MTGO Hero – Hand of Fate

It wasn’t easy to swallow my pride by discussing my bitter defeat in last week’s article. I was obligated to admit to my losses and share the bad decisions that I made. This was not a course of action that I intended to repeat. I was under no false pretenses that I would win every match; however, my careless mistakes had increased my chances of failure. I would rather have my downfall come from the hands of a skilled opponent or a poorly flipped coin than from a suicidal error in judgment.

Looking back at the catalysts of last week’s debacle, I decided to piece together a list of five rules that players should try to follow when preparing for a tournament. I’m not saying that a player will win the race if he adheres to these rules, but he may find that he isn’t tripping over his own feet quite as often.

How to Avoid Being a SCRUB

  • Sleep – Somewhere within ourselves, we all have a wild and crazy rock star who occasionally screams at us that, “Sleep is for weak losers.” If you are heading into any kind of competition that involves highly intellectual decision-making skills, you need to ignore the inner party animal and catch some Zs. Sleep deprivation can hinder concentration, memory skills, and overall thought process. It may be fun for your opponent, but it won’t be for you.
  • Compete – It is easy to want to quit when you feel that there is no hope of winning. The only real advantage to conceding is that you save some time in the round. If you are playing a very slow control deck that might be a wise decision, but many times, that isn’t the case. Many times, I had believed I was dead to rights and still came back to win a heart-pounding victory. There are so many factors that could change the outcome of a game. It could be as simple as your opponent being mana-flooded for the remainder of the game while you draw threat after threat. You are in the tournament to compete, so fight until the battle is done.
  • Read –– RTFC is a popular acronym in the Magic community. I won’t spell it out for you, but it basically means that you need to read the cards. Pay attention to the wording and to abilities that you don’t often see played. For example, I’ve seen players forget that Gather the Townsfolk puts five Humans into play instead of two if cast when you are at 5 or less life. It may not come up often, but when it does, it may be the difference between life and death.
  • Urinate – Yeah, I said it, and it’s true! A match can go on for nearly an hour, and if you haven’t donated to the porcelain God, you may be in for an uncomfortable ride. To be successful in a Magic tournament, you need to be in the right frame of mind—not focusing on the powerful need to relieve your bladder.
  • Bathe – I don’t care if you are on Magic Online and in the comfort of your parents’ basement, this is a rule that needs to be followed by all members of the community with no exceptions. If I can smell you through your computer screen, you need to take a shower. This, of course, is more for the sake of those playing in local game stores, but it should apply to everyone. Make the world a better place; put some deodorant in its place . . . which would be under your arms.

Just a few tips to add to the laundry list of Magic player dos and don’ts. Every player, from the typical FNM grinder to the Pro Tour Hall of Famer, is bound to make mistakes. One thing that separates the great players from the bottom-dwellers is their ability to learn from their mistakes.

Riders of Gavony
One thing I had learned was that my deck is incredibly weak against W/U Delver decks. So far, I hadn’t been able to find a way around that threat, and I was beginning to think that I was a Bye in the Delver matchup. I also found that the miracle decks had a very favorable matchup against me with their seemingly endless supply of mass removal. Aside from that, I seemed to do very well against aggro decks, but I still had a difficult time with decks running Lingering Souls. Decks running red board-sweeper spells were also making things miserable for me, but only if I overcommitted early.

In the end, I decided to head to the bots and pick up a couple inexpensive cards and give them a try. Here are the cards I bought and my reasoning behind each card:

  • 1 Riders of Gavony The card has been an MVP in the deck, and with all the aggro I had seen lately, I wanted to see more of them. Cost: 0.30; What a bargain!
  • 4 Divine Deflection I was taking a chance with this card, but I wanted to see how well it would protect my army from sweepers. I also saw this as a bit of tech that I could use against Restoration Angel. There seemed to be a variety of reasons that this might be a good card in my deck, but my primary concern was whether I would have the mana to make it beneficial. Also, the card doesn’t play well with Thalia. Cost: 0.24 each

I added the new cards in addition to three Suture Priests—because of the increasing number of tokens and Humans decks I had played against recently. I also moved the Mirran Crusaders back to the main deck in place of the Silverblade Paladins for the Zombie and R/G aggro matchups. After making my changes, here is how the modified deck looked:

I had the deck ready to go and a full night’s rest. I was ready to put the past behind me and get down to business. It was time for another Daily Event.

Standard 4-RND (Event #3946067)

Round 1 vs. R/G Aggro

Fiend Hunter
Game 1 – My heart was racing as my opponent went on the assault with Strangleroot Geists, Huntmaster of the Fells, and two Wolf tokens. By the time I was able to stabilize with two Fiend Hunters, Gideon's Lawkeeper, and a Mirran Crusader, I was down to 1 life to my opponent’s 11. I was able to safely attack with my Mirran Crusader, dropping my opponent to 7.

On my opponent’s final turn, he had two Wolf tokens, a Wolfir Avenger, and two Birds of Paradise. I had a tapped Mirran Crusader, two Fiend Hunters, a Gideon's Lawkeeper, and a Spirit token, and I was tapped out with only three lands in play. He left both Birds back to block and attacked with everything else. He had no cards in hand, so I wasn’t worried about him burning out my Fiend Hunters. I used them to block the Wolf tokens and used the Spirit token to block his Avenger. Then on my turn, I top-decked a land like a pro and once again sent in the cavalry. Riders of Gavony gave my Humans protection from Birds FTW.

Game record: 1–0

This is one of those games in which I felt that I was always behind, and at times, I felt as though I should just concede. Being down to 1 life against a deck that could easily top-deck a card to burn me out felt hopeless, but you don’t win anything by quitting. I stayed the course, and it paid off. Lesson learned. Also, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but I love Riders of Gavony.

