The Two Drop Creatures You Should Play Over Stoneforge Mystic

 The Two Drop Creatures You Should Play Over Stoneforge Mystic Joseph Stargel


Modern has seen a large shake up in the last two weeks which has caused a lot of people to spend their time and money attempting to create the best “ Stoneforge Mystic ”(From here on out referred to as “SFM”) deck they can. I even fell into this with the deck that I am currently playing right now in modern Whirza, I built a version of the deck that was Esper and playing “SFM” instead of goblin engineer that took a more midrange or control approach to its matches. The deck included Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Fatal Push, and Collective Brutality which caused me to have a good win rate against aggressive decks and decks that were trying to fight on the axis of a fair creature based game plan such as Jund, other “SFM” decks, Burn, and the like. However, there were a lot of matches where “SFM” just didn't matter and was not an impaticul Magic card. That got me thinking about the other side of the coin when it comes to the “SFM” unbanning. What decks and strategies got better because of the impact “SFM” is having on the format that will be a good deck choice going forward or for the short term of the modern format where “SFM” is what is all the rage and the card almost everyone wants to put in there deck. That being, what I will be going over in this article , which you probably realized based on the title of this article, is a few of the decks that I believe have gotten significant improvements based on “SFM” being unbanned that don't play “SFM” but I will be doing that but talking about the non-“SFM” two-drop creatures that are central to those decks gameplan.


Sakura Tribe Elder

Sakura Tribe Elder

Ahhh Steve you beautiful snake man you. If you didn't know Sakura Tribe Elder which is affectionately referred to as Steve is the beating heart of Scapeshift or Valakut combo decks. The reason why I believe Scapeshift is in a good spot right now is that with everyone playing “SFM” decks which are generally heavier on reactive cards and removal instead of kill on spot combos or extremely efficient aggressive cards, this is perfect for decks that are similar to Scapeshift that prey on well put together midrange decks being being incredibly linear and efficient at pulling off a combo that does not take place on an axis that is easy for these decks to interact with and that can even win with incidental damage that comes from Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and playing lands. There are two other reasons that I think the deck is better right now than it has been recently. Number one, there feels to be an extreme lack of “Blood Moon” floating around in side boards right now. Number two, the deck just a got a pretty good new tool that gives the deck an alternate way to win the game and that also lets it play a pretty consistent midrange game plan in conjunction with “Primeval Titan”  which is “Field of the Dead” which is seeing an insane play rate and win rate alongside the card “ Scapeshift” in Standard.

Eidolon of the Great Revel 

Burn everyone's favorite hated modern deck. Well the burn deck always seems to come around to being on top in new modern formats, I believe this to be because of the staggering efficiency and velocity of the hands that this deck draws. There isn't really a lot to talk about when it comes to Burn in a new metagame other than you prey on your opponent's stumbling and the first few turns and the fact that people are still trying to figure out what the correct size and makeup of the “SFM” package is becomes an even greater boon to your strategy that is already good against even tuned modern midrange decks. I feel like this one is pretty self explanatory, GO FACE, GO FAST, 7x3=21.

Munitions Expert / Goblin Piledriver


This article’s “HOT TAKE” as they say. Goblins is a deck that I have always had a strong love for, that being said I believe this deck could be a legitimate threat in a modern metagame that is dominated by “SFM” decks. This is because of the depth of card advantage that the deck has inherently. Also the fact that the deck puts a large presence on the board with its small bodies that get better and better the more of them that you play. However, the main draw to the deck is that it fights “SFM” strategies on the axis that they are trying to play in a big way, trades very efficiently against their cards and one for ones as well as turning the corner very quickly and killing them over one to two turns one the board is controlled. This is part of the reason the deck at least for its life in Legacy and Standard was very very good at beating the UW based or midrange decks. “Munitions expert” is also a big boon to the Goblins archetype for modern with as much as the popular one for one decks lean on planeswalkers because of the fact that “Munitions Expert” enter the battlefield trigger can also target planeswalkers. This is definitely harder to play and harder to construct correctly choice for current modern but it is a deck that I think is a real contender in modern especially when it comes to tribal creature decks.

