Welcome back to “Game Day Grinder”, the article series that follows a veteran Magic: the Gathering player and his journey to discover what it feels like to try playing competitively whilst constrained by a budget.
If you’re new to the series, click here for links to all the previous articles.
I stood on a war-torn battlefield, squinting towards the horizon. A pair of ravenous demons spread their wings and lifted themselves off the ground. They cackled and shrieked with delight.
The wind picked up and I shivered, goose bumps rolling over my skin. The demons were picking up speed and would be upon me in a matter of seconds.
“What in Heliod’s name are those heinous creatures?” a gravelly voice inquired. “I’ve never seen such abominations.”
I glanced at the figure standing beside me. He stood on guard, his brow furrowed and his muscles rippling. An aura of white and green energy snaked around his limbs. A magical force field surrounded the figure, spitting and crackling. I could tell instinctively that he was protected by the gods, and felt relieved as he raised his fists and prepared himself for battle.
“Those demons know of nothing but desecration,” I muttered solemnly.
“We are on equal footing, my friend,” said the hero from Iroas. “I can easily fell one demon, but am unsure whether I can deal with the pair alone. Thank goodness I have you by my side.”
I was completely unarmed. Panic and fear washed over me and I began to stammer.
“They approach!” roared the figure. “Don’t just stand there. I need your help!”
I frantically patted my torn vest and rummaged through my pockets, praying that I would find something of use. As I sifted through the contents of my back pocket, my fingers brushed up against a cold piece of metal.
I held the item in cupped hands and smiled.
“I found a Selesnya Charm,” I offered, grinning despite our impending doom.
“Only one charm?!” cried the figure. “You jest!”
My eyes widened in fear as the gluttonous demons descended upon us. If we were to be devoured, the least I could do was say something heroic or clever in the face of impending doom so that the bards could weave a tale of bravery and sacrifice.
I sighed. “Aww, fuck.”
I. Weekly Recap
I had been having nightmares all week long. I would wake in a cold sweat, screaming hysterically.
“If only I had found a better way to push damage through last week!” I sobbed. “Why did my Green/White Heroic deck do so terribly?!”
I had had a miserable time at last week’s Standard tournament. My Heroic deck was clunky and wasn’t well-positioned in the current metagame. Rather than take another chance in playing the deck, I decided to switch back to the midrange deck I had been piloting to some success in recent weeks. I would enjoy myself much more playing the deck and, in turn, hopefully put up a better record.
II. Spending Our Weekly Budget
Week 5 – $5 Purchases
Purchasing four copies of Selesnya Charm had been one of the best decisions I had made several weeks ago. Although they would soon rotate and I wouldn’t be able to use them during Khans of Tarkir Game Day, they had quickly paid for themselves. I wouldn’t have been able to pull off as many winning records without them.
Following the same train of thought, I decided to purchase a playset of Advent of the Wurm, one of the more powerful tools available for Green/White decks. Our local store was selling them for half of their regular price and I couldn’t resist the deal. Although I would only be able to play them in three events before rotation, I felt as though they would give me the edge and finally allow me to go undefeated at one of the upcoming tournaments.
III. The Booster Pack
Booster Pack Contents (Notable):
I had opened up another crummy Rare. The Goblin Kaboomist seemed to jeer at me.
I hoped that my decision to switch back to my midrange deck wouldn’t blow up in my face.
IV. The Changes
Here’s the list I finalized before the Standard tournament:
GW Aggro – Peter Sachlas
V. Tournament Report
ROUND 1 – vs Abzan Midrange (G/W/B)
I was on the play and had kept a slower hand with two copies of Advent of the Wurm, a Selesnya Charm, and a copy of Gods Willing. My opponent had played a Temple of Malady on the first turn, followed by a Sylvan Caryatid, so I knew that he was playing a slower midrange deck with green as its base. I decided to hold the Selesnya Charm to deal with bigger threats. Unfortunately, I drew two more copies of Gods Willing and I hadn’t played anything to pressure my opponent. Luckily, my opponent decided to play his Desecration Demon on his main phase before attacking with a Courser of Kruphix he had played the previous turn. I made an instant-speed 5/5 Wurm token and blocked the Courser. I untapped and cast a Selesnya Charm on the Demon and took a hefty chunk out of my opponent’s life total with the Wurm.
