FNM Hero: Among My Own

Written by Jonathan Medina on . Posted in Competitive Magic, FNM

FNM Hero: Among My Own

Jonathan Medina

Jonathan has written for gatheringmagic.com and starcitygames.com (as a premium columnist). He captivated the Magic community as he chronicled his journey to trade a single pack up to a piece of power nine. Now you can find him here every week as he tells his FNM Hero adventure.

Last time we left off, Snapcaster Willie and Han Solo were giving me a hot tip about a free Friday Night Magic (FNM). I called the shop to get the details. I didn’t want to show up to a “mall” (some dark ally) where a handful of thugs kicked the crap out of my for my Magic cards. You’ve got to check these things.

“Sci-Fi City.” The voice was pleasant and attentive. I extracted information about the event. Here’s the tournament breakdown:

  • The tournament is free.
  • The prize is a Foil Dismember, but everyone gets a random promo card.
  • The tournament is only three rounds because they need to finish before the mall closes.
  • All players would get the special two-sided Human/Wolf token.

After I got off the phone, I checked the value of the token on eBay. They were selling for between $5 and $6.

One thing that I’ve noticed in my quest as a poor Magic player is that there are a lot of opportunities for door prizes and promotional cards. I never cared about this stuff before, but they have been a real boon for me and my cause. Knowing the prices of promos is a great way to grow your collection. Let’s take a break from story time and take a quick quiz.

Pretend that one of the awesome employees of Epic Loot approaches you because you won a door prize. They give you a choice between three promos (pictured below). Which of the three promos do you choose?

A new player might pick the card that appeals to them most, but picking the one that sells for the most money gives more options. It’s easier to trade the card that’s worth more for the the card you want and then some.

If you picked the Gather the Townsfolk then you selected correctly! Here’s how the prices break down:

Gather the Townsfolk $4.99
Despise $2.99
Ravenous Demon .99

Trading

Before the tournament, I wanted to get some trading in and make a few tweaks to my deck. I focused on trading for the first part of the week.

Trade 1

I’ve been wanting to pick up a Phyrexian Revoker to have an option against Planeswalkers. I also wanted to work toward my full playset of Birds of Paradise.

His ($4.48)
Birds of Paradise $3.99
Phyrexian Revoker .49

My ($5.20)
Skirk Drill Sergeant .25
Goblin Burrows .49
Sever the Bloodline  .75
Brutalizer Exarch (Foil) .99
Merrow Harbinger .49
Goblin Rogue Token .25
Faerie Trickery .25
Giant Harbinger .25
Elvish Harbinger .99
Praetor’s Grasp .49

Trade 2

I was playing EDH with Brandon Young Wolf and company at my place when Brandon started talking about his common / uncommon cube.

“… still need some freakin’ basic lands. Then it’s done.” Brandon said.

I laughed, “You really need basic lands?”

“Well, I’m sure I have ‘em, but I don’t wanna have to dig ‘em up.”

“Dude, trade for some of my FNM Hero basic lands!” I pulled out my FNM Hero box.

We looked up the price of the lands. “Look’s like they’re 25 cents,” I said.

Brandon laughed, “I’m not giving you a quarter a piece on those!”

I didn’t want to lose the rare opportunity to trade basic lands. “How about a dime?” I asked.

“Pull out what you want and we’ll see.” Brandon was laughing. I think he was amused by my desperation.

