March of the Machine is here! Join your favorite plane and fight in this final stand against the Phyrexian scourge!
For our regular Pre-Release events, each player will receive a kit that will contain 6 March of the Machine booster packs, 1 foil stamped Rare or Mythic, and 1 Spindown Die. Players will build a 40 card deck out of their sealed pool and then battle it out for 3 to 4 rounds depending on the event.
Entry Prices: $25 - Regular Prerelease Events $30 - Competitive Sealed Event Pre-Registration for each event is available on our website Here
Magic the Gathering is a popular trading card game that has been enjoyed by players around the world for over 25 years. It is a strategic game that requires players to build decks, choose their cards wisely, and outmaneuver their opponents in order to win.
But what many players may not realize is that Magic the Gathering is also a deeply Zen experience. In fact, the real opponent in the game is not the other player, but rather oneself.
One of the key principles of Zen is the concept of mindfulness. This means being fully present in the moment and not getting caught up in the distractions of the world around us. In Magic the Gathering, this mindfulness is essential in order to make the best decisions for each turn and to stay focused on the game.
Another key aspect of Zen is the idea of non-attachment. In Magic the Gathering, this means not getting attached to any particular card or strategy. A player who is attached to their cards or strategy is likely to make poor decisions and be thrown off their game. Instead, a Zen player will remain open and flexible, adapting to the changing situation and making the best decisions for the moment.
The game also encourages introspection and self-improvement. In order to succeed in Magic the Gathering, players must constantly reflect on their own play and find ways to improve. This self-reflection is a fundamental aspect of Zen practice and can lead to personal growth and increased awareness.
In addition, Magic the Gathering encourages a sense of community and connection. Players often gather in groups to play the game, creating a sense of connection and camaraderie. This is in line with the Zen value of interdependence, the understanding that we are all connected and that our actions impact others.
Overall, Magic the Gathering is a Zen experience because it encourages mindfulness, non-attachment, introspection, and connection. By facing oneself as the real opponent, players can learn valuable lessons and grow as individuals. So next time you sit down to play Magic the Gathering, remember to embrace the Zen spirit and find your inner peace.
Blue is a versatile color in Magic: The Gathering, with access to a wide range of powerful spells and abilities. In the Commander format, blue cards can provide a range of benefits, from card draw and selection to powerful counterspells and control effects. Here are the top ten best blue Commander cards to consider for your deck:
Brainstorm - This powerful instant allows you to draw three cards and put two of them back on top of your library, giving you access to the cards you need in any situation.
Cyclonic Rift - This versatile instant allows you to return any number of nonland permanents to their owners' hands, giving you an effective way to deal with opposing threats and keep the board under control.
Counterspell - A classic blue counterspell, Counterspell allows you to counter any spell that your opponent tries to cast, giving you a powerful tool for disrupting your opponents' plans.
Mystic Remora - This enchantment allows you to draw a card each time an opponent plays a noncreature spell, providing a constant source of card advantage as the game progresses.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor - A powerful planeswalker, Jace allows you to draw cards, Brainstorm, and even shuffle cards from your graveyard back into your library, giving you a range of powerful options to control the game.
Time Warp - This powerful sorcery allows you to take an extra turn after the current one, giving you an additional opportunity to outmaneuver your opponents and seize victory.
Gitaxian Probe - This cheap instant allows you to draw a card and gain knowledge of your opponent's hand, giving you valuable information that can help you plan your next move.
Venser, the Sojourner - This powerful planeswalker allows you to bounce a permanent back to its owner's hand, and even create a blink effect that can save your own permanents from destruction.
Ponder - This versatile sorcery allows you to look at the top three cards of your library and rearrange them in any order, helping you find the cards you need to execute your game plan.
Ancestral Vision - This powerful sorcery allows you to suspend it for three turns, then put it onto the battlefield without paying its mana cost, giving you a powerful source of card advantage for just a few turns of setup.
In conclusion, blue offers a wide range of powerful options for your Commander deck, with access to cards that can provide card advantage, control, and even extra turns. With the right mix of these powerful spells, you can build a formidable blue Commander deck that can take on any challenge.
