it's still a great article to read and reflect on how much better I have gotten.

 

Article is also extremely well written imo. Still hard to believe English is his second language.

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»ACP    33376

I honestly think PV is the best MTG writer of our time and I wish he wrote more.

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+Urthor    10167

#1 actually just changed my perspective on card games right there and then, I take it comically far and expect everyone else to do it too.  

 

Like sure it's a countercultural reaction to everyone else doing the opposite, but he's right there is a point where you're actually almost being unrealistic and you almost just box yourself in and feeling like you misplayed that game because you didn't make the best play with the benefit of hindsight and instead made the best possible play with the info you have.  When I'm stopping myself from doing THAT with my post-game beat up of myself, that's when it's way too far.  

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»Turkey    1515

I honestly think PV is the best MTG writer of our time and I wish he wrote more.

I disagree. I think Mark Nestico is the greatest MTG writer of our time. 

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Mutavault    2900

I never thought I would say this but can anyone please put Brad Nelson's article he just wrote from winning the players championship. I had premium until Christmas have been busy today and was going to read it tonight. So then I saw it was like 12:30 and I missed it by half hour =[.

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Schism    986

PV wrote another great article: http://www.channelfireball.com/articles/the-life-of-a-pro-player/

Definitely more for those that want to pursue MTG and perhaps other games as a career.

 

That's funny that you posted that. I replied to the article and was about to post the same thing before I saw your post. 

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»BoraxTheLean    7119

I never thought I would say this but can anyone please put Brad Nelson's article he just wrote from winning the players championship. I had premium until Christmas have been busy today and was going to read it tonight. So then I saw it was like 12:30 and I missed it by half hour =[.

Sorry for late reply.

 

Don't know if there is a better way to post it.

 

[spoiler]

My hands are shaking. Why are my hands shaking? They never do this. My breathing's too fast. Am I nervous? I never get nervous. Alright Brad, you've put too much work into getting to this position to freak yourself out. Buckle down, get in control, and do what you do best.

 

(Action)

So did you bring your A game today, Mr. Boss? Sucks we have to play in the very first round, but they never said this was going to be easy. Luckily for me, I have you figured out. You don't have any super powers. You just prey on fear. Somehow, someway you get even the most accomplished players to believe whatever you want, but not me. Not today, anyway. I know you aren't the boogeyman under my bed or the monster in my closet. You are just a guy with seven cards, and you won't always have the right ones. I'm sorry I have to do this, but Hero's Downfall has three modes this weekend.

(Exit Tom Ross)

For the past two months my entire reality revolved around qualifying for the StarCityGames Players' Championship, and there wasn't going to be a person able to stop me from achieving it. In fact, anyone that even attempted to keep me from succeeding would find themselves falling short. I promised myself I would qualify for this tournament no matter what and knew it to be fact.

I simply wanted it more than anyone else.

This wasn't the case for the entire season. For most of the year I didn't really care about the event. I just saw it as yet another tournament series promoting hamster wheel mentality. I couldn't see myself grinding all year long to eventually fall short much like my Pro Tour career has in the past few years. Each season I was just shy of the expected goal. When I wanted Gold, I was forced to settle for Silver and grind out each qualification as they presented themselves. Once even Gold wouldn't satisfy my hunger, it became all that was offered. The years had gotten to me, and I was fed up with reaching for the stars only to realize they're just old light. I became jaded.

I was unaccountable for my personal success. My downfall wasn't an inability to succeed, but the desire to do so. Unable to continuously keep the tank full, the drive was never a constant. The fire that fueled me once before in my career had been smothered.

(Enter Todd Anderson)

This all changed when I finally had a co-pilot for commiseration. Now Todd might not seem like the best choice for a supporting character to most, but nobody knows him the way I do. The heart in his chest is unmatched by anyone I have yet to cross paths with. Unlike me, he is driven by passion, but lacks the direction I possess. Together we would battle above the clouds and reach the peaks we so desperately desired. We started to want it more than anyone else.

"Round two pairings are…"

Well well, look who we have here. Why isn't it my bearded brethren himself. I understand you pull power from your facial hair, but this isn't the battle you want to be in. You may have come into this tournament looking for glory, but I sat down lusting for blood. I hope the best for you with the rest of the event, but you won't be finding the stepping stone needed to get to the next round unscathed. I just hope this doesn't hurt too much.

(Exit Chris VanMeter)

Qualifying for the Players' Championships wasn't going to be easy. Spiking an event or two would be optimal, but the most crucial asset was determination. Points add up quickly, making it difficult to take a week off. We decided to commit to the remaining season and packed our bags for Minneapolis. The flights were expensive, but the points were priceless. We showed up ready and willing to grind out every match in the event and did exactly that. We started the grind.

Traveling week in and week out became difficult. I started to feel the warm light at the end of the tunnel get closer and closer, but the trek was starting to take its toll. I was left relying on Todd to continuously fill the tank needed to continue, even though I was the one with less distance to cover. His drive and passion kept me committed to the task. We just had to keep playing.

"Feature matches for this round…"

Why hello SMann. You're doing great so far. Off to a 2-0 start with a decently positioned deck. All you have to do now is beat me and you get to go all the way to the Top 8. You could kick your feet up and relish in the fact that you already made it to the second day of competition after only playing three short rounds. Wouldn't that be awesome? Wait, that would be awesome! I want that! Good thing I playtested against W/U Heroic this week for about six hours. Game after game I watched Ordeal of Thassa's trigger until I knew every little thing I needed to for this matchup. Now it isn't the best matchup for me in the room, but it is the one I have the most experience with. How well do you know Sidisi and her horde of walking dead?

