52 FNMs #10 – The Flores Audible

Ten weeks in the books. Three months, ten decks, $50, and 342 Planeswalker Points later, I now feel that I’m qualified to try to explain what FNM actually is.

However, I’m actually only qualified to explain what FNM is in upstate New York because, despite the Internet’s best efforts, Magic is not a universal game. Anyone who’s ever played a game of Magic against a person knows this, and the Top 8 deck lists from that Grand Prix in Brisbane (Wring Flesh, yeehaw!) present concrete proof of this. By the way, isn’t wringing someone’s flesh just giving that person an Indian burn?

Upstate New York, as I’ve noted before, is the land that relevance forgot. Despite being in a fairly central location on the East Coast, odds are that we’ll never see a Grand Prix, because if you’re going to have it in New York, why not just put it in the city? The area is highly focused on Legacy (Read: A high-variance format constantly trying to trick its players into thinking there are reasons to not play Blue), with the higher-level players giving only a passing interest in Standard. The consistent consensus on Standard is that it’s bad, regardless of whether it’s actually bad. My suspicion is that these people view Standard as “bad” because it’s much lower variance; notably, you won’t go into a Standard tournament geared to beat overpowered unfair decks and then randomly lose to Elves and Zoo. You usually know what you’re going to play against. Which brings me to FNM.

FNM can probably be considered a showcase for Standard-within-Standard: There’re the local high-level players playing good decks who are outnumbered three-to-one by fun-seeking casual types with their own homebrews, usually dictated by card availability. More often than not, these casual decks get rolled by the established decks, but sometimes . . . well, the competitive Standard player walks into a room expecting to have to beat Tarmogoyf and is subsequently pummeled by three Wild Nacatls and a Kird Ape—to turn a phrase.

Thanks to the stress placed on FNMs by Planeswalker Points, and the ×3 FNM multiplier that comes with them, the ratio of goods to bads at my local FNMs is about fifty-fifty. It’s now just a tournament where better and worse players can rub elbows and make half-annoyed jokes about “grinding Planeswalker Points,” when we all know, deep down, that even though the ranking metric has changed, the process of qualifying for the Pro Tour for us will always be the same: Win a PTQ (Okay, so Top 8’ing a GP used to be an endeavor worth pursuing as well . . . but who knows if that’ll continue to be the case? It could go either way at this point).

To me, the stigma of taking a highly competitive deck to FNM and feeling badly about it is gone—if it was every really there in the first place (it wasn’t). If WotC is going to place such a big stress on Magic players’ Friday nights with a ×3 multiplier, no one gets to complain that someone brought a good deck, although it can probably be argued that those who did before were just projecting heavy bullshit about How the Game Should Be Played, which is retarded, because Magic is a game and people should be able to play it however they want, even if it means playing Wring Flesh in a Constructed Grand Prix.

So, what is FNM? It’s a Magic tournament. The rest is just details. I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you.

I originally wanted to play Brian Sondag’s Wolf Run deck, but then Mike Flores posted this beauty on Friday, and I just had to audible:

Brimstone Volley is a pretty unassuming card at first glance, but being able to set up plays like “cast Snapcaster Mage, block your whatever, flash back Brimstone Volley, and dome you for 5,” is really strong, considering the versatility of both of the cards involved. Frost Titan is a great win condition, and it seemed so obvious after playing it against Wolf Run, where it taps down the opponent’s Primeval Titan, Inkmoth Nexus, or Wurmcoil Engine. It’s also nothing to sneeze at in the Solar Flare matchup; thanks to the presence of Brimstone Volley, it’s not guaranteed that the opponent can block it without just getting 10’d.

I wasn’t sure about the three Slagstorm going in, but my concerns ended up being for naught, since I rarely saw them.