With the impending release of The Brother’s War into paper coming in less than a week and the impending DreamHack Showdown in Atlanta, many players are likely to wonder which cards will be needed piece for their Pioneer decks to overcome their competition in the Last Chance Qualifiers on Friday and the main event on Saturday. Below we’re going to examine some of the cards that are likely to have some fairly significant representation within the format shortly following the release of the new set and as the format settles into its rhythms.It is important, however, to examine just what the Pioneer metagame looks like currently and how The Brother’s War as a set is likely to shake up this format.
As a whole, the Pioneer metagame has two primary targets to be on the lookout for: Rakdos Midrange and Mono Green Devotion. According to data aggregated from popular analytic sources (mtg of the various MTG format metas, these two decks represent around a combined twenty-five to thirty-three percent of the meta (MTGTop8, MTGGoldfish, MTGMeta). If you are not playing one of these decks, then you’re likely playing a deck that hinges on beating one of these while maybe recognizing that one of these will be more of an uphill battle to the other. The nature of these two dominant decks versus the rest of the format is a major contributor to the vitriol presented online by various pros and content creators. While the format may have some “rock, paper, scissors” characteristics, there is still enough deck diversity and tools that allow decks to have game against essentially anything the format can present. In addition to this, there is still a lot of room to brew and innovate given that the format is still within its competitive infancy after the Pandemic.
It also bears mentioning that since the release of Kaladesh in 2016, The Brother’s War marks the first artifact dominant set in over five years and the first artifact dominant set that the Pioneer format will experience. The traditional beliefs of Magic players would initially spawn woe, as artifact sets are commonly held as being possibly ruinous for various formats in the immediate following their release. While this may have been true for sets like the various Urza’s block sets (Urza’s Saga, Urza’s Legacy, and Urza’s Destiny) which led to the first Combo Winter and the bannings of many cards from those blocks. Subsequent artifact dominant sets and blocks like Scars of Mirrodin and Mirrodin blocks, while they presented a number of cards that were problematic in the immediate, their bannings were limited to Standard and only one or being banned from Extended and other eternal formats. Similarly, we see this trend repeated again during the time where both Kaladesh blocks were in standard. With this being the established trend, while The Brother’s War may have a potential oppressive reign in Standard, we are likely to not see it have such a substantial negative impact on Pioneer or other eternal formats.
So with all of this in mind, let’s take a look at the cards that might have an impact on the Pioneer format:
While just being a land, this card serves as a fairly big upgrade to both the four color humans and the mono-white humans lists that have been putting up results in the format. For the mono-white deck with its abundance of creatures with the soldier subtype this allows it to splash a second color for tools like Protect the Negotiators and March of Swirling Mist in blue to defend against board wipes and big threats. This additionally gives them access to various pieces of sideboard tech similar to Azorius Hammer Time in Modern. The additional mana sink in the boost to soldier creatures should not be overlooked either, as this enables strong plays with possible combat tricks or additional power on attacks with the board for lethal damage.
This is a serious piece of removal similar to Leyline Binding by its nature of being made cheaper by building one’s deck in a particular way. However, in Pioneer, where Leyline Binding has a harder time getting to a single mana unless one happens to be playing a Niv-Mizzet, Reborn deck, Overwhelming Remorse can easily drop to a single mana with the right creature dense deck running it. Even being played for three mana in a black based midrange deck can make this a card that competes with the likes of Dreadbore and Fatal Push. Even decks with little results like Dredgeless Dredge or Abzan Rally will benefit from this new tool to take out problematic permanents like Graveyard Trespasser. A ridiculous piece of removal at such a low rarity. Leyline Binding, but with a focus on creatures in the graveyard versus types of land. Where Leyline Binding is incredible in Niv to Light decks and a smattering of others, we can see this work with emerging archetypes like Dredgeless Dredge and many BX creature decks can utilize this well.
