Last week I wrote about my preparations for Nationals. This week I want to talk about the tournament itself.

I arrived at the tournament site some time after nine in the morning, approximately half an hour before it started. We were going to play two rounds of Standard followed by three rounds of draft, and then three more rounds of Standard. After eight rounds of Swiss there would be a cut to top 8, which would take place at my local game store the following day. I felt pretty comfortable with draft, and for the Standard portion I had chosen to play Four Color Energy, which is essentially Temur Energy splashing black for two copies of The Scarab God.

Standard One

Round one I was paired against a young player from my local game store piloting BG Constrictor, which I consider a favorable matchup. Things went smoothly for me, and I ended up winning the match 2-0.

Round two I faced another BG Constrictor player, but this one had a few tricks up their sleeve. I made a costly mistake in game one when I kept a slow hand on the draw. I really dislike mulliganing with Four Color Energy, because you want to curve out and need a lot of lands to do so. For this reason I tend to keep most hands with “lands and spells,” but in retrospect this hand was a clear mulligan. After I managed to take the second game and even the score, we moved on to game three. Unfortunately my opponent had two early Greenbelt Rampagers, and I had no effective way of answering them. I ended up having to trade for them with Bristling Hydra, which led to me falling behind on tempo. I made an attempt to stabilize, but my opponent was able to put enough pressure on me, and I lost. Losing a match this early in the tournament wasn’t where I wanted to be, but there was nothing more I could do other than play Magic and focus on one game at the time.


After a short delay we sat down for the draft, and I felt good knowing that this was a format I had an edge. Pack one pick one got to make an interesting decision between Banewhip Punisher and Abrade. I think Banewhip Punisher is the better card. But I like red more than black, and would prefer to draft an aggressive red deck, so I went with the Abrade. Somewhere in the middle of pack one I noticed that both red and black were open. I don’t think RB is the best color combination in this format, but since both colors were open I figured I’d be able to draft a strong RB Aggro deck. It turns out I was right, and I ended up with a deck I consider to be among the better decks I’ve drafted. This is what I played.

RB Aggro

Creatures (17)
Miasmic Mummy
Burning-Fist Minotaur
Firebrand Archer
Defiant Khenra
Doomed Dissenter
Marauding Boneslasher
Fervent Paincaster
Cursed Minotaur
Plague Belcher
Thresher Lizard
Khenra Scrapper
Grim Strider
Accursed Horde
Manticore of the Gauntlet
Gilded Cerodon

Spells (7)
Cartouche of Zeal
Lethal Sting
Open Fire
Torment of Hailfire
Lands (16)
Endless Sands
Ifnir Deadlands

I was very happy with how the draft turned out, knowing that I could go 3-0. My first draft opponent was playing Blue Green ramp, splashing white for Angel of Sanctions. They had a very good deck as well, and our match ended up being very close. In game one they failed to find green mana whereas I played my threats on curve and was able to deal a lot of damage very quickly. Game two they did a nice job of brick walling my threats. When the game reached a point where they could safely activate River Hoopoe on their turn we moved on to the third and final game. Game three was close, but in the end I was able to get in for enough damage.

My next opponent was also a RB drafter, although their deck looked weaker than mine. My opponent also mulliganed to four one game, which of course made things easier.

In the finals of the draft I was paired against an opponent on Blue Red. Game one was really interesting and close, but my opponent ended up winning. At one point I had a Firebrand Archer in play and my opponent passed with four mana open. I decided to play around Aven Reedstalker and not attack, thinking that my opponent passing with four mana open was a pretty clear signal, and that the two points of damage weren’t worth the risk. My opponent didn’t have the Reedstalker, but I still believe that my play was correct. Later in the game I cast Torment of Hailfire for six. My opponent went down to one life, discarded their entire hand, and sacrifice their two creatures, leaving only an Unquenchable Thirst that was enchanting my Accursed Horde. After this powerful turn however my draws were quite poor, and my opponent was able to win due to having multiple eternalize and embalm creatures in the graveyard.

