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The Weekend of Lucky Breaks (2nd at the SCG Invitational)

“All right, iced coffee for Eric… hot coffee and bagel with cream cheese for Max…”

On this particular morning I was sitting as first mate in the 2003 Buick of Captain Gerard Fabiano. As such, my duty was to handle the extensive and complex order we’d just placed at the Dunkin Donuts drive-through.

As we got nearer to the tournament site, Gerard glanced at the receipt for our order and a puzzled look came over him. “Hmm, well I guess you guys can take your money back. They only charged my card for five dollars and thirty cents for all four of our meals!”

That was lucky break number one.

Day One: The Legacy Rounds

Ironically, the SCG Invitational in Somerset, New Jersey started off on a negative note for me. I showed up under the impression that I would have two byes for the event. After all, I’d had two byes for every Invitational in recent memory (at least four or five), plus I’d made Top 8 of the last one, plus I’d placed second in an Open in the interim! In spite of all that, when I registered for the event, I was informed by tournament director Jared Sylva that I had, in fact, only one bye.

The SCG tournament series has a rather complex structure and on top of that it seems to constantly be changing. Personally, I find it easier to give up on keeping track of things like my number of byes and qualifications. I simply show up to tournaments, try my best, and let the chips fall where they will. I trust the good people in charge to stay organized and do the right thing. It’s a little annoying to never know what’s going on, but oh well, sometimes I get bad news and other times I get good news.

I sat down for round two with my Legacy Miracles deck:

I’ve played Miracles (in one form or another) off and on ever since the printing of Terminus and Entreat the Angels. At the Open in Washington, D.C. the previous weekend, I’d faced seven Delver of Secrets decks over the course of nine rounds, and I’d lost to three of them. I was sick of it! In my own mind, Delver decks ought to be a great matchup for Miracles, but I kept losing the matchup again and again. The problem is that the Delver decks, with their Wastelands, Stifles, cheap counterspells, and fast clocks are adept at “stealing” wins. If you allow the slightest room for something to go wrong, the Delver player will make it go wrong for you. They’ll mana-screw you, they’ll counter your key spell, they’ll burn you out when you’re starting to take control, or do any of a dozen other terrible things to you.

I was tired of things going wrong, so for this event I added three more basic lands to my deck, cutting a Tundra, a Plateau, and adding a 24th land. I also streamlined things and added an extra Supreme Verdict to my deck. I was ready!

Round 2: Elliott Wolchesky with Smokestack Prison

Elliott was playing a white prison deck featuring Mox Diamond, Ancient Tomb, Chalice of the Void, and Smokestack. In game one, I countered a Chalice of the Void, but was defenseless when he later played a Smokestack. I missed my crucial fourth land drop which would’ve let me play Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and from there things spiraled out of control.

It became clear that I would never be able to get to four mana against the Smokestack, so I resigned myself to oblivion, sacrificing my lands and refusing to play more. I was pretty sure that I was locked out of the game, but up to this point Elliott hadn’t yet played a win condition or a way to infinitely feed his own Smokestack, so he was sacrificing permanents every turn as well.

With Miracles being the slow deck that it is, it might’ve been the right call for me to concede in the interest of time. However, this was a matchup that I wasn’t particularly familiar with, so I decided to take the opportunity to see a little more of Elliott’s deck in order to help with sideboarding and the next two games. In the meantime I was discarding to hand size, but working towards sculpting a perfect hand, just in case that Smokestack ever found its way off the battlefield.

Well, the top of Elliott’s deck was not good to him. After many, many blank draw steps in a row, he decided that it was best to sacrifice his Smokestack rather than keep losing his own permanents to it. I started playing lands, used an instant-speed Terminus to clear a Mishra’s Factory which had gotten me to about 8 life, and finally got a Jace into play. From there, I Brainstormed a few turns to get ahead, and then fatesealed Elliott until Jace was ready to ultimate.

