On the last day of September 2017, I “won” my first ever moderately-sized Legacy event in Brisbane, Australia at their Good Games store. It was a surreal feeling, but exactly what I needed at that point in my life. This is going to be a tournament report filled with not only details of my games and the typical Magic sideboarding jazz, but also a huge amount of soppy sentimentality. So strap yourselves in.
To set the scene, put this on loop:
Uchiage Hanabi, Shita Kara Miru ka? Yoko Kara Miru ka?, or Fireworks for short, is a pretty enjoyable movie, and for all you fellow anime nerds out there I’d recommend it. The animation is pretty glorious Studio Shaft stuff despite a somewhat meandering storyline. More importantly, the theme song Uchiage Hanabi was the song continuously on loop throughout my journey. If you’re not into J-pop, here’s some pretty great piano and guitar covers you can use as substitutes.
I wonder how many times I’ll be able to watch the same fireworks as you
I hadn’t even watched the film yet in the days before coming to Brisbane, but its song represented an intense feeling of uneasiness and uncertainty that had somehow overtaken me. Life had weaved itself into a place where I felt beaten and unsure of my own self-confidence due to a variety of factors. Luckily, the journey to Brisbane with some of the greatest people I’d ever met would put me somewhat at ease.
But before that, a bit about my preparation. Let’s talk some Magic: the Gathering.
The deck I decided to play was RUG Delver, or Canadian Threshold as many traditionalists would call it. To many it is seen as a relic of the past, with Deathrite Shaman as the final nail in the coffin to the Threshold and mana denial game plan. And I would somewhat agree. I don’t feel it is a particularly powerful deck, and certainly loses in the raw power department. You don’t get “free wins” that cards like Deathrite Shaman or Gurmag Angler provide in a long tournament. I did feel it was a good choice against Czech Pile, however, as the full shroud game plan and counter magic suite line up very well – but sometimes that deck can just raw power through all these cute little “tricks”.
The true reason I played RUG Delver, however, was because I knew it was the only deck I could play proficiently at this moment in time. Although I’m very well-acquainted with where the metagame is (thanks to writing every week), in terms of actual play I had been out for approximately two months, sporadically playing in a single weekly with RUG (getting a stellar 1-3) and missing out on all of Melbourne’s recent sanctioned events. I almost opted to play Grixis Angler ala SorboOne but knew that despite it playing almost all the same cards, it wouldn’t have the same feeling of fluidity and familiarity RUG Delver did. Death & Taxes I hadn’t touched for a long time either, despite being my old stand-by.
So RUG Delver it was. Here’s the list:
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Nimble Mongoose
2 Hooting Mandrills
Non-Creature Spells: (32)
4 Force of Will
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Spell Pierce
2 Spell Snare
1 Forked Bolt
1 Life from the Loam
4 Polluted Delta
4 Flooded Strand
3 Tropical Island
3 Volcanic Island
1 Ancient Grudge
2 True-Name Nemesis
1 Barbarian Ring
2 Surgical Extraction
There are a few people I’d like to thank for this list. The first is the man behind more modern iterations of Canadian Threshold, Mr. Jonathan Alexander. His thoughts concerning a lower number of threats, having more faith in RUG’s controlling elements, along with his inclusion of the Life from the Loam engine have been incredibly influential in my own deck building and playstyle. Marius Bender’s recent success at MKM Hamburg and my talk with him in TWiL also brought me renewed faith in the deck and his advice on my initial lists being too “fair” were right on the money. And dear RUG brother Xian-Zhi Lai of Melbourne gave me exactly the last minute advice that made my deck incredible for the day. Like Marius, he swayed me from being too much of a scaredy-cat and gave me advice that played to the true strengths of the deck.
I won’t spend too much time on the construction of it – I’ve outlined it in my DtPtJ report – but some of the numbers should be noted.
The 3/2 split of these were actually a last minute decision, as my list originally had seven removal spells in the main and a Snare in the board. The second Dismember got swapped for the Snare main after I felt a little too wary of combo and Strix (luckily I didn’t see too many Anglers) and it was incredible all day. The lack of Sneak & Show in Brisbane certainly helped. Nonetheless, Snare is a “skeleton key” sort of card that has broad applications against the midrange decks of the moment and many of the combo decks.
