I used to know how to play Magic. I really did. Once upon an Invasion Prerelease, I was good enough that cheaters lost games against me by not stacking their deck with the right cards. But, the years have not been kind to me. I’m not even Hulk Hogan level. I’m the fat guy Hulk’s evil opponents beat up on Monday nights. These days I normally find myself trapped behind the glow of two unnecessarily gigantic monitors staring at the blinking cursor of the command prompt.
My friends started talking about making a trip to Grand Prix New York. This would be the first big event since I returned to civilization. My local event wasn’t Standard, it was Legacy. So, I was going to need to study a new format. I knew what it takes to make the top 8 of a Grand Prix. Hell, I’ve even done it a couple times. I knew it wasn’t going to work. Screw it, I’ll let Facebook decide.
Play in GP NYC main event – Standard – with a real deck.
Play in GP NYC Legacy side event with Battle of Wits
FYI Side event also gives foil/playmat
Vote by liking below.
Andrew Stokinger Standard with real deck
Andrew Stokinger Legacy Battle of Wits
Apparently my friends know me too well. Battle it is. I spent the next two week in grueling shuffle training, learning how to finish a match before time runs out. Multiple 0-3 tournament appearances later, I had learned how to beat my deck into submission. Along the way I spent good money on a lot of awful cards, and I attended 6 local events in the weeks prior to traveling to New York.
For those of you who don’t know me, I have spent years building up a reputation that the normal rules of deckbuilding and strategy don’t apply to me. Years ago, when I stopped being good enough at Magic to Top 8 a Grand Prix and only played at local tournaments, I decided that the game just needed to be a little bit more challenging. Mopping the floor with little Randy Luckett playing Standard at my local store wasn’t fun. I didn’t have time to hit the big events AND I knew I would get smashed if I went. So I gave myself new goals. I knew I could beat little Randy. But I didn’t want to beat him anymore, I wanted to win. Thus began my fascination with cards that cause me to win the game instead of my opponent losing. I started tracking my kills on a Coalition Victory with kill ticks, and never looked back.
This is how I ended up in the Meadowlands Exposition Center, watching the main event already underway, running around the room trying to find lands that will make my deck more… fetching.
Battle of Wits
What the heck is this deck trying to do? It’s a Birthing Pod Deck that happens to have another 186 cards in it that you always wanted to add but never had space for. The search effects either search the sideboard or put something directly into play. There are no tutors to get a Battle of Wits into your hand. It’s much easier to get a creature into play than an enchantment, so the point of the deck is to search for Academy Rector, then use it to get the Battle of Wits.
The giant pile of “silver bullet” or “tool box” creatures in the deck are there to assure that for every situation in which you might be about to lose the game, there is an option for you to get. There are many choices in this deck that are there just because they are best answer that is a green creature and can be searched for with Green Sun’s Zenith or Natural Order. It’s strange what can happen in testing this deck verses what happened in the tournament itself. In all the previous tournaments, Bring to Light was a cornerstone of the deck, and caused me to add the Supreme Verdict and The Mimeoplasm so I would have more powerful targets in those rare cases when searching for Academy Rector meant I would just lose next turn.
Round 1: Jonathan Savarese – Grixis Delver
There is that moment of disbelief. When the players walk up to the table as you are shuffling, and they make that #omgbeckylookatthis face. The way all the other players’ faces lit up when the saw the size of my deck was and will always be priceless. Multiple people were excited just to be able to sit next to me and watch me play with it. I knew I had made the right choice. This is what Magic is about: Having fun and trying to do what others say can’t be done.
I continued playing threats, which at this point started to get countered. Both my Natural Order, sacrificing the Spore Frog, and an Academy Rector are stopped by a Daze. You think I would have learned the first time, but at this point I start to get distracted. Someone in the general vicinity of our match, someone’s intestinal fortitude lost it’s will to live. Everyone at the table began accusing each other of busting ass. We gave up and blamed it on some deviant crop dusting the area while walking by, but some players at the table were curiously silent.
I Thoughtseized a Force of Will out of his hand, and continue the awkward beatdown. Finally he played his first creature, a Vendilion Clique just in time to yank a Birthing Pod I had drawn out of my hand and replaced it with a land. But at this point I had got him down to 2 life. There was a struggle back and forth with me trying to maintain a threat on the board and him trying to keep a blocker up. Each of us was drawing off the top, with no hand. I would keep playing creatures or killing his creatures, and then he would need to play another creature of his own so he could block. Finally I dug down and came up with a Glittering Wish, and with 6 mana, I wished for Rakdos’s Return and burned him for the last 2 damage.
