Last weekend was the Star City Games Invitational in Indianapolis, which I was pretty stoked to attend. While the main even was mostly miserable for me, the weekend on the whole was awesome.
My trip started when Josh Rayden picked me up on Thursday afternoon. With most of the qualified Minnesotan Magic community (wrongly) declining to attend the invitational, it was just the two of us until we picked up Dan Cecchetti and Sam Black in Madison.
On the way to Indy we made a stop in Chicago to eat at Portillo’s at Josh’s request. They make this shake there with an entire piece of cake blended int that Josh is rather infatuated with. Personally I think we would have been better off driving around Chicago, but when a trip takes nearly half a day in the first place, there isn’t a lot of value gained from making good time.
We got to our hotel around 10 or 11 P.M. Plenty of time to get decks together and get in a decent night’s sleep. Of course, the sleeping would have been easier if the air conditioner in our room at the Ramada worked worth a damn, though that’s not to say that I haven’t had worse.
Not surprisingly, everyone in the car was on some blue/white variant for the Standard portion of the Invitational. I was on Delver while Josh, Dan and Sam were all on the midrange build. I was playing something very close to LSV’s list from the WMCQ and had been doing pretty well with it on MTGO. I was expecting the mirror to be popular and was pretty comfortable with my ability to play it.
If only I got that opportunity.
Scrubbing out in Standard
My first round got off to a rough start with my mulliganing to six on the play. I ended up keeping Geist, Mana Leak, Gitaxian Probe and three lands. The hand wasn’t super exciting, but the Probe could, after all, be anything. Even another Probe! I paid life to see my opponent’s hand on turn one and saw this:
Then my probe drew me another land.
I Leaked the Rampant Growth on turn two and pretty much bricked infinitely after playing Geist on turn three. My opponent hit all of his land drops and I failed to find anything that could interact with or race his uncounterable Titans.
Game two went pretty much the same way.
I was pretty tilted after losing a match that I felt there was nothing I could do about.
In the next round I ended up making a play that I’m fairly certain cost me the match against the blue/white midrange deck. There are a lot of factors behind the play in question, but suffice it to say I committed a Geist of Saint Traft that I probably didn’t have to into a Day of Judgment that I gambled wasn’t there.
In round three I savaged Esper Spirits because it’s not a deck, and in round four I was outdrawn by Wolf Run Ramp again.
My heart was really out of the game at this point and I ended up dropping after losing a RUG Delver mirror in the second round of the Legacy portion. While I can’t say that I was impressed with my opponent’s play, I can definitely point to a play in game one and a play in game three that I punted on.
Josh had a similarly bad day and the two of us went out for burgers and beers/margaritas, while Sam and Dan battled the rest of the day.
Neither of us wanted to subject ourselves to playing more Standard at the Open on Saturday, so instead we planned on colluding in some sanctioned EDH matches. I could think of no better way to get off tilt than to ruin the good times of children.
I hadn’t brought any of my EDH decks, but Josh had his Arcum Dagsson combo deck and Dan had a pile of blue cards that he said was an EDH deck.
Dan’s pile had Patron of the Moon as its general, which we quickly changed to Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir so as to turn off our opponent’s counterspells. Then we filled the deck with really bad cards like Cancel and Stoic Rebuttal.
At the end of Friday Sam and Dan had managed to day two and we made our way back to the hotel.
There we watched Reuben Bresler’s delightful interview with Todd Anderson. It was spectacular to watch, considering both the Sam Black references in the video and the fact that Dan was the guy that drew out of the Top 8 of Nashville with Todd.
I really enjoyed Reuben’s work on this one and look forward to more content from him.
For whatever reason day two of the Invitational started at 9 A.M. With our hotel being 15 minutes away from the event site, Josh and I ended up waking up bright and early to travel to the site where we stayed the entire day, which I could have very well done without.
Dan and Sam got to battling while Josh and I signed up for a “Commander” pod. It wasn’t long before we were seated across from two local kids playing with Rhys the Redeemed and Dralnu, Lich Lord. They Rhys player had a neat deck box I had never seen before. I asked him which store carried Gladware deckboxes, but he wasn’t very interested in my comment.
The two of them did basically nothing while Josh assembled Helm of Awakening and Sensei’s Divining Top to draw his whole deck and Brainfreeze everyone for 81. As it turned out, everybody had Eldrazis in their decks, meaning that he would have to go for a more conventional win.
Josh made Mycosynth Lattice and Darksteel Forge and started LD’ing people with his Karn, Silver Golem. The Dralnu player Capsized Josh’s Lattice to try to buy some time, which I declined to counter. At this point in the game I had done essentially nothing and had four counterspells in hand.
Mostly I hated that Josh’s deck wasn’t better at winning and figured he could durdle his own way out of it. A turn or two later he was able to Nevinyrral’s Disk away everybody else’s permanents and the game was all but over.
A word of advice for anybody that wants to run competitive EDH tables – play fun decks. I don’t really care that the other kids didn’t have fun. Frankly if they want to have a good game of EDH they should just go make friends. What was annoying was that it took Josh, like, four weeks to combo off. We would’ve done better to have the combo player play something like Griselbrand (now banned!) or some manner of deck that can just Tooth and Nail for the win.
