A Year in Review

2016 has been one crazy year for me Magic wise, so much happened. Since a new year is upon us and rotation is just around the corner. This means that things in Standard while not quite irrelevant, they aren’t as important to us since we will be getting a bunch of new cards soon that will surely shake up the metagame a bit. Sure, the tier one decks might not lose their tier one status, but they could. What’s more exciting is the chance for new decks to emerge and being right behind those new decks. What I’m talking about is brewing! I love it when a new set comes out, it’s like you’re playing a new game. I guess that’s how Wizards keeps Magic so fresh and exciting. It’s the same game but it’s always changing and new pieces come out multiple times a year. Wonder what Chess would look like if new pieces came out every year? I’m not sure, but it would be sweet to pick your own new pieces that do different things and battle your opponents, that’s essentially with Magic is. Anyway, today I’ve decided to do a self-reflection article on this year and Magic. What I my goals were, what I learned, and what I goals I intend to do next year, Magic wise. I’ll talk about my favorite and least favorite decks I played this year and my experiences. Let’s delve into this past year.

Beginning of the Year

Eye of Ugin
I started this year with a resolution in mind. I wanted to attend all the SCG Opens and try to qualify for the Player’s Championship at the end of the year. That was my Magic goal going into 2016. It wasn’t to win a Grand Prix or Qualify for the Pro Tour, I just wanted to redeem myself at the Player’s Championship. I knew it was going to be hard but I believed in myself. I also worked with Frank Lepore on our Podcast called, Freshly Brewed. This was the year we did a lot of work with the podcast and got it into a good scheduled routine.

I started the new year very strong with trusty G/R Tron deck. This was when Splinter Twin was a deck alongside Amulet Bloom. I LOVED that format. I felt very confident in my Amulet Bloom and Splinter Twin matchups, I believed I was favored. This was after Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger was released and before Eye of Ugin was banned (Still wish they would’ve banned Eldrazi Temple over Eye of Ugin.) I just felt ahead of everyone, even though Tron at the time wasn’t putting any high finishes outside of my own.

In Cincinnati I got 5th place at the Modern Open with Tron. Losing to Jeff Hoogland in three games, one where I made the choice to sit on Pyroclasm instead of just killing his Eternal Witness. I was trying to get more value out of my Pyroclasm but instead allowed him to Chord for a Restoration Angel to blink his Eternal Witness and then re-buy the Chord of Calling which put me into an awful spot. He ended up recurring the same Fulminator Mage over and over where I could’ve easily stopped it if I didn’t get so greedy and just Pyroclasmed his Eternal Witness. Regardless, it was a great finish for the first tournament of the year. That was January second.

Ruin in their Wake
January 9th I had another Modern Open tournament in my backyard, it was in Charlotte. I decided to play Tron again, and why not? It kept giving me solid finishes along with an Invitational win the previous year. This time I missed top eight on breakers, I didn’t have byes at the time so my breakers weren’t as good. Instead I got 10th place. I was a little upset that I missed top eight but it was still a very solid finish and a good start to my goal of the Player’s Championship.

January sixteenth was a new Standard format. We were in Atlanta. I was still on playing big ramp decks, mostly because of Tron. I decided to play G/R ramp with Ruin in their Wake. Ruin in their Wake was awful, luckily ramping into Eldrazi was not. I ended up getting sixteenth place in this event. Still very strong finishes. I had top sixteened all my events for this year.

I was feeling good so far, I was on top of the world. This is where I put together Team Bolas and we were all doing very well at this point. I was happy.

My next event was in February. While I didn’t do too well in the main event, I did get 2nd place in the Legacy Classic with Burn. I played Burn because I’m not a huge fan of Legacy. I just hate how the entry barrier is so high. So, to feel better about myself, I made other people not enjoy Legacy by burning them out. It had worked.

My next strong finish would be in Baltimore. This would wrap up the beginning of the year for me. Baltimore was a new Standard format. I finished in fifteenth place in that event with Esper Dragons. I always do well in new Standard formats. I like to think it’s because I analyze cards well when they first come out and I’m a little ahead of everyone else. This case was no exception.

Mid Year

Emrakul, the Promised End
Middle of year! Team Bolas is still doing well. I’m doing great Magic wise and I’m play-testing every week and my results tend to show it. In June I was in Atlanta. I unfortunately did not do well in the main event here. The classic was Modern but after the Eye of Ugin ban I wasn’t feeling very confident in Tron. I didn’t even bring it with me because I wanted to do well in the main event and didn’t want to give myself the crouch of, “Well Ali, if you do poorly in the main event, you can play whatever Modern deck you want the next day!” So, I had to find a deck. Luckily Jeff Hoogland was there and he had the full build of Kiki-Chord. First time playing the deck but it looked fun. It was! The deck was awesome and gave you many options while playing. I sadly got 9th on breakers here, but I felt like I had finally found another deck I liked besides Tron. Kiki-Chord filled that void of losing Eye of Ugin and in my mind, Tron, for a while.