This card garnered a lot of attention online when it was spoiled, so much so that I would be remiss to not include it on this list. However, while a number of popular content creators believed that this card would be too much for the format to handle, I think that it will have a lot of potential for the format, but not as much as one would anticipate. This will likely see play in any deck centered around sacrifice strategies like Rakdos and Jund Sacrifice decks that can handle losing a creature to find a combo piece or silver bullet for hate against their deck. Many focused on the potential for this to see play in Abzan Greasefang and while that is possible, I believe that all of these decks will only play one to two copies of the card in the seventy-five. Tutoring up a card after sacrificing a Cauldron Familiar or Stitcher’s Supplier early on to deal with Leyline of the Void or Weathered Runestone is great, but seeing any tutored card being snatched away by a Thoughtseize can be backbreaking in a way that these decks may struggle with.
This evasive creature with meaningful stats for the Pioneer format is just what decks like the various human tribal decks and current mono-white deck could utilize well. Either being a good defender the turn it comes down or being an effective means of card draw on your opponent’s end step with its Cryptbreaker-esque ability means that this could easily become a staple of aggressive soldier or human themed decks. Coupling this with the Fortified Beachhead, the soldier lord from Dominaria United, and the creatures that Skystrike Officer dumps out with each attack turns this into a must answer threat that can easily take over the game with a turn left unchecked.
Board wipes are not a common sight in Pioneer beyond those played by decks like Azorius Control in the main or by Extinction Event and Hidetsugu Consumes All found in the sideboard of Rakdos Midrange. They do, however, have their place in the format, especially as it shifts in an increasingly more aggressive direction to combat decks like Mono Green Devotion or getting under Rakdos Midrange, if it keeps a removal light hand. Brotherhood’s End will garner attention and see its fair share of comparisons to Anger of the Gods and Sweltering Suns, the modal possibilities of this board wipe will certainly help it overcome them. If Pioneer continues to develop into the “worse Modern” that some derisively call it online, then removing problematic low cost artifacts or dealing with boards of planeswalkers and creatures will be needed.
For the first time since the Shadows over Innistrad block, we see the return of the Meld mechanic. And while it does appear on a few different cards in this set, only two pairs stand out. Titania and Argoth are a powerful combination of cards within the format. A problem that keeps this set from being higher up on the list is that the format lacks fetchlands beyond Fabled Passage and Evolving Wilds. In spite of that, however, there exists some potential decks where this can see play. Lotus Field decks have not been putting up many significant results recently because of the abundance of powerful, aggressive decks, but Titania providing extra life to help this deck survive aggressive starts and having a decently large body herself gives this deck some extra game. Adding in the extra power of the existing Triomes and Bicycle lands for card draw, we can certainly see her becoming a staple of the deck, especially since it is the specter that Rakdos Midrange decks have difficulty dealing with.
Continuing with the meld theme comes another power set of cards. On its own Phyrexian Dragon Engine alone has the potential to do some work between reviving variations of the popular Greasefang decks or filling a role similar to what Bedlam Reveler did in the modern Mardu Pyromancer lists before Hogaak Summer. It is important to note the Unearth is a keyword that cannot be interacted with in response to its use. Additionally, where Unearth isn’t the only way to bring this back in Pioneer. Can’t Stay Away and Recommission are both cards that trigger its second line of text along with helping with other creatures, in the right shell. Coupling this with Mishra, who on his own is alright in an aggressive shell, and their polymerization into Misha, Lost to Phyrexia can produce insane amounts of value. The trigger when it enters the battlefield or attacks is essentially a beefed up Kolaghan’s Command that can be game ending.
There are cards that when you look at them, you know that they are good. Gix is definitely one of those cards. He generates card advantage very early in the black based decks that can run him. Decks like Rakdos Midrange or even potential decks like Mono Black Devotion can make good use of this first ability. Combined with other powerful engines like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse and it can become overwhelming. His second ability, while difficult to pull off in sixty card formats, is similarly backbreaking. Exiling the most powerful cards from an opponent’s deck and using it against them without further expanding your own mana is more than good. In any deck that can run this, there is little reason to not do so.
