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MFO Finals Winner Report: Jason Fleurant

My name is Jason Fleurant and I live in Vancouver, Canada. I’m a semi professional Magic: the Gathering Player, Podcaster, Streamer, and Writer. I have placed in the top 8 of three Grand Prix which includes two wins. I’m an up and coming player and without a doubt you will see me playing in the MPL in the future.

For any MMA fans out there, you might notice this as a parody of a famous early interview with Connor McGregor. I start this article off like this because I am going to be touching on a lot of things that have brought me success over the last couple years and one of the biggest is most definitely goal setting and the mental game within the game. 

If you simply want to hear about the tournament you may want to skip this part. I am a large fan of the old school tournament reports by such legends as Mark “I immediately regret this decision” Herberholtz and Jeff  “Dances with Hounds” Cunningham. I am by no means a great writer, but I have been known to tell a decent story or two. 

To go back to the very start of my magic journey would be 20 years ago in highschool when I saw on a page in a scry magazine that you could win $50,000 at something called the “Pro Tour.” I immediately showed the older more experienced players at school telling them they should go play in it. They respond that they couldn’t beat those players and I immediately thought to myself “I could.”

We will fast forward through the years of several failed shots at the Pro Tour. Most of these include me making a last second deck change big braining myself into horrible deck decisions. I still have night terrors about using Mono-Green in Odyssey Block at PT Osaka. I have one quick brush with destiny where my team has a 50-50 shot at being paired against Kai’s Phoenix Foundation and being auto scooped into the top 4 of Pro Tour Boston and instead we are paired down against Huey, Linde and Brock and proceed to lose the win and in.

After some gaps in playing (no one ever really leaves) I find myself a little older and wiser in the winter of 2018. I have recently had a fair amount of success in the business world that provided me with more free time to pursue my hobbies. Coupled with my new found love of all things MMA and with David Goggins as my own personal saint, I head once more into the competitive Magic scene. This time armed with a lot more knowledge about what it takes to win and a no-excuses kind of attitude. 

 

The format for the Grand Prix is Ultimate Masters Limited. Luckily for me, a lot of the cards are reprints from a time when I played a lot and coupled with a week of non stop drafts; I felt like I had a good chance to win despite not having success in the competitive scene for years.

I proceed to wake up and go for a run Saturday morning before the tournament and post this on Instagram. 

6 am. Been sick for two weeks. Still up and running in the morning. How badly do you want to achieve your goals? #driven #davidgoggins

I also post a message of support on the local Facebook Group asking if anyone needs help at the tournament to let me know and stating that we need to bring this tournament home. I get mostly crickets back and even some ribbing from my friends when I arrive for the Instagram post “Is this how you win a GP? Lol”. The first lesson here is to do what works for you. Try a lot of different things and take what works and discard the rest. We are all different and have different strengths and weaknesses.

If we backtrack just one day you would find me playing in the Team Sealed PTQ with my teammates Tyrel “Will threads Doran” Wheeler and Tom “the best of us” Huteson. My loving teammates quickly crack the packs and proceed to take all the powerful cards and leave me what’s left over to make myself some sort of a deck. “Oh great” I think to myself what a waste of time. Little did I know that this obvious act of love from my teammates forced me into a difficult position and would later pay such dividends later on (that’s what they were doing right?). I end up building myself a wild Red Green deck featuring a variety of cards that pump a creature’s power and coupled those with cards like Fling to combo kill my opponents from very high life totals. The tournament didn’t go well for us but I did learn that this combination of cards could be useful in the right situation. Limited is often about trying to Macgyver a sword or shield with nothing more than a rubber band, some toothpicks, and a Grizzly Bear. You have to use what’s available to you at the time to find a win and this is why limited is by far my favorite format. 

The next day I fought through Day 1 of the GP with a middle of the road sealed deck and made it through just barely still alive for top 8 with a 7-2 record. On Day 2, I am laser focused and even go out my way to only talk to my friends when I feel like I need some human interaction. The rest of the time is spent making sure I have all the supplies I need for the next round, making sure I eat and stay hydrated and mentally preparing myself for the next round. This last part is the most important. For most of Sunday, I had a constant record playing in my head of me telling my friends that I had lost. The narrative sounded like, “X-4, one match away from top 8. That’s not bad”, “Top 8, that’s great” “Top 4, that’s better than I did last time” and  “The finals. What more could I ask for?”.

