“I got gun shy!”
It was round six of Grand Prix Atlanta and I was in one of the best moods I’d been in in a while. Winning will do that to you. X-0.
For those of you don’t know, I won an SCG Open with Burn and have some top 8s with it as well, so it’s kinda become my thing. I couple weeks ago I was not entirely sure what to play for this event. People were playing Show and Tells and Reanimates and all sorts of powerful spells. Should I really be casting Lava Spike against that? It seemed a little suspect. How does burn beat a 7/7 lifelinking demon? The idea seemed laughable. “Time to play a real deck,” said a ll the little doubts.
At the StarCityGames Invitational I played a “real deck”, there were Wastelands and Savannahs, and Mother of Runes. All those cool legacy stables you see the cool kids playing. At the Invitational I went 2-2 in the legacy portion, with both losses being accounted for by my sloppy play and unfamiliarity with the deck. I played the Open the next day to an equally mediocre record. It was round three or four playing a 35 minute game one mirror match against Drew Levin I decided I never wanted to play that deck again. It felt terrible. I top decked a win and we drew the match but the whole time it felt like treading water. I like a comeback as much as the next guy but playing from behind isn’t where I want to be every round. It’s not where I want to be in any round.
Getting home was a nightmare. Airport problems and 14 hours made me wonder if making the trek to Atlanta would be worth it in a couple weeks. All the little doubts said, “just stay home.” I just wasn’t sure anymore. When I’ve written about mono red or when people ask me about card choices half my responses are “don’t worry about it, just kill them.” That confidence was gone. And it was time to get it back. I put myself on a flight to Atlanta and left the Maverick deck sitting on my desk at home. Here’s what was in my bag:4 Vexing Devil 4 Goblin Guide 4 Grim Lavamancer 4 Lightning Bolt 4 Rift Bolt 4 Lava Spike 4 Chain Lightning 4 Flame Rift 4 Price of Progress 4 Fireblast 4 Scalding Tarn 4 Arid Mesa 2 Bloodstained Mire 10 Mountain Sideboard 4 Faerie Macabre 3 Searing Blaze 4 Red Elemental Blast 2 Sulfuric Vortex 2 Smash to Smithereens
The card choices are pretty self explanatory I think. Vexing Devil might be the only interesting choice but that card was absurd with a capitol A. Turn 1 or Turn 2 Fireblast you happened 13 of the 16 times I cast it. The other three were Dazed and Forced twice. Not bad the new kid on the block. When a card has me wondering if maybe I’m happier to see him than Goblin Guide in my opener, something is up.
I’d opted to play other creatures over Grim Lavamancer at SCG Opens before but I wanted a way to deal with Thalia. He also gives you a little more flexibility against RUG and the UR Delver lists and early flipped Delvers and Goblin Guides can race you on rare occasions.
The burn package is the burn package. Don’t mess with it.
The sideboard is the only thing I wasn’t particularly happy with. Sullivan keeps hounding me to play Searing Blazes so I did and in theory its another good way to deal with Mother of Runes, Thalia, Grim Lavamancer, and Delver. It never did what I wanted though. I never played against Maverick so that may be part of it. I ended up wishing I had my usual combo hate cards in that spot and will probably be putting Mindbreak Trap back in. The rest is pretty standard, Faerie for Reanimator/Dredge. I like the unaccountability against Reanimator and you really only need to slow down dredge by Faerieing their dredgers, no need for crypt. Red elemental Blast is for Show and Tell and High Tide, not for counterspells, you want to side as little as possible so don’t just auto side 4 REBs against every blue deck. Smash and Vortex are for Stoneblade and Jitte decks. Vortex also does work against Show and Telling Griselbrands.
There aren’t any sideboard cards for RUG Delver. You don’t need them.
So that’s the list, here are the battles:
Round 1 vs Andrew Schneider’s Couch:
This is probably one of the more comfortable couches I’ve slept on, aided somewhat by the Jack and Cokes the night before. Props to Andrew’s cat for leaving me alone all night.