Lucky break number two.

I won a fairly straightforward game two to win the match. These prison decks are very good matchups for Miracles. So long as you can navigate the early turns—and you have the basic lands and counterspells to do so—you have answers to all of their cards, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor is nearly impossible for them to beat.

2-0 Overall. 1-0 Legacy (after a bye).

I felt great after this match. Of course, the reality is that I got very lucky. Elliott had me dead to rights in game one, but his deck just petered out on him. Nonetheless, I was proud of myself for not losing hope and playing in a way that left the possibility (however small) of making a comeback.

I don’t have to be the best player in the world to be happy. I can accept that I make a mistake here and there. Whatever happens, though, I hope to never hear somebody say, “Reid Duke doesn’t have heart.”

Round Three: A.J. Kerrigan with ???

I know A.J. to be a very good tournament player, but one who only plays fairly occasionally. I knew that at points in the past he’d played Storm Combo, but I felt like I couldn’t really be sure of anything. Does A.J. have a collection, or does he have to borrow what he can? Does he always choose his own deck, or does he listen to friends that stay current with the metagame? Going into the match, I estimated a 60% chance that A.J. was playing Storm, but there was plenty of doubt in my mind about it.

A.J. was on the play and mulliganed to six. I mulliganed to six as well. A.J. mulliganed to five. I looked at a hand of Island, Flooded Strand, Swords to Plowshares, Swords to Plowshares, Swords to Plowshares, Entreat the Angels. Needless to say, this hand is awful against Storm. However, if I chose to mulligan and it turned out that A.J. was playing something like Delver (the most popular archetype), then there’s a good chance I’d just conceded a game which I definitely would’ve won otherwise. Even if he was playing Storm, the matchup is bad for me in game one and I was on the draw, so there’s a good chance I would lose with a five card hand regardless, especially when you consider the very real possibility that I’d have to go down to four cards or even below.

I hate to mulligan in Legacy before I know what my opponent is playing, since I really have no idea what to look for. A hand that’s great against Delver might do nothing against Storm and vice versa. In the end, my fear of throwing away a winning hand got the better of me and I kept my triple-Swords hand. It turned out that A.J. was indeed playing Storm Combo. His hand wasn’t great, but mine was heinously bad and, needless to say, I gave him more than enough time to construct a hand that was able to kill me.

The next two games went better for me. A.J. mulliganed in each of them and didn’t have that brutal turn 1 or 2 kill that Storm is capable of. In game three I faced a very interesting decision. A.J. mulliganed, thought hard before keeping, and lead with a turn 1 discard spell before missing his next land drop. I used my Sensei’s Divining Top and looked at two unexciting cards and an Entreat the Angels. My hand was strong, and I was a big favorite to win the game, but had to decide whether to be patient, float the Entreat on top of my library for a few turns and try to win with it, or whether I would instead shuffle with a fetchland and try to get maximum value from my draw steps.

I put A.J. on having kept a slow hand because of his turn 1 discard spell, and determined that I wanted to put pressure on him rather than letting him draw out of his awkward start. I drew a few bricks and miracled Entreat for two at the end of turn 4. The game turned out fairly close, but the angels were enough to win it for me.

It’s likely that I would’ve won by shuffling also, but you never know. Every time you shuffle your deck you take the risk that your top nine cards will all be lands and you’ll lose.

3-0 Overall. 2-0 Legacy

Round 4: Steve Rubin with R/U/G Delver

As I mentioned, I consider Delver to be a good matchup, particularly with the list I’d built for this event. W/U/R Delver is the easiest matchup among the popular Delver builds, B/U/G Delver is the hardest, and R/U/G and Four Color Delver are in the middle. Regardless, they all probably fall in the range of 55%-65% in favor of this particular Miracles list. (The matchup depends a tremendous amount on the decklists and the experience level of both pilots).