I wanted to keep my picks modest, so I pulled some stuff that I thought he’d be ok with trading away. After a small back-and-forth over keeping my Go For the Throat, this is what we settled on:

His ($7.47)
2 Rampant Growth .25
Hellrider $2.99
Mimic Vat $1.99
Glissa, the Traitor (Foil Promo) $1.99

My ($11.22)
18 Basic Lands .25
2 Heartless Summoning $1.99
Beast Within $1.99
Despise .75

Trade 3

His ($7.72)
Mayor of Avabruck $2.49
2 Corrosive Gale .75
Gut Shot $1.99
Oblivion Ring $1.49
Deceiver Exarch .25

My ($8.20)
Grim Backwoods .49
Avalanche Riders .99
Wirewood Lodge $3.49
Wren’s Run Vanquisher $1.99
Island Portal .99
Forest .25

Trade 4

His ($1.99)
Oblivion Ring $.99
2 Doomed Traveler  .25
2 Rampant Growth .25

My ($1.99)
Jagged-Scar Archers $1.99

Deck Changes

After the trading session, I sat down to make some changes to the deck. Typically, I like to stew on deck changes throughout the week. These are changes that I’ve been wanting to make for a while now:

Glissa, the Traitor Number Two – Glissa has been awesome, but it’s hard to keep her around. She dies a lot and I wanted a second one to have the option of fetching her after my first one dies.

Rampant Growth – This will probably be the most controversial deck change. I’ve been watching the evolution of Naya Pod decks and some are adding three to four Rampant Growth. Adam and Reuben Bresler were also running Rampant Growth in their four-color build of Birthing Pod. It makes sense in the four-color deck but the question was whether it could benefit my deck.

I like Rampant Growth better than Viridian Emissary because it gets the land now–not when my opponent wants to give it to me. Rampant Growth also lets me play more of a ramp-style game which gives me the speed I need if I don’t have a Birthing Pod. If I do have a Birthing Pod, it helps me take less damage on the activations.

It seemed like it could be good but I wasn’t ready to go all in on Rampant Growth. I decided to start with two.

Friday 11:30am

I was on my way to lunch when I got a text message from JR.

I’m thinking of FNMing tonight

JR never goes out to play FNM. Now I had a dilemma. Should I rock FNM with JR or stay the course and try to grind value for the FNM Hero cause?

I considered scrapping Operation “Free FNM” but I knew I had to stay the course. My chances of winning the free FNM were much higher than fighting at Epic Loot again and I was running out of cash.

For the first time in my adventure, this felt like work. It was uncomfortable, but I knew that if I wanted to win I needed to play smart. My deck needed to be prepared to win at Epic Loot before I went back. That meant finishing my set of Birds of Paradise and Woodland Cemetery.

I texted JR back.

Good luck!

Friday 5:45pm

After a quick ride down the freeway, I arrived at the Northgate Mall. I stuffed my car into a small spot on the ground level of the parking structure. I strapped my bag on and walked toward the mall. It had been a while since I lugged a backpack full of Magic cards through a public place.

Granted, every time that I go to a Magic tournament it’s in a public place. But, typically there’s a large population of Magic players around. Here, there was a large population of shoppers. I felt like an outsider.  Maybe it had something to do with the girl staring at me on my way in. She was puffing on a cigarette while she held me in her gaze. I made an abrupt turn to see if she’d followed me. She did. I was certain that it was the backpack. But now that I’m reviewing the situation, it could have also been my devastatingly good looks. Another secret lost in time, I guess.

The store was close to the mall entrance. I proceeded through the Stargate to another world. Some would call it the durdle kingdom, but I call it home. I was among my own.

I sat down to count my deck. In the middle of my sideboard, I was interrupted.

“Medina!? What are you doing here?”

It was a familiar voice. I looked up from my counting.

“Hey, DJ. What’s up?”

I met DJ at Illuminaudi and he sends me text messages about decks and trades every now and then. He was surprised to see me there since it was a free tournament for basically no prizes. I didn’t offer any explanation. I just continued to count my deck.

“Do you want to play some games?” He asked.

I typically don’t like playing games before a tournament because I don’t like showing people my deck. I’ve been suspicious of this attitude for a couple of years now. It’s a relic of my Magic roots from a time when Chris Ringquist (the guy who taught me Magic) would give me a deck to play and tell me not to show anyone until the tournament started. This was good advice since his decks were always fragile and the locals loved to pre-tournament sideboard against them.