Every single round I had beat back the voice in my head telling me it was okay to lose. You see your brain doesn’t want you to be in these high stress situations. It doesn’t want you to be running until your lungs burn. It doesn’t want you playing high level anxiety and adrenaline pumping matches against some of the best Magic players in the world. It wants you safe at home curled up on the couch with a soothing beverage. This is why you have to go to war with yourself and your own thoughts. You have to master your mind and push through the pain and the discomfort to get to your goals. You will fail along the way, you need to learn from these failures, get back up and keep going. Learn to love to fail, learn to love adversity, learn to love the process of self improvement. I was able to overcome my mind on this day but the war was far from over and unknowingly to me, I had already started taking my foot off the gas pedal for success.

I find myself again qualified for the Pro Tour, this time in London 2019. I manage to team up with the previously mentioned Jeff “Best coach ever” Cunningham. He has managed to guide lots of players to top finishes including his brother Jackson to a PT finals appearance in his first ever PT. We started testing two months out for this Modern/Draft Pro Tour. The limited set will not be released until mere days before the Pro Tour so we focus on Modern. This is good considering I haven’t played this format in years. We test for hours almost everyday. I try every insane modern deck under the sun. I am winning with almost none of them. I fly to a GP in Japan on my way to London and proceed to miss day 2 playing Izzet Phoenix. 

As I’m leaving for London, Jeff suggests that I play Dredge. Yes it’s hated on, but it’s also had the best win % overall at the last few GPs combined. I like the idea and figure if I am going to be taking on these titans of Magic that surely will be very prepared with amazing teched out lists that I mine as well try to get lucky on a linear strategy. 

Magic is insanely hard and almost everyone is in the same boat. The theme here is me out thinking myself and thinking that players at the top are insanely good and almost unbeatable. This is simply not true and very detrimental thinking. Are there gaps in my skills? Of course. Is it a large gap? It can be. Can I overcome this by playing a stock list well? Yes I can. It turns out a lot of top players had great success simply copying lists and sb guides before a tournament and playing these decks well. With luck and good magic fundamentals, anyone can win. You don’t need to get overly fancy and do off the wall things that are most likely hurting you. Keep it simple stupid.

The final days leading up to the Pro Tour are spent drafting. Jeff suggests that I spend more time playing Dredge despite the fact I’ve put in a decent amount of reps on Magic Online with the deck and the draft format is so new. I think that I am set for playing the deck and that more percentage points can be gained by drafting. 

The big day rolls around and I start off 2-1 in the draft. The wheels quickly come off though, as it becomes painfully obvious that I am Ill prepared to physically handle the deck. It turns out playing dredge in real life is a lot harder when you need to be paying attention to so many things at once and the board isn’t laid out for you. I also end up being a little too excited to see all my friends in London and after every round I am looking for them to chat them up instead of focusing on the things that are important. I notice this when round after round I fail to force myself to walk into the dealer hall on the other side of the tournament location to purchase dice and a score pad that I somewhat badly need and instead continue to use my opponents supplies or those of players near me. 

I realize that my focus and determination to win has waned in the final seconds of the war. Most top pros will tell you that the last couple weeks and days are by far the most important and you should be putting in maximum effort. Everything before this has a lot less value as the metagame is constantly shifting and thus your information quickly becomes dated. This is a lesson that helped with my win in the GP Finals. 

This brings us all the way to the end of 2019. I have teamed up with Jana Amari to do a podcast and her love of the game and streaming has pushed me to once again try and break into the highest levels of competitive play. I fly down to Dreamhack Anaheim and realize through my preparation at the last second that Temur Clover is head and shoulders above the rest of the field. I write an article about this discovery on my flight. Unfortunately, I am still working remotely for my regular job and combined with wanting to film a Casey Neistat sort of Vlog for the tournament I don’t end up putting in the time once more to finely hone my skills with the deck. I have to settle for a min cash as I watch my testing partner Mani Davoudi make the finals against the Clover creator himself Aaron Gertler. This lights a fire in me. I’m tired of putting in so much work and effort to simply relax right before the finish line and not finish strong. I make a promise to myself then and there to either do it right or not do it at all. 