At this point the smell had reached the level where I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a turd on the floor. Remember kids, convention food isn’t just bad for you, it’s bad for everyone around you. I was able to keep it together, and I finished shuffling by the time he was done sideboarding.
Game two, his deck does it’s thing and I get beaten down by a flipped Delver, followed up by a Young Pyromancer. I get out a Knight of the Reliquary, but I’m stuck on three land. I Green Sun’s Zenith for a Dryad Arbor which the knight turned into a Maze of Ith to slow down the beating. He brings out another Delver, which flips the following turn and flew over for the win.
Game three he starts off with a Delver of Secrets, which puts the pressure on. I lead with Birds of Paradise, Green Sun’s Zenith for a Dryad Arbor. Turn three I Trinket Mage for a Chalice of the Void, and then try to cast it for 1, which gets stopped by his Daze. I get a Sensei’s Divining Top working and a turn later I get down a Birthing Pod, the whole time taking damage from a Mana Confluence. Then I draw an Academy Rector. At this point I’m at 6 life starting down a flipped Delver, a Young Pyromancer and two tokens. I have the Birds of Paradise, the pod and not enough land to make this all work. At this point time gets called, so I can give it some thought. I drop rector, then go to 3 using Mana Confluence and Phyrexian mana to activate the Birthing Pod sacrificing Academy Rector leaving just the Bird of Paradise left untapped. I get Omnipotence with the Rector and The Mimeoplasm with the Pod. I copy Trinket Mage, the only creature, and get a Tormod’s Crypt with it’s come into play ability. I use the Omnipotence to cast Battle of Wits from my hand for free. Then we finish shuffling the deck and I blind flip the Sensei’s Divining Top to draw a card. I peel Bird of Paradise off the top, cast it for free and pass the turn. Jonathan can no longer swing for the win through three blockers, and the Battle Racks up another kill tick.
Round 2 – Keith Boccio – Ad Nauseam Storm
Keith is a bad person. He thinks it’s okay to play unfair decks. Don’t be like Keith. I traveled all this way to play with my deck, not to watch you play with yours.
Game 1 I mulligan into an awful hand, of birds, swords… oh gawd why am I even typing this. I did nothing and he wait until turn a billion to combo my face off.
Game two, I am on the play and get one of the best hands I can hope for. I play turn one Birds into turn two Birthing Pod. That means on turn three I can get any number of creatures that shut down his deck. But, Keith is a bad person. Keith combo killed me on his turn two.
Loss 0-2 Record 1-1
Round 3 – Asher Kaufman – Sneak and Show.
“What’s up man? You having fun today” – Me
“Yeah” – Asher
I slam 246 cards onto the table one fistful at a time. “I’ve been having a blast”
I come out of the gates strong with a turn one Green Sun’s Zenith for a Dryad Arbor, followed by a turn 2 Wargate for a Wasteland. He had just played land and dropped into play both the Lotus Petals he had in his opening hand. I get a look at his hand with a Gitaxian Probe and see two Force of Will and Omniscience. The next two turns he forced each of my threats, so that he had nothing left in hand. His board was one land and three Lotus Petals, I had a Dryad Arbor, Deathrite Shaman and a Natural Order in hand. What do I do? Get Woodfall Primus and try to keep him locked down, or go for Progenitus and try for the win? I got Progenitus and passed the turn. He shrugs, sacrifices all three Lotus Petals and drops a Sneak Attack into play. I swing and knock him down to 7, and drop another creature as backup. He draws and asks me what life I’m at. I’m at 14, with a Mana Confluence and a Deathrite Shaman untapped. He uses the Sneak Attack to put an Emrakul into play. The Deathrite Shaman in play and the Path to Exile in my hand can’t do much about that.
Game two, I Green Sun’s Zenith for a Gaddock Teeg and watch him squirm as I slowly beat the life out of him. He finally gives in and casts the Show and Tell he has been holding. He wanted to get Omniscience into play, and cast a Griselbrand to block. I had been holding a Battle of Wits.
Game three I mulligan and keep a pretty good hand. He just plays a land for his first turn. I Ponder turn one, and set up a Three Visits followed by a Duress for turn two. He plays Ancient Tomb and casts Blood Moon. What. The. Hell. I only have two lands in the mix, and they are both non-basics, ahem… Mountains. I am helpless as dignity on prom night. Three turns later he dropped a Sneak Attack and Emrakul showed me what it’s like to make poor life choices.
