Hello! My name is Mike.
I’m a member of Team TopDecked, an inclusive community of players all over the world who love to live, play and learn more about Magic: The Gathering. I’m also a recovering midrange player.
I love midrange. I love to grind. I love combat math. I love attacking and blocking. I love Thoughtseizing my opponents. I love being hellbent with a Liliana in play and scrapping in the mud for those incremental advantages with a deck that’s 53% against the field. However, midrange doesn’t love me.
In long tournaments I make mistakes while grinding with my opponent, or get a few too many subpar draws and lose games. I played Death and Taxes in GP Las Vegas to a disappointing 3-4 finish on day-one, and found myself missing the consistency offered by blue cantrips over a long day of Magic. I vowed on that day to set aside my durdly proclivities, and to follow two rules going forward for big Legacy tournaments: play [mtg_card]Brainstorm[/mtg_card], and be proactive. So, I settled on Sneak and Show.
Here’s my list:
https://www.topdecked.me/decks/88342cb5-7e48-4dbb-93d9-efbfba69e453 (Click here to import into, or view on TopDecked.
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4 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
3 Spell Pierce
4 Show and Tell
4 Force of Will
4 Lotus Petal
4 Sneak Attack
3 Ancient Tomb
2 City of Traitors
3 Polluted Delta
4 Scalding Tarn
3 Volcanic Island
1 Wipe Away
1 Through the Breach
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Defense Grid
2 Blood Moon
4 Leyline of Sanctity
The Main Event
I don’t get to play a ton of Magic, but I had some practice with the deck before this weekend. Initially I had tested the [mtg_card]Cunning Wish[/mtg_card] package, and liked the flexibility it gives, but I decided against it for two reasons:
- [mtg_card]Leyline of Sanctity[/mtg_card] is very, very good against my expected meta of Storm and Czech Pile.
Cunning Wish adds a lot of complexity to the deck for a questionable benefit.
- Consistent and streamlined is our goal, remember? I still included [mtg_card]Omniscience[/mtg_card] in the deck as a nod to [mtg_card]Karakas[/mtg_card], since it’s pretty tough to beat that card without it.
I don’t remember everything about every round, and I apologize to my opponents if I get some details wrong. As any Legacy player will tell you, almost everyone at these tournaments is there to have a great time playing Magic, and my experience today was no different. My opponents were all excellent, and I enjoyed all my matches immensely.
I and the rest of Team TopDecked from Charlotte (Lincoln Baxter, Mark Evans, Randall Williams, and a few others who attended separately) got to the convention hall early and went on a quest to find a very well-hidden Starbucks in the lobby of a nearby hotel. Lincoln and Mark had byes so stayed to enjoy their coffee and scones, while Randall and I hiked back to the hall to get ready for round one. It’s announced that there are 711 players in the event, which means we’ll be playing 11 rounds of Magic today. I repeat, ELEVEN ROUNDS OF MAGIC.
As a brief side-note, the TopDecked app has changed how I play Magic. It lets me brainstorm (pun intended) deck ideas while standing in line at Chipotle. It makes all my decks easily shareable with my playgroup. This weekend (and most premier events), the app actually pushed pairings notifications to my phone, so I didn’t have to mill around crowded pairings boards or desperately try to reload overtaxed pairings websites. I genuinely feel it’s the best Magic-related app on the market.
ROUND 1: Infect played by Michael (Win 2-0, Record 1-0)
SB: -2 Omniscience, -1 [mtg_card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/mtg_card] -3 [mtg_card]Preordain[/mtg_card], +1 [mtg_card]Abrade[/mtg_card], +2 [mtg_card]Pyroclasm[/mtg_card], +1 [mtg_card]Wipe Away[/mtg_card], +2 [mtg_card]Blood Moon[/mtg_card]
Michael was a fantastic dude who had chosen to do battle with Infect. After some discussion on who was advantaged in the Mike mirror match, we shuffled up and got to work.
In game two, my opponent has basic Forest, a [mtg_card]Tropical Island[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Inkmoth[/mtg_card], and [mtg_card]Noble Hierarch[/mtg_card] in play. I cast a [mtg_card]Blood Moon[/mtg_card] – this was entirely bait. In my experience most Infect players panic with a Blood Moon on the stack and will try to counter it at all costs. This usually paves the way for your combo on a following turn. However, my opponent thinks for a bit and chooses to let it resolve, correctly seeing that he is completely insulated against it and saving his countermagic for my combo. Unfortunately when that time comes, my hand lines up better and I’m able to get the win.