Goblin Engineer

“Whirza” the deck I believe is currently the best deck in modern. I know that is a big statement and one that is very subjective in modern. However, this deck has all of the tools in its current configuration to beat all of the decks trying to play a “SFM” gameplan, this is because it has an incredible fast linear draw that is hard to interact with or stop especially in game one, in “Sword of the Meek” and “Thopter Foundry”, which we talked about as being a draw to decks like Scapeshift and Burn, as well as the ability to fight the “SFM” decks on the midrange and trading one for one / card advantage axis that they are trying to play on that we talked about being the draw to decks like Goblins and other synergy based decks. I don't want to go too deep into detail when it comes to Whirza and why I think the deck is the best deck in the format and why you should be playing the “Goblin Engineer” version of the deck and not the “SFM” version of the deck because I am working on a primer for the deck and and in depth dive into the deck and my thoughts of the different versions of the deck and why it is seeing as much success as it is in the current modern landscape. So if that interests you keep and eye out for my in depth look at modern Whirza.

Thank you for taking the time to read my latest article that the wonderful Tapstart Games allows me to represent them with and gives me a platform for me to share the information that I can with the Magic community. I love the atmosphere, ideals, and community that Tapstart Games has built and I am truly honored to represent them and to be a part of their team. Be on the lookout for more articles from me and from the rest of the Tapstart Games Team.



Once Again Thank You, 

Joseph Stargel

Gonti Soulherder Your Face Off!

 Gonti Soulherder you face off! By Dex



Hey all Tapstart enthusiasts, Dex here to talk to you all about a brew that I have been working on. Now before we dive deep into it, the current iteration of the deck is FNM level, meaning you can take it to your local LGS on any nights you can play Modern MTG, and with reasonable skill be successful. Its not fully tuned for high tier competitive level MTG as of yet, but I have had quite a few people ask me about the list so I felt the need to write on it.

 The initial idea for said list has basically two origin points, I personally have been watching a lot of Gabriel Nassif's Bant Soulherder streams and I am infatuated with the concept, most people know me as a mid-range fanatic, so this type of value based deck calls my name. The second point of origin involves a game of 4-player Pack Wars (there will be a brief introduction of that format at the end of the article) where Margaret (Tapstart's awesome Store Manager) controlled a Soulherder, and proceed to out value the rest of the table and win the game. One of Margaret's favorite cards of all time is Gonti, Lord of Luxury, and she is the one who seen the potential value package of playing Gonti in a deck with Soulherder. With those two cards in mind, I thought up a first draft, and been testing it ever since to decent success. Here is the latest iteration of the deck; 


2 Deputy of Detention

3 Gonti, Lord of Luxury

2 Mulldrifter

1 Ravenous Chupacabra

2 Reflector Mage

1 Reveillark

1 Sin Collector

4 Soulherder

4 Watcher for Tomorrow

4 Wall of Omens

1 Vendilion Clique

4 Ephemerate

1 Winds of Abandon

4 Path to Exile

3 Negate

2 Flooded Strand

2 Godless Shrine

2 Hallowed Fountain

2 Island

3 Plains

2 Polluted Delta

4 Field of Ruin

1 Swamp

2 Watery Grave

3 Marsh Flats



2 Lone Missionary

1 Orzhov Pontiff

2 Damping Sphere

2 Rest in Peace

1 Sin Collector

2 Stony Silence 

1 Cataclysmic Gearhulk

1 Teferi, Time Raveler

1 Ashiok, Dream Render

2 Disdainful Stroke



The removal package of 2 Reflector Mage, 1 Ravenous Chupacabra, 4 Path to Exile, and 1 Winds of Abandon can shore up most creature based decks. The initial list played 3 Reflector Mage, but sometimes you just need to kill the creatures instead of bouncing them. The Winds of Abandon may look odd, but Soulherder triggers when a creature is exiled from the battlefield so it is a fifth copy of Path to Exile that in corner cases can also be a board wipe. 2 Deputy of Detentions deal with any planeswalkers your opponent plays when you don't have the ability to attack them down with your creatures. Sin Collector and Vendilion Clique pull duty to control your opponents hand as well as giving you information on what they are doing. Value package of 4 Wall of Omen, 4 Watcher for Tomorrow, and the 2 Mulldrifter gives a nice bit of card advantage. A cool value play that you can do with a Mulldrifter and a copy of Ephemerate is Evoke cast the Mulldrifter, and then with the sacrifice trigger on the stack, Ephemerate the Mulldrifter, you end up with a 2/2 flier and 4 cards in your hand. A 1 of Reveillark pulls reanimation duty to bring back everything but the singleton Vendilion Clique. Gonti, Lord of Luxury is the heart of the deck, he is the reason this version of the deck exist. Taking one of your opponents best cards and using it agaisnt them gives you a nice warm and fuzzy feeling. Some of the more impressive Gonti takes have been:

 Taking a Worldbreaker from a Tron opponent and using it to take him off of tron lands, attacking them for game, and then taking and using an Expedition Map to search up a Field of Ruin to cut them off of tron is a feel good moment.

 Taking a Wren and Six from a Jund opponent and using it to keep their board clear, rebuying Field of Ruin to cut him off of dual colors, as well as using it to ping for lethal.

Stealing and casting a Batterskull from a UW opponent and using it to attack them down to 0 Life.

The current sideboard is more so tuned towards the big mana and aggressive decks, you generally have a good match up versus the mid-range/control decks.

 The 2 Lone Missionary's are for the aggressive match-ups, mostly Burn, but any decks that can put a fast clock on you, they are a good way to buff your life total. Orzhov Pontiff and Cataclysmic Gearhulk are good cards for the creature strategies, and Gearhulk can pull double duty in the control match-up to take care of pesky planeswalkers. Rest in Peace are a hedge for any graveyard based decks that may pop up. Stony Silence hedges against the artifact base decks, and Pontiff can also come into the main in some of these match-ups. Sphere and Disdainful Stroke come in against the Big mana decks, Ashiok also can come into the main against these match-ups, but it is a tad bit slower than the other cards.

And that is the deck, It has been a blast to play, I have had a lot of fun with it and I will continue to test and refine the list so that it can be competitive tournament worthy. If there is enough interest (and the meta-game settles a bit) I will write up a a dedicated sideboard guide. If there are any questions, feel free to comment or message the Tapstart  Facebook page and we will do our best to get them answered for you. Thank you all for reading!!

The Witch is Dead! : How to Approach a Lootingless Modern

 Stoneforge Mystic

 The Witch is Dead! : How to Approach a Lootingless Modern By Robert Benson

Check Rob out on Twitch or on Twitter


Pull the string, and let the confetti rain down! Wizards of the Coast has finally decided to ban Faithless Looting, a card that has plagued Modern for the past two years. No longer will Modern be dominated by graveyard – based strategies, such as Izzet Phoenix, Dredge, and Hogaak, which pressured the rest of the format to maindeck graveyard hate or expect to lose. Faithless Looting will definitely not be missed.

          Alongside the banning of both Faithless Looting and Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis, Wizards of the Coast finally decided to go through with a highly - anticipated unbanning: Stoneforge Mystic. Everyone’s favorite Kor artificer is finally free, and ready to take modern by storm, especially with the expected resurgence of fair, creature – based strategies. Will Stoneforge Mystic become a dominating force in the Modern format? Only time will tell. However, you would be crazy to think that such a high – profile, largely notorious strategy will be underplayed.

          How can you prepare your deck for the upcoming rush of Stoneforge Mystic decks? Let me show you three simple ways to approach the brand – new, exciting, Modern format!

Strategy One: Big Mana

Decks like Tron and Valakut are notorious for dominating fair formats. These decks excel at preying on decks like Jund and UW/X Midrange, as they produce large quantities of mana very quickly, and can either kill the opponent through a combo finish (Karn, the Great Creator + Mycosynth Lattice, Scapeshift), or through huge, haymaker threats such as Wurmcoil Engine, Primeval Titan, or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. They are notorious for being incredibly linear, and extremely powerful. Break out your Field of Ruins, Ghost Quarters, and Fulminator Mages, because these strategies are destined to make a return.

Strategy Two: Aggressive Combo

          Stoneforge Mystic strategies generally like to play some form of permission or cantrip on Turn 1, followed by a must – answer threat on Turn 2. Aggressive combo decks such as Storm, Whirza, Neobrand, or Amulet Titan can punish fair players by attempting to attack the opponent while they are choked on resources early. These strategies are poised for success if they can effectively punish Stoneforge Mystic players on the turn they look to set – up.