When I get back to Vancouver, I start streaming again and am faced with the blatant realization that I am not nearly as good as I had thought. Old friends and new viewers have pointed out the blatant errors in some of my game play. I also started doing commentary for ChannelFireball and am paired up with great minds like Mani Davoudi, Jessica Estephan, Huey Jensen, and PrediMTG. Their analysis of the game easily dwarfs mine, they are able to quickly break down complex board states into what matters and what doesn’t. Magic is such a deep game that even after 20 years of play I still struggle. How am I supposed to improve? How am I supposed to get better? 

I remember the promise that I made to myself of going all the way or not trying at all. I decide to find the best coach I can and see if I can close the gap. About three weeks ago I started having one on one coaching sessions with Seth Manfield. He’s somewhat surprised that a GP winner is asking for coaching, but if you think about it every professional has a coach. I wonder why I would spend money to learn almost any skill but for some reason had never considered paying for lessons in Magic? 

Our first session mostly just confirms that my outlook and approach to the game is the way it should be. The big takeaway is that I could really benefit from having a team to prepare with. This is easier said than done as I had tried to solicit help from teams both big and small. I had found that the best teams are already set and the smaller teams aren’t that helpful.

Our second session happened while I was playing in a qualifier with Temur Rec on the Wednesday before the GP Finals. Seth is obviously a master with the deck and playing this match with him helped remind me of how you need to keep an open mind to the game. We talked through different lines to take and why. It was very refreshing to interact with someone on this level. It reminded me that if you have a game plan and look at a game objectively, you can find avenues to win. Everything is important in Magic and you need to be paying attention at all times and stopping yourself from going on autopilot. The moment you think there is nothing to learn is the moment you stop winning. 

I had tried almost all of the decks in Standard and wasn’t really winning with any of them. I think this might be a common experience players face when they just jump into this format somewhat cold. This Standard format especially rewards knowledge and solid play. There is a shocking amount of play to every single game. Despite the power of the format the days of simply running your opponent over with little they can do in response are somewhat over. There is a level of consistency in the Standard decks of today that allows for a lot of back and forth compared to the past.

I played in at least eight GP Finals Qualifiers. Trying Jeskai Cycling, Yorion Lukka, Temur Rec, heck I even tried a Cycling/Reclamation deck. Nothing was working. I heard from a few sources that Temur Adventures had a good Lukka match up and frankly nothing else I was playing seemed to beat the deck. 

So in the very last qualifier on Friday evening I decided to try out the old hotness that is Clover. Of course I never saw a Lukka deck and instead had to fight through a murderer’s row of Boros Cycling, Rakdos Sacrifice and Temur Rec. I somehow was able to navigate my way through and qualify at the very last second. I was very happy to have done so after failing to qualify for the previous weeks GP because of once again not taking the process seriously enough and waiting until it was too late to get the required wins. 

Grand Prix Finals!

If you have made it this far, I thank you from the bottom of my Lucky Clovers.

DAY 1

On Saturday, Day 1 starts off great. I wisely decide to only stream Arena and not my mic or camera to concentrate on the action. There is no way I would have been able to play and comment on the games at the same time. Nassif is able to do it and that’s very impressive. I also put on a delay since I’m not interacting with chat and this was something I hadn’t done in some previous GPs that I feel may have hurt me from stream sniping. 

I rattle off three wins and am feeling good about my chances. Going into the 4th round I get a message on Discord that my opponent may change because a match is still going. I ask if I am playing the player showing on my pairings that is playing a Mardu Knights deck that I have already beat once and seems like a good match up. The response comes “no, you are playing PVDDR”. My response, “Oh.”

I settled in for my match against the current World Champion and well considered best Magic player on the planet. He’s playing Bant Yorion, maybe the only deck I haven’t played with or against very much. In Game 1, the events unfold like this:

  • He only has two Dovin’s Veto that can deal with clovers on turn two.
  • He has one for my turn two Clover and one for my turn three Clover. 

I think, “Must be nice” and give him the “Nice!” emote. Despite that set back, I’m able to find a third Clover and start going off. The game goes long and I feel like I have the tools I need to win, except I get overly aggressive one turn with my attackers and he is able to maneuver a win. This is something that has plagued me in my career. I learned a long time ago that aggression is good; I unfortunately have only slowly realized that it is not always good.

