This coming weekend is Grand Prix New York. Since I’m a family man now, I don’t generally have the luxury of shipping out for a weekend to play Magic at a big event like an Open or Grand Prix, and it isn’t too common for a big event like one of these to be in my relative backyard. Being that this one is Standard, I really want to make it count. The past few weeks of Standard have taught me a lot about what I need to focus on in the coming days if I want to do well. Looking back at my goals for the year, I can already check off winning another IQ, my victory at States a couple of weekends ago locked me up for an invite to the first invitational of 2017, which is hopefully close to me and on a weekend that doesn’t inconvenience any family plans like birthdays, etc.
So what’s left for me this year? My goals of winning a PPTQ to qualify for an RPTQ, and to day 2 a big 2 day event still stand. As I’m reluctant at this point to really play Magic Online due to constant bug issues, and initial buy in cost, that first one still eludes me, as I think playing in a Magic Online Qualifier may check that first goal off. However, one can’t simply play a Grand Prix online yet, so we have to dig into that trenches there.
And that’s what I’ll be doing this weekend. Trying to battle my way to day 2 with zero buys. And I would prefer to get the old day 2 record of 7-2 in order to make it. I feel like making day 2 on 6-3 is kind of a waste, since you can’t make the Pro Tour with that record most likely, and are against the odds to even cash at that point, both things I would very much like to happen.
So how has testing been going for GPNY? It’s been going. My close confidants for Magic have dubbed me “The Politician” over the past couple years due to my inability to maintain faith in a single deck for too long. This is due to many factors, from just having cards to build multiple decks, to wanting to play whatever the best deck is for a weekend, to just wanting to play with literally all the cards.
Whatever the reason may be, my flip-floppy nature to completely 180 degree about face on a deck on a dime is something that I must cure, especially when I am incapable at any given moment to play any deck I pick up at an optimal level.
Let’s go over my path for Standard since the beginning of the season. Still salty after the banning of my sweet, sweet child Splinter Twin, I saw Todd Anderson’s Blue Red Pyromancer’s Goggles deck and thought it was right up my alley. Casting almost literal Lightning Bolt is a really sweet deal, and something I wanted to do again since I last did it in Modern at the tail end of 2015.
Low and behold, that was a strategy I wasn’t fond of in Standard. The idea that I would just play against Bant Company and Humans, and Lightning Bolt their dudes was backburnered as I played Blue Control mirror after Blue Control mirror, playing games with a fun-ness factor of actual negative numbers, losing to my opponent just finding their Fevered Visions before I did.
I then hunkered down with my old standby, Bant Company, that I thought I was sick of, and thought wouldn’t be good because of the loss of the fetchlands to provide me with a consistent mana base. I won States a few weekends ago due to this last minute switch, simply because that deck was busted at that point in time. The deck felt really good then, and I felt like I played phenomenally well.
Then the Pro Tour happened, and I got inside my own head. There was no way Bant Company was good any more. The Pros beat it every which way to Sunday. Between the different variations on the G/R Goggles Ramp decks and straight G/R Ramp, G/W Tokens, and the G/B Sacrifice decks, Bant Company had no room to live. Except it did. And it got second place at that Pro Tour in the hands of Andrea Mengucci, a guy who has the best accent I’ve ever heard.
This meant one thing. I couldn’t play Bant Company. It was beaten. The worst deck in the format. The sky was falling. Except that it did get second place at some random Pro Tour (hooray for sarcasm!).
I immediately started trading and picking up pieces for the G/B Aristocrats deck. I had it. We were going to play it. Then I spoke to one of my friends. Now, I’m not sure how much stock to put into what he said, because he was praising the strength of Jon Finkel’s G/B Control deck with Seasons Past and Dark Petition from the Pro Tour, which in my eyes as a Bant Company player, was a throw away matchup. However, he did mention that he thought the B/G Aristocrats deck was difficult to play, especially with only a couple of days to practice.
So here I was. Flip Flopper Supreme of the universe, with my new deck, ready to play in a PPTQ the weekend before the Grand Prix with this deck I knew very little about. So I did what I always do when I am unsatisfied with my deck decisions. I stayed up until 2 am the night before the event, playtesting my deck until I realize I should have just stuck with the original deck I had in the first place because this new deck wasn’t just giving me free wins. I would be ten years younger if I could just get all that late night testing of new decks I knew I wouldn’t be playing back.
