Welcome back for the second part of my SCG Weekend in Edison NJ. After coming home from my improbable 6-0 run on Saturday to close out the day (after my super awesome 0-3 start), I sat down for some late night, Burger King-fueled testing and tuning at the Higbie residence with fellow legacy aficionados, Erik Higbie, Anthony Loman, and Dustin Long. Before the event, I was debating between Omni-Show, Stoneblade, Tezzerator, or UW Miracles (or a possible Miracle-Stoneblade hybrid, which I piloted to an 11th place Day One finish at GP ATL last summer…don’t ask me about Day Two). Here is the list I settled on:

Planeswalkers (3)

3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Lands (22)

5 Islands
3 Plains
2 Arid Mesa
1 Dust Bowl
4 Flooded Strand
1 Glacial Fortress
2 Polluted Delta
3 Tundra
1 Karakas

Spells (35)

1 Helm of Obedience
4 Sensei’s Divining Top
3 Counterbalance
2 Detention Sphere
2 Energy Field
3 Rest in Peace
4 Brainstorm
2 Counterspell
1 Enlightened Tutor
4 Force of Will
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Entreat the Angels
1 Supreme Verdict
3 Terminus

Sideboard (15)

1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Helm of Obedience
1 Pithing Needle
1 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Humility
2 Flusterstorm
1 Path to Exile
2 Spell Pierce
3 Vendilion Clique
2 Jace Beleren

I should mention that leading up to this event, I was scared of the BGx decks that would be packing Abrupt Decay to keep me off of my powerful combo lock, but I decided that because I was more than the typical UWx CB-Top Miracles list (also packing the RIP-Energy Field lock), I would have more Abrupt Decay targets than they would be able to handle. I was still hoping to find some piece of sideboard technology that would tilt the scales further in my favor just in case the room was full of Bayous on Sunday, and the answer came to me on Saturday while chatting with some other players between rounds. The card I had overlooked (fine, I honestly didn’t even know this card existed, beforehand) was Divert. I couldn’t wait to say things like, “Nice Hymn, bro!” and, “Why are you Abrupt Decaying your own Bob?!” Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea, and Diverts were sold out at the dealer table, but I took note of this lesson and immediately eBay’d up a pair for next time.

Round 1—Edward Sockel (44th), playing Omni-Tell

A T1 Volcanic Island followed by a Sol Land immediately clued me in that Edward is on a Show and Tell deck, which makes me glad I had two Force of Wills in hand. I was able to force the T2 Show from Edward and felt like I was in good shape when I got a Sensei’s Top on board. Edward used a Burning Wish to grab another copy of Show and Tell from the sideboard, and then went for it on his following turn. I have the Force ready, but Edward surprised me with a Brainstorm followed up by a spicy maindeck Flusterstorm and pushed the Show and Tell through my countermagic. Emrakul hits the table and I quickly scoop up my cards.

Game two is was much better as I kept a hand with a Top, Force, and the oh-so-crucial Detention Sphere (SO good against Show and Tell decks). I showed my D-Sphere following a Force of Will battle over his titular card, and Omniscience was put into detention. I was able to get a Counterbalance on board to establish my lock, but had no 3-drop in the top three cards to stop another Show. But, I did have another D-Sphere. Edward didn’t have much left that he could do, since I locked out his cantrips, and scooped once I got a Clique on board to provide a clock. Game three saw Edward whiff on back to back Show and Tells thanks to D-Sphere and Karakas. An Entreat for four put the match away.

Matches: 1-0; Games: 2-1

Round 2—Randy Mershon, playing Burn

Randy is a pretty cool guy, and I immediately recognized him from SCG Baltimore, where I had the pleasure of playing him in his first legacy event ever. His sadistic friends gave him UW Miracles for his first rodeo and it wasn’t very pretty for him; I ended up besting him in two fairly quick games with Omni-Tell. This time, he came with something that he felt had a bit of a lower learning curve, and he seemed satisfied with his 1-0 start to the day. Unfortunately for Randy, this was going to be an absolutely abysmal matchup. What followed were two of the easiest games I’ve even played in a tournament, and none of it was the fault of Randy’s play. I opened game one with T1 Sensei’s Top, T2 Counterbalance, T3 RIP, T4 Energy Field. I explained the double combo to Randy and we could go to game two if he wanted to save time (but at the same time, I encouraged him to stick it out by all means if he had even a singleton out). He decided to play on until I dropped a T5 Jace, at which point he scooped and said that he was just hoping to see some more cards to figure out my plan, which is also a totally valid reason to play on. Game two didn’t go much better for Randy as I was able to assemble pieces of the lock, though not as rapidly, this time. He had a pair of Lavamancers that were quickly turned into a pair of Mon’s Goblin Raiders by Rest in Peace. He was able to get me down to one, but I felt very comfortable and in control the whole time, before finally slamming Energy Field to seal the deal.