The sideboard contained a Winter Orb and Electrickery until the last minute – the Electrickery almost becoming a Staticaster after Marius’ success with it. I never liked sweeper effects in RUG since if you’re behind, well, you’re behind anyway, and I soon got convinced of their mediocrity. Orb was always more of a luxury more than anything, just as a failsafe against Miracles or weird decks like Nic Fit. The big addition that replaced these was the third Pyroblast. And man, this was great. Like Snare, hugely flexible and RUG is one of the best Pyroblast decks due to capitalizing on the tempo advantage created by its pure efficiency. Submerge, which I almost cut, similarly plays into this dynamic. It is a tempo card at heart, but also would also at least help against oddball Green deck matchups.
Another reason why I felt okay without Electrickery was due to the double Abrade in my sideboard. Adopted early by Steven Stamopoulos, the two Abrades are excellent when the deck needs to really become a Zoo-ish deck with removal carving the way for Goose and Delvers to beat face. Those and the Grudge in the sideboard were a huge edge against D&T that I knew I was going to face at some stage.
Back to the trip, I was accompanied by James “Juzam” O’Brien and his lovely girlfriend to the airport. He happily obliged to explaining the intricacies of eating vegetarian during the car trip upon my request. Thanks Loam brother. We were dropped off and soon met up with the Melbourne Legacy crew. We got there two hours early, so playing Modern on the floor ensued, along with other banter. And more stupid photos. The good times and the forgetfulness of reality began.
Soon we were on the plane, Uchiage Hanabi resounding through my eardrums. Melbourne was soon in the distance.
Uneasiness and the sound of the evening’s last train
Arriving at Brisbane, we were greeted by mild weather. The team split up, some Ubering to the AirBnB, myself and others taking the train (to much regret). We settled into our place, ventured to Good Games Brisbane to fix up our registration, the local IGA for dinner ingredients and the nearby Bottle-O for some much-needed alcohol. Token Stormtrooper Jesse William Bartle cooked up an excellent matriciana, and glasses of gin-and-tonic and champagne were shared. Drunk enough, a few of us ventured into Brisbane CBD with no shoes and our nightwear on. We got gelati. As we wandered back to our AirBnB, hands coated with melted Gelatissimo, friend of Xian and Brisbane local he’d met up with notified us of something tomorrow.
At 7.00 PM, there was to be fireworks.
I felt I needed to see these. Maybe seeing these would cure my continued uneasiness, somehow. Hopefully the tournament would finish on time.
After returning to our accommodation, a few other Melbournian friends came for a visit. They were staying closer to the airport, but decided to make the half-hour journey to see us. As always, the Sunbury boys came with Hoegaarden and lethal banter. Pro player Trent Clarke gave me words that night which I’d hold dearly for the day after. For some reason, he had supreme faith in me. He said “I was due” for a win. Considering my lack of stellar results recently, as well as my mediocre deck choice, I thought on the contrary. But he was insistent. He held me in great respect. And that meant a huge amount. So thank you, buddy.
The night ended with a few of us on the porch, Jesse and Andrea’s cigarette smoke and words about life and relationships wandering through the air. I got little sleep, despite the alcohol in my system. I never sleep well before tournaments, and this was no different. Before I knew it, morning had arrived.
Steven Stamopoulos, patriarch of the team, fixed up some eggs and toast for all of us. Coffee runs were undertaken to get everyone caffeinated and alleviate the morning stupor. Soon we were off to Good Games Brisbane. Uchiage Hanabi I again listened to, this time representing a new resolve to push forward. People trickled into the store as the morning moved on. At around 10 AM, we began with 59 total players – acceptable for the store owners to put the Lotus on the line for first prize.
Round 1: Chris (UB Reanimator)
Chris (I hope I have your name correct) was a lovely guy, speaking highly of the podcast and my writing. We banter a bit about Pirate Stompy and roll the die. I take the draw.
Game 1 had me getting hit by a discard spell on my hand of Blue card, Force of Will and Brainstorm. My opponent took the Force, not knowing, of course, I had one on top from a previous Ponder. He went for a Reanimate, I Forced and then cleaned up with a Mandrills and 1/1 Goose.
+2 Surgical Extraction
-4 Lightning Bolt
-1 Forked Bolt
-1 Life from the Loam
Such clean anti-combo sideboarding. Yum.
Game 2 my opponent makes a turn one Inkwell Leviathan. I have Daze, Flusterstorm and Snare in hand. Alas, this was not to be.