The match went about as you might expect. Steve won the game that he was on the play with a great draw. I won the two games where I was on the play and Steve had unspectacular draws.

Steve showed a great understanding of the matchup and really used every tool available to him. He was constantly aware of my lands, the value of my fetchlands, and what I knew about the top of my library. He made good plays like using his Spell Pierces and Dazes to make me crack my fetchlands when I didn’t want to. I’d say that until I faced off against Tom “the Boss” Ross late on day two, Steve Rubin was one of the opponents that most impressed me with his demeanor and gameplay.

4-0 Overall. 3-0 Legacy.

Day One: The Standard Rounds

The SCG Invitational is split format, with four rounds each of Legacy and Standard on each day. If I was “relatively confident” in Legacy, I’d say that I was “shooting in the dark,” in Standard.

Of course, I’d tested my deck lot and I knew it was capable of winning. I’d had solid, though not stellar, results playing with it on Magic Online. To put it simply, though, I’ve really struggled in this Standard format.

I feel that Standard, right now, is a format that’s very hard to get an edge in. Every deck is capable of draws that are extremely difficult to beat. I’ve tried Black, I’ve tried Blue, and I’ve tried Control; all are okay, but not perfect. I picked my deck because it had a fighting chance, was a little off the radar, and is a lot of fun to play. Plus, if Standard is a format about nut-draws, then this deck ought to be a great choice!

I’d say that Green Devotion is a touch under 50/50 against most Pack Rat decks and against Monoblue. It’s a touch above 50/50 against Jund planeswalkers and the Detention Sphere builds of Control (although it can never beat Planar Cleansing in a million years). The real reason to play it is that it’s strong against W/G, Red decks, other Green decks, and most rogue strategies.

I’d worked on this deck a lot in testing for Pro Tour M15 in Portland, but had eventually set it aside when I couldn’t convincingly beat Pack Rat decks. It’s similar to what Chinese superstar Tzu-Ching Kuo and some of his teammates played at the Pro Tour, with the main difference that I did not play with Burning-Tree Emissary.

Basically, Burning-Tree Emissary serves to widen the gaps between your good draws and your bad draws. In games where you can quickly activate Nykthos and have powerful things to do with your mana, Emissary is great! However, that represents less than half of your draws even when you’re goldfishing (this is not to mention that many decks in Standard are specifically designed to ruin these types of draws). In games where you don’t draw Nykthos, or where it’s not particularly useful, the 2/2 body does virtually nothing.

I do miss having the Burning-Trees when I face Monoblue or opposing Green Devotion decks, as those matchups are just about who has the most explosive draw. On the whole, though, I felt the deck was generally better, more consistent, and had stronger game against Black and Control by cutting the four Emissaries for two more Sylvan Caryatids and two more “business” cards. Constructing the deck in this way also makes it more resilient against Drown in Sorrow, Anger of the Gods, and Mizzium Mortars, which is huge.

Round 5: Kent Ketter with Red Devotion

Right off the bat I faced one of those “who can have the more explosive draw” matchups. In game one, it was Kent, as he was on the play. However, in the next two games Kent mulliganed and I had great draws. I’d like to think that the consistency of my twelve-mana-guy build kicked in here, but I’m not experienced enough with Red Devotion to know what its average draws should look like.

5-0 Overall. 3-0 Legacy. 1-0 Standard

Rounds 6-8

To finish the day, I rattled off wins against Troy Brestel with Esper, Alex Bianchi with G/W, and Jake Mondello with Monoblack. These matches were close, but on the whole I had good draws and the toss-up situations tipped in my favor when I needed them to.

8-0 Overall. 3-0 Legacy. 4-0 Standard.

I finished day one as one of two 8-0 players. What made me happiest was that I now had faith that my Standard deck could pull its weight. Nevertheless, I really wanted to do well in the legacy rounds the following morning because leaving things in the hands of Green Devotion meant being greatly at the mercy of the die roll and the luck of the draw.

