Reviewing the Year in Magic

With the passing of the new year, like so many others I find myself reflecting back on the previous years’ events. There were so many great memories in 2012. For me, it was a year of travel.

One of the things I love so much about Magic is the opportunity it provides to see new places and meet new people. This is one reason I continue to struggle every week in my journey to qualify for the Pro Tour. Seeing the world, the interesting sites and the unique people is rewarding to a level that is challenging to put into words. This game has done so much for us as people. Even the intellectual intensity you subject yourself to by competing in large events will provide you with benefits in the rest of your life.

This past year has been a change in focus for me in terms of competitive play. Instead of focusing on money tournaments like Star City Opens, I made PTQs and GPs a priority. Attending four Grands Prix and seven PTQs was a great start for my resurgence into competitive play. I played more of each event in one year than in the total time I’ve been playing the game which reflects my decision to take the game more seriously. Despite such a dramatic change in the number of events, I wasn’t able to attend all of the ones I wanted to.

Of all the places I traveled to last year, the DC trip sticks out the most to me. From my success the previous year, I was qualified for the WMCQ (one of three Nationals tournaments for those that don’t remember). Despite playing in two events and losing on the bubble each time, spending Saturday night exploring the city of DC was an epic adventure that I will never forget. Even though I left that weekend without a qualification for Worlds or the Pro Tour, it was an unforgettable experience. These are the types of adventures this game grants to its players.

With all of this reflection, I decided I needed to not only reflect on the great memories I created, but also reflect on my tournament experiences as well. What I did right, what I did wrong, and what changes I can make this year. The process I used to do this is a fairly straightforward one. Here are the steps.

  1. Log into your planeswalker points account
  2. Write down every major event you attended. I would recommend GPs, PTQs and big cash events like SCG Opens.
  3. Add to your list the deck you played in the event. I did this by talking to friends and looking back at articles I wrote. Look at what format the event was also, that will help you remember.
  4. Determine your record for each event.
  5. Now, the hard part. Figure out why you were or were not successful at the event.

Although this process is rather straightforward, it can be tedious to gather this information. Then once you have it all, pin pointing the catalyst or flaw in your event is quite challenging. Do it anyway. I am going to tell you all about my list, but let me say, I learned more by doing this than from any single thing I have ever done. Here’s my catalog of adventures.

Last Years’ Tournaments

Event: Modern PTQ #1
Deck: Splinter Twin
Record: 2-2
Analysis: At the time, Jund was not a very popular deck and I underestimated how many players would bring it to the PTQ. My first loss was against that deck. Configuring my list with that matchup in mind would have definitely helped as well as some additional testing of that matchup in particular. The second loss I had in the event was due to a play mistake my opponent tricked me into making but was ultimately my fault.

Event: Modern PTQ
Deck: Melira Pod
Record: 5-2
Analysis: This event was the day right after the previous one so info from that event influenced my deck choice. I had much experience with this deck and that should have weighed more heavily into my choice for the previous day. My first loss was to the U/W Tron deck that no longer exists in Modern. It is a bad match for the deck but the games were very close. The mulligan to five in game three paired with my inability to draw lands in game one did not help me win this match. My second loss was playing for top eight.

Event: Sealed GP Nashville
Record: Made Day 2
Analysis: This is one event we will never know the outcome of. After day one I was 7-2 and then I moved to 9-3 by the end of the first draft on the second day. Due to chaos exploding in the life of one of my traveling mates, I was forced to drop from the event before I could play out the second draft. Despite missing this opportunity, in the long run, I’m glad no one’s life was ruined. My confidence about my Limited skills was drastically improved from this experience though.

Event: Standard PTQ #1
Deck: Wolf Run Blue
Record: 5-2
Analysis: For this metagame, the deck I chose was perfect and exploited a hole that existed. If I could go back, I probably would have changed a couple cards in it, but I would not change the deck I played. Again I lost playing for top eight.

Event: Standard PTQ #2
Deck: Esper Spirits
Record: 0-2
Analysis: I tried to use a deck designed by Sam Black almost card for card. This did not work out well for me despite doing well with it locally in weeks prior. The window was closed for this deck to be successful and I did not move on like I should have.

Event: Standard WMCQ
Deck: Wolf Run Black
Record: 5-3
Analysis: Dungrove Green was just emerging as a deck and not taking it seriously cost me two losses in this event. With one or two cards changed in the deck, I could have fixed this matchup so that it was in my favor. Even though this was the right deck for the event, my weakness to one deck was exploited.

