When Last We Left Off
I flipped the card. There was a pause of silence, then a roar from the watchers. Jamie, from behind the counter, hollered over the celebratory noises, “What did he open!?” There was one card that Jamie had been looking for since the set released a couple of weeks ago. It was a Foil Bruna, Light of Alabaster for his EDH deck.
“Foil Bruna,” I answered.
Jamie went into a frenzy. “I want it! What do you want for it?”
I went into trader mode. “I think I might just keep it,” I replied. I knew this would make him bargain harder. He started by offering me a foil Vexing Devil.
“I’ll pass,” I said. I knew that Vexing Devil would drop in price and the Devil was only a few bucks more than a Foil Bruna. I knew I could do better.
“How about a Temporal Mastery?” Jamie asked. Temporal Mastery was about $30- 40 on most sites but only $20 on Legit MTG.
“I sell those for $20. I’d do it for two Temporal Mastery.” Did I think that Jamie would actually give me two Temporal Mastery? No!
He made a disapproving face. “Really Medina?” he whined.
It’s possible that he might and that would be a sick mise, but it’s more likely that he’ll counteroffer. This technique tells your trade partner that you expect them to “pay” significantly more than the card’s worth. It also puts the ball in their court to make a counteroffer. Their counteroffer will give you an idea of their “threshold.”
If Jamie responds with something like “I’ll do a Temporal Mastery ($20) and a Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded ($15),” then you know that he’s willing to pay $10 over the $25. Depending on things like body language and tone of voice, you can also read the range. Maybe he’s willing to pay $10 – $15 over or maybe $10 is the most he’ll give and if you ask for more you’ll lose the trade.
The lesson for those who consider themselves traders is to develop your people reading skills. The lesson for new players is to be patient. When you “need” a card, you put yourself in a position to pay the “need-tax” on it. My hope is that this column will show you that “need” is a relative term and deal hunting (or trash digging) is key in building a collection.
I watched as the gears turned in Jamie’s head. My mind started to wander. Having two Temporal Mastery in the FNM Hero binder would be insane.
Wait a second. I can’t trade for value. I voiced my new discovery. “Actually, I just remembered I can’t trade for value! Dammit!” I exclaimed.
Without missing a beat, Dave DeSantis jumped in, “…but I can. I’ll give you a $20 bill for that right now.”
+$20, New Total $35.37
I gave David the Angel. He smiled at Jamie and said, “We’ll work something out.”
Jamie wanted to close the deal, but we were on our way out the door to eat. David mused, “I’m almost a big enough douche bag to rip this up right in front of you.” The crowd laughed as some of the guys shouted, “Do it!”
Jamie laughed. As I tucked the new loot into my binder, he and David worked something out. After I zipped my bag up, we jumped in our cars and headed for Steak and Shake.
Steak and Shake
I brought my binder in with me. I wasn’t impressed with Wolfir Silverheart. Thanks to pro tour Avacyn Restored, the card made a huge leap in price. I asked around the table if anyone was interested in a Silverheart. The guys were interested in seeing my trade binder progress. Thankfully, one of them wanted a Silverheart.
Star City Games was sold out and the price was frozen at $7.99. I knew that Wolfir Silverheart was selling for more at other sites and that Star City Games wouldn’t update the price until they had more in stock. So, we based this trade on Channel Fireball instead.
Ideally, I wanted a Copperline Gorge in trade for the Silverheart but there was only one guy interested and he didn’t have a Gorge. Instead, I traded for cards that I could trade toward a Gorge later.
A mistake that I see a lot of new players make is that they will only trade for cards that they need. When you have a financially unstable card like Wolfir Silverheart, the smart thing to do is to trade it into a financially stable card. Champion of the Parish has held its price since its printing. Now with the printing of the good red human cards like Zealous Conscripts, Silverblade Paladin and Lightning Mauler, Champion even has room to grow.
I proposed the trade below and he accepted:
2 Champion of the Parish $4.99
Wolfir Silverheart $9.99
I had a slight headache but I decided to hit up Illuminaudi for some trading and playtesting. It had been a while since I played so I wanted to get a feel for the format before spending more money. I took my time getting ready at home and showed up to Illuminaudi fashionably late. Jamie greeted me. “Hey Medina, are you in on this?” he asked.
“You guys haven’t started yet?” I was on the fence. My headache put me in an I-don’t-care kind of mood and that could be a bad thing. I surveyed the room and the trading looked sparse. I also had an extra $20, so why not? “Ok. I’m in,” I replied.
-$5, New Total $30.37
I wasn’t happy with my build but I decided to run it anyway. I didn’t feel like rushing deck changes. Within minutes, pairings went up and I walked over to the pairings board.
Jonathan Medina – *Bye*
I sighed with relief. Things couldn’t have gone better. I had some time to trade and I could still play in the tournament.
My collection has been growing and the crappy binder that I bought was becoming more of a nuisance. Brandon Young Wolf was upgrading his binder, so I traded him my Sheoldred, Whispering One for his old binder.
