FNM Hero: Fall

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

FNM Hero: Fall

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.

Growing up, my dad would’t stand for confusion in our household. He attributed it to laziness or apathy, saying “You’re confused because you don’t want to understand.” He was talking about more important things, such as my beliefs about life and spirituality. But that philosophy stuck with me. In the world of FNM Hero, we need to win to keep going. Confusion is a problem. For example, here’s the deck that I took to SCG Cincinnati:

Do you see the confusion? One Silver-Inlaid Dagger? One Mikaeus, the Lunarch?

In hindsight, my problem was clear. The deck had gone through so many iterations that it lost focus. It went from the “swarm” plan to the “Geist of Saint Traft” plan, but you can still see remnants of the “swarm” strategy in cards like Mikaeus and Doomed Traveler. These cards should have been upgraded to support the Geist strategy and strengthen the synergy of the deck.  Besides tangling me up in confusion, the constant flux of the deck resulted in a laundry list of other things that I had to battle through:

  • Sideboard Issues - My sideboard was fighting battles that I didn’t need to fight. I had too many cards against control and almost none against green/white.
  • Faulty Manabase – My mana base wasn’t correct. Moorland Haunt was worse than the Azorius Guildgate and it can keep me from hitting double white when needed.
  • No Practice – I didn’t get any practice playing the new build. If I settled on a list early, I could have practiced more and reduced my misplays.
  • Card Availability - I cut Silverblade Paladin and traded one away so that I only had three for the event. Geist of Saint Traft was a new addition, so I only had three of those in time for the tournament. If I would have listened to Todd Anderson and Gerry Thompson, I could have traded for Geists sooner.

But that’s enough preamble. We have a tournament to cash. Well, let’s talk about one more thing first; why, specifically, I really need to cash:

Current Status

-$40 for the entry fee
-$8 for sleeves and a few commons/uncommons

Illuminaudi Credit =$0
Epic Loot Credit =$0
Cash = .34

So, this might be it, guys. Let’s ride.

Saturday, 8:01 am – Good Morning

The “bubbles” alarm tone slowly wormed it’s way through my ears and into my brain. I grabbed my iPhone and tried to figure out how to shut it off without opening my eyes. It didn’t go well. I had to open them.

I felt like someone punched me in the face. Since Thursday, I hadn’t gone to sleep before 2 am. I’d been working 16 hour days with the Legit MTG crew to process our Return to Ravnica preorders. I stumbled out of bed and felt a sharp pain gather in my temples. I’ve been plagued with frequent headaches for most of my life. My doctor thinks it’s sleep apnea, but I’ve never cared enough to look any deeper. Today was going to be one of those days.

The shower soothed my head and for a moment the headache seared away into a dull, manageable discomfort. I got dressed and went downstairs to talk with Mark Sun. Mark was excited about his Standard deck featuring Pack Rat. I laughed all the way out the door and into Brandon’s car. Brandon turned on some Tupac for the ride to the convention center. I laid my head back and closed my eyes.

Saturday, 1:10pm, Unleashed Centaurs

It was game three and my humans were filling the board.

I played a Riders of Gavony. “Naming…” I hesitated. It was either Wurm or Centaur. “.. I’ll name Centaur,” I finally decided.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” muttered my opponent before playing a Call of the Conclave.

“What can I say? I’ve got the sick read, bro!”

My call got increasingly funnier as he played Centaur Healer followed by Centaur Healer. By the end of the match, I was beside myself with amusement.  He, on the other hand, was not having such a great time. He died with three Centaurs on the board.

I’d finally started to recover from my 0-2 start. My opponent was raging slightly so I asked him to sign the slip and made myself sparse. I had some time to eat the sandwich I’d ordered after last round. The delivery guy delivered it to table #118 mid-round, thanks to the helpful Star City Games event staff (don’t try this at home).

Saturday, 2:57pm – Young Wolf Strikes Back

“So, can I come to work tomorrow bro?” asked Brandon Young Wolf.

“Yeah, of course,” I said coldly.

Brandon just beat me, making my record 1-3. He sat there watching me as I un-sideboarded. I hate it when people do that.

“What’s up bro?” I asked.

“You look pissed,” Brandon said.

“I am pissed! I just flushed $40 down the toilet!” My words hung in the air for a second. I felt the need to clarify. “I’m not pissed at you. It’s just been a rough day.”

Brandon nodded. We got up to see Adam Prosak smiling at us from one of the other tables.

“Is he fired, Medina?”

“Not today,” I said, laughing.

I walked out of the hall to get some water. My head was throbbing and I felt like I was going to puke. I sat alone for a few minutes to regain my composure.

Saturday, 5:13pm – Hymn to Tourach

My opponent looked to be about 17 or 18. He seemed like more of a casual player, so I didn’t expect this round to be too taxing. He started off with a mulligan, but I jumped in and stopped him from putting a seventh card in his hand.

“Whoa, what are you doing?”

“Oh sorry.”

He put the card back and looked up in terror.

“Don’t worry, man. We’ll just shuffle it in. No big deal!”

He put the seventh card back on top of the deck and we shuffled it. He smiled and started his turn.

Ten minutes later and we were shuffling up for game two. He swiftly and handily destroyed me with Armada Wurm and Thragtusk. My head was throbbing again. I took a break from shuffling my cards to rub my temples then presented my deck for game two. This time, Geist of Saint Traft and Spectral Flight annihilated him.

We shuffled up for game three. I looked at my hand. I knew I’d have to mulligan, which had been happening all day.

“Are you keeping?” I asked.

“No.”

