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FNM Hero: Still Swinging

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

Last time we spoke I’d left my pet dragon, Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius for a more aggressive and bad-ass pet: Thundermaw Hellkite. Luckily for me, I caught onto the deck before Todd Anderson popularized it and before Thundermaw Hellkite went from $9.99 to $14.99 (and now $19.99). My plan was to use my Supreme Verdict to buy into a tournament and then crush it and go infinite. I wanted Zealous Conscripts for the sideboard against control and Thragtusk decks. I couldn’t find anyone to trade them to me before the tournament so I substituted them for two Mark of Mutiny–obviously bad against control but still decent against Thragtusk. I traded the Verdict for tournament entry plus some commons and uncommons that I needed.

I went 2-2, which was discouraging to say the least. I thought that battling with some of the most powerful mythic rares in Standard would give me an edge, but it seems that wasn’t the case. A little seed in my brain started to sprout:

Maybe I’m terrible at this game.

I fought the notion that I wasn’t at least better than most of the guys who played at my shop. I dismissed it with the common excuse for poor performances: variance, bro.

More Packs!

I was desperate for some value on the night, so I decided to bury my disappointment in some good ole fashioned gambling. I prefer to call it “calculated risk trading,” but at the core I was just hopping to get lucky by trading a Terminus toward some packs of Return to Ravnica. One of the really cool things about this set for FNM Hero and budget players everywhere is that it has a lot of value in it. Even now that the prices are starting to settle it’s still a great set to open. It makes me wonder if my position on drafting should be revised. Maybe if I’m still alive when Gatecrash hits I’ll do some drafts. Until then, let’s try to win the Jace lottery!

I didn’t open a Jace, but I still count it as a success. I got lucky and after “walking away” Jamie decided to see what kind of luck he could have with pack opening.

As you can see, I was very close to getting completely blown-out. Thankfully, I dodged the bullet and filled my binder with some trade stuff. I hit the trade tables to pick up a few things for my deck.

I also traded in a couple of mythic rares in to the store for some sleeves and next week’s entry:

Time to Battle

For the rest of the week I gold-fished* my newly sleeved deck and read/watched as much material on the deck as I could. I noticed that Todd Anderson made some small changes to the deck from the Japanese version that I was running. I copied some of the changes, like adding more Azorius Charm and cutting Izzet Charm. I didn’t like all of his changes; you’ll notice that I kept Dissipate over Syncopate because I liked Dissipate more in the late game. There weren’t a lot of Geist of Saint Traft decks locally, so having a two mana counter spell for their turn three play wasn’t as important.

Round 1 – Esper Tokens (Street Cred Bill)

“Are you going to dream crush the FNM Hero?”

Street Cred laughed. “I doubt it. I haven’t played in weeks.”

Game one was a grind as I expected. Shortly after arriving on the board, a Verdict was issued against my Geist of Saint Traft. It was Supreme. My counterspells showed up at inconvenient times, like after he resolved a threat. Street Cred eventually assembled Jace / Tamiyo Voltron. I fought the soft lock and tried to play to some of my outs which didn’t exist, until he forgot to activate Jace on one of his turns. This allowed me to kill it and the game started to slip out of his hands. I fought the Tamiyo and continued to apply pressure. On the last possible turn he Miracled an Entreat the Angels which shattered any illusions that I had of winning. The game was over on the following turn.  I boarded in my Zealous Conscripts to battle his Planeswalkers and more Detention Spheres for his Entreat the Angels.  As we sideboarded, Street Cred kicked himself for missing the Jace, Architect of Thought activation and almost losing the game. We didn’t finish game two before the clock ran out. It was “turn zero” and with five cards left in his library and a Jace, Architect of Thought at eight counters, Street Cred passed the turn. I played a Zealous Conscripts.

“Targeting Jace.”

Street Cred looked down. “Shit! I forgot to activate Jace.”

He lamented and scalded himself as I looked through our decks for something to end the game. I played a Thundermaw Hellkite out of my deck and an Entreat the Angels (for zero) out of his deck. He played an Ultimate Price on the Hellkite and I hit him for three damage. I furiously dug for some action but the match ended on turn five at 1-0 in favor of Street Cred.

“Man, I played terrible.”

“You still got it,” I said, smiling.

“Who got it?” Jamie yelled from the counter.

“Medina got it, 2-0,” Street Cred yelled back.

“What?!” I said in protest.

“I played like crap and I don’t deserve to win. I’m conceding to you.”

I wasn’t going to fight him and I was really appreciative, but it felt really weird to get a win like that.

“Thanks man!” I said.

“No problem. Now don’t let me down next round!”

He headed to the back where the EDH players play.


What did I learn?

It’s not uncommon for games to go to time in Standard. I should always try to play fast and make decisions based on the long game.

Round 2 – GW Humans

I sat across from an unfamiliar face.

“Are you new?”

“Yeah, and I just had to play against my friend for one of our first tournaments!”

This should be easy.

