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The Butterfly Effect

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

A butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil. Weeks later a hurricane forms thousands of miles away. The Butterfly Effect, aside from being a terrible movie, is the theory that one small, nearly insignificant event can set a considerably larger event in motion. While I may not subscribe to the theory in the physical sense, I do believe that the Butterfly Effect can be applied to human thought processes and decision making. You make one little choice and it snowballs into something of significance. One step out of place, one split second pause, and it can alter your entire future. This is something I know all too well.

I often describe myself as “The Doc Brown of Magic”, an insane, rambling character constantly thinking and brainstorming ideas, and there is a very good reason for this. For me, mental illness is a stark reality stemming from a drowning incident as a child resulting in PTSD. To this day I can’t be submerged in water past my ribcage without having a panic attack. As well, I suffer occasional bouts of depression due to the deaths of several people close to me. When my mind wanders, it quickly turns to incredibly dark and depressing thoughts, so I constantly try to keep my mind occupied just to get me through the day. For me, Magic and brewing in particular have been the best way to keep myself focused on something positive, but every now and then I slip up.

This is the story of how through one slight pause and Magic, I altered my future for the better.

Flashback to September 7th, 2013: my 24th birthday. My parents gave me the day off work so I could play in a Legacy event downtown. They were giving away an Ancestral Recall for first place, but I really didn’t care about the prize. What do I need more cards for? I have my Constructed decks for everything besides Standard, and store credit was for a store a two hour mission away so I wouldn’t really want to bank it. I just wanted to play cards and have some fun on my birthday.

I got to Downsview subway station at about 10 in the morning, switched on my ipod and stood on the platform waiting for the train to arrive. I let my guard down for a moment as I stared down at the tracks and I reflected on the past year, one of the worst years of my life. It was not a pleasant train of thought, to say the least. I subconsciously inched closer to the edge of the platform and questioned whether it was worth continuing on into another year of drudgery and self-perceived isolation. The light was coming through the tunnel. One little step and it wouldn’t be a concern for me any more. I paused slightly as I looked over my shoulder at my backpack and realized that my beloved Dredge deck was in it. If I was going to actually go through with this, I wouldn’t want anything to happen to it. I’d worked so hard to piece it together, and I’d want to give the deck to one of my friends so someone could get some use out of it.

As I turned my head back forward, I felt the familiar wind of the subway rushing past me. That split second pause was all it took to eliminate jumping as an option. My Dredge deck literally saved my life. I took it as an omen and boarded the train. Today was going to be a good day.

I got to 401 Games after plodding through a downpour in shoes that, unbeknownst to me, had more holes than the plot to a Matrix sequel, and I registered the following list:

I was confident in my main deck, so all my concern was on my sideboard. I anticipated a sizeable number of Deathrite Shamans in the format, so I went up to the full four Firestorms, since two online Deathrites spells game over for me. I also figured that Rest in Peace would be the graveyard hate spell of choice today, so Nature’s Claim took the top spot. I opted for Leyline of the Void to shut down any potential graveyard shenanigans from Reanimator and to prevent my opponents from killing their own creatures to get rid of my Bridge from Belows. The plan was solid enough, so I wasn’t too worried.

With that out of the way, I loaded up my favourite anime playlist on my ipod, switched it to play on repeat, and headed down to the play area.
*Disclaimer: Most of the following songs are in Japanese, so if that isn’t your thing, you probably won’t want to listen.

Round 1: Christopher with Esper Stoneblade

Song: Highschool of the Dead by Kishida Kyoudan & the Akeboshi Rockets

Oof, already off to a bad start. Esper Stoneblade post-board has both Surgical Extraction and Rest in Peace, as well as having Batterskull which can be problematic. I take the first game when he bounces his Batterskull back to his hand during my turn so his Germ token would fall off and kill my two Bridge from Belows. However, I simply flashbacked a Cabal Therapy to get rid of the Batterskull, then beat him to death with Ichorids the following turn. I board in the Nature’s Claims anticipating Rest in Peace, but game two he plays and cracks a Nihil Spellbomb to wipe away my graveyard, leaving me scrambling to come back. For game 3 I take out the Nature’s Claims and go back to the original 60 with the plan of trying to combo off as quickly as possible. He keeps a relatively slow hand of five lands, Force of Will and Spell Pierce. He doesn’t Force my first turn Faithless Looting, and decides against using Wasteland my land on his turn. This allows me to play and crack Cephalid Coliseum, leading into a pair of Cabal Therapy to strip his hand and land me a turn three kill.