I was a bit disappointed to lose that game, but once again reminded myself to focus on the game at hand and just play my best. I won the second game and started feeling better about my chances again. Then, in game three, I got to shoot my opponent for lethal with Manticore of the Gauntlet, and suddenly I was 4-1 in the tournament.

Standard Two

With renewed confidence after having won the draft, I shifted my focus back to Standard. Round six I played the mirror match against Jon Westberg, the famous Hearthstone player. Game one Jon got stuck on three lands whereas I was able to cast my four and five drops. In the second game my opponent had turn two Longtusk Cub which I couldn’t answer yet. At one point I made a mistake and didn’t block a Rogue Refiner with one of my cubs, thinking I’d rather swing back and get some energy. When I untapped and played a Confiscation Coup on Jon’s cub however, I realized it was better to leave my Longtusk Cubs back to block instead. Not blocking was a pretty bad mistake that cost me three life for no reason. But there was nothing I could do about it afterwards, so I just had to accept it and make the best play. My mistake left my opponent with more outs to win the game, but they didn’t hit them and so I still won in the end.

Round seven my opponent was on Black Red Aggro. I wasn’t quite sure, but I knew that winning this round could mean I would be able to draw into the top 8 next round. My opponent led on Ifnir Deadlands into Dread Wanderer and I put them on Zombies. I played a land and passed with Magma Spray up. Against Zombies I haven’t found Dread Wanderer to be a problem, and I would have saved my Magma Spray for Relentless Dead. But my opponent played a mountain before attacking, thereby revealing that they were in fact on BR Aggro and thus they missed out on two points of damage. It didn’t end up mattering as they flooded anyway, but I thought it was interesting to note how simply giving your opponent a small piece of information when you don’t need to can impact the game. I won the rest of the match and eagerly waited to see the standings before the final round of Swiss.

The standings were posted and it it turned out we had to play. My opponent was on GW Ramp. It’s a slightly unfavorable matchup for Four Color Energy, but I was able to race them in game one. In game two they stumbled a bit and I kept open Negate mana in case they had Fumigate. Instead they played Oblivion Sower which, since I had no answer for it, stopped my attacks and also helped ramp them into Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Game three I had Longtusk Cub on turn two, and was able to put pressure on them quickly. They did have a Fumigate, but I was ready with a counterspell. My opponent was also kind enough to remind me when I missed a Longtusk Cub trigger earlier in the game, so kudos to them for that!

Top Eight

After winning round eight I was 7-1, and second place in the standings going into the top 8 on Sunday. I needed to win two more matches to reach the finals and make the National Team. I won my quarter finals match versus another Temur player, and moved on to the top four. Now I just needed to win one more match to make the team. My semi finals opponent was also on Temur Energy, and I lost a close game one after they were able to use Magma Spray plus Abrade to permanently get rid of my copy of The Scarab God. I managed to win the second game, and we moved on to the game that would decide which one of us would move on to the finals and make the national team and which one would fall just short of the finish line. We played back and forth for a while, but in the end I drew a few too many lands, while simultaneously missing the red mana necessary to cast my double red spells. I ended up losing the game with two Glorybringers in hand, and with that game I was out of contention.

There was no time to worry about that however, because I still had one more match to play. Because this was Nationals, we still needed to play for third place in case of a pass down. My last match of the tournament was against a Mono White Eldrazi player, with whom I played three very long and complex games. Throughout the match my opponent was able to pull of a lot of tricks with cards like Eldrazi Displacer and Archangel Avacyn, but ultimately The Scarab God triumphed in the end.

I finished third place in 2017’s Magic: The Gathering Nationals in Sweden. I came within inches from reaching my goal, but I made it further than I could have ever expected going into the tournament. I proved to myself that I’ve got what it takes to do well and that all my practicing and testing had payed off.

Now all I want to do is play more Magic, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next opportunity to compete.

Sandro is a Magic player from Stockholm, Sweden. He’s been playing Goblins in Legacy for years. Follow him on Twitter @SandroRajalin

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