When we last left our hero—or anti-hero, I’ve accepted that everyone hates the control mage—he had just made his return to professional REL competition in the greatest format of them all. That’s right, yours truly was entering day two of Grand Prix New Jersey at 7-2. As I went to bed on Saturday night, all I could think to myself was, “I’m playing in a Legacy PTQ tomorrow, and all I have to do is win six in a row and I’m on the Tour.” I’ve 4-0’d back-to-back Dailies, before, and let me tell you, the regulars in the Legacy Dailies make up some pretty stiff competition, so this felt a lot more attainable to me than winning a normal PTQ.

Before I get into recapping, though, I just want to pause to say how proud I am of my local store’s showing. Earlier this year, at the Modern Grand Prix in Worcester, many of us were live for day two in the final round of day one. We were all slaughtered. I jokingly referred to it as the Twenty Sided Store Red Wedding. (Because everyone dies in the Red Wedding—oops, did I spoil that for anyone?) This time around, all of us prevailed, except that one match where two of us were paired against each other and somebody had to die. I think we owe it to the fact that our store is the most competitive Legacy hotbed in all of the boroughs of New York City, drawing around 24-32 players every Monday for a four-round, no-proxy Legacy tournament, full of talented players. Getting to play the format, week in and week out against worthy opponents has turned us all into serious threats in a large field like Grand Prix New Jersey. I was unfortunately traveling on business, but I heard that Team Euroswag (Schoeneggar, Koenig, Vlacik) even made an appearance on the Monday following the Grand Prix. I hope my fellow Twentysiders made it hard for them!

Round 10

Jake on Reanimator

I lead things off with a turn one Relic, and a turn two Counterbalance. Jake plays some early fetches and gets an Underground Sea, while casting some cantrips, which makes me think he’s on some sort of combo. He’s able to get a Thoughtseize through my the blind-flips of my Counterbalance to take away my Vendilion Clique. Unfortunately for him, I topdeck another Clique, and they go to work on his life total, the following turn. They also are able to pluck away an Entomb from a hand that also contained Exhume and a Force of Will (sans blue card to pitch). Once I get a Top on board, there is little Jake can due while the Clique tears him apart. Game two also proves to be rough for Jake, as he mulls to three or four, I forget, but it was pretty low, and passes with no land on the first turn. It’s worth noting that Reanimator is capable of going off with a three-card hand, but I feel a bit safer, having double-FoW in my opening grip. Once Jake hits a hand drop and casts one Careful Study, followed by another, I use both of my Forces. It’s a bit aggressive, but I’m a firm believer of going after this deck’s outlets for putting fatties into the graveyard, rather than the actual reanimation spell. We play draw-go for a few turns, after that, and I’m able to assemble CounterTop, while Jake gets back up to a full grip. Then I find Clique, again, and see a hand of Iona, Ponder, Careful Study, two Entombs, and two Reanimates. “Keep em,” I say. None of those spells were getting through my CounterTop lock. Clique did as Clique did in game one, and that was the match. Later, Jake would show me his secret weapon: Aetherling. Boy, am I glad he never drew that!


Round 11

Tim on UR Delver

The dreaded Tim mirror, I thought, as I saw the pairings board. Actually, it’s not that dreaded; I think I have a positive record in Tim mirrors. Up until this point, I had somehow managed to avoid seeing a single Delver the entire tournament. I knew that couldn’t possibly last, especially on a day two field that was likely filled with the winged menace. And just like that, Tim plays a turn one Delver that is more than happy to blind-flip for him. Fortunately, it only connects once, before I Terminus it away. I have some farming tools to hand to Tim’s next threat, Young Peezy, but not before Tim is able to get a cantrip in to leave an elemental on the board. Another Pyromacer follows, and Tim gets me down to 8. I have CounterTop assembled, but I still need to deal with this clock on the table, soon, or it won’t matter that Tim can’t cast anymore spells. I have a Terminus in hand and am able to get to six mana for the hardcast. At this point, I just need a threat to wrap things up, because I’m floating a one and a two-drop on top of my library, and Clique shows up to finish the job. In game two, I see another early Delver followed up by Taylor Swiftspear, and I’m down to 10 life before I know what hit me. I’m able to wipe the board, but Tim thinks he has this, with  Sulfuric Vortex. Again, I have just the right card at just the right time, in Counterspell (along with exactly two islands untapped). Then I assemble CounterTop; Tim responds with a Lightning Bolt, since that card is about to become very dead, and I fall to 6 life. I’m able to float a two and a three-drop on top of my library, while having a second Top in play, so I’m pretty sure there are zero spells that Tim can play, aside from maybe Fireblast. Tim doesn’t know the three is there, so he is quite disappointed when his second Vortex fails to resolve. Finally, I find a second copy of Clique, leaving me safe to draw and play one, and pick him apart in the same way I did in game one. That’s now four games in a row that have been won by Clique + CounterTop.