In Game 2, I am on the play and run away with a quick uneventful game. Game 3 goes long with both of our decks firing off at full steam. We both have large boards, a lot of lands and hands full of cards. Somewhere deep into this game my brain overloads and I feel it melting as I try to keep track of the million different interactions happening at once. PV is a master of these types of complex boardstates and properly cutting through what matters and what doesn’t is what separates the best in the world from the rest.

I shake it off and file the loss to a great learning experience and a hole in my game that I need to plug going forward. 

Round five, see me paired against Jacob Wilson (This tournament isn’t going to get any easier is it? I guess it’s time to accept that and get in the fight). Jacob is playing Boros Cycling, the agro boogeyman of the format. I manage to win Game 1 when I am on the play. Game 2, I have close to the nut draw of Clover into Fertile Footsteps for two lands into a stomp and then more interaction but it’s not enough. I bounce his Foxes only to have him replay them and quickly make them gigantic all over again. In Game 3, I lose to double Zenith Flare because I sided in two hard counters and only have one Disdainful Stroke and one Aether Gust to wish for and the second Flare eventually gets me. Embarrassingly, I cut the Soul-Guide Lantern before the tournament thinking it was there for Lurrus decks and did not realize that it was for this Cycling match up. If I had left it in the sideboard or not boarded in my counters, I would have won this match. 

I managed to win my last two rounds to end day one at 5-2. I’m still kicking myself for losing a match I easily could have won but there is nothing to be done about it now and simply enjoy the rest of my evening. I get a message of support and congratulations from Seth as I am logging off. He jokingly says he hopes we don’t get paired, I strongly second his statement. 

DAY 2

Day 2 starts and I see that the field is packed with Temur Rec and Boros Cycling decks, neither of which I really want to face. Doubt starts to creep in once again but I push it aside and get to business. I feel fortunate to be paired vs a Mardu Knights deck first and quickly find myself at 6-2 thinking perhaps a top 8 might be possible. 

Next round I am paired against Temur Rec and lose in a close three games to drop down to 6-3 and reality starts to sink in. How am I ever supposed to win a tournament full of Temur Rec and Cycling Decks that I messed up my sideboard against? I take a moment to go sit outside and sip on a coffee. I think back over the years of Magic, all the close calls and hours upon hours of time put in. At the end of the day, it is just a game. Here’s the important question, am I having fun? Yes.. My matches with high level players are what I play the game for. I love to compete and win or lose I enjoy the thrill of high level competition. I finish my coffee and head back inside, I only need to win three more matches. I can do that. 

Round 10, I am once again paired against Bant Yorion. This time not piloted by a world champion. My draws are good and my opponent doesn’t put up much of a fight as my deck quickly snowballs out of control to the win. Maybe the match up isn’t so bad after all?

Round 11, is up and I only need two more wins. But here it is, yet another Temur Rec player. I think internally, “I guess this is it.” It makes sense that I would win a match and then lose to Temur Rec; the deck was everywhere on day two. But, I had beat the deck before and we were not out until we were out! I replay the past matches in mind: the match always came down to Reclamation and Expansion Explosion. Flying Sharks and Uro’s were of little use against a deck packing Brazen Borrowers and an almost never ending amount of creatures. So that was the game plan. Delay/Destroy/Counter any sign of Reclamation and try to pile on as much pressure as quickly as possible to not allow them the time to dig for those pieces. 

We play an extremely tight three games with time ticking down. In the third game I am able to wish for Mystic Repeal and Once and Future. He’s forced to hold a Reclamation until he has eight mana and plays two in one turn while I only have one green up. I destroy one and he’s able to untap with eight mana available but passes to try for a large explosion the following turn after protecting his Reclamation from the Once and Future. I draw a second Fae of Wishes for my turn however and am able to wish for a Negate to force through my spells and take the match. 

One match away from top 8. I don’t dare to dream. I stay focused, I watch Kanister dismantle an opponent on the CFB coverage stream. I don’t even look at my own chat on Twitch. I want nothing to distract me. Adrenaline is pumping through my veins like the Mississippi River through… well everywhere. I try to take deep breaths to calm myself down. This is what I am here for, this is why I play the game. I want the high pressure matches, I want the epic stories.

Pairings go up and I am up against Jeskai Lukka. Finally, the deck I was hoping to target! But just because the matchup is favorable doesn’t mean it’s a sure thing. Just like almost every match up in this format, there is a lot of play to it. There are opportunities for both sides to win or punt away the game. 