ROUND 2: Bant Deathblade played by Chavin (Win 2-0, Record 2-0)
SB: -2 Omniscience, -1 Preordain, +1 Abrade, +2 Blood Moon
The first game of this match ended up being the most interesting and interactive game I played all day. Let me set the stage:
It’s my turn. I’m at 3 life. I’ve got two [mtg_card]Volcanic Island[/mtg_card]s and a [mtg_card]Sneak Attack[/mtg_card] in play. My third Volcanic is in the graveyard already due to a [mtg_card]Wasteland[/mtg_card]. On his side of the table, Chavin has a bunch of [mtg_card]Stoneforge Mystic[/mtg_card]s and a Germ token equipped with a [mtg_card]Batterskull[/mtg_card], a [mtg_card]Sword of Fire and Ice[/mtg_card], AND an [mtg_card]Umezawa’s Jitte[/mtg_card] with 2 counters. The whole equipment trifecta.
I activate Sneak Attack to put a [mtg_card]Griselbrand[/mtg_card] into play and attack for 7, going to 10. I then draw 7 cards, finding a bunch of nonsense and two Griselbrands. This takes me back down to 3 life and I pass the turn.
Chavin untaps and swings in with his vigilance, lifelinking, pro-red, pro-blue 6/6. I Sneak in a Griselbrand and block, putting me back at 10 and him at basically a million. He uses a Jitte counter to pump and save his Germ, and passes the turn back with his Jitte on 3 counters.
I draw [mtg_card]Brainstorm[/mtg_card]. I tap a Volcanic Island and cast it, finding an [mtg_card]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/mtg_card]. I play a [mtg_card]Polluted Delta[/mtg_card] and look down at my mana – if I Sneak in the Emrakul and attack, my opponent can sacrifice all his lands and chaff to still keep the huge Batterskull in play. This kills me next turn on the swing back. In a perfect world I can just Sneak in both the Emrakul and Griselbrand and win the game right there – however, I only have one untapped Volc and a Polluted Delta, which can’t fetch my basic Mountain! And my third Volc is already in the graveyard due to my opponent’s Wasteland, so I can’t fetch that. Wait a second …
I Sneak in Emrakul and attack. My opponent predictably sacrifices his whole board except the equipped-up Germ. I end my turn, Emrakul goes to the graveyard, and her shuffle trigger resolves – which lets me reshuffle my beautiful, beautiful third Volcanic Island back into my library.
My opponent attacks on his turn, but I use my Delta to fetch my newly-reshuffled Volcanic Island and Sneak in Griselbrand to block. I draw 7 cards (going to 2), gain 7 life (going to 9), and find another Emmy to close the game out next turn. Whew!
ROUND 3: ANT played by Spencer (Win 2-1, Record 3-0)
SB: Game Three -2 Omniscience, -1 Jace, -2 Preordain, + 4 Leyline of Sanctity +1 Pyroclasm
Game one I have a super-fast combo and Spencer just plays some fetch lands and cantrips, not really showing me anything. I incorrectly put him on some Grixis nonsense, and board in Blood Moons since I didn’t see any basics. Spencer then proceeds to kill me on turn 3 with a lethal [mtg_card]Tendrils of Agony[/mtg_card]. Hmm.
I start game 3 with a Leyline in play. It’s not impossible for them to win through it, but they can’t rip your hand apart with [mtg_card]Gitaxian Probe[/mtg_card]/[mtg_card]Cabal Therapy[/mtg_card] shenanigans to make their combo free. He tries to go for it with Empty the Warrens, but I have the [mtg_card]Force of Will[/mtg_card] for his last [mtg_card]Infernal Tutor[/mtg_card] and win shortly after.
ROUND 4: Elves! by played by Xin (Win 2-1, Record 4-0)
SB: -2 Omniscience, -1 Jace, -3 Spell Pierce, +2 Pyroclasm, +2 Blood Moon, +1 Cage, +1 Abrade
Xin flew all the way in from Beijing for the weekend. He also says he lost his win-and-in for top 8 in the Vintage on Friday, so I knew I was dealing with an excellent player.