Matches: 2-0; Games: 4-1

Round 3—Mark Morrison, playing Esper Stoneblade

Mark did not end up with a money finish, but he played an extremely tight match, making for some really fun Magic. The first real action in game one involved a Force of Will battle over my attempt to resolve a Jace. Mark then tried to stick a Stoneforge Mystic twice, but I had the Swords to Plowshares both times to keep his Jitte useless and his Batterskull stuck in his hand. Mark then went to work on my hand with back to back Thoughtseizes, but he did not have much of an answer to my Entreat for three. A Swords to Plowshares and a Jace bounce were able to slow the clock down, but the last remaining angel got there. Game two was a very drawn out affair where Mark combined his discard with a whopping FOUR Surgical Extractions (twice cast thanks to Snapcaster) to pick my deck apart. The real killer was the first turn Surgical on Top. Things looked bleak, but I stuck it out, because I knew I could just randomly win by drawing Entreat, especially with what appeared to be nearly all of my lands on the battlefield. He was finally able to grind it out with Batterskull and we quickly shuffled, presented, and cut for game three. Mark was on the discard and extract plan, again, but this time I was able to at least stick the T1 Top to keep that vital cog of my deck from being removed. With the clock rapidly approaching zero, Mark started using Jace to Fateseal himself (remember, I had a Top) and go for the ultimate kill, but it would not matter, as I successfully resolved a Detention Sphere and placed it on top of a 13-loyalty Jace on my final turn. It was largely irrelevant, as Jace would not be able to kill me with his ultimate on T5 of extra turns when I was holding nearly a full grip, but I figured I’d just throw the Sphere out there so he didn’t beg me for a concession because, “C’mon dude, you know I had it! You weren’t coming back from a Jace ultimate.”

I think I was sideboarding incorrectly for this matchup all day, as I made the mistake of falling a bit too in love with the RIP-Energy Field combo. In the future, I would definitely cut Energy Fields here, as this matchup is not a race; by the time they put you on a clock, they are likely entrenched in the driver’s seat, anyways.

Matches: 2-0-1; Games: 5-2-1

Round 4—David Melendez, playing UWr Stoneblade

I get an early Counterbalance online in game one, but no Top to lock Dave out right away. Between a bolt, a Stoneforge, and a Batterskull, Dave whittles me down to four life, but he never plays a fifth land, so I go to work with Dust Bowl. Jace deals with the germ token and Dave is down to two lands. Stoneforge attacks alone SIX times, but Dave’s slow clock combined with an active Jace allow me to assemble the lock and induce the scoop. Game two sees David stuck on one land, but it turned out to be a pretty solid keep. Blasts of the Red Elemental and Pyro variety answered EVERY threat I played; I counted four blasts before David even played his second land. Of course, by this point, I was all out of gas, and Dave still had a full grip, so he was able to take over as soon as he started drawing lands to play his Clique and Batterskull. In game three, I was able to get the Counterbalance/Top lock out early and then follow it up with a Clique to put the clock on David. He tried to break out of Counterbalance with an Engineered Explosives (for which he was also running a single Underground Sea in case he wanted to hit a sunburst of 4), but I was holding a redundant copy in my hand, and the legendary fairies took David all the way from 20 to zero.

Matches: 3-0-1; Games 7-3-1

Round 5—Timothy Yale (34th), playing Esper Stoneblade

I apologize in advance as my notes are a bit unclear for this match, but trying to piece it together from what I have written down, I see that I took a hit from a Clique before hitting it with Swords, and then used Swords on a Batterskull germ token twice. Final life totals were 10-27 in the other Tim’s favor, but I won, so I guess I either assembled the combo or hit a big Entreat. My notes from game two are even more unclear, as the only life total changes I have written down are Tim gaining two life from Swords to Plowshares, and myself losing a single life point to a fetch. I’m guessing I had the lock up quickly and Tim scooped up his cards.

