“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”
– Samuel Beckett

“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.”
– Plutarch

“Groundswell is not as good a card as Might of Alara.”
– Matt “The Obliterator” Jones after game three of round six

The devastating record I achieved playing Kiki-Pod in Modern over the past month (something like 3-11, including 1-3 at the Twenty Sided PTQ) got me thinking that maybe Modern isn’t for me. Most of my woes were related to the extra turn I needed to win, the mana I drew too much or too little of, being stuck on two red disallowing any hope of casting Kiki, and/or taking too much damage from shock and fetch lands and Phyrexian-Birthing-Pod-mana. I loved seeing the chains in my mind – Wall of Roots into Exarch, Hierarch into Image, Image copying Exarch, untap Pod, Image-Exarch into Resto, Resto into Kiki, crazy twiddly mouth noises for the win!

(I never know if this is offensive or not, it probably is, but it’s a fun noise to make and one looks crazy when making it so I just err on the side of ignorance. I went with the Tony Loman version of the Kiki-Exarch combo noise as it’s definitely not as offensive and quite a bit more ridiculous.)

Thing is, I wasn’t doing this all that often. When I explained my woes to people about playing Modern we’d usually have the following conversation:

Me: “I’m frustrated with Modern.”
Other Person: “Which deck are you playing?”
Me: “Kiki-Pod.”
Other Person: “Pft. Yeah, that deck’s hard. Try playing Burn.”

I’m pretty sure this is them saying I’m too dumb to play Kiki-Pod. Meh. Probably true. Too dumb or not, I was sick of it. I didn’t want to play Hate Bears ‘cuz what it hates is far too narrow to work for me and how it beats is just not fast enough for your average Matt Jones. I want to smash harder and faster. How can I do this?

There’s a message on Twenty Sided Store’s Google Group, that I miss, about Tuesday Night Magic switching from Standard to Modern and I’m kinda shocked and pissed when I hear about it at TNM later in the evening. Baby Matt says things like “I need more time in my studio anyway” or “I hate Modern.” You know, defeatist things. Change won’t get me down! ‘Cept it did, and I needed a deck. So Li hits me with this one:

4 Tribal Flames
4 Steppe Lynx
4 Might of Alara
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Kird Ape
4 Goblin Guide
4 Arid Mesa
3 Snapcaster Mage
3 Loam Lion
3 Grim Lavamancer
3 Boros Charm
2 Verdant Catacombs
2 Scalding Tarn
2 Rancor
2 Marsh Flats
1 Watery Grave
1 Temple Garden
1 Stomping Ground
1 Steam Vents
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Forest
1 Experiment One
1 Deathrite Shaman
1 Boros Reckoner
1 Blood Crypt

2 Rest in Peace
4 Molten Rain
3 Ancient Grudge
1 Gaddock Teeg
2 Path to Exile
2 Lightning Helix
1 Boros Reckoner

The list has 61 cards. I couldn’t find any Might of Alaras anywhere and I asked everyone. (Thanks for trying to get’em to me Dylan, Josh, Jess, and the rest of you!) Luis, Li, and I talked about what could replace Might of Alara and it was a toss up between Forked Bolt, Burst Lightning, Mutagenic Growth, Giant Growth, and Groundswell. I went with Groundswell. It was wrong and should’ve been Giant Growth or Mutagenic Growth (probably Mutagenic). Not enough fetching was going on to make Groundswell relevant and it was a total piece of shit card as you’ll read below.

You’re probably still in shock after seeing Snapcaster Mage in my decklist. Don’t be. He’s only there for rebuying burn. He’s not gonna be a dick and put your cards on top of your library or back in your hand or counter your precious little spell. He’s gonna flash into play and then burn your face. Enter: Mattcaster Mage.

Monique, my nemesis, drove me, Rob “Birdlaw” Kofsky, and Li “I no longer play Delver” Xu the two hours from Brooklyn to Philly. It was a great ride filled with recalled memories, chats, and various levels of hilarity. I was on DayQuil so, really, just doing my best to keep it together.

Philadelphia is my favorite place to PTQ. They put on a great event in a great location. Why isn’t there a sweet and reasonably priced location for larger Magic tournaments in New York City? The Pennsylvania Convention Center is great. It’s right by Reading Terminal Market, so eating at the event is the second best part of being there. We registered and ran to get some coffee. We’re back in plenty of time to greet the usual NYC Magic players including Anthony Lowry, the Get There Games guys, and a couple of other friendlies. I rush around to the venders trying to buy Might of Alara but no one has any. “That deck didn’t 4-0 any Dailies this week so we didn’t bring any,” one vender told me. The same guy sold me a pair of Marsh Flats for $44 right next to another vender who wanted $52 for the same two cards.