I take the first game quickly with Clover into Fertile Footsteps and never look back. I am one game away from my goal of making top 8. The second game my opponent has a turn four Fires of Invention and proceeds to smash me with multiple Elspeth Conquers Death and Teferi’s, looping them continually with Yorion. Not a problem, this often happens on the draw. Let’s just take this game three and everything is right with the world. I cross my fingers and toes and pray to the Magic gods for a good seven. I click the play first button and then see Edgewall Innkeeper and six lands. Oh no. Not like this. Anything but this. I take another deep breath as I slowly click on the mulligan button. This time we have three land, Brazen Borrower, Lovestruck Beast, Beanstalk Giant and a sight for sore eyes, a beautiful shining Lucky Clover. This will do. I put the Borrower on the bottom and scry an Innkeeper to the top off a land. The game ends up being very competitive as I flood out a bit, but eventually I draw into an Escape to the Wilds and the extra cards are able to give me the win. 

TOP 8

This is it! I made Top 8 or so I think. I know better than to celebrate before something is a done deal. A lot of things can go wrong in the last round. You might have an opponent that doesn’t want to draw with you for any number of reasons. Perhaps they want to be a higher seed going into the top 8 for the chance to play first or you might be a bad matchup for them and if they have a loss to give they might want to try and knock you out. As it turns out there are 9 players with a 9-3 or better record. As pairings go up my opponent immediately asks me for the Draw. I am currently in 7th but by the narrowest of margins. .002 of an opponent match win percentage be exact. The person in 8th is paired against PVDDR and almost for sure would need to play or else gamble on tiebreakers. The person in 9th is paired down and has to play. I tell my opponent we can draw thinking I should be safe. But as I go to enter the result I see that PV and the player in 8th have drawn…..oh $#%@. So now if the player in 9th wins their match, either myself or the 8th place player will come in 9th on tiebreakers. I’m in shock. What do I do? Do I tell my opponent that I now need to play? If I lose the match I’m out of top 8 for sure. My opponent was on the new Mono-Red Obosh deck. I have no idea how this match up goes for me and besides I’ve already given my word that I would draw. But am I beholden to going down with the Titanic just because I misread a situation? What would you do?

There are too many variables for me to sort out virtually in such a small amount of time so I decide to enter the result as an intentional draw. Could it be that I’ve come all this way and I’ve drawn myself into 9th place? I literally ran a marathon only to stop dead and have a picnic at the finish line? My stomach is in knots, I feel sick. I see the 9th place player enter their results as a win. Oh crap. My mind runs through how the tie breakers will work. It will be how my opponents do vs how the person in 8th place’s opponents do this round. I feel somewhat better as my opponents had all been extremely strong competitors and all of my matches were hard fought. I decided to hang out in the coverage channel and wait for the announcement. 

I drop in to see Gabriel Nassif saying that the top 8 is set and it’s a clear cut. I let him know it’s not clear and that one will miss on breakers. No he says, “because the player in 9th has lost his match!”. Wait what?! In my hurried confusion of trying to figure out what was going on, I had mixed up the names of the player in 9th and their opponent. My jaw hits the floor, I DID IT! I freaking did it! A rush of euphoria and relief washes over me. I’ve achieved my goal but the war isn’t over. I learned from my first GP top 8 that the tournament isn’t over there. You need to keep fighting to take that trophy home. Once I had locked up that Pro Tour invite back in 2008 I didn’t really care what else happened and I was quickly dispatched in the Quarterfinals. 

This time would be different. I scout the top decks and see the Mono-Red Obosh list at the top followed by Boros Cycling. One of these two decks would be my first round opponent and neither seemed like a walk in the park. It ends up being Doomenstein on Boros Cycling. With the new found knowledge that I needed to leave at least two hard counters in my sideboard to be able to blink late game Zenith Flares, I felt prepared for the match up. 

We have some connections issues but are finally able to get them sorted and start our match. I lose the first game to double Drannith Stinger into a Zenith Flare in a game that I was starting to take control of. Game 2 is not particularly close as I am able to snowball a Clover and all the right adventure creatures at the right time. But now the Boros Cycling deck finally gets to be on the play, which makes a huge difference. Their Flourishing Fox on turn one is able to get out of stomp range quickly and can often take over a game on it’s own.

