The end of the Rivals of Ixalan Standard format approaches- and hours and hours of testing clocked in order to find the best machine going into the Store Championships formerly known as Game Days.
Whilst many eyes are on the final major Standard event at Seattle, the rest of the world who couldn’t make it had to make do with their local event. Usually I do one of these, but two were available on each separate day, so I said to myself why not.
Night before the event, cue the usual anxiety about specific choices in my given seventy-five, and then feeling better and more prepared the next morning with a good night’s sleep and a hot spicy bowl of instant ramen.
The first round of the day was against a player who had just thrown a deck full of Dinosaurs together, who was no match for the fast aggression of multiple 3/2s and creatures that soared way above the prehistoric beasts. The second involved a duel with my good friend Dion, who boasted that his Red-Green Aggro deck could beat mine, despite me replying that I had a positive record against it. In the end, I was proven right, and I closed the final game in dramatic fashion, producing the exact amount of damage needed as I was on 1 life.
The third round was against a local grinder, reasonably competitive player- and this felt like a real match. Game 1 my aggression never got to fire off and I was steadily being outvalued and a stream of reanimated creatures shut the window. Game 2, my aggression did to get off whilst my opponent couldn’t assemble his God Pharaoh’s Gift combo (wasn’t able to find it.). Game 3 was a grindier affair in which either one of us could take it, but a resolved Chandra, Torch of Defiance into a resolved Rekindling Phoenix gradually got me through.
Fourth round was against a Blue-White control deck that I had forgot to pay a level respect to, and got punished for it in the first game where I simply got shoved off by tokens from the Drake Haven on his end. Then I equalized the second game by presenting enough threats combined with my opponent having no answer. The third one was so agonizingly close, with him on 1 life and having successfully casted an Approach of the Second Sun, and then all I needed was just a little bit more damage but props to my opponent for playing to his outs, finding the same Approach and then windmill slamming it for the win.
I intentionally drew the fifth round with my good friend Dan, even though I was tempted to actually play out the round as I knew what he was on. Everyone in the top 8 did the same and locked our spots. We got our nice top 8 boxes depicting Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain from the upcoming set, Dominaria (which is a throwback to the game’s original setting- befitting the game’s 25th year of existence.), as well as the group photo.
First round of eliminations I was up against U/W Auras- the one matchup I dreaded and rightly- a combination of lifegain and quick aggro counteracted any ability for me to race, and it was no contest as I bowed out. My friend Dan’s U/B Scarab God control deck took home the playmat at the end of it all (and then enjoying a great weekend watching the Eagles win).
Second attempt was at Stratagem this time, but the turnout was much a smaller, but the player skill was without doubt higher, and more or less everyone brought a serious deck that would not be out of place at a professional level tournament.
My first round matchup was against U/B Scarab God midrange, which was simply a fair deck that revolved around its namesake creature surviving and then taking over the game, which was what happened in the first game as my aggression was stopped just as I was about to get there. I equalized the second by just having enough reach in the form of Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and then lost the third game very early on.
I won my second round with much ease, against a U/R spells deck that wasn’t all that good, but I took it anyway as I really wanted to get back into the game. In the third round, I tragically made so many play mistakes against UBR Midrange (same as round 1 except red splash for additional anti-aggression pieces) that could’ve actually swung the best of 3 in my favour, and despite winning the last two rounds, it did not matter as tiebreaks ensured that I would finish exactly mid-table.
With my season wrapped up, I got to sit back at home and watch Grand Prix Seattle unfold- and what a show it was- with the U/B Midrange deck, considered the best deck you could play, was nowhere to be seen as a combination of Mono-Red Aggro, B/R Vehicles and U/R God Pharaoh’s Gift decks colonized the top 16 places. In that tournament, a certain Gan Yan (Mono-Red) from China etched his name into the game’s history by being the first to win all 18 rounds from start to finish. And his opponent, Grayson Roberts (U/R God Pharaoh’s Gift), goes back to high school the next day, $5,000 richer.
Magic: The Gathering: Dominaria is the upcoming expansion, which I’m excited to open, and should shake up the tournament metagame heavily- even though my favourite aggressive decks didn’t seem to get any new toys to play with (which means some crucial dollars saved which I’ll need for a trip to Singapore, once for leisure/travel, the other for the Grand Prix in June.). I’ll do a pre-release for that one for sure, hoping to continue my winning streak in Limited.