Tournament Tips #1

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Author's Note: This article was originally intended to be a small section at the end of my column, but it turned into much more once I got writing. Look for this to be a small segment in the future.

Tournament Tips

From time to time, I am going to include this little bonus section at the end of my articles. The goal is to briefly talk about tournament preparation and ways to improve your game. These little snip-its are topics that writers typically do not talk about but are extremely important to playing at a high level. If there are any specific areas that you want me to discuss, feel free to leave your ideas in the comments section of any of my articles.

The first item on my agenda came to my attention two days ago and while obvious, is still something that every player messes up from time to time. The topic? Read your cards as well as your opponents'. This may be a fundamental premise of Magic, but yet players make incorrect plays based on false assumptions frequently. I think the main reason for this is pride. Players feel as if reading their opponents’ cards degrades their skills as a player because of jokes about new comers to the game. We've all heard it or said at some point: “He didn’t really have a chance. He even had to read all my cards.”

Put your pride on hold. If you don’t know what a card does, read it. If you don’t know how a card interacts in a certain situation because you can’t remember if the card says "may" or not, read it. If you don’t know how a card affects the game, call a judge and ask. Don’t assume you know how a card functions just because you have played a similar card in the past. Don’t assume you know the exact wording on a card just because you tend to have an amazing memory for card text.

I could go on and on about similar situations, but you get the point. Let me share with you the origins of this topic with a story.

Boros Reckoner

Even though I write about constructed Magic every week, I am just as concerned with Magic finance as competitive play. The financial side of the game is a brilliant organism and I find myself trying to dissect it regularly. The price trend of Boros Reckoner has been the focus of my intrigue lately. You can see the graph on TCG Player here.

Some specific prices that stick out are as follows.

  • Jan 27 -- $4.82
  • Jan 29 -- $9.94
  • Feb 10 -- $16.49

Of the big sites, only Channelfireball has any copies in stock and they have it listed at $27.99!,,,,,,, and are all sold out.

This is an intriguing conundrum for a…

trained armodon

Boros Reckoner is more than just a Trained Armodon in disguise though. His current price tag puts him in contention with two of the most influential cards of the last few years. Should we really be talking about Boros Reckoner in the same breath as Snapcaster Mage and Deathrite Shaman, which have changed the landscape of both Modern and Legacy? Can a mere 3/3 for three mana really make that big of an impact?

All of this information has been swirling around in my head since the Gatecrash release. I was lucky enough to open Boros Reckoner in one of my sealed pools and he was pretty good. Twenty dollars good though? There is no doubt I would say no to that question. In fact, I did say no. When presented with the opportunity to sell my Boros Reckoners for eight dollars apiece, I leaped at the chance. The card was ten dollars on TCG player and I was getting eight for them. What insane value! Never did it enter my thoughts that this elephant impersonator might double in price (or triple if you count Channelfireball’s price).

Let me pause there for a moment. Let all that information sink in and try to put yourself in my confused shoes.

An Imperfect Memory

Have you ever played against Spitemare? It’s basically the same card, but it costs one more mana and is easier to cast. I've only played against it once myself. When Modern was first established, a local shop held a tournament. A few friends and I journeyed down to the event excited to try out our new brews. In that event I played against a Spitemare deck. That’s right, a whole deck dedicated to casting a four-mana 3/3. The goal was to deal it tons of damage with cards like Blasphemous Act and Shivan Meteor. I was playing an untuned version of Splinter Twin and he had no chance. (See, we all say it sometimes.)

Having already seen Spitemare in action made the price growth of Boros Reckoner seem even more bizarre to me than otherwise. I just didn’t get it. There had to be a reason this card was continuing to grow at insane rates. As I thought about it I continued to read Magic article hoping to find my answer. Eventually, one article showed me the light.

What happens when you play Boros Reckoner and then Domri Rade the following turn? When the article in question presented this idea, I had to pause to reread both cards! And with that the first tournament tip came to me, less like the traditional light bulb moment, and more like a supernova exploding in my head.

Whenever Boros Reckoner is dealt damage, it deals that much damage to target creature or player.