I got to Cloud City pretty early, and figured I’d see what was good at the local pizza shop, and I grabbed two slices of chicken-wing pizza, which turned out to be a disaster, because they used Frank’s Red Hot and not buffalo sauce, which was inexplicable to me. In the process of trying to sell my second slice of pizza, I also found out that pizza is a lot like cars, in that both of their values on the secondary market plummet as soon as they’re driven off the lot. Pizza is also like cars in that, most of the time, the people selling them both are fat and sweaty.

My friend Nate traded a bunch of rares for four and a half boxes of Innistrad, with the intent of cracking all the packs. The madness of opening one hundred forty-four Innistrad boosters would have to wait, though—pairings were up.

Round 1: Matt Brown

I lose the die roll. He’s playing some mono-Blue Grand Architect deck with Treasure Mages to get Wurmcoil Engines, alongside other hits, like Platinum Emperion and Blightsteel Colossus. Game 1, he’s stuck on four lands, but has some business in Grand Architect plus Treasure Mage, searching up Wurmcoil Engine. Matt makes an interesting play that could go pretty well for him, except that my win condition is Frost Titan; the turn after he plays Treasure Mage, I see that he only has three lands to go with his Treasure Mage, Grand Architect, and Wurmcoil Engine in hand, so I play a land and go for a lethal Arc Trail on his Treasure Mage, with 3 mana up to safely Mana Leak the Wurmcoil Engine he’ll cast next turn. Instead, Matt goes for a Mana Leak on my Arc Trail, for which I promptly pay 3, figuring I’ll just play Frost Titan on my next turn and keep the Wurmcoil Engine tapped down forever and ever until I win, which is exactly what happens.

Game 2, we play draw-go for a while, until he breaks serve with a poorly timed Wurmcoil Engine that is Mana Leaked. While he’s tapped out, I decide to cast a Frost Titan and make him deal with it, knowing full well that a main-phase Disperse is probably coming, whereupon I’ll just recast Frost Titan. Worst-case scenario: He counters it, and I’m happy with the two-for-one. So, I cast Frost Titan and announce that I’m tapping his Inkmoth Nexus.

“You can’t do that; it’s already tapped.”


We call a judge over, and he assures Matt that although his Inkmoth Nexus is tapped, I can still target it with Frost Titan, and Magic cards resume. Whatever action Matt has for the rest of the game is countered, and I win pretty handily.

Round 2: RJ Fischer

RJ is nervous, for whatever reason. I’d like to think it’s the high stakes. I lose the die roll.

Game 1, he plays turn-one Birds of Paradise into turn-two Island, Darksteel Relic.

“I think there’s going to be a Shape Anew sighting in my near future.”

“Gotta draw it first.”

I play a second land on my turn, and I just pass back to him. He plucks a card off the top.

“Did you draw it?”


He tanks for a while, and then, right on cue, casts a Shape Anew, which I Mana Leak while laughing in his face. Not that I’ve ever tried petty trickery before . . . 

Over the weekend, I Top 8’d a PTQ (sick brags, yo), but the deck I drafted therein was a complete pile. In the quarters, my opponent, who had a Kessig Wolf and an Abattoir Ghoul in play, mentioned how cool of an ability First Strike is after his Kessig Wolf came in unblocked. On my turn, I attacked my Silverchase Fox into his Abattoir Ghoul. While he tanked, I yelled “Shit!”—very loudly—and, of course, he read me for the Moment of Heroism that was very much in my hand. I did not win that match.

RJ’s move is comparatively as retarded as mine, except that his actually has no purpose; what else am I going to play on turn two? Main-phase Think Twice? Main-phase Snapcaster Mage, flashing back nothing? It makes no sense.

None of this ends up mattering. On his next turn, he casts Thrun, the Last Troll, and subsequently counters my Frost Titan.

Game 2 goes a little bit better for me; he’s stuck on just a Llanowar Elves, and not much else in the way of mana, and I have plenty of time to draw way too many lands for Batterskull not to completely take over the game.