Round 2: David Goldfarb with RUG Delver

Song: READY STEADY GO by L’Arc~en~Ciel

David regularly plays at my weekly Legacy night at The Friendly Troll, and has even had success on the SCG circuit, so I knew not to take him lightly. However, we both knew what we were each playing, and as soon as he sat down he immediately looked at me and said “This is a bad match up”. I nodded and beat his Game one mull to five with relative ease. Game two I sideboarded out my Flame-Kin Zealot for Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. One card is really all that’s necessary in this match up. It’s just that good. At most they have two Surgical Extraction in their board and there are far too many cards in their deck that just don’t do anything against Dredge. He gets a couple hits in with an Insectile Aberration, but I Dread Return back Griselbrand and he concedes.

Round 3: Evan with Goblins

Song: The Meaning of Truth by HIRO-X

Evan was a super nice guy, and I was definitely excited about this matchup. Goblins is interesting because they have so many different tools they can use to interact with me that it really depends on the opponent’s familiarity with Dredge. His turn one Plateau indicated to me that he was on the Cedric Phillips version of Goblins with Rest in Peace and Thalia in the sideboard. This also meant there wasn’t a Skirk Prospector for me to worry about, which is the only goblin in the main that really hurts me and my Bridges. Game one, I win by Dread Returning a Flame-Kin Zealot and attacking for 15, then sacrificing the Zealot and two zombies to Dread Return back a 10/10 Golgari Grave-Troll. I bring in my Firestorms, Elesh Norn, and Iona, Shield of Emeria, and shuffle up. In game two we get into a race where he sticks a turn two Rest in Peace, but I keep ripping castable fliers and race him. It’s only once he plays Goblin Ringleader into Goblin Matron into Goblin Piledriver that I start to lose the race. Game three, he keeps a hand of four lands, two Aether Vials, and a Rest in Peace. I Cabal Therapy turn 2 naming the Rest in Peace, then proceed to combo off and reanimate an Iona, Shield of Emeria naming Red, earning the concession.

Round 4: Elliott with Goblins

Song: Sorairo Days by Shoko Nakagawa

Another Goblin player, and another chill guy. I manage to trade my Ichorids with his early drops to net me five zombie tokens and wiping out most of his threats. I follow up with a couple Therapies to strip his hand, and bring back the Ichorids to beat in for lethal. Game 2 I do the exact sideboard plan as the previous round, and win on the back of a turn three Elesh Norn to wipe away his board and bash in with a pair of Ichorids for a lethal 10 damage. At this point I can just double draw in to top 8 and relax for the next two rounds.

Round 5 Richard with UR Landstill

Song: Happily Ever After by Shoko Nakagawa

He wants to play it out. Wow. Just…wow. We were the only undefeated players going into the fifth round, but he wanted to play for position in the top 8. Normally I would call him out on that, but for an Ancestral Recall I couldn’t really blame him. In game one, I catch him tapped out, which allows me to Therapy for a Force of Will, then stick Griselbrand, earning the concession. In game two, he keeps a hand with double Relic of Progenitus and proceeds to annihilate my graveyard every chance he gets. For game 3 I have the nut hand of land, LED, Breakthrough, Faithless Looting, and a Stinkweed Imp. I resolve the LED, cast the Breakthrough and crack the LED while holding priority, only for him to Surgical Extraction the Imp from my yard. Worse still I whiff on another dredger off the Breakthrough and the flashbacked Looting, allowing him to drop Relic and crush me. Huh. So that was a thing, I guess. I wasn’t particularly enthused by that match, but I didn’t mind so much because the standings after that round had me in fourth, so I could comfortably draw in next round.

Round 6: Byron Long with Painted Stone

Song: Ten wo Tsuke from the Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann soundtrack

The top 4 was Richard, myself, Byron, and his brother Noah Long, whose list of Magic achievements would require an entire article on their own. Byron and I drew, so I took a much needed dinner break. It looked like a very interesting top 8 with the four of us there.

