I don’t think most of my friends expected me to make it to this tournament, let alone, finish as highly as I did. To explain, let’s rewind to Friday night. It’s a bit after 8pm and I’m walking back from the subway to my apartment after a long day in the office. I know I have to catch the 7am train in the morning if I want to have any hope of making the 9am player meeting. That means I have to wake up no later than quarter to six if I have everything else ready. The sensible thing to do here is to eat dinner, finalize my decklist, put everything I plan to bring with me in my backpack, lay out my outfit for the day so I don’t need to think about that at all when I’m trying to get ready at the asscrack of dawn, and then get some shuteye. I did all of those except for the last one. Instead, I put on my Jace costume and went to a party.

One of my good friends and his housemates were holding their annual Halloween party, and I really wanted to make it a point to go this year, after missing last year’s party on account of the Philly Grand Prix. I didn’t bother throwing a costume together, so I just used the same Jace costume I wore to the Halloweekend Grand Prix the previous year. (Aside: if you attended Grand Prix Philly in 2012, and you saw some weirdo dressed as Jace, yes, that was me.) I ended up getting home a bit after 2am, and was rather sauced, evidenced by the fact that when my roommate came home at 5:30, he found me passed out in his bed. Whoops! He woke me up and made me go to my bed, and then my alarm went off about fifteen minutes later. In my zombie-autopilot state, I managed to get washed up, dressed, and on my way just in time to not miss my train. Once I was on the train to Philly, I unsuccessfully tried to take a nap.

Upon arrival, I noticed that rather than wearing my Hipsters of the Coast shirt, zombie-autopilot Tim thought it would be a better idea to put on one of my “Business Tim” shirts (that’s what my friends call me when I’m in my work attire). I had a headache. And I was thirsty. And hungry. No time to attend to those things, though, as I needed to catch a cab to get to the venue on time. Or so I thought. I always forget the law of “No Large (Paper) Magic Event in all of Eternity Will Ever Fire on Time.” In any case, I needed the extra time to concentrate enough to fill out a decklist that I normally know by heart, as well as decide on a few flex slots I had in my sideboard. The final list looked something like this.

UWr Miracles

Jaces (3)
Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Creatures (4)
Vendilion Clique
Venser, Shaper Savant

Spells (31)
Sensei’s Divining Top
Rest in Peace
Force of Will
Spell Pierce
Swords to Plowshares
Unexpectedly Absent
Entreat the Angels
Supreme Verdict
Lands (22)
Arid Mesa
Flooded Strand
Misty Rainforest
Mystic Gate
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Volcanic Island

Sideboard (15)
Engineered Explosives
Entreat the Angels
Force of Will
Pithing Needle
Red Elemental Blast
Rest in Peace
Unexpectedly Absent
Venser, Shaper Savant

Yep, I was able to acquire a pair of Unexpectedly Absents the night before the event! Going forward, though, I would probably only run one in the seventy five. It’s a sweet effect, but double white is hard for this deck. This deck typically doesn’t care about double white until it has stabilized, and there is definitely a bit of tension there if you want to run this card. A second Mystic Gate probably wouldn’t hurt, either. Anyways, here’s the round by round. Just a quick disclaimer: my notes are limited to life total changes and their causes; I don’t remember all the specific details, so if you were one of my opponents and remember something happening differently than I described it, I may have incorrectly reconstructed the game state from my notes.

Round One

Eric Johnson (56th) on Elves

He leads off with an early Deathrite Shaman, but I have an early Rest in Peace to change it from a god into a Squire. I use my Swords to exterminate his Symbiote, then wipe his remaining board with a Terminus. A lethal Entreat seals the deal.

In game two, you could tell Eric went on tilt a little bit, because he twice played a counterable spell into an active Counterbalance after seeing the top card for an earlier spell. After he did it the second time, he scooped, though the writing was probably on the wall with Venser and Clique bringing the legendary beats from their magical home in the Karakas. It was good to see that Eric was later able to regain his composure and battle back to finish in the top 64.

Result: Win 2-0; Record: 1-0 (2-0)

Round Two

Ali Mirghahari on Omnitell

Ali’s a guy I randomly once met on a bus from the Willowbrook Mall. I think I may have been on my way home from Grand Prix Atlanta, but in any case, somehow one of us got a suspicion that the other played Magic and asked, “You play Magic?” I don’t remember if it was asked flat-out like that, or if it was asked in a more coy manner. We both went back and forth denying it, then finally realized we both play, so we owned up to it. Then we had a good laugh that we were too embarrassed to admit it to each other. I’ve ran into him a couple other times, since then and we joke about that story.

He was locked out fairly handily in the first game. I was able to set CounterTop up by turn three with Spell Pierce backup. That soon also turned into Force backup. In the second game, he was able to get a Defense Grid up, but I had Force along with mana to pay for it. Eventually, I got the legendary buddies out to go along with a fistful of counter magic (two Force, Pyroblast, Pierce).

