FNM Hero: Zero Dollars

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

FNM Hero: Zero Dollars

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.

After the huge windfall last week it was time for some spending. I made some slightly impulsive purchases but I think it’ll be OK. Before I show you what I bought let’s break my total down into categories. This is important because I can’t spend store credit across stores and I can’t spend credit as cash. Here’s the break down:

Cash $20.37
Epic Loot Credit $10
Illuminaudi Credit $40

Here’s what I bought.

Purchase 1

I was perusing the case at Illuminaudi and found a “damaged” Huntmaster of the Fells. It was only $15 because of a crease in the middle. I picked that up with a couple of other cards.

Huntmaster of the Fells $15
Kessig Wolf Run $2
Ancient Grudge .25

Total $17.25
Illuminaudi Credit Left $22.25

Purchase 2

Since the beginning of this challenge I’ve been wrestling with whether or not to buy cards from Legit MTG. I thought it might be a conflict of interest because I have control of the pricing, but if I can’t be trusted not to “stack the deck” in my favor, then this whole series is pretty worthless. I think it’s only fair that if a new player can enjoy our awesome pricing (plug) then I should be able to too! To be fair, I’ll be paying the shipping and tax as if I was a new player.

Here’s what I bought:

2x Copperline Gorge (Light Play) $7.12
3x Daybreak Ranger (Light Play) .70
Tax and Shipping $3.38

Total $19.72
Cash Left .65

Friday Game Time

I wanted to grab a couple of Beast Within before the tournament. Some planeswalker decks have been doing well and I don’t want to lose to Gideon or Tamiyo. I went into my typical frantic-search-mode.

“Does anyone have Beast Withins?”

One of the regulars responded, “I think I do.”

I gave him my binder and he pulled out a couple of Angel / Demon Tokens that were in one of the pile of draft dropping from a few Episodes back. The values matched up and we did the swap.

His ($2.98)

2 Beast Within $1.49

My ($2.98)

2 Angel / Demon Token $1.49

After these purchases I made some edits to my deck. This is what I took to Epic Loot for some Friday Night Magic action.

-$5 from Epic Loot Credit, $5 Left

Round 1 vs. Wolf Run Ramp

I had to play against my buddy Emily in round one. She’s been playing magic locally for about a year and she’s pretty good. I used to have a bad habit of sizing people up before a match. If it were a new player then I’d typically dismiss them as an easy win.  Emily was one of the first to help me break this habit.

It was right after my top 4 at the SCG Nashville. I’d gone through 10 rounds of swiss undefeated and crushed my quarterfinals opponent before getting broadsided by Wolf Run. I went back to my local store feeling like a master! I was paired against Emily who was running mono-red.

This should be easy, I thought to myself.

She quickly dispatched me and after tilting for a good 15 minutes I re-evaluated my attitude. From that point on I’ve respected Emily as a player.

Game 1

This game was slow. I played a Turn 3 Birthing Pod. She matched it with a Rampant Growth and on my next turn I did my own ramping with Solemn Simulacrum. She played a Thrun, the Last Troll and passed the turn. I dropped a Wurmcoil Engine and passed the turn. She swung with Thrun. I almost snap-blocked but the play was too suspect. I think she wanted me to block so that she could Galvanic Blast my Wurmcoil then wipe the board with Slagstorm. I decided to take the four damage instead.

She dropped a Primeval Titan in her second main phase. I untapped and sacrificed the Solemn to Birthing Pod for a Zealous Conscripts. I drew for the Solemn and swung for 15. I used the Primeval Titan trigger to get my Wolf Run and she packed it up for Game 2.

Game 2

I didn’t have a Birthing Pod and she had a Thrun. I played the block Thrun sub-game for a while but after drawing dead for a few turns she gained the momentum to kill me.

Game 3

I played a Turn 2 Birthing Pod and passed. She tried for a Turn 2 Green Sun’s Zenith.

She searched her deck, and then searched it again. She looked up in horror.

Emily shouted across the room. “Ryan, where’s the Birds of Paradise?!”