Game 3 I am able to weather an early attempt at reanimating Inkwell yet again and we both look to rebuilding resources. I have found a Wasteland to bring my opponent only to an Underground Sea. I eventually turn the corner with two Delvers, but my opponent Entombs for Elesh Norn and then goes for a Reanimate. I’ve screwed up a Brainstorm, drawing a Mongoose instead of a fetchland I could’ve put in play. I have another Brainstorm in hand – if I had the fetch, I could’ve fetched, Brainstormed and seen three new cards, ideally one of which a counterspell. Since I screwed up I see only two, but one of them is a Daze that counters the Reanimate. Delvers then cruise to victory. Better lucky than good.
Round 2: Jack Jiggens (Death & Taxes)
The local legend of Melbourne, Jack Jiggens I’ve had a surprisingly solid record against with RUG and I’ve always appreciated our battles, since I’ve got a lot of good testing of sideboard plans thanks to him. He’s also a great player who has learnt the intricacies of D&T very well. It sucks to battle another Melbourne boy (a recurring trend of the day) but if I lost, it meant a friend got to move forward. So I couldn’t be too sad.
I’m on the draw. Game 1 has me draw a bunch of useful cards – enough Bolts to go around, Life from the Loam to save my mana from getting obliterated and Nimble Mongoose and Mandrills (both online thanks to Loam) doing work. However, Jack is overwhelming me with equipment I cannot answer. A Jitte gets Pierced (satisfying, since Pierce is usually dead in the matchup) but SoFI sits on the table looking threatening. As he hits three life, he assembles an active Mom and Mirran Crusader, ready to wield the SoFI. I’ve assembled that combo before… I opt not to attack (though it would take my opponent to one by blocking the Mandrills with the Crusader, as well as make his Mom tapped) and I realise this is wrong. Bolt is no longer an out I can draw. Mandrills gets killed by the double SoFI trigger. Next turn, I get killed.
+1 Ancient Grudge
+1 Barbarian Ring
+2 True-Name Nemesis
-1 Nimble Mongoose
-3 Spell Pierce
I used to really like Stifle in this matchup, but JA recommended me against it sometime ago and I haven’t looked back. Although you can tag some Batterskulls, SFMs and Wastelands, it can also rot in your hand when something less situational (like an Abrade) would be much more worthwhile.
Game 2 has us exchange resources for a while, him with triple Port but no Vial. I deal with almost all his threats thanks to countermagic as well as removal and we both move into a grind. I eventually find both Barbarian Ring and Life from the Loam which mocks his Mother of Runes on board, as well as a Mandrills to bring the beats. I mess up by targeting too many lands with Loam and lose Thresh to Ring down a Flickerwisp, so Mandrills sits back for one turn. Next turn my opponent realises the lock he’s in and concedes.
Game 3 is a pretty non-interactive one. My opponent leads on Horizon Canopy, go, I Wasteland it sensing weakness. He goes with Port. I play a Delver. He passes. I play another Delver, flipping the first to Dismember. I then flip the next one. I kill whatever is relevant while my opponent is unable to develop their mana and Delvers cruise to victory with the good ol’ Zoo draw.
Game two the machine of this innovative build of RUG Delver really came the fore, and I was glad I had the technology on my hands. Jiggens congratulated me. We agreed to see each other in the Top 8.
Round 3: Jesse William Bartle (ANT)
The man behind the matriciana and one of my favourite people full stop. We’re sad to play each other, but every time we’ve had great games, great banter and just a good time. Love ya cuzzie.
However, we start with a deck check, and although deck lists are all clear, I get penalized for marked cards!
Note to everyone: the matte blue Dragon’s Shields are actually slightly see-through and if you look very closely, you can differentiate a double-faced card from a normal one. I’d been using these same Dragon’s Shields for awhile (around one year) and had never noticed, nor been told about it. The difference is pretty difficult to see, and I honestly couldn’t see it when judge Lachlan Saunders told me about it. But on closer inspection it certainly is there, and I’m grateful now it’s been noted to me.
I resleeved my deck in black Dragon’s Shield mattes with Lachlan graciously assisting me and ventured back over to Jesse for game two. At least the game loss had occurred when I was playing another Melbourne fellow. I proceeded to get crushed by Jesse with my draw of double Nimble Mongoose, Snare and Force not being enough to get there against his hand of triple discard. He played well and I died. But I couldn’t be sad.