Result: Win 2-0; Record: 3-0 (4-0)

Round Three

Shawn Griffiths (17th) on Reanimator

I lost my life total page from this round, but I believe I got him with CounterTop in game one. He noticed I was a bit light on land in game two and got me with an Ashen Rider. A Tidespout Tyrant may have also joined the party. Game three was looking very bleak for me, when he had an early Ashen Rider, followed by an Iona. I was floating a Karakas in my top three cards, which I used to deal with the Angel, while the Archon went a-farmin’. Then Counterbalance came down, and that was game.

Result: Win 2-1; Record: 2-0 (6-1)

Round Four

Keith Blackwell (47th) on Shardless True Name BUG

Of course, I just had to get paired against one of my friends from my local scene after both of us started 3-0. We both knew each other’s decks. I had already heard stories about how Keith mopped the floor with everyone in the only grinder on Friday. He was on Shardless BUG, based off of Lejay’s build (FOUR Lilianas, UGH!), but he cut the Strixs and a pair of ‘Goyfs in favor of everyone’s favorite new fish, Progenigoose. This was going to be a rough one. Having played a lot of this matchup on MODO, I knew how to navigate it, and it’s actually less bad than most people think it is. The most dangerous card in their deck for us is Liliana of the Veil. The only thing we actually care about, though, is her ultimate. Her +1 is annoying, especially if she comes down early, but we can deal with it. Our deck doesn’t mind living off the top, especially when we have a Top. We don’t care about her -2; if she has to use it to deal with one of our creatures, that means we’ve set her back by three (not two, because she’s not just going down by two but also forgoing the opportunity to go up by one) turns. That’s an eternity when Tops and fetchlands are a thing! At that point, all we have to do is find Entreat. They don’t even get to hold countermagic up, because Liliana ensures that they’re just as hellbent as you. An Entreat for two is sometimes good enough, and anything for three or more is almost always more than they can handle unless they get their one-of Maelstrom Pulse.

But back to our match, I had a hand full of the perfect answers in game one. I had the Swords for his turn one Deathrite to make sure he couldn’t play a busted three-drop like Lily, Nemesis, or Agent on turn two. I had the Pierce for when he finally did have the Lily on turn three, the fair way. I even had the Force for the second Lily. I had nothing for the third Lily. Or the Jace. I should note, though, that I was able to significantly delay Lily by making her go Unexpectedly Absent. In game two, we had a long grindy affair, where I was able to establish a massive manabase and do what I do best with it. Lily went absent at a very unexpected moment to help ensure the victory. Game three was something out of a nightmare. Actually, it was a lot like game one, but this time I didn’t have all those answers. Oh, and I had less lands. And they were non-basic. And.. well.. turn one, Deathrite; turn two, Lily; turn three, Waste you; turn four, Waste you. It was traumatizing! I had an Unexpectedly Absent that I was floating in the top three cards, that game, but I was never able to find double white, showing the liability that card can pose at times.

Result: Loss 1-2; Record: 3-1 (7-3)

Round Five

Chloe Green on 12-Post

I was pretty stoked when my opponent led off with turn one Island, Candelabra. High Tide is a walk in the park for me, I thought to myself, especially when the lock is in my opening hand. Then she played a Cloudpost, and my heart sunk in my chest. My boogeyman has returned! I lucked out in game one that she was not drawing any action. CounterTop can deal with her Brainstorms, Maps, and Crop Rotations, so she was never able to abuse her oppressive mana engine to smash my face with some Eldrazi. I quickly scooped ’em up in game two as soon as she had ALL the mana and Eye. I was able to beat her in extra turns in game three, by going with a main phase Entreat for SIX the turn before she was going to go off. She tried to counter with Swan Song, but Counterbalance revealed a one-drop on top of my library. She went for Emrakul and resolved the Flying Spaghetti Monster to take an extra turn. Because she had such an absurdly high amount of mana, she still had enough left over to search up Kozilek. Emrakul, alone, would not get the job done, as I was at 18 with plenty of excess permanents to sacrifice. I figured her only out here was to draw into Prime Time to search up a pair of Glimmerposts and put her life total out of my reach. Instead, she played Vesuva, copying my Karakas. She then played Trinket Mage to get Candelabra to untap Karakas to create an infinite turns loop with Emrakul (and by “infinite,” I really mean two, because that’s all you need). The only flaw with that plan was that the one-drop that countered her Swan Song was still sitting on top of my library. 27 power came at her in the air on the following turn. I was very fortunate to get the one on the top for the Song or I would have been in big trouble. This matchup is usually unwinnable. One last thing I should mention here: Chloe is awesome for sharing my love of foil Unhinged basics. Our match, collectively, probably had the most expensive basic manabase in the room, unless someone was playing High Tide with all Summer/Guru Islands.