Strategy Three: Kolaghan’s Command

          Ah, Kolaghan’s Command, my old friend, how I missed you so. As Stoneforge Mystic decks prefer to use artifacts and creatures as their primary method of attack, why not play a card that is a GUARANTEED TWO – FOR – ONE against them, every time you cast it? With most strategies attempting to solidify their early – game, why not play a card that not only lets you grind through your opponent’s onslaught of early creatures and artifacts, but then also doubles as a late – game value engine? Decks like Jund and Grixis Control are prime examples of strategies which will utilize this form of hate, and I expect them to be top contenders in the upcoming fair Modern metagame.

Bonus Decklist Time!

As many of you reading know already, I am currently participating in a charity event known as the Modern Streamers League, where the proceeds will go to a charity of the winning team’s choice. For the second half of the league, I was inspired by good friends Katie Rojas and Connor Mcelwee to play a Kolaghan’s Command strategy, similar to the Legacy deck piloted to Top 8 finishes at the SCG Philadelphia Open by Lucas Cruz and Daryl Ayers. You can see my decklist below!





I chose this particular decklist, as it has the potential to out – grind fair decks such as Jund and Stoneblade, while still fending off early attacks from other creature – based strategies. Is this deck a meme, or a future all – star of the Modern format? We’ll find out in a few weeks, but until then, thanks for reading, and God bless.



Back with a Vengeance

Image result for vengevine banner

Back with a Vengeance: TJ Poole Reflects Upon the Resurgence of Vengevine Decks in Modern



          Hogaak Vengevine is a very powerful deck, showing up nearly everywhere in Modern. Its fast, aggressive, storm – like, combomills your opponent out, while still maintaining an alternative win condition of resilient creature beat down. The combination of the twoare proving extremely difficult for the Modern metagame to deal with. This past weekend, 5 of the top 16 decks in the SCG ModernClassic, 3 of the top 8 teams in the SCG Team Modern, and 2 of the top 8 at Magic Fest Dallas were all variations of Vengevine. This isthe list piloted by Tom Ross to a top 8 finish in Dallas:

Main Board

4 Bloodghast

4 Carrion Feeder

4 Gravecrawler

4 Insolent Neonate

4 Stitcher's Supplier

4 Vengevine

4 Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis

4 Altar of Dementia

1 Darkblast

1 Lightning Axe

4 Faithless Looting

4 Bridge from Below

1 Swamp

4 Blackcleave Cliffs

3 Blood Crypt

4 Bloodstained Mire

2 Overgrown Tomb

4 Polluted Delta



2 Ingot Chewer

4 Leyline of the Void

2 Fatal Push

4 Nature's Claim

3 Thoughtseize




          I'm pretty much known for playing Bogles, but my first deck I ever put a lot of time into was a home-brewed Vengevine list back in2016. It was absolutley great in a local metagame full of control decks. It even took me to a Top 16 at SCG Regionals in Atlanta. Unfortunately, the Modern format became too fast for the deck, and I found myself always one turn too slow, so I eventually switched to Bogles since it was a good meta choice at the time. This is the list I ran back then:


Main Board

4 Bloodghast

4 Gravecrawler

4 Vengevine

4 Lotleth Troll

4 Death's Shadow

4 Birds of Paradise

3 Varolz, The Scar-Striped

4 Faithless Looting

4 Grisley Salvage

3 Kolaghan's Command

2 Collective Brutality

4 Verdant Catacombs

4 Bloodstained Mire

2 Forest

2 Swamp

3 Overgrown Tomb

3 Blood Crypt

2 Stomping Ground



2 Spellskite

2 Jund Charm

2 Golgari Charm

2 Rakdos Charm

2 Terminate

2 Abrubt Decay

3 Crumble to Dust



      This list has a lot of similarities with the current Hogaak list. There is synergy everywhere. It can have fast, combo – oriented turnsinvolving Vengevine recurring from the graveyard, or by using Varolz to scavenge a Death's Shadow onto a creature with some evasionand attacking in. It can also give control decks trouble since it has so many ways to bring back threats. The deck usually did really well wherever I played it, since no one was usually prepared to combat a deck that could be both resilient and aggressive. That's what the new list with Hogaak does. I've been playing it for a few weeks now online and at my local game store, and if someone has an answer to one win condition, you just use a different strategy to win. It's definitely not unheard of to just win by casting 2/1s and attacking every turn.  