Armed with a new binder, I hit the trade tables to pick up some of the new cards for my deck.
My first priority was Zealous Conscripts. After getting destroyed by Ramp the previous week, I needed to position myself better. By trading my Razorverge Thicket and Promo Restoration Angel, I abandoned my idea of a white splash. Zealous Conscripts brings too much value to ignore and Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite has been falling out of favor.
2 Zealous Conscripts $2.49
1 Copperline Gorge $9.99
Razorverge Thicket $6.99
Mountain Foil .49
Restoration Angel (Promo) $6.99
4 Fume Spitter .25
Now that I found my Conscripts I needed a second Copperline Gorge to reliably cast them. I asked around the shop and found someone who was taking apart his Wolf Run deck. It took us a moment to get lined up on pricing but we ended up agreeing on a website and we made this trade:
Copperline Gorge $9.99
Inferno Titan $3.99
2 Champion of the Parish $5.99
Somberwald Sage $1.99
Oblivion Ring .99
After the trades, I made some edits to the deck. Here’s what I was rocking:
Jund Hero Pod
Round 2 – Esper Spirits
In round two, I was paired up again my friend Nate Peters. You might recall my 3-16 playtest session for this match-up. I wasn’t too excited to play against Esper Spirits.
Nate started with a terribly slow hand. His first play of the game was a turn two Intangible Virtue. He followed it up with a turn three Intangible Virtue and I was highly suspicious of his keep. One of two things was true:
- He had a Lingering Souls.
- He was brain dead.
The Sever the Bloodline in my hand guaranteed that either option was good for me. I decide to try to run a Jedi Mind Trick for the sick blow out. As he drew is card for the turn, I shrugged my shoulders in resignation and said, “I hope you don’t have the fifth land to double Lingering Souls.”
He played an Island. “I do!” he exclaimed. He smiled and then played Lingering Souls and flashed it back. BOOM! Roasted. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for. I untapped and Sever the Bloodlined his tokens. This play earned me enough tempo to stay in the game.
It came down to the wire with both of us at two life. He had a Snapcaster Mage that was hacking away at my life and I’d been slow-rolling a Zealous Conscripts because I didn’t want to get blown out by a Vapor Snag. It was now do or die so I cast Zealous Conscripts to steal his Snapcaster Mage and the game.
He opened the game with a Ponder and I matched it with a Birds of Paradise. Despite his Ponder, he got stuck on two lands. I tried to bait out a Mana Leak with my Daybreak Ranger but it got Flashfreezed. I was holding a Curse of Death’s Hold which I wanted to sneak under his counters.
The next turn, he tapped out for an Intangible Virtue and I dropped a Curse of Death’s Hold on top of it. He found his third land and played a Lingering Souls. I played an Entomber Exarch and picked my Daybreak Ranger out of the graveyard. My plan was to grind him out with an active Daybreak Ranger. He flashed back his Lingering Souls and passed the turn.
I drew a Birthing Pod and played it. I took a minute to go over my options. I needed a five-drop that would ensure a win. My mind was fuzzy and my headache was blocking clear thought. I decided to go with Stingerfling Spider. As I activated Birthing Pod, Nate groaned. “Yep, gonna get Acidic Slime, blow up my Intangible Virtue and wipe my board?”
It was a play that I didn’t see but I liked it much more than my play. “Yep,” I responded. Nate couldn’t overcome the curse and I reigned victorious.
What did I learn?
The thing that separates a great Delver player from an average Delver player is how they view/use Ponder. Based on the slow draws, I assume that Nate was leaning on his Ponders to “catch up” instead of using them to get ahead. I’ll be watching how my Delver opponents play their Ponders. This can help me decide how to play the match up. Delver players who throw away their Ponders early will not have the disruption in the late game to stop you from resolving key spells.
Round 3 – Tezzeret
I was paired against another regular Illuminaudi grinder named Ryan. He usually plays Delver so I thought that I was in for a fight.
This game was bout thirty minutes long. I was happy that he wasn’t playing Delver but the deck that he was playing presented its own problems. He was playing Tezzeret with main deck Graffdigger’s Cage. After a hard fought battle, I died to Wurmcoil Engines while Ryan sat comfortably at fifty-five life.
His deck didn’t really do anything. He played a bunch of cards like Ichor Wellspring and Pristine Talisman and his only win conditions were Wurmcoil Engine and Tezzeret. I was able to buy time against the Wurmcoils with my own Wurmcoil but once he got Spine of Ish Sah recursion going, he easily grinded me out.
This game started out much like the first game. The difference was what I got a Birthing Pod online. The Birthing Pod turned out to be more of a stumbling block than a boon. I tried to Birthing Pod for a four-drop that I sided out and it turned out that I had no four-drops left in my deck.
I started to rebound when I stole his Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas with Zealous Conscripts and activated his ultimate. I was all smiles until I tried to Birthing Pod away my Zealous Conscripts while there was a Grafdigger’s Cage on the board.
