Power and Toughness—Human Shapeshifters and the 20SS Store Championship

The night before the Twenty Sided Store Inaugural Seasonal Championship it’s hard for me to sleep. I wake a few times before an alarm is to go off at 8am. Comparable other experiences include: Christmas morning every year from 1983 to 1996 and the morning of any art opening I’m involved in since 2001. What could be more fun than playing four formats of Magic: the Gathering, the collectible card game of strategy and imagination, with some of one’s newest and best friends over the course of two days? Not much, that’s what.

I shower and head to my studio to paint a little, put the finishing touches on my Hugh Kramer designed pauper deck, and swap out Dark Naya for Jund. Jund is a deck with comparable chances to Dark Naya in most matchups and crushes any kind of Naya due to Jund’s better mana and, mostly, Olivia Voldaren. Luis wants deck lists so I print both out and walk out my studio door west towards the store.

Most of us buy a few needed pauper cards, I cross an uncommon off of my sideboard and hastily replace it with something useless, avoiding a game loss or DQ. Li arrives with Woodland Cemeteries and other cards Hugh is borrowing from me that need adding to my Standard deck. I’m grateful and sleeve everything up in time to face eventual top four competitor David “Bones” McCoy round one in the Standard Pauper portion of our tournament.

Standard Pauper – Hugh’s Junk

2 Duty-Bound Dead
4 Borderland Ranger
4 Centaur Healer
4 Seraph of Dawn
2 Sentinel Spider

Spells:20
4 Abundant Growth
2 Dead Weight
1 Undying Evil
1 Altar’s Reap
4 Sign in Blood
4 Victim of Night
4 Murder

Lands:24
4 Evolving Wilds
3 Forest
4 Golgari Guildgate
4 Haunted Fengraf
2 Plains
3 Selesnya Guildgate
4 Swamp

Sideboard:15
4 Cremate
1 Ranger’s Guile
1 Undying Evil
3 Ray of Revelation
2 Aerial Predation
2 Crushing Vines
2 Rebuke

I beat his Boros humans deck fairly quickly in two games, one of which he drew only white mana sources. My hopes and dreams expand beyond early expectations of a finish around eighth place and I figure I can take the whole thing.

Bones is semi-psychic, knowing Seraphs of Dawn were in his future and that they'd be of no consequence on his way to the Top 4.

Bones is semi-psychic, knowing Seraphs of Dawn were in his future and that they’d be of no consequence on his way to the Top 4.

Round two brings Brook Li and his Izzet Delver deck. He’s stuck on lands, either too many or too few, game one but hangs on for a while. Maybe he had a single blue source that was messing him up. He eventually succumbs to vicious life gaining flyers and other creatures. I lose the next fifteen games in a row. Brook finishes me off and Kadar totally slaughters me via Essence Scatter and burn. Mild tilt sets in.

I finish Standard Pauper 1-2.

Cube is the second of four formats in the Championship. I’ve cubed a couple of times and put it into the EDH group of Magic formats in my mind. I’ve never had much fun playing cube in the past, still, I’m keeping an open mind. After the first round the 16 of us are broken into two pods in accordance with our win/loss record. 1-2 puts me in the less good pod. I sit with Zach on my right and Bones on my left. Zach states, as he always does, that he’ll feed me a good deck. Nodding I thank him but remain skeptical. He feeds me a shitty blue deck. Counterspell is one of my cards. Pack one pick one is Reflecting Pool which fills me with a flood of emotions and memories from childhood. We all make jokes about pack randomness, monocolored packs, how badly we are drafting, and are generally laughing at often ridiculous cards. Zach continues to pass garbage while, I assume, drafting a monored deck that he persistently giggles about and shows to Luis and Ryan, both of whom are not in the draft.

