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FNM Hero: Rise

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard


My wife had been texting me like mad. I didn’t noticed because I was battling against notable Snapcaster Mage lookalike Bernie Wen to stay undefeated at my pre-release.

Bernie has his back against the wall. He casts Cremate to draw a card. Then he cast a second one. He was digging for something to keep my Rakdos Horde from devouring his life total. He came up short and extended his hand.

“Good games, Medina.”

I shook Bernie’s hand and smiled. As we made small talk, I checked my phone only to find numerous text messages. Oops. I ran outside to call my wife. She was probably annoyed. I played the conversation out in my head as the phone rang:

“Where have you been?!”

“I was playing Magic, what’s up?”

My fake conversation was interrupted by my wife’s voice on the other end of the phone:

“Hi, honey!”

“Hi, how has your day been?”

“It’s been good. How would you feel about going to the movies tonight?”

I hesitated for a moment. I’d been playing magic since Friday night at 5pm, It was now Saturday at 5:30pm (stupid midnight pre-release). There was no doubt that I missed my wife, but I was 4-0 and I really had a shot at winning big on the FNM Hero budget. I wrestled with the options, but only for a moment.

“Sure, let’s do it.”

“Are you doing bad at your tournament?” She could sense something.

“No, I’m doing awesome!”

“Oh, then why don’t you keep playing? We’ll go another time.”

“I think it’s important to put you first.”

“Well, I don’t want to interrupt your tournament…” She sounded less excited about the prospect of a night now.

I released any hope of winning the pre-release and insisted that she come pick me up. The thing is, my wife won’t fight for time with me because she wants me to be happy by letting me do whatever I want.  I’m ashamed to admit that sometimes I allow her to put herself second so that I can chase my selfish pursuits.  This time, I knew that I needed to let her know that she came first.

“You’re not interrupting. I’m ready for a break and I miss you. Come get me.”


“What time will you be here?” I asked. (OK, maybe I held on to a little bit of hope that I could still stuff this tournament.)

“Probably about 6:30.”

“OK. I’ll see you then.”

I walked back into the shop.

“Jamie, how much longer until next round?”

“We’ll, that’s time now. So just a couple of minutes.”

“OK. Thanks!”

A few minutes later, the pairings were posted and I was paired against my kryptonite, Dan Robers. I’m probably about 2-15 lifetime in sanctioned matches against Dan. Dramatic monologue poured through my mind as I walked to find my seat:

Movie trailer voice: It’s come down to this. I’ve spent all my store credit on two pre-releases. I scrubbed out of the first one and Dan Robers is about to knock me out of the second one. My wife should be here right in time to scoop up what’s left of my spirits and self-image after this brutal loss.

“You playing a durdle deck?” I asked.

Dan likes to play slow decks that do nothing but draw cards and bore his opponents into concession  I hoped that he chose to build his sealed deck the same way. Then my aggressive Rakdos deck would give him a serving of whoop-ass.

He smiled as he shuffled. “We’ll see!”

He played a Rakdos Guildgate and said go. Gross! The mirror match.

Fast Forward. It’s Game 3. Dan played a Spawn of Rix Maadi to stabilize. I picked the card up to read it.

“Are you Unleashing it?”

“No. I think I’d rather block,” he said as he smirked.

I picked up the Slitherhead in my graveyard and read it. Then I picked up his Spawn again. I was pretty sure I knew what to do but I didn’t want to get blown out by some weird rules interaction so I called for a Judge. Dan smiled and said, “it works.” That was a little too ambiguous for me. I walked away from the table with the judge and he confirmed my instincts.

I sat back down and grabbed the Slitherheadfrom my graveyard then pointed it at his creature.

“Unleash your Spawn?”

Dan nodded, first slowly then more decisively as he scooped up his cards.

“You got it.”

I did a fist pump, then explained the time predicament I was in. Dan Laughed.

“You would have got up and left if your wife showed up?” he asked.

“Yes. Now let’s hope the other undefeated guy splits!”

As I was walking up to the counter to ask Jamie about the prize payout, Josh (the other undefeated player) stopped me.

“Splits Medina?”

“Did you win?” I asked.

“Yeah…” Josh went into a story of how his opponent didn’t have a chance. I’m sure it was a lovely story but I was too busy celebrating in my mind to pay attention.

His story ended and I appended the obligatory, “sick run, bro!”

We both asked Jamie how much the prize split was going to be and he started crunching numbers. I glanced outside to see Meredith (my wife) approaching the door. I walked out to meet her and I brought her inside to introduce her to the guys.

We all made small talk while Jamie worked on the prize numbers.

“31 packs each.”

I looked at Josh and nodded. We both grabbed our product and I was out of there.

This is one of those moments where you have your cake and eat it too. I walked out and jumped into the car with Meredith. We had dinner while I regaled her with tales of my triumph.