(Exit Steve Mann)

The weeks went on and the reality of succeeding grew closer. I was now in the thick of things with enough points to feel secure. All I had to do was maintain and the qualification was mine. Sadly this wasn't the case for my other half. Todd had fallen behind. The weeks of near misses had gotten to him, and he didn't see a way to qualify outside of winning the Season Four Invitational. He decided that the last couple Opens weren't worth it and put all of his eggs in one basket. I packed my bags for Portland while he focused on preparing for his Alamo. We at least had a plan.

I further cemented my qualification with a second place finish in Portland. Gerry Thompson being the good friend he was conceded in the semifinals so that I would be as close to a mathematical lock as possible. Awkwardly enough, I didn't want him to do this, but I understood bigger forces were at play. Gerry cared more about me playing in the Players' Championships than him hoisting a trophy that day.

I gracefully accepted his concession and thanked him for being a truly great friend.

The following week wasn't as good. Without Todd to keep the focus up, I found myself slacking. I finally secured my slot in the Players' Championships, but the long journey had left me exhausted. Instead of buckling down and preparing for the Invitational, I simply chose not to. Instead I just hung out in Seattle all week and didn't do much of anything. It ended in me scrubbing out with two poorly built decks. This was the first tournament I didn't cash since I started the journey to the Players' Championship.

Todd, on the other hand, was full of the fire. He wanted it so badly, but sadly came up short. The look of defeat on his face was heart breaking. Two rounds into day two and the dream was already dead once he picked up his fourth loss. I felt bad, but knew there was nothing I could do but keep spirits high. Oddly enough, he didn't need any of that. He just wanted to finish out strong and make some cash. He was content to grind out some old light.

"I might be in," he said to me after his last round. Somehow, someway the pairings landed perfect for Todd to sneak into the top 8. A surge of electricity rushed over my body as I may be seeing the first step to having my co-pilot in the event with me next week. All I wanted was to hear his name before the cheering stopped. I couldn't dream of a better way to spend my evening than to test his matchups all night long. Again, I felt the fire that I let tapper off…

"And in ninth place..."

"Got em!" Todd shouted at me as he opened the door. We hug and bask in day one's success. Sitting down to watch coverage of an event I am still in is surreal. My day is over, yet I get to see who I will be playing against tomorrow. This tournament has these poor bastards grasping at straws while I've got my legs up and a cold one in my hand. It sure feels good to be great at Standard.

 

The gamer mindset quickly shifts to that of any spectator. Someone is about to get eliminated and there is no way I am going to miss it! The back of my chair becomes vacant as I lean in to see who is going to draw the short straw and end up going home. For now, I bask in the fact that it won't be me. Not yet anyway.

 

I got back into Roanoke late Monday night to find out decklists were due Thursday at noon. I understood why they needed them so early, but I felt slighted that I spent so much time trying to qualify for this event and now was rushed during the preparation process. Metagaming for a sixteen-player event is much different than for any other tournament. On top of that, the structure was so off the wall that it was difficult to fully grasp how to approach it. I felt lost and alone as I scoured the internet for clues to what I thought the other fifteen players were going to do, and in turn, what I should be playing.

The biggest difference for this event and others is that Magic Online wasn't going to be the greatest tool for preparation. I simply couldn't just jam a bunch of games to get a feel for what I needed to be doing. Every matchup against a deck I didn't expect was a waste of time, and I quickly realized I needed help. Luckily and surprisingly, Todd was ready to go to bat for me. He gladly put his own things aside for the moment and picked up deck after deck to do battle. We played every matchup I expected to play against until I felt comfortable. He never said no. He never gave up. He never let me do anything half-way.

On the other side of the country I had Gerry ready to battle me on Magic Online. He had been extensively testing the matchups that deserved only the greatest of adversaries to do battle against. Odds were that Reid Duke was going to be playing something similar to what Gerry had been mastering, which would mean I would need a highly skilled test partner to give me the best chance of beating the best in the world. He was just that.

Knowing how to wield the weapon was one thing, but making sure it was sharp enough to pierce skin was equally as important. I wasn't that familiar with Sultai Reanimator before this week, but I knew that Sultai Charm was going to be well-positioned, making it the best deck to due battle with. I called up Josh Utter-Leyton and Willy Edel for coaching and was not disappointed with their sage advice. They helped me craft a great 74 for this event and bestowed the confidence needed to go into battle unafraid. I say 74 due to Gerry convincing me to add a twenty-fourth land last minute.

Classic Gerry.

Time was running short, and tensions were high. It was do or die time and I needed to submit my decks. I double and triple checked them to make sure I didn't screw something up. I had to have stared at those two decklists for over an hour. I didn't know if I was looking for a mistake or a revelation. Neither presented themselves, so with a sigh of both relaxation and defeat, I looked to my bed for some much needed rest.

Why can't I sleep? I never have difficulty sleeping. I should be tired after such a stressful day one. Sure I only played three rounds of Magic, but they were intense! I also had to stomach watching so many friends have do or die moments while I got to curl up on the couch. Man this tournament is intense! I can't believe how awesome it is. Every match, whether I am in it or not, has been amazing.