My deck comes together ok, I think. Li, in the better-record-pod, helps me cut the 41st card and I sit down in front of Bones for our match, laugh a bit that it’s another format and another round one paired against one another. Without delay I mull to four (my mulls consist of seven cards one land, six cards no land, and five cards no land), play a land, get Hymn to Tourach’d, and scoop. Game two I keep seven cards, two of which are lands. A few turns later I still have two lands in play and decide it’s best that I shake Bones’s hand and take a walk. He, and maybe everyone around me, apologize for my loss. I assure them it’s no one’s fault and that I need some air. After a few blocks I dial up my art bud Eric and we talk about a collaborative painting we are working on. I get kinda art-pumped, grab a coffee, and head back to the store for the second round of cube. I lose two straight to James and Zach. Apparently my deck doesn’t do anything. It draws cards, I guess. During my walk there was some kind of freak out in Dylan and Jason’s game because Dylan’s a handsome spazz in love with the top of his deck to the point that he can’t stop touching it. This turns Jason off, probably already tilting, and there’s some big t0-do about the whole thing. The word “cheater” may have been used. GASP! I catch the tail end of it as I enter the back room and sit down. I’ve always wanted a tail.

I love James repeatedly Hammer of Bogardan’ing me (when I was 16 I crushed a 25 year old Spike with Hammer at an FNM draft in Rochester, my first 3-0 and my first time tilting someone). Zach getting to play Ankh of Mishra game one turn two and Creature of Ankh of Mishra early on both games is another favorite of my Cube experience. Really great. Zach and I playtest his Standard deck against my Jund deck which alerts me to the fact that I can’t beat Bant Auras. We play two games and I say “I don’t want to play anymore against your deck,” so we don’t.

Adjustments I make after testing that one game vs. Bant Auras with Zach include: -1 Hellkite, -1 Garruk, -2 Mortars, +3 Bonfire of the Damned, +1 Ultimate Price. I had no idea how to beat Bant Auras with Jund. The reason I chose Jund over Naya or Dark Naya is that Jund can beat aggro strategies (interactive ones) and beat Naya thanks to Olivia Voldaren. Naya would’ve been a better call as it plays Paraselene in the side board and Jund plays … ? I also expected zero Bant Auras decks as that deck is a pile of garbage and who wants to play magic with a pile of garbage? The smell alone would keep me away.

Standard – Jund

Creatures:14
3 Vampire Nighthawk
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
2 Olivia Voldaren
4 Thragtusk
1 Thundermaw Hellkite

Spells:21
3 Bonfire of the Damned
4 Pillar of Flame
2 Abrupt Decay
4 Farseek
2 Rakdos’s Return
1 Ultimate Price
3 Rakdos Keyrune
2 Garruk, Primal Hunter

Lands:25
4 Blood Crypt
3 Dragonskull Summit
3 Forest
2 Kessig Wolf Run
1 Mountain
4 Overgrown Tomb
3 Rootbound Crag
1 Swamp
4 Woodland Cemetery

Sideboard:15
4 Deathrite Shaman
3 Liliana of the Veil
3 Rolling Temblor
1 Olivia Voldaren
2 Slaughter Games
2 Curse of Death’s Hold

In the non-winners pod, still, I face Zach “Bant Auras” Barash round one. Each person at the table that knew what With a 100/100 flying hexproof unblockable blue creature attacking me and zero ways to kill it I scoop on turn one (or what might as well have been turn one). Game two is the same as game one. I don’t get a turn four Bonfire that would’ve been irrelevant against a 10,000/10,000 flying Loxodon Smiter and there isn’t an Abrupt Decay in sight.

Round two Jason Chan’s Bant Auras deck brings identical suffering. Kadar tries to encourage me, which is appreciated and hopeless. I fold again to turn three or four Invisible Stalker with 2,000,000 auras on it. Game two I side the exact same cards I did game two, round one, and, while I see a Liliana and am able to wipe his board with it and an Abrupt Decay, Jason sticks another creature quickly, attaches a bunch of auras to it, and my removal well goes dry. I lose to an ∞/∞ hexproof Loxodon Smiter. What a betrayal from my second favorite creature in Standard. This deck is horrible to play against. It is non-interactive and totally obnoxious. I feel more contempt for Bant Auras than Bant Control or any other deck I’ve ever played in Standard. Dredge is more fun to play against in Legacy.

On my way out the door I pause to ask Luis what the hell is happening to me and why I’m losing so much. Luis says that this tournament is filled with very good Magic players, that there are few if any free wins, and sometimes luck just isn’t on one’s side. This feels fairly encouraging. I thank him for all he’s done today and walk out the door with Orlando and Pelakka Wurm, talk some shit, get on the train, and crash for the night at Jen’s house. My roommates were having a party and I’m a cranky old dude who doesn’t party so I steered clear.

