Star City Games Invitational: Atlanta

This past weekend we had the Star City Invitational here in Atlanta.  The invitationals are always my favorite tournaments to play in.  You get to play 2 formats and it is full of good players.  I love how much more competitive they feel compared to a regular open.  It is really difficult to be completely prepared for 2 formats going in to a tournament.  This was the 4th invitational I played in so I’ve had some experience preparing for the dual format event type.  I figured I’d go over my preparation to give you guys some insight.

When I prepare for invitationals I like to focus on Standard first.  It requires the most work in my opinion.  Standard has been really dynamic this season.  From week to week there was a different deck that was on top.  Luckily for me, a couple of weeks before the invitational standard started to have a defined best deck in Junk Reanimator.  I know this is something most people don’t like, but when it comes to picking out a deck for a big tournament like the invitational I think it is WAY easier to do when there is a known best deck.   I like it just because I know I only have to test against A) the deck that is the best deck and B) the decks that beat the best deck.  I get to count out decks that lose to the best deck.  Also, it means that if I can’t beat the best deck, I know I at least have something I can fall back on that will get some wins.

I knew I wanted to have a reasonable matchup against Junk as well as having a good matchup against Naya Blitz because of the perception that it has a good matchup against Junk.  UWR and Esper were also decks I wanted to not be a dog against because good players like to play blue cards.  No matter how the blue decks are positioned people in SCG events will plays them.   I always try to stay up to date with decks that are doing well online so with that knowledge and the knowledge of how most matchups played out I decided a faster red based deck with removal and Boros Reckoner was probably well positioned.  Boros Reckoner is well positioned because it is good against fast aggro decks, but also provides a threat to Junk decks.  I played Esper Control in both of the standard opens in Orlando the weekend before and while I really liked my Junk matchup I didn’t like how scary the even the mediocre Blitz draws were.  The main reason I was comfortable in the Esper vs. Junk matchup was that Michael Segal (Disputed 10k Champ/Side Event Winner… but actually he won the big day 2 win a trip to Miami 10k tournament at GP Charlotte) and I had to hang out in the Pittsburgh airport for 6 hours. We only had 2 standard decks on us, Junk and Esper.  I’d say we played around 1000 games….

I liked a red list that placed in the top 4 of one of the Magic Online PTQs, so I started there.  It was fast enough (slower than blitz of course) to beat the Junk decks as well as having removal and Boros Reckoner against the other decks trying to be fast against Junk.  The deck could assume a different role in each matchup and that was something I really liked.  I don’t play a bunch of magic online, but for the invitationals I usually spend the week before on there trying to figure out standard.  I tried R/G, B/R, and Mono Red.  Shout out to Jeremy Piper for helping me with my MODO collection which let me build and test those decks.  I demolished my collection while testing limited for Grand Prix Pittsburgh.

Side Note on GP Pittsburgh: I 8-1d day 1 with no rare Simic, lost the bonus round to Gaudenis, and then 1-2d the first draft with a creature light Boros deck.  I dropped before the 2nd draft to head to the airport.  Even though I didn’t cash I was proud of my finish.  I’ve been historically terrible at limited and it’s nice when effort pays off.

Of those decks I had the best results with Mono Red so I decided to run with it.  I thought about the format more and figured out that I probably wanted to play Boros Charm to hedge against people wanting to play blue and Thundermaw to make the midrange matchups better .  I thought this was funny because it ended with me playing a deck almost identical to the Barely Boros deck I top 4d the last Standard Open in Atlanta 2 months ago.  The format is completely different now but I feel like it is back to a point where Mono Red is in a good spot again.  My friend Joe Herrera (he won the standard open in Atlanta a couple months ago) played the same 75 as me.  Spoiler: we went 7-1 combined with the deck on day 1.

Barely Boros

4 Stromkirk Noble
4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Lightning Mauler
4 Ash Zealot
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Hellrider
1 Thundermaw Hellkite
3 Mizzium Mortars
4 Searing Spear
2 Boros Charm
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Clifftop Retreat
14 Mountain

 

Sideboard:

3 Volcanic Strength
2 Electrickery
2 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Plains
2 Thundermaw Hellkite
3 Pillar of Flame
2 Boros Charm

 

 

In legacy I’d been trying out things other than U/R delver because I really didn’t like its matchup against punishing fire.  Also, the Stoneblade decks playing Deathrite scared me a little.  Deathrite Shaman and Stoneforge Mystic are both kill on site cards for U/R.  I decided I would get way more match wins with a deck that was in a debatable worse spot, that I knew in and out, than a deck that was in a better position.  I knew people would play the usual combo decks and that’s one of the reasons I like U/R so much.  Our fast clock with Spell Pierce and Force of Will is usually enough (I went 3-0 vs Sneak and Show in the Invitational).  I spent so much time on standard that I was really relying on my experience with U/R to get me there in the legacy portion.

