Although my priority at Magic 30 in Las Vegas was buying, selling, and talking with vendors, I also registered for a couple of side events to play some actual games of Magic. I was disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to play more casual games for fun (more on that in a future article), but at least I did get to enjoy the two side events I pre-registered for.
After last week’s marathon of an article, I'm happy to share a lighter column of some mini-tournament reports detailing my play experience in Las Vegas.
Friday Event: Vintage
I’ve maintained essentially the same Vintage deck list for about seven or eight years, though I can count on one hand how many opportunities I've had to shuffle up the deck and play it. If you narrow it down to sanctioned play, this was only the third Vintage event I ever played in, and it was going to be my last hurrah.
You see, prior to the event, I had negotiated a deal with the lead buyer at ManaLeak.com’s booth to sell them my Power. Because I had pre-registered for the event, the head buyer was generous enough to let me play in it before completing the transaction. Thus, the plan was to play in the event and then immediately walk over to the vendor’s booth to sell.
As a refresher from a few weeks ago, here’s the list I landed on:
I had every intention of tweaking / updating the deck before the event, but since I hadn’t allocated time to practice with the new cards, I felt it would serve me best to stick to what I was already familiar with. Perhaps that was a mistake…
Match 1 Against a Blue Deck
Admittedly, I’m not up to speed on the Vintage metagame and deck names. Because I’m a Storm player, I categorize other deck strategies into four major buckets:
- Dredge (Bazaar of Baghdad and friends)
- Shops (Mishra's Workshop, Trinisphere, and a bunch of unfun cards)
- Blue Decks (any deck with Force of Will that will look to stop me from comboing off)
- Other (I saw someone playing Elves, someone was playing Lurrus of the Dream-Den as a companion, etc.)
In game one there was one noteworthy play early that dictated the rest of the game. After starting on a mulligan, I cast Ancestral Recall, targeting myself, and my opponent immediately responded with Misdirection, changing the target to themself. Talk about a sinking feeling! They had a Counterspell of some sort for my next pivotal play as well (it was either Force of Will or Force of Negation).
My opponent then began looping a Wasteland with Wrenn and Six. The combo ensured I had almost no lands for the rest of the game. From there, they dropped a couple Tarmogoyfs, bolted me a couple of times, and the game was over.
I didn’t even realize people still played Tarmogoyf anymore! That card has been reprinted so many times and has fallen so far out of favor that it’s now worth like $10. As an aside, when the original Modern Masters was reprinted, I sold my playset on eBay for something like $500. It took nearly a decade, but the prediction I had made about reprints tanking prices came true… at least for this card.
Game two went much better. I picked apart my opponent’s hand, blind naming Force of Will and nabbed one with my Cabal Therapy. When the coast was clear, I stormed off thanks to Yawgmoth's Will, hitting the exact storm count required to win, nine, when casting Tendrils of Agony.
Game three was back to disappointing. I had a few rituals in my hand along with a Vampiric Tutor. Unfortunately, I had no discard spells to pave the way. My opponent was tapped out after having played Grafdigger's Cage.
At that moment, I ran a mental calculation: I figured if my opponent had Force of Will, Force of Negation, Misdirection, or Flusterstorm (which I hadn’t seen all match) it would be very hard for me to go off. I decided to run the gamble while they were tapped out, and cast Vampiric Tutor on their end step to put the Empty the Warrens I'd sided in on top of the deck.
I untapped and started my turn, leading off with all the rituals. When they all resolved, the only card my opponent could have that might stop me was Mindbreak Trap. I hadn’t seen them play one so far the entire match. I should have read their reactions as I started casting my spells though—they seemed far too cavalier during the turn. Finally, the punchline came: I slammed Empty the Warrens with a storm count up to around six.
They had the Mindbreak Trap. GG. (0-1)
Match 2 against Dredgeless Bazaar
I gave myself a pass for that previous round. Some bad luck (multiple mulligans), combined with very good luck for my opponent, wasn’t going to get me down! I was ready to bounce back against a deck that ran zero counter-magic!
My luck, unfortunately, went from bad to worse. My opponent was on a combo deck of sorts, with Bazaar of Baghdad, Hollow One, Basking Rootwalla, and Vengevine. I should have been favored, against their countermagic-lacking deck, but my bad luck had something to say about that!
I mulliganed game one into an opening hand that had no blue lands, but containted a Black Lotus. I tried cracking the lotus for blue to cast Brainstorm to try and find another blue mana source. No such luck. It took far too long to set up my gameplan and my opponent ran over me before I could find the mana to cast my action.
In game two my opponent had two Hollowed Ones turn one. They tried to dump Vengevine in the yard but I had the Ravenous Trap to exile their graveyard! Boom! Sadly, that’s where the good fortune ended. They bashed down my life total fairly quickly, while the only action I had in my hand was Yawgmoth's Bargain. I was down to seven life before I had built up enough mana to resolve the enchantment. I just needed to find some additional card draw or action and I could win!
I drew a card: it was a land. I drew another card: it was another land. I drew a third card: Mox. The fourth card was a Mox and the fifth card was a land. I drew one more and it wasn’t action. Game over, match over. (0-2 drop)
After this, I dropped from the event so I could sell my cards an hour earlier. At least I have no regrets about selling the deck now!
Saturday Event: Neon Dynasty Sealed
My preference was to play the Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty draft event on Friday, but it had sold out. I settled for the Sealed event because I especially liked Neon Dynasty Limited. The first time I ever hit diamond on Arena was when playing Neon Dynasty drafts.