Event: Standard PTQ #3
Deck: Wolf Run Black
Record: 4-2
Analysis: After playing in the WMCQ the day before, I made some minor changes to the deck to run it back for the PTQ. Despite being undefeated on the weekend against the best deck in the format at the time, Delver, I still lost to the mirror and a rouge Venser deck. Based on my results in these two events, I was confident my deck choice was correct because I beat something like seven Delver decks over the course of the two days.

Event: Modern GP Columbus
Deck: WUR Delver
Record: 3-3
Analysis: Despite preparation and playing the same deck as two of the top eight competitors, I was unable to even make day two. This was my first constructed Grand Prix so maybe I was just unprepared for the event mentally but I’m not sure. I will say that even though I tested the deck, it was not one I considered “my deck.” It was basically a known quantity and I did not change much if anything in the list. In case you are not seeing the pattern, this is a bad thing for me. More on this later.

Event: Standard PTQ #4
Deck: Wolf Run White
Record: 2-2
Analysis: What I wrote down in my notes was, “right idea, wrong list.” Terminus was definitely correct for the event and it was the best card for the metagame. I don’t know if my deck was the wrong choice or if it just needed a different configuration, but it was not my day. Luckily my friend Josh won this event.

Event: Sealed PTQ #1
Record: 4-2
Analysis: From playing Return to Ravnica Limited I determined that your mana might be one of the most important aspects. In sealed you are often forced to play three colors since your playable cards are spread between guilds. If you have to choose, you definitely want the most powerful deck, but make sure your mana will support it. Ultimately I picked up my second lost due to a greedy play mistake. I did not play cautious enough and it cost me that match.

Event: Sealed PTQ #2
Record: 2-2
Analysis: My main goal for this event was to qualify, but I needed the planeswalker points to solidify two byes for this Grand Prix season so either way I was winning by attending this event despite my crew backing out on me the week before. My deck was actually solid for this event, but I had tons of mana problems. Basically I just could not draw lands all day.

Event: Modern GP Chicago
Deck: Naya Pod
Record: 6-2-1
Analysis: My draw was to the U/W Midrange deck. I probably could have played faster in this match or conceded game one rather than playing it out for so long but it really could have gone either way. The other two losses were against bad matchups but I made mistakes in both of them. Against Splinter Twin, I definitely sideboarded incorrectly and against Storm, I lost game two when I had the win if I had made the correct play.

Event: Sealed GP Philly
Record: 6-3
Analysis: This event was so frustrating for me because I lost five straight games in a row to mana screw despite playing more than enough lands in my deck. Those games accounted for two of my losses and almost another one. I did legitimately lose the last round to not qualify for day two though. They were such close games and overall a great match.

Event: Standard TCG Invitational
Deck: 4-Color Peddler
Record: 2-3
Analysis: One hundred percent of this event was due to me choosing the wrong deck for the event. For the previous two weeks the deck was great, but once Rakdos won those two big events, I needed to switch decks because that match was not in my favor at all.

Event: Standard TCG 5k
Deck: Rakdos
Record: 5-3
Analysis: The switch to this deck was a great decision but pairings that made me play against six mirror matches kinda sucked. One of the losses his version was just better than mine, one I missed my fifth land drop for two turns so I was one turn too slow to win, and the third loss was all mana issues.

Putting It All Together

After synthesizing this information I came to some conclusions. For me, playing a deck I designed or changed significantly is definitely preferable. Copying someone else’s deck led to disastrous experiences and short tournaments. Despite playing at a high level, I do need to tighten up my play, especially in Modern.

You may have noticed a lack of any successful finishes at major events. I did not include any local events that I won because I do not value their results nearly as much as the bigger events. Even though I did not top-eight any events, I felt my overall play did improve from previous years. Some additional preparation is needed to hone decklists or test specific matchups, but overall my conclusions about the right deck for the right event have been correct. That is a fact I am quite proud of. Now I just need to align those correct decks with tight play and low variance and I will be set for this year.

I hope you learned something from my analysis of my tournament experience this year. If you are serious about being successful in high-level Magic, I definitely recommend this process to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Honestly, I didn’t even know that I missed top eight that many times until I researched my event history. Maybe you have misconceptions about what happened this year too. It can be a good idea to look back with the benefit of hindsight to get a new perspective.

Make sure to create achievable goals for yourself also. In spite of my lack of top eights, my goal this year is to win a PTQ. In addition, making day two of Grand Prix is another top priority.

Until Next Time,

Unleash the Analysis Force

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter
Jedicouncilman23@gmail.com

Mike Lanigan

Mike Lanigan is a high school math teacher by day and a grinder on the weekend. He has had a variety of PTQ top 8's as well as success on the SCG and TCG Player circuits. Over the past two years he has been bringing his game to the Grand Prix level and has been working hard trying to break through onto the pro level. Grand Prix day 2's are not enough anymore. Follow him on his journey to go pro.

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