September was coming around and a new set was going to be legal, Eldritch Moon! I could not test at all for this event. I was on a Disney Cruise with my girlfriend and Lily. I had no access to internet and was Magic free for a week. Honestly though? It was the best vacation of my life. The last couple days I started brewing with Emrakul, the Promised End. The card seemed powerful and just super cool at the time. I entered the Open in Columbus with Emrakul, the Promised End in my deck while nobody else was even playing it (hipster points please.) Emrakul at the time was considered bad and my deck wasn’t tuned. I had literally just built it on a Disney Cruise. I didn’t know the format and I was playing a singleton Grasp of Darkness in a world where Spell Queller was everywhere. I still came in 2nd place at the Open and would’ve easily came in first if I had just run the full playset of Grasp of Darkness. Still, couldn’t be too upset. Second place was a lot of points and a good lump of cash.

Grasp of Darkness
I ran the deck back in Baltimore, this time tuned and with four Grasp of Darkness. However, people knew what was good now and I missed top eight, yet again. I came in twelfth place this time with Sultai Control featuring our good alien friend, Emrakul.

This is also around the time where Team Bolas started falling apart. People wanted different things, some wanted it to be a casual team of friends where others wanted to become more competitive. Someone pushed the team to be more competitive and in the process, we removed people because they weren’t attending events or couldn’t put the time into Magic that was required. Sadly, after trimming the team to be more competitive, the person that was pushing the team to be more professional just left for something else. After that it was just a matter of time before Team Bolas just fell apart.

The last tournament for me to finish the mid-year was the Open in Syracuse. I played Sultai control again to a 16th place finish in the Classic in Syracuse. I’m still doing well overall this year but I’m really starting to get burned out. This is probably due to many things. Not having a deck I enjoyed in Modern, Team Bolas falling apart, and personal life not being where I want it to be, and a certain incident that I won’t get into. I didn’t know it at the time but I’m certain I was starting to get depressed.

End of the Year

Eldrazi Temple
Toward the end of the year I’m just playing what I think is best in Modern. I have less time to test. The team is now gone, and I’m also just burnt out. I skipped some events but I couldn’t skip too many more if I still wanted to qualify for the Player’s Championship. I just buckle in and keep playing.

Sometimes playing the best deck is rewarding. I ended up coming in fourth place at the Modern Open in Somerset with Bant Eldrazi. Eldrazi Temple is still extremely powerful and so are turn two or turn three Thought-Knot Seers followed up by Reality Smashers or Drowners.

Early in November I play a Bant control deck in Standard at the Indianapolis convention center to a 20th place. These finishes are still fine but I feel like my heart isn’t as in it as it used to be. Being a little forced to go to events because I want to qualify for the Player’s Championship doesn’t really feel good. I’m also not having the best of times outside of Magic.

I wrap up the year with an eighth-place finish in Columbus with Eldrazi in the Legacy Classic and twenty third place in Knoxville with B/G Delirium in the Standard Open. I end up going to see a therapist at the end of the year to just talk and figure some things out. That has been one of the best decisions I made in 2016, even if I was pushed a little to go see someone.

Wrapping up 2016

I finished in the top sixteen of the SCG Leaderboard at the end of the year, but I missed out on qualifying for the Player’s Championship. That was in part due to myself. I feel like if I just kept at it and controlled my attitude, I would’ve been fine. I also skipped six or so Opens in the year due to booking too late or just really wanting to take some time off. If I had attended those, who knows what could’ve happened.

All that being said, I’m working on my new year’s resolution for Magic next year. I think I’m just going to go to events near me that are within a certain time frame. I’m also considering if I want to get back on the Pro Tour or not. Who knows?! I have a couple of days to decide.

TL;DR: I’m good at evaluating new formats for Standard. I top sixteened or better everytime a new set came out. I’m also doing the set review for Aether Revolt and I’ll be doing a ton of brewing for Aether Revolt. If you take nothing else from this article, then at least take that.

I know this wasn’t a typical deck list article with a ton of strategy but I figured some of my readers might want to get a look into my life and what I did Magic-wise for the year.

As always, thanks for reading,

Ali Aintrazi
@Alieldrazi on Twitter

Pre-Order Aether Revolt at CoolStuffInc.com today!