A dramatic turnaround: From jinxing myself to success.

I took a week off posting because I was frustrated, worn out and annoyed with Magic. I even debated taking the week off of FNM, too. M14 has not been easy for me, and I have a couple theories about why.

The first is the logical explanation: I’m still a new player and I learned to draft in a super fast format (RTR block) and M14 is super slow. The pace of the format changes a lot of things, including card evaluation and knowing which decks will actually be successful. In RTR, I had the best success with really fast decks. In M14, the format is more geared toward the late game, and it’s taken me pretty much the whole time to figure out how to build a decent draft deck for that. M14 is also the first mono-colored block I’ve played in, so that changes things a bit, too. So, logically, being a new player made the transition to a new set of cards harder for me.

The second is more emotional. I’d had a bad time from the start of the set, which was hard because I had just tasted some amount of routine success. I’d top 8’d a few times and really understood how to draft RTR, and even pick a pack. And everyone told me that I wouldn’t have a problem with M14: Core sets are meant for beginners, so it will be easy. But it wasn’t, so I felt like I failed. And for several weeks I was really hard on myself. Because of that, I think I kind of jinxed myself. I had an expectation that I would do poorly, so I did. Even last week: I started out 2-0 and then lost every single other match. It sucked, and it made me realize I needed to change something.

So I took the week off from posting. I knew posting a recap would make me relive it, and frustrate me even more, so I just didn’t. And then I had a three days off from work so I treated myself to a few days of relaxing and regeneration. I watched a lot of “Charmed”, read a lot and didn’t watch any MTG streams or listen to any MTG podcasts. I hardly even looked at the Theros spoilers or Reddit. And so by Friday, while I wasn’t exactly STOKED to play M14, I felt ready for a fresh try.

And guess what?? I got FIRST PLACE!!!

That’s right, after weeks of sucking ass, I pulled it together, used my brain to draft well and play well and it paid off. And it felt AMAZING. Even better: I played it out for the foil, AND WON. So I have my first hard-earned FNM promo foil to show for a great night of MTG. It’s icing on the cake that it’s an Experiment One, which is one of my favorite cards.

So, without further ado, here’s my recap for September 13. (Apparently Friday the Thirteenth is lucky for me?)

YEAH FOIL! First time winning the match for the foil, and first time making legit first place.

YEAH FOIL! First time winning the match for the foil, and first time making legit first place.

THE DRAFT

Pack One — I first-picked a Sengir Vampire over my rare, a Grim Return. A 4/4 flier for five with upside is just too good to pass. Plus I like black in M14; I think it’s strong and has a lot of good cards. From there, I second-picked a Barrage of Expendables because there wasn’t much else in the pack and if I decided to draft the B/R sacrifice deck it’d be good. I third-picked an Ajani’s Chosen. I felt it was early enough to build around if I wanted and I already had one enchantment. But I wasn’t convinced — I didn’t want to start picking not-so-strong cards because of one strong one. So I spent the rest of the pack picking up the best red and black cards, with the occasional white card. But when I got a really late Divination, I started picking up some blue, too. I didn’t really have a solid game plan, but with cards like Sengir Vampire, Gnawing Zombie and Liturgy of Blood, I was pretty sure I wanted to be in black at least.

Pack Two — I was rewarded for sticking with black by opening a Lifebane Zombie, so I was pretty stoked for that. My second color was picked for me by the person to my left passing me an Ogre Battledriver for my second pick. I had some strong cards in red already, so it just solidified my plan. From there I picked up a fairly late Young Pyromancer, a Molten Birth, a couple Act of Treasons and an Academy Raider to help my red.

Pack Three — I don’t remember what I opened or took for my last first pick, but I think it might have been a Flames of the Firebrand because I needed more removal. I do remember that I finally was able to pick up a Corpse Hauler, got my Corrupt, a Marauding Maulhorn and my second Barrage of Expendables in that pack, though. I also picked up a Darksteel Ingot in case I wanted to splash some blue, a Child of Night and a Nightwing Shade. Nothing too spicy, but all things that were very helpful in my deck.