Game one my hand is ridiculous – Volcanic, [mtg_card]City of Traitors[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Show and Tell[/mtg_card], Sneak Attack, Brainstorm, [mtg_card]Lotus Petal[/mtg_card] x2. The Brainstorm finds both an Emrakul and a Griselbrand on top of my deck, so my second turn looks like this: City, Petal, Petal, Show and Tell in Sneak Attack, sac both Petals for RR, put in Griselbrand + Emrakul, attack for 22. Streamlined and proactive!
Game two is a lot more interesting, and involves Xin stripping my hand of combo pieces and then blindsiding me with a sideboard card I didn’t see coming, in [mtg_card]Choke[/mtg_card]. This easily locks me out, and I am slowly beaten to death by a morphed Birchlore Ranger. I also see a [mtg_card]Karakas[/mtg_card] in this game so I bring in Blood Moons for game 3. I don’t remember much about Game 3, but I think my combo deck just does its thing a little more quickly than his and I take it down.
ROUND 5: Miracles played by Anuraag (Win 2-1, Record 5-0)
SB: -2 Omniscience, -1 Preordain +2 Defense Grid, +1 Through the Breach
Anuraag is obviously a staple on the legacy tournament scene, so I knew I was playing against an excellent and very experienced Miracles pilot this round. He’s a very friendly guy and processes a lot of information in the game – constantly checking how many cards I have in hand, whether I’ve shuffled with Ponder and know what’s on top, etc.
Game one I make a big play error that proves costly. I know that I need to combo early in this matchup. They play lots more counterspells than I do – up to and including actual Counterspell – so if I sit around all day letting them [mtg_card]Portent[/mtg_card] their way to the perfect hand I’m just going to lose on the stack and get beaten down by a [mtg_card]Snapcaster Mage[/mtg_card]. It’s my turn 3 and I have the combo with [mtg_card]Spell Pierce[/mtg_card] back up. I try to run all the angles – what if he has Force? What if he as Counterspell? Don’t they play maindeck [mtg_card]Flusterstorm[/mtg_card] and Spell Pierce sometimes, too? What about Daze? I ultimately decide that it’s worth it, and cast Show and Tell. Anuraag casts Force. I triumphantly Spell Pierce his Force, ready to put my Griselbrand into play if he doesn’t have another counter … and he just taps two mana and pays for my Spell Pierce.
This was a possibility that I had not considered in my mental calculus. Awkward. After this, I have no other action and I end up getting beaten down by a Snapcaster Mage.
Games two and three are decided by [mtg_card]Defense Grid[/mtg_card]. This card is similar to Blood Moon in that it’s a must-counter for them. You often run it out before you go for the combo. If it resolves, then you’re in great shape to win the game from there – if they counter it, then it helps pave the way for the rest of your combo. Anuraag also missed his third land drop in game 3 which didn’t help him. After I resolve Defense Grid and combo off, he shows me a hand flush with Flusterstorms and [mtg_card]Pyroblast[/mtg_card]s – without the Grid, it would be about a hundred years before I could resolve a blue sorcery, so I got lucky there.
At this point I’m starting to get nervous. I’m 5-0 with 6 rounds left to play and I’ve already beaten some great players. I had flashbacks to Vegas, and I just knew it was time for the wheels to fall off this run.
ROUND 6: Grixis Delver played by Brian (Loss 0-2, Record 5-1)
SB: -2 Omniscience, -1 Jace, -3 Preordain, -2 Spell Pierce, -1 Emrakul, +4 Leyline, +2 Blood Moon, +2 Pyroclasm, +1 Abrade
The wheels fall off. My deck treats me very poorly, and Brian has all the answers through the various countermagic and discard offered by Grixis Delver. He doesn’t even have to put me under that much of a clock – I never even saw the card [mtg_card]Delver of Secrets[/mtg_card], I just get drained out by [mtg_card]Deathrite Shaman[/mtg_card]s. I didn’t even know he was playing Delver until I asked him at the end. His response was “Yeah, there are Delvers in here. Guess I didn’t need ‘em.” With the way our draws lined up, this was excruciatingly true.