To address an earlier point, artifact sets are powerful. Sometimes too much so. While at first evaluation there do not appear to be any particularly offensive cards in this regard, The Stasis Coffin can take an already problematic card in the format to a particularly new height. Twice before we have seen Combo Winters because of artifact sets in their Standard formats. For Pioneer, Winter is coming and Karn, the Great Creator is its Night King. While this card is not particularly problematic on its own, as it is just a one turn Brave the Elements that exiles itself in any other deck, for Mono Green Devotion this is a repeatable version with Karn’s minus two ability that can take it from exile. If you intend on playing in the DreamHack Atlanta main event, the last chance qualifiers, or any large Pioneer events expect to see this out of the Devotion decks again and again.
If The Stasis Coffin was not problematic enough for you, then this card certainly will be. With The Stone Brain, Mono Green Devotion now has the ability to repeatedly have its own version of Lost Legacy. While the total four mana to cast and activate it may prove a bit difficult for other decks to utilize, Mono Green with its abundance of mana dorks will see to that dilemma. A good combo turn can lead to any silver bullets against the Devotion vanishing into thin air. If you are playing anywhere with or against a Karn, the Great Creator deck then this is a no brainer. Where content creators like Todd Anderson have been calling for bans on Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, there will likely be collective calls for Karn’s ousting from the format after a few weeks of this. Especially in a world where there are open decklists like there will be at the DreamHack events.
While these are the cards that will likely be the most impactful, there are two honorable mentions that need to be recognized. First are the cards in the Mythic cycle of the Prototype cards. These can all be played fairly early in various shells and either be blinked to see their full range of stats being utilized or they can be particularly great targets in the popular Tibalt’s Trickery deck or its counterpart in Indomitable Creativity decks. Giving each additional early game potential is huge where some good disruption can be game ending for them currently. And we also have Transmogrant’s Crown doing its best impression of the its banned predecessor, Skullclamp. While we do not have a strong artifact-based aggro deck currently, Izzet Scissors may see a resurgence or a transformation with this powerful addition. Although, it is important to acknowledge that they struggle with board wipes like Brotherhood’s End or targeted removal like March of Otherworldly Light.
If you can think of any other cards that you feel like deserve a spot on this list, then follow and DM me @Mochabeezy on Twitter.
Many Magic: the Gathering players find themselves asking the question “Is Arena actually an accessible means for tournament testing?”. For those who have qualified for the coming DreamHack Showdown or have aspirations of queueing for the coming Showdown in Anaheim, CA in early 2023, this same question may be on their minds. While the coming DreamHack Showdown is for the Pioneer format, those in the future still hold some mystery as to what their formats will be. To this point in the history of digital Magic playtesting, the standard option has been to utilize Magic: the Gathering Online (MTGO), also known as MODO (Magic Online with Digital Objects). Although this twenty year old program shows its age with arcane UI, it serves as the closest digital approximation to the true tabletop classic because of the wide card pool and the number of formats available to the user to play in. Coupled with this is a recent change in developer to Daybreak Games, the company behind EverQuest and other MMORPG titles, and waning numbers of players for formats like Standard on there. Altogether with these factors taken into consideration, it would seem as if few would continue to cite this as an ideal client for continued time investment, yet many still do despite Arena’s existence.
Arena is the latest digital client from Wizards of the Coast that allows for its users to play Magic with a much more user-friendly interface, on a number of different devices, and providing a similar variety of different ways to interact with the game of Magic. Since its premier in 2019, Wizards has promoted this client as the primary means by which to engage with the game outside of paper. With all recent major Magic events sponsored by Wizards featuring Arena play in some capacity, why would Magic players not value this client as a legitimate means for testing in various formats? The reasons largely come down to two reasons: the formats available on Arena and their “economy” relative to the paper equivalents of the cards.
Between both Arena and MTGO, a wide variety of different ways to play Magic exist. Many of the Constructed and Casual means of playing the game in paper exist on MTGO. While Wizards has sponsored competitive Magic play using formats like Modern, Legacy, and Pioneer in the past, the most recent large-scale events have been focusing on Standard and Arena exclusive formats. The recent Magic World Championship XIII even had two days of Standard constructed play and the Arena exclusive format Explorer saw its emergence in the competitive Magic scene with day two being dedicated to just it. By comparison, MTGO has lacked the same player base for Standard that Arena has managed to garner. The free-to-play model of Arena versus the potential $20 or more to have access to a wide array of decks to play via the subscription services that exist to help serve the needs of those seeking a competitive environment for testing in addition to whatever costs one might invest into playing various leagues or queues on MTGO would obviously put things more into the newcomer’s corner.