Loss 1-2 Record 1-2
Most competitive players would give up at this point. But not me. I’m no where near done. That is the thing that changes in your mind. When you make the transition from caring about performance in the event to caring about racking up kill ticks on a card, things like it being impossible to win the event stop mattering. At this point in the event, I have become… a filthy, filthy casual.
Round 4 – Brad Neidowski – RU Stormchaser Mage Delver.
He starts out with a Monastery Swiftspear, which attacks for three the next two turns due to prowess triggers from Brainstorms and Ponders. I get a look at his hand with a Duress. This savage is running Price of Progress main deck. Price? That card gets me saltier than a 14 year old Call of Duty player whose parents thought spanking wouldn’t teach their child anything. Playing with Price of Progress is like that guy who plays Armageddon in casual multiplayer, then scoops to go home a turn or two later because his mom called. I can’t find an answer that actually kills the annoying little monk, and he takes the game with a Lightning Bolt.
Game two he starts off with a Delver, but I drew a Swords to Plowshares this game. He spends a few turns searching with Brainstorms and Ponders leaving me a little breathing room. Never leave a battle deck unattended, bad things start to happen. I run out a turn five Battle of Wits, which we counters with Force of Will. I play an Eternal Witness, getting back the Battle. When I go to cast it the next turn he plays Pyroblast to counter it. I play a Trinket Mage, and go find the Chalice of the Void to cast for one to stop all that flicking through his library he had been doing with Ponders and Brainstorms. He cast a Lightning Bolt in response, but didn’t have any other answer. I attacked in for the win.
Game three was long, and weird. Yes, weird even for a Battle of Wits deck. He starts off, and I use one of the two Wastelands in my deck on my turn to get his Volcanic Island. He has nothing for a few turns in a row. I try for a Battle of Wits, which he stops with a Force of Will. Then I begin to realize what is going on. He had boarded out all his real cards and brought in hate that is so specific and limited in scope he just kind of sat there and did nothing when he drew it. I dropped a Birthing Pod and he had the Smash to Smithereens to blow it up. It’s okay, because I was able to get a Voice of Resurgence with it first, and was applying the beatdown. I drew a Glittering Wish but I didn’t really have much mana yet, or any threat from him I had to answer. I wished for Slaughter Games. On the following turn, I cast it. He just let it resolve without responding, because he didn’t want to give me a token from the Voice. I named Price of Progress, which in my mind was just putting things back to rights, taking that dirty, dirty card out of play. Granted, I had been fetching for basic lands this whole game, but running Price of Progress is still up there with crushing potato chips on your friend’s hotel bed. I hit one Price in his hand and saw red blast and Island.
I continued to beat him down slowly with a Voice of Resurgence. Just as I get him down to 3 he plays a Monastery Swiftspear. He let me hit him down to one, and I drop an Academy Rector. He plays a Stormchaser Mage and has to pass the turn, and try to block.
At this point, time was called and we are in extra turns. On my turn, I cast a Trinket Mage. If he lets it hit, I can just get an Engineered Explosives and take out one of his blockers. He thinks for a bit and uses the Red Elemental Blast to counter Trinket Mage. He then proudly declares his creatures are bigger from prowess, and lets me put my token into play from Voice of Resurgence. Wait… his creatures are bigger? He is at one life? I attack with Academy Rector alone. Being at one life, he has to block. Either creature he blocks with will kill the Rector. I search for Battle of Wits with the Rector and win the Battle on Turn 3 of extra turns.
Win 2-1 Record 2-2
Round 5 – Some blogger
This round was a little frustrating and embarrassing. Things got so hectic I didn’t get to write down his name. It’s all for the best though. He talked about how he had a podcast about magic and was a blogger, and it’s just better off if I don’t promote whatever train wreck he produces. Let’s just call him Joshua Claytor, and pretend no one notices I didn’t actually play Josh.
“Josh” was playing a deck that was so confused about what it wanted to do, it was like he had only read about Magic before without actually playing any.
Game one I see Bayou, Wasteland, Daze, and Stoneforge Mystic in the same deck. I get to far behind the ball, and end up losing to a Deathrite Shaman and the Batterskull he gets with the Stoneforge. I probably could have played the game better. I had multiple chances to search for creatures that cost two or less and I didn’t get the right combination. At this point, I’m feeling pretty bad about my search targets, and still had a decent amount of respect for the deck that had just beat me down.