Matches: 4-0-1; Games: 9-3-1

Round 6—Royce Walter (26th), playing TES

Royce blew himself up with Ad Nauseum in game one. Sometimes that happens when you play this deck. He was forced to go off quickly and go extra deep, because I played a T1 Top followed by a T2 Counterbalance; his only chance was to go off before I untapped and had the freedom to rearrange my top three cards and counter everything. Royce was able to go off on T3 in game two with a Silence to provide cover. I noticed that he sided into Abrupt Decay while he’s revealing cards off Ad Nauseum, so I reminded myself not to fall into a false sense of security as soon as I got a Counterbalance in game three. The final game was a close one, with Royce deciding to attempt going off despite having his Silence countered by Force of Will. Royce had four lands at the time and a hand full of rituals, but a well-placed Spell Pierce in his chain created enough disruption where he was forced to abandon his plan and tutor up a Past in Flames to try again on the following turn. I almost punted by using an end step Enlightened Tutor to grab Counterbalance, when I could’ve just put the game away by slamming the RIP in my hand, but Royce didn’t get the answer he needed on his next draw step.

Matches: 5-0-1; Games: 11-4-1

Round 7—Mike Noble (12th), playing Belcher (FEATURE MATCH!)

You can watch this match here. I thought I played this match fine for the most part, so I don’t have a whole lot to say about it. Even though I won the first game, I made a few play errors, most of which were caught by the guys in the booth. If I did something in that game contrary to what the commentary was suggesting I should have been doing, they were right and I was wrong, but most of the mistakes were relatively minor and after the game was close to wrapped up (e.g. sacrificing an Island instead of the Dust Bowl, making five angels instead of four). In game two, I probably should have tried at least one more mulligan (maybe even two) to try to find a Force of Will. My sequencing was slightly off in the early stages of game three, but I had so many hate cards that it didn’t really matter (particularly the part where I could’ve miracled Terminus before playing my Canonist).

Apparently, this Mike Noble character is a pretty big deal in the Vintage circles, where he actually is credited with inventing a tier one deck, Noble Fish (named after him). He passed the deck across the table after the match. I was pretty impressed as I thumbed through it and saw all of the power (sans proxies!) in my hands. Maybe one day I’ll check that format out, but that’s a different quest for a different day. That day, I had a legacy tournament to win.

Matches: 6-0-1; Games: 13-5-1

Round 8—Edgar Flores (11th), playing Esper Stoneblade

Edgar is able to beat me down in game one of my first win-and-in with Stoneforge Mystic, Jitte, and some spirits courtesy of Lingering Souls. The real deciding factor of this game was when he was able to win the counter war over my Jace, and then resolve his own Jace. Jace, the Mind Sculptor remains my favorite card in the game, but damn is it painful to helplessly stare one down on the other side of the table as he just keeps brainstorming at will and finding all the cards necessary to beat you. Game two turned out to be an incredibly long one, taking up all of the remaining time on the clock (I don’t recall how much was left, but the first game didn’t take more than 15 minutes). I’m not accusing Edgar of slow play, here, but he is a competent tournament player; I’m sure he was well aware of how much time was on the clock, how much time my deck needs to win, and that he was already up a game, and he certainly took his sweet time with EVERY decision. We did have a judge at our table, so at one point, I politely asked him to be cognizant of the clock while he was tanking for what seemed like a long time. In any case, he won the round fair and square, and having more time probably would have just led to him beating me 2-0 instead of 1-0-1.

But let’s get back to what happened in the game, rather than continuing to ramble about the clock and slow play. I have pretty good control of the game, with a Top and a Clique on board. I almost had an early lock, but Edgar had the T1 Thoughtseize to strip my Counterbalance. Clique is unable to get much traction due to Edgar’s Karakas, but I was able to control his hand and filter through my hand because of the Clique getting bounced during every combat step. The game unraveled for me when I decided to attempt to resolve my Jace, rather than patiently continuing the awkward Clique-Karakas dance. Edgar ended up winning anoter counter war over Jace, leaving me without sufficient mana to replay my Clique on his draw step. He is then able to safely play his own Jace. The game was really over at that point, but it drags on for another half hour.