Round 4: Graham King (Food Chain)
Another Melbournian… Graham made Top 4 of recent Melbourne Legacy Masters with Food Chain and decided to run it back, with a small bit of spice in the main of Nimble Obstructionist. This matchup can be tough if they establish their mana, and Food Chain has a lot of basics (four). They have inevitability with mountains of Strix and recurring fliers. This could be tough.
Game 1 I begin with a Nimble Mongoose and proceed to do the typical RUG Delver counter, Stifle, kill and cantrip thing. It was a glorious perfect RUG game. I think a Manipulate Fate got Snared or Pierced early. Graham begun to turn the corner with a Food Chain that could be cast through my Daze. I had Force and Blue card in hand, but opted to let it resolve – all I needed to do was counter his creature to stop him going infinite. I knocked him down to four. He tapped out for Misthollow Griffin, I Dazed. He Forced back, bringing him to three. I could fight back with my Force, or Bolt him to the face. I opted for the Red mage alternative.
-4 Delver of Secrets
+2 True-Name Nemesis
This isn’t exactly correct. I remember boarding in a Grudge in game two and regretting it, as well as perhaps messing around with shaving Stifle or Pierce. I think this is what I’d do moving forward, however. Flusterstorm is somewhat of a consideration but doesn’t snag Food Chain. Anyway, in these grindy BUG matchups going Delver-less is perhaps one of the most freeing feelings, mocking all the Abrupt Decays and Fatal Pushes they have.
Game 2 I recall Graham had a turn one Deathrite and me finding removal on turn two for it. He resolves a Manipulate Fate that I’m unable to counter, and then also has a Food Chain to go infinite with soon. I can’t beat a board of two Griffins and an Eternal Scourge, certainly. Turns out he has Ballista in hand anyway and we’re off to game three.
Game 3’s highlight is me pushing through mountains of Baleful Strix. The first resolves and trades with an un-Threshed Mongoose – fine by me, since he ends up feeding a Hooting Mandrills. The next two Strixes get countered in some way or another, be it via Snare or Pyroblast. Having three Blasts in my sideboard were huge for this matchup and again really proved Xian’s recommendation worthwhile. A Forked Bolt took out both a Nimble Obstructionist and Eternal Scourge. V-v-v-value! My opponent’s life total low, a True-Name joined the party and Graham is on Deluge or bust – a Diabolic Edict won’t even do it. I’m somewhat certain I had a counter ready for the Deluge too – or at least enough burn to take the game away if he did pay the four life. Nonetheless, the full shroud guys take the game away.
Me and Graham shake hands, hands trembling and sweat heavy on our brows. The room was sweltering, due to not only the Brisbane heat, but also the usual atmosphere created by a bunch of Magic players crammed in a room. I stumble outside and drink bottles of water and eat my usual apples. Fruit is honestly the best food for a long Magic tournament.
Round 5: James O’Brien (Naya Loam)
James is another Melbourne boy, and another person I’d bonded with considerably over the course of the trip. We’d slept in the same bed the night before. It’s again sad to battle another, but if he moved onwards I knew I’d be able to put my full support behind him into the Top 8.
James was on his signature Naya “Juzam” Loam. It does not involve a Juzam Djinn, sadly, but rather a lack of Black, leaning more so on Tarmogoyf, a cleaner mana base and removal such as Council’s Judgment. I expected this to be harder than typical 4c Loam. Strong mana made my mana denial less impressive and resolved Tarmogoyf is hell to deal with as RUG Delver.
Game 1 involves mana denial from both sides, me Spell Piercing a Sylvan Library but James gets a second one to stick. He’s pressing my mana considerably but I’m able to undo this via my Life from the Loam somewhat – though I have to tap out for this. He Wastelands my only Green source and then Chalice of the Void hits the table. I have no usable countermagic left. James played me incredibly well, saving his trump for the final moment. With my whole hand turned off and Mandrills not in sight, I soon die to giant Goyf beats.