My opponent untapped and cast Obzedat, Ghost Council, draining me for two points of life. I was stuck on four lands at this point, so I couldn’t safely cast another Advent of the Wurm with Gods Willing backup, and was worried about trying to flash in the token into my opponent’s open mana. Luckily, my opponent cast a second Desecration Demon on his main phase before attacking with Obzedat, and I quickly traded my instant-speed Wurm for his council of ghosts.
The second copy of Desecration Demon turned out to be problematic as my opponent removed my original Wurm token with a Hero’s Downfall and I was stuck with an Imposing Sovereign and three copies of Gods Willing in hand. Eventually, I had to make a desperate play, casting all three of my copies of Gods Willing at the end of turn to scry and dig for a Selesnya Charm. I found none and lost the first game.
I had another slow start in the second game, casting an instant-speed Boon Satyr at the end of my opponent’s third turn. I was facing down a Sylvan Caryatid and a third-turn Desecration Demon, but luckily drew a timely Selesnya Charm to stem the bleeding. Unfortunately, my opponent had played a Brimaz and then had cast a second Desecration Demon, putting me under a boatload of pressure. I found a Devouring Light for the second Demon and had managed to stabilize at 2 life with my opponent sitting empty handed. I prayed for a couple of free turns to sway the game, but my opponent drew his card and slammed the Obzedat that would immediately clinch the game for him.
My instant-speed creatures were no match for the spirits and demons that plague the underworld.
I was in a haze. I had created this intricate Excel worksheet that I had printed out to help me keep track of each turn of the game, but it was doing more harm than good. Although I could easily take note of each card played and each game interaction, I was distracted and couldn’t concentrate on the gameplay. I felt as though I was making the most obvious decisions and not taking time to sequence things properly.
I decided to scrap the worksheets and take notes between games and after each match was over. I needed to concentrate on playing well rather than documenting how I had lost.
ROUND 2 – vs Izzet Control (U/R)
As I sat down against my second round opponent, I recognized him from a match I had been watching earlier. I knew he was playing a homebrew version of Izzet control with a fun little combo in Polymorphist’s Jest and Izzet Staticaster.
He seemed excited and eager to play.
“I pulled off my combo last game,” he said, grinning ear to ear.
“Let’s see if you can pull it off again,” I teased.
I drew my opening hand and immediately announced that I would not be taking any mulligans. I was on the play and had a good curve and aggressive start. My opponent wasn’t so lucky, and had to mulligan to five cards.
“This’ll be pretty easy,” I thought to myself. “I kind of feel bad for my opponent. Having to mulligan against an aggressive opponent is always a terrible feeling.”
I played a Soldier of the Pantheon on the first turn and swung thrice with it. My opponent’s first play was a third-turn Guttersnipe, declining to block my Soldier as I brought him down to 14 life. Instead of casting my Advent of the Wurm on my main phase, I waited to flash it in at the end of turn. My opponent cast a Magma Jet on my Soldier, dealing two extra damage from his Guttersnipe and swung at me. I couldn’t save my Soldier with the Selesnya Charm I had in hand because of its multicolor protection, but I was in the clear for casting my Advent of the Wurm. My opponent only had two mana untapped.
The problem with playing against homebrew decks?
Not knowing what unconventional cards are being played in the main deck.
I tried casting my Selesnya Charm on the next turn to block his Goblin, but he had drawn a second Negate. With only one card left in my opponent’s hand, I had to rely on my miniature army of Triplicate Spirits to get the job done.
Unfortunately, my opponent had drawn his seventh land and managed to overload a Cyclonic Rift, clearing the way for his Goblin to deal the final points of damage.
I removed my Imposing Sovereigns from the deck, replacing them with copies of Ajani’s Presence and Setessan Tactics. The 2/1 creatures would prove useless against my opponent’s main deck Izzet Staticasters and slew of burn spells.
I mimicked my first turn play from the previous game, playing a Soldier of the Pantheon. I had a much more aggressive start this time around, casting a Fleecemane Lion as a follow-up and then a second Soldier.
My opponent made a grave mistake on his third turn. He played an Izzet Staticaster on his main phase and attempted to target my soldiers. He had forgotten that they were protected from his multicolor mage. I gained two life and took a chunk out of his life total the following turn. My opponent was too far behind, and scooped as soon as I had found an opening to resolve the Monstrous ability on my Fleecemane Lion.
