Eli Kassis: My SCG Boston Experience

by Eli Kassis

I was debating whether to write a tournament report or just talk about my experiences in general and couldn’t decide what people wanted more so I will try to incorporate both aspects into this article.

Day 1 – Standard

The Standard day of SCG’s events are not what I go there for, but the player points prove too rewarding to pass up.  I tested for about two days and just like I usually do with Legacy, I had to design my own unique deck for Standard.  I built T2 Jund.  The base was very similar to RUG deck lists but with some key changes.  I cut Blue obviously, so I couldn’t run the best card in standard (Jace, the Mind Sculptor).  In its place I substituted Garruk.  Over Mana Leak I ran Inquisition of Kozilek which I feel was a significantly better choice. Changing from Blue to Black meant I had some better sideboard options as well.

 

On day 1 my first opponent was playing Caw-Go (Shocker!) and as testing had shown my deck stomped face 2-0.  Round 2 I played against RUG.  In game 1 I kept a semi-slow start which proved to be fatal as my opponent landed a quick Infernal Titan and I didn’t have a Go for the Throat to answer it with.  Game 2 I again had a semi slow start but the combination of Thrun, The Last Troll and multiple removal spells allowed him to go all the way.  During Game 3 my opponent led with a land, I led with a man-land tapped.  He then played Lotus Cobra (RUG’s optimal start…).  I had the choice of casting Duress to remove the possibility of him casting Jace, The Mind Sculptor on his turn 3 or casting Go for the Throat on the Cobra for the same function.  If I chose to cast Go for the Throat then I would not have an answer available for his late game creatures because I would only have 2 Go for the Throats left in my deck and none were currently in my hand.  I should also mention here that I could have dealt with a Jace if it were to come down on turn 4 or 5 because I would have the threats on the table to put pressure on it.  So I played the Duress and to my dismay my opponent was holding two Jace, TMS’s. The end result was my opponent got to play a second Cobra, played a fetch, used the Cobra mana to cast Explore, allowing him to play another fetch, and then cast Jace, The Mind Sculptor out (AKA GG Eli). I was not unhappy with how my deck was performing but there were 8 rounds left, I was using a cane to get around due to a sports injury and I don’t care much for Standard so I decided to drop to do side drafts.

Day 2 – Legacy

Day 2!  Here was the reason I showed up, a Legacy 5k.  I run these events all the time at Jupiter Games, but obviously I cannot play in my own events.  People might assume that the fix is in and that is bad for business.  So I was excited to actually get to play.  I tested for this event for weeks on MtGO, winning daily event after daily event with a Dreadstill/ Counterbalance variant that I had come up with.  My main focus was building a deck around Trinket Mage and playing something with Blue for control, as is my usual style.  It’s not often you will catch me playing an aggro deck or a combo deck as I just prefer not to.

Land (18)

Sorcery (3)

Enchantment (3)

Instant (18)

Artifact (2)

Creature (7)

Planeswalker (2)

 

Round 1 I played against High Tide run by a very nice opponent to face off against.  I tested this matchup many, many times online because High Tide is much cheaper to build online than in real life. Thankfully my deck was a huge favorite in this matchup.  I believe my deck in playtesting was 10-0 against it, but it’s not impossible to lose as High Tide is very solid. Game 1 went my way, as my hand disruption and counters allowed me to get there.  During Game 2 we played land go for awhile after he played a turn 1 Mystic Remora.  I bided my time and on turn 3 when he cracked his fetch land I used a stifle, this triggered the remora, but also made it so he could not pay the upkeep cost on his next turn.  On my turn 4 I cast Hymn to Tourach and it hit 1 High Tide and 1 Time Spiral.  This could not have been more perfect because I was holding both of the Extirpates I had boarded in against him.  After hitting the High Tide with Extirpate my opponent expressed a sigh of relief as he had to show me his hand and he was holding his other three Time Spirals.  I then showed him the bad news as I revealed the second Extirpate.  He scooped up his cards as the game was most likely impossible for him from there on.