So I sleeve up my Bant Company list, and ship out to this PPTQ. The most miserable PPTQ I’ve ever been to. I will never go to this store for another event ever again. Not only were there 40 players, a good amount of which I have high respect for as players, the event began 45 minutes late. The 50 minute rounds lasted about 90, and after round 2, they took a 10 minute break for pizza. At 6 o’clock in the evening, I had played three rounds of Magic, and went home after a very dismal 1-2 record.
Again I was dissatisfied. I spent the whole 90 minute ride home determining to find which parts of the deck just weren’t right for that day. Was it the 2 Void Grafter I tried in the flex slots? Was it my sideboard being incorrect for the day?
In reality, it was because I had stayed up until 2 am the night before, felt terrible, didn’t even drink a coffee, and was tilted because the tournament was run so inefficiently. Even these aren’t the real reason I went 1-2 drop. The real reason was that I played like garbage, and probably didn’t even deserve the one match win I did get. I should have just went to the local ATM, took out the tournament fee from my bank account, and thrown it in the river.
I try to blame all these things, but in reality, I didn’t play around at all the Chandra, Flamecaller my ramp opponent had in game 1 with which I got 4 for 1’d when I had a clear line around this happening that I just didn’t take. I didn’t play correctly against my round 1 Mardu opponent, either. I wasn’t mentally prepared for that event, and just wanted my deck to give me free wins that I didn’t earn.
That was one thing I forgot about. Even though your deck may be powerful, you have to actually play Magic with those cards. You can’t just tap lands, put a thing into play, and expect that to be good enough.
So clearly, I was off Bant. The deck just wasn’t good enough for me to go better than 1-2 at a local PPTQ, so why the heck would I want to play it at a Grand Prix? Immediately once I got home, I started looking at what was doing well at Grand Prix Toronto. Only one Bant deck ended up winning a GPT, and it was freaking Fabrizio Anteri, so that doesn’t count, because that guy is just insane good.
39% of the day 2 field was Green White tokens. How could I do well at a Grand Prix when 39% of the field is a single deck that is a poor matchup for the Bant deck? Flustered, yet again, I go looking for a new deck, and stumble upon the Seth Manfield special of the weekend. His G/B Aristocrats build with Brood Monitors and Eldrazi Displacer for the infinite life loss combo with Zulaport Cutthroat and Reflector Mages just because that card is insane.
I immediately start texting my friends. “This is the deck.” “How can this deck lose?” “This deck breaks all of Bant’s bad matchups.” I had the cards needed for this deck in my shopping cart, ready to select next day shipping. Ready to punch in my Paypal information. Ready to just accept my fate, and play this clunky, weird, out of left field deck.
That’s when I caught her gaze. My girlfriend stared at me with sorrowful eyes. Was I really going to do this to her? What about my side boo? Could I desert her as well? What about my boyfriend? Was I really going to give up the chance to take these people into a Grand Prix for some new hotness I didn’t even have any feelings for? Truly Avacyn, Nissa, and Jace would understand. It wasn’t them, it was me.
I thought better of it. If I can’t play this deck that I’ve been playing for a few months now well enough, what makes me think I can just pick up some deck I’ve never even heard of before today and win a Grand Prix with it? I’m not Seth Manfield. I’m not even close to being the best player in the world. Hell I’m not the best player in my region probably.
I reminded myself that Bant Company is a hell of a deck. Metagames fluctuate. Esper Dragons won the Grand Prix in Toronto. I can beat that deck. Do I really want to play Zulaport Cutthroat mirror matches again? Why don’t I want to play Reflector Mage? The answers I was giving to myself weren’t making sense. Then I saw it. In tenth place at the Grand Prix, with a record probably good enough to make the Pro Tour, was an almost identical list to my Bant Company list that I changed after the PPTQ. Lambholt Pacifist. Could she be my new love?
What I learned through all of this, is that unless you’re Seth Manfield, just play the deck you’ve been playing, with the cards you’ve been learning. Unless you’re completely miserable, one poor weekend does not necessarily denote the next will be poor, just like one good weekend does not denote the next will be good. A lot of factors go into Magic tournaments, between state of mind, amount of sleep, mental preparation, and even plain luck. If you could win them all, someone would have done so by now. Wasting all this mental energy on deciding what deck to play is more detrimental to your play than just playing Dark Souls 3 in your down time.
So now that I’m playing Bant Company again, it’s time to play test matchups, and get ready to hype myself up for GPNY. If you’re heading to that event, feel free to tweet me @bachmanntim and we can meet up. Until next time!
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