         A lot of people are calling for a ban on something from the new list since it's taking up so much of the current meta. The question is: what should be, if anything is? Faithless looting is the card that's been around the longest and people have been wanting it banned for years since it fuels a lot of other graveyard strategies. They could ban Hogaak, but that would mean banning a card that was just released not even a month ago. Alter of Dementia is also a candidate. There are lots of other discard outlets though.  I feel that a ban is unnecessary. The meta will eventually adapt and overcome the new graveyard deck just like it did when I played my homebrew.  Until then I'll be putting the Bogles away and trying to mill my opponent on turn 2.  



The RUG Revival

Robert Benson 


The RUG Revival: How Wrenn and Six Turned Temur Delver from Zero to Hero

            Once feared as the bully deck of Legacy, Temur Delver experienced a huge decline in play with the printing of Deathrite Shaman. For years thereafter, Grixis became the Delver shard of choice, only increasing in popularity with the printing of Gurmag Angler. However, with the simultaneous banning of Gitaxian Probe and Deathrite Shaman, Temur Delver was thought to be back as the de facto best tempo deck of the format, and the ‘goose was loose yet again.

            Within the past year, Legacy has become increasingly more hostile to aggressive manabases, with decks like Death and Taxes, Lands, and Izzet Delver emerging to punish a format full of non-basic lands. Even control decks like Miracles and Stoneblade began to run tech choices like maindeck Back to Basics, to punish players seeking to exploit the near-perfect mana that Legacy has to offer. Temur Delver, unfortunately, became a fringe-playable strategy lost to time…until Modern Horizons. The printing of Wrenn and Six, a new, two-mana, Gruul planeswalker, has completely revolutionized the toolkit that RUG has to work with, providing both a source of land-recursion, as well as a “pinger”, while still threatening to win the game on its own.


Temur Delver has traditionally always been a deck looking to operate as efficiently as possible, while controlling opponents on the axis of resource-denial, through the use of cards like Stifle, Wasteland, and assorted soft – permission spells. Wrenn and Six provides Temur Delver with a way to consistently recur Wastelands, or recur multicolor lands to cast its permission spells. Long gone are the days of sideboarding Life from the Loam, in an attempt to both protect its own manabase, or punish an opponent’s. By utilizing Wrenn and Six’s powerful recursion effect, a skilled RUG Pilot can produce card advantage, and eventually grind his opponent out of the game.

Alternatively, if a card-advantage engine is not enough reasoning to sleeve up Nimble Mongoose this upcoming weekend, then surely a 2-mana “pinger” will be. As an archetype, Temur Delver has always experienced difficulty against chump-style creatures like Baleful Strix, Young Pyromancer, and the assorted repertoire of Death and Taxes creatures. The -1 ability of Wrenn and Six gives Temur Delver the ability to dispatch these annoying blockers, and conserve spells like Tarfire, Lightning Bolt, and Dismember for more justified targets. Notably, Wrenn and Six gives a RUG Pilot a significant advantage in the Delver mirrors as well, as the planeswalker is capable of sniping opposing Delvers on-curve before they are able to flip.

Although an extremely difficult deck to pilot, Temur Delver has become increasingly more well-positioned with the release of Modern Horizons. I hope this brief overview inspires you to step out of your comfort zone, and experience one of the most flavorful color combinations a Delver deck can have. The ‘goose is definitely loose once again!

Latest Magic News

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Rob Benson Team TSG

Another week, means another Team Tapstart announcement! This week, we'd like to announce our inaugural member, and team captain, Robert James Benson!

Name: Robert James Benson

Hometown: Manalapan, New Jersey

Favorite Format: Legacy

Favorite Deck: Jeskai Control / Show and Tell

Most Memorable Magic Moment: When I won my first SCG Classic, surrounded by my friends and mentors. Still the best day of my life.

Notable Achievements: SCG Standard Regional Championships Top 16, SCG Louisville Modern Classic Top 16, SCG Atlanta Modern Classic Champion, 1 Pro Point


New TSG Team Member

In December, we told you that we had some exciting plans for 2019! It is our pleasure to announce the 2019 roster for Team Tapstart Games! Each week, we will announce a new member, until the complete lineup has been revealed.