I was hesitant, but I didn’t want to be a douche bag so I agreed. I reassured myself with this line of logic: ”In order for people to take advantage of the information that I’d provide, they’d have to mulligan. None of these guys seemed like the mulliganing type.”

We played a couple of games. DJ was running Jund (Red, Green, Black) Pod. The match-up seemed pretty even. I got the first game via Massacre Wurm. He couldn’t draw any action so he was just playing out his random mana dorks and other X/2 creatures. This allowed me to punish him pretty badly. I lost the second game to a misplay. I let him keep his Massacre Wurm which ended up throwing my math off. It turns out that sacrificing creatures to Birthing Pod is not a good idea when your opponent has a Massacre Wurm.

The manager made the last call for sign-ups and I hurried to the front of the store. After signing up, the manager gave me my two-sided token and printed out the pairings. He stood near the tables and yelled out the pairings. We all found our opponents and sat down. I knew that this wasn’t a hard-core tournament spot when the announcements started like this:

“Welcome to Friday Night Magic. This is a Standard tournament so your deck needs to be Standard legal. You must use the same deck for the whole tournament, no switching between rounds.”

Round 1 – WB Tokens

I had played my opponent before at a bigger tournament. He said, “We played in Cincinnati right?” I confirmed as I shuffled up for the match. We made small talk. The guy is a  pretty nice guy. Once we got the green light to start, it was down to business.

Game 1

I played a Birds followed by a Viridian Emissary to match his Doomed Traveler and Honor of the Pure. I traded my Emissary for his Doomed Traveler which left a 2/2 Spirit behind.  My plan was to Massacre Wurm his 2/2 but he played an Intangible Virtue before I could. I played a land and dropped the Wurm with a plan to race. He smashed me for three in the air. I drew a Sheoldred for the turn and dropped it on the board. He couldn’t overcome the Viridian Emissary recursion that ensued. Okay, maybe it was more the Edict effect and the two six-power guys that I had on the board. But who’s counting?

Game 2

I boarded in my Bitterheart Witch and Curse of Death’s Hold. My opponent had a slow start with a Doomed Traveler and then no other action until a turn-three Lingering Souls. He smashed me then flashed back Souls. I “ramped” into a turn four Bitterheart Witch. He picked up the card to read it, and then sighed.

I was on pins and needles. “Don’t draw an Anthem. Don’t draw and Anthem,” I chanted to myself.

He drew.

The hope drained from his face. He shuffled the card into his hand, then smashed me for five. Disappointed, he played another Doomed Traveler.

I untapped and swung with my Witch. He was relieved to see me pass the turn with no Birthing Pod play. There was a little more pep in his step. He swung again.  In response, I cast Go For the Throat on my Witch. Bitterheart Witch‘s ability allowed me to search up a Curse of Death’s Hold and wipe his board (and break his heart). He never drew an Anthem effect and I smashed him with little guys.

1-0

What did I learn?

The power of Curse of Death’s Hold makes me want Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite pretty badly.

Round 2 – WB Tokens

My next opponent was helping someone with a judge question before he settled in to shuffle. It turns out that he’s a level one judge. A small tingle of worry started to work its way through my mind. Then I remember the saying: “Those who can’t play, judge.” That calmed my nerves as I shuffled.

“Are you with Legit MTG?” he asked.

I was more than slightly amused by this. “With?” I asked with curiosity.

“Yeah, like are you part of the Legit MTG team?”

This was fun, but I didn’t have the heart to keep stringing him along. “I own Legit MTG.”

“Really?” he asked skeptically.

“Yeah.” I gave him a smirk as I shuffled my penny sleeves.

Game 1

I don’t have to talk about my plays since they were totally irrelevant. This was his opener:

Turn one, Champion of the Parish.
Turn two, Gather the Townsfolk.
Turn three, Honor of the Pure.
Turn four, I tilt.

He asked, “No Beta?” when I played my white bordered, 7th edition Birds of Paradise.