Quarterfinals: Byron Long with Painted Stone

Song: Rap is a Man’s Soul by Tarantula

Byron handily crushed me with Painted Stone at the Mana Deprived Super Series after bringing in a whopping 13 sideboard cards. In the first game he plays Imperial Recruiter to dig out a Painter’s Servant, which I immediately Cabal Therapy away. He shows me a non-interactive hand of Red Elemental Blast and Pyroblast, which is gives me the opportunity to bring back my Ichorids and swing for the fences.

I use an insanely unorthodox sideboarding method this game. Because I know his sideboard is almost entirely artifacts, I bring in the four Nature’s Claims, as well as the Iona since resolving her after a Painter’s Servant locks him out of the game. I take out the Griselbrand because it doesn’t do much in this match, but I also boarded out my Lion’s Eye Diamonds. This is a matchup where I want to keep Nature’s Claim in my hand for when I need it, and with LED forcing me to discard my hand, they felt incompatible.

For game two, he uses his first turn to play a Mountain and pass. This signaled that he didn’t have a Tormod’s Crypt, because if it’s in your hand, you drop that thing on the freaking table as soon as possible. I used my turn one Therapy to name the one sideboard card I couldn’t really play around: Ensnaring Bridge. His followup Painter’s Servant eats a Nature’s Claim and I start building up my graveyard. He drops a Thorn of Amethyst, which normally hurts my deck, but I had two City of Brass in play so I really didn’t care. I start stripping his hand apart and swinging with Ichorids, netting me four tokens and threatening lethal next turn. He draws, plays a Sensei’s Divining Top for two mana, cracks it to draw a card, then slams down an Ensnaring Bridge. We both have a bit of a chuckle as he is one mana off from playing the Bridge because of his own Thorn. He later tells me he took out the two Tormod’s Crypts he had last time as a meta call, and only boarded in eleven cards this time, which elicits another chuckle. “Only eleven cards.”

Quite frankly, I could have walked away at that point with my $50 in store credit. That was one of the most enjoyable and intense games of Legacy I’ve ever played. I opted to stay in because hey, I was one round away from playing for a freaking Ancestral Recall. Besides, I was having way too much fun to stop now!

Semifinals: Richard with UR Landstill

Song: Libera Me From Hell by Tarantula

Ah, the rematch. Richard had defeated another UR Landstill deck in his last round, so I was going to play against that deck regardless. Game one he mulls to six, and keeps a hand of four lands, Snapcaster Mage, and Spell Pierce. I cast Cabal Therapy naming Force of Will, then flash it to grab the Spell Pierce. I attack in with two Ichorids, and he plays Snapcaster to kill one and eat a Bridge. I dredge for my turn and hit the other three Bridges. He animates a Mishra’s Factory and kills it with Wasteland to get rid of them all, but this allows me to bring back all three Ichorids next turn and reanimate Griselbrand, which gets the concession.

In game two, I Faithless Looting to pitch two Trolls, which he Surgicals away. Then he drops Relic of Progenitus and slowly grinds away my graveyard and life total. Game three, I play Careful Study into Faithless Looting to dig for a dredger, drop an LED, then cast a Therapy for Surgical Extraction, seeing a Relic of Progenitus in his hand. I have a couple options, such as passing the turn and letting him drop the Relic with a mana open to crack it, but I decide to gamble a bit. I crack the LED for three Red mana and flashback a Looting in hopes of hitting a dredger, discarding a third Looting and a Cabal Therapy. My logic was that since he was putting zero pressure on me, I could try to bait him into dropping the Relic and cracking it to get rid of my graveyard, then rebuild my graveyard the next turn. Unfortunately, the Looting whiffed and I was left with nothing. I didn’t mind, and shook my opponent’s hand with a smile on my face. I proceeded to walk upstairs, burn my credit on a Sneak Attack and a Mycosynth Golem for my EDH decks, and headed home.

Every little decision we make can have a profound impact later on. As evidenced in my games that day, each choice I made defined how the rest of the game progressed. Every second of our lives, we’re influencing the future in ways we never think about. Be it a momentary pause, a step to the left instead of the right, or playing a different card, we are constantly changing the world around us. It’s a little funny. There was a quote that I’d heard dozens of times that summarized this perfectly, and I feel silly that it took me nearly jumping in front of a subway train on my birthday to realize this.

“We evolve beyond the person we were a minute before. Little by little we advance with each turn. That’s how a drill works!” – Simon the Digger (TTGL)

And with that I leave you, but not for the last time.

Twitter: @tylerthefro
Cockatrice: @tylerthefro

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