 

Alright, so how do I sideboard against Reid? Do I actually bring in Pyroclasm against Miracles since he hasPeacekeeper? I mean, I have to right?

 

Wait, no, Brad you have to go to sleep! You can do this in the morning, but for now you need to get some rest. You don't want to throw it all away because you didn't get any rest before the final day of the year. You've been working towards this for months now. Just go to sleep and deal with this in the morning.

 

What in the hell is going on with Gerard's deck? I mean, I understand that he must have thought onlyStoneforge Mystic was going to be in the room, but no Force of Wills anywhere? Hell, Joe Lossett even showed up with a combo deck. Talk about misevaluating the metagame.

 

What are you doing? Go to sleep already. Don't do this to yourself. Take a melatonin and just drift off. I know, maybe if I count sheep. I don't know if it works, but it's better than dissecting this tournament all night long.

 

Sheep number 1... Sheep number 2... Sheep num...wait a minute. What am I thinking?!

 

Goat number 1... Goat number 2... Goat number 3...

 

There was no going back now. My decks were registered and locked. All that could be done was wait patiently as the minutes ran down until eventually the tournament started. Players began rolling into town and activities were quickly being lined up. Part of me wanted to get some face time with the other competitors, but my conscience was telling me to keep preparing. Even though I couldn't change a card, I still wanted to know both of my decks on the deepest level possible. I didn't want to give up testing. I just didn't know what I still needed to prepare against and who would put up with some more testing. I timidly asked Todd to go above and beyond once more.

"Sure man, you'd do it for me," was the response given when I asked to test fringe matchups that I couldn't even guarantee would show up. Again, we sleeved up some decks and did battle on his kitchen table. Kali Anderson in the background making sure we had full bellies and wet whistles, we did battle for most of the day.

Testing for long periods of time when decks couldn't shift was a strange experience. My mind would constantly go to altering my decks ever so slightly, but then the shocking realization that I couldn't would sweep over me. For a hot minute I would panic, but quickly realized that everyone else was under the same restraints and probably felt the same way. I had to wrap my head around finding a way for this 75 to function. We worked hard on finding every sideboard configuration available and called it a week.

Most of the contestants were in town by this time, and plans to meet for a pregame dinner were in order. I took Todd to the restaurant early to split a pitcher and finally get some time to hang out with my best friend without any stress. We didn't speak of Magic once, because we didn't have to. We already exhausted the subject. I was ready.

 

No alarm? What time is it? Did I oversleep? Oh no, am I late?

 

"Beep beep beep."

 

The energy was already running through me. Yesterday was intense, but today it would be deafening. Excitement began engulfing my body. Before I can even reach the bathroom my game face had already taken form. The energy rushing through my body reached max capacity, and I was forced to get it all out. Uncontrollably, I let out a boisterous battle cry directed towards my reflection.

 

"I remember this man in the mirror, but I haven't seen him in a while. When did we last meet? San Juan? No, it wasn't San Juan. Amsterdam? No, not there either. Paris? That's right, it was Paris. We met right before I played seven games for Player of the Year. Well it has been a long time old friend, glad you could show up for me today."

 

As I drove to the site, I realized how wrong I was about this tournament. Only one day and three rounds in, and I can easily say it is the most exhilarating tournament I have ever been a part of. I can't believe I'm going to have to eat my words and tell Evan how amazing this event is after all the negativity I previously voiced about it. I guess I can't always be right.

 

"Can I have the floor?" I asked the table of nearly twenty as we dined the night before the event. "Who wants to give $500 of first place's money to whoever gets screwed over the worst by the rules in this stupid tournament?" Everyone laughed at my joke, but also shifted the conversations to exactly how they felt about the tournament structure. We all agreed that it needed some work and that this event might end up being extremely awkward for most parties. We all shrugged since there was nothing we could do but participate. It's easy to do so when at least one of us was going to win. We enjoyed each other's company and shared stories from days passed. Anything to keep our minds off of the pressure we would feel once the event had started.

"In Pod A, we start with Gerard Fabiano."

 

A pin can be heard as the eight of us stand waiting for the pods to form. Tensions run high as we all silently pray we don't get stuck with bad matchups. Each and every one of us slowly realizing that this tournament was, in fact, the most intense event we have ever played. That it was a much better experience than we predicted.

 

All I can hope is to be put in the same pod as two great matchups, as well as dodge my best friend's left in the event. I just need a little luck and everything will be alright.

 

"Round one: Brad Nelson vs Joe Lossett."

 

This isn't how I wanted to start off the day. The last time I played against you wasn't a pleasant one. Good thing you have made the gravest of mistakes. It's quite miraculous for me that you showed up with this new toy. How well do you know this one, my dear friend? You would have struck fear into my eyes with your prized archetype, but I have nothing to be scared of anymore. Visions of me losing this event always included you activating a Top, but now I have all the tools needed to leave you sitting and spinning yourself.

 

(Exit Joe Lossett)

The next round is up already? That was barely any time for me to unwind! And on top of that, I'm up against you? Well the pressure's on, I guess. You have bested me in the past, but luckily I know you are just as scared of me as I am of you. This situation is exactly why I have chosen this deck. With anything else in my hands you would feel confident, but this is the one deck I can strike fear into your eyes with. At any moment I can end the match, and you know that. It's time for me to Show you a thing or two.