Ryan responded, “Oh! I forgot to tell you! I took it out.”

“What the hell?! I just tried to Green Sun’s Zenith for it!” Emily was pissed.

Ryan shouted to me, “Medina, let her take it back.”

This was awkward. I don’t like being told what to do but I also didn’t mind letting Emily take it back.

She accepted her mistake and started shuffling the Green Sun’s Zenith into her deck. I told her that she could take it back and she put the Green Sun’s Zenith back into her hand and continued to shuffle her deck.

I turned my Birds into a Strangleroot Geist and put the pressure on. She was stuck on three lands. I think she was counting on the Green Sun’s for Birds to keep her in the game. After some beats from Strangleroot Geist she found a fourth land and played a Huntmaster. I played a Solemn and sacrificed it to Birthing Pod for Conscripts to steal half of her Huntmaster. I had the option to get Acidic Slime but I wanted to upgrade my five-drop to a six-drop and if she just passed on her turn then she could flip the Huntmaster and shoot my Slime before I could upgrade it.

She played a ramp spell on her turn and I made an Inferno Titan. She missed her land drop again and that was enough for me to get the game.

1-0

What did I learn?

After this match I feel confident that ramp is a favorable match-up. In the third game if she hit her sixth land drop a Titan may have been troublesome but it was probably too little too late.  If she was hitting her land drops on time then I would have slowed my roll on the Conscript and used it to steal Titan then upgrade it to a Wurmcoil Engine. Because she was stumbling, I decided to try and end it quickly with Inferno Titan.

Round 2 vs. Tezzeret

The last time that I played this guy we had an epic match. He played Tezzeret last time, too.

Game 1

This wasn’t even a game. I was on the Pod-plan and he played a Turn 1 Graffdigger’s Cage. In Game 1, Turn 1 Cage is serious business, but after that the card gets progressively worse against me. The only real threat is Wurmcoil Engine and decks that run Grafdigger’s Cage are typically slow enough to be killed by my army of misfit 2/2s.

He followed the Cage up with a Turn 2 Torpor Orb, which turned off my Conscripts and my only way to kill his Cage. It wasn’t long before he played a Tezzeret, which found him a Wurmcoil Engine. I tried to hold on by blocking but he eventually played another Wurmcoil and they ate my life total.

Game 2

I started fast with a Strangleroot Geist then a Birthing Pod. The early pressure of the Geist and friends put him in striking distance. He tapped out for a Wurmcoil Engine and Zealous Conscripts hit the board.

In true Scorpion style I yelled, “Get over here!” and pounded in for the win.

Game 3

The game started slowly but finished with the most epic play in FNM Hero history. He had the Turn 1 Grafdigger’s Cage but I had the Ancient Grudge. On Turn 3 I played a Mimic Vat and passed the turn. He played a land and passed the turn. I played a Birthing Pod and he repeated the previous turn’s excitement. I assumed that he was on the Mono-Wurmcoil plan so I wanted to end the game quickly. I played Conscripts to his empty board and stole a land. Then I attacked with the Conscripts. He took three and I used his land to sacrifice the Conscripts to Birthing Pod for a Wurmcoil. I put the Zealous Conscripts on the Mimic Vat.

“Thanks for letting me use that,” I said as I slid the land across the table.

He played a Tezzeret and found what I presumed was a second Wurmcoil Engine — I think he had one in his hand but didn’t want to play it into my Mimic Vat / Birthing Pod setup. I killed the Tezzeret with Wurmcoil and passed the turn. He played a Ratchet Bomb and added a counter. At the end of his turn I made a Zealous Conscripts and stole the Ratchet Bomb to sacrifice it.

On my turn I sacrificed the Conscripts token for an Inferno Titan. I shot him for three damage and made another Conscripts token with Mimic Vat. I gave my Titan haste and my team rumbled in for 21 damage (I pumped the Titan three times for the overkillsies).

He said, “Wait a second, the Titan doesn’t have haste!” I explained the Zealous Conscripts interaction and he laughed.