I also feel I sideboarded incorrectly here. Leyline is a decent idea to stop discard and Diabolic Edict, but I think you’re more concerned about countermagic, so they should have been Defense Grids instead. I make a mental note to make this change if I face Grixis Delver again. It didn’t help that in game 2 I mulled to 6 and had two Leylines which was effectively a mull to 4, and then I drew the third Leyline. Brian went on to make top 8 of the event.
ROUND 7: Infect played by Daniel (Loss 0-2, Record 5-2)
SB: -2 Omniscience, -1 Jace, -3 Preordain, +1 Abrade, +2 Pyroclasm, +1 Wipe Away, +2 Blood Moon
Daniel is a super positive and friendly dude who was using pink sleeves, a pink deck box, and wearing a pink shirt. He tried to convince me this was sheer coincidence.
Game one he plays a very beautiful foreign white border Tropical Island and kills me very quickly with a double [mtg_card]Invigorate[/mtg_card] + exalted trigger [mtg_card]Glistener Elf[/mtg_card] on turn 3. On game two he kills me at about the same speed, with double Force + Spell Pierce backup for his pump spells. Streamlined and proactive!
I discover at this point that Daniel’s friend at the tournament is the same fellow who knocked me out of the finals of a Eternal Weekend bye trial I played at GenCon early this year. Like Daniel, he was an incredibly friendly person and excellent player, and I’m now 0-2 lifetime against their team.
I take a deep breath. I’ve now picked up my second loss, so my top 8 dreams are likely dead. This is actually pretty liberating! I don’t have to sweat about any result, and I can just focus on playing tight. As long as I’m happy with my play at the end of the day, I’ll feel pretty good about the tournament.
ROUND 8: Food Chain played by Steven (Win 2-0, Record 6-2)
SB: -2 Omniscience, -2 Spell Pierce, +4 Leyline
These games are pretty non-interactive for the most part. I’m just faster than him and don’t care too much about 3/3 fliers for 4 mana if he’s not going for his combo. Steven also gets stuck on two lands in game one despite casting a Brainstorm and a [mtg_card]Manipulate Fate[/mtg_card], so he can’t really fight back when I go for the Show and Tell.
Game two I bring in Leylines to combat his discard, which has the added bonus of preventing him from shooting me bunch of times with an arbitrarily large [mtg_card]Walking Ballista[/mtg_card]. This also pays dividends after I Show’ an Emrakul into play and pass the turn, and my opponent flips over the [mtg_card]Diabolic Edict[/mtg_card] on top of his deck.
ROUND 9: Grixis Delver played by Eric (Win 2-0, Record 7-2)
SB: -2 Omniscience, -1 Jace, -1 Preordain, -3 Spell Pierce, +2 Blood Moon, +2 Pyroclasm, +2 Defense Grid, +1 Abrade
It’s now around 7:00 PM, and we’ve been playing Magic for 11 hours. People are getting tired, and mistakes are being made.
In game one my opponent is at 17 life, and he has me at 3 with a bunch of [mtg_card]Young Pyromancer[/mtg_card] elemental tokens and a [mtg_card]True-Name Nemesis[/mtg_card] on his side of the field. I have a Sneak Attack in play and an Emrakul in hand, and I figure I’m pretty much toast – he has plenty of lands and elementals to sac to the Annihilator trigger and just swing back with his TNN to kill me. Oh well, might as well go through the motions right?
Activate Sneak Attack. Put in Emrakul. Move to combat. Attack, trigger. My opponent concedes, scooping up his cards and reaching for his sideboard. I ask again to confirm he’s conceding, and he quickly realizes his mistake – he had me dead on board but didn’t actually do the math on the Emrakul trigger. People are just very accustomed to being dead when an Emrakul attacks, but (rarely) can keep playing after – always do the math folks!
I wish I could say my new sideboard plan pays dividends here, but I never see the Grids. Abrade does a lot of work and kills a Young Pyromancer before it can get out of hand, and buys me enough time to combo off.
ROUND 10: Grixis Delver played by Mike (Win 2-0, Record 8-2)
SB: -2 Omniscience, -1 Jace, -1 Preordain, -3 Spell Pierce, +2 Blood Moon, +2 Pyroclasm, +2 Defense Grid, +1 Abrade
This match is pretty uneventful. I win the first game by playing developing my mana to play around Daze and going off with Force backup. Game two he keeps an incredibly aggressive draw and ends his second turn with a Deathrite Shaman, Young Pyromancer, and an unflipped Delver in play. In my hand is Abrade and Pyroclasm. On my turn I play a City of Traitors and cast Pyroclasm with one colorless floating to play around Daze, but he has the Force for it. The next turn I am able to Show and Tell in Sneak Attack, Sneak in Griselbrand, draw 7, Petal for R, Sneak in Emrakul. He tries to [mtg_card]Stifle[/mtg_card] the second activation but I have a Force.