Please give a warm welcome to our newest member, William 'Dex' Oglesby!

Name: William 'Dex' Oglesby

Hometown: Seneca, SC

Favorite Format: Modern

Favorite Deck: Abzan Midrange

Most Memorable Magic Moment: When both my Team Unified RPTQ teammates and I took 1st, 3rd, and 7th place at a PPTQ,


the day before the event with our Team Unified Standard decklists.









Mono Blue run through


An Analysis of the Most Successful Standard Decks at Pro Tour Atlanta
By: Robert James Benson
With the recent success of Boros Aggro at the recent Pro Tour, it is safe to say that linear, aggressive strategies are extremely well positioned for success in the current Standard format. But while most players had their attentions drawn to powerful Red-White cards like Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice and Heroic Reinforcements, the decks with the highest win rate were, in fact, Pascal Vieren’s Izzet Drakes and Guillaume Gauthier’s Mono Blue Tempo. Although a Pro Tour Championship is extremely prestigious, and is justifiably commendable, a 10-0 Constructed Pro Tour record is nothing to scoff at.


Andrew Elenbogen’s Pro Tour – Winning Decklist: RW Aggro
Andrew Elenbogen’s winning decklist opted to pass up the option of playing any red – colored cards in the mainboard, and instead focus on reinforcing his sideboard plan with the extra color. It is important to note, however, that Heroic Reinforcements was well – known tech throughout the event, and Andrew may have had opponents playing around it even though he did not choose to play the card himself.
Magnus Lantto’s 9-1 Contructed Decklist: Red – White Aggro


Magnus Lantto, however, vied to play a full playset of the archetype – defining card, surely to break the mirror. He also decided to fill his sideboard with the powerful Midrange threat, Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice. There were many matches where Aurelia would change the advantage of the game, putting the caster into the aggressor’s position, and thoroughly shifting the whole dynamic of the board.
Pascal Vieren’s 10-0 Constructed Decklist: Izzet Drakes


Pascal Vieren’s take on Izzet Drakes is probably the most interesting variant we’ve seen so far. His utilization of cards like The Mirari Conjecture to generate mid – game card advantage gives him the ability to assume the role of a control player against aggressive decks, while also being able to out – grind decks like Golgari Midrange. When discussing the deck in a post – event tournament report, he mentions the importance of being able to assume the control role in a lot of matchups, and his sideboard plan definitely compliments that strategy. With cards like Entrancing Melody, Shivan Fire, and Star of Extinction, he ensures his ability to control a board, and chip in for damage with Arclight Phoenix and tokens generated by Murmuring Mystic. Definitely keep an eye out for future success from this deck.
Guillaume Gauthier’s 10-0 Constructed Decklist: Mono – Blue Tempo


Guillaume Gauthier’s Mono – Blue Tempo deck might seem extremely underpowered on paper, but don’t let its cheap price tag fool you – this deck is LEGIT. With 8 1 – converted mana cost threats, and cheap interaction like Spell Pierce, Dive Down, and Wizard’s Retort, this deck is here to take your lunch money, and leave you wondering exactly “How did that just happen!?”. For those of you who do not play Standard, or have never seen this deck before, I would compare it most to a Delver-esque style of play. An early 1-Drop, evasive, threat, complimented by Curious Obsession and cheap countermagic, can be a lethal combination for decks poorly equipped to deal with efficient creature protection.
Last night, I decided to take Guillaume Gauthier’s Mono Blue Tempo list for a spin in some MTG Arena Competitive Constructed events. Throughout the 2 events I played in, I saw a wide variety of decks, ranging from Mono Red Aggro, to Golgari Midrange, all the way up to Jeskai Control. Although in my first league, I dropped a tight match against Mono Red due to a loose 1-land keep in a crucial game 3, I was able to successfully navigate my second league through a field of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria’s, Goblin Chainwhirler’s, and Doom Whisperer’s, and achieve a perfect 5-0, bringing my record for the night to a strong 9-1.