Round one I battle Mario Martinez. He’s around 20SS enough that while we aren’t besties we know each other. He’s on little Jund with that red Ooze and other things that came into play and turn sideways while my lands hurt me, my removal was non-existent, and my creatures failed to show up in any significant quantity. “Here we go again,” I think. 0-1/0-2

Round two, James is on the Dredgevine plan. Kadar and I tested this deck a bit and decided there’s infinite hate in the meta for it so the plan isn’t a good one. This match, however, it was good enough to kick my sorry ass all over the place. My lands kept hurting me, not filtering out enough of themselves to keep me from continuously drawing them, and I wasn’t sufficiently creature-y. I folded under James’s cast-from-the-graveyard prowess. Drawing a Rest in Peace would’ve been sweet. 0-2/1-4

Li and I grumpily agreed that if we lose round three we’ll Bolt Bus back to NYC together.

Round three I played Mitch’s UWR Flash deck. I’ve seen Mitch around various PTQs and tournaments in the past two years. His deck did little flashing and managed a bunch of shocking itself, and I won pretty easily. 1-2/3-4

I reported to Li that I’d won. “Ah, shit, I lost,” was his reply. As the lone Hipster with mobile service and LTE I navigated to the Bolt Bus website, purchased Li a ticket, and said good-bye. I wish he’d stayed!

Monique, Rob, and I talked about how long we’ll stay and we decided that it’s best to just rack up points and play the tourney out. Monique at this point is 2-1 and still had a chance.

Round four, Tom brings his Goryo’s Vengeance deck to the party and crushes me game one. Game two I had a timely Rest in Peace that doesn’t make it to the table. A second Rest in Peace showed up shortly thereafter and he can’t come back from that. Game three I swarm and smash. 2-2/5-5

Round five, I sit across from Mark and his stack of three playmats. “I can never decide which to use and sometimes my opponents don’t have one,” he explains. Our games are fairly uninteresting. He mulled to four game one and his hand was whack game two. Being 1-1 vs. Jund on the day seems okay but not great. I think the Ooze version is probably the way to go. The mulling to four and then drawing no lands version of any deck still sucks. 3-2/7-5

Round six is against the weirdest dude I have ever played Magic against and he’s rocking the Bogle/Hexproof deck. His friends stand around him, lovingly mocking him and his inexperience. He did make some questionable plays but Bogle’s ability to crush and gain life more than made up for that. He was very tired, very eccentric, very chatty, and had a good sense of humor. He reminded me of a volleyball bro from high school named Steve Cooper. He even looked like him.

I almost took game one before a Daybreak Coronet shows up and zips him back up to 1000 life. Game two I don’t do much siding beyond grabbing some Helix’s for more burn. I won as his deck failed him. Game three, Jon’s at five life and I have a Lynx and Kird Ape in play. He swung with his tricked-out enchanted creature to put me at Death’s door but is totally tapped out. If I draw any of the following I win: a fetch land, Tribal Flames, Lightning Bolt, Lightning Helix, or Snapcaster Mage. I drew Groundswell, the shitty card I had subbed in for Might of Alara (another card on the list of cards that could’ve won me the game), when I couldn’t find any copies anywhere prior to the tournament. If I had subbed in Giant Growth instead of Groundswell it would’ve won me the game, too. I sighed, flipped the card, and shook his hand.

That was a bummer but I took it in stride as Jon was such a bizarre joy to witness. 3-3/8-7

Kevin put panic in me when he dropped a million artifacts on turn one of round seven. I had zero experience piloting my deck against Affinity. We went three games and Ancient Grudge did a lot of work. Kevin kept drawing Mox Opals game three and went down. We joked about the Mets and Phillies after the match. It’s hard to talk about the Mets without “joke” being a part of it. 4-3/10-8

Round eight was Tron time. I hadn’t tested against Tron either, despite having pretty intimate access to 20SS’s very own Tron Fung. I smashed super hard game one and won. Game two he got his shit going and didn’t let up. Game three I had a key Molten Rain that was devastating to his Tron land plan, and he didn’t recover. Jonathan, my round six opponent, watched the end of the match from my side of the table and after the match commented, “Wow, that guy took forever to let you kill him with that fucking Tribal Flames, eh?” I nodded. 5-3/12-9

5-3 on the day, tied for my best PTQ finish ever, ha! It was just good to earn me 37th place, zero prize packs, and a lovely ride back to the city with Monique and Rob after a quick Philly Chinatown dinner. Sticking around put me within 36 points of a second bye for the upcoming GPs.

I wasn’t in the studio playing MTGO much this week but managed to record this one match on Sunday afternoon. I was rocking a pretty serious cold and have no idea how I managed to do much of anything while playing. I eked out a win. This video is my ode to Sam Black, I think.

See you Thursday with Arting Around.

Lots of love,
MTGO: The_Obliterator

*The featured image is a collage of Steve Prescott’s “Don’t Touch That” sketch and Christopher Wink’s “Philadelphia Skyline“.

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