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A Tale of Two Tournaments Played at Once

I’ve played all my cards. And that’s what you’ve done too. Nothing more to say. No more ace to play. The winner takes it all.

-ABBA

Most of this series is focused on the larger concepts of how to improve as a Magic player. Big picture concepts that may be easy to type onto virtual paper but often harder to implement on a daily basis. The other part is my personal journey attempting to climb into the professional leagues and constantly improve as a player. Today we will dive into my preparation and experiences during and after the latest Zendikar Championship Qualifier and the Week of Wings Redbull tournaments.

Last Monday I decided to put aside many of my usual responsibilities and focus on preparing for the upcoming tournaments. The format is wide open and a perfect time to be rewarded for hard work. The Redbull tournament is practically a Grand Prix with $10,000 for first place and prizes all the way down to top 64. The Arena Qualifier is still the best way to make it into the Zendikar Championship, though I must say I didn’t realize just how difficult this route would be. Winning fourteen of seventeen rounds over two days is no small feat. To make matters even more difficult the Redbull tournament will start at 3am and the Qualifier will start at 6am…and I’ve decided to play one of the slowest decks in the format in Esper Doom Yorion.

To say I have my work cut out for me would be an understatement. Despite these obstacles I throw myself into testing. Everyday I am updating our list and throwing it back against the gauntlet of top decks increasing win percentages with every iteration. By Wednesday I have gotten the deck to a point where I have a positive match up against seemingly every deck in the format with the exception of Rogues that is hovering around 50%. I decide not to share my findings on Twitter as the Arena Qualifier is not an open decklist tournament and my opponents potentially knowing what I am playing before our match would put me at a disadvantage. I am already envisioning qualifying for the Championship and taking home $10,000 from the Redbull Tournament. Remember when we spoke about managing expectations and the importance they have on having a healthy relationship with the game? Oops.

Friday rolls around and the MPL decklists are published early. All of a sudden Gruul is seeing a huge uptick as a powerful option to the usual Yorion and Rogue decks. I fire up some games to see how the match up is for Esper Doom and am quickly dispatched in match after match. Not like this, Not like this. In the span of 24 hours my decklist has gone from a metagame crusher to having a gaping hole in it’s plan. The main issue seems to be not having enough instant speed removal coupled with an inability to block Brushfire Elemental and Questing Beast. After trying a few different variations I add Mythos of Nethroi to the main which we can occasionally cast for all three colors because of our Indatha Triomes. With a quick search for large lifelinking creatures I find an All Star of formats past in Baneslayer Angel to round out our sideboard.

This is the deck I register before getting as much rest as possible before my alarm rudely wakes me up at 2am.

Standard Esper Yorion Deck List - Jason Fleurant

You can beat Rogues playing Ruin Crab by interacting with their early creatures and locking out their graveyard recursion late. The more controlling version played by Seth Manfield and others is much more difficult. Gruul is still not the best of match ups but I think it can be managed with some Baneslayers or Dream Trawlers in the main. Most every other deck is a good to great match up. If Rogues and Gruul are pushed down this weekend you will be well positioned.

I’ll skip the round by round analysis and give you the important points. I end up with a 12-3 record in the Redbull Tournament tied for 7th, however with early losses my tiebreakers are so bad that I end up in 17th missing out on the pay jump that comes with a top 16 finish. I end up with eight wins and two losses in Standard and four wins and one loss in Historic. Unfortunately, I also crashed out of the Arena Qualifier with a resounding 0-3. My teammate DanyTlaw, playing almost the same list, ends up making it into Day 2 getting to 5 of the 7 wins needed to qualify before succumbing to the rogue menace.

Days later, I still feel some level of upset over not doing better despite having a solid finish. I find this extremely interesting as I normally am able to use logic to move on from these kinds of feelings. I have obviously attached how I did at these tournaments to how I feel. I didn’t manage my expectations and instead pushed myself to visualize winning at all costs. I wanted to win so badly, I wanted to prove myself. Having a good but not good enough finish somehow seems to affect me far more than if I had bombed out of both tournaments. As I stated previously, it’s easy to say you shouldn’t be attached to your results and much harder to do in practice. Identifying the problem is the first step in fixing the issue. I have been neglecting my physical health and now it is manifesting in my inability to properly regulate my emotional responses. I must do better.

There is a lot of variance in Magic and there can only ever be one winner. It’s important to keep in mind that there is a decent amount of luck in any given tournament. No matter how much you prepare or how well you play, you won’t be able to win every tournament. The reality is, we will need to be lucky to win any of them. In a field populated by thousands of the worlds best Magic players, any solid finish should be cherished. Competitive Magic is a marathon at the end of the day, with highs and lows that will test your resolve. The competition is as much with others as it is with ourselves. To give your all to an endeavor, get knocked down and then get back up to battle another day is the game within the game. It requires mental and emotional strength that is built up day after day and tournament after tournament. The key to winning this marathon is not giving up. There will always be setbacks, get back up and fight on. I’ll be there waiting for you.

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