Meanwhile, Sam Top 32’d the Invitational and Dan finished 33rd.
Josh, Dan and I went out to Fogo de Chao for infinite meat Saturday evening, which Sam passed on as he is a vegetarian. I didn’t much care for the atmosphere at Fogo, but devouring red (or more likely at Fogo pink) meat is a great way to de-tilt oneself.
Despite Dan’s finish in the Invitational he didn’t care to play the Legacy Open on Sunday. I was battling with a relatively stock RUG list with Josh playing Esper Stoneblade and Sam playing his Zombie deck.
My day again went extremely poorly. I won my first round against Sneak and Show and then went on to lose the next two to Sneak and Show and Reanimator. I’m thinking that my maindeck should’ve been more configured to beat combo in game one with some of the maindeck removal spells switched to the sideboard.
Meanwhile Dan entered the noon Draft Open and ended up with a superbly miserable deck containing four copies of Fleeting Distraction. Needless to say, he didn’t make it too far with that one.
In round four I played against an extremely unpleasant Merfolks player. He kept track of his life total and his life total only using dice instead of paper and communicated very poorly throughout our match. Honestly, the topic of in-game communication deserves an entire article to itself, but, if nothing else, you should at least verify life totals with your opponent every time damage is dealt.
After that match I dropped and decided to incinerate some money in the 3 P.M. Draft Open. I was a little apprehensive about joining as I had not played a single draft of Avacyn Restored, but I considered the following:
- I had heard that Avacyn Restored is pretty much like drafting a core set, so my limited knowledge wouldn’t hurt me too much.
- SCG Draft Opens can be extremely soft.
- I was on too much tilt to not make a poor decision even if points 1 and 2 ended up being false.
My draft pod featured a few local guys along with Joe Bernal and Max Tietze. I was a bit nervous when I heard that I only had 40 seconds to make my first pick, as I thought I would have closer to 50 seconds, but I was able to read every card and make reasonable picks despite the time constraints.
My first three picks were two Scrapskin Drakes and an Into the Void. I figured that there was no way that three mana fliers could be bad and Into the Void is very plainly insane. There were no good blue options for my fourth pick, so I took a Joint Assault because I had heard that blue/green Soulbond was a good deck. As the pack progressed it became pretty clear that blue was open but I didn’t get very much green.
In pack two I was very happy to open a Vanishment. I then second picked a Wolfir Avenger over a Nephalia Smuggler, which I ended up regretting later as green was otherwise extremely dry. I got some other goodies in this pack, including a Mist Raven and an eleventh pick Devastation Tide. I realize that the card isn’t super exciting, but it’s certainly better than eleventh pick.
In pack three I pretty much stuck to picking blue cards. During deck build I realized that I didn’t get very many green cards at all. While I wanted to play Wolfir Avenger, I realized I could very easily play mono-blue.
I had two Spectral Prisons on my sideboard that I probably should’ve just maindecked. I sided them in pretty consistently and, if nothing else, the Angelic Armaments didn’t really fit.
There’s not much to say about how the swiss rounds went. I had good fliers, good bounce spells and decent card draw. I very easily 3-0’d into top 8 despite multiple mull to fives and play mistakes.
I opted to split the prize for the top 8 but the motion was no-sir’d.
My Top 8 draft went considerably worse. The flow of the colors was pretty awkward. I knew I was white for most of the draft but landing on a second color was tough. I ended up in green/white, which I don’t mind playing in most formats if I have a lot of tricks, but I came up short in that department for this draft.
My deck ended up being extremely mediocre:
I had a Defang in my sideboard that definitely should have been maindeck. I got a lot of flak for playing Commander’s Authority which I responded to by writing “Bitterblossom” on the card in Sharpie. It’s clearly not good against blue decks, but an infinite blocker that can generate bodies during a board stall is hardly unplayable.
My quarterfinals match against David McDarby pretty much consisted of my equipping Bladed Bracers to angels and blocking his creatures until he died. His deck was about as mediocre as mine.
I opted to split again going into the semifinals but I was no-sir’d again.
He Terminused in game one and soon after we had a board of Angels staring at one another while my Commander’s Authority made tens of tokens. I gained a grip of life with Goldnight Redeemer and my opponent scooped out of boredom. I feel like the game was mine to lose but not knowing what was in his deck I can’t say for sure that he couldn’t win.
In game two I rolled him with Druid’s Familiar because that card is laughably good.
After that it was on to the finals against Dave Shiels where I finally got my split. His deck was considerably better than mine, featuring double Triumph of Ferocity and Tamiyo, the Moon Sage. I made the match kind of close, but I don’t think that I really had much business in it.
It was a strange weekend for me. I got completely savaged in the highest EV tournament in Magic and then ended up splitting the finals in a format where I had no idea what I was doing.
At any rate, Invitational weekends are insane and I feel that everybody should be doing whatever they can to make it out to them. There are tons of great people there and a lot of different ways to game. Even if you’re not qualified, it’s well worth traveling with somebody who is, and I say this as somebody not at all associated with SCG.
Of course, they’re a lot better when you’re winning.