I asked a judge why they didn’t post the pairings on Twitter like they did with the Standard pairings.  Posting on Twitter made it easier on (editor’s note: gimpy) people like me who have difficulty getting around.  Instead of giving me an answer, the staff was super awesome and gave me a designated seat.  Since I knew where I was going to be sitting I set up the table very nicely with all my stuff arranged just the way I like it.  Then they made the announcements and sure enough I was a feature match!  I had to gather all my things and limp across the room to play my match.  On the way I made sure to stop the judge to jokingly thank him for the assigned seat.  My opponent here was playing an older list of thopter sword as was piloted a long time back by Drew Levin.  Something I believe Drew helped innovate. Unfortunately for my opponent I had been helping Adam Barnello (ChannelFireball writer and Jupiter Games Announcer-to-be) innovate the newest changes that have been made to that deck.  As such we had played the matchup 1 million times and I knew exactly how to combat his deck.  After winning game 1 with some trickery that clearly showed I had played the matchup once or twice, my opponent complimented me on my play style.  Game 2 was a hands down victory, as my sideboard is very strong against this style of deck and they are just not prepared to deal with a deck like mine.

Just before round 3 I again went to my designated table and setup my things only to hear them call out my name again for another feature match!  It was absurd.  I don’t mind people watching me play, it doesn’t get to me, I don’t like having to re-setup, but I primarily didn’t like it cause it meant two things; 1) I was playing against another very solid player (Kenny Mayer in this case) and 2) I had to limp across the room again!  For those who want to see an interesting matchup, watch the round 3 feature match between Kenny and I.  In game 1 I was fortunate enough to catch Kenny with an early Stifle on his fetchland and then wasted his only other land in play.  He was stuck without land for 2 turns before drawing out of it, but by then it was too late to recover.  Game 2 I played all 3 of my Wastelands and he played all 4 of his as well as 4 Vindicates.  This time I was dead with no mana on board.  Game 3 was much closer. All the same land destruction was played as in Game 2, and I used up several Stifle’s to stop mana sources, but I still had mana.  The problem was I had no spells to cast.  Kenny’s deck, Junk, has trouble recovering from an unanswered Jace, TMS.  They can deal with it by only 1 of 2 things; 1) have two creatures on the board to attack it or 2) have a Vindicate that doesn’t get countered.  If they can’t do either of these the game might as well be over with.  Since I did not draw either of my Jace’s I was swiftly dealt with by a very large Knight of the Reliquary (the best creature in Legacy in my opinion!).

Round 4 I was matched against a savvy goblins opponent, but thankfully he did not have a great hand in either game and I had every early spell answered.  After casting 3 Engineered Plagues in game 2 and Counterbalance/Top, then a Stifled Dreadnaught my opponent conceded.

Round 5 I played against a good friend of mine from back in the day, Ben Lundquist. Unfortunately I have had to stop playing magic professionally for the last 5 years or so, as I have focused on other ventures and as a result have fallen out of touch with several players (like Ben). In our game 1 I was reminded of watching Ben play in a PTQ many years before in Rochester. He was piloting dredge just before everyone had caught on to the deck in extended. I was playing a Burning Wish, Life from the Loam, Astral Slide creation I had come up with. We were paired up in round 1 of the top 8 and we had been talking all day.  That day Ben immediately made enemies with my long time best friend whom I secretly disliked (editors note: by secretly he means that he and everyone else referred to this person like you would a dog, and said his name only by rolling the first letter of his name Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr) for many reasons and so I was enamored with Ben (editors note: Eli’s life should be a soap opera). At the PTQ I knew my matchup was probably poor versus his deck, I knew I was not going to go to the pro tour that season based on distance and I knew it was his first time getting that far so I gave him the win.

