A few weekends ago SCG Regionals occurred and I traveled north for two hours to see some friends, family and do battle. About a week ago I mention how Living End is well positioned in the current format. I'll admit, I almost sleeved up Grixis Delver instead, but I decided that I should put my money where my mouth is and went with the graveyard deck.
Trying three Macabre main was a last minute decision that I regret. I like having access to four in the 75, but two should be in the board. Also, I think running the 19th land would have been correct as well. I would also change the sideboard up some in hindsight. But oh well, jammed what I had and hoped for the best!
Round 0 VS Navigation L (0-3)
Even though I had a buddy to follow, a phone with a GPS and a support group texting me directions; I still managed to get lost on the way to the event three times. Yes, three. This was especially sad because it was only a 25 minute drive since I stayed at a friend's house the night before. I literally ran into the event mid-players meeting. Fortunately, the judges were dealing with some late registration that gave me the extra two minutes I needed. Moral of the story: Pay ahead if you can and double check your address. If I did not pay ahead I may have not been able to participate in the tournament. Great start, right!?
Round 1 VS Lantern Control L (0-2)
My experience in this match-up was nonexistent until round one. This match revolves around Ensnaring Bridge which is not surprising. What was surprising (and admittedly quite fun!) was the mini-game that began between fighting over what cards I was drawing. Since Living End has a bunch of instant speed draw effects in cyclers, my opponent and I began a very weird stack of mill, draw, mill, draw to determine if I could get my Beast Within or not to blow his bridge. I ended up losing this battle, but a little luck would've completely switched the game around. I think Living End is not favored in the match, but my opponent did mention it is not an easy match-up to pilot and with a better prepared sideboard I'd say the match is only about 35/65.
Round 2 VS Sultai Midrange W (2-0)
This seemed to be a creature based Sultai deck that wasn't drawing counterspells, so my opponent had a difficult time interacting with me. Game two was interesting though: After resolving a Living End, a Surgical Extraction took the rest out of my deck. My opponent was able to take down most of my creature army, but two Beast Within on my own lands were able to finish the job. Earlier in the game once the Living Ends were out of my deck, I cast Demonic Dread on my opponent's Dark Confidant. I did this so that he couldn't chump block so I could potentially get the last four points of damage in (he took only two). The fun part of this play was I had to cascade, I asked a nearby judge if I could just hand my opponent my deck to look through since the cascade would just go through the whole deck. He said yes, so I flipped my deck upside down onto my opponent's play mat. This got a few chuckles and confused looks from the neighboring matches which I found kind of funny.
Round 3 VS RW Prison W (2-1)
This match-up is hard to judge. On one hand, Prison has Blood Moon and Chalice of the Void main board with Rest in Peace in the side. These are all cards that Living End does not like. On the other hand, this is a mana hungry control deck that doesn't play counterspells, which Living End does like. I have come to the conclusion that the matchup is slightly unfavorable (probably like 40/60), but very winnable. Game one I got caught with a turn three Blood Moon when I was on the draw. There was very little I could have done about this looking back on it, but it still sucked. Game two I blew up his lands from turn two on and quickly overwhelmed him. Game three was intense and could have gone either way. My opponent landed a turn two Rest in Peace on the play. When this happens, the Living End player needs to change gears and re-evaluate the game: You cannot win a normal game until RIP is off the battlefield. So you need to dig for Beast Within, while also making sure you don't cycle too much since all your creatures will just go to exile. This leads to some tough decisions, except this time I was fortunate to have lands two and three along with Beast Within already in hand. On turn three I elected to play a Fulminator Mage to slow down his mana early, and considering he lost with three lands in play and a Wrath of God in hand this proved to be a good call. After blowing up the RIP on turn four, I did almost die to the 3/3 beast due to not drawing a cascade spell, but thanks to chump blocks and my deck finally deciding to not be a jerk, I was able to flip the yard and board at three life. Just had to fade one draw step and dodge Lightning Helix or a fourth untapped land. Got there barely.