Worth noting is that, for what seemed like an eternity, every time I spun the top, I saw (non-fetch) lands and chaff. I think I did get a shuffle at some point, but the top of my deck continued to yield the same garbage. Every time I looked at the top three, I would groan, sigh, grumble, and look completely dejected. After the game, my buddy, Anthony Lowry, came over to me and I don’t remember his exact words, but he said something to the effect of, “You didn’t lose to the cards on the table, you let him beat you by showing him you had nothing with your emotions and body language.” Some very sound advice that I’m sure many people could stand to benefit from. Don’t give your opponents free information in a game of imperfect information; there’s no reason to give away percentage points, however insignificant they may seem.

Matches: 6-1-1; Games: 13-6-2

Round 9—Austin Katzin (7th), playing 12-post (FEATURE MATCH!)

After dropping my first match of the day, I still had a second shot at a win-and-in. I had a bad feeling we were going to get called to the feature match area (I get nervous on camera) and my premonition came true. The coverage of our feature match starts a few turns into game two, so I’ll give you a recap of game one and the parts of game two that were off-camera.

Austin ended up at 50 life thanks to a million (or five) Glimmerposts, but EDH-like life totals are irrelevant wield the Helm-RIP combo. Before we go to game two, I double checked with the judge to make sure that I can nab myself an Eldrazi with Helm before the Eldrazi trigger shuffles it back into the deck. Upon receiving confirmation, the second Helm got sided in. Austin led off with a land and an Expedition Map and followed up with another map on his next turn. When he misses land drops on T2 and T3, I decide to put my foot on his throat and D-Sphere both maps. You can watch the second half of this match here.

Game two was not the first time I watched someone punt a legacy match on camera, and I doubt it will be the last. It was just all the more painful because I was the guy punting and it seemed so obvious when I sat down later and watched it at home. To start out, I really dislike my play of using my Top to draw and cast Counterspell at 3:45 into the video. I would have rather used the Top to get Brainstorm and used that to put Entreat on top so that I could float a 3-drop in my top three cards for as long as I needed (and fire it off on his end step when I was ready to win). While I was not punished for this on Austin’s next turn, it would have been nice to conserve that Counterspell. In regard to the commentary at 5:00, if Austin went for Repeal on the Detention Sphere, I simply would have used Brainstorm to put Helm on top of my library. What I really dislike here, is that had I used Brainstorm instead of Counterspell to counter the previous Repeal, I could have a 3-drop on top AND still have my top to rearrange things. But since I cast Counterspell, I was forced to draw Entreat on own turn and only get two angels out of it. All of these previous mistakes, however, were relatively meaningless when compared to my longest punt of the day. When Austin finally drew into some Cloudposts to generate an absurd amount of mana and with Candelabra to bring in Emrakul around 9:45 in the video. Upon seeing a 15/15 annihilating monster on the board and an “out” on top of my library in Terminus, I panicked and pulled the trigger. The commentary crew does a good job of explaining the punt at 11:25. At this point, I probably should have just conceded and gone on to game three with a little bit more time on the clock.

Game three was very stressful and rushed due to the lack of time left on the clock. The big mistake in that game was not slamming the RIP earlier so I could just Helm and win on the following turn, but I was playing around Ulamog. As a one-of, though, and with no Eye of Ugin in play, and with the long game being so much in favor of the 12-post player, the correct play was to try to win as quickly as possible.

Matches: 6-2-1; Games: 14-8-2

And that’s a wrap on my SCG Edison weekend. I’ve had some rough losses before, but coming so close at this one and losing back to back win-and-ins for what would have been my first top 8 was a serious dagger. I’m not discouraged, though; I’ll be back to battle when the SCG Open series comes to DC, and hopefully I’ll have a better result to share with you for next time! But before I go—now that the Pro Tour is in the books: HOLY CRAP I LOVE THE BEN STARK ESPER LIST! PLANAR CLEANSING?! WHAAAAAT?? Also: HOLY CRAP I HAVE NO IDEA HOW THE ARISTOCRATS DECK WORKS (where are the Islands?) BUT IT LOOKS SO COOL.

“Evil” Tim Akpinar is one of Brooklyn’s finest durdlers. If there’s a top-tier control deck in the meta, you can bet he’s spent a minute taking it apart to see what makes it tick. If it wraths and draws cards, “Evil” Tim Akpinar approves.

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