For a number of the established Magic personalities and grinders there is already a significant fiscal investment made into MTGO. Many have accounts with various subscription services that allow them to rent any deck that they choose for a nominal fee. In addition to this, players can immediately spend money on MTGO specific currency (tickets or TIX) in order to trade with a number of “store fronts” on the platform to acquire one-to-one recreations of the decks that they would play in paper. It is said anecdotally, but with MTGO the sentiment rings true: “the best card in Magic: the Gathering [Online] is the credit card”. Card acquisition in MTGO is an endeavor that can be done through meticulous play and careful spending with the winnings collected from paid leagues, drafts, or challenges on the platform. Additionally, should the deck fail the pilot or interest wane, then cards can be sold back to the digital fronts for tickets which, if you can manage to find the right vendors, can be turned into real dollars. Yet like the digital client itself, this process is arcane and can be frustrating for newer or not deeply invested players.
When compared to the economy of MTGO, Arena seems far more spartan and to many entrenched players, this is its biggest downfall. Arena, much like many other modern games, focuses mostly on cosmetics and lootbox-esque openings of packs to generate revenue. Looking at it from this perspective, when compared to MTGO and its direct acquisition of cards, then it seems that in this regard that this point is in their favor. However, unlike MTGO where “going infinite” (the condition of having your MTGO events pay for themselves) is possible albeit with either great luck and skill some significant losses being sustained according to some authors, Arena has a significantly greater possibility of accomplishing this. With Arena, it is possible to never spend a single cent and effectively grind one’s way into any deck of their choosing by winning packs, coins, and possibly gems (the premium currency of Arena) through successful play. Admittedly, this does take considerable time and effort to grind to this point. It will likely take weeks to months to grind and work one’s way to a deck in the given Arena format of their choosing to get an ideal build, but what this endeavor provides that the MTGO process does not is the exposure to learning about deck building considerations over time, getting reps with a particular deck, and innovating with deck choices that others may not consider. In short, you become more seasoned across the entire process and it can be done without a single cent being spent.
The other concern for competitive players are the formats available on each client. While MTGO has many of the major formats played across the world in paper events, Arena is limited to just three major constructed formats: Explorer, Historic, and Standard. Again, Wizards cites Commander (among the easily defined constructed formats) as the most popular way to play. A number of content creators use tools like Spelltable to help them bring paper Commander play across digital spaces and with a number of specialty sets not being moved over to MTGO, this makes it harder to envision it as a true replication of Magic. Arena, by comparison, is much more capable of remaining faithful to the game with only one format that is mirrored to the paper equivalent of the game. However, the contention with any discussion of Arena are its digital only formats. Explorer, as the newest of these digital only formats, is the latest subject of this scrutiny especially with players knowing that this will be the format that will eventuallybecome Pioneer on the client. Competitive players will cite the lack of all Pioneer legal sets not being available on Arena as the chief reason to dismiss it as a reliable means of competitive testing. While this can certainly limit a deck from being competitive with their paper counterparts, in practice the differences are minimal. Take the following four decks for instance:
Between the four decks here, two of which being among the most represented in the Pioneer format, there are only nine cards that are not on Arena. One of the more significant losses for - Explorer version of Mono Green Devotion is the lack of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. Yet, the deck thrives online and players innovate in spite of this and Arena devs intend on backfilling the missing sets from Pioneer onto the platform over time, albeit undefined time currently. This combined with the continued support that this client is set to receive from Wizards over the coming years pushes Arena more and more into the competitive scene and legitimates it as a means for players to test and hone their skills.