Round 2 vs Australian Bakery:
Everyone in the apartment had three byes and did the sleep in special so it was time for some delicious breakfast. We hit up an Australian Bakery a couple minutes walk from Andrew’s place. It was nice family run place full of fresh baked breads and friendly people. I got some sort of wrap, sort of like a fresh baked giant hot pocket. Would definitely go back next time I’m out this way.
Round 3 vs The Parking Garage:
Andrew lives about twenty minutes out of Atlanta so after breakfast and picking up flavored honey sticks from the local farmer’s market we were off to the ATL. Andrew parked in a garage and was a little upset when we saw a $16 sign after we parked. Don’t worry this story has happy ending as the attendant only asked for $5 when we left.
Round 4 vs Enchantress:
So it was finally time to actually battle, sit down, shake hands, where are you from? How many byes? And all the small talk followed. I won the die roll and led with a Vexing Devil. 16. He played a forest and Utopia Sprawl, it felt like getting punched in the stomach, visions of Leyline of Sanctity and Solitary Confinement. There wasn’t anything I could do about that now, so it was time to make him have it. Vexing Devil? 12. Suspend rift bolt. go. More mana enchantments. Upkeep. Trigger. Target you. 9. Lava Spike. 6. Chain you. 3. Bolt you. Game.
Game 2 went about the same .
Round 5 vs RUG Devler:
The delver match actually wasn’t that interesting, Devils did 4, Price of Progress did a lot and I played around Daze and Spell Pierce. Nice and easy.
Round 6 vs UR Delver:
He led with Volcanic Island and Delver of Secrets so I too quickly put him on RUG. And felt good about the double Price of Progress in my hand. When he played a Goblin Guide I felt a little worse but he thankfully had another Volcanic Island to make sure I had enough damage to do him in. Game 2 was the usual, just count to 20. As long as they don’t have a turn 1 devler flip then the mono red deck has a more consistently faster clock.
Nothing like a few wins to make you sure you made the right decision. As I was walking around the tournament hall with the half hour left on the clock I spotted Patrick Sullivan birding some matches and went over to say hi and report the good news. He informed me had dropped at 1-1. He had played some garbage deck and dropped because he didn’t like how it felt.
“I got gun shy!”
I knew what that felt like. Playing burn isn’t for the faint of heart. You’re doing something good but not overly powerful compared to the rest of the format. It’s easy to take that and always feel like you’re the underdog in every match. Sometimes it feels like everyone’s cards are just better. Sometimes its easy to give in to the pressure of wanting to perform at big events. Take the known deck, take the best deck, give yourself a chance, stop handicapping yourself. Those stupid little doubts sneak in and build up after a while. It happens to the best of us.
“What’s with these M11s?!!”
I had given my deck to someone to look through and Sullivan had spotted my embarrassingly average Lightning Bolts. I had at least replaced my Mirrodin Besieged Mountains with ones from Arabian Nights. The cheap Lightning Bolts and Italian Chain Lightnings had always been a little endearing but it is probably time to upgrade. For the time being I got to borrow Patrick Sullivan’s beat to hell Beta bolts for the remainder of the GP.
Round 7 vs Morgan Chang/Elves:
Elves is always a pretty close race. You’re usually a little more consistent and you have some flexibility with your burn in this matchup, most the time you still want to dome them though. Game 1 I mulliganed to 6 and was 3 damage/1 card short of killing him. Game 2 he had a quick draw with Umezawa’s Jitte, still a card short of finishing the job.
Round 8 vs Ali Aintrazi/Esper Stoneblade:
Ali wasn’t very excited about this match, but most people aren’t, Ali just knew what I was on. We’ve played once before at an Invitational and he scooped Josh Cho into the finals of the Legacy Open in D.C. Because he knew the deck he was playing then couldn’t beat me. He sat down to play this one though. This matchup is a little weird and played out accordingly. Sometimes they operate like a normal U/W deck and that makes things pretty easy. You have to kill Stoneforge Mystic and then dome them with the rest, easy. That was our game 1. Game 2 and 3 were more difficult. Their discard heavy hands with Snapcaster Mage, Capal Therapy, and Inquizition of Kozilek are harder to beat and make you rely on draws much more. My draws were not that great.
Well this was it, I had had a lot of win and ins before at Grand Prixs. I hadn’t won any of them.