My 100th time posting a U/R Delver List on this site

4 Goblin Guide
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Snapcaster Mage
3 Grim Lavamancer
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Chain Lightning
2 Price of Progress
4 Brainstorm
3 Ponder
4 Force of Will
3 Spell Pierce
2 Daze
4 Volcanic Island
2 Island
2 Mountain
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Arid Mesa
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Wooded Foothills
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Polluted Delta
1 Flooded Strand

 

Sideboard

4 Lava Spike
3 Surgical Extraction
2 Pyroblast
2 Sulfuric Vortex
2 Smelt
1 Spell Pierce
1 Price of Progress

 

Legacy is hard, really really hard.  Ask anyone that has played it a good bit.  I can’t emphasize enough how much deck familiarity helps you get wins in legacy.  Having lots and lots of previous game states to pull from is very valuable.  I like to think of myself as a good player, but I am nowhere close to good enough to pick up a legacy deck and play it optimally after only a couple matches.  This makes preparing for Legacy much different than preparing for standard.  I’ve played around 68 of the same 75 cards in U/R Delver since I started playing the deck a year ago.  So all in all, unless you need to learn a new deck before the tournament, legacy preparation is much less time consuming.  You need to make sure you have a game plan (preferably a good one) against the perceived top decks and understand how the matchup should go and how you’d like to board.  After that all you can do is play better than everyone else who probably have less reps with their deck.  I tell my friends all the time, “I’m pretty bad at legacy, most people are just a little worse at it than me.”

Now for how the actual tournament went… (I’m not going to get in to the details of each round)

I had a bye and finished the legacy rounds at 3-1 and then I went 3-1 in standard to finish day 1 at 6-2.  My friend Joe 1-3’d legacy and then 4-0d with our standard deck to make day 2.  That was awesome.  I love when people do well with things I’ve worked on.  After day 1 a lot of my good friends were at the top of the standings like John Farrow at 6-1-1, David Raczka at 6-2, and Phillip Lorren as 1 of the 2 8-0s.

On day 2 I 4-0d legacy; narrowly defeating Ben Friedman and Shaheen Sorani playing Esper Stoneblade and the one and only Phillip playing Sneak and Show(his only actual match loss in the swiss in the whole tournament, what a monster).  This put my record at 10-2 meaning I needed to 2-2 the standard portion to top 8.  After taking 2 losses, one to BBD playing Junk and one to Esper, I was bumming a little but I kept my head on straight.  I got a win against Max Teitze in the 15th round which set me up for a win and in against Ross Merriam.  This one was on camera so you can go find it in the coverage if you’d like.  I ended up losing game 3 to not make top 8.  I was obviously a little disappointed but I like to think of myself as a good loser.  This was by far the most money I had ever “lost” on a match of magic (at least $1500?) and I think I handled it pretty well.  I roamed around for 30 minutes and then I was fine.  The $1000 for getting 14th definitely helped.  In the end my legacy record was 7-1 and standard was a mediocre 4-4.  I still think both of my deck choices were correct except that I wouldn’t splash the Boros Charms in hindsight.  There was less blue than expected and the mana could have been a perfect 22 mountains.

Also, I won a PTQ a couple months back with a fun BUG deck in Modern.  I meant to write about it, but when I went to I realized I hadn’t played enough games with the deck to provide any real insight.  Dragon’s Maze will be my first Pro Tour and I’m very excited.  I’m going to be spending a lot of time drafting and figuring out the current Block format online over the next month.  If I come across anything I think is worth sharing I’ll do another post.

I always like the Props/Slops sections of articles I read so I’m going to do it.

Props:

  • Adam Prosak for being surprisingly awesome at Karaoke.
  • Lauren “10k Champ” Nolen for winning the Fantasy Draft we did of the Invitational.
  • Jeremy Piper for the Modo help.
  • Raphael Bell for winning his first win a box and being the most excited person ever because of it.
  • John Person (roommate) for doing really well in Legacy Open on Sunday even though his breakers got screwed when he drew in the last round for what we thought was top 8.
  • Phillip Lorren for crushing.
  • Michael Segal for suggesting this and editing

 

Slops:

  • Nic Glover for losing to Raphael in the above mentioned win a box….
  • Raphael Bell for making all the mistakes a new player makes at his first big tournament.  He left his deck at home so they had to turn around and he got a deck registration error.  #bodied
  • Alex Binek for being a responsible teacher or something and not coming to the tournament.
  • On camera Lose and Outs
  • Misbehaving tiebreakers

 

If you have any questions or comments you can put them below or get me on Twitter @On__the__Grind  (double underscore)

Thanks for reading,

Andrew Schneider