To me, Magic has always been a great hobby. After receiving and splitting the Oath of Zendikar duel decks with a friend from an annual group gift exchange in December of 2016, playing it has been a part of my regular routine. A form of escapism. A break from monotony. Be it theory crafting decks while doing hall or lunch duties during work or the familiar voice of SaffronOlive going “Opponent…passing…” while prepping dinner for the night, it has become a break from normalcy. And when the normalcy is truly broken by the end of the work grind, the hobby becomes something more. A drive. A passion. A means by which to push myself beyond those traditional goalposts that work creates. A means by which a mild mannered history teacher becomes a warrior in a different kind of battlefield. Weekends of Magic competition bring out a fire and the weekend warrior sets off.
Admittedly, with the second Dreamhack Regional Championship Qualifier beginning for me, I was a little more excited than I had been for the previous return of competitive play or in my earlier forays into that world pre-Pandemic. After a number of close calls at Pioneer RCQs across lower Appalachia with several Top 8s and one second place finish in North Carolina, I felt more confident about my ability to play tight lines and pick ideal decks and tech for my competitions. With my regular grinding crew we set off on an early morning trek to a LGS not far outside of Atlanta to begin our battle in a race for the Anaheim invitation. If the previous season of tournament grinding had taught me anything, it was this:
Much like in traditional warfare, it helps to associate and ally yourself with gifted minds within your field to help you perceive your strategies in different ways and help your achieve your ends,
Much like in war, there are many battles and a single loss should not signal your wholesale defeat.
Our small ensemble made its way into the store and with the hour we had before the tournament officially began we made small efforts at trying to gauge the field and fine tune our decks and drill matches before we entered the true field of battle. To this end, my car mates who both represent our LGS Tapstart Games, rendered two fantastic services to me that would serve me well today. In practicing against Leonard, he actively pushed me to move beyond my apprehension to mulligan “okay” hands in post-board games. A middling seven or mediocre six can get you to win, but a five card hand of silver bullets can be even more potent than either despite the inherent risk. My thanks to Nolan for helping me make last minute sideboard and mainboard tech adjustments and pushing me to not overanalyze deck choice, despite playing a similar build for a while. It’s Noon. The judge calls for the first round and beckons us to check our pairings and find our tables. The battle begins.
I find my table, I dig out my playmat and deck box from my bag, I unfurl the mat and begin to shuffle as my opponent does the same. I’m confident in my deck choice. While some of the numbers might be shaky and a concession to not having the ability to buy or borrow the cards from people, I am sure that if I just avoid the nightmare matchups, I should not be too badly punished for those choices.
Round one is against known former SCG grinder Alex Hon. He wins the die roll. Turn one Lair of the Hydra, cast Llanowar Elf, pass. It’s one of the nightmare matchups right out of the gate. While I know streamers like MisplacedGinger and Kannister do not really bemoan the Mono Green Karn matchup against Rakdos much anymore, it is one that I had only had exposure to losing against at my LGS and in Explorer ranked queues with my slightly different take of Rakdos Midrange on Arena. I am easily trounced in game one. Sideboarding. “Okay, this is easy. Your sideboard is full of Green hate and Greasefang hate.” “This might be a bad pairing for round one, but it can turn around here.” These are the thoughts I tell myself as I bring in Epic Downfall, Noxious Grasp, Lifebane Zombie, and Extinction Event and take out a smattering of one-ofs. “Leave in Lili because she can take out their resources.” “Keep in Kalitas to stop the Trolls and Cavaliers.” More internalized banter to calm the nerves. Game two starts with a fairly mediocre seven; a couple removal spells, Bloodtithe Harvester, creature lands, a shock, and a pathway. “It’s slow, but it can get me there.” Then I hear Leonard’s advice like Obi-Wan speaking to Luke. I mulligan into Thoughtseize, Lifebane Zombie, Sorin, Bloodtithe Harvester, and lands. Goodnight to the brooding prince of Innistrad, I keep. I slaughter. Onto game three where I do not follow the same advice that made me trample over Alex in game two. I lose pretty miserably after two Cavaliers get cast fairly early on and I only see a Bloodtithe Harvester and a Fable of the Mirror-Breaker on the field. The skirmish puts me on the back foot at the beginning of the day with plenty of time left to ruminate on my lines after the exchange of “good game” and before the call of round two pairings.