Round 4 VS Abzan (no combo) W (2-0)
This match went pretty quick since non-combo Abzan has a poor match-up against Living End unless they draw a hate card. One odd play was I accelerated out a Living End to clean up his mana dorks on turn two, due to honestly being a little scared of a potential Collected Company. While seeing the top three cards of his deck due to an Architects of Will trigger, I saw a Siege Rhino and a Lingering Souls. Not knocking those cards or decks that play those cards, but when I saw them my level of caution in the match plummeted. I'll play against 1/1 spirit tokens all day with Living End. I still think it was right to LE early to kill two dorks because I was still unsure what I was playing against and keeping my opponent off of five mana on turn three is usually a good idea.
Round 5 VS Grixis Delver L (1-2)
Grixis Delver is a match-up that depends heavily on how they have their deck built. More counterspells means more trouble. Also they are able to put some pressure on you to cascade quickly and if they Thought Scour a Tasigur, the Golden Fang into their yard that can be kinda bad, but they also have a lot of completely dead cards in their lists. Spell Snare is hilariously bad, and Fatal Push only hits a couple creatures even with revolt. The match-up feels oddly like a coin flip in many ways. Game one I drew bad, game two he drew bad. Game three was interesting with a lot of back and forth. It all came down to a single blind flip of Delver. Sadly there was a Negate on top and he got me for lethal in the air.
Round 6 VS Jeskai Saheeli Modern Version L (1-2)
This was against my friend Evan and karma. Karma because I was teasing him earlier for running Jeskai Saheeli (“Was I supposed to bring my standard deck?”). The deck is definitely a thing and people should be prepared to see it in Modern, but teasing Evan is basically a requirement in my play group. That being said, my fun came back and got me in game three. He got me in game two by having all the counters and I ran out of Living Ends. Game three I lost to my deck thinking two lands was enough to operate for ten turns of the game. It was a total non-game and a crappy way to end the tournament, but knowing my friend was still alive was a plus. It was time to drop from the main event and move on.
Like many big events, regionals had side events for those who didn't participate in the main event or who scrubbed out like yours truly, giving them a chance at redemption. They were firing ten dollar drafts, so since I was out of prize contention for Modern and I'm a sucker for a cheap draft, I dropped from the main event and got ready for some 40 card deck action. I don't remember the packs well at all, but I remember my picks and the games.
Pack 1 Pick 1 – Vengeful Rebel – This pack was weak, the rare was Aid from the Cowl which is not good. I think revolt as a mechanic is meh at best, but the rebel is one of the best. It was an easy, yet unexciting first pick
Pick 2 – Aether Herder – Bad packs are bad. This was a pack of mediocrity just like the last one. The herder is a fine card and green is strong in this format so I took it.
Pick 3 – Renegade Map – Around this point I started to get demoralized. No really strong cards picked and no signals seen yet. This pick was between the map, another herder or Aetherstream Leopard. I think herder and leopard are fine, but neither scream “green is open” to me. I took the map because it allowed me to stay open and it coupled with the Vengeful Rebel.
Pick 4 – Shock – I may overvalue Shock, but this is an efficient removal spell that has some flexibility. Seeing shock made me think that maybe red is where I was supposed to be.
Pick 5 – Aether Chaser – Got there. This pack had both chaser and another shock. This signaled to me that red was open so I moved in. Aether Chaser is a great two-drop that combos very well with shock.
The rest of pack 1 consisted of picking up another Shock, some okay aggressive white creatures. Pack 2 almost steered me into red/black due to not seeing too much white at first, but then Fairgrounds Warden and Dawnfeather Eagle cemented white being coupled with red. Aggressive red cards kept coming since I picked up another chaser, a Reckless Racer, a Welder Automaton and a Chandra's Revolution. Pack 3 consisted of a bunch of auto-picks since the archetype I was in was already decided. At one point I did pick a Harnessed Lightning over a Brazen Scourge. This may have been wrong considering how aggressive the deck wanted to be, but I thought there was a small chance the scourge could wheel and the removal spell is so flexible. Please let me know your opinion in the comments. Fortunately, a Brazen Scourge was in the next pack (the other one unsurprisingly did not wheel). Better lucky than good sometimes! Here's what I played:
In addition, from the sideboard I did bring in an additional osprey or an additional tampering. Both times I cut the Restoration Specialist. The specialist served as an additional two-drop but it had the lowest power level of anything else in the deck.
