8:20 a.m. It’s a cloudy day. I’m strolling along the bike lane when I come across a group of pigeons fighting over bread crumbs. As tempted as I am to sit there and observe these stout-bodied, short-necked creatures of the sky, I have a train to catch!

Today’s TCGPlayer Spring States Tournament is being held at Kings Games, located right off of the Kings Highway subway stop in South Brooklyn. I hop on the Q train and pull out my deck to look over my recent changes (italicized) once more. Here’s the list I settle on:

Creatures (14)

2 Vampire Nighthawk
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
3 Olivia Voldaren
4 Thragtusk
1 Sire of Insanity

Spells (21)

3 Bonfire of the Damned
2 Pillar of Flame
1 Tragic Slip

1 Dreadbore
4 Farseek
2 Ground Seal
1 Mizzium Mortars
1 Rakdos’s Return

2 Garruk, Primal Hunter
1 Liliana of the Veil
2 Putrefy
1 Rakdos Keyrune

Land (25)

4 Blood Crypt
3 Dragonskull Summit
1 Forest
2 Kessig Wolf Run
4 Overgrown Tomb
3 Rootbound Crag
4 Stomping Ground
4 Woodland Cemetery


2 Duress
2 Tragic Slip
2 Ground Seal
1 Mizzium Mortars
1 Rakdos’s Return
2 Liliana of the Veil
2 Slaughter Games
1 Vraska the Unseen
1 Deadbridge Chant
1 Sire of Insanity

I’ve been keeping track of the tri-state competitive tournament standard meta since the beginning of April. I’ve found that Junk Reanimator has been very prevalent whereas control is becoming less so, so I’ve been working on tuning my deck to reflect these changes.


Vampire Nighthawks were added to combat aggro and Sire of Insanity was dropped down to one main and one board since control seems to be less prevalent. I switched the number of Pillar of Flame vs. Tragic Slip to help decrease the value my opponent receives from Voice of Resurgence and because of the increasing murmurs of a zombie-deck comeback. Liliana of the Veil was dropped to one main due to the lack of control and current popularity of Junk Reanimator. For the same reason, two extra Ground Seals were added to the sideboard. Deadbridge Chant is a card I have yet to see in action but have been told it’s a good strategy against midrange as well as some control builds.

9:45 a.m. I arrive at Kings Games with only 15 minutes to spare. I chat with King’s employee “Box” to verify the amount of time I have for deck registration only to find out that the tournament will begin 30 minutes later due to a half-marathon in the area causing a major traffic diversion. I go upstairs and join some Twenty Sided Store regulars including Matt, John, Devin, Tim, and Issac. I take my time filling out my decklist and listen as Matt shares an entertaining story about his life.


10:42 a.m.—Round 1 vs. WBRG Midrange. This Undiscovered Realm regular with a matching shirt is excited to have a weekend off from work to participate in today’s event. James enjoyed playing Naya midrange but also wanted to play the powerful discard and removal spells that black can offer, so he put together this brew featuring powerful cards such as Boros Reckoner, Rakdos’s Return, and Sigarda out of the sideboard. I ultimately lose game two because I don’t draw an on-time answer to Sigarda (Liliana of the Veil, Bonfire of the Damned). I then quickly lose game three to a Kessig Wolf Run.


It was frustrating because I played tight games, but I believe the error was in my sideboarding: +1 Slaughter Games, +2 Liliana of the Veil, +1 Vraska, +1 Rakdos’s Return; -1 Bonfire of the Damned, -2 Pillar of Flame, -1 Dreadbore, -1 Ground Seal. The addition of Slaughter Games here doesn’t make much sense given that my opponent doesn’t have any suitable targets for this card to be a viable choice. On the contrary, there were plenty of occasions throughout this match that I wished I had a Bonfire of the Damned.

I’m playing round 2 vs. American Control (0-1) and staring down a very scary Aetherling. I manage to race my opponent Inigo and fight through his last-minute Sphinx’s Revelation by throwing a Bonfire of the Damned + Pillar of Flame to the dome. I’m told I need to put my results slip in the box downstairs, to which “Box” responds by holding out his hands.


12:57 p.m.—Round 3 vs. Bant Control (1-1). Justin made sure to get up early for his 45-minute drive in from Seaford, Long Island, dodging the marathon but still encountering trouble finding parking. We begin. He floods game one, I get milled by Jace game two, and lose horribly to Angel of Serenity (grr…) game three.

My round 4 opponent (1-2) never shows up, so I end up watching a match between Zach, sporting an Azorius T-shirt, and Charlie, a familiar face in my NY tournament travels. Ninth-grader Charlie gave Zach a run for his money with his GR aggro brew but Zach snatches the game with a well-timed Sphinx’s Revelation followed by an Aetherling to close out the game.

3:13 p.m.—Round 5 vs. American Flash (2-2). This Bronx native is a very familiar face whom I’ve yet to meet on the battlefield. I end up riding a Kessig Wolf Run to victory game one by trampling over as much damage as my mana allowed since Eli was low on cards. Game two also ended in my favor due to an unfortunate mana screw on my opponent’s part.


I decide to finish out the day and get paired up against David, an eighth-grader from Long Island. I sat down happy to not have played against a single reanimator deck today—but of course, my sigh of relief was too soon. Round 6 vs. Junk Reanimator (3-2) was lost in three games with a resolved Angel of Serenity clenching both of my opponent’s wins.

(3-3) Mediocre results during a mediocre day. I did not like the Vampire Nighthawk addition, but it may be due to the lower-than-expected aggro presence at this tournament. I’m still not impressed by Sire of Insanity. As notable as that card is right now, I have yet to see results that justify having more than one in my 75. Other than that, I think the deck is going to remain mostly the same for the PTQ in New Jersey next weekend. It’s strong against most dominating archetypes and can be easily tailored to fit most future metagame shifts.

Monique Garraud is a Brooklyn native who started playing Magic in 2011. “Grinding It Out” is her weekly take on the trials, tribulations, and joys of being a competitive tournament player.

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