I awake the next morning equally excited, shower, put on the same clothes (new undies and socks, though, I’m not totally gross), kiss Jen good-bye, and make my way towards the L Train. I paint for an hour or so then head to the store, meeting Kadar a quarter of the way there. We walk and talk about the day ahead. “Hopefully I won’t play Bant Auras again,” I tell him. He smiles.

Round nine of the tournament (also round three of Standard) I face James Bathurst, a super nice dude. He gets me game one. In game two a turn four Curse of Death’s Hold (sided in) wipes his board and he sighs. My 15 game losing streak over! All of his humans, falcons, and angels get torched by a Bonfire game three. Life gain abounds on my side, and I kill off a couple of his dudes, grab his Sublime Archangel with Olivia, and swing for lethal. James is a good sport and finishes the tournament many places above me.

For the final portion of the draft I’m again in the more losses than wins bracket. Zach again sits to my right (meaning he’ll pass o me two of the three packs). He offers to pass me a deck by signaling the best card for me to take on the bottom. I say thanks but no thanks and do my best. Many green cards get sent my way and I take them. Pack two pick two is a gift from Dylan Hiester. “I’ve got a present for you,” he says, and passes me a foil Loxodon Smiter. The elephant is my favorite non-Huntmaster creature in Standard. As silly as this probably sounds, I teared up a little. Kindness is not wasted on this Obliterator, no sir. Most of the draft I talked about how great it was and what a gem Dylan Hiester is. More green cards, a couple black cards, and some fixing for my pretty Smiter, make their way into my not too mediocre and not too awesome draft deck. Once our final card is selected in pack three Zach joyfully says “whoever took this draft seriously raise your hand!” All of us, except Joe and Zach, raise our hands sharply. We make our decks and pair up for round ten.

I’m super blanking on who I played first in the RTR draft. I lost.

Dylan Hiester and I play round 11 and I SMOKE HIM! TOTALLY TAKE HIM DOWN!!! WOO SUCK IT!!!! Just kidding. We played a pretty fun match and I was victorious.

Dylan and his spirit animal.

Dylan and his spirit animal.

Round 12 I played Jess. She beats me game one. I beat her somehow game two. She slaughters me game three.

3-9 in matches over the course of the 12 round tournament is good enough to get me a near standing ovation when it’s announced that I get 16th (read: last) place. A few tournaments ago, RTR sealed for a Commander’s Arsenal, I missed the top 8 by a very small amount, we’re talking decimal points. Ninth place usually gets a tiny trophy with a 20 sided die in it but they were out so I didn’t. ALL IS FORGIVEN NOW! I received the bonus last place prize of this sweet store only, not for sale to the public, land station. IT IS SO AWESOME and instantly found its place on my meditation altar.

Ultra Pro’s promotional Land Station – not sold publicly. My prize for dead last. It now has a place on my altar. Thanks 20SS!!

This isn’t a photo of mine but mine looks a lot like this.

Some moments of the tournament I’m nearly left out:

Kadar and Dana are tied a game apiece after turns. They enter game three of their Standard match under SUDDEN DEATH! There can be no ties in this tournament. Whoever gains or loses life first wins or loses. AH! THE PRESSURE!!! Kadar’s on the play. He drops a land. Dana drops a land. Kadar drops a land. Dana drops a land. Kadar drops a land and casts LINGERING SOULS!!! Dana is dead next turn if she has no answer. THE TENSION!!! AAAAHHHHHH!!! Dana draws, drops an Isolated Chapel, and casts …

TRIBUTE TO HUNGER!!!

The store erupts. OOOOOOOHHHH!!! It was awesome. I love Kadar but damn, son, mull to Avacyn’s Pilgrim. Jeez! HAHA! What a thrilling event!

Dana and her match winning top decked Tribute to Hunger.

Dana and her match winning top decked Tribute to Hunger.

Top four is Dana, David “Bones” McCoy, Brook Li, and Hugh “I will eventually win the whole tournament” Kramer. Spoiler Alert!

The whole tournament was great. There were highs and lows. Needs to walk around the block. I ate many salty nuts and drank infinite cups of coffee. We all spent many hours with some really great people – some of whom we wouldn’t normally spend many hours with but what the hell?! It was a blast!