Back to the Legacy event.  He beat me game 1 through very careful playing and me punting due to my lack of knowledge of the old extended rulings.  I attempted to Stifle a Dark Depths to prevent the 20/20 from entering the battlefield, but then discovered that it would just check again and come into play anyway.  Had I not cast Stifle I could have used the mana to activate my Sensei’s Top and put Jace on top of my deck to then bounce it on my turn, effectively killing it, but I didn’t have the mana because I cast Stifle.  Live and learn.  Game 2 his sideboard included many spells I did not expect to have to deal with (Life from the Loam, Academy Ruins, and his own Counterbalance/ Top combo).  As such I was ill-equipped to come back from a game where his deck did my decks job better than my deck did.  A mix of what I thought was a desire to pay me back for my prior concession and a desire to leave early prompted Mr. Lundquist to forfeit the match despite my protesting that it was an unnecessary gesture.  He however would not be swayed.  I was of course grateful, but felt guilty accepting the favor.

In round 6 I played against a weak dredge opponent, he made several misplays each game, but game 1 was heavily in his favor and my draw was not suitable to beat it.  Had I known what he was playing I would have perhaps muligan’d but the hand was very solid versus 75% of the rest of the field.  Game 2 I kept a hand with 2x Engineered Plague, 1x Tormod’s Crypt, and 4x Land.  “Perfect!” I thought as I snap kept.  Fast Forward to Turn 9, my hand was 4 lands, my board was a singular engineered plague, and my graveyard had only fetch lands, the crypt and the plague that had been dealt with.  After 9 turns I had drawn nothing but land in a deck with 21 land.  My opponent failed to realize my Tormod’s Crypt had removed all his remaining Dread Returns and so was dredging to catch something that was no longer in his deck. He had two cards left in his library and was swinging with some 1/1 Bridge From Below tokens and the sphinx he had used a Dread Return on.  A top decked Extirpate would have meant the victory, even at the end, as I knew he still had one more Bridge left in his deck and he didn’t remember to bring back his Ichorids on multiple occasions to put a faster clock on me.  Alas, all my draws yielded land and I now felt like I was out of the tournament despite my best efforts.  I felt like I had let down Ben as well because he gave me the win to keep me in the tournament.

Round 7 I played against a Bant opponent, he was a very nice person and a pleasure to face off against.  He was very savvy with his deck as well so I had a real challenge in front of me.  Game 1 he smashed me pretty good, but game 2 between an Engineered Explosives getting me card advantage and a well timed consuming vapors followed by a Jace, TMS I managed to get there.  Game 3 started off heavily in my favor as my opponent had a slow hand and didn’t play anything but land on turn 1 and 2 while I had played a turn 2 Dark Confidant.  It got very bad for him as the Confidant went unanswered and won me the game.

Round 8 I faced off against a storm opponent who quickly realized the same thing my round 1 opponent did, combo was a very good matchup for me.  Game 1 a Thoughtseize, Dark Confidant, and hand full of counters got me there.    Between a turn 2 Ethersworn Canonist and then a turn 3 Trinket Mage for a Chalice of the Void which I cast for zero, game 2 also went quickly.  Afterwards we discussed all the bad cards I have for him to deal with and I showed him that he didn’t even get to see the multiple Counterbalances that would have also been troubling for him.

Round 9 I played against another good friend who was playing an offshoot of David Gearheart’s decklist from Edison.  I had helped him make numerous adjustments to the deck and had played him several times the day before for practice.  We found with our testing I was favored and sure enough my deck lived up to its prior performance.  My final result for the tournament was 7-2-0, which got me 13th Place.

Was I happy with the way the day had gone?  Not especially.  But I couldn’t say the weekend was a failure either.  Next time I will just have to be more prepared and hopefully not face so many pros/ friends.

To finish this absurdly long report I just want to mention that there are three cards I would change in the main deck and 3 cards I would change in the sideboard if anyone were thinking of piloting this deck.  If you want to know what those changes are you’ll have to stop into the store and ask me in person ;-). Thanks for reading and thank you for stopping by Jupiter Games Online!

 

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