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Arena Diaries #3 – Mirror Mirror

I’m the bad guy now, and it’s not even helping. 

I’ve got my Teferi out, my Agent of Treachery has done its duty and stolen my opponent’s Triome but now it’s on the opposite side of the battlefield mocking me. 

Getting to Mythic, it turns out, was the easy part. I dropped into the rankings at 96% and assumed I needed to get to 1% to earn myself a spot in the numbered rankings, the very tip top. Wrong, apparently I need to get to 99%. 

Confused as to how I managed to land at such a high spot, I played some games with the clear best deck in standard right now, Jeskai Lukka

Standard Jeskai Yorion Deck List - James Keating

There’s really not a lot better you can do than play the most awful and annoying cards in the format in Teferi, Narset and Agent of Treachery. The deck had done well in platinum and diamond so I expected it to carry me to the highest heights of Magic Arena. 

Then the mirror matches started. 

No one told me Mythic was going to be this hard. The players are all very good. You don’t really ever face a brew or someone testing things out. It’s all top tier all the time. 

Jeskai Lukka was a bust, I quickly dropped from 96% to 93%, losing mostly mirrors. It’s not easy watching your opponent figure out better lines and seeing them find a route to victory you’d never notice.

Time to go back to something more familiar. 

Sacrifice decks have been my favourite for a while and I always felt I could find ways to deal damage and get wins with them, so I re-joined the ladder with Lurrus Sacrifice. 

Standard Lurrus Sac Deck List - James Keating

I did not find ways to deal damage and get wins. The deck was too slow out of the gate to beat mono-red aggro, which has made an impressive resurgence, and too slow to close the game to beat Jeskai Lukka. Every opponent I played had all the answers all the time. 

Down to 90%. 

Failure can be hard to process. Part of my mindset for playing competitively is to not take losses too seriously, roll with the punches and keep learning. I wasn’t learning anymore, I was just tilted. Time to log off Arena for the day. 

I came back the next day with a clear head, ready to take on the ladder again, this time with Jeskai Cycling

86%. 

Standard just kept beating me. I needed a break, and lucky for me, Historic offered just that. I started scouring the web for decklists and ideas in the format, then realised I had no rare or mythic wildcards. Ulamog, the Crushing Disappointment.

I decided to just have some fun and play Hondens. These are shrine enchantments from way back in Kamigawa block, which do something each upkeep a number of times equal to the number of shrines you control. 

Historic Hondens Deck List - James Keating

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The best shell I could think of for the Hondens was Fires. Keruga as companion, Teferi to make sure they resolve and Fires to get more down early. 

Probably shouldn’t play this in ranked, I thought, joining a ranked Historic best of one game. 

To my surprise, the game went well. The Hondens provided an unexpected line of attack and were able to grind my opponent into a concession. 

87%. 

I found it was useful to set goals when trying to get to Mythic in the first place, perhaps not setting a goal beyond that was an issue. I needed something to fight for so I set a simple one; assemble Exodia – get all five Hondens into play. 

It took a lot of games, but finally, with Honden of Life’s Web on the stack, I would get there without harming my ranking. Unbelievable.

Historic is fun, fresh and exciting. There are some tiresome decks, Golos Field the main culprit, but even at Mythic, players are testing, trying new things out, seeing what works. It’s a breath of fresh air, honestly. 

I had success with Gyruda early in this standard format, so why not try that in Historic? If Hondens can win games, then a turn-four Gyruda surely still has merit?

List: https://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/3052900#paper

This one wasn’t as successful, but it was fun. Gyruda hitting Rakdos, Zetalpa or Shalai was a wild, unpredictable ride. 

Predictability though, is important to winning games, but the shell felt powerful and more importantly, I was enjoying myself again. 

I may want to be competitive, but what’s the point if I’m not having fun doing it? Finding that balance is tricky, but having an outlet when Standard gets frustrating is fantastic. 

Historic made me appreciate best of one, and after a thorough read of Huey Jensen’s article on the format – I felt ready to rejoin the Standard ladder.

I started with Mono-Red.

Standard Mono-Red Deck List - James Keating

Playing a Fervent Champion transported me back in time to my early FNMs playing budget aggro decks. Then my opponent dropped a Healer’s Hawk and a few turns later I scooped. A few losses more and I was ready to change decks.

Huey mentioned Gyruda as an option, so I went back to a list I hadn’t played in weeks. It went a little better at first, but once again, I found myself losing. Now though, I was learning.

I knew exactly what the opening hand should be and started mulling aggressively to find it. It helped make games competitive, even when losing I had that feeling I was doing things right. 

Despite falling all the way down to 83% and probably killing off any hope of reaching the numbered ranks this season, there were positives I could take away.

Now if only someone would take away Teferi. 

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