“That’s insane! I can’t even be mad about losing like that.”

2-0

What did I learn?

The Tezzeret match-up post board is usually not even close. You have Ancient Grudge, Beast Within and Zealous Conscripts.

Feature Match with Adam Prosak

Adam Prosak is leagues better than me, but I didn’t want to lose the game before we started. I centered myself as I shuffled. I put him on Delver since that’s what he’s been playing over the last few weeks.

Game 1

My opening hand was fine for the Delver matchup. He opened with Seachrome Coast and passed the turn. I was happy to lay my second land and start the beats with Strangleroot Geist. I should have known something was up when the Geist connected for two damage. Why would a good Delver player keep a hand that didn’t have a Ponder, Gitaxian Probe, Delver, or even Vapor Snag for Turn 1?

A couple of turns later the jig was up.

“Forbidden Alchemy,” he announced at the end of my turn.

Now I knew that I was playing against Solar Flare. Once we got into Sun Titan range the game slowed to a grind and I slowed things down even more with my Wurmcoil Engine. I felt the game slowly slip out of my hands as we grinded the next few turns. Sun Titan and Phantasmal Image put him in the driver’s seat and he gave me a ride to value town.

I knew once the tide of the game started to turn that my chances of winning were slim. The longer a game goes, the more likely the better player will win. This is because the number of decisions increases, which increases the opportunities for me to misplay. It also didn’t help that Adam’s deck has a better late game than mine so inevitability favored him heavily.

Game 2 (and 3?)

The match used up most (if not all) of the time allotted for the round so I didn’t get a chance to finish my notes. I think I took it to Game 3, but in the end I was not victorious.

2-1

What did I learn?

I don’t play this match-up enough to give much thought to how to approach it. I know my match up is really bad, but I just side the three Nihil Spellbombs and hope for the best.

Round 4 vs. UW Delver

I was paired against my friend Taylor, who has crushed the FNM Hero more than once in a tournament. I was looking forward to getting some revenge.

Game 1

I mulliganed to six cards and then started with a Turn 1 Birds of Paradise. He Dismembered the Birds on my turn then untapped and played Ponder. I played a Borderland Ranger while he durdled. It seemed like neither of us had much early-game gas. After some hits with the Ranger he played a Geist of Saint Traft. I played a Huntmaster of the Fells and passed the turn. He played a Sword of Feast and Famine and mindlessly turned his Geist sideways.

I died to his unblockable, untargetable, virtual 8/8 specter.

Game 2

He came out of the gates fast with a Delver of Secrets. I matched it with a Strangleroot Geist and started the beats. His Delver failed to flip for four turns and I continued to trade two damage for one. I played a Stingerfling Spider, which halted his attacks. All of his guys had two or less toughness so he couldn’t profitably swing into the Spider. I continued to swing with the Geist to keep the pressure on. Eventually I found my Birthing Pod and traded the Spider for a Massacre Wurm.

Taylor sent his team in the graveyard and died to the swing of my Geist.

Game 3

While we were shuffling Taylor looked at me with a smile, “I’m going to be so embarrassed if I lose to you.” This comment got my blood running, man I wanted to crush this smart ass!

I had another Strangleroot Geist start and he played Gitaxian Probe into Ponder. I doubled up on Geist and quickly hammered him to eight life. He played a Delver of Secrets and passed. I attacked again and a Restoration Angel descended from the heavens to vanquish one of my Geists. He went to six and I passed the turn. His Delver didn’t flip, but he played a second one and passed the turn. I suspected another Restoration Angel so I didn’t swing. At the end of my turn he played another Angel.

His Delvers flipped on his turn and he smashed for six while leaving the Angels to block. I was looking for my Hellrider or a removal spell. I drew Kessig Wolf Run and that was the game. I could pump one of my Geists, but I’d only be able to put Taylor to one life.

I made the attack on the off chance that Taylor became brain dead between last turn and now. He blocked and then killed me on the swing-back.

2-2

What did I learn?

Someone once told me that if you lose with your opponent at one life, then you probably made a mistake. I still can’t figure out how I misplayed that game, but I’m sure that I did.

