Breaking Through: Biting the Bullet and the Ballot

I might be addicted. Maybe its the excitement of seeing that look on people’s face as you drop a [card]Bloodhusk Ritualist[/card] for 4, or a [card]Destructive Force[/card] on turn 5, or maybe its the mutterings during sideboard that offer up the sweet sound of “I didn’t have your deck in mind when I built this,” or maybe its just enjoying the success of something that came out of your head, and yours alone, but brewing is addictive.

I have been leading a march, that only I follow of course, that has slowly been ushering myself into a place where I feel comfortable picking up the best deck in the room and piloting that to whatever finish awaits me. I found out last Friday that I am not quite where I want to be. Luis walked up to me and asked if he was going to be mad at me as I handed over my deck with a blush. He wasn’t, but he had every right to be.

It was not that I was playing a deck that wasn’t what the team was playing, but it was that I was playing an unknown quantity in a field where the risk was not needed. Sure, I could have broken the format in half, but I did not have enough testing to assure myself of that fact. Instead, I had enough testing to know that I had a viable deck and nothing more. My deck had just a likely a shot as 0-4ing constructed as it did 4-0ing, and then most likely would finish somewhere in the middle. That same scenario would have been the case had I sleeved up CawBlade, except the part about 0-4ing would have been nearly nonexistent. I eschewed picking up a known deck, the best deck in the room even, to take a risk.

Again, it wasn’t as though that risk could not pay off, as it very well could have, but why take the risk at all? I need pro points after all, and I want to win. If I had tested enough to know just what I had and how much better it was than everything else, then so be it, but I did not. Instead I had just another deck, good enough to be a contender, but nothing so special as to ignore the best deck in the format, of which my teammates had an amazing list.

I don’t regret playing BR Destructive Force in the slightest (deck list just below this) but what I do regret is setting myself back in a department that I have done so well in recently. Working with teammates is quite different from anything I am used to, but I need to begin maximizing them more and ignore this “lone wolf” mentality. I know that for the rest of the year, I plan on playing whatever the team plays when we test together. There is just no reason to continue taking risks when the best minds in the game are all at my disposal.

As for this weekend at the TCGPlayer 75k, I will be testing online enough to know the metagame and what deck is best for me. Land Deceiver, RUG Pod, Cawblade, and D-Force One are the only decks I am considering right now, but I am not sure which one of those will eventually meet the ends of my sleeves. For those that did not check out my other column, here is the Destructive Force list that I played at Nats:

[deck]4 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Dismember
3 Doom Blade
1 Volt Charge
1 Contagion Clasp
4 Tezzeret’s Gambit
4 Chandra, the Firebrand
3 Destructive Force
2 Bloodhusk Ritualist
4 Solemn Simulacrum
3 Inferno Titan
1 Wurmcoil Engine
4 Everflowing Chalice
1 Sphere of the Suns
4 Lavaclaw Reaches
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
7 Swamp
2 Mountain
3 Tectonic Edge
1 Doom Blade
2 Pyroclasm
2 Ratchet Bomb
1 Duress
1 Despise
3 Memoricide
1 Bloodhusk Ritualist
3 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Tectonic Edge[/deck]

I am working on a Rogue’s Gallery piece that showcases this deck in full, so for anyone interested in it, stay tuned for the next few weeks. Some games with Land Deceiver are up first and then this monstrosity gets run through the Standard queues. While constructed may not have been my forte this past weekend, the draft portion treated me well. Despite only going 2-1 in both pods, I easily should have 3-0ed one of them had I known the rules of Magic.

It was draft 2, and I was very much alive in the hunt for a top 8 berth with top 16 being slightly more realistic. I sat down and opened a pack with [card]Jace’s Archivist[/card] and a [card]Merfolk Mesmerist[/card]. Now while the Mesmerist is not a card I would first pick, the Archivist is a card that I take over most cards, including all of the Red removal, [card]Pacifism[/card], [card]Overrun[/card], etc. The card is just so good in any Blue deck, mill or not. I noted the Mesmerist because I wanted to see if it would table. If it did, at that point I would explore the mill deck and see just how deep I could go. Sure enough, it wheeled, as did a [card]Jace’s Erasure[/card] that I passed picked 2 in favor of [card]Cemetery Reaper[/card]. In the end, I had the following deck, and yes, it was as insane as it looks:

[deck]6 Merfolk Mesmerist
3 Jace’s Erasure
1 Jace’s Archivist
1 Jace, Memory Adept
3 Unsummon
1 Mana Leak
1 Redirect
1 Cancel
2 Visions of Beyond
1 Ponder
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Aether Adept
1 Gideon’s Lawkeeper
1 Amphin Cutthroat
11 Island
5 Plains[/deck]

Yes, that is my real deck list. Ok, that’s partially a lie, as I didn’t have [card]Visions of Beyond[/card] in the actual main deck but boarded it into that configuration every game and it was quite good. I quickly won my first match 2-0. My second match left a sour taste in my mouth as I lost due to not knowing the rules. Allow me to elaborate:

I have 2 [card]Merfolk Mesmerist[/card] in play, a [card]Jace’s Erasure[/card], an [card]Aether Adept[/card], and an [card]Amphin Cutthroat[/card]. My opponent has a [card]Stampeding Rhino[/card], a [card]Duskhunter Bat[/card] without Bloodthirst, and a [card]Greater Basilisk[/card]. The life totals are my 12 to his 7 cards remaining and 5 cards remaining. Only 1 of my Mesmerists can tap that turn. My opponent casts an [card]Overrun[/card] with 2 mana left over. I mull my blocks over and count about 30 times to make sure I am not dead. My [card]Aether Adept[/card] jumps in front of the Rhino. My [card]Amphin Cutthroat[/card] jumps in front of the [card]Greater Basilisk[/card], and my 2 Mesmerists stay back as to avoid dying, just in case he had a removal spell to kill the other and survive for an additional turn. I counted, 11 damage. I counted again, still 11. I did all of the proper checks, and then said “Ok, those are my blocks.”

My opponent does his own counting at this point and then looks up and says, “Nope, you’re dead! I’ll deal 1 to the Cutthroat and 5 to you!”

I sank in my seat. I remember reading the rules changes to this some time ago, but I had never had to use them or come across an interaction for which they mattered. I knew he was right, but I proceeded to call a judge, just to make sure. The judge confirmed my fate and we moved on to game 2. I won that one very easily but then lost a game 3 in which my opponent boarded up to 53 cards, played an [card]Elixir of Immortality[/card] the turn before he was decked, and then played an [card]Overrun[/card] for lethal the turn before he was decked a second time.

I felt like such a loser. It is one thing to lose a game of Magic to a bad match up, or a bad break, but it is another entirely to lose because you failed to know the rules, especially when you play the game professionally. Still, I had to pick up enough of the pieces to move on and win the next round, which I did, but I never quite stopped beating myself up for such a foolish loss.

So my Nationals ended at an 8-5 drop, which was a bit of a let down, but you move on and grow better as a player. Back home, there was still business to attend to. This year I was given the honor of being a part of the selection committee for the Hall of Fame voting. Now regardless of whether or not I deserved a special spot, and in all reality, I didn’t, I knew it was my duty to take this honor and make it proud. Over the last month or so, I have been doing my research and listening to those who I trust in the community. My ballot won’t be perfect in the eyes of everyone, but it consists of who I felt most appropriate voting for.

My Hall of Fame Ballot

Shuhei Nakumura

This was the easiest of the votes for me. Shuhei’s stats are just unreal good and he has continued to dominate across multiple generations of Magic. I know there has been mild controversy regarding suspect things ever since he became eligible, but everyone I have talked to agrees that those thoughts are just absurd. Shuhei is one of the game’s all time greats and deserves to be remembered for it.

Anton Jonsson

I am not quite sure how Anton did not make the Hall already with the sheer power behind his statistics and finishes, but I think this will be his year. He has proven his worth in the modern era by top 8ing a GP and no one questioned his skills before. This was an easy inclusion for me, even though some people seem to have left him off, I wasn’t about to do the same.

William “Huey” Jensen

I was initially drawn toward Huey by the stat page included with each Hall of Fame ballot, and I was a little dumbfounded as to how he had not made the Hall already. Once people I know and trust began to spout him as one of the game’s all time greats, I had no choice but to listen. After going back and doing my research, it seemed like a no-brainer to include Huey and make up for the mistakes of past voting committees, or at least the lack of room in ballot’s past.

Steve O’Mahoney-Schwartz

For the last few years I have been listening to Top 8 Magic ramble on about how insane Steve OMS was as both a player and ambassador of the game whenever the Hall of Fame voting season came around. I had the pleasure of meeting Steve during GP Nashville and even doing a draft with him on CFB and can definitely see where the praise comes from. Steve is a humble guy who has promoted the game in the dearest of ways and his stats are quite strong as well. It seemed like it would be doing Magic a disservice to not do Steve justice and finally vote him in after all these years. I really hope you make it in buddy.

Patrick Chapin

I have had the previous four selections locked down for a few weeks now, but was unsure of who to select for my 5th. My debate rested mainly between Mark Herberholz and Patrick Chapin. Statistically speaking, they share very similar stats, with Mark edging out Chapin slightly in median finish and having 3 additional Grand Prix top 8s to his name. Of course, the big push for Heezy is his win in Honolulu, but ultimately, as a writer and content provider for this game we all love, I know how much effort goes into everything that Chapin produces. It may not all be my cup of tea, and of course he is benefiting off of everything, but then again, so are we. He also pours his heart and soul into his writing and products, most of which would not exist had it not been for him. His involvement in the community was just too strong to hang such a heavy load on a few statistical shortcomings. I would imagine that even if he does not make it in this year, he will find a home in the Hall eventually, but he does at least get my vote this year.

Wrap Up

Partaking in the Hall of Fame vote has been an awesome experience and one I am truly grateful for. I look forward to seeing how the voting turns out and hope my ballot stands as a symbol of my taking this seriously. Good luck to all of those eligible. As for right now, I have a 75k to go win. Thanks for reading

Conley Woods


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