Round two begins. I settled at a table not too far from where I began against a familiar face from the previous RCQ season. While he was not a known grinder like my previous opponent, I had seen him enough to know what deck he was running in Pioneer: Dredgeless Dredge. Our first game is won on the back of Graveyard Trespasser taking out his key graveyard creatures. I sideboard in Leyline of the Void and Hidetsugu Consumes All, take out my planeswalkers and graveyard dependent pieces, call it a day. I mulligan into my Leyline, but he takes it out with an Assassin’s Trophy and runs away with the game after I cannot keep a Graveyard Trespasser on board. We go into game three with just eight minutes left on the clock. I take game three on the back of a hand of double Trespasser and Leyline of the Void after we go into turns. Another tense match, but I soldier on quickly to my next round.
I start round three with a little bit more peace of mind that knowing that I am not staying at the lower tables. My opponent is on the play. Turn one Den of the Bugbear, cast Phoenix Chick, swing, go. It could be traditional Mono Red Aggro or Atarka Red, regardless I need to be as careful with my life total as I can. I play a Blightstep Pathway and pass. The Thoughtseize I hold will stay there in my hand. Turn two play Stomping Ground, cast Kari Zev, swing, and pass. It is Atarka Red. If there was one matchup I was woefully under prepared for, it was this. Todd Anderson and other streamers that have played the deck say that it is a good matchup into Rakdos Midrange. I manage to fight through my opponents creatures and swing through for lethal while one one life in game one. I was surprised to survive that game as I did, but with sideboarding I know that keeping some Thoughtseize in for Hazoret, the Fervent or Experimental Frenzy. I bring in Invoke Despair and Hidetsugu Consumes All and hope for the best. Game two begins with a hand of one Den of the Bugbear, a Swamp, a Hive of the Eye Tyrant and a glut of removal. The game follows a similar path to game one, but I win on one life after casting a turn seven Invoke Despair with a Graveyard Trespasser on board and three creatures and four lands on theirs. The turning point of the battle is approaching. The end is in sight. I will come out of this on the other side.
I very quickly discover that my round 4 opponent is playing Abzan Greasefang, too quickly. Despite my efforts to drag the game on, I get hit with a Skysovereign, Consul Flagship on turns four and five. The game is over quickly. Games two and three are won entirely on the back of Leyline of the Void and Graveyard Trespasser dense hands. An abysmal matchup is won; the insurmountable of Leyline of the Void with three Graveyard Trespassers
I’m riding the high that comes with beating an abysmal matchup for your deck. I should be able to draw into the top eight with no issue. The judge calls and our pairings are posted. I’m paired down. A 3-1 versus a 2-2. If he plays it out and wins, then he goes onto the top eight. We’re told to go into the Stream Room for this match. I have to play it out and I’m on camera. I managed to catch a bit of his match versus Alex in the prior round. He’s on UW Control. So we set off to the room and our match, lay out our mats, and after navigating some technical difficulties we began. This matchup is favored for Rakdos Midrange, so I was not entirely terrified to play against it. A well-timed Thoughtseize on turn one and threats galore win me game one easily. Sideboarding for this matchup is fairly easy, depending on the opponents build of the deck. I take out my set of Fatal Push and bring in my Noxious Grasp, Reckoner Bankbuster for additional card advantage, and Invoke Despair. In versions of control that lean more heavily on Dream Trawler, like the variants on Arena, I prefer running some number of Angrath’s Rampage in the side to deal with those. Game two begins and ends quickly though as my opponent floods out. I land a turn five Sorin the Mirthless and run away with the game from there. My Sorin ultimate for a thirteen point loss of life seals the fate of my opponent and secures my position in the top eight.
After a nice walk and dinner break with my car mates, it is time to deal with the matter of the top eight matches. At the end of round five with a 4-1 record, I am securely in third place. The higher seed. No matter what, I will be on the play. My deck needs the advantage of aggression and hand disruption over whomever my opponent is. I see who the sixth place seat is and the dread sets in: Alex Hon, again. I know Mono Green is abysmal, but I overcame two bad matchups in swiss, I can do it again. Game one of quarterfinals comes and goes quickly. Being on the play with hand disruption and a mulligan to five on his part made sure of the quick game there. I sideboard the exact same way that I did in the first round and pray for a good seven. My hand in game two is nothing but hand hate in the form of two Thoughtseize and green hate with Epic Downfall and Noxious Grasp and my two different creature lands. I keep and see a Lifebane Zombie and a Fable of the Mirror-Breaker in my next couple turns. The game is mine and now we are into the semifinals!