 

(Exit Brian Braun-Duin)

 

Just one more match and I am back into Standard. Given how the structure works, I could even get some testing in during my four-hour break. It would be better for me to keep grinding and not ice myself before the top 4. I wonder if I can get Todd to build Gerard's and Reid's deck and battle with me for a couple hours. I might be able to convince him to do that!

 

The day had finally come. Round one of the Players' Championships was a mere three hours away, and I had done everything I could to be ready. I grabbed my phone and saw a surprising email from Todd.

"Here is everything you need to know about sideboarding."

The contents included everything he could think of that I might have missed. Strategy, sideboard guides, and opinions of what my opponents might do. Some of the information had already been engrained into my head, but some found its way to the back of my score pads. I couldn't believe that after all the work he had already put in for me, that he was continuously striving to get me the trophy. Almost as if he was living vicariously through me, he did everything in his power to make sure that I would be wielding the best parts of both of our games this weekend. He wanted more than anyone else, and I wanted to validate his hard work. I was going to fight until there wasn't any fight to be fought.

I lost? How could I lose? If I had to pick one matchup to win, it would be this exact one. Now I have to stay and play a playoff against someone instead of continuing my preparation at Todd's house. How could I have let this happen? What did I do wrong? I guess let's find out who I will be playing against. Maybe I will get a good matchup.

 

I watched tentatively as Reid Duke and Tom Ross did battle. The entire room was silent as these two titans faced off for the third time this season in this matchup. Steve Mann stood to my left wanting the same conclusion as I. If Tom won that would mean I would face off against the SMann himself in our elimination round, but if he lost I would be against my good friend once again, while Steve's tournament was over. We all had something on the line.

 

Turn after turn, Tom came closer to defeat. The noose around his neck tightening with the growing hand size of Reid Duke. He made his move and he was wrong. I play Tom Ross.

 

Like two animals forced to fight, Tom and I sit quietly awaiting our call to center stage. Neither of us talks. We sit and tamper with our phones. Other points in my life I would try to get myself away from the situation mentally, but not today. I spend all my time theory crafting situations that might come up and how he is going to sideboard. I talk to Todd on the phone in preparation for the match. I need guidance, I need faith, I need to defeat my friend once again. Will I see a different Tom Ross than yesterday, or have all these beatings left your spirits weakened? I'll take any edge I can get, and I hope the five beatings you've already taken stay with you like ghosts from your past. Just hold onto them for one more round Tom. I need you to stay shaken up.

 

(Exit Tom Ross)

My pre-tournament rituals oddly changed. For the first time ever, I would be playing in a major event, but in my backyard. This meant I would wake up in my own bed, use my own shower, and get to go to the same Starbucks I always go to for coffee. I also was up far earlier than I needed to be. I got out of bed, and almost like I wasn't in control of myself, went for a walk. I don't know why I did this, but I just needed to find my center for this tournament. Maybe it was the long months that got me here. It could also be that no matter what happens this weekend, my year is over and the story is cemented. This journey will be complete, and I need to experience the moment before it all goes away. It truly is a now or never moment. I sat down on the bench and checked my phone.

"I have a little more time to relax."

"You have to get seated now! There are 17,000 people watching, and I am not running a deck tech. Let's give the people what they came to see!"

I knew I was going to have to get through you sooner or later to win this tournament. You might be the crowd's pick to win the tournament, but the crowd's not inside my head. If they knew how badly I wanted this, there would be no cheers for you. They would realize it was a lost cause. You were better than me yesterday, even better than me today, and you will be better than me tomorrow, but I have a super power you aren't aware of. I have this ability to manifest whatever outcome I believe will happen. Truly believe. Undoubtedly believe. Know the fact. Today that fact is I am winning this tournament. Only Brian Braun-Duin has stifled this super power in the past, but he has been eliminated. All that stops me now is myself. I have lost matches to you in the past where your skill has gotten inside my head, but not today Mr. Duke. Today I will be taking that trophy home.

(Exit Reid Duke)

 

There is no time to spare. I have five minutes before the finals starts and I need to prepare. Coffee? Check! Water? Check! Wisdom bestowed upon me from Gerry Thompson? I guess I should call him first.

 

I spend the five minutes outside with Gerry going over the subtle differences between the two Sultai Reanimator lists. I just have to make sure that I miss nothing in the finals. I'm not letting Gerard be the only thing that kept me from winning this event. He bested me earlier in the day, but I fully expect to be getting my chips back.

 

"Good luck," he says to me as he extends his hand to the middle of the table.

 

Good luck to you as well.

 

(Fade to Black)

I was the first contestant to get to the StarCityGames Center. All of the directors, judges, commentators, and media were running around frantically as they prepared to put on the show of the year. I sat there alone and watched them all scurry around the room as they tried to get everything ready. All of them with a task at hand but me. Almost invisible I sat there waiting for someone to say something. I just waited for someone to say action.

"ROLL TIDE!"

I turn around to see Todd Anderson and Tom Ross hanging on the rails behind me. What are you guys doing here? Oh, I guess I just won this thing. Oh yeah, I won this thing and you guys are happy for me. Alright, here are some hugs, but I am going to need a while before I can get extroverted again. Much like the movie Inception, I went too many layers deep and am going to need a while before I can get out of gamer mode. I just need to make sure I don't sound like a robot during this interview.

Just do all those things you always do in the Versus Videos and you'll be fine.