-4 Delver of Secrets
-1 Spell Pierce
+1 Ancient Grudge
+2 True-Name Nemesis
Game 2 is the most incredible game of the day. I start with a lowly Nimble Mongoose but struggle to find a land past my first. I Brainstorm lock myself twice due to not hitting a second land. James also has a slightly awkward mana situation, leaning on a Horizon Canopy and Barbarian Ring, taking a pile of damage in the process to get things moving. Meanwhile, Nimble Mongoose keeps getting in there. I think I Snare a Goyf. James goes for a Life from the Loam at one stage targeting a Wasteland that was previously milled over. I Daze, forcing him to tap his Ring and saving my Trop from the inevitable Wasteland. I have a Submerge. Mongoose is loose and is getting in for significant damage. I opt not to play my Trop. James slams Knight of the Reliquary onto the table, only a 2/2 after his Loam resolution. I have Force and Submerge in hand. If I let it resolve, next turn it can brick my Goose by growing into a 4/4 via fetchland tricks on defence. But, if I draw a Blue card, I can Submerge the Knight for the free Time Walk and then Force it on the way back down. I take the gamble, since my one-land has made my resources already so stretched. I draw Daze for turn. I attack with Goose, play my Trop, Submerge the Knight. James, with Knight on chump blocker mode no longer feasible anyway, Dredges Loam. He uses Taiga and Wasteland to cast it, netting him a fetchland to find his second White source. Off the Ring, Canopy and White source he goes to one to cast Council’s Judgment on Mongoose. And I use my Daze. We go to Game 3 after a nail biter!
Game 3 is again tense. James starts with turn one 1/2 Tarmogoyf thanks to Mox Diamond. I play a fetch and pass. Next turn he goes for Zenith for two, likely looking for another Goyf. In response I Bolt his first Goyf and then Force his Zenith. Phew. Soon I establish Hooting Mandrills and Force another Zenith for two. Without these Forces, James’ draw of triple Goyf likely would’ve ruined me! Mandrills gets in for damage and then True-Name joins the party. James finds a Council’s Judgment for True-Name but floods out while Mandrills takes it home.
Round 6: Rick Paterson (BUG Delver)
At 4-1 I need to win the final match to make Top 8. I have no idea what my opponent is on – he has Green sleeves and a Green deck box so I’m thinking Elves… Notably, the scruffy bit of paper I’ve brought as my life pad he looks over at and says “You’re playing Hooting Mandrills?” I chuckled nervously. “Nothing hits that fast and in increments of four.” I was almost ready to say “but so does Tarmogoyf!” but decided to drop it. Focus on the games, Sean.
He opens with Underground Sea Deathrite and Elves is soon out of my mind. I think I kill the first Deathrite, Snare a Goyf at some stage and establish a Delver. He too establishes a Delver and we’re racing. Eventually a Deathrite joins his side but I’m able to cripple his mana with Wasteland and Stifle. I am falling behind in the race, however. Eventually I find a Forked Bolt off the top to kill his Delver and a Wasteland for his only Black source. Deathrite starts the squire beatdown while my Delver eats a Push. My opponent finds a Trop to gain some life before I Wasteland him again. Deathrite pokes me to four… But I find a very Threshed Nimble Mongoose to block his path. Archenemies stare across the table at each other but with my Goose hitting in increments of three Deathrite cannot beat it. My opponent draws no lands in the meantime. Mongoose is victor over the Elf Shaman. It’s the small victories that count.
My opponent understandably was scoffing as these events unfolded. I’ll admit, I got very lucky to draw the cards that I needed to claw back into the game, especially the Forked Bolt, though all of the mana denial coming together certainly is credit to RUG’s focussed gameplan. I can also imagine dying to Nimble Mongoose, powerhouse circa 2012, is pretty miserable.
-4 Delver of Secrets
+2 True-Name Nemesis
+1 Barbarian Ring
I don’t really like Pyroblast against BUG, since they tend to board out countermagic and try to out midrange the smaller Delver decks. Flusterstorm is a consideration, but Pierce’s flexibility against Liliana is much more reasonable.