Going to sleep that night, something in the back of my mind was haunting me. It’s what we SCG grinders call “the 8-0 curse.” In the history of the Invitational, there have been an eerily high number of cases of a player starting 8-0 on day one, only to bomb out and miss Top 8 the following day. It happened to Adam Prosak, Matt Nass, Rudy Briksza, and it happened to Brian Braun Duin twice.

Now, the reality is that going 8-0 on day one and 2-6 on day two is a fine finish. It’s a good win rate and a result to be proud of. Nonetheless, I really didn’t want it to happen to me. The feeling that all eyes are on you when you fail is embarrassing and heartbreaking. What’s worse is the feeling of a missed opportunity. At the end of a tournament, the players who start slow and finish strong are always much happier than the players who start strong and stumble across the finish line—even if they have the exact same final record. I was terrified that I might be one more name on the list of victims of the 8-0 curse.

Day Two: The Legacy Rounds

Round 9: William Cruse with Four Color Delver

There were no byes on Saturday. Quite the opposite, I had to sit down in the feature match area against the other undefeated player, William Cruse. My luck final ran out as I was soundly defeated by a Delver deck. Even in a favorable matchup, though, sometimes you have to be a little fortunate to beat two different opponents in a row.

8-1 Overall. 3-1 Legacy. 4-0 Standard

Taking my first loss was a little annoying, but I still felt like I was on the right track. If I could win the rest of the Legacy rounds I’d be thrilled, and even going 2-1 wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Round 10: Shaheen Soorani with Esper Stoneforge

Without having numbers in front of me, I’d venture to guess that Shaheen has one of the highest win rates of any Invitational player, and one of the highest win rates of any regular Legacy player period! He was certainly an intimidating opponent to sit across from.

However, since adding red to my Miracles deck, I have not lost a match to an opposing Jace, the Mind Sculptor deck. I was excited to prove myself against one of the toughest players in the tournament.

While I did win the match, it’s hard for me to say whether or not I wound up “proving myself.” In the two games I won, I had very good draws where I was able to get Counterbalance into play quickly. Everything worked out conveniently for me as I had the mana costs I needed on top of my library, the answers I needed to neutralize Shaheen’s threats, and the tools to eventually get Jace, the Mind Sculptor into play and win.

Shaheen also played very well against me. In game two, which he won, he Notion Thiefed my Brainstorm. Ouch!

9-1 Overall. 4-1 Legacy. 4-0 Standard.

Round 11: Peter Ingram

Once again, I lost a Legacy round to a Delver deck! What does it take to beat these people!

9-2 Overall. 4-2 Legacy. 4-0 Standard.

Taking my second loss was worrisome. Also, I’d lost a lot of faith in my Miracles deck. I was playing the deck because of a supposedly good Delver matchup. I’d even geared my deck specifically for the matchup with ten basic lands and two Supreme Verdicts, and I was still batting below 50/50! At this point in the weekend, I’d basically resolved that after this tournament I was gonna set my beloved Miracles deck aside and look for something new to play.

Round 12: Michael Braverman with Shardless B/U/G

My greatest joy in Magic comes when I win a match and my opponent says, “jeez, this is supposed to be a good matchup for me!”

That was the end result of my match against Michael Braverman and his Shardless B/U/G deck. Truth be told, I’m really not sure if this is a good matchup or a bad matchup for Miracles, but I have a lot of experience with my deck and I feel very good playing it in any “fair” matchup (aka anyone who isn’t going to kill me on turn 2).

10-2 Overall. 5-2 Legacy. 4-0 Standard.

I’d been really hoping to come out of the Legacy rounds 11-1, but 10-2 was still very much alive and hard to complain about. I wasn’t trying to count my chickens before they hatched, but I breathed a little easier thinking that I might’ve escaped the 8-0 curse.