I take a collected moment to thank Todd for all his hard work. I truly couldn't have done this without him, but I know he will never see it that way. He will just find a way to invalidate all of his hard work, but I will always remember this as the tournament it took a team to win. I will forever be grateful for what they all did for me.

All of the contestants leave. Some heading home, while others to the Anderson's house for an after tournament party. I was the last player able to leave since I had to stay back and take pictures. The directors, judges, commentators, and media were running around frantically to break down the set and get out of there. I sat there alone watching them scurry around the room trying to finish up. All of them had a task to accomplish but me. I felt invisible waiting for anyone to say anything. I guess I just had to wait for someone to say, "that's a wrap."

[/spoiler]

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Mutavault    2900

 

I never thought I would say this but can anyone please put Brad Nelson's article he just wrote from winning the players championship. I had premium until Christmas have been busy today and was going to read it tonight. So then I saw it was like 12:30 and I missed it by half hour =[.

Sorry for late reply.

 

Don't know if there is a better way to post it.

 

[spoiler]

My hands are shaking. Why are my hands shaking? They never do this. My breathing's too fast. Am I nervous? I never get nervous. Alright Brad, you've put too much work into getting to this position to freak yourself out. Buckle down, get in control, and do what you do best.

 

(Action)

So did you bring your A game today, Mr. Boss? Sucks we have to play in the very first round, but they never said this was going to be easy. Luckily for me, I have you figured out. You don't have any super powers. You just prey on fear. Somehow, someway you get even the most accomplished players to believe whatever you want, but not me. Not today, anyway. I know you aren't the boogeyman under my bed or the monster in my closet. You are just a guy with seven cards, and you won't always have the right ones. I'm sorry I have to do this, but Hero's Downfall has three modes this weekend.

(Exit Tom Ross)

For the past two months my entire reality revolved around qualifying for the StarCityGames Players' Championship, and there wasn't going to be a person able to stop me from achieving it. In fact, anyone that even attempted to keep me from succeeding would find themselves falling short. I promised myself I would qualify for this tournament no matter what and knew it to be fact.

I simply wanted it more than anyone else.

This wasn't the case for the entire season. For most of the year I didn't really care about the event. I just saw it as yet another tournament series promoting hamster wheel mentality. I couldn't see myself grinding all year long to eventually fall short much like my Pro Tour career has in the past few years. Each season I was just shy of the expected goal. When I wanted Gold, I was forced to settle for Silver and grind out each qualification as they presented themselves. Once even Gold wouldn't satisfy my hunger, it became all that was offered. The years had gotten to me, and I was fed up with reaching for the stars only to realize they're just old light. I became jaded.

I was unaccountable for my personal success. My downfall wasn't an inability to succeed, but the desire to do so. Unable to continuously keep the tank full, the drive was never a constant. The fire that fueled me once before in my career had been smothered.

(Enter Todd Anderson)

This all changed when I finally had a co-pilot for commiseration. Now Todd might not seem like the best choice for a supporting character to most, but nobody knows him the way I do. The heart in his chest is unmatched by anyone I have yet to cross paths with. Unlike me, he is driven by passion, but lacks the direction I possess. Together we would battle above the clouds and reach the peaks we so desperately desired. We started to want it more than anyone else.

"Round two pairings are…"

Well well, look who we have here. Why isn't it my bearded brethren himself. I understand you pull power from your facial hair, but this isn't the battle you want to be in. You may have come into this tournament looking for glory, but I sat down lusting for blood. I hope the best for you with the rest of the event, but you won't be finding the stepping stone needed to get to the next round unscathed. I just hope this doesn't hurt too much.

(Exit Chris VanMeter)

Qualifying for the Players' Championships wasn't going to be easy. Spiking an event or two would be optimal, but the most crucial asset was determination. Points add up quickly, making it difficult to take a week off. We decided to commit to the remaining season and packed our bags for Minneapolis. The flights were expensive, but the points were priceless. We showed up ready and willing to grind out every match in the event and did exactly that. We started the grind.

Traveling week in and week out became difficult. I started to feel the warm light at the end of the tunnel get closer and closer, but the trek was starting to take its toll. I was left relying on Todd to continuously fill the tank needed to continue, even though I was the one with less distance to cover. His drive and passion kept me committed to the task. We just had to keep playing.

"Feature matches for this round…"

Why hello SMann. You're doing great so far. Off to a 2-0 start with a decently positioned deck. All you have to do now is beat me and you get to go all the way to the Top 8. You could kick your feet up and relish in the fact that you already made it to the second day of competition after only playing three short rounds. Wouldn't that be awesome? Wait, that would be awesome! I want that! Good thing I playtested against W/U Heroic this week for about six hours. Game after game I watched Ordeal of Thassa's trigger until I knew every little thing I needed to for this matchup. Now it isn't the best matchup for me in the room, but it is the one I have the most experience with. How well do you know Sidisi and her horde of walking dead?

(Exit Steve Mann)

The weeks went on and the reality of succeeding grew closer. I was now in the thick of things with enough points to feel secure. All I had to do was maintain and the qualification was mine. Sadly this wasn't the case for my other half. Todd had fallen behind. The weeks of near misses had gotten to him, and he didn't see a way to qualify outside of winning the Season Four Invitational. He decided that the last couple Opens weren't worth it and put all of his eggs in one basket. I packed my bags for Portland while he focused on preparing for his Alamo. We at least had a plan.