My past experience with Spitemare caused me to remove the option of damaging a creature from my memory and so every time I looked at Boros Reckoner, that part of the text did not exist for me. This may be an extreme example from my personal experience, but it is relevant to all players. No matter what the circumstances are, reread the card as many times as it takes. You'll be glad you did.

The interaction between Reckoner and Domri is one to be feared, so have a plan for it if you are playing any kind of aggressive deck in Standard right now. The worst case scenario is Reckoner fighting your 2/2 and redirecting the two damage to your other 2/2. The reason Reckoner is so good in Standard is because against another creature deck, it is almost always a two-for-one in your favor. Think about its impact on Standard at Thragtusk levels because that is the trajectory it is taking.

Ravnica City Zoo Updates

If you haven't read about the field trip to the zoo, take a couple minutes and do that first.

OK, now that you're back, I have some updates for you.

This Standard Zoo deck is a ton of fun to play. You are faster than nine out of ten of your opponents and based on what cards are seeing play, they can’t do much to disrupt you. Naya is my favorite color combination and this deck reminds me why. Here’s my updated list.

The most important change was to cut a land. Twenty-one lands may still be too many and another might come out. With fewer mana sources, I decided to cut the Aurelia's Furys as well. With an X of one or two, I felt the impact would not be large enough to warrant the card. Oblivion Ring was added specifically to combat Boros Reckoner, but also as a catch-all removal spell. You many strong plays on turns one and two, and following that up by removing their blocker can turn the tide early enough to prevent your opponent from getting back in the game. Boros Reckoner could make an appearance in this deck as well, but currently I like the damage output of Silverblade Paladin too much.

After testing this deck, I am more confident in its power to win games. I have beaten every midrange deck including the following: Jund Midrange, Jund Control, Naya Midrange, G/W Humans, U/W Tempo featuring Talrand, Sky Summoner instead of Thundermaw Hellkite, BUG Control and 5-color Control. The only matches I have lost are to other aggressive decks. They always go three games and when I lose, it has been due to me drawing four to five lands in a row, mulliganing, or not having access to a color.

In my opinion, this deck is the fastest in the format. You have multiple ways to increase a creature's power and then give them double strike. This deals the opponent massive chunks of damage. For example, even with a mull to five and drawing many lands in a row, I almost won a game where my opponent played double Centaur Healer and double Thragtusk. He ended at two life because I drew yet another land and couldn't finish him off. This deck is powerful. Give it a try.

A note on the sideboard before I finish today. For now, I really like the spells in the board. One thing to keep in mind if you plan to play this deck is that you cannot really sideboard out that many cards. The most I have brought in from the sideboard is four or five in any one game. The most common cards to come out are Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Oblivion Ring, and occasionally a Silverblade Paladin or Ghor-Clan Rampager if you are on the draw against Mono-red. Therefore, you do not want many four-of slots in the board because you cannot bring in that many cards.

That's all for this week. Next week should feature a sweet SCG Cincy tournament report featuring my sweet Zoo deck, unless I freak out and switch decks at the last moment. I wouldn't do that, would I? Tune in next week for the details.

Until Next Time,

Unleash your power to read!

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter

5 thoughts on “Tournament Tips #1

  1. Spitemare could also damage creatures. Or is the implication that you weren’t playing creatures for it to damage when you battled it before?

    Also, it’s criminal that you wouldn’t play the full four Strangleroot Geists. That is probably the best card in that deck.

  2. The implication was definitely that I didn’t really have creatures for it to damage. Sorry if that was a little bit unclear.

    Also, I know it is one of the best cards in the deck. The problem is that the manabase isnt actually as consistent as it seems. There are plenty of times that I dont have the double green on turn two which makes him much less good. Since I have cut to three, I have been extremly pleased. If you are more lucky than I am at drawing the correct colors of mana, feel free to run the full four.

    1. Well, your manabase could certainly use improvement. For example, what ties you to basic Mountain? It appears that it’s just there to up the red count but Rootbound Crag just seems better considering that your only one drop for red is Cackler.

        1. I can see that as a potential justification, but I wouldn’t say that they’re worth it. If the manabase is already having trouble then playing crummy basics to make our card that’s worse than Strangleroot Geist better I’d say it’s time to reconsider some of our card choices.

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