2015 was a pretty good year for my family and I. My wife and I celebrated eleven years together, our fourth wedding anniversary, our son turned three, and we welcomed our daughter to the world. I guess you could also say it was a pretty expensive year. Kids aren’t cheap!
Aside from the family doing well, I began playing Magic competitively, pretty much for the first time. If you’ve been following my articles, you know that I picked up Magic again with the release of M15. After getting back into FNMs and casual store events, I realized the thirst I had in my youth had never been quenched, only subsided. When I started to consistently perform well at those small events, I realized that I could begin to participate in competitive events.
Once I familiarized myself with the SCG series, and the changes to Wizards’ official path to the Pro Tour, I made a deal with my wife. If there was ever a year in which I did not qualify for at least one Invitational event or an RPTQ, I would quit Magic competitively, as that would mean I’m too far removed from the game in order to be competitive, and my age and missing so many years of Magic would have caught up with me, and I should just pack it in. This timer began with the invitational in New Jersey in 2015.
Along with this yearly commitment to perform or bust, I made a few goals for myself for 2015:
-Top 8 an event
-Cash an event
-Day 2 a 2 day event
And then I had the secondary goal of qualifying for either an Invitational or RPTQ.
My Magic year went a little better than I had expected. I didn’t put up any results at all at the first two IQs that I participated in, but then I hit my stride. I got second place at my first PPTQ playing Abzan in M15-Theros-Khans Standard. I loved that deck, and will not soon forget this experience. The feeling of competing for an RPTQ invitation at my first PPTQ was very exciting. I then was able to find out that the person that beat me was able to qualify for the Pro Tour off of his RPTQ invite. So telling myself that I was a match away from becoming an RPTQ competitor, but losing to a Pro Tour capable opponent has made coping with that loss better.
I was able to then get second place at another PPTQ that year. This time in the Modern format. I played U/R Twin, what has become my favorite deck in that format (although lately, I’ve been trying the Tarmotwin deck, and that seems to be a little more fun!). Man did I crush that event. I didn’t drop a match until the finals, where I lost to, of course, the mirror, where I was just less practiced. This time, I got within one game win of moving to an RPTQ. Frustration, but a nice payout, and great experience.
I was also able to achieve a few other notable finishes in 2015. I was able to hit a ninth place finish on tiebreakers, which was soul-shattering, but acceptable, as well as two other top 8s, and a deep run at an 8 round IQ, where I was unable to finish the win and in for top 8.
And then, the last IQ that I had competed in in 2015, I was able to win. What a great feeling that was. Not only that, I beat my first professional level opponent. Knowing that I’m going down the right path in terms of progressing as a Magic player, and getting confirmation of this by winning an event was a great feeling. Not only did that victory knock another goal off of my list, based on the deal made with my wife, it means I get to play Magic until at least 2017.
So last year was a swell first year in my eyes of a time constrained grinder. Obviously I can’t go to every single event I would like to go to, because of my commitments to the family and my career outside of Magic, along with monetary restrictions (I would love to travel to every Open event or GP in North America, but planes aren’t cheap), but I do feel like I’ve made the most of my event performances.
So what’s in store for 2016? Not only am I goal oriented, I believe that if you’re a Magic player, and you want to play beyond FNMs or weekly casual events at your LGS, I think it’s important to have goals that are attainable, but still challenging, at least in relation to your past experiences. Here is a list of my updated goals for next year:
-Win a PPTQ and compete in an RPTQ
-Win multiple IQs
-Make day 2 in a 2 day event
-Qualify for another Invitational
-Find a Legacy deck I love
After my experiences this past year, where in retrospect, my goals were easily attainable, I think I can turn up my goals a bit. Two second place finishes at PPTQs means that I was very close to coming onto the RPTQ scene not only once, but twice. I think if I had played a little tighter, and had more experience in either of the mirror matches that I lost to in the finals, Abzan or Twin, I could have done it. There’s always next year though.
I think that winning multiple IQs is equally doable. Now, when I say “win” multiple IQs, I don’t necessarily mean win. Since they are no longer awarding points to top 8s of IQs, winning doesn’t mean much once you’ve won as many invites as you plan on using in a year. I will definitely be going to any New Jersey invitationals that I qualify for, it’s the trips to Columbus or Roanoke that I’m not looking forward to. So if I find myself in a position where I can split prizes in a top 4 at an IQ, and I’m already qualified for whichever IQ I plan on attending, then I will consider that a win, as again, the points no longer exist at the IQ level.