I further cemented my qualification with a second place finish in Portland. Gerry Thompson being the good friend he was conceded in the semifinals so that I would be as close to a mathematical lock as possible. Awkwardly enough, I didn't want him to do this, but I understood bigger forces were at play. Gerry cared more about me playing in the Players' Championships than him hoisting a trophy that day.

I gracefully accepted his concession and thanked him for being a truly great friend.

The following week wasn't as good. Without Todd to keep the focus up, I found myself slacking. I finally secured my slot in the Players' Championships, but the long journey had left me exhausted. Instead of buckling down and preparing for the Invitational, I simply chose not to. Instead I just hung out in Seattle all week and didn't do much of anything. It ended in me scrubbing out with two poorly built decks. This was the first tournament I didn't cash since I started the journey to the Players' Championship.

Todd, on the other hand, was full of the fire. He wanted it so badly, but sadly came up short. The look of defeat on his face was heart breaking. Two rounds into day two and the dream was already dead once he picked up his fourth loss. I felt bad, but knew there was nothing I could do but keep spirits high. Oddly enough, he didn't need any of that. He just wanted to finish out strong and make some cash. He was content to grind out some old light.

"I might be in," he said to me after his last round. Somehow, someway the pairings landed perfect for Todd to sneak into the top 8. A surge of electricity rushed over my body as I may be seeing the first step to having my co-pilot in the event with me next week. All I wanted was to hear his name before the cheering stopped. I couldn't dream of a better way to spend my evening than to test his matchups all night long. Again, I felt the fire that I let tapper off…

"And in ninth place..."

"Got em!" Todd shouted at me as he opened the door. We hug and bask in day one's success. Sitting down to watch coverage of an event I am still in is surreal. My day is over, yet I get to see who I will be playing against tomorrow. This tournament has these poor bastards grasping at straws while I've got my legs up and a cold one in my hand. It sure feels good to be great at Standard.

 

The gamer mindset quickly shifts to that of any spectator. Someone is about to get eliminated and there is no way I am going to miss it! The back of my chair becomes vacant as I lean in to see who is going to draw the short straw and end up going home. For now, I bask in the fact that it won't be me. Not yet anyway.

 

I got back into Roanoke late Monday night to find out decklists were due Thursday at noon. I understood why they needed them so early, but I felt slighted that I spent so much time trying to qualify for this event and now was rushed during the preparation process. Metagaming for a sixteen-player event is much different than for any other tournament. On top of that, the structure was so off the wall that it was difficult to fully grasp how to approach it. I felt lost and alone as I scoured the internet for clues to what I thought the other fifteen players were going to do, and in turn, what I should be playing.

The biggest difference for this event and others is that Magic Online wasn't going to be the greatest tool for preparation. I simply couldn't just jam a bunch of games to get a feel for what I needed to be doing. Every matchup against a deck I didn't expect was a waste of time, and I quickly realized I needed help. Luckily and surprisingly, Todd was ready to go to bat for me. He gladly put his own things aside for the moment and picked up deck after deck to do battle. We played every matchup I expected to play against until I felt comfortable. He never said no. He never gave up. He never let me do anything half-way.

On the other side of the country I had Gerry ready to battle me on Magic Online. He had been extensively testing the matchups that deserved only the greatest of adversaries to do battle against. Odds were that Reid Duke was going to be playing something similar to what Gerry had been mastering, which would mean I would need a highly skilled test partner to give me the best chance of beating the best in the world. He was just that.

Knowing how to wield the weapon was one thing, but making sure it was sharp enough to pierce skin was equally as important. I wasn't that familiar with Sultai Reanimator before this week, but I knew that Sultai Charm was going to be well-positioned, making it the best deck to due battle with. I called up Josh Utter-Leyton and Willy Edel for coaching and was not disappointed with their sage advice. They helped me craft a great 74 for this event and bestowed the confidence needed to go into battle unafraid. I say 74 due to Gerry convincing me to add a twenty-fourth land last minute.

Classic Gerry.

Time was running short, and tensions were high. It was do or die time and I needed to submit my decks. I double and triple checked them to make sure I didn't screw something up. I had to have stared at those two decklists for over an hour. I didn't know if I was looking for a mistake or a revelation. Neither presented themselves, so with a sigh of both relaxation and defeat, I looked to my bed for some much needed rest.

Why can't I sleep? I never have difficulty sleeping. I should be tired after such a stressful day one. Sure I only played three rounds of Magic, but they were intense! I also had to stomach watching so many friends have do or die moments while I got to curl up on the couch. Man this tournament is intense! I can't believe how awesome it is. Every match, whether I am in it or not, has been amazing.

 

Alright, so how do I sideboard against Reid? Do I actually bring in Pyroclasm against Miracles since he hasPeacekeeper? I mean, I have to right?

 

Wait, no, Brad you have to go to sleep! You can do this in the morning, but for now you need to get some rest. You don't want to throw it all away because you didn't get any rest before the final day of the year. You've been working towards this for months now. Just go to sleep and deal with this in the morning.

 

What in the hell is going on with Gerard's deck? I mean, I understand that he must have thought onlyStoneforge Mystic was going to be in the room, but no Force of Wills anywhere? Hell, Joe Lossett even showed up with a combo deck. Talk about misevaluating the metagame.

 

What are you doing? Go to sleep already. Don't do this to yourself. Take a melatonin and just drift off. I know, maybe if I count sheep. I don't know if it works, but it's better than dissecting this tournament all night long.

