Last weekend was Savannah’s very own gaming convention, Gnome Con! While I didn’t actually partake in the convention itself, I did go play in a magic tournament there. The tourney was a Star City Games Invitational Qualifier, meaning first place in the tournament wins you an invitation to compete in SCG’s quarterly invitational tournament, taking place in June in Columbus, Ohio. While entry into that tournament is a big deal, there was no way I was going to be able to go even if I won, but I played in the tourney anyways since there was also a $250 cash prize for 1st place.
I got to the tournament site about 15 minutes before registration closed, took a seat in a far corner of the room, and looked around before filling out my decklist. There were about 30 people signed up the tournament, and out of those 30 there was only one woman actually playing (3% ain’t bad!). There were two other women in the room: one was a wife who was standing around watching her husband play and the other was a mom of a little boy who was playing. I was the brownest person in the room, which is saying a lot since I’ve lost all my LA tan over the winter. I was also the only gay in the room … I think. It’s always hard to tell at these sorts of events, but I didn’t see anyone on grindr or scruff and I was wearing the shortest shorts in the room so I just did the math.
I registered this list, which is a pretty stock U/W control build. I wasn’t really going for anything too fancy and I barely had time to test before the tournament. This was also my first tournament all year, so I had no idea how well I was going to do or if I even read the metagame correctly. I did, however, name the deck Ru Animale by Coco on my deck registration sheet, which made me laugh out loud to myself and caused some people to look at me like I was crazy.
I had been waiting for a long time to name a deck this.
I then take my seat for the player meeting, which is a short series of announcements by the judges and is when players turn in their deck registration sheet so that the tournament can officially start. Next to me, I hear two guys talking to each other in thick southern accents. One makes a Big Gay Al reference, prompting the other guy to joking hit on him in a bad gay lisp. The first guy then says something around the lines of, “You took it too far now.” After hearing that exchange, I realize that it’s gonna be a long day.
Round 1 vs. the Mirror:
I go to my assigned table for the first round and my opponent is a quiet, young SCAD student. He wins the die roll and immediately plays a Hallowed Fountain tapped. Yay, the mirror match for round 1! At this point I knew that it was definitely gonna be a long day. We take turns playing lands and passing to each other, each of us having a hand full of useless cards that are awful in the mirror. In the meantime, my opponent is beating me down with Mutavaults. I get down to 8 before I finally deal with his manlands. I manage to resolve an Aetherling with counter backup and then we were off to game 2.
For the mirror match, I always board out a significant amount of my creature removal spells and board in some more counters, my anti-Aetherling tech Debtor’s Pulpit, and some anti-Detention Sphere measures. I never board out all of my removal since sometimes people like to board in additional creatures. Besides, I don’t have enough cards in my sideboard for me to replace all of my removal spells anyways. My opponent chooses to go first, and keeps a hand with 1 Plains, 1 Mutavault, 2 Soldier of the Pantheons and no other land.
I manage to Supreme Verdict away all of this creatures and kill his man land. He doesn’t draw another land for like 8 turns, giving me enough time to resolve Aetherling and kill him again. After the match, he tells me that his creature plan is the way he beats all control mirrors. I just smile and nod. Nice anti-control tech from 6 months ago you got there.
Round 2 vs. G/B Dredge:
My opponent and I are chosen at random to play as a feature match, which basically meant that we got a table all to ourselves and a judge was around watching us play. I start off Game 1 by winning the die roll and then mulling to five. That’s not cute. My opponent plays a bunch of creatures and swiftly kicks my teeth in while I proceed to draw no lands all game.
In game 2, multiple Supreme Verdicts, Detention Spheres, and Celestial Flares slow my opponent down long enough for me to play Elspeth, Sun’s Champion with counterspell backup. Game 3 played out very much the same way, except my opponent stumbled on lands for a few turns, causing me to take over control of the game sooner. At this point in the tournament, I actually start to feel less anxious and feel better about my chances of doing well.