However, I did learn an important lesson about competition. There are healthy kinds of competitive behavior that drive you to excel, grow, learn, expand, and be better. There are nasty kinds of competitive behavior that turn into bizarre aggression of various forms. The latter clouds any given situation with a special kind of confusion that’s actually kind of infectious and can, unchecked, make an otherwise awesome thing less awesome. Luckily we’re all in control of our own destinies and get to be responsible for our own actions! HOORAY! So, in keeping with my thoughts on this subject I made the following Magic: the Gathering card. It is not legal in any format!

competition-mtg-card2
I’m grateful for the Seasonal Championship and hope something like it happens again in the future. It’s great to play Magic with so many of my favorite members of the nerd community I’m a part of. Luis, Lauren, and Giaco did a great job. I love my hard earned land station.

In closing: Bant Auras can go suck an egg and please don’t ever ask me to play cube.

Lots of love,
Matt “The Obliterator” Jones
The_Obliterator (MTGO)
www.mattjonesrules.com

PS – I played a game of EDH with Micah after round 12’s conclusion. He played mono red goblins and gave me his GW Tokens deck. Turn seven I attacked for 15 poison damage after casting some crazy five mana make infect happen sorcery and swinging with Collective Blessing’d flyers. It was actually kinda fun.

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Comments
16 Responses to “Power and Toughness—Human Shapeshifters and the 20SS Store Championship”
  1. Tim says:

    You have no idea how loudly I gasped at your post script. (I didn’t actually let out an audible gasp, but since you have no idea, pretend that I did)

  2. osoamazing says:

    Awesome article like usual and I wish I witnessed the K deezy and Dana matchup, sounded pretty epic for sure. I want a copy of competition card for my personal collection and pull it out every time me or any of my friends are tilting. I guarantee I will be in the next store tourney

    • Matt Jones says:

      I don’t think there are going to be any more seasonal tourneys. I will definitely get a limited run of Competition cards made for people. Thanks Orlando!

      • Rich Stein says:

        I hope Luis can work something better out for the future because it’s a worthwhile endeavor. In the meantime though you’re likely right that it’s more trouble than it’s worth as it brought out the worst in a lot of people over the past few months.

        I took a very quick lead in the standings after the RTR pre-release but then a lot of people started to take everything played in the store very seriously, from Tuesday Night Magic to weekend Legacy events. This was a factor in, tho nowhere near the primary reasons for me to quit playing Magic competitively late last year.

        I’m glad you got a land station for your efforts. If you ever want to do some casual cubing let me know. I have my no-color Modern cube and am working on two more cubes, one with only spells that cost one mana and one that is nothing but awful awful cards you would never play with otherwise.

      • Matt Jones says:

        Believe it or not I’m thinking of putting an EDH deck together and am interested in what you think a good direction for me to go would be.

        Also – yes. There were some early FNM drafts and weekend drafts I wouldn’t have played in if there weren’t store points on the line. I’ll go to every big tournament on the weekends and probably every TNM/FNM my life allows me to attend – regardless of store points. The same cannot be said of everyone in the Top 16. This is not a criticism of those people, rather an affirmation that I’m a super dork obsessed with MTG and my MTG family.

      • Rich Stein says:

        I had one loosely put together, then taken apart, but I mean to put it back together again. The general is Phage. I actually want to put together a mono-color EDH deck for each color commanded by an fun combo-ish general:

        White: Kemba, Kha Regent
        Blue: Arcum Dagsson
        Black: Phage, the Untouchable
        Red: Heartless Hidetsugu
        Green: Baru, Fist of Krosa

  3. If Bant Auras continues to be a thing, maybe Barter in Blood in the sideboard?

    • Matt Jones says:

      Barter in Blood sounds PRETTY SNEAKY.

      • Matt Jones says:

        I added Barter to my Jund board and didn’t play an Auras deck in the tiny 10 person Standard tournament last night. I also went 1-3. This is probably my last Hugh Kramer deck to pilot as our play style is far too different to make me a successful Kramer deck player. Nothing but love for you HUGH!!!

  4. Fetto says:

    Great article Matt! Sounds like the store championship was a weird mix of kooky formats and ill-advised levels of competitiveness AND frivolity. Frothy brew. Even though I wasn’t able to come by and watch, I feel like the whole thing was an awesome idea by Luis and I think, overall, it made my 20SS MtG experiences better while it was in effect.

    PS – Shoulda played mono black control like I (totally never) said.

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