Day Two: The Standard Rounds

If you’ll recall, I’d chosen Green Devotion in part because of its favorable matchup against Red. In addition to four Polukranos, World Eaters and every other giant blocker you can imagine, I was maindecking four Coursers of Kruphix and sideboarding four Nylea’s Disciples and a Scavenging Ooze! (I also had a Bow of Nylea to bring in against Burn, though it’s too slow against Rabble Red).

Looking at the top of the standings, I saw a sea of players that were piloting Pack Rat decks and Sphinx’s Revelation Control. While I had a fighting chance against those decks, they weren’t exactly the pairings I was hoping for. I even voiced out loud, “I think Tom Ross and his Rabble Red deck is the only good matchup among players in my bracket.”

Round 13: Tom Ross with Rabble Red

I can’t say for sure, but I think I might’ve tempted fate when I said that. And if it wasn’t fate that dealt me my third loss, then it was the deadliest man in Magic.

I had excellent draws in all three games, in a matchup that I believe to be quite favorable for me, and Tom Ross beat me anyway.

Game one was close, but he was on the play and simply overwhelmed the one Polukranos that I had on defense.

Game two, the one I won, Tom still managed to embarrass me by bluff attacking two Burning-Tree Emissaries through my Courser of Kruphix two turns in a row. Normally I’m a man that loves nothing more than to block, but in this game I had a draw that was very dependent on Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and felt that I couldn’t afford to lose my Courser at that point in the game. Tom picked up on my hesitation and got in some free damage which, under different circumstances, might’ve gone on to win him the game.

Game three was the toughest, from my perspective. I had what would’ve been a great hand, except that I was on the draw and had too many scry lands and not enough Forests. Tom mulliganed to six and went Mountain, Rakdos Cackler. I went Forest, Elvish Mystic. Tom attacked me to eighteen and played Mountain, Burning-Tree Emissary, and Firedrinker Satyr. On my turn I would be casting a Voyaging Satyr and playing a scry land. My hand featured two more scry lands, Polukranos, Arbor Colossus, Genesis Hydra, and my scry saw Mizzium Mortars on top of my library.

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Option “A” was to cast Polukranos the next turn and hope that it brick walled Tom. This would mean taking an attack for six down to twelve life, and being virtually dead to something like Firefist Striker (I did not know Tom’s decklist at the time, but I’d seen this card in game two). Even if Tom attacked and used Rubblebelt Maaka or Titan’s Strength to trade with Polukranos I could be in dire straits. Plus, two of those effects together would be likely to kill me on the spot!

Option “B” was to scry Mizzium Mortars on to the top, and block Tom’s Firedrinker Satyr with my Voyaging Satyr. This would mean taking less damage immediately, and leaning less heavily on Polukranos. However, it would mean waiting one extra turn before I could completely brick-wall Tom’s attackers.

Perhaps it was playing a little bit too scared, but I chose option B. Unfortunately for me, instead of casting the Firefist Striker after combat that I’d been afraid of, Tom cast Eidolon of the Great Revel, a card I hadn’t seen in the previous two games. I had to take two damage to Mortars the Eidolon, then take the damage from another attack. Eventually, I did stabilize, but at a low life total, and Tom played Boros Reckoner as an unstoppable way to get in the last couple of points. On the final turn, I had a scry, a draw step, and a Genesis Hydra for four to dig towards Nylea’s Disciple, but to no avail. Boros Reckoner dealt me the last few points of damage.

10-3 Overall. 5-2 Legacy. 4-1 Standard.

Taking my third loss was distressing. Now my back was against the wall. There was no guarantee that anyone could make Top 8 with a 12-4 record. Worse yet, I’d squandered my good start and fallen down to the lower tables, so there was no guarantee that I’d have strong tiebreakers anymore either.

Round 14: Devon O’Donnell with Mono-Blue

I knew Devon was playing Monoblue, so I was particularly worried when I lost the die roll. I opened on a one lander that featured Elvish Mystic, Sylvan Caryatid, and every other perfect card that you could want so long as I hit my second land. This is a definite keep in this matchup on the draw.