Round 5 vs. UW Delver

I won this round pretty easily. My opponent was playing Delver but he didn’t understand the concept of the deck. He played Mana Leak on things like Turn 3 Birds of Paradise instead of waiting for the five- or six-drop. He was leaning on his Ponders to find lands. He also put himself in situations where he needed to use Vapor Snag to defend himself instead of to buy a crucial moment or push important points of damage through.

3-2

What did I learn?

I learned more about how to not play Delver than how to play my deck.

Standings

At 3-2 it was still possible that I could prize so I checked out the standings. I was in 11th place but they were only paying to Top 8.

The Birthing Pod Conundrum

After months of playing Birthing Pod, I think it might be time to call it quits and switch decks. There’s such a delicate balance that I feel like I can’t accomplish with the tools that I have. Birthing Pod decks have a very fundamental problem; the deck sucks without Birthing Pod or the deck doesn’t need Birthing Pod. I’ll elaborate.

There are two types of Birthing Pod decks; decks like mine with a lot of one-ofs that lean on Birthing Pod to win and decks like Brian Kibler’s that run Birthing Pod as a value spell.

You’ll notice in the deck above that there are a lot of four-ofs and only two Birthing Pods. It’s a Naya mid-range deck before it’s a Birthing Pod deck. The Pods can be used to take advantage of a light Pod-chain, but the deck doesn’t need to see a Birthing Pod to win. My deck needs a Birthing Pod to win unless something goes horribly wrong for my opponent or I get lucky. I’m essentially playing a combo deck that requires one of my four Birthing Pods and the worst part is that getting my “combo piece” doesn’t even guarantee a win!

The natural response to this problem is to build a deck that doesn’t need Birthing Pod to win. I’d love to sleeve up Brian’s sweet Naya List but it’s about $300 out of my price range. This puts me at an awkward crossroads. The meta is shifting and I don’t have faith that my Birthing Pod deck can win enough for me to transform the deck into one that doesn’t rely heavily on Birthing Pod. This tells me that I need to jump archetypes which is going to be very risky. I also have to think about rotation.

Rotation

Scars of Mirrodin Block rotates in October when Return to Ravnica releases. This means that my cards are on a four-month clock before they become close to worthless. Wurmcoil Engine recently dropped from $16 to $12 and I expect the same to happen with the Scars of Mirrodin dual lands. Here’s a list of cards that are rotating out.

4 Birds of Paradise (Not confirmed in M13)
2 Llanowar Elves (Not confirmed in M13)
1 Glissa, the Traitor
1 Sylvok Replica
1 Entomber Exarch
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
2 Skinrender
1 Solemn Simulacrum (Not confirmed in M13)
1 Precursor Golem
1 Massacre Wurm
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Inferno Titan
4 Birthing Pod
3 Go for the Throat
4 Copperline Gorge
3 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Stingerfling Spider(Not confirmed in M13)
1 Perilous Myr
1 Go for the Throat
1 Mimic Vat
2 Beast Within

In October my Standard deck wont be legal for FNM anymore. All my six-drops are rotating and so is the card that holds my deck together, Birthing Pod. The more time that passes, the harder it will be to trade the rotating cards. The pressure of rotation in conjunction with the shifts in the meta really make the path clear for me. I need to start saying my goodbyes to my beloved Birthing Pod deck.

Goodbye is Upon Us

It’s a shame because I’ve tuned the deck to be good enough to have a reasonable finish, but I’ve hit a plateau and I need better finishes to keep this project going. The truth is that I should have jumped ship much sooner but I misjudged the the pace of the project. It’s a brave new frontier that we’ll be exploring over the next few weeks. I have my sights on mono-white Humans and or Green Red Aggro. Cross your fingers for my next FNMs, I’m out of cash and I only have a handfull of FNMs left.

See you next episode. Thanks for reading.

Jonathan Medina
@mtgmedina on Twitter

Art By: Polish Tamales

Tags: , , , , , ,

Trackback from your site.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.