As I talked about in last week’s post, I spent the past weekend—okay, fine, it was really just Friday—at the Star City Games Invitational in New Jersey. I ended up qualifying on points, last year, and decided that my home state would be the most convenient time to cash in that invite. Then I broke my wrist. Side note, kids: apparently you’re supposed to stay out of the mosh pit after you turn 30, but I didn’t get that memo in time to save my scaphoid bone.

I was tempted to get it in blue to show my love for Islands, but thought better of it

Okay, it’s not quite a hook. Sorry to disappoint.

I learned a few things, last weekend. First and foremost, it is challenging to play Magic with one hand! At least it is when your deck has four each of Sensei’s Divining Top, Ponder, and Brainstorm, along with ten fetches. My deck choice for the Legacy portion was the Euro-style Miracles list that Phillip Schonegger has been writing about on Star City Games, lately. Maybe it was a bad choice, given my condition. Repeatedly manipulating cards is hard! Shuffling a lot is time-consuming and frustrating. All that didn’t stop me from going to my first Invitational, but it may have played a… hand in my incredibly sub-par 1-3 performance (in the Legacy portion; 2-4 overall).

Actually, it played more than a hand. It helped to seal my demise in round one. Had I been able to pile shuffle like a person with two functional hands, I would have noticed that my deck was short two cards, but because I was spilling cards all over the place and trying to hurry, particularly due to the long-game nature of my deck, I unknowingly presented an illegal deck. Those two missing cards were Arid Mesa. So I was playing a 19-land control deck. In the third game against Punishing Jund, I missed my fourth land (for Jace) for two turns, and then got Wasted out of the game and cut off from white. A Mesa would’ve been nice there. Fortunately, friend of the blog and Podder-extraordinaire, Rob Pompa, had a couple spare Mesas for me so I could forge ahead with a real (and legal) deck. As a funny aside, during this match, my opponent noticed I was having trouble with the shuffling, and said we can call a judge to help. The judge we called was surprised by the request but happy to help. He saw me later in the day and joked, “How’s the shuffling going? That’s actually the first time anyone has ever asked me for help with that!”

My round two opponent recognized me from Grand Prix Philly (2012). As we made introductions, he said, “I played against you before. You were dressed as Jace.” Hey, it was Halloween weekend! He was on UW Stoneblade, with some interesting utility lands, like Moorland Haunt and Dust Bowl. While angels won the day in game one, he boarded into a wealth of countermagic, and was able to bowl me out in game two. I would die to a horrible misplay in the third game, where I fetched a basic Island while I had a Pyroblast in hand, because I was scared of the Dust Bowl that he had yet to draw. I would then die to a Jace that resolved while I got to stare at the useless, uncastable ‘blast in my hand.

In the 0-2 bracket, I would face the saltiest Burn player ever. To be fair, he wasn’t nasty to me or outwardly angry or anything like that; he just seemed extremely dejected, like he would rather be doing anything else other than playing Magic, that day. Apparently, it was one of those days of spellslinging where nothing was going right for him. This would continue in our match, as I would claw back from two life to Jace him out in game one, and establish a very early CounterTop lock in game two, with Wear//Tear and a three-drop set up on top of my deck.

Another thing I learned is that in this kind of tournament, there are no easy outs. Sometimes, in a tournament like an Open or Grand Prix, you might start out 0-2 or 1-2, and battle back to cash or day two. Your buddy who started hot and faltered might later chime in, “Well it’s because you ended up in the x-2 bracket and got to play less skilled opponents all day,” but in an event full of people who had to earn their right to be there, everyone, all the way down to the x-3 bracket is going to give you a legitimate fight. Case in point, after falling to 0-2 and pulling out a win in round three, I thought that maybe my luck was turning. Maybe I’d get a favorable matchup or an opponent that’s not too familiar with the format. Nope, instead it’s former SCG Open ringer, Josh Cho (sorry, Josh, you haven’t really been putting up those top 8s like you used to, so you’re getting “former’d”). And on top of that, he’s playing Sultai Delver, which, while winnable, is no walk in the park. Josh was a super helpful opponent, as he would shuffle my deck for me whenever I finished cracking a fetch or shipping on Ponder. He got me in a three-game set by taking game one with the early Delver and a grindy game three where I was praying for topdecks every turn to stay alive.

At this point, I needed a perfect record in Standard to make day two, so my hopes were not very high, but I figured that I may as well play it out until I’m dead. I have played Standard TWICE since Theros came out. Both times, I used some UWx variant, but I decided before the tournament that if I played Miracles and do-nothing-kill-them-with-Elixir control, my brain was going to overheat and melt. I decided that I’d try my hand at Pack Rats. I elected to go with Orzhov Midrange, packing a pair of Obzedats and a Whip of Erebos. I never got to live the dream of that combo, but Pack Rat is just as strong as I remember him that time I opened him in my sealed pool. I managed to actually win a match against Naya Midrange, but my celebration was short-lived; Mono-Blue would end my tournament.

All in all, it was definitely fun and I am making a point of trying to qualify for the next time we get a local-ish Invi, but hopefully next time, I’ll have two fully functioning hands. I think I’m actually going to take a break from paper for the next few weeks, until this cast comes off, as it’s incredibly difficult to play with. If it heals on schedule, I should be good to go in time for Eternal Weekend. If I’m lucky, I’ll be ready for when the Open Series returns to New Jersey at the end of September. To makeup for my lack of paper activity, though, I’ll be ramping up with lots of streaming over the next month!

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.