Round 9 vs Mark Bondioli/RUG Delver: I won and was on to Day 2.
Round 10 vs Gerry Thompson/Reanimator:
I had dodged the boogey man all Day 1. I mean Griselbrand, not Gerry. But I was not too worried and had made my deck choice with this matchup in mind. Iona is the only creature you care about. What happened when old Reanimator decks got back Sphinx of the Steel Wind? You won. You burned them out before it did anything. Reanimate is a giant liabilty, they never get to draw 7, game two and three they can’t cast Show and Tell until turn 2 or 3. That is plenty of time to kill them. Game 1 Gerry did seem to draw very badly, discarding 2 lands off both his Careful Studys and snap shuffling off of Ponder. Game 2 he had the turn 3 Show and Tell and I had the 2 of Patrick Sullivan’s Lightning Bolts at the end of his turn. I had the 3rd and 4th on my turn.
Round 11 vs Aaron White/RUG Delver:
This match was mine to lose and I did. “Don’t keep one landers.” That is pretty common advice to newer players but we all know its not hard and fast. I kept two one landers and neither panned out. But an opener of Mountain, Goblin Guide, Lava Spike, Vexing Devil, Rift Bolt, Rift Bolt, Price of Progress, is hard to ship back. Learning to shake off those losses is one of the first things you learn with Burn.
Round 12 Dan Lanthier/RUG Delver:
The match was pretty close to the usual RUG match. He did blow me out with a Flusterstorm in one game, but I was careful to play around it after that. I thought about scooping to his lethal on board when I had no hand, and he was at 5. I didn’t think I had any outs, but drew my card for the turn, Price of Progress. Tropical Island, Tropical Island, Volcanic Island, no Wasteland, that was my out. He stared at his hand for a minute and scooped em up. Sometimes you don’t quite get there, but sometimes you do. “Unbelievable…”
Round 13 Adam LeGear/Charbelcher:
He won the die roll, led with Gitaxian Probe and I should have just scooped there, but I decided to stay and watch the show. Some spells, Empty the Warrens and 16 goblins later I was dead. Lucky for us we got a mid round deck check, and a nine minute extension just in case we went long. Game 2 took about 3 minutes including shuffling.
Round 14 Dominic Ceresanai/???
I honestly do not remember this match at all. Pretend it’s RUG Delver and I won very easily and don’t really have anything insightful to say on the matchup anymore, because I don’t.
Round 15: Conley Woods/Reanimator:
Conley offered the draw that would lock us both in top 64, but I had my eye on that top 32 spot. I wasn’t really worried about pro points and only vaguely worried about money. Playing Burn is always about the glory. The winner was likely top 32 and loser was still likely top 64. I won game one with a fast clock. Game 2 and 3 I had a fast clock but his was faster. He had a turn 2 Show and Tell both games off of a City of Traitors. I had Sulfuric Vortex to shut off his Griselbrand, but he was able to quicken his clock enough by also reanimating another creature both games. Game 3 he tanked for a while and Forced my turn 1 Vexing Devil… “I have no idea if that’s the right play,” he joked. He won by 3 life so it clearly was but the card clearly gives opponents decisions that are more difficult that you might think.
Free Domain With $6.95 Hosting PackageStandings went up, 68th. That’s how it goes sometimes. It felt a little bad at first to miss out on cashing but as time went on I felt better about it. I went for it and missed but I went for it. That’s what burn is all about. You resign yourself rolling with the punches to a certain extent. I’d spent months not knowing how to attack the format anymore. Maybe I lost to one too many Circle of Protection: Red at the last legacy Grand Prix. I got gun shy. I had been gun shy for way too long. It felt good to be back. If people had hate they could hate. Their cards might do more powerful things but they better have those cards quick, because this deck doesn’t give them an inch. It puts the pressure on, and keeps it on. One of the more subtly powerful things you can do in Legacy is ignore your opponent. No matter what people are doing in the format you can always win by just counting backwards from 20. And either way just casting a bunch of burn spells in a turn is a fun experience. Give it a try and your next legacy tournament, but bring a book for all the free time between rounds. And don’t get gun shy.