In Game 2 my opponent keeps and I mulligan to six. I keep a no-lander of Brainstorm, Ponder, Ponder, Mongoose, Force, Mongoose. I need to scry for my first land drop, which sucks, but if we hit a land I will get there. It’s a gamble, but going to five with RUG is even worse. I thought: “would JA keep this?” and I assuredly thought he would. So I did. My opponent leads on Bayou, Deathrite and I snap off the Force pitching Brainstorm. Since I really need to hit land drops, Ponder is the cantrip I value most. I whiff on land, my opponent plays a Wasteland and passes. If he had a Goyf I’d be toast. I draw a fetch off the top and fetch a Trop, Ponder and see spell, land, land – exactly what I needed. My opponent passes again, their mana in an awkward spot. I play land and Mongoose. My opponent draws their third land (another Bayou) and slams Liliana, eating my Goose. Luckily I have a second which attacks down Lili. The game continues on with my opponent Wastelanding me quite a bit (I think he Wastelands me four times, vengeance for Game 1, I suppose), eventually finding an Underground Sea, me Dazing a Leovold and also Dismembering a second Leovold bringing my life total quite low. Eventually a Delver and Mongoose are racing and we’re in a similar spot to last time, with me slightly behind because Dismember damage. However, I Wasteland his Sea, Bolt his Delver and seal it up from there, with my opponent telling me of the Blue cards they had stranded in hand. Interestingly, my opponent later tells me there was a heads up play they could’ve got there with – Pushing their own Delver, Dazing the Push to save his Sea and then playing his second Delver to steal the race. A niche line for sure. I thank my opponent for some pretty crazy awesome Delver mirror shenanigans.
Sadly the only Melbourne boy left for contention was Trent Clarke, who lost a tough set of games to Aluren. The final game saw his opponent with a Rest in Peace on the table and a Cascade of Shardless Agents and other idiots overwhelming Czech Pile with its graveyard turned off. Nonetheless, it was great to know he was by my side battling it out in the final round, and kudos to him to making it so far.
So I was the lone Melbournian in the Top 8, with RUG Delver of all things. Many congratulations were given to me, and I was pretty excited to see how far I could go. And I was second seed!
Quarterfinals: Paul Long (4c Control)
This is apparently recorded somewhere and will be uploaded to YouTube in due time, but man, these were basically the perfect RUG games. Paul was on Czech Pile, but a version more Blue-intensive, sporting two Counterspells instead of cards like Hymn to Tourach. In Game 1, with me on the play, I began by holding a Spell Pierce which snagged a Ponder from Paul. I then found a Delver which I played and blind flipped. At some stage I was able to Daze a Counterspell on… Something (it might have been a Stifle on his third land) and then Snare a second Counterspell on my second Delver. This Delver flipped too and my opponent was on incredibly low life and few resources. They eventually found a Deluge to sweep my board – I Forced it, he Forced back pitching Leovold. Lucky for me, I had Pondered the turn prior and had a Hooting Mandrills coming up. Curious George soon took me all the way to victory.
-4 Delver of Secrets
-2 Spell Pierce
+2 True-Name Nemesis
+1 Barbarian Ring
I upgraded my Pierces to Flusters, cut my Delvers as always in these fair matchups and trimmed a Stifle. Triple Pyroblast was the big boon I had. Barbarian Ring is also relevant in these matchups because getting the lock carves the way through all the Baleful Strix and other rubbish that blocks the path. The only threat I’m really concerned with is Leovold, who gets Bolted, Blasted or countered some other way.
Game 2 I kept a strong hand with a Blast and a Fluster in it, as well as a Mandrills I needed to get going soon-ish. My opponent started with a Ponder, shuffled. I played a land and past. He cast another Ponder and I aggressively Blasted it. I like this a lot to hamper his mana development, and assuredly he passed the turn back with no land drop. I continued to cantrip around, finding a True-Name I let sit on top of my library and played a Flooded Strand. My opponent found a Sea and then cast Pithing Needle. Weird, I thought. I thought for a bit if my opponent was craftily going to name my Strand – it would actually cut me off Green mana and my second Blue source, making all my threats uncastable for now! But I decided to let this resolve rather than counter or fetch away my True-Name – my opponent brought this in for something on his mind, surely. Well, he named Wasteland and I was happy. Apparently he’d seen me Loam Wastelanding someone (Jiggens, I think) and was pretty afraid of that combo. I shrugged on, drawing my True-Name. I think I then had enough to cast my Mandrills, fetching away the top card of my library. My opponent then cast a Strix. I had Brainstorm in hand. If I found a Daze, I’d pull very far ahead by countering this Strix. And so, in response, I Brainstorm. And I found my most valuable Daze.