ROUND 11: Elves! played by Brendan (Win 2-1, Record 9-2)
SB: -2 Omniscience, -1 Jace, -3 Spell Pierce, +2 Pyroclasm, +2 Blood Moon, +1 Cage, +1 Abrade
I sat next to Brendan in round one, so I know he’s on Elves. Not just Elves, but his entire deck is German and most of his cards are signed – including his Foreign Black Border Bayous and signed German Portal [mtg_card]Natural Order[/mtg_card]s. Not only was his deck absolutely lovely, but he was easily the most skilled Elves player I’ve ever seen. There are a lot of complex moving parts to that deck, and Brendan very clearly announced and sequenced everything in an easy-to-understand way. Despite it being after 10:00 PM and entering our 13th consecutive hour of tournament Magic, he was also willing to chat and banter and was honestly a joy to play against.
Game one he makes a very, very small error that allows me to take the game. He has me at 11 life through various elven beatdowns and Deathrite activations, and has two Bayous and [mtg_card]Wirewood Symbiote[/mtg_card] in play. He taps his Bayou on his turn instead of a Forest to do some stuff and passes to me.
I Sneak in a Griselbrand. If he had both Bayous available, in response to me paying 7 life (and going to 4) he can tap Bayou for B, drain me, untap his Deathrite using the Wirewood, tap the second Bayou, drain me for game. Since he only left one Bayou up I’m free to go to a virtual 2, then attack to go back up to 9 and eventually find enough cards to seal the deal with Emrakul.
Game two this comes back to bite me and he punishes me for making a similar play. I’m at 12, and he has one untapped Bayou, a Deathrite Shaman and 2 Wirewood Symbiotes in play along with some other Elves. I fetch to Sneak in a Griselbrand, putting me to 11. He’s only got one Bayou, so I should be good to make the same play as last time and safely go down to 4, right? Wrong.
I pay 7 life and go to 4. In response, he taps his Bayou for B, drains me, untaps his Deathrite using one Wirewood, taps it to exile my fetchland to make B, untaps it with a second Wirewood, and then uses the B he just made to drain me again for lethal with the Deathrite. Damn.
Game three is super tense, as we’re very likely playing for top 16 at this point. My opening hand is absolutely perfect – Volcanic, [mtg_card]Scalding Tarn[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Ancient Tomb[/mtg_card], Show and Tell x2, Brainstorm, Emrakul. I play Volcanic and cast Brainstorm, finding a Force of Will in the top 3. I draw it and pass the turn. Brendan plays Bayou, and casts [mtg_card]Thoughtseize[/mtg_card]. I Force pitching Show and Tell. “That’s not good,” he says. On my turn I make a turn 2 Emrakul, and the game ends swiftly from there. I find out later that his hand was 2x Thoughtseize and a Surgical Extraction – essentially a perfect draw for him, and if I hadn’t found the Force off the Brainstorm I would have very handily lost that game. Geeze.
Final standings are posted and I see that I’ve gotten 14th place, which is good for $350 in Card Titan store credit.
This has gotten very long, so I’ll keep the wrap-up brief. The tournament was great, my opponents were great, my teammates are great, and the deck felt great. It met my two criteria and provided me with some excellent interactive games. The sideboard felt appropriate for the field, even though I don’t really know if my sideboarding plan was ever 100% correct. The main-deck Jace, the Mind Sculptor was essentially a 4 mana blue Mind Rot – I put in on the stack a few times but my opponents always Forced it, which was fine by me.
Lastly, I encourage you to check out the app [iOS, Android, or the web]. If you’re at a Magic tournament and you see one of us wearing a TopDecked t-shirt, please come by and say hello! We love to chat, and chances are we may have some swag to hand out as well.
Please feel free to ask any questions you have or tell me how badly I sideboarded in these games. Eternal Weekend was an absolute blast and I look forward to attending next year. Thanks for reading!
Great report and glad you and everyone enjoyed it !