He sloppily smashed his seven cards in to his deck. I did the same. We drew our hands. Another mulligan for me. Dammit!

“How’s you’re six?” I asked.

“I’ll keep.”

“I’ll go to five.”

As I was shuffling my deck, I noticed him quickly put a card from his hand onto the top of his deck. I stopped shuffling. “How many cards do you have?” He fanned out six cards.

“Did you draw an extra card?”

He sheepishly nodded.

“Judge!”

One of the judges across the room put one finger up as if to say, “one minute.”

I finished shuffling while we waited. My opponent was not happy.

“Sorry, man. I have to call a judge this time. I don’t know what card you put back!”

I presented my deck and then went back to rubbing my temples while waiting for the judge. Eventually, two judges walked over and we explained what happened. The  judges deliberated and then came back with a solution. They randomly took two of my opponent’s seven cards and shuffled them into his deck.

“Now you both can continue mulliganing.”

I drew my five cards, looked at my opponent and said, “I’ll keep.”

He examined his five cards then said, “Wait, did I cut you?”

A range of emotions swept over me. I was outraged for a moment. Is this kid trying to “get me” because I called a judge? Was I trying to “get him?” I really wasn’t sure where my head had been while all this stuff was unfolding. Did I call the judge because I was going to five and I wanted him to be at a disadvantage or did I do it because I had to?

In that second, a conversation that I’d had with a notable Magic Pro came to mind:

“If my opponent asks if they played a land, I always say yes. It’s not on me to keep track of their land drops.”

My hand was the perfect five cards:

Did he cut me? I don’t know, but I’m not drawing another five. I answered, “yes.”

He looked at me skeptically. The dishonesty didn’t sit well with me and I tried to back track.

“Didn’t you cut it while we were waiting for the judge?”

I gave him an out. If he says no, then we shuffle my five cards and I’ll draw new ones. But the damage was done.

“Okay,” he said in resignation.

He played his land and passed the turn. I curved out and he didn’t find a second land until the turn before he died. We both sat there for a moment. He tried not to look me in the eye and I could tell he was upset. I wanted to lighten the mood.

“Do you have trade stuff?”

“Naw,” he said without looking at me.

It didn’t take me long to realize how stupid this gesture was. My inner monologue went to work:

You mean after getting rules-layered and scum-bagged by you in the match, the kid doesn’t want to get ripped off by the king of all sharks? Inconceivable!

My other attempts to break the tension failed so I slid the slip across the table for his signature. He signed and abruptly left the table. His face was turning red. As I was walking to turn in the slip I met him at the end of the table. He was wiping his eyes and trying not to face me. I noticed tears falling from his flush face.

My heart wrenched. I tried to compose myself as my eyes started to water.

“Are you OK?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” he said, wiping his tears.

Desperately trying to remedy the situation, I offered him the win.

“If it’s going to ruin your day, I’ll concede to you.”

I held up the slip.

He faced me and the tension broke.

“No, it’s okay.”

I offered again and his demeanor shifted.

“Really, its okay.”

Insert awkward pause. I wanted to pat him on the back or give him a hug or something.

“I really am sorry, man.”

The redness started to leave his face. He nodded as if to accept my apology. After another awkward pause, I walked away.

There were still more rounds in the tournament but my thoughts were somewhere else entirely at that point…

Integrity

“What are you doing home?” my dad asked.

I’d just got done brushing my teeth and I was walking out of the bathroom.

“I called in.”

“You called in sick?” he asked, rhetorically.

“Yeah. I took a sick day.”

“So you lied?”

“I didn’t lie…”

“Did you tell your boss that you’re sick?” he asked impatiently.

“Yes… but…”

“.. and are you sick?”

“No, but…”

“Then you lied.”

My dad was clearly disappointed, but he would be more disappointed with my next statement.

“It’s not a big deal. Everyone takes sick days when they’re not sick!” I said impatiently.

Dad went silent and gave me a look of disgust.

“Your character is defined by who you are in the little things. Who you are when no one’s looking.”

He walked out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

Saturday, 9:40pm – Still Standing

I ended the day with a record of four wins and five losses (4-5). It was apparent that Blue/White (UW) Humans was the wrong deck choice for the format. It’s worse than Zombies as an aggro deck and every other deck is doing something bigger or more “unfair.” The only good match-up is Zombies, which is kept in check by the rise of Control and Thragtusk. I came to a painful realization: I was out of money and my deck wasn’t good.

I still had a handful of Return to Ravnica cards from my prerelease winnings, so I decided to grind the trade tables for something that I could use for an entry fee into my next Friday Night Magic (FNM). I also wanted to pick up my last Geist of Saint Traft. I’d be stuck with this deck until I could find a better option that is affordable, so I might as well optimize it.

I found some Advil (shout-out to Julia), so I decided to get some water and take it before hitting the tables. As I walked to the water fountain, I saw my opponent from a few rounds earlier. He was in much better spirits since our drama-filled exchange. As I approached, he nodded.

“How did you do?” I asked.

“I did alright. I smashed my last opponent…”

He continued to tell a story about how three Armada Wurms trampled his opponent’s brains into oblivion. I told him about how I mulliganed to four and almost beat my Blue-White-Red Miracles opponent before he summoned an army of Angels. We laughed and lamented the sheer blow-outs that Miracles produce.

“Have a good night, man,” I said as I walked away.

“You too.”

The water from the fountain was the perfect temperature.  As  I drank, I considered what the next steps would be for the FNM Hero. A new format is here. With $0.34, a meager trade binder and a crappy deck, I’m still alive.

Jonathan Medina
@mtgmedina on Twitter

Art By: Polish Tamales 

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