This past weekend I was lucky enough to get to play in my first ever SCG $5k event. While this is by no means my first tournament of this size (~150 people), it is still always fun to play in these because the competition is pretty high and it is a fantastic learning experience.

For the tournament we piloted the same deck that we won Gameday with a few weeks ago and went 2-2-1 with at a PPTQ. I made a few adjustments to get the deck a little closer to the list that performed well at GP Indianapolis. The main benefits of this build are the increased number of Wingmate Rocs and the card advantage of Painful Truths (this card is VERY good).

Round 1 (0-0) vs. Jeskai Black
The first round of the day was a matchup that I felt pretty good about going into the tournament, Jeskai Black. I knew that their removal package was not well suited against our tokens, and as long as we could deal with their early Jace, Vryn’s Prodigys and Mantis Riders, we should be able to coast to victory. Game 1 went exactly as planned. Our opponent kept a hand with multiple Jaces (which we silkwrapped immediately and some spot removal, which couldn’t answer Secure the Wastes. While we won Game 1 fairly easily, I felt my opponent was playing very slowly, and in hindsight it was my mistake not to call a judge.

Game 2 was a grind. My opponent sided in tons of disruption, snagging a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and a Secure the Wastes with a pair of Duresses, but they didn’t have many threats of their own. We were able to use Shambling Vents and Knight of the White Orchids to get our opponent all the way to 2 life, but he landed a Tasigur, the Golden Fang which we were not able to deal with, and after 3 activations plus a Jace flip off an Ojutai’s Command, our opponent was able to get back 10 damage worth of burn and simply burn us out with spells. Again, my opponent played very slowly, and although I asked him to play faster, it was my mistake for not calling a judge.

Game 3 began with about 4 minutes off the clock. We kept a very reactive hand and were able to stop our opponent from landing any threats. Unfortunately time was not our friend and we ended up going to turns. It’s never fun to start off a tournament with a draw.

Round 2 (0-0-1) vs. Abzan Aggro
I guess this was my punishment for not calling a judge round 1, but I got to face my second slow opponent in back-to-back rounds. As my buddy said later, “what do you expect when you are matched up against everyone else who also went to time in Round 1?” Fair point, but this opponent was even slower than the first. Game 1 we got absolutely smashed by Heir of the Wilds > Anafenza, the Foremost > Gideon, Ally of Zendikar > Siege Rhino. I conceded after 5 turns, and game 1 STILL took about 20 minutes.

What came next though was completely unexpected. My opponent took a full nine minutes to sideboard. Not only did he not know what cards to bring in, but after he finally did decide, he had to un-sleeve and re-sleeve the cards because his sideboard was not sleeved beforehand. #facepalm Again however, the key error here was on me for not calling a judge.

Round 2 we had a favorable draw, getting our Gideon online first backed up by removal and Secure the wastes. While our opponent kept staying alive one chump blocker at a time, we ended up grinding out a win, again with about 5 minutes left on the clock.

At this point I am getting pretty tilted by two opponents in a row playing incredibly slowly, and I ask my opponent a third time to hurry up. We keep a sketchy hand for game 3 on the draw, and its possible that I was flustered into keeping because of the time, but it’s hard to say. Our opponent lands the Abzan curve again and the match is over before time is called.

Round 3 (0-1-1) vs. WB Allies
Obviously at this point I am not happy – I feel like we are playing pretty well and we could have won both rounds, but instead we are sitting at 0-1-1. Rather than cry about it I decide to buckle down and focus on winning the next 5.

Game 1 we are on the draw against a WB allies deck trying to win off Drana, Liberator of Malakir and a bunch of cheap allies. Armed to the teeth with removal, this matchup is a breeze and without any of the key pieces to the deck they didn’t stand a chance. Once I was able to land a raided Wingmate Roc, the game was sealed.

Game 2 wasn’t much different – my opponent kept a hand full of 1-for-1 removal but that is no match for a Secure the Wastes plus Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. This match wasn’t close.

Round 4 (1-1-1) vs. Esper Tokens
Back up to even and still playing well, we get to play the mirror for the first time ever in a tournament. Our opponent was running the exact 75 from GP Indianapolis, including the manabase, which I firmly believe is suboptimal and have adjusted in my own list. Game 1 we land a Gideon on turn 4 and an Ob Nixilis Reignited on turn 5, to which our opponent focuses all their attention on dealing with Gideon. While I can see what he was thinking, I actually do not believe this is the correct strategy. As powerful as Gideon is, he can be chumped or dealt with in other ways, but if you let Ob Nixilis sit there and +1 every turn, you are just going to be buried in card disadvantage. This game went pretty long, but as expected we drew probably 8 more cards than our opponent due to Ob Nixilis, and we were able to grind out the win pretty easily.