The third game would be a nail-biter.
We both took some time setting up. I had managed to develop a board with two copies of Soldier of the Pantheon, two Monstrous Fleecemane Lions and a Wurm token in play. My opponent had been slicing away at my life total with his Guttersnipe and had been doing a decent job at keeping my creatures at bay. I had a strong feeling that he had an Aetherspouts in hand, so I was only attacking with my Wurm token each turn. The pressure was mounting, and he eventually cast his Aetherspouts, removing my token from the game. He followed it shortly afterwards with a Stormbreath Dragon.
We were at a standstill.
My opponent would have been able to finish me off in two turns with his Dragon and a single spell in his hand, but I would have been able to crack back for the win if the dragon was out of the equation. He made a smart decision given the circumstances and kept his dragon back.
We both had two cards in hand, so I decided to play the aggressor. I attacked with both Lions and both Soldiers and, to my surprise, my opponent made a play which would spell my doom. He cast a Rapid Hybridization targeting his own Guttersnipe, only to cast a Swan Song to counter the removal spell. He dealt four damage to me and added a third blocker to his board. All he had to do was block one of my lions with his dragon, sacrifice his Goblin, and swing back for six unblocked damage in the air during his next turn.
I was ready to concede, but quickly refrained from doing so as I saw him declare his blockers. My heart skipped a beat. He had thrown away both his Guttersnipe and Swan token, declining to block anything with the dragon.
With no cards left in his hand, I swung in for the win the following turn.
“Did you forget that your dragon had protection from white?” I offered.
“You know what? I also forgot that my dragon could be turned monstrous,” he sighed.
“I always forget that,” he chuckled. He still seemed in high spirits.
I was happy to see my opponent enjoying himself despite having lost his last two matches. I hadn’t had that feeling in a while. It’s tough to really enjoy playing your deck when your deck choices are based on what fits your budget and what gives you a slight edge rather than what you really enjoy playing.
At that moment, I felt exhausted. I felt good about myself in that I had come this far, shaping an Intro Deck into something that could win and allowing me to play competitively, but I wasn’t having a lot of fun. Having to think about deck choices a month down the line and fretting over even the smallest details is mentally taxing. It really feels as though it’s an “all work and no play” situation.
I was bumming myself out. I stepped outside for some fresh air and tried to clear my head.
ROUND 3 – vs Rakdos Aggro (R/B)
I hit the ground running in the third round. I played a Sunblade Elf on the first turn, followed by an Imposing Sovereign. When my opponent played his first creature, an unleashed Rakdos Cackler, I knew that I had the advantage having played first and already having landed an Imposing Sovereign.
My opponent untapped and decided to race my smaller creatures. He enchanted his little devil with Madcap Skills and started swinging. In most circumstances, I would have a hard time dealing with a creature enchanted with Madcap Skills, having to set up an inconvenient double block if I was under too much pressure. Luckily, the Selesnya Charm I had in hand was the perfect answer to his creature with five power.
I kept chipping away at my opponent’s life total. All he could muster was a second Rakdos Cackler which came into play tapped, later bestowing it with a Gnarled Scarhide. I had put a wrench in my opponent’s plans and had made it difficult for him to race. I quickly won the first game.
My opponent shook his head in disbelief.
“Wow,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d be playing against main deck Imposing Sovereign today.”
We shuffled up for the second game. I knew I would have to play more defensively since I would be going second. My opponent decided to keep his seven card hand, but I had to take a mulligan as I lacked any Plains for my white spells.
My six card hand wasn’t good enough either. I took a mulligan to five and sighed as I stared at another grip full of spells and no lands.
“Down to four, I guess,” I said dejectedly.
I could tell my opponent felt bad that I had had to take so many mulligans, but he looked ready to take me down.
I was facing two Rakdos Cacklers on the second turn but had managed to cast a Fleecemane Lion as a defensive measure. My opponent didn’t seem too worried, as he took down my lion with a copy of Mizzium Mortars. He then played a Swamp and cast a Spike Jester, and I knew I was in for a world of hurt.
I finally drew a third land and slammed the copy of Hornet Nest I had brought in from my sideboard. My opponent swung with everything and, although my life total was low, he was running out of cards and would now be facing three deathtouch tokens that could wipe out his entire team.
Unfortunately, my insects couldn’t do much against a Mogis’s Marauder and an army of Intimidate creatures. I scooped up my cards.
