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Clayton Lin: Weighing In

Adventures in Cardboard: Magic: The Gathering- Game Day Amonkhet

Andrew Ryan

Between four sets of this cardboard based addiction, helping a player win two such events, I finally got to earn one. Goodbye blue Leela Patel Netrunner playmat, you have served me well. Hello, you Deem Worthy Ultra-Pro playmat.

I had been on a hot streak when it came to playing competitive level Magic. The week before, I was playing at a Premilinary Pro Tour Qualifier for Pro Tour Ixalan. In that room, I went red-hot, taking my own personal brew of a popular tournament deck called Mardu Vehicles, but in reality its less of a deck that revolves around Vehicles (of which there is only Heart of Kiran, of which I run 4 copies), than it is around just playing the best threats in my colour pie at every stage of the game. I made to top 8 of that event, and my prize packs very loaded with the best rares, mythics (I now have 3 copies of Gideon of the Trials) and one of those rare masterpiece cards.

The general gist is my strategy is that Toolcraft Exemplar, Heart of Kiran and Scrapheap Scrounger begin the early aggression, setting up a fast clock on my opponent and pressuring them into finding answers or play defensively. However the above creatures are very flimsy and easy to answer as the game goes on, so to further press the advantage, I run Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Chandra, Torch of Defiance planeswalkers which are difficult to deal with, and often finish off the opponent, and a pair of Archangel Avacyns to turn an otherwise deadly attack into a brutal counterattack on my end. Where it gets interesting is after the first game, where my 15-card sideboard, where I can choose to remain aggressive, or transform into a very different deck against other aggressive matchups. In essence, I am armed with a cardboard equivalent of a Swiss army knife.

So with this weapon in hand, a friend gave me a lift to the local game store. Good Games Joondalup is casual central, unlike its sister store down in Cannington, which is usually the byword for competitive. However on this particular occasion, everyone brought highly tournament-level goods. The challenge was on.

My first round paired me against Neil, who brought a four-colour control deck with all the good stuff, such as Torrential Gearhulk (the lynchpin of every control deck in this format), and other bells and whistles. The first game dragged on for ages, with both of us dropping threats and losing them not long afterward, before both of us simply drawing land turn after turn. He eventually dropped two Dynavolt Towers which generated enough energy every time he cast an instant spell (and a control deck is packed with nothing but instants), so I recurred my Scrapheap Scrounger, and then I had to kill my own creature with a Cut, and then passed the turn, and then went for the hail Mary and cast the backside of Cut- Ribbons, which makes your opponent lose life, depending on how much you paid. I tapped out for everything and hoped that he did not have a counter spell. He did not. Game 1 took 35 minutes, so I only had 15 minutes to win this one, and I was on the draw. Fortunately, I managed to curve out into multiple creatures that survived for multiple turns and finished the rout with 4 minutes to spare.

Second round, I was up against Michael, who brought a Red-Green Gods deck, which featured two of the gods from Amonkhet as the lynchpin. In game 1, it was a neck-in-neck battle that ended with me stabilizing with Archangel Avacyn and then Michael topdecking a Glorybringer to win it for him. Game 2, I kept a range of 3 mana spells. For 5 turns I was desperately looking for a third land, and I looked at board state and simply called it quits.

Third round pairing, I was up against Dan, who brought a Blue-White Control deck, once again featuring Torrential Gearhulk. The first game, Dan was able to answer everything, then pulled ahead with a massive card draw spell in Pull From Tomorrow. I tried to fight back, but he had cards in hand, and I was top decking, and a single Gearhulk on his end beat me for multiple turns. In game 2, I did the usual beatdown and won in short order, whilst in the deciding match, my opponent made a couple of slip ups with his cards, and on one very fateful occasion decided to lean over and inspected my side of the board, unaware that cards were still in his hand, and I could see every single one of them. Now armed with that knowledge, I simply rushed through and go for the jugular for the win, though I had won long before that with a resolved Nahiri, Harbinger on board that could just invalidate Dan’s enchantment based removal spells, as Nahiri can simply remove enchantments on demand.

Fourth round I was against Rowan, who I knew, was a lover of Torrential Gearhulk decks. In game 1 Rowan, casted a total of 7 card draw spells and I couldn’t keep up with that. The second game was just a simply stomp for me as he never found his countermagic or sweepers. The third game was a bit closer, but between a resolved Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and a Chandra, Torch of Defiance teamed up together to create an insurmountable advantage.

the best 8 planeswalkers on that day. All laughing for some reason or another. Or no reason at all.

the best 8 planeswalkers on that day. All laughing for some reason or another. Or no reason at all.

With 3 wins and a loss, it was safe enough to just agree to a draw with my fifth round opponent. We joked about how intense and close fought that game was.

Down to the elimination rounds, and I was up against Dylan, who brought a Temur (Red-Green-Blue) Aetherworks deck. This was the matchup I feared most, and the matchup I geared my deck for the most. All Aetherworks decks are the same (as is all control decks really), in that their game plan is to cheat a big indestructible creature that ends the game on the spot on turn 4. In the first game, my opponent couldn’t muster the 6 energy needed, so I won virtually by default. In the second game, my opponent managed to cheat in big stuff not via Aetherworks, but by a Champion of Rhonas putting in it from his hand (less damaging but still enough to win) an Ulamog, Ceaseless Hunger which I topdecked non-destruction removal for, and a Void Winnower (which screws over decks relying on even numbered mana costs such as 0s, 2s and 4s) which did win the game for him. In the third game, he didn’t find the wheel, but did survive long enough to play a Nissa’s Renewal, tapping out for Void Winnower the following turn. I had to sit back, calm down, do a little math, and then realized I had lethal, by blowing up his Winnower with an Unlicensed Disintegration (it is a 3 mana spell thankfully), and swung with the team.

The next round was another Gearhulk deck, and I was kind of sick of it by that point. Game 1 he found removal, sweepers and countermagic and I couldn’t resolve a thing. Games 2 and 3 went the other way round.

To win the game, I got to play Rowan again, who had beaten his friend’s Mono-Black Zombie deck (one that I wanted to face, even though my own online testing proved that it was a favourable one for me). This time I didn’t even have to lose a game as Rowan lost to his own deck on both occasions; the first he had to reluctantly mulligan to 5 (which means I’ve already won), and in the second, couldn’t find red mana, which meant he had no way to remove already resolved threats. Combined with Gideon and Chandra again, Rowan extends the hand and the playmat is mine.

In addition for that prize, I took an Amonkhet bundle for free instead of $60 store credit. Note to self: Always take the store credit. With no big events down the track. Time to kick back and do a little detox- as this game can get unhealthy 

Look at this nerd with his big grin. This is why I hate photos of me.

Look at this nerd with his big grin. This is why I hate photos of me.