Spandex City, a local hobby shop, hosted a Store Championship for Magic: The Gathering. The event was part of Ravnica Weekend Allegiance; a weekend event highlight Magic's newest set. The format was Standard and fourteen players participated in four rounds of play. While I did not walk away as the winner, I did achieve fourth place with three wins and one loss.
Decklist for Mono Blue:
I added in Jace, Cunning Castaway to fight the control heavy meta found at Spandex. I am not a huge fan of Blink of an Eye, but it is a main deck answer to threats like Rekindling Phoenix and Niv-Mizzet, Parun. Going forward, I plan to swap Blink of an Eye with an Entrancing Melody.
Round 1: 0-2 Loss Against Eric on Jeskai Control
These were a quick two games. He used Treasure Map to land a Nim-Mizzet, Parun on curve in game 1. During game 2, he hit Nim-Mizzet, Parun on turn 7. I had a Deep Freeze to answer it, but it cast the only Dive Down in his deck to protect Nim-Mizzet, Parun. I did not see a Curious Obession both games.
Round 2: 2-1 Win Against Keith on Mono Red
I have played the Mono Red matchup dozens of times and feel well prepared to beat it. Winning the die roll in game 1 was crucial. I start off with Mist-Cloaked and he drops Fanatical Firebrand. I found it odd he did not sacrifice Fanatical to kill the Mist-Cloaked. Instead, he decides race me on damage race and plays more creatures. I stick a siren Stormtamer and Dive Down a Shock. Turn 3, I drop Trickster and eat a Lavarunner. On turn 4 I drop a Ptermander. He burns me and kills the Mist-Cloaked after it did 5 damage. On his 5th turn he tries to bait me, but I let a creature die to removal and Essence Capture a Rekindling Phoenix. Next turn, I drop Djinn and win game 1. For game 2, he gets a similar start and begins burning me and my creatures. I manage to stabilize with Trickster and Spell Pierce. I get down a Djinn with one mana for Dive Down. However, his turn four play is Experimental Frenzy. We start a damage race, but he luckily hits a Light Up The Stage exiling double mountain. It comes down to me needing to draw an Island for lethal Djinn. I draw Opt, hit Siren, bottom Siren, and hit a non-Island. I pass turn with blockers and he hits a burn spell for lethal damage. Game 3, He floods out not seeing Phoenix or Chainwhirler. I Spell Pierce an early Light Up The Stage to keep him from drawing burn. I cruise through game 3 with the win.
Round 3: 2-1 Win Against Max on Jund Control
I get paired down as Max's record is 0-0-2. I know my breakers will be poor going forward since I got paired down and lost round 1. My only hope was to win the last two rounds to get 3rd, 4th, or 5th. Game 1, we both mulligan to 5. I keep a one lander with Ptermander and top deck an obsession turn 2. He stumbles on one Blood Crypt and concedes after turn 3. I saw the end of his 2nd round match and knew he was playing a control build. I side in the 3 Negates and a Deep Freeze just in case. Game 2, we mulligan to six. I have a slower start drawing 1 mana creatures and limited interaction. I get stuck at two land and draw into multiple Djinn. I do not hit a 3rd land until turn 7. His turns consist of land drops followed by removal. He plays Karn, Scion of Urza and repeatedly hits removal spells. I try to stabilize and wither down his life as I draw a 3rd Island. He attempts to cast Showstopper, but I have a counter for it. Next turn, he wipes the board with Ritual of Soot. Derigaaz from M19 makes an appearance the following turn. I luckily have a Deep Freeze in hand, but I cannot beat the constant removal and draw power of Karn. Ultimately, I die to multiple Construct Tokens. Game 3, I side in Jace, Cunning Castaway and play it during turn 6 with Spell Pierce in hand. I start putting pressure on his life total and am able to draw action to counter removal spells. He does manage to land a Karn, leaving me limited time to kill him. Luckily, he hits multiple land as he continues to use Karn's first ability. I made a crucial decision and decided to minus an Image Token with Jace knowing he is very close to casting a board wipe spell. He tries to bait a counter targeting Djinn, but I realize I can adapt a Ptermander next turn. He kills the Djinn and hits removal with Karn's removal and a land with Karn's ability. I give the land to him and he tries to cast Ritual of Soot. I counter the spell with a Negate in hand. Next turn, I adapt Ptermander and attack for exactly lethal with it and the Image Token.
Round 4: 2-1 Win Against Jeff on Sultai Midrange
Game 1 started off with Jeff going Wildgrowth Walker into three Merfolk Branchwalker and a Jadelight Ranger. After a Vivien Reid hits, I concede the game. Game 2, I get off to a much better start with curving out and an early Curious Obession. I apply pressure on the board with counters and Trickster in hand for backup. I stop his game plan with Walker life gain and counter a Find//Finality. Jeff conceded after the counter. Game 3 gets more interesting. I mulligan to a 6-card hand consisting of three Island, Stormtamer, Ptermander, and Djinn. I draw a few spells including Chart a Course and Enchanting Melody, but then hit a land pocket. I am forced to tap out turns 3, 4, and 5 trying to find more spells and play threats. I stick a Djinn with no mana up. Luckily, Jeff has no hard removal in hand to kill the Djinn. He drops a Thief of Sanity instead, but stumbles on hitting land drops. I counter a turn 6 Krasis; putting a 1/1 counter on Ptermander. This allows me to start attacking with an Obession on Ptermander through his 2/2 Thief. I steal a 2nd Thief he draws and play my 6th land. I am not able to adapt a 2nd Ptermander on the battlefield. Jeff does not draw any removal or blockers. This opens the door to a lethal attack and Game 3 win.