 

Sheep number 1... Sheep number 2... Sheep num...wait a minute. What am I thinking?!

 

Goat number 1... Goat number 2... Goat number 3...

 

There was no going back now. My decks were registered and locked. All that could be done was wait patiently as the minutes ran down until eventually the tournament started. Players began rolling into town and activities were quickly being lined up. Part of me wanted to get some face time with the other competitors, but my conscience was telling me to keep preparing. Even though I couldn't change a card, I still wanted to know both of my decks on the deepest level possible. I didn't want to give up testing. I just didn't know what I still needed to prepare against and who would put up with some more testing. I timidly asked Todd to go above and beyond once more.

"Sure man, you'd do it for me," was the response given when I asked to test fringe matchups that I couldn't even guarantee would show up. Again, we sleeved up some decks and did battle on his kitchen table. Kali Anderson in the background making sure we had full bellies and wet whistles, we did battle for most of the day.

Testing for long periods of time when decks couldn't shift was a strange experience. My mind would constantly go to altering my decks ever so slightly, but then the shocking realization that I couldn't would sweep over me. For a hot minute I would panic, but quickly realized that everyone else was under the same restraints and probably felt the same way. I had to wrap my head around finding a way for this 75 to function. We worked hard on finding every sideboard configuration available and called it a week.

Most of the contestants were in town by this time, and plans to meet for a pregame dinner were in order. I took Todd to the restaurant early to split a pitcher and finally get some time to hang out with my best friend without any stress. We didn't speak of Magic once, because we didn't have to. We already exhausted the subject. I was ready.

 

No alarm? What time is it? Did I oversleep? Oh no, am I late?

 

"Beep beep beep."

 

The energy was already running through me. Yesterday was intense, but today it would be deafening. Excitement began engulfing my body. Before I can even reach the bathroom my game face had already taken form. The energy rushing through my body reached max capacity, and I was forced to get it all out. Uncontrollably, I let out a boisterous battle cry directed towards my reflection.

 

"I remember this man in the mirror, but I haven't seen him in a while. When did we last meet? San Juan? No, it wasn't San Juan. Amsterdam? No, not there either. Paris? That's right, it was Paris. We met right before I played seven games for Player of the Year. Well it has been a long time old friend, glad you could show up for me today."

 

As I drove to the site, I realized how wrong I was about this tournament. Only one day and three rounds in, and I can easily say it is the most exhilarating tournament I have ever been a part of. I can't believe I'm going to have to eat my words and tell Evan how amazing this event is after all the negativity I previously voiced about it. I guess I can't always be right.

 

"Can I have the floor?" I asked the table of nearly twenty as we dined the night before the event. "Who wants to give $500 of first place's money to whoever gets screwed over the worst by the rules in this stupid tournament?" Everyone laughed at my joke, but also shifted the conversations to exactly how they felt about the tournament structure. We all agreed that it needed some work and that this event might end up being extremely awkward for most parties. We all shrugged since there was nothing we could do but participate. It's easy to do so when at least one of us was going to win. We enjoyed each other's company and shared stories from days passed. Anything to keep our minds off of the pressure we would feel once the event had started.

"In Pod A, we start with Gerard Fabiano."

 

A pin can be heard as the eight of us stand waiting for the pods to form. Tensions run high as we all silently pray we don't get stuck with bad matchups. Each and every one of us slowly realizing that this tournament was, in fact, the most intense event we have ever played. That it was a much better experience than we predicted.

 

All I can hope is to be put in the same pod as two great matchups, as well as dodge my best friend's left in the event. I just need a little luck and everything will be alright.

 

"Round one: Brad Nelson vs Joe Lossett."

 

This isn't how I wanted to start off the day. The last time I played against you wasn't a pleasant one. Good thing you have made the gravest of mistakes. It's quite miraculous for me that you showed up with this new toy. How well do you know this one, my dear friend? You would have struck fear into my eyes with your prized archetype, but I have nothing to be scared of anymore. Visions of me losing this event always included you activating a Top, but now I have all the tools needed to leave you sitting and spinning yourself.

 

(Exit Joe Lossett)

The next round is up already? That was barely any time for me to unwind! And on top of that, I'm up against you? Well the pressure's on, I guess. You have bested me in the past, but luckily I know you are just as scared of me as I am of you. This situation is exactly why I have chosen this deck. With anything else in my hands you would feel confident, but this is the one deck I can strike fear into your eyes with. At any moment I can end the match, and you know that. It's time for me to Show you a thing or two.

 

(Exit Brian Braun-Duin)

 

Just one more match and I am back into Standard. Given how the structure works, I could even get some testing in during my four-hour break. It would be better for me to keep grinding and not ice myself before the top 4. I wonder if I can get Todd to build Gerard's and Reid's deck and battle with me for a couple hours. I might be able to convince him to do that!

 

The day had finally come. Round one of the Players' Championships was a mere three hours away, and I had done everything I could to be ready. I grabbed my phone and saw a surprising email from Todd.

"Here is everything you need to know about sideboarding."

The contents included everything he could think of that I might have missed. Strategy, sideboard guides, and opinions of what my opponents might do. Some of the information had already been engrained into my head, but some found its way to the back of my score pads. I couldn't believe that after all the work he had already put in for me, that he was continuously striving to get me the trophy. Almost as if he was living vicariously through me, he did everything in his power to make sure that I would be wielding the best parts of both of our games this weekend. He wanted more than anyone else, and I wanted to validate his hard work. I was going to fight until there wasn't any fight to be fought.