All in all, I believe that this fast, linear, archetype is a great choice to crush events, from your local FNM, all the way to the Pro Tour level. Stay tuned until next week, where I will discuss the archetype more in-depth, as well as provide strategies to combat popular matchups. Until then, good luck, have fun, and God bless, friends.


Mentality makes the Magic


Competitive Magic has an immense level of depth to the skills and strategies that are viable paths to success. One of if not the most important of these is very seldomly talked about because of hard it is to get into words because it is an incredibly abstract concept, and that is the mentality it takes to be a successful Magic player. This subject is something that I’m very passionate about and I believe it is a great topic to write my first article about. Before we get started, I should introduce myself. My name is Joseph Stargel I am a new addition to the Team Tapstart competitive Magic team. However, I am no stranger to competitive Magic, I’ve been playing competitive Magic since Return to Ravnica. In that time, I’ve had an abundance of SCG Open Series top 16 and top 32 finishes, as well as several IQ, PPTQ, and PTQ top 8 finishes as well as a lot of local event victories. I haven’t had my breakout performance yet, but I grind day in and day out to become a better student of the game and to try to become the best Magic player that I can possibly be. I generally specialize in aggro, tempo, and combo decks, such as delver, affinity, and storm.   


I believe there is one thing that separates the great Magic players from the good ones, and that is the mentality that the greats approach Magic as a whole. People say “Believe you have the best 75 in the room” or “Believe that you’re the best Magic player you can be” these are adequate mentalities to have but they do not breed the mindset that I think makes truly great players. I believe that the mentality to have comes down to two very simple things. 


First, that you can always improve in some way. Secondly, and the most important, is to have the confidence in your decision making and plays to be able to play your best game no matter who or what matchup sits down across from you. This is a concept that was reinforced for me this weekend at a local PPTQ in which I had a top 4 finish. I lost in the swiss and in the top 4 to the same person. However, I had extremely close quality games of Magic in a matchup that was supposed to be almost unwinnable and I stand by the fact that this was because I approached the matchup confident in my preparation for the tournament and had the confidence in my decision making throughout the games. This brings us to the first step in achieving a positive and confident competitive mentality, and that is preparation. Being prepared for a tournament means knowing the ins and outs of your deck and the key pieces of your matchups and having a quality understanding of the meta that you are expecting. For me on Mono-blue Tempo this meant preparing for UR Pheonix, Jeskai control, BG midrange, RW aggro, and the mirror. In the weeks leading up to the event I was playing as many quality games of Magic as I could. I was not just playing to play, I was constantly looking for new ways to approach matchups and crafting new sideboard plans. I did this by making notes about all the matches I played and trying to find places where I could improve my play as much as possible, however this doesn’t stop when the tournament begins you can learn things about matchups even in the tournament you were preparing for, no two games of Magic are the same that’s part of the reason we love this game so much.  


The second and final thing to concentrate on to improve your competitive mentality is realizing certain things are out of your control. This game has an element of randomness to it that is why we play the matches and are not assigned wins and losses in tournaments based on matchup percentages. However, this should not be used as a crutch or an excuse for plateauing in your improvement, especially because of how easy it is to make that excuse. If your opponent draws the nuts, they draw the nuts, but that’s not the end all be all because you can always adapt and adjust in any given game. When you are in a bad position in a game never just give up, start thinking about how you can play to the situations that lead to you turning the game around. For example, think about how you can optimize your plays so that you are milking your cards for every ounce of value you can get out of them, how can you force you’re your opponents to use their cards in the least optimal ways possible. Maximizing your cards and minimizing your opponents is the both the best way to create leads in games and claw your way back into them. The best piece of advice I can give to anyone looking to be a more competitive Magic player is to play your game as much as possible and to focus on your and only your play. Look for the small ways that you can improve and optimize, become comfortable in your own Magic skin, find the strategies you are comfortable playing and optimize them even if they aren’t the best strategy in that format. More can be gained from playing your style as optimally as possible than can be gained from playing the “best” deck and second guessing your instincts. 


Bottom line BE CONFIDENT IN YOUR INSTINCTS, the more you trust yourself and commit and learn from the situations that go bad, the better your instincts will become and the more confident you will become which will improve your game in the most significant and concrete way possible.  Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed my first article, this is the first of many and I look forward to not only improving my play in my own ways but also improving my quality of content for the community. 


Joseph Stargel.