Game two was where it all went downhill. He begins the game mana screwed. I Duress and see his 6 card hand. Swords, Deathrite Shaman, Scrubland, Force of Will, Brainstorm, Meddling Mage. I take the Force of Will, because it my hand I have drawn the one Pithing Needle in my deck. He plays the Deathrite, and I play the Pithing Needle naming it. The game continues, and by the end of the game he had played all four Deathrite Shamans, and never once use the mana ability, which Pithing Needle doesn’t stop.
His turn two was a Meddling Mage naming Battle of Wits. No problem, I don’t need it to win. I play a Knight of the Reliquary, followed by Loaming Shaman and Murderous Redcap. After many turns, I attach for the win.
Game three, I am not proud of. The man could have beat me many different times, and then when he finally did play his hand, I called a judge and got him on a technicality. Even after than, he still could have won, and he threw that away too. I feel bad about taking the win that way. But maybe, just maybe, his 7 blog readers will become better players from the lesson he learned.
I lead with Bird of Paradise, followed by Trinket Mage on turn two, which is countered by a Daze. He plays True-Name Nemesis. The next turn he plays the second True-Name Nemesis and knocks me down to 12. I lay a fourth land and cast a Birthing Pod, leaving the Bird open in case he has Daze. He lets it hit and I search for a Tidehollow Sculler. His hand baffles me. He has Force of Will, Stifle, and Daze. I take the Stifle knowing that this shouldn’t work out well for me. Hell, he should have already countered the Birthing Pod. I sacrifice the Tidehollow Sculler to search for a three drop. He gets the Stifle back in his hand. I ask, and I am allowed to search my deck, no Stifle on the Birthing Pod effect. I choose Orzhov Pontiff. I carefully explain what it does (my copy is Spanish). I actually quote the card, no misdirection here. He says, “Ok, which mode are you choosing.” I had no greater hope than he would say those words. It was my one out left to winning this match. I reply I would like to give -1/-1 to all of his creatures. At this point he tries to Stifle the effect. The problem is, you don’t chose the mode of a come into play effect until it is resolving. We were past the point at which he could have Stifled it. Judges were called, facts were related, the judge informed him the time to Stifle was past. These are the mistakes you only make if you strictly play modo, or your friends are nice to you because it’s just a game. The next turn I activate Birthing Pod again, and he STILL doesn’t Stifle the Birthing Pod effect, leaving me without a creature. At this point I’m worried he will figure things out and I get a Murderous Redcap, so at least I have two chances.
At this point he is on tilt, and completely forgets how the game works. I cast an Abrupt Decay for some reason, and he Dazes it. He tried to put it back in his hand since it was an illegal target, which it’s not. A judge is called, and the Daze stays in the graveyard. I get The Mimeoplasm with the Birthing Pod effect, which he doesn’t Stifle, but he does try to Stifle the copy effect of The Mimeoplasm, which isn’t triggered, its a replacement effect.
Win 2-1 Record 3-2
Round 6 – Alex Lorenz – Lands – “All-in” version.
The first game could not have been more awesome. He is playing the super aggressive version of the lands deck with Manabond. He ends turn two with no good lands in play, and three Life from the Loam and some good lands in his graveyard. I use the Tormod’s Crypt I had in my opening hand to ruin his dreams. I get an Academy Rector down on turn 5. On his turn five he draws and plays his Dark Depths and just makes a 20/20 during his turn. I play my 6th land and Wargate for Merciless Executioner. He sacs the token, I get Battle of Wits.
Games two and three are absurd, and one thing is very certain. He learned not to make his Marit Lage Token on his own turn for no reason.
In game three, Alex uses a Mox Diamond to play two Explorations and set up a turn three Marit Lage. He waits until the end of my turn three to activate. I had dug through like 9 extra cards in the last two turns and set up the top card as a Path to Exile. I’m holding the Bojuka Bog in hand to be able to remove the Dark Depths from the game. He untaps and draws for his turn… Life from the Loam. With the land from the Path to Exile, and the three from life, and two Explorations, he is able to set up to make another Marit Lage token immediately, and passes the turn. I don’t have an answer for yet another 20/20 indestructible token.
Loss 1-2 Record 3-3
My opponent for the last round didn’t even sit down, he ran past the table saying to me and the match next to me, “You guys can just play him 2 on 1”. I didn’t quite understand at first, so I start out the 10 minutes until I had won the match.
My tournament result is bad and I should feel bad? No sir. I got four more kill ticks on my Battle of Wits. Tell me the last time you tried something that hard and got there? Play life in Hard Mode, go for the skill shot, and live the game.
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