+3 Divine Deflection
+2 Nearheath Pilgrim
+2 Celestial Purge
−3 Suture Priest
−4 Elite Vanguard

Divine Deflection
Game 2 – This game wasn’t even a battle. It was self-defense. Luckily, I had some very good defenders to protect me, and my deck did exactly what I had hoped it could do. At the end, I was down to 4 life while my opponent was still relaxing comfortably with 18. The board was filled on both sides. He had a Birds of Paradise, two Wolfir Avengers, two Wolf tokens, a Ravager of the Fells, and seven lands, including a Kessig Wolf Run.

I had a Fiend Hunter, Champion of the Parish, two Mirran Crusader, Riders of Gavony (giving Humans protection from Wolves), Honor of the Pure, and six Plains. He put all of his mana into the activation of his Wolf Run to make his Birds into a 4/1 flying guillotine, and he attacked for lethal.

Fortunately for me, I had been holding my trump card. I cast Divine Deflection using all 6 mana and targeted my opponent. He was dropped to 14 life. I then attacked with my army and connected for 18 damage.

Game record: 2–0

Match record: 1–0

This match was one of the most stressful I have ever played, and yet it was among the most fun. It wasn’t winning the match that made me enjoy it so much, but it was the fact it came down to the last turn of each game. The match could have truly have gone either way. Thankfully, my card choices seemed to have paid off—in this first round anyway.

Round 2 vs. W/U Humans

Gut Shot
Game 1 – My very opponent had me on the ropes with two Blade Splicers, two Golem tokens, a Champion of the Parish, and a Snapcaster Mage. He was able to remove my early threats with Gut Shots and Vapor Snags and punch me in the face with his creatures.

When I finally was able to stabilize, I was at 3 life to his 16, and the only 4 life he had lost came from his own Gut Shots. I was able to remove both his Golem tokens with Fiend Hunters and play a Mirran Crusader. My creatures were being pumped by Honor of the Pure, and I was able to continue attacking with Mirran Crusader to force chump-blocking. If he had been able to transform his Delver of Secrets, he would have been able to swing in for the win, but he never did. I played another Fiend Hunter to remove his last threat and finished him off.

Game record: 1–0

Another close one, and sticking with it really paid off. Whew!

+2 Nearheath Pilgrim
+3 Oblivion Ring
+3 Divine Deflection
−4 Elite Vanguard
−3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
−1 Suture Priest

Champion of the Parish
Game 2 – I wasn’t coming back from this one. Two Champion of the Parish had been pumped by a Snapcaster Mage and were backed up with Gut Shot and Vapor Snag. The only removal spell that I saw the entire game was an Oblivion Ring, which removed a Champion. Another Champion and a follow-up Snapcaster later, and I was left creatureless and dead.

Game record: 1–1

+2 Silverblade Paladin
+2 Elite Vanguard
+1 Suture Priest
+3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
−2 Mirran Crusader
−3 Oblivion Ring
−3 Divine Deflection

Game 3 – This was a very long battle and not all that interesting to describe. The board was locked down with a lot of Humans against a lot of Humans. It ended up coming down to the fact that I had Riders of Gavony and Suture Priests and he didn’t. The Suture Priests punished him for playing his creatures and rewarded me for mine, and the Riders provided both blocking power and a win condition. GG.

Game record: 2–1

Match record: 2–0

I was now 2–0 and against two very aggressive and exciting decks. Win or lose, I was definitely having fun. I just hoped I would continue with the close games for the rest of the tournament.

Round 3 vs. Esper Control

Day of Judgment
This round couldn’t have been more different than the first two. I had to mulligan to five in the first game, and my opponent played a turn-two Ratchet Bomb. That killed off my Champion of the Parish, and his Lingering Souls were able to hold off my early creatures. When I was finally able to play Riders of Gavony to give my Humans protection from Spirits, my opponent played Gideon. The following turn, he cast Day of Judgment, and the rest is history. In Game 2, I had to mulligan to four cards and never found a third land. Thalia wasn’t able to hold off his army of Spirit tokens and Sun Titans.

Game record: 0–2

Match record: 2–1

I feel that the mulligans I took were necessary, and yet they didn’t pay off this time. Even my deck can’t survive long with a one-land keep unless I draw into additional lands quickly. I needed to dust myself off and take down the third round.

Round 4 vs. R/G Aggro

Game 1 – I had an solid opening hand despite needing to mulligan to six. I kept a two-land hand, but I had multiple early threats and two Honor of the Pure. I over-anticipated a quick victory, and I therefore ridiculously overcommitted to the board. Slagstorm made me pay the price by wiping five of my early creatures. I still felt confident when I dropped my Mirran Crusader on the board . . . until my opponent killed it with a Red Sun's Zenith. I was blown away since I had never seen that played in all my time testing. His Wolfir Silverheart was then able to put the game away.

Game record: 0–1

I was overconfident and paid the price. That being said, my opponent had some tricks that I wasn’t expecting and played his hand very well.

+2 Nearheath Pilgrim
+3 Divine Deflection
−3 Suture Priest
−2 Elite Vanguard

Game 2 – I kept a hand of two Doomed Travelers, two Gideon's Lawkeepers, a Fiend Hunter, and two Plains. I drew nothing but lands for the rest of the game, and my opponent continued to play threats. Eventually, he was able to Slagstorm my creatures away and finish me off. Fortunately, I did draw an Honor of the Pure on my last turn. Unfortunately, there were no creatures left for it to pump.

Game record: 0–2

Match record: 2–2

Wrapping Up

I definitely came in like a lion and went out like a lamb.

Losing the last two rounds in that fashion really rained on my parade. I guess the only thing I can do is come back next week and knock fate on his ass.

Until then,

-Tangent was here . . .