I didn’t hit my land on my second turn. By my fourth turn I was still missing it, and by my sixth turn I was just waiting to be attacked for lethal. All I could think was, “so this is what it feels like to be cursed…”

The next game was no better as I fell victim to a Monoblue curve-out featuring Tidebinder Mage for my Elvish Mystic, Rapid Hybridization for my Polukranos, and enough flying creatures that it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway.

10-4 Overall. 5-2 Legacy. 4-2 Standard.

Taking my third loss brought on complete and utter despair; I was sure I was out of the tournament. I took a very long walk alone outside (believe me, I’d been beaten quickly and had a lot of time to spare). After a good twenty minutes I’d cleared my head enough to come back and play out the last two rounds with some small shred of dignity, but I really just couldn’t wait to leave and put the whole experience behind me.

Rounds 15-16

In round 15 I beat Max Tietze and his B/G Graveyard deck. This is an example of the type of rogue deck that Green Devotion really shines against. You do your thing, they do their thing, but your think is simply much faster and more powerful. To Max’s credit, he made things very close despite having a bad matchup and mulliganing to five in the third game.

I checked the standings before the final round and saw a glimmer of hope. I was paired up against Andrew Jessup at 11-3-1 and if I beat him, it would make room for one 12-4 player to sneak into Top 8!

I thought Andrew was playing Mono-Black, and kept a slow hand on the draw because it was resilient to Thoughtseize. Unfortunately, he lead with Island, Judge’s Familiar and I knew I was in for a rough game. By the time I put my first creature into play (Courser of Kruphix), Andrew was ready to play Bident of Thassa and hit me with two flying creatures. Over the course of the next four turns, Andrew drew over ten extra cards off of his Bident, and kept deploying more flying creatures and Tidebinder Mages.

However, my turns were getting progressively more and more explosive, with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx ramping up my mana at an unbelievable rate. On the final turn, I made a huge attack and Andrew had to block to avoid dying to pumps from Nylea, God of the Hunt. After combat, I played Polukranos, World Eater and activated monstrocity for X=9. One point of damage was enough to finish off each creature that had blocked, and I killed two other 2/3 Cloudfin Raptors and a Judge’s Familiar. I passed the turn with 7 life against 6 power worth of attackers and crossed my fingers.

Even after playing tight Magic and getting some good luck on my side of the table. I still had to dodge a lot of draws on Andrew’s side. If he’d drawn Cyclonic Rift at any point I was dead. If he’d drawn Nykthos sooner than he did, I was dead. Those things did not happen and I won one of the closest games of Magic I’ve ever played.

Lucky break number three. I didn’t think I had those anymore!

In game two, Andrew had a six card hand that was well worth keeping, but he missed his third land drop, which is the kiss of death in a matchup like this. I overloaded Mizzium Mortars and cleaned up with a Mistcutter Hydra for X=7.

12-4 Overall. 5-2 Legacy. 6-2 Standard.

Now it was time to sweat! A 12-4 player was going to make it, and I had the best tiebreakers, but only by a very thin margin. Somehow, the announcer took five hours to read out the first seven names. “And finally, with a 12-4 record, making the cut on tiebreakers: Reid Duke.”

Lucky break number four.

Quarterfinals: Alex Finchler with Punishing Jund

The Top 8 was Legacy, and my quarterfinals opponent was playing Punishing Fire Jund. Punishing Jund is a challenging, but not hopeless matchup for Miracles. Abrupt Decay makes Counterbalance unreliable and Punishing Fire, Bloodbraid Elf, and Red Elemental Blast make Jace, the Mind Sculptor unreliable. Fortunately, Entreat the Angels is fantastically effective.

I lost game one, but sideboarded into a deck of all removal, two Entreat the Angels, and two Blood Moons. I had good draws and won the next three sideboarded games.