Game one started with a Champion of the Parish, then another Champion of the Parish, and Rancor and a swing for four. I played my third land and passed the turn back. He played a Champion of Lambholt and I didn’t have a counterspell. He swung both Champions. I took three and Azorius Charmed his big one to the top of the deck. He untapped and replayed the Champion of the Parish and then a Wild Beastmaster. He swung for five with his other Champion of the Parish, leaving the Lambholt back. I had a Restoration Angel in my hand but I didn’t want to feed it to his Champion so I Azorizus Charmed again. He replayed the Champion of the Parish, put a Rancor on the Wild Beastmaster and Smashed me for sixteen. Game over.

I almost lost game two in similar fashion, but he played into my double Azorius Charm with his two Wild Beastmasters and a Gavony Township. I ended up countering his first Beastmaster on the way back down and then I held the second one off with a Restoration Angel. I couldn’t swing or I would die to a swing back. He pumped his Beastmaster with Gavony Township for a couple of turns while I looked for an answer. At the end of his turn, I sent two Searing Spears at his face. He graciously accepted the damage. Then I untapped and played Zealous Conscripts to steal his Beastmaster.

“Nice Beastmaster, bro. I’m going to borrow it.”

I slammed in for fifteen.  He said “okay” and started to untap.

“You’re dead,” I remind him. Beastmaster is so wild that she gives my dudes +3/+3 also.

He laughed sheepishly and we went to game three. He stalled on mana and I played a turn three Geist which happily swung into his 1/1 Champion of the Parish until he was dead.


What did I learn?

I shouldn’t underestimate an archetype or a player. Both games where my opponent had mana were very tough.

Round 3 – Esper Control (vs Syncopate’s own Ryan Tackett)

Tell me that they aren’t the same person and I’ll tell you that you’re crazy. Ryan’s girlfriend, Emily came over to watch the “Feature Match” as she called it. She jokingly asked me to beat him so that they could go home. I laughed and said, “I’ll try.”

Ryan looked at his hand and snapped his fingers in the air. “SNAP KEEP,” he said as he shuffled the cards in his hand.

“I’ll go to six,” I said. I drew my six and they were above average. I curved Azorius Charm to draw, into Geist of Saint Traft. Ryan desperately tried to keep the pressure off with a Supreme Verdict. I was happy to flash in a Restoration Angel at the end of the turn to keep the beats rolling. Ryan tried to play a Tamiyo, the Moon Sage and I Dissipated it and smacked him again with the Angel. He found another Verdict to killed my Angel. I flashed a second Angel in after the Verdict.

“You’re good at this game,” he said, smiling.

“Skill game,” I responded.

The second Angel went all the way and we went to game two. While we were sideboarding I decided to talk some smack.

“So that’s what a snap-keep looks like?”


“Your snap-keep didn’t hold up to my six very well, bro.”

He gave me an are-you-serious look. “What are you trying to say?”

“All I’m saying is that I hope I have seven this time so that I can end the game quicker.”

“Well, when I draw like crap…”

We cut each other’s decks and started game two. I had another turn three Geist of Saint Traft and Ryan sighed. For the next few turns I mindlessly swung it like a sledge hammer into sheet rock.

He played a Supreme Verdict. Without missing a beat, I played a Restoration Angel for the end of turn. I hit him with the Angel and he played a Tamiyo to tap it. He was at three life, so he asked before passing the turn, “Is that last card in your hand a burn spell?”

“Kinda.” (It was a Zealous Conscripts)

“If it’s a burn spell, I’ll concede.”

“Let’s just play it out.”

I drew a Searing Spear for the turn. I didn’t want it to look like I was slow-rolling him so I played the Zealous Conscripts and targeted my Restoration Angel. I swung with both and he scooped his cards up. I accidentally flashed the Searing Spear as I was picking up my cards.

“I asked if you had the burn spell!”

“I just drew it.”

“Why didn’t you just kill me?”

“You had open mana. I wasn’t slow-rolling …” I paused then added, “but I was talking smack after game one to tilt you.”

He laughed. “Yeah, I know. It didn’t work.”


We shook hands and I went to see who my next opponent was.


What did I learn?

Turn three Geist of Saint Traft wins games, though I did feel a little bit cheap mindlessly swinging with Geist. I want more “play” and more decisions in my deck. But then again, maybe I’m not good enough to capitalize on a more skill-testing deck.

Round 4 – Mike Belfatto

I reported my win to Jamie and asked who else was undefeated. He told me that no one was, which was bad news. This means that I would have to play round four out and I couldn’t split.

I checked the pairings to see who I was playing.

It was one of the better players, Mike Belfatto. I waited for the round to start then took my seat at the table. The store didn’t have many people in and I couldn’t find Mike. After about five minutes of waiting, I walked outside to check if he was there. No one was out there. I asked around and someone said Mike had left.

“Are you serious?” I asked. Please let them be serious.

“Yeah, I saw him leave.”

After 10 minutes, I was awarded the win. I was able to buy two Snapcaster Mage and still have $10 in store credit with my winnings.

Current Status

Illuminaud Credit: $10
Epic Loot Credit: $0
Cash: .51

It looks like we’re back in business! My binder got a little love from the packs that I opened. I’m up to three Snapcaster Mage and I have $10 in store credit. Join me next week as I battle at Game Day and fight my temptation to take more chances on Return to Ravnica packs.

Jonathan Medina
@mtgmedina on Twitter

Art By: Polish Tamales

* Played games by myself, without an opponent.

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