Round 3 vs U/G Monsters:
Game 1 starts out with my opponent playing a couple Elvish Mystics and a Kiora’s Follower. He then plays a Kiora, the Crashing Wave on turn 3, and uses her to explore. I Detention Sphere the Kiora on my turn, and then wrath away all of his mana dorks the turn after. My opponent plays a Thassa, God of the Sea, and then proceeds to draw nothing but more mana dorks the next few turns. I wipe away all his elves again, then play Elspeth and proceed to win.
Game 2 starts off okay. I wrath away some of his early aggression, and stop his planeswalker onslaught. Out of nowhere, the guy tries to play an Aetherling. I was out of counters in my hand, so things were starting to look grim. After a couple of turns of stalling the Aetherling, I manage to kill it with a well timed Fated Retribution. On the next turn my opponent plays … a second Aetherling, and I proceed to lose.
Game 3, the two of us play a long, grindy match where me and my opponent are each drawing tons of cards while he plays threats as I answer them. Eventually, I manage to play an Archangel of Thune and start going beatdown. I get him down pretty low with Archangel while gaining a bunch of life in the process. At this point, I feel great about my chances of winning the match. Then, I manage to make a gigantic misplay: My opponent casts Sylvan Primordial. I have a Detention Sphere out (with a Prophet of Kruphix under it), and a counterspell and another sphere in my hand. I let the primordial resolve, figuring I would need the counter to protect my archangel, and besides, I had another sphere in my hand anyways. My sphere gets destroys, releasing his prophet, and then my opponent passes the turn. On my turn, I play my second sphere and target his prophet again. My opponent attempts to flash in a Prime Speaker Zegana, which I let resolve since, again, I need my counter to protect my archangel that was gonna win the game for me no matter what he did. I then move to combat and swing my angel and my opponent … blocks with his primordial. Holy shit, that card has reach?! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! I should’ve just countered the damn thing but I forgot it could block fliers. The game goes on for another 10 minutes, with me just trying to survive long enough to draw a second angel. Time in the round is called and neither of us can kill in the other in five turns. I end up conceding to the guy since he was super nice all game, he would’ve ended up winning if there was no time limit, and I didn’t want to get a draw and play against control mirrors for the rest of the tournament.
Round 4 vs Bant Control:
My next round starts immediately after I turn in my match slip from round 3, giving me no time to smoke or use the restroom in between rounds. My opponent wins the die roll and starts off by playing a Hallowed Fountain tapped. Playing another control mirror is exactly what I didn’t want and was a major reason why I didn’t fucking draw last round!
Luckily for me, it’s not an exact mirror match as my opponent taps out for a Kiora on turn four. I detention sphere his Kiora, and my opponent spends the rest of the game tapping out for planeswalkers almost every turn. I manage to draw a bunch of cards off my own planeswalker (Jace, Architect of Thought) and the two of us have a sphere vs. planeswalker battle for a while. Eventually, my opponent taps out for Elspeth and I use the opportunity to resolve an Aetherling, stealing me the game.
In game 2, my opponent continues to play his planeswalkers very aggressively, which allows me to resolve things like Sphinx’s Revelation easier. This game continues very similarly to the first one, except that this time, he manages to resolve an Aetherling first. I use Jace to dig into a Debtor’s Pulpit, which taps down his Aetherling for most of the game. In the meantime, I bash him with soldier tokens and mutavaults and I end up winning right when time in the match is called.
Round 5 vs Mono Black Aggro:
Again, I didn’t really have much time to smoke or take a break in between rounds. At this point, I’m super exhausted and starting to regret playing a control deck in the tournament. I get paired against a guy who I recognize from our local Savannah shop. The guy is nice enough, but he’s one of those people who just talks non-stop during a match. Considering I hadn’t had a break for two hours, I wasn’t really having his chatter. Game 1, I keep too slow a hand and get demolished by an early rush of Tormented Hero, Rakdos Cackler, and Herald of Torment. In Game 2, my opponent uses Thoughtseize and Duress to strip my removal and then beats me down with the aforementioned creatures. The entire match took 15 minutes.