Game 2 wasn’t quite as close as our opponent mulliganed to 5 and we drew all of our sideboard cards, including a Dispel for their Secure the Wastes and a Dragonlord Silumgar for their Gideon.

Round 5 (2-1-1) vs. Jeskai Black
Going into round 5 we get paired up with a 3-1 opponent running a (no joke) 100% foiled version of Jeskai Black – complete with 4 foil Jaces and all foil fetchlands. This was no doubt the hardest match to learn from because we simply got beaten down so quickly.

Game 1 we go double fetchland into Painful Truths, essentially starting at 15 life. Our opponent lands turn 3 Mantis Rider into turn 4 Mantis Rider – leaving us at 6 life when we untap turn 5. We play out a naked Wingmate Roc hoping to block, but a Crackling Doom puts us dead very quickly.

After Game 1 I sideboard into our anti-Mantis Rider strategy, but I choose not to bring in Negates, feeling that while our opponents spells are powerful, most of them are not actually that effective at stopping our deck. However I feel like this is a mistake, as similar to round 1 our opponent is able to point burn spells at our face and rebuy them with Tasigur and Jace. While we are slogging through the ground trying to win off Gideon and removal, our opponent sits back and just burns us out from 12 life.

Round 6 (2-2-1) vs. Abzan Aggro
At this point we are out of the top 8, but I still feel like we have played pretty tightly on the day, and I want to get as much experience as I can from a long tournament like this – I refocus my energy once again and sit down against Abzan Aggro.

Abzan is an odd matchup for our deck because in theory we matchup pretty well against them, but in reality I know we have a losing record against the deck. In Game 1 on the play we land a turn 4 Gideon backed up by tons of removal, and for the first time all day I feel like we are completely in the driver’s seat. Our opponent is on their heels and is forced to use all their resources to try to stop Gideon. Once we Secure the Wastes for 6, the game is over.

Game 2 we keep a removal heavy hand and deal with every threat our opponent puts out. Luckily for us, we draw a Painful Truths to refill our hand with gas while our opponent topdecks the wrong part of their deck, trying to match our Gideons and Ob Nixilis with Heir of the Wilds and Warden of the First Tree. We beat Abzan Aggro fairly easily, and feel really good going into the last round.

Round 7 (3-2-1) vs. 4-color Rally
While the day hasn’t gone perfectly, we can still make Top 32 with a victory and go home with a very respectable 4-2-1 record. I haven’t played much against Rally decks and I know our removal doesn’t match up too well, but I know they also don’t have great answers to Secure the Wastes. My guess would be it’s a pretty even matchup.

Game 1 we go for an early Secure the Wastes and get a quick win off a Gideon Emblem: we simply get our opponent to 0 before they are able to start the Rally shenanigans.

Game 2 we go for the same strategy and it pays off…almost. This was head and shoulders my worst play of the tournament, and not surprising that it came in Match 7 of the day. (Another reason I enjoy these tournaments is to get the practice of the very long days). On about the 8th turn of the game or so, our opponent taps out and we Secure the Wastes with a Sorin, Solemn Visitor. I untap with lethal on board and both a Silkwrap and Stasis Snare in hand. I double-check our opponents board – they can eat a bunch of our tokens, but no matter how they block they go to -1 life, nothing can save them. I go straight to attacks and swing out with everything. Our opponent makes his blocks and we go to damage when my opponent says, “I got to 1.” After triple checking our math over and over I finally realize that my opponent blocked with Liliana, Heretical Healer…which has lifelink. I had two removal spells in hand that could have dealt with Liliana if I had realized this before combat. Rather than going to -1, our opponent gained 2 life off Liliana and stayed alive at 1 life. After eating about half our board, our opponent untaps and casts Rally the Ancestors for a massive amount of creatures. Even with our life totals at a staggering 29-1, I am not able to fight back through triple Rally the Anscestors and all the life our opponent gains off Zulaport Cutthroat.

Game 3 we mulligan to 5 and Duress our opponent and see 3x Rally the Ancestors. Unfortunately our reactive hand full of removal spells cannot do anything against Rally and without putting any pressure of our own, we get completely smashed – a shocking and pretty disappointing defeat in Round 7.

Final Record: 3-3-1 (51st place)
Patrick Chapin explains in Next Level Magic that if you focus your energy in tournaments on playing as perfectly as possible and learning from each mistake you make, you will enjoy Magic much more. While the losses are still tough to take, I try to take this philosophy to heart as much as possible, and it really helps after a day like this. After a long day, we played our matches pretty well overall and recognized every key mistake that we made.

Thanks for reading, now its time to get back to the grind and improving our game however possible.