Round 12

Josh on Ad Nauseum Tendrils

This was another archetype that I had not faced all tournament, but was expecting to see on day two. While I knew ANT would not be as heavily represented as Delver-based decks, or even just UR Delver, I strongly believed it to be the best-positioned combo deck, in the current meta, and thus expected it to be well-represented in the second day of competition. Game one would prove to be one of the weirdest games I’ve ever played against ANT, with Josh drawing what seemed to be EVERY discard spell in his deck. Consequently, Josh was able to keep me off of any sort of action, stripping me of a Top, a Counterbalance, a Brainstorm, and even a pair of Jaces just before I would be able to cast him. To make matters worse, I would draw into the oh-so-awkward double Karakas. With three cards left, Josh would go off with an Ad Nauseum, falling to three life, before giving pause on whether or not he should stop. He decided to go for it, to which I would say, “c’mon, Past in Flames!” “If it’s Past in Flames, it’s Past in Flames, he responded,” as he flipped another card onto the table. It was not Past in Flames, but he decided to stop. There was some debate about whether or not he had played a land for the turn. I honestly wasn’t sure, but decided to let him have it. He would end up using it, though I paid close enough attention to see that he didn’t actually need to, which is good, because that would’ve nagged at me all day if he was able to win only because of the extra mana that neither of us were sure he was supposed to have. Game two was very short, as I was able to resolve an early Counterbalance. Josh was on the sideboard plan of Young Peezy, but the first copy fell to a blind-flip of Counterspell. The second copy walked into the Counterspell to which Josh sheepishly admitted to forgetting about. Once I found a Top and an insurance Counterbalance in case of an Abrupt Decay, Josh scooped ’em up.

Game three ends proves to be a real Mexican standoff, as my opening hand has two Forces, two Flusterstorms, a land, a Brainstorm, and something else really sweet that I forgot (maybe a Counterspell). Josh gets to see just how sweet it is off an early Probe. I draw into more sweet spells like Counterbalance and more landdrops, so we both kind of just sit across the table, staring at each other, drawing cards, and playing lands. This goes on for many turns. Maaaaany turns. I think Abrupt Decay happens at some point, but I have another Counterbalance. We’re both playing quickly, but neither of us can find the cards we need to get the win. After proving unable to go off through my bevy of countermagic on turn four of extra turns, we go to my turn, the final turn of the game, and let’s face it, I have no way to end the game on the spot. I durdle around and cantrip and top and dig and manage to put two Counterbalances, two Tops, and an Ethersworn Canonist on the board and say with a shrug, “That’s all I’ve got.” We shake hands and the judges gathered around are anxious to collect the slip (we may have been the last match in progress). I mention to my Josh that a draw here would kill us both for Pro Tour contention and ask if he would consider conceding, based on the state of the game/board. Josh thinks about it for a moment and says, “Yeah, that’s fine. If it went on, you probably had me, anyways, since you had the double Counterbalance,” noting that while he might find a Decay to deal with one, he wasn’t going to be able to handle two. I thanked him profusely, as this meant a lot to me, and I know that not all opponents would do that, in his position.


Round 13

Jeff on Death and Taxes

Last week, I talked about how easy this matchup usually is (though after watching Marc König’s impressive win over Joe Lossett in the finals of last week’s SCG Open, I have a bit more respect for the matchup), outside of those circumstances where D&T has their perfect hand of Vial, Port, Thalia, additional pressure, and a Wasteland against a hand where I’m forced to play a non-basic. Well, that happens in game one. Jeff is able to run me over quickly, having Thalia and multiple Stoneforges. Game two begins with me almost completely blowing Jeff out of the water. Again, he has the turn one Vial, but I am quick to see that he plays it off of a Wasteland, and slam Wear on my second turn with the hope that he does not have a white source. He isn’t just lacking a white source; he’s lacking a second land-drop, altogether. I have a Jace on board while he’s discarding to handsize. I decide to fateseal him to try to keep him off of lands. I may have gotten a little greedy, in taking away another Wasteland, rather than letting him have that, and only taking away white sources, as his next card was a plains. He then is able to use Enlightened Tutor to find Pithing Needle to stop Jace, and gain some measure of parity. He notes that I’m probably so far ahead that it doesn’t matter, but he is actually able to build a formidable board state, while I am unable to find another way to close out the game. At one point, I thought I had him, via Clique, but then remembered that he had Karakas, which he would use whenever I tried to attack, so Clique was basically just being used to help me dig a card deeper each turn to try to find one of my Entreats. With less than twenty cards left in my deck, I finally find one and make six angels to get the concession. The clock hits zero as we’re shuffling up for game three, and a judge tells us not to start the third game, and takes our slip. Neither of us concedes or asks for a concession, here, since nobody had the other in a precarious board state.. since we didn’t even start the game. Jeff notes that maybe he should’ve conceded when I established the CounterTop lock against his empty board, but he felt he had an out (Cavern of Souls), to which I 100% agreed; always try to draw to your outs if an out exists. A spectator pointed out that if I played my Containment Priest, I may have actually killed him sooner. I had boarded in Priest as a sort of surprise answer to Vial, and felt that it wasn’t worth showing it to him to attack for two each turn, when the angels would get the job done in a much faster fashion, but it ended up taking so long for them to show up, that perhaps the Priest could’ve gotten there.