I lost? How could I lose? If I had to pick one matchup to win, it would be this exact one. Now I have to stay and play a playoff against someone instead of continuing my preparation at Todd's house. How could I have let this happen? What did I do wrong? I guess let's find out who I will be playing against. Maybe I will get a good matchup.

 

I watched tentatively as Reid Duke and Tom Ross did battle. The entire room was silent as these two titans faced off for the third time this season in this matchup. Steve Mann stood to my left wanting the same conclusion as I. If Tom won that would mean I would face off against the SMann himself in our elimination round, but if he lost I would be against my good friend once again, while Steve's tournament was over. We all had something on the line.

 

Turn after turn, Tom came closer to defeat. The noose around his neck tightening with the growing hand size of Reid Duke. He made his move and he was wrong. I play Tom Ross.

 

Like two animals forced to fight, Tom and I sit quietly awaiting our call to center stage. Neither of us talks. We sit and tamper with our phones. Other points in my life I would try to get myself away from the situation mentally, but not today. I spend all my time theory crafting situations that might come up and how he is going to sideboard. I talk to Todd on the phone in preparation for the match. I need guidance, I need faith, I need to defeat my friend once again. Will I see a different Tom Ross than yesterday, or have all these beatings left your spirits weakened? I'll take any edge I can get, and I hope the five beatings you've already taken stay with you like ghosts from your past. Just hold onto them for one more round Tom. I need you to stay shaken up.

 

(Exit Tom Ross)

My pre-tournament rituals oddly changed. For the first time ever, I would be playing in a major event, but in my backyard. This meant I would wake up in my own bed, use my own shower, and get to go to the same Starbucks I always go to for coffee. I also was up far earlier than I needed to be. I got out of bed, and almost like I wasn't in control of myself, went for a walk. I don't know why I did this, but I just needed to find my center for this tournament. Maybe it was the long months that got me here. It could also be that no matter what happens this weekend, my year is over and the story is cemented. This journey will be complete, and I need to experience the moment before it all goes away. It truly is a now or never moment. I sat down on the bench and checked my phone.

"I have a little more time to relax."

"You have to get seated now! There are 17,000 people watching, and I am not running a deck tech. Let's give the people what they came to see!"

I knew I was going to have to get through you sooner or later to win this tournament. You might be the crowd's pick to win the tournament, but the crowd's not inside my head. If they knew how badly I wanted this, there would be no cheers for you. They would realize it was a lost cause. You were better than me yesterday, even better than me today, and you will be better than me tomorrow, but I have a super power you aren't aware of. I have this ability to manifest whatever outcome I believe will happen. Truly believe. Undoubtedly believe. Know the fact. Today that fact is I am winning this tournament. Only Brian Braun-Duin has stifled this super power in the past, but he has been eliminated. All that stops me now is myself. I have lost matches to you in the past where your skill has gotten inside my head, but not today Mr. Duke. Today I will be taking that trophy home.

(Exit Reid Duke)

 

There is no time to spare. I have five minutes before the finals starts and I need to prepare. Coffee? Check! Water? Check! Wisdom bestowed upon me from Gerry Thompson? I guess I should call him first.

 

I spend the five minutes outside with Gerry going over the subtle differences between the two Sultai Reanimator lists. I just have to make sure that I miss nothing in the finals. I'm not letting Gerard be the only thing that kept me from winning this event. He bested me earlier in the day, but I fully expect to be getting my chips back.

 

"Good luck," he says to me as he extends his hand to the middle of the table.

 

Good luck to you as well.

 

(Fade to Black)

I was the first contestant to get to the StarCityGames Center. All of the directors, judges, commentators, and media were running around frantically as they prepared to put on the show of the year. I sat there alone and watched them all scurry around the room as they tried to get everything ready. All of them with a task at hand but me. Almost invisible I sat there waiting for someone to say something. I just waited for someone to say action.

"ROLL TIDE!"

I turn around to see Todd Anderson and Tom Ross hanging on the rails behind me. What are you guys doing here? Oh, I guess I just won this thing. Oh yeah, I won this thing and you guys are happy for me. Alright, here are some hugs, but I am going to need a while before I can get extroverted again. Much like the movie Inception, I went too many layers deep and am going to need a while before I can get out of gamer mode. I just need to make sure I don't sound like a robot during this interview.

Just do all those things you always do in the Versus Videos and you'll be fine.

I take a collected moment to thank Todd for all his hard work. I truly couldn't have done this without him, but I know he will never see it that way. He will just find a way to invalidate all of his hard work, but I will always remember this as the tournament it took a team to win. I will forever be grateful for what they all did for me.

All of the contestants leave. Some heading home, while others to the Anderson's house for an after tournament party. I was the last player able to leave since I had to stay back and take pictures. The directors, judges, commentators, and media were running around frantically to break down the set and get out of there. I sat there alone watching them scurry around the room trying to finish up. All of them had a task to accomplish but me. I felt invisible waiting for anyone to say anything. I guess I just had to wait for someone to say, "that's a wrap."

[/spoiler]

 

 

Thank you, that is basically all you got to do =] (I did read it already with another premium sheet from ptq but thank you again for trying.

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