Game 2

This game was a grind. He was beating the crap out of me with a Mirran Crusader and a Doomed Traveler powered up by an Honor of the Pure. I had a couple of Birthing Pods but very little action. Finally, I drew into a Phyrexian Metamorph. I was at 5 life. Playing the Metamorph would put me at 3, which means a second Honor of the Pure would make either of his dudes big enough to kill me.

Doing nothing would also kill me.

I played a Metamorph and copied Mirran Crusader, and then I sacrificed it to Birthing Pod to get a Solemn Simulacrum. I fetched my land and used my last untapped land (and a Phyrexian Mana, ouch!) to go all in on Precursor Golem. I drew an Acidic Slime off the Solemn.

I was at one life, facing down the bane of my existence (Mirran Crusader) and a 2/2 Doomed Traveler. He swung. I threw a golem under the bus and killed his Doomed Traveler. He played a Plains and passed the turn. I did the happy dance and slid the top card off my deck face down. I didn’t need any more cards to crush this guy. I slammed the Slime and blew up his Honor, then I sacrificed it to Birthing Pod.

I started thumbing through my deck for my Massacre Wurm. The first pass was unsuccessful. I quickly thumbed through again.

Oh, no!

I had that moment of panic when you realize the one Birthing Pod target that you need might be in your hand. I flipped over the card that I drew for the turn.

Strangleroot Geist

What? I went through my deck again. “Oh, here it is!” I said, relieved. My opponent was probably doing the happy dance until my unintentional, but ridiculously good slow-roll came to an end. I massacred his team and then passed the turn. He drew garbage for the next two turns and my Massacre Wurm and his dog Strangleroot Geist smashed him switftly.

Game 3

This game was also a grind. He kept a hand with two Vault of the Archangel and one Plains. You can do that when the other cards in your hand are Champion of the Parish and three Gather the Townsfolk. He started with his sick one-two punch of Champion of the Parish / Gather the Townsfolk. This time I had the Go for the Throat for his Champion. After killing the Champion, I ramped into an Acidic Slime to nuke his Plains. Like a champ, he drew another one off the top. He was on the mono-Gather the Townsfolk plan so he kept gathering those townfolk. He kept the pressure on and my Acidic Slime played the role of The Abyss for a while.  I drew another Slime and killed his only white source, again. He was down to two Vault of the Archangels and two Human tokens.

I started to lay the beats with my little Slimes, but they were too slow. My opponent drew into the two Plains he needed to play Mirran Crusader.  I had 4 turns to draw a Birthing Pod or my Massacre Wurm. We traded blows until I drew a Solemn Simulacrum. This extended my life by one turn and gave me an extra draw!  My opponent swung and I blocked.

I drew a Swamp.

I drew for my turn. Forest.

I hit him with my Slimes and passed. He hit me with his Crusader and passed.

I drew for my turn. Evolving Wilds.

Rinse, repeat.

On my final turn to draw something, I peeled the card off the top of the deck with a snap. My eyes were slightly closed. I opened them all the way.

Evolving Wilds.

Really!? Another land and it doesn’t even come into play untapped! I was seeing red.

My opponent tried to exchange niceties but I was losing it.

ARRRRH!

[Start Dream Sequence]

I flipped the table and set his Mirran Crusaders on fire in the middle of the shop.

[End Dream Sequence]

I was pretty salty, but my opponent wanted to finish our conversation about Legit MTG.

“So, how do you get on the team? I noticed you had some guys at SCG Cincinnati.”

“Oh, are you interested? Just send me an email. We will work something out.” I tried to smile, but I was still burning with rage. This meant that I was out of contention.

I could have hung out with my friends and still lost at Magic. Instead, I was on the other side of town with one more round to go in this miserable tournament.

1-1

What did I learn?

This match-up seems OK unless they have the Mirran Crusader. This is a card that I might have to splash another color to answer.