A little story behind this. Melbourne once had a German wunderkind in its midst: ANT player Lukas Diem. Affectionately known as “Chad” due to his absurdly good looks, he recently left us to return to the Fatherland. But with his leaving, he left a few of us Melbourne regulars some gifts. And his gift to me was a German Daze, Dammerzustand, signed with his name on it in gold pen. Even though he was many thousands of kilometres away, it felt like he too was behind me, with all the rest of the Melbourne Legacy community, backing me for the win.
After that, it was pretty elementary. I aggressively shoved my True-Name once I had four mana so I could counter any potential Deluge or counterspell back with my Flusterstorm (casting the True-Name off my Jonathan Alexander-signed Barbarian Ring too, heh!), and then I Flustered a Brainstorm that my opponent cast to try get back into the game. I attacked my opponent and Deluge wouldn’t even be good enough. With Ring in play and Lightning Bolt in hand my reach would get him anyway. My opponent extended the hand.
As we waited for the next round, little did I know around the other feature match table discussion about a prize split had begun. The other three players in the Top 4 had agreed on it and were waiting on me. I was a little uncertain. I honestly usually just like playing Magic and seeing what happens. I guess a Lotus is nice to have… I asked to take a look at it and realised how deplorable the Lotus’ condition was. A back completely scraped, as if it had been played in a school yard, I wasn’t very keen on it. I differed to my friends. Many were a little uncertain. But the loudest voices were those of dear friend Stephen Tang and Steven Stamopoulos.
Both did not want me to split. Steve said: “Do a Rodrigo Togores. Never split.” Tang wanted me to go for the full glory above all else.
Honestly, it was a pretty overwhelming situation. I thought hard for a bit and looked to myself. I’ve fought hard, but how much harder can I fight? How much luckier can I get with this shitty little pile of Mongoose, Apes and crappy counterspells? Surely Top 4 is good enough? Surely I’ll lose. How stupid it would look to be the only one willing to fight for the Lotus and then be knocked out by Aluren.
Rationally, I look back on the decision to split as correct. I didn’t want a beaten-up Lotus. The prize for splitting was pretty nice, monetary-wise, I’ll agree. But I became clouded by my lack of self-confidence about what really mattered.
And in the next few hours, what mattered came roaring back to me.
Semifinals: Jack Walton (BUGw Aluren)
Jack quickly left after the prize split occurred. I was keen to battle for glory, honestly. Already I felt the mood settle. We were now “playing for fun” and the tension was gone.
It was around 6.00 PM. Maybe catching the fireworks at least would be a nice consolation.
The Aluren matchup can go two ways. It’s basically like playing against the Shardless BUG decks of old. You need to really stop them from developing their mana and moving into their grindy late game of Agents, Strix and other roadblocks. Aluren not having Tarmogoyf is a big boon, and their combo is fragile to soft counters. But they can definitely overwhelm us with dorks once they get their engine going.
I’d board like this, if I had to fight it:
-4 Delver of Secrets
-2 Spell Pierce
+2 True-Name Nemesis
+1 Barbarian Ring
+1 Ancient Grudge
While waiting for the other semi-finals to finish, I stood outside of the store. The day had been insufferably hot inside, but a cool change had now come. A few of the Melbourne boys remained. Stephen Tang and I talked, somewhat bitter about our differing opinions on the prize split.
Soon enough, the semi-finals had finished. It was around 6:30 PM.
I doubt I’d catch the fireworks.
Finals: Tim Evers (UR Control feat. Delver)
Tim Evers is from Canberra, and has been making consistent Top 8s (and a Top 9) in most Eternal formats. In Legacy, he is known for piloting a very odd but strong version of UR Delver. It is essentially a Blue-Red Control deck, adding Delvers to ensure the deck has enough of a clock to fight against combo. I interviewed Matthew Brown, the progenitor of the deck, some time ago in TWiL. Tim has taken this shell and tuned it very effectively. This was going to be quite a fight, but my Green creatures would be incredible in this matchup due to dodging almost all his removal.
The matches are on camera and can be watched on Twitch (games one and two are at the tail end of this video, and game three is here). The first game has me ride a Hooting Mandrills to near victory until Jace bounces it, but I soon find a Mongoose anyway. I make a crucial misplay by attacking with Mongoose into the Delver – I should’ve waited until I found removal, I feel, or I could’ve cast a precombat Mandrills and passed back and then cantripped into Threshold again. My Mandrills gets Force of Will hardcast (which I should’ve easily put my opponent on) and he has a chance to turn the corner. I don’t throw a Bolt at my opponent’s face and kill a Delver for some reason as well when my opponent is at five. I get lucky and find another Goose that I’m able to resolve through a crazy stack and soon take the game with though. I easily could’ve played this better and was not focused enough. I think things would be different if we were playing for the actual Lotus.