13-4 Overall. 6-2 Legacy. 6-2 Standard.

Semifinals: Pete Ingram with B/U/G Delver

Here, I got revenge against Pete, one of the Delver players who’d beaten me in the swiss. This time my deck functioned exactly according to plan and I won the match 3-1.

Interestingly, the game I lost was the one that it really looked like I was going to win. In fact, at one point in the game I would’ve told you I was over 99% to win! Pete had mulliganed to 5 and had nothing but a Dark Confidant in play. I resolved Jace, the Mind Sculptor and bounced the Confidant. Pete drew and simply recast it. On my turn, my hand had a couple more lands, a second copy of Jace, and two Entreat the Angels.

Now, perhaps simply bouncing the Confidant would’ve been the safest play here, but I decided to Brainstorm with Jace because if I found an answer to the Confidant I could put the game away, and even if I didn’t I could simply cast the second Jace and bounce it anyway. I brainstormed, put back the two Entreats, and drew into Baneslayer Angel. I had enough mana to pay for Daze, Spell Pierce cannot counter Baneslayer Angel, and Pete had presumably not had Force of Will the previous turn or else he would’ve countered Jace. In his entire 75 cards, he only had one Maelstrom Pulse to kill the Baneslayer. With Jace in play, another Jace in hand, two Entreat the Angels on top of my library, and Baneslayer Angel on the stack against a 2/1 creature, I would’ve told you I was over 99% to win the game.

What happened was a huge mess. Pete had drawn Force of Will the previous turn, so he countered Baneslayer Angel. He untapped and revealed Thoughtseize to his Dark Confidant. He attacked to kill my Jace in play, and Thoughtseized the one in my hand. Next I miracled Entreat the Angels, but had to fear Spell Pierce and only made two angels. Pete passed with mana available for Abrupt Decay. Confident that Pete would be trying to work through my angels one at a time, I now miracled my second Entreat for three angels—the smallest number that he could definitely not beat with a stream of Abrupt Decays. I still had two mana available, but Pete had drawn a Daze to go with his Spell Pierce and countered my Entreat. He flipped an Abrupt Decay to his Dark Confidant to kill my last angel and had completely stabilized the board at four life. After a couple of turns his Confidant didn’t kill him and Pete instead killed me.

In retrospect I definitely should have only tried to make two angels instead of three with my second Entreat. But yikes!

The following two games went better. Pete was playing carefully around Blood Moon (he had no basic lands in his deck), constantly holding up two mana so that he could float mana and Abrupt Decay the enchantment. Eventually, though, I forced Pete to fight counter battles on his own turn so that he was tapped out and couldn’t answer the Blood Moon. In both games three and four this sequence led to a concession.

14-4 Overall. 7-2 Legacy. 6-2 Standard.

Finals: Tom Ross with Infect

Infect is a tough matchup for Miracles. Worse yet, I had very little experience in the matchup going in. I was very unsure of how to sideboard and didn’t really have a firm plan in mind for how I would win.

I did manage to win game one by tempoing Tom out with bounces from Jace, the Mind Sculptor. The next three games, Tom’s deck functioned exactly according to plan and he beat me rather convincingly. For the second time on the weekend, I fell victim to the deadliest man in Magic, just as thirty other talented players have over the course of back-to-back Invitationals.

14-5 Overall. 7-3 Legacy. 6-2 Standard. Second place in the tournament!

That’s not the end of my story, though. After the awards ceremony, Jared Sylva—the man who two days ago had informed me that I’d lost my second bye—walked up to congratulate me on winning a spot in the SCG Players Championship in December! Normally it’s only the Invitational winner who earns a slot into the sixteen-player tournament, but since Tom Ross was already qualified for the event, the slot passed down to me as the runner-up. I lost the tournament, but earned a qualification anyway!

And that, my friends, was my luckiest break of the weekend.

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