Making day 2 at a 2 day event was a little out of reach for me this year, the main reason is that I was unable to travel to many. Since I was still feeling out the competitive scene, I was reluctant to make 4 hour trips to Providence or Syracuse or Boston or Baltimore to play in Open events. However, this year, there are many GPs and Opens in my area that I plan on attending, and I do plan on visiting more of these. That is of course if the wife green-lights me. Hopefully, I will be able to make a day 2 at one of these.
Qualifying for another Invitational goes hand in hand with winning multiple IQs, but again, I have this deal going with my wife where if there is any year that I just don’t qualify for anything, then that’s the last year of competitive Magic for me. Now, this isn’t her idea, it’s mine. I’m very competitive, and I feel that if I’m not winning at Magic, I know I’m not having as much fun, and I should just stop spending my time and money on something that I don’t enjoy and am not winning at. Winning is fun!
Now, this last one is a bit tricky. I was lucky when I chose a Modern deck to build. When I was looking at getting into Modern, one of the threads I used to decide which deck to build said something to the effect of Twin was the best deck in Modern. Period. So I built it. And not only is the deck very good, I love the deck. I LOVE it. It is so much fun to pilot, and I feel that if I’m not playing it at any Modern event, I’m not going to have as much fun, and I’m not giving myself the best chances to win.
Legacy to me is a different story. When I started getting into Legacy this last year, I had Miracles built, because, I’m a spike and read that Miracles was the best deck. However, I wasn’t having fun playing it. It never clicked for me. I had tried other decks as well, from ANT to Maverick, to Omnitell. None of those decks really appealed to me. Right now I’m looking toward a Delver variant or Infect, but I don’t know. The decks in Legacy just don’t seem as exciting to me as the decks in Modern. However, because of the area I’m in, the New York City-Philadelphia Legacy belt, Legacy is a big part of the culture, and it’s more supported in this area I think that most other areas. You can almost guarantee that there will be a Legacy Open or Grand Prix event in a given year within a few hours drive of me.
So I’ve gone over my retrospective for the year, and have come up with new goals for 2016. I think it’s time to think of some resolutions for my Magic playing for 2016. I think this is a good thing as well for competitive players to do so that they can keep an eye on things they know they need to improve upon over many games, instead of just a single misplay in a given game that made you lose.
-Don’t make as many snap decisions. I think this is a big hurdle for me, and is what I attribute my failure to make day 2 at the New Jersey Open this past year. In one of the earlier rounds in the day, in game 3, with five minutes left on the round timer, I’m on Jeskai, and my opponent is on the Abzan list with Hangarback Walkers. It’s pretty late in the game, and I’m about to turn a corner with Jace, Telepath Unboundticking up. He goes for Fleecemane Lion. I snap say “sure.”
I had an Ojutai’s Command in my hand. He proceed to Monstrous his Fleecemane Lion, and take the match. I was in a rush because of the round timer, but I definitely misplayed and lost the game because of that quick decision. It wasn’t really even a decision, it was a knee-jerk reaction. I am now trying to take a few seconds whenever my opponent makes a move to go over responses I have. I know this sounds trivial, but it’s just at thing that I do that I need to work on.
-Don’t play a deck just because it’s the “best deck.” I did this for a while with Abzan. It was awesome! Courser of Kruphix, Thoughtseize, it was so strong! I had a lot of success with the deck, and then the format rotated. I was left with playing this nasty little Dark Jeskai deck that people like Owen Turtenwald, Jon Finkel, Luis Scott-Vargas, and Patrick Chapin were all calling the best deck in Standard. Excellent! That’s the deck I’ll play then!
I am not Owen Turtenwald, Jon Finkel, Luis Scott-Vargas, or Patrick Chapin. I’m a guy that has dreams of one day being on a single Pro Tour. I am not a hall of famer. When someone of their caliber says that a deck is the best, there’s a reason. One of those reasons might be because they are just a better player, and they can maximize the value needed out of every single card in the deck. No doubt the deck offers a few free wins here and there just out of sheer power level, but I was almost unable to win with the deck.
I switched it up, and sleeved up the R/G Landfall deck. The deck is not only a blast to play, but is really good at winning matches of Magic. I’ll be playing in an event this Saturday actually with the deck. I feel like while Dark Jeskai may be the best deck in the hands of a Hall of Fame gravy-trainer from the Pro Tour, R/G Landfall might be the best deck to combat the average IQ player that will keep sub-optimal hands with sub-optimal mana and sub-optimal lines of play.
I know that I have a lot more to work on, but I hope that my review of my past year offered you a reason to step up your game and make your own goals and resolutions for this year. Here’s to 2016 being the best Magic year for everyone yet!
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