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Embracing the Hate

Written by Tim Bachmann on . Posted in Uncategorized

Embracing the Hate

Tim Bachmann

Hailing from northeast Pennsylvania, Tim has been playing since Mirrodin, and has been playing competitively since Dragons of Tarkir. With aspirations of playing on the Pro Tour, Tim plays in as many PPTQs and GPs as he can.

Last week I wrote about a neat midrange deck that I had fallen in like with. My Bant Eldrazi pieces were scattered through binders and boxes, and the ol’ pasta dinner wanted to be heated up in the microwave, so I slapped them in Joe Soh’s deck and went through some leagues. The deck was great, I had a few 4-1s and a couple 3-2s, with one miserable 1-3. You can’t win ‘em all.

Lately though, I’ve been wanting to try something different. Something that had a sort of combo finish. That is where I think my strength lies as a player, I excel at decks that contain combos that can sort of win out of nowhere. That feeling of never really being completely out of a gain is a nice safety net I enjoy having, something the likes of Grixis Death’s Shadow doesn’t provide me, especially in a world full of Death’s Shadow mirror matches.

For so long now, I had been casting discard spells on turn 1. Even back in Standard. Just playing the fair decks every week has become boring. I noticed this most when I was playing the latest iteration of the B/W Eldrazi deck. You know, the deck with 4 maindeck Relic of Progenitus and some Rest in Peace in the sideboard. Losing games and even a match or two to Dredge past a turn 1 Relic felt really awful. If I can’t beat these strategies with a deck that’s designed to beat the current metagame, what am I really doing?

So I cast a wide net, and did some soul searching at the same time. I think, like the majority of players, my first deck was around 22 forests, and some big fat monsters that costed around 7-8 mana. Thorn Elemental hype! But once I delved deeper into the world of Magic, I found little combos in decks, things I liked.

Specifically, I started playing the Goblin Bidding deck. The ol’ Goblin Sharpshooter was a hoot there. Then Skullclamp was a card for two weeks, but those were a fun two weeks! Then Affinity rolled around, and the golden era of my FNM romp. There were Cloudpost Tooth and Nail decks, really straightforward Boros Aggro decks (forever 9th place PA states competitor!), really awesome Simic, Izzet, and RUG tron decks, Dragonstorm, Pickles, the past sure was a good time. After reminiscing about all of these super awesome strategies that I used to have tons of fun with, and with which I stomped on all the other nerds’ glasses, I started asking myself: what do I get out of playing these Thoughtseize decks?

I feel like I have become jaded. Having seen the Magic world through the eyes of some of the best players, I feel like I go through these mental hoops in my head constantly. I buy the best deck as soon as it’s a known quantity, thinking “how can I lose!? It’s the BEST deck.” A week later, “Oh man, this deck can’t be good, it didn’t crush this tournament.” Well surprise, Tim, ya idiot. It had a target on its head. “Ok, I found another deck, I’ll play that because it beats the best deck.” Then that deck gets crushed. I jump through these hoops because I want winning to come to me as quickly as possible, and if I decide on the best deck for a given week, I’ll have the best shot at winning.

So I sat down, and had a long, hard think. I play this game for two reasons: to get onto the Pro Tour, and to have fun. I’m getting older. I’ve tried grinding each and every PPTQ seasons on end, just to lose in so many finals, and have my dreams crushed. It feels bad, man. I did this playing decks I didn’t necessarily enjoy playing, but because they were the “best deck,” I played them.

This last weekend for example. I had all these games under my belt with the Black-White Eldrazi deck. I was pretty confident in my abilities with it, and I had Grixis shelved for about two weeks. So I dusted off Grixis, went to a very large (78 player) IQ, and dropped at 2-2. While I felt some of the losses were to variance, I wasn’t enjoying Grixis, which is why I stopped playing it, and that was why I did poorly. When you’re wasting time in your hobby that’s first and foremost supposed to be a fun way to spend time with friends by playing a deck or cards you don’t enjoy, then your priorities are messed up. This was a realization I had.

So I looked at what I want to accomplish in Modern. While yeah, I want to qualify for the Pro Tour, I want to play a strategy that I both enjoy, and think is good. Something that I feel rewarded for playing, and feels rewarding to play. So I came up with a list of decks that I think are worthy of winning, say, a Modern GP, and crossed that with decks I thought I’d enjoy playing. This is the list I came up with:

-Some Valakut deck
-Some Snapcaster MageLightning Bolt deck
-Some form of Urzatron

When coming up with this list, I realized something. I didn’t once think about a fair midrange deck. The only one that comes close is the Snapcaster Mage one, but those decks aren’t good right now outside of Grixis Death’s Shadow, which isn’t the sort of Snapcaster Mage deck I seem to enjoy playing.

So now my goal is to play these different strategies and see which ones I truly enjoy, something I should have done a long time ago, but was caught up in how good the results of various Thoughtseize decks were over the past few years, and how some of the best players, some of the ones I look up to, just play whatever the best deck is for a given event.

I think it was the realization that if Skred Red and Blue-Black Taking Turns can win and top eight a GP respectively, any given legitimate strategy in Modern can win on any given weekend, so it’s time to find myself in this format and come up with an identity.

So the deck I’m trying now is UR Storm. It was one of the first Modern decks I built, back when it was all about praying to RNGesus and hoping all your cantrips both turned on your Pyromancer’s Ascension, and that you didn’t brick. This new breed of Storm is more like the traditional style of Storm that I grew up with when Storm first became a keyword. Obviously we don’t have Mind’s Desire or Tendrils of Agony, but using the Gifts Ungiven and Past in Flames engines is still really good, especially when you don’t have to pay full price thanks to the now eight Medallion affects.

I have this aversion to hate cards in Modern. “Can’t play against ‘em, can’t play without ‘em.” I always thought that decks like this, or Dredge, or Affinity could never win through cards like Rest in Peace, Grafdigger’s Cage, Relic of Progenitus, Stony Silence, etc., but if that was the case, those decks just wouldn’t ever show up to win an event. That’s the big thing that I’ve realized playing Storm. I’ve beaten turn 1 Relic, turn 2 Rest in Peace in the same game. I’ve beaten an Abzan player who used his entire 7 card opener against me, and died with zero cards in his hand, having used them all to interact with me.

I think this fear, and not making this realization is what held me back in the format, it’s what kept me wanting to play Tarmogoyf on turn 2. The fact is, the decks that bring in these hate cards need more than just one piece of hate to beat these decks, so one card isn’t just game over most of the time, and that’s really opened my eyes to different strategies in this format, it’s not something I had been comfortable with before, but I get it now.

Sure, there are some hands where you can’t beat their hate cards. But if you’re playing a deck with such difficult to beat cards, it probably means your hands are REALLY good, and this deck you’re playing against probably can’t beat you without that card.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is, in this world of “Best decks” and “tiers” of Modern, playing what you enjoy in your hobby is really all it’s about. If you enjoy playing the best deck, I won’t knock you for it. Some people just love playing the Rock. I did it for a while, but now I think it’s time I’m the one breaking the rules rather than playing by them. I want to be the guy killing you on turn 3 or 4 because you misplayed or didn’t mulligan correctly, or kept a medium opener. I want to be the guy embracing the hate.

Quick note, I also started streaming, almost exclusively MTGO. You can find me over at Twitch.tv/timbeef. I will try to stream 2-3 times a week, and am looking to get a regular schedule going. Until that happens, if you’re interested in competitive leagues of modern or standard, be sure to follow me if you want to get notifications for when I go live. Thanks!

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