This deck looked like it was going to be pure gas. I almost went down to 15 lands (16 due to the map) but I knew I'd have to cut Dawnfeather Eagle if I did, and that card seemed to too good to cut. Also with the scry from motorist (which is still great even without vehicles) and Reckless Racer having a rummage ability, running 16 lands so that the eagle could be played seemed correct.
Match 1 VS Green/Black Counters (W 2-1)
My first opponent had a sweet Green/Black deck that focused on the plus one counter theme that is in the Kaladesh block. It looked like it was sweet, but unfortunately he seemed to draw too many enablers or lands in the two games I beat him. Game two he got me Foundry Hornet and beat me in a tight race. The other games I just had too much board presence too early for him. Reckless Racer was an all-star since I discarded three extra lands to get more gas in one of the games.
Match 2 VS Blue/Red Artifacts (W 2-0)
I'm assuming this guy had some improvise stuff going on, but he got flooded both games and didn't have too much time to recover. The coolest thing I got to do in this match was curve Spontaneous Artist into Dawnfeather Eagle. Using the energy from the artist to give the eagle haste, I basically made a hasty Serra Angel for a turn along with the rest of my team. Seems fair, right?
Match 3 VS Blue/White Good Stuff (W 2-0)
Full disclosure: This win felt good. Another friend of mine who was also in the draft lost to this player in round two and seemed quite convinced that I didn't have a chance. I was an aggressive deck going against a deck with all sorts of great cards that also happened to have an Aethersphere Harvester. It definitely did not look good, but I welcome a challenge!
Game one did not start well considering he dropped the harvester on turn three to go with his Merchant's Dockhand. He proceeded to gain six life and I was losing the race. It was around this time I was saved from the most unlikely of sources....
Audacious Infiltrator did some serious work. The fact that my opponent only had the dockhand and the harvester out meant the infiltrator was able to attack without issues. Spontaneous Artist was able to give the second infiltrator haste and hit my opponent for six a turn, and since he had to keep the harvester back to block my other creatures, racing wasn't an option for him. Game two he missed his third land drop and fell too far behind early.
This draft had a few interesting takeaways. The first two are the fact that there were no rares in the deck and no vehicles. I feel like it is encouraging when you see draft decks without rares because it shows that you don't need to have something bomb-like passed to you or opened in order to win. I have noticed that rare-less 3-0 draft decks are often aggressive, so if you're not seeing anything in the way of a bomb or good synergy within a color, you may want to start picking up some two-drops. The fact that my deck ended up being Red/White without vehicles was surprising. I saw basically none of the good ones in the draft and the few okayish ones I saw were in the same pack as good creatures. I think the low curve and having a few creatures with evasion made up for the lack of vehicles because I honestly did not miss having one. I was quite happy with the deck and I'll draft aggro in this format again for sure. Honestly any proactive strategy seems good right now. Both blue decks I played against cast Leave in the Dust against me and it seemed quite bad each time. This is only one example, but in general the low curve creatures seem really good right now and so does improvise, so I'd want to be casting the cool things and aggressive creatures instead of waiting for the late game in this format.
Winning the draft took the sting out of a less than stellar Modern performance, but ultimately this trip was about seeing friends and family. I had a great time in Columbus hanging out with friends and sharing our bad beat stories. At its core, isn't that what Magic is about? Having fun with friends should be priority on these trips. Being properly prepared and playing to win is obviously key as well, but having comrades to share in victories and defeats makes the whole process that much more enjoyable. Honestly, besides some key plays, the parts you remember from these trips are the jokes and stories that you and your buddies will share for years to come.
Next up I'm going to continue to work on standard for MTGO leagues while also getting ready for a Modern tournament in Indy. Living End still seems well positioned for the current meta, but I may mix it up and play Grixis Delver or Bant Spirits next time. I'll keep you all posted!
Follow me on Twitter @CloudRunner172