While I ran 20 lands to avoid mulliganing one-land hands, I ended up mulliganing a bunch of three and four land hands. I also had a few instances where I was one mana short of adapting Ptermander. I believe these issues were more common because of not running 4 Opt. Going forward, I plan to add back in 2 Opt to help with filtering draws and powering up Ptermander. Running 20 lands still feels like the right approach. The worst situation I can get in is not having three lands to cast two spells a turn. I never drew Blink of an Eye in any match. This will come out of the deck for at least one Opt. Enchanting Melody is a possible main deck inclusion over Blink of an Eye as well. Jace, Cunning Castaway actually worked well in my one control match. While he is not the most powerful threat, he does play a role. I can see swapping him with a 4th Negate as the meta changes. Running two Dive Down or substituting one with Transmogrifying Wand is a meta call. In all, I was very pleased with the deck's performance and winning four prize packs and promos. I would like to also thank Spandex City for hosting a fun event.
One of my favorite restaurants in Charlotte, NC is The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar. Cowfish's menu contains a large variety of offerings focused around sushi and burgers. They also have a full-size bar with great beverage options including my favorite Hitachino Nest Beer. The popularity of the restaurant has surged over the last few years. If you try to visit for dinner on a Friday or Saturday, you should expect a wait time of over an hour. However, you can get on their wait list via a phone application before heading over.
Ashley and I took my brother, Austin, to Cowfish last month. We went on a Sunday evening to avoid the usual weekend crowd. We waited about 20 minutes for a table and were seated on the heated patio. Funny enough, we have never been able to sit outside during previous attempts. Whenever I go to Cowfish, I always order one of the Colossal Onion Rings. They are the most amazing panko and coconut encrusted onion rings you will ever eat. The Thai chili and horseradish aioli dipping sauces are great compliments. I recommend asking for extras of both.
The food menu can feel quite overwhelming with nearly endless options of sushi and burgers. This is especially true with the Burgushi options and custom sushi rolls. For a first time visit, I recommend ordering one of the bento boxes to try a little bit of everything. Ashley and I usually order two or three rolls to share. Our favorite roll on the menu is the Tropical Storm Roll. It is a traditional California Roll topped with salmon, tuna, and yellowtail with three kinds of tobiko. We decided to branch out and share a Black Truffle Cheese Burger on our last visit. I really like the quality level of the meat and bun used for Cowfish's burgers. A great tasting burger starts with the ingredients. My brother ordered one of the sushi combinations and enjoyed it.
Cowfish offers a nice selection of alcoholic beverages. My brother I and enjoyed Sapporo drafts while my wife had a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. I typically order a Japanese beer during each visit. Cowfish offers a full range of liquor options as well. I hear the martinis are excellent. We had a great evening at Cowfish and were happy to share a great meal with my brother.
The Magic: The Gathering trading card game is enjoyed by millions of people across the world. Players can enjoy the game with friends in their own home, at a hobby store, or even on their computers. While many players enjoy the casual environment of Friday Night Magic or sitting around a kitchen table, there is a competitive side of the game as well. On the top end of the spectrum, players compete almost every weekend of the year in large, multi-day tournaments. The largest open registration tournaments, known as MagicFests, award at least $35,000 to the top 64 players. There are smaller, multi-day formats held across the United States by Star City Games. If traveling is not for you, some local stores run cash prize tournaments for players around the region. One such example in Charlotte, NC is the upcoming team event on March, 2nd held at Parker, Banner, Kent, and Wayne. The first place team will walk away with an an estimated $1,000 in cash.
We All Start Near the Bottom
Magic: The Gathering is a difficult game to digest, and even harder to master. I still learn tips and tricks from other players each month. Many players play casually online or at their local hobby store. Other players enjoy the opportunity to improve their skills through practice and competition. Becoming a skilled player in Magic takes time like any other competitive sport. When I was a teenager, I played at the local hobby store a few times a month. I rarely did well, but there were a few times I earned a prize payout larger than the entry fee. My first large tournament (and success) was in 2001 at a Junior Super Series Challenge held in Charlottesville, VA. This was a regional tournament for players under 16 years of age. The winner of the tournament received a $1,000 scholarship for college. I played my first competitive deck that contained a tribe of creatures called rebels. The focal card of the deck was Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero (shown above). I was able to do well enough out of 24 players to make the top 8 playoff. Ultimately, I lost in the semi-finals against a strong opponent. While I did not win the scholarship, I did walk away with $48 in prize packs and a foil Crusade (shown above). Whenever I hold the Crusade in my hands, it reminds me of that tournament from many years ago.
Current Competitive Scene
I took a break from Magic for about eight years during and after college. When I returned to the game, I spent a lot of my play time learning new cards and interactions. Playing against people stronger than you will help improve your own skills. If you want to get better at Magic, the most common suggestion is to play a ton. Many of my friends practice Magic weekly with each other and online. We recently did a test group evening for an upcoming tournament. Mastering a particular deck strategy requires knowledge of card interactions and how the deck performs against other strategies.
The Competitive Environment of Magic Moving Forward
Recently, the parent company of Magic abolished the multi-tier competitive structure in tabletop gaming. You no longer can win a local tournament and place well in a bigger invitational regional tournament to qualify. Currently, you must either reach the top eight in a 1,000 to 2,000 person MagicFest or win a 100 to 200 person qualifier at a MagicFest. Additional, the Magic Online game offers high level invitations for winning large qualifier tournaments.
I have previously attended a regional tournament, but did not place well enough for a special invitation. Now that local qualifers are gone, a few of my friends have been attending the Star City Games tournaments. While I hope there will be more local competitive qualifiers in the future, the competitive tabletop scene remains unclear for now.