Luckily for me, Doomenstrein Mulligans to six cards and doesn’t have the turn one Fox. In fact, he doesn’t have a turn one or turn two play, instead cycling three cards. Doom does have a Stinger on turn three and they are able to slow the game down with some chump blockers and deal me some incremental damage. The game seems locked up for me when Doomenstein fires off an end of turn Zenith Flare into my Negate while I am at sixteen life. I take the bait and counter only seconds later realizing that they have enough mana between now and their next turn to cycle the required five more times and Zenith Flare me again for the full sixteen. I am forced to sit and watch as they cycle again and again waiting for my end, but it never comes. I manage to not be punished and head for the Semifinals. I went back and watched this match to remember this sequence at the end. We all make mistakes, finding them and exposing them makes you stronger. Don’t be afraid to own your mistakes in this game or this life, you will be stronger for it.

I open Discord to report and see a message waiting from PVDDR, is he perhaps thanking me for a great match yesterday and congratulating me on doing so well? No of course not, I’m his next opponent and it’s go time. I try to muster all the stress and anxiety into one controllable ball in the pit of my stomach as I put my game face on and prepare to do battle, now armed with a lot more information about my Bant Yorion foe.

Game 1 seems to be going to plan. I’m able to pressure PV and eventually get two Clovers down. I knock him all the way down to one life with three creatures in play, an Escape to the Wilds and Adventurous Impulse in hand and two Clovers on the board. PV has only an Elspeth Conquers Death as I pass to him. I think the game must be over at this point. He casts an Uro from hand going to four life and then his Yorion blinking ECD and mostly tapping out. I draw Fae of Wishes for my turn and I figure this is game, triumphantly playing my Escape to the Wilds for seven mana thanks to the ECD tax. My five cards are revealed and they are: one copy of Lovestruck Beast and four lands. Huh, ok, not a problem. I play two lands and the beast to draw a card from Innkeeper

On PVs turn he escapes Uro and attacks with Yorion. Alarm bells start going off in my head. Looking back I should have started interacting with his board more and preserving my life total as the game state had changed drastically. But I was still focused on dealing him lethal as he had just been down to one life. On my following turn I Fae of Wishes for Fling and Expansion Explosion and then Adventurous Impulse into a Bonecrusher Giant. I fail to realize that I am at exactly ten life and if PV can clear my blockers he can attack for lethal. As he bounces my first creature I realize my mistake and send him the Oops emote.

Looking back this game could have been won if I started flooding the board with creatures once he had played some of his own. This is now my general strategy once my opponents Yorion is in play as it makes Shatter the Sky a lot less effective for them. 

Game 2, I have an aggressive draw with multiple Lovestruck Beast’s and PV uses his Knight of Autumn on turn three to make a 4/3. I attack with just the beast and play a second one. On his turn, PV plays a Shatter the Sky, but he is now tapped out and I have drawn two Lucky Clovers between my last three draw steps and the extra card drawn from Shatter that now enter play. On my next turn I ramp with a Fertile Footsteps and am able to start producing threats on the board and drawing cards to put a quick end to game two. 

Game 3 against the GOAT and my opening hand doesn’t disappoint. Three lands, 2 Innkeepers, Clover, and Lovey McBeast. On my turn two, I decide to play both Innkeepers hoping to put him on the backfoot once more and force a response to allow my Clover to resolve all while drawing cards. PV has other plans. He starts with an end of turn Growth Spiral and untaps into a Narset, Parter of Veils shutting down my card draw engine. He wisely doesn’t activate and passes back. I am unable to clear the Narset even with my Bonecrusher Giant in hand. I attack Narset for 2 and make two 1/1’s and pass. Looking back at this turn and the next couple, it’s hard to tell what the right play is each turn. The Bant deck has so many tools to work with that attack you from different angles that it’s very difficult to know what the correct play is. 

I decide to bounce Narset and Yorion to attack for four. On PVs turn, he tanks for a while and with 5 lands up decides to cast Omen of the Sea and ends up finding a Shatter the Sky on top to punish me. In hindsight, passing the turn and trying to set up a play where I remove Narset on his end step to allow me to start getting value from my Innkeepers on my turn seems like the better play. The problem then becomes, what if he plays Teferi and I have mostly wasted my turn. Most likely my strategy was flawed from the beginning and I should have kept my Innkeepers for later in the game. 