Game 3 is uninteresting. He sticks a Thrun, the Last Troll on turn three on the play, and he counters my only spells that interact with it: my Batterskull on turn five, and my Frost Titan on turn six.

After the match, he inhales sharply, like he’s just run a marathon through Michelle Bachmann’s cornfield maze that looks like the Hee Haw logo from an aerial view. He’s been really tense the entire match—just really shaky and always commenting on how nervous he is.

Round 3 – John Weldin

I lose the die roll. John is playing mono-Red, but all he has Game 1 for action is a Goblin Arsonist that I let through unimpeded for five turns while I Mana Leak his Chandra’s Phoenix three times, all the while digging for a Dissipate and time. I eventually find the Dissipate, followed by the Frost Titan. John tries to follow up his countered Chandra’s Phoenix with the last card in his hand, Arc Trail, dealing 1 to my Frost Titan and 2 to me, but the Arc Trail is countered, and he follows that play up by drawing a bunch of lands while my Frost Titan remains in play.

Game 2 is nigh-unwinnable for him; I draw a lot of Arc Trails and Snapcaster Mages to recur them, and the game is never close. While I have Frost Titan on the battlefield, John pays 5 mana to play a Chandra’s Phoenix, and passes the turn with 2 mana up. The Magic Online player in me asks, “What are you doing with the {R}{R} in your pool?” John snorts, reads Frost Titan again, and scoops them up. This is pretty unenjoyable for me, since John is a nice guy. I honestly don’t think I misrepresented Frost Titan’s ability; I think John was just unfamiliar with the card and read it too quickly, which is fine with me.

A shitty thing that happens in Magic circles more often than not is that people are judged solely on how good they are at Magic, which is a mistake, because the chances are good that the guy who’s not necessarily great at slinging spells is probably good at other, much more useful things, like talking to women, being fun to hang out with, tipping like someone who’s not a dick, and showering on a regular basis.

Round 4 – Bret Weed

Bret actually drove me home from the PTQ on Sunday, and we reminisced fondly about our U/R-versus-Solar Flare match, and how both our turns were basically either “Think Twice on your end step,” “Flash back Think Twice on your end step,” or “Forbidden Alchemy on your end step.” He took me to three games, but a mulligan in Game 3, along with the one-two punch of Batterskull and Frost Titan , ended the game in a hurry for him.

Game 1 is the game I really want to focus on, because it is the only one that doesn’t bore me to tears. It’s a lot of draw-go for us, with me periodically pointing Brimstone Volleys for 3 at him until I have no more, and so I go for a modest Snapcaster Mage on his end step, flashing back a lowly Brimstone Volley for 3. I assume, correctly, that Bret has no profitable way to deal with a Snapcaster Mage, since he doesn’t really want to be blowing Doom Blades on a 2/1 against a deck with Frost Titans. He also can’t trade Snapcaster Mages, for fear of making my Arc Trails live, or, worse, getting domed for 5 by another Brimstone Volley. He admits my deck is very good. I, in turn, admit the deck is not of my design. This does not surprise him in the slightest.

My 3–1 record was good enough for . . . I don’t know. I left as soon as the round was done, not because I was pissed or anything, but because FNM was finishing up early for once, and I wanted to go home to my lady. But the deck was fantastic and fun to play, and I’d love to play it again. This newest iteration with Druidic Satchel looks fantastic, but I’m not sure I’d want to put down Frost Titan. That guy’s just great, and he does so much against Wolf Run that I don’t know if I’d be comfortable not having that particular out in the deck.

Jon’s Top Picks:

Band You’ve Never Heard Of – Stupid Song Title
Band You’ve Never Heard Of – Stupid Song Title
Band You’ve Never Heard Of – Stupid Song Title
Band You’ve Never Heard Of – Stupid Song Title
Band You’ve Never Heard Of – Stupid Song Title

See you next week!

Jon Corpora
pronounced Ca-pora