-4 Delver of Secrets
-1 Spell Pierce
+2 True-Name Nemesis
+1 Barbarian Ring
Game 2 has me in a bind and leaning on a True-Name to get me there. Sadly, my opponent has a Pyroblast in the early game and then a Snap Pyroblast when I cast my True-Name in the midgame. He soon establishes his own and, no matter how hard I try to race, I cannot get there.
Above me, at some stage, the engine of an EA-18G Growler sounded, signalling the beginning of the fireworks.
I’d missed them. I tried to focus, but for some reason felt outside myself. Uneasiness crept back in.
A light that seemed it would disappear if we let out a gasp
The third game I also felt very behind. My hand was predicated on double Stifle being good, but my opponent played running basic lands. I eventually have to cast a Brainstorm to avoid discarding to hand size, which gets countered. Luckily I have a second to fix my hand and get rid of all the rubbish. Eventually I’m able to push through Mongoose, but my opponent has boarded in Sudden Demise to cleanly deal with these. Very nice. My second Mongoose also eats a Sudden Demise for three, but I’m able to Pierce this which forces my opponent to use a Force of Will pitching Snapcaster and fall very behind on resources. I’m desperately looking for a threat to finish the game, shuffling a Ponder and soon draw a miraculous True-Name that I can cast with a mana up to fight back. Tim has no resources to deal with it. He tries to race me with Snapcaster, whose trigger gets Stifled, as well as some Lightning Bolts which get hard cast Force of Willed twice. I screw up on the final turn of the game. I should’ve let the Bolt resolve and Snapcaster hit me to one life. Since I countered the Bolt I left myself open to dying to Price of Progress. But Tim draws a land and extends the hand.
The crowd roared. I realised now that all of my friends had reassembled to watch the finals. Because I was in it. Many had gone back to the accommodation after dropping. Others had gone to the pub. But for this moment, they had reassembled. Why were they so happy? This was a faux victory anyway. We’d already prize split.
But then, I realised.
This roar of the crowd, the congratulation from friends.
These were my fireworks.
I should’ve fought for the Lotus. Not because I wanted it. Not because splitting wasn’t the best EV. I realised then that Stephen Tang’s words weren’t to pressure me, nor to scold me. They were to make me remember why we were here in Brisbane. Why we had gathered all our friends together and made the journey. Because playing Magic, with my friends behind me, and having the chance to take a symbol of the unity of Melbourne Legacy, that was worth more than any prize. That was worth more than any prize to me. I just needed to realise that.
From then on, I vowed to never prize split in a tournament again.
Like the night before, we partied. The wad of cash in my wallet looked so silly now, so I decided to burn some of it on Canadian Club and cigarettes for Jesse. We drank into the night again. We ordered Uber eats, and the driver stole Xian’s food. So we ordered more. I felt a tinge of sadness now about the tournament, but everyone reassured me. We went to bed at around 12 AM and woke at 3:45 AM. Like a blur, we were soon Ubering to the airport and flying back to Melbourne. The journey had ended.
I look back on the tournament as exactly what I needed. Like Trent said, “I was due”. At a moment in time when I had lost confidence in myself and had become anxious about the future, a card game tournament lifted my spirits. Magic is a great game, of course. But I’ve known for a long time already not to place self-validation on it. More so, this tournament proved to me the valuable friendships I’ve made through Melbourne Legacy, and how willing I am now to fight for these.
To all the Melbourne boys who made the journey to Brisbane, thank you. You probably don’t realise, but all the banter and good times mean an incredible amount to me.
To all of those who greeted me, said thanks for the podcast and/or writing, thank you. I’ll try my best in the coming months to produce the greatest I can.
To the Canberra crew, the battle continues. Always great to see y’all and keep up the great work!
Good Games Brisbane, thank you for hosting! The Brisbane community as well, you all are a fantastic bunch and we’ll be trying our best to make our way to the events in future.
To all those who sent me messages showing support, especially the one I missed, thank you.
And thank you, dear person, for reading!
We watched fireworks blooming in the night
By Sean Brown