“You already sacrificed it.” Ryan wanted to make sure that I knew he wasn’t going to let me take it back. That’s okay. I’m not the type to ask for that anyway. I tried to keep my composure and he never got a footing in the game. I found my Inferno Titan and roasted him. It must have been hard for Ryan to watch me throw my creatures away and still win the game.
He started with a turn one Grafdigger’s Cage and this made my two-Geist hand look bad. I played out a Geist and drew into a third. It turns out that three 2/1 creatures with Haste is still good enough to steal a game. I pounded him while he played do-nothing artifacts and frantically searched for a removal spell. He found a Doom Blade for one of my three Geist but the other two finished him off.
What did I learn?
I learned that I can beat a Grafdigger’s Cage. This is something that I was worried about. But, I realized that without pressure, the Cage is just a small impedance. I can also play like crap and still win. Yay, variance!
Round 4 – RW Humans
So far, so good. Let’s do this.
The game started out with a turn one Doomed Traveler into a powered-up Stormblood Berserker. His quick start caused me some mild panic so I killed the Berserker with a Go for the Throat. On the following turn, he dropped a Hero of Bladehold. I wish I had that Go for the Throat right now. I shrunk the Hero with a Skinrender. He played another Hero of Bladehold and smashed me with his double Battlecry triggers.
I should have taken some hits from the Beserker before wasting the removal spell. It might not have mattered since he had two Hero of Bladehold, but it could have made a difference.
I mulliganed to a six card hand with two Go for the Throat. I grinded him out with the removal spells until I landed an Inferno Titan. He played a Fiend Hunter to exile it. I followed with a Daybreak Ranger. He played a Lightning Mauler, choosing not to pair it, and passed the turn. I played a land and passed, flipping the Ranger on his upkeep.
He played a Silverblade Paladin and tried to pair it with the Mauler. With the Soulbond on the stack, my Daybreak Ranger fought his Fiend Hunter and freed my Inferno Titan. The Titan targeted both Soulbond creatures.
Are you an asshole?
My opponent studied the board. He only had one mana untapped but he wasn’t ready to put his creatures in the graveyard yet. I was expecting some sick tech like Apostle’s Blessing. One of the locals, Chad was waiting to do a trade with me. He wanted to do it before the round but my match went longer than expected. I suppose Chad wanted to speed the process up so he started talking over my shoulder.
“And that’s the game, boys!” he said.
My opponent continued to study the board and Chad went on. “One of the things that I hate in Magic is when someone is clearly dead and they won’t scoop.”
My opponent was taking notice of Chad’s commentary looked up at him. “What’s your problem, man!?” he asked, aggravated.
Chad laughed. “You’re dead dude, Scoop em’ up! Why are you just sitting there like an idiot?”
My opponent started getting upset. He erupted with, “Are you an asshole?!”
Chad laughed again. “Yeah, ask anyone! They’ll tell you that I’m an asshole!” He marched off, laughing as if he just won some kind of unspoken battle.
My opponent was really upset. “Man that guy is going to ruin my night.”
I was faced with a choice. Maybe it shouldn’t have been a choice but the headache was subsiding and I started to realize that if I win this game, I could probably split first. The choice was whether to use Chad’s trolling for a strategic advantage to tilt my opponent harder or to do the right thing and try to help the guy get his focus back. I entertained the tilting option for a moment before deciding against it. I didn’t want to ruin this guy’s night. We’re all here to have fun and if I can’t win straight up, then I don’t want the win.
I tried to lighten the mood. ”Don’t let that ruin your night, bro. I understand that you wanted to walk through the play so that you don’t kick yourself later,” I said. He shook his head yes, but I could tell he was still shaken.
This game was pretty uneventful. I had a turn two Birthing Pod. He eventually played a Silverblade Paladin. I killed it with a Skinrender. I then upgraded my Bird to a Perilous Myr and he tried to get ahead with a Hero of Bladehold. I upgraded my Skinrender for a Zealous Conscripts and stole his Hero. Did you seriously think that the FNM Hero would be destroyed by an opposing Hero?
I smashed in for 13 and then exiled his Hero with a Sever the Bloodline. That was enough for him to scoop up the cards.
What did I learn?
Zealous Conscripts is insane! It might lead to me running less targeted removal and more Conscripts in the main deck.
Round 5 – Splitting First
I walked up to the counter where Jamie was putting the results in and asked, “Who else is undefeated?”
“Looks like Zach Unger.”
Zach was standing near the register and asked, “Are you undefeated Medina!?”
He went up for the high-five. “Do you want to split?” he asked.
“Absolutely,” I said. “How much credit is that?” I then asked Jamie.
+$40, New Total $70.37
My headache was still there but I pushed it back for a smile. I shook Zach’s hand as he congratulated me. It felt good to be successful. I pushed the glass doors open and waved to the guys still playing on my way out.
“Good night, guys!”
I got into my car and put on Queen’s “We are the Champions” Okay, just kidding about that. “Shoot to thrill” by AC / DC was on so I just restarted the song and cruised home.
@mtgmedina on Twitter
Art by: The ridiculously talented Polish Tamales
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