At this point in the tournament I feel completely drained and demoralized. I realize that even if I play the last round, the chances of me making top 8 are slim, so I consider dropping from the tournament. My round 5 opponent urges me to stick it out and play the last round. I decide to wait a little bit a see how I feel since I had 45 minutes before the next round started. I took this opportunity to smoke, sit down, grab a snack, and down an energy drink. Even after I had recharged a little bit, I still considered dropping given how terrible that last game went and how low my chances were of getting top 8. I reluctantly decided to play the last round, and as I was trying to find my seat I thought about Latrice Royale’s wise words: “It’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s okay to fall down. just get up, look sickening, and make them eat it!”
Round 6 vs Junk Reanimator:
I win the die roll and start the match off by countering his Satyr Wayfinder. This causes my opponent to miss a few land drops, greatly slowing him down. Eventually, he manages to play some mana dorks, which I swiftly dispatch, trying to keep him mana screwed. By the time he reaches five mana to play an Obzedat, Ghost Council, I ultimate with Jace, getting Aetherling from my deck and an Ashen Rider from his deck, prompting him to concede. Game 2 goes pretty much the same way. I Last Breath a turn 1 Elvish Mystic and counter another Satyr Wayfinder, prompting him to get stuck on mana again. Eventually, he gets run over by Elspeth and her army of soldiers. After the match, my opponent laments on how those weren’t real games since he got so mana screwed. Gurl, you only got mana screwed cause I made you mana screwed. Get it together.
After all my lamenting earlier about not making it into the Top 8, I end up in 8th place after the swiss, being one of the two people with a 4-2 record to make Top 8. Awesome!
Top 8 Match vs Mono Blue Devotion:
My opponent starts off by curving Judge’s Familiar into Frostburn Weird into Thassa, God of the Sea. I Detention Sphere the Thassa, then Supreme Verdict away his creatures the following turn. Elspeth seals the game up for me shortly after. My opponent reveals that game 1 against control is basically unwinnable for him and that he has to board in like 12 cards for the match-up.
Game 2, my opponent brings some quick beats in the form of Judge’s Familiar and Mutavault, but then gets stuck for a bit without two blue sources. This gives me enough time to resolve an Archangel of Thune, which singlehandly wins the game for me as my opponent had no way to get rid of it and no way to outrace me.
Semi-Finals vs Mono Black Aggro:
I’m extremely nervous at the beginning of this match because I get paired against the same guy who kicked my ass in round 5 and I knew that this would be an awful matchup for me. Luckily, Luke showed up to the tournament at this point, bringing me an energy drink and proving me with moral support. I start off Game 1 by mulliganing until I get a hand that can deal with some early aggression. He has a typical start with Rakdos Cackler into Herald of Torment. I verdict away both and fend off several more Heralds with a combination of sphere and Celestial Flare. He gets me down to five before I stabilize with Elixir of Immortality and a Sphinx’s Revelation for 7. At that point, I play Elspeth, which he Hero’s Downfalls. I then play a second Elspeth, which wins the game in short order.
Game 2 goes in a similar way. I stop his early onslaught of creatures but still get beat down to 5 life. I stabilize with a revelation and then Archangel of Thune finishes the game for me (that card did some serious work for me all tournament). I’m happy that I make it to the finals, but even happier that I got my revenge.
Finals vs the Mirror:
As soon as I sit down the match, my opponent asks me how badly I wanted to go to the invitational. I inform him that I had no desire to go, he informs me that he really wants to go, so then we sit down with a judge and work on a deal to split the finals. We decide that I would get 2nd place and my opponent would get 1st so that he could get the invitation. We split the packs for winning 2nd equally, but split the cash in my favor. I walk away from the tournament with a new playmat, 12 packs, and $150 in cash … awesome.
Overall, I’m extremely happy with how my deck performed. I think this season’s control decks are way more boring than last season since you can’t really close out games fast. It’s frustrating and exhausting to almost go to time every single match. Still though, the deck was great and if I were to play again, I wouldn’t really change anything (except for maybe replacing Essence Scatter with Nullify since the bestow interaction came up once in the tourney).
Thanks for reading!