The draw effectively ends my tournament. Sure I was still playing for cash and potential Pro Points, but a couple hundred bucks isn’t a huge deal to me, given that I sustain that kind of damage on a fairly routine basis just by getting drunk and losing my wallet, and that I have a “real adult job” that pays me more than that.. easy come, easy go, they say. The blue envelope was the only prize that really mattered to me, today, especially since this was the only chance I would have to earn one for a good long while, playing Legacy, and since the next Pro Tour is most desirable one to play in, for the next year (I don’t really play much Standard).


Round 14

Wes on UR Delver

No, I didn’t drop, after getting dream-crushed in round 13, but I may as well have, because at this point, I was making sloppy mulligan decisions and I stopped taking detailed notes (the note-taking thing helps focus me and keep me in the zone). My Delver opponent, once again, has the turn one Delver into turn two blind-flip. It ends up hitting me twice, before I can Terminus it away, but he has the follow up Peezy. This is just like the last game one against UR Delver, except this time, the Delver hit me twice, instead of once. Wes is also able to make it a bit harder for me to stabilize because he hits me with a Fireblast, but I think I somehow ended up winning. I say that, only because the life totals clearly show him killing me in game two, and the match did go three games. So sure, . I guess I already told you what happens in game two, but to give it a bit more detail, he had the turn one Delver blind flip, followed by Taylor Swiftspear, followed by Peezy. I think this one wound up being close, not with regards to life totals, but with regards to me stabilizing. I dispatch all of his threats, but die to a pair of elemental tokens that are left behind. Wes thanked me after game two for not being a slow Miracles player; mildly ironic, I suppose, given that my last two matches went to time, but I like to think that I never actually played slowly during any of those matches, but just that games went for many turns with lots of actions taking place. But yeah, I guess there are a decent number of Miracle wizards out there that give some of us that practice our craft, religiously, a bad name. We kinda had a laugh about those players that will activate Top, look at the top three, tank for a bit, then after nothing meaningful has happened to change the board state, they activate Top again. (please don’t be that person!) I kept a bit of a slow hand in game three, and his turn one Swiftspear brings me all the way down to 10. Bolt makes it 7, and Price of Progress is lethal, at that point.

Round 15

Michael on UWR Stoneblade

We have a lengthy discussion about doing a split, involving Mike stepping away from the table to talk to judges to ask how he could offer the split without breaking any rules. I wanted to just draw and be done with it, since that would lock us both for cash, and I was disinterested in playing more Magic. Mike was interested in the Pro Point, and wanted to either play, or do a 50/50 split, where I would concede to him. I had looked at the standings before the round started and said that I was fairly certain that neither of us would top 64 with a win, and a loss would likely bump one of us out of cash, making it a low-EV proposition to play. I also wasn’t sure how we would facilitate the split; WotC wouldn’t split the prize, so I’d be dependent on Mike actually getting in touch with me and sending me money via PayPal. I didn’t realize at the time, but I guess Michael Majors is kind of a “low-level pro,” if you will, and writes for SCG sometimes, so his reputation as not being a scumbag has some value to him. I also didn’t realize at the time, that whoever wins would be guaranteed a Pro Point; I forgot that they had changed it so that 33 points is always worth at least one Pro Point. In any case, we end up playing after a 10 minute delay. I win game one, handily, stabilizing with a healthy 17 life. Then I proceed to lose the next two games by keeping two extremely loose one-landers.



Standings go up and I am pleasantly surprised to see that I was proven wrong about what would happen to the loser of my final match. I finished at 205th, putting me in the money. At this point, the tilt over losing out on the Pro Tour invite has faded, and I’m a little down at myself for letting it happen in the first place. Over the last year or so, I think I’ve been pretty good at managing tilt, with ice water (or alcohol) flowing through my veins to stop it from happening. I can usually just forget about a loss, immediately, and move on, whether it be in this silly little game that we play or in real life. I guess this was one that I really wanted, so to have it slip away felt a little painful, but life goes on. It was a pretty good year in Magic, for me, overall, so I can’t be too down on myself. I guess I’ll just have to bide my time until Seattle for that blue envelope. Or maaaaybe that TBD North American GP at the end of May? Puh-leeeeeease WotC? We just got over 4k to show up to play Legacy in Nowheresville, NJ! C’mon, do it!

Tim wants the TBD North American Grand Prix next May to be Legacy. Paper Vintage Masters would be acceptable, too.

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