Round 3 – Tempered Steel

This kid was bouncing off the wall. He was much more concerned with the girls wandering around the shop than with beating me at Magic. This was the fastest match of the night.

Game 1

He had a fast start but no Tempered Steel to capitalize. I got the Glissa, the Traitor / Sylvok Replica engine going (or, the say-hello-to-my-little-friend, as I like to call it) and he couldn’t stick a creature for the rest of the game. Needless to say, I won.

Game 2

I mulliganed to four. He played a Memnite into a turn-two Tempered Steel. I crushed him anyway.

Just kidding, his Memnite rode me like a pony.

Game 3

I was thankful for two things in this game.

The first thing was that the girl in the corner distracted him from killing my Birds of Paradise or Llanowar Elves with a Dismember that he was practically laying on the table. This was handy since I wasn’t hitting my land drops.

The second thing I was thankful for was that I had a Wurmcoil Engine in my hand. I tapped out for the Wurmcoil and tried to get his attention.

“It’s your turn, bro.”

He looked at the Wurmcoil and scooped his cards up. “I can’t beat that.” Then he wandered over to spit some game at the girl who was looking at PS3 Stuff.

2-1

What did I learn?

Between Sylvok Replica and Acidic Slime, this match-up seems pretty easy. Having all Go For the Throat was tough in game one, but Glissa / Replica is an amazing trump to this strategy.

Trades II

I had some time while I was waiting for the final round to finish, so I decided to walk around. I watched some games and talked to the locals. A lot of kids were looking for cards for their decks. This is pretty uncommon at the FNMs that I play. Typically, kids are looking for cards but it’s because they want to try a new deck or they need stuff for their EDH deck. At this place, kids were actually running what most would consider “incomplete decks.”

One kid really stuck a chord with me. I asked him if he had any Woodland Cemetery for trade and he said, “No, I’m looking for some for my deck.”

“How many do you have?” I asked.

“Two,” he responded. I laughed at the irony.

As he was looking through my stuff, he stumbled upon my Mikaeus, the Unhallowed.

“Man, I really need this!” he said.

“Sorry bro, I need to keep that so that I can get a Woodland Cemetery.”

He closed the binder and sat for a minute and then asked, “Would you do it straight up?”

“I can’t because the Woodland is worth more than the Mikaeus, but you can take some more cards to even it out.”

(I would find out an hour later that SCG changed their price on Woodland Cemetery to $4.99 from $7.99 since the time I got off work.)

Here’s what we settled on:

His ($4.99)
Woodland Cemetery

My ($8.13)
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed  $6.99
Hex Parasite .99
Divination .15

A Hero is Born

After the trade, I felt kind-of bad. I know how important a mana base is to compete. This guy had to chose between his land and the cool new card that he’s probably been wanting for weeks. These are the kind of players that I have in mind when I’m writing this series. These are the kind of choices that I’ve had to make on my journey so far.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could finish that guy’s playset of Woodland Cemetery? Or, the guy who was asking for a Birthing Pod. What if I hooked him up! What if I gave the newest player my Wurmcoil Engine?

From the beginning, my plan was to slam dunk this challenge and then give my deck, the $200 budget and my FNM Hero collection to a new player. This raised a lot of logistical questions. How do I pick the player? What if they just sell it? This would have been fun, but I think there’s a better play.

I started this project to see what it was like to start from scratch. I’ll admit there was a little arrogance in it–I thought it would be much easier–but along the way I’ve learned a lot. I find myself identifying with new players more. And, the more that I identify with them, the more I want to help. I think my new plan will help me do that.

When this challenge is over, instead of giving the deck to one new player (like I originally planned), I’ve decided to disperse the FNM Hero deck, collection and credit to new players everywhere. The first place I’m going to start is with the players in this store: Sci-Fi City in Cincinnati, Ohio!

I’m pretty pumped about this evolution and I can’t wait to do battle next week. See you then!

Jonathan Medina
@mtgmedina in Twitter

Art By: Polish Tamales 

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