I’m not completely out of the game and I continue to get in damage and present threats getting PV down to 3 life while I have a Clover in play and a Stomp would have been lethal for a number of turns but I draw mostly lands and Beasts. On the penultimate turn, I draw a Fae of Wishes. I only have four minutes left on my clock after three grueling games and quickly grab a Fling and an Expansion Explosion. PV has a Teferi in play and one Neutralize in hand so I’m not able to copy my Fling but I fling a beast at him anyway to get rid of the Neutralize in case I am able to find a stomp on the following turn. 

On PV’s turn he plays Yorion, blinking two Omen of the Sea and drawing into a Dovin’s Veto. I cross my fingers to draw some interaction and rip an Island off the top of my deck. Not what I was looking for. With a sigh I play out my Clover that had been bounced by Teferi the previous turn, realizing that PV only has two blue mana up so he would have to let it resolve to counter my potentially lethal Explosion (He doesn’t know I have the 7th land in hand to Explosion for 3). To my surprise, he Dovin’s Vetos my Clover. Interesting. He must have another Veto or a Mystical Dispute in his hand I assume. I play my land and point a now lethal explosion at him for 3. He waits, I don’t dare to dream. He waits some more, could it be? Could this really be happening? And then I see his emote pop up. The same one I had sent to him in game 1 “Oops”. 

My jaw hits the floor yet again and that’s the game! All of a sudden I’m headed to the finals and also now qualified for the Players Tour Finals!

Huey reads the chat saying “He lost to the Autotapper” and this all of a sudden becomes the narrative. The truth is he had two blue mana to cast his one counter spell in hand when he cast Yorion and still had two blue mana on my turn to cast one counter spell. The spell that needed to be countered was the Explosion and he countered the Clover. He made a mistake as we all do. I made a lot of mistakes in our matches that ended up with PV winning those games and then he made a mistake that ended up with me winning this game. It is what it is, a part of the game. 

It was a great honor to play these matches again PV. He makes me want to be a better player, his dedication to the game is inspiring. He didn’t wake up one day the best, he worked hard for months and years to be the best. I respect the hell out of that and I look forward to playing him again one day.

That said, why wait to play more matches against the best in the world when we still have Gabriel Nassif to play in the finals! The famed Yellow Hat is yet another legend of the game and a great competitor. I didn’t know what he was playing and was somewhat relieved to see he was on Jeskai Lukka. I could actually win this whole thing? No time for those thoughts, there’s still a hard fought match to be won.

The Finals

Game 1

Game 1 of the finals goes long and I am flooding out on lands. Gabe is able to get a Lukka into play and steals my only Clover. Now with Teferi, Narset, Lukka, and an Agent of Treachery on the board he is starting to take control of the game. I wish for a Storm’s Wrath to clear the board and that’s enough to get the concession. I think he may have forgotten about the Wrath and seemed to play into it more than he had to. He played a new Teferi and bounced my Lovestruck Beast when he could have returned his Agent to his hand on his last turn. 

Game 2

Game 2, Gabe gets the nut Fires into Lukka into Yorion draw and despite my draw being very strong as well I’m not even close to able to put up a fight and he wins on his turn six! He really showed the power of the deck in this game and how ridiculous it’s best draws can be.

Game 3

Game 3 for all the marbles. The prizes are the same for 1st and 2nd but the prestige and honor is what we play for most. Few if any are getting rich playing Magic, so those of us that live and breathe the competitive scene do it for the clout. To say we were the best on that day. Winning a Grand Prix Final stacked with 128 of the best Magic players on the planet is just about as good as it gets. 

I mulligan a one lander and keep a solid six cards of three lands, Clover, Negate, and Beanstalk Giant putting a Edgewall Innkeeper on the bottom. My thinking here is that if I can ramp with a Clover in play and am able to keep him off a quick Fire of Invention or Lukka that I should be able to win that game. Sure enough my plan works out and I am able to draw into action to start going off. The game feels close to me as Gabe always has a lot of cards in hand, but upon seeing the replay it turns out he has flooded late in the game and has nothing but four lands in hand by the end. 

I lean back in my chair for a moment before throwing my hands up and yelling out “I DID IT!!!” to let Sharon know I had won. She comes running downstairs to congratulate me. After a quick interview with Huey and Marshal and responding to many congratulations, we celebrate with some steak and wine. It was also our one year anniversary at midnight. Some days are perfect.

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