It was my opponent’s turn to mulligan in the third game. The karmic forces were well balanced, and I capitalized on my opponent’s lack of cards.
I met little resistance as I cast a Sunblade Elf into a Fleecemane Lion. My opponent was lacking pressure, so I decided to cast a Selesnya Charm at the end of turn to make a 2/2 Knight token with vigilance, only to populate it on my fifth turn after having cast a Scion of Vitu-Ghazi.
My opponent couldn’t handle my army of creatures. I had won the match!
“Now that’s more like it!” I told myself.
I felt comfortable with my deck and was winning again. I was glad that I had made the decision to scrap the Green/White Heroic deck. It was time to win some booster packs!
ROUND 4 – vs Golgari Dredge (G/B)
I had played the version of Green/Black Dredge that had been spawned from Ari Lax’s Grand Prix success earlier this year. I had found it powerful, yet inconsistent due to its weak mana base. Since then, the addition of Temple of Malady, Llanowar Wastes, and Mana Confluence have made it much stronger due to its consistency. Luckily, I had had enough experience piloting the deck to know what was important and how best to fight its strategy.
The first game was unexciting. I put on some early pressure while my opponent tried to set up his graveyard thanks to Commune with the Gods and Grisly Salvage, but he was having some pretty terrible luck. He was hitting irrelevant lands and spells while milling himself and couldn’t keep up with my two copies of Soldier of the Pantheon and my Imposing Sovereign. I eventually bestowed one of soldiers with a Boon Satyr to deal the final points of damage.
I knew that Nighthowler (or any creature it was bestowing) would be my biggest obstacle, so I added copies of Devouring Light and a couple of Reclamation Sages from my sideboard. The Reclamation Sages could also be used to destroy other pesky cards such as Nyx Weaver and Whip of Erebos. I felt pretty confident that I could win thanks to my aggressive strategy and my experience piloting the Dredge deck in the past.
I cast an Imposing Sovereign on the second turn, making it difficult for my opponent to set up any profitable blocks. As he milled himself with Satyr Wayfinders and Commune with the Gods, I had developed a terrifying board which included a Fleecemane Lion and Scion of Vitu-Ghazi. I was saving the Selesnya Charm and Devouring Light in my hand for any Nighthowler shenanigans, but there was no need. I destroyed his last remaining blocker, a Nyx Weaver, with a Reclamation Sage, and cast my Selesnya Charm to trample over for the final points of damage.
I felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Finishing the event with a 3-1 record is much more satisfying than being awarded a bye and losing every other match you play. I had decided to continue playing my midrange deck for the next two weeks until Khans of Tarkir would be released, and then try to play a Blue/White Heroic deck based on Jared Boettcher’s recent Block Pro Tour deck list.
I felt as though my deck was really shaping up and had improved significantly since I had started this article series. I knew I’d be sad when rotation hits and more than half my deck becomes obsolete.
V. Week 5 Wrap-Up (and trades)
Overall Record To-Date: 12-11
Not only did I claw my way back to an overall winning record, but I had won three booster packs thanks to my three match wins! I sat down to play Pack Wars with a friend, thinking that the only way the day could get better was cracking some decent Rares.
I had hit the jack pot! Although I got crushed in our Pack Wars games, the Chord of Calling, Soul of New Phyrexia, and Avacyn would more than make up for the sting of defeat. I now had over $15 worth of cards to trade towards my post-rotation Standard deck!
Week 5 Trades
I couldn’t believe my luck. I had found a player who had recently made a Blue/White Heroic deck and had wanted to take it apart. He had a boatload of cards I needed and he was more than happy to trade the cards away for the Soul of New Phyrexia and Chord of Calling I had recently opened.
1 Ob Nixilis, Unshackled -> 1 Setessan Tactics 1 Soul of New Phyrexia -> 2 Banishing Light, 1 Eidolon of Countless Battles 1 Chord of Calling, 1 Evolving Wilds, 1 Satyr Wayfinder -> 3 Fabled Hero, 4 Battlewise Hoplite, 3 Ordeal of Thassa, 4 Aqueous Form, 3 Swan Song, 2 Deicide
I left the store on a proverbial high. I had done well at the tournament, opened up awesome cards in my winning booster packs, and had made some decent trades. My next challenge would be to go undefeated.