Result: Win 2-1; Record: 4-1 (9-4)

Round Six

Anthony Lowry (46th) on Punishing Jund

Geeze, what’s up with getting paired against my friends? This match plays similarly to BUG, in that you’re just trying to set up an Entreat for three or more as quickly as possible. Lowry is able to establish Punishing Fire with a metric ton of mana and several Groves in game one and use it to deal with my Jace. Unfortunately for him, I get him with an Entreat for five. Lowry doesn’t give up just yet, though, chopping down two Angels in a single turn with his fire tomahawks, but five is just too many for him to handle. Lowry is prepared for the angelic onslaught in the second game, with a Pernicious Deed on the board. I’m able to Needle the Deed, but he brings the pressure up with a Bloodbraid into Lily. He had a single card in hand and Lily did not uptick, so I figured it had to be something important. I also had a single card, Swords to Plowshares. The following turn, I naturally draw a large Entreat. I decide to keep up a single mana for Swords, and it proves to be quite good when his single card was Maelstrom Pulse! I plowed the Angel that he targeted with Pulse, causing it to fizzle. The remaining Angels were enough to deal with him, even after a Lily edict. Anthony later pointed out a significant mistake that he made in the last few turns that I just described. Can you spot it? I didn’t actually even notice it until he mentioned it, but he’s correct that he had a better out, there.

Result: Win 2-0; Record: 4-1 (11-4)

Round Seven

Scott Seligman (19th) on Elves

Another friend?! We both figured that I had a good shot to be 6-1 after this match, because the Elves matchup is almost like a bye for me. Scott even joked that I should let him go first to at least give him a sporting chance. I declined, but lost the die roll, anyways. He walloped me with a turn three Craterhoof. That’s the last time I let that jerk go first! I get him in game two by sweeping his board a lot and crushing his spirit the way Miracles is supposed to Elves. I have CounterTop out in game three and feel pretty good about my chances, with Humility in my hand. He casts Green Sun’s Zenith for six, and I think to myself, hmmmm… he can’t be getting Craterhoof, or even Regal Force.. I guess he’s just making this a CMC of seven to dodge Counterbalance. Then, Ruric freaking Thar comes down and ruins my day! I make him humble and go down to 12, and at that point, Scott floods the board with 1/1s. Top and fetchland cannot find one of my four copies of Terminus within two turns.

Result: Loss 1-2; Record: 5-2 (12-6)

Round Eight

Taylor Pratt on Esper Stoneblade

Taylor was on those old Esper (non-Deathblade) lists that we haven’t seen in awhile, but he spiced it up with True Name Nemesis. I think this is a pretty good home for the new uberfish. He got me in game one with a really awful punt on my part, where I swung with an Angel into a Spirit token carrying Batterskull. I was either thinking that the coast was clear because it had just attacked, or that it couldn’t block my flyer, because that’s usually the case of the token carrying the Batterskull. Either way, there was a point late in the game where I resolved another Entreat, but was eight damage short of having him dead on board; I could have had one more Angel and had him at five less life. Bad punt, Tim.. bad punt. He was able to get me with a Progenigoose carrying a Batterskull. I didn’t let it get me on tilt, though, and beat him in a tight game two. He got manascrewed in game three and didn’t get to play a real game of Magic; I had Jace out while he still had one land. He was not happy and did not extend the hand. I’d probably not be very happy if that happened to me, either, but c’mon, you should always extend the hand, unless your opponent was able to demonstrate to you within fifty minutes that they are the worst person ever.

Result: Win 2-1; Record: 6-2 (14-7)

Round Nine

Chas Hinkle (43rd) on Sneak and Show

I figured Chas was on Sneak and Show because I recognized his name from the SCG circuit, at least for Philly-area tournaments. When I got to my seat, he was nowhere to be seen, so he ended up receiving a game loss when he finally arrived. He tried to appeal, on the basis that it was difficult to hear pairings being called at the far end of the hall (which it was), but the head judge upheld the ruling. He blew me out of the water by going off quickly off the back of Simian Spirit Guide with countermagic backup. In game three, I got an early CounterTop set up and was also able to draw into all of my hate. Needle was on board, naming Sneak. Venser and Clique were in hand. There was perpetually a three and five (for Force and Breach) in my top three cards, along with a spare Top on board so I could always safely send one to the top of the library.

Result: Win 2-1; Record: 7-2 (16-8)

What a finish, right? I know, a top-16 doesn’t have the same ring to it as top-8 or Champion, but I’m really happy with my performance. Doing so well here, meant a lot to me. This was my highest finish at a large (nine or more rounds) event, and if we can equate dealer credit to cash (I know, it’s not REALLY the same), it’s my highest prize. What did I do with my winnings? I bought some green creatures. I know, I wish I was kidding. And Matt Jones bought Jaces and Forces, so I guess everything is crazy, now!

On a closing note, I’d also just like to say big up to the event coordinators for putting on such a well-run event. Seriously, massive kudos to Top Deck Games, Card Titan, Nick Coss, etc. Great location, great prize structure, great security (big up to those guys, too; from what I’ve heard, there were ZERO thefts all weekend, which is super impressive for a weekend of high profile Legacy and Vintage events), great side events, great all-around event. From all the folks that went Sunday, I heard that day was just as awesome.

photo 5

“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. You can find Tim on Twitter/Twitch @efil4zaknupome or on MODO under the username ziggy_stardust. 


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