I opened my pool and started sorting and building. To my delight, I had the fortune of opening two Weaver of Harmony! My mind immediately started building a G/X (preferably G/W) enchantment deck! I also opened a Kodama of the West Tree, which should have also been a powerful inclusion in the deck despite not being an enchantment creature.
Unfortunately, green was not a strong color in my pool. I also opened very few worthwhile green or white enchantment creatures. In fact, the best commons and uncommons I opened were in Red. That made the deckbuilding process far more complicated. Luckily, I did open a copy of Lizard Blades, a card I have singlehandedly won games with on Arena.
With that background, here’s the list I ran: a Red/White aggressive Samurai deck that could actually leverage Eiganjo Uprising as a finisher.
I must admit I didn’t keep notes on these three matches, so my recollection will be spotty at best. What I do remember is that my opponent was on an aggressive deck of their own, though I believe they were Red/Black instead of Red/White.
Game one my opponent was stuck on lands. It took them far too long to find their fourth land drop, and I ran them over. In game two I had an opening hand with mountains but no plains. I kept it since I had a spell or two to play, including Experimental Synthesizer. Despite all the digging, I only found more mountains! Sadly, I couldn’t win with only the red half of my deck.
Game three we both had our lands and spells, so it was the best game of the match. I got an aggressive start though, and my opponent couldn’t quite stabilize. They slammed a The Long Reach of Night // Animus of Night's Reach, but it only slowed me down a bit. They didn’t have enough blockers on board and I had cards in hand to discard to the saga. They didn’t live long enough for it to flip over to its creature side. (1-0)
Round two was a marathon of a match. Being an aggro deck, I assumed all three of my matches would end in under thirty minutes the way the first round had. I could not have been more wrong.
Admittedly, I don’t remember what my opponent was playing. I just remember that it took them a long time to win game one. They contained my early onslaught, and after stabilizing, had what it took to go over the top. In game two, I managed to stick a turn two Lizard Blades, attach it to a Rabbit Battery, and go to town with double strike.
During the game, my opponent kept asking me about the rules around double strike. They asked repeatedly how combat would occur with a double strike creature—to the point I wasn’t sure if they genuinely didn’t know, or if they were testing me to see if I knew how my cards worked. I gave them the benefit of the doubt and ended up taking game two handily.
Game three we only got a few turns in before time was called! I was shocked to see how much time had gone by already. There was no way either of us could win with the five-turn clock that remained, and the match ended in a disappointing draw. (1-0-1)
My third match was my favorite. My opponent was a newer player, and it showed in their numerous gameplay missteps. Their deck list, however, was phenomenal! They also had a Weaver of Harmony in their pool, but they opened the right supporting G/W cards to play it! Jukai Naturalist was so good in their list. They also had Kappa Tech-Wrecker and Spring-Leaf Avenger. All very intimidating cards.
I don’t remember who won game one and who won game two, only that we split the first two games. My opponent completely blew me out with a Tamiyo's Safekeeping to get their game win.
In the other game, they didn’t have it and I was able to run them over and remove enough of their creatures. Unfortunately, the first two games took so long that we were again low on time for game three. To make matters more difficult for me, my opponent had so much incidental life gain! It was a struggle to do meaningful damage to them because they gained so much extra life. I swear I did like 30 damage to them in the one game I lost.
We started game three and I got off to an aggressive start. My opponent ramped with Careful Cultivation, but they forgot that their 1/1 creature tapped for green mana. Because of this, they missed an opportunity to stick a threat one turn earlier. It was at this point that time was called. Thankfully they didn't have the life gain from earlier, and I managed to attack them fairly low before we went to turns. It was clear though that I would need to draw help to win. It didn’t help that my Experimental Synthesizer flipped Eiganjo Uprising, forcing me to cast it for X=2 just so it didn’t go to waste.
On turn three of extra turns, my opponent dropped a Sky-Blessed Samuri, making it their only blocker. They were at three life and I had a 2/2 creature and a Rabbit Battery. I drew for my turn and found exactly what I needed: a Kami's Flare. I equipped my 2/2 with the Rabbit Battery, and cast the burn spell on my opponent’s angel so they would take the incidental two damage because my creature was modified. I then unattached the two and attacked with both. They could only block one and took lethal damage from the other. Epic. (2-0-1).
Wrapping It Up
I love Neon Dynasty sealed! Each match was really close and very fun. The only thing that frustrated me was how slow the format could be. Before this event, I had exclusively played the format on Arena. There, shuffling, triggers, etc. are all handled for you automatically. I have played some epic Neon Dynasty Limited games on the platform, but never realized how long some games can take.
That manifested itself in the side event with how many matches went to time. There were numerous players with draws when we sat down for round three. I thought my aggro deck would enable faster matches, but it takes two to tango, and my opponents in rounds two and three had other plans. Despite this, I still had a blast and hope to play paper Limited again soon.
As for Vintage… good riddance, I say! I would try to act tough by saying I outgrew the format, but the reality is that the format outgrew me. I didn’t want to bother keeping up to speed on the newest cards, and I played far too infrequently to justify owning the cards any longer. It’s been a couple of weeks since Magic 30 and so far I have zero regrets about selling. Hopefully, that satisfaction lasts.
I suppose selling cards once doesn’t mean I can’t ever reacquire them, right? That’s the beauty of Magic finance. Selling a card never means you can never own it again. Who knows what the future will bring? For now, I’m content to declare that Limited is my preferred format.