Meanwhile, Back at the Lab…

Here’s the deck list that I left you with last time we talked:

I still needed all the cards for the deck, so I went into resource-gathering mode. My goal was to have $45 in cash and my new deck by the Friday of the Return to Ravnica set release. This would give me my entry fee for the Star City Games Open in Cincinnati and $5 to start over again at Friday Night Magic (FNM) after the Open. My status was last reported here and I’ve updated it to reflect the pre-releases:

-$50 in Illuminadi store credit for two pre-releases
-$5 in Illuminaudi credit + $7 in cash for a playset of Silverblade Paladin.

Illuminaudi Credit =$0
Epic Loot Credit =$0
Cash =$7.34

The three weeks preceding the tournament were a whirlwind of trades, sales and free rolls. Here’s the breakdown:


Rather than go through each trade I’m going to quickly outline the different strategies that I used during my trade sessions:

  1. The first strategy was to trade for cards that I needed. If someone had a card that I needed, I’d ask them if they could find something for it. I tried not to trade for commons and uncommons (unless they were from the new set) because you can buy them much cheaper than you can trade for them.
  2. If I wasn’t trading for something I needed, then I was trying to trade away any of the new Return to Ravnica stuff. You see that I traded an Abrupt Decay away for a Snapcaster Mage and some other stuff. I wanted to put my value into a safer commodity. Return to Ravnica cards are in high demand (which means a high price) right now because everyone needs them, but since the set is being opened so much it will flood the market and the prices will go down. When that happens, I’d rather have a Snapcaster Mage than an Abrupt Decay.
  3. If I didn’t see anything I needed then I would try to trade up to something like a Terminus or other cards that people would want. This would keep my trade stock fresh and help me get the cards that I needed for my deck.
  4. You’ll notice that I traded for a lot of Deadeye Navigators. This is because I found a glitch in the Matrix! On Channel Fireball, Deadeye Navigator was .49 but on Star City Games Deadeye Navigator was $1.99 and sold out. Whenever I was trading by Channel Fireball prices, I always tried to work a Deadeye Navigator or two into the trade. Whenever someone wanted a Deadeye Navigator then I’d go by the Star City Games price.


Since money was short, I put the word out that I was selling stuff from my old Delver deck and some Return to Ravnica cards. I didn’t get a lot of interest but there were a couple of things that people bought:

4 Seachrome Coast – $16 to Eric Sias (thanks Eric, you rock!)
1 Rakdos’s Return and a Dreadbore – $16 to one of the bad ass Cominnos Brothers! (thanks Billy)
1 Epic Experiment and some Izzet Uncommons – $9 to Street Cred Bill (thanks, Nick)

That gives us a total of $48.34.

Free Rolls

I opened pretty well at my first pre-release. Here’s what I got:

Between the packs that I opened and the draft droppings, I was rolling in it. For those of you that are unfamiliar with “draft droppings,” it’s basically when someone pulls the rares out of their draft pool and leaves the rest on the table. I never do this because I love getting value out of all my cards, but a lot of people don’t want to be bothered with commons and uncommons. This is great news for me because I’m on a budget and I’m happy to scoop up some playable commons and uncommons and build a stack of bulk for a cash out in the future.

Something that most people don’t know is that most dealers will pay $3 to $6 for a thousand bulk commons and uncommons. I can tell you that after months of scraping tables I have about two thousand bulk common and uncommons saved up for the dire day that I might need to cash out for another tournament entry.

Here are some pictures of some of the goodies that you can find in the treasure trove of draft droppings:

As any avid FNM Hero fans know, door prizes have been good to me. The Return to Ravnica pre-release was no exception. At my first pre-release I won a free playmat, which I promptly traded for two Craterhoof Behemoth!

The Last Things To Arrive

During this whole process, I still had not finalized a decklist. I’d just been trading for cards that I thought I could run in my deck and I still needed two Ajani, Caller of the Pride. I posted a message on Facebook fishing for some help and Anthony D’Aconto came to the rescue. We arranged a trade through mail and after this weekend, I think he did alright.

Anthony’s cards showed up on Friday and I finally had everything to finalize my list for the tournament.

The Deck

I searched high and low for new technology before finalizing my list. I watched Gerry T and Todd Anderson’s playtest videos and then sent them my list and asked for advice. They both gave some input but I could tell from their messages that they didn’t think Humans was really a good deck choice.

Surprisingly, the most helpful advice on the deck came from one of my local FB groups. Two of the local guys had been testing a lot with the archetype and they were really hot on Geist of Saint Traft. I was skeptical because I expected a lot of creature decks and it seemed like it wouldn’t get through enough damage.  They countered with an argument for running Spectral Flight–a card that (for some reason) I’ve consider myself “above” running. They were very persuasive so I decided to give it a try. Here’s the list that I planned on running at the Star City Games Open in Cincinnati:

If this episode leaves you filling unfulfilled, it’s supposed to do that. Just like the card Rise//Fall, there’s two sides to the story of SCG Cincinnati. This side can be summed up as the “boring” side. I traded for a bunch of cards and sold stuff to get ready for the tournament. Big deal, right? In the next episode (titled “FNM Hero: Fall”), I talk about pre-format anxiety, battling Brandon Young Wolf, and a moment of sadness that I’m proud of. Until then, thanks for reading.

Jonathan Medina
@mtgmedina on Twitter

Art By: Polish Tamales 

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