The person who I am playing against in the semifinals used to play at the LGS I go to while he was in undergrad. He shows up in that LGS’ Messenger group and he’s talked about his success on and off that day. I know what he is running and his general lines. Unfortunately, it is the mirror match. In paper, I have next to no experience with the mirror, but on Arena I am intimately aware of this matchup. While my paper list differs in some significant ways, I should be able to nab this matchup as long as I have hand hate and can avoid opposing two for ones. Game one goes quickly. Well timed Thoughseizes into Graveyard Trespassers and an unanswered Fable of the Mirror-Breaker seal the deal and get me the early advantage. As a seasoned Modern player that played Mardu and Jund mirrors in their heyday, I am well aware of the traditional adage of sideboarding out Thoughtseize or other one for one hand disruption for more effective threats. However, despite this traditional logic, I stick with decisions in sideboarding that I have come to make thanks to significant Arena play. I keep in three Thoughtseize and take out the Abrade and bring it Reckoner Bankbuster and Invoke Despair. I partially attribute this choice to getting them signed by Sol Maka after my success against Alex Hon in quarterfinals. I begin game two with a Thoughtseize and removal after my opponent mulligans, a potentially game crush decision against any deck with hand disruption. An eventual topdecked Invoke Despair while the opponent has an empty board and seals my position in the finals. No matter what, I am going to Anaheim. These moments before my final match are my Christmas Truce, the momentary peace before the conflict begins anew.
It is me versus actual professional Magic personality, Sol Maka. He has spent a large chunk of the day on this store’s stream, but now more than ever the nerves set in for me about playing tight. I may have an invite, but this is online forever. I need to play well not only for myself, but for anyone that can possibly see this in the future as an example of what this matchup looks like. Rakdos Cat versus Rakdos Midrange. We begin. Game one of this matchup can be difficult, especially if the opponent can manage to work around a Graveyard Trespasser and stick a Mayhem Devil on the field. A Thoughtseize on my part deals with the Mayhem Devil threat in game one, but a Shrapnel Blast blows me away and on the defense going into game two. I bring in Leyline of the Void and Hidetsugu Consumes All as possible hosers and take out some of the one-ofs. A turn zero Leyline helps me make the game go long, but it does not do enough to bring me the win while drawing poorly throughout the whole game. Sol gets his invite and his tournament win. While I may not have won the war, this weekend warrior won their battle and goes on to fight another day.
Overall, I was happy with the deck today and the choices made in sideboarding and construction. Throughout the day Liliana of the Veil proved to be the weakest card and made me feel secure in only running one in the deck. While it may feel good in midrange and control matches where you can play removal to take out other, smaller threats and leave them only with their most vital one to take out with its edict effect downtick, its plus effect to discard feels very bad in a format full of graveyard synergies especially when Rakdos has so few effects currently to generate meaningful card advantage. When The Brothers’ War comes out and Phyrexian Dragon Engine becomes a legal card, then Liliana may have more utility. Until then, she is not as phenomenal as many imagined her to be during Dominaria United’s spoiler season. Similarly, the mainboard Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet felt great and like a fantastic means of having additional games against aggro decks that move towards increasingly more midrange gameplans in post-sideboard games. A number of streamers and other metagame analysts sing the praises of multiple copies of Sheoldred, the Apocalypse which is certainly warranted, but having the one-of version of it and Sorin the Mirthless to generate card advantage of generate an evasive, lifelinking body felt good in the matchups where they showed up together. Each is individually powerful, but together they put enough pressure and inevitably on the opponent where they must be answered.
Fired off with a great deal of success! Thanks to everyone who came out this weekend and participated in the first standard tournament in a long time! The top prize, a Collector Box of Kaldheim, was split between the top four!