I ended up running just a straight-up R/B deck, and when Steve saw it he said there was no reason I shouldn’t get top 8 if I played well. He said something along the lines of ‘just don’t make stupid mistakes and you’ll get there’. So I was pretty happy going into the matches.

Check out the complete deck here.

THE MATCHES (Final record: 4-1)

Unfortunately, I wasn’t anticipating doing as well as I did, so I did not take notes, but I’ll do my best from my life totals and memory.

Match One (2-1) — I started off the night with a strong game in my first match. I kept a pretty fast hand and quickly started the race by playing Child of Night and immediately putting Lightening Talons on it. My opponent was playing a B/G deck though, and was able to put Troll Hide on his Rumbling Baloth to shut that down. It came down to an old fashioned race, but I was so far ahead it didn’t end up well for my opponent. His deck worked much better for him in game two — I kept a pretty slow hand, and he curved out very well. I got my Barrage out, which was the only way I dealt him damage the whole time. He was racing, and I didn’t get any good creatures to block, so I’d chump and then sacrifice my creatures, hoping to stay in the game long enough to pull something good. The next game was basically the same, but in reverse. I curved out well and he played two Dark Prophecies and only a couple creatures. After the match, my opponent

Match Two (0-2) — My only match loss of the night was to a U/W deck that was super tempo-y and had all the answers. I had a great start game one — I got my Battledriver out and everything — but eventually my opponent was able to deal with it and pretty much every other creature I tried to play, or even got on board. To top it off, her top end was complete with an Air Servant and a Serra Angel. Oh well. I had to mulligan game two, and I kept a hand that I thought could get there, but never did. It was unfortunate, but it happens. She ended up getting 9th place, so she obviously had a decent deck, too.

Match Three (2-1) — I actually started off the round by losing my first game. My opponent was running R/W slivers, but neither of us hit anything really nuts. He was able to kill me because the only creature I drew the whole time was my Maulhorn. I even Lightening Talon’d it up, but couldn’t win the race because by the time I got it out, he was too far ahead. But it was close — he ended the game at three life. Game two was also close. A well-timed Corrupt swung the race in my favor and I was able to win. Game three was kind of unfortunate for my opponent — he had to mulligan down to five, and didn’t really stand a chance against my hand if I drew a third land, which I immediately did. I had Barrage, a Blur Sliver and a couple Act of Treasons to start and I stole, attacked with and sacrificed everything he got out. It was hardly fair, but felt good anyway.

Match Four (2-0) — This match was fun. My opponent was playing a U/W deck with Jace in it, which I knew going in. I was only slightly intimidated, but knew if I got the cards I needed, I would be OK. In game one he managed to set up quite the defense — a Wall of Frost and an Angelic Wall — but my Academy Raider and Barrage were able to get through. He got Jace out and milled me twice, but because of that I was able to use my Corpse Hauler to get back my Sengir Vampire and kill Jace before he was able to mill me out completely. He shut down the Sengir with Pacifism before I was able to kill him outright, but I was able to sacrifice that and the other creatures he’d enchanted to my Barrage and killed him with three cards left in my library. Game two was a bit more grindy than game one. He set up another massive defense with two Wall of Frosts, but I had my Raider again and was able to get damage through slowly. I was able to two-for-one him with Flames, so that helped get some early damage through, but that was all reversed when he put Divine Favor on his Griffin Sentinel. I got my Sengir out eventually, and was able to make some headway — he didn’t block with his Sentinal once, and that put him in range of just pure burn range — I had Barrage and Gnawing Zombie out, so I was able to sac all my creatures to deal him four damage to end the game.

Match Five (2-1) — Going into this match, my opponent offered the intentional draw into top 8. I would probably have made it, but there was a chance I’d be knocked out if we didn’t, so I decided to play it out. My opponent was also nice enough to say that if things started going badly for me, he’d offer the draw again. (I think he knew how much of a big deal getting top 8 would be, and he usually gets it when he plays.) But I’m glad I played it out — it was an epic match against a really good player, and I’m proud I was able to win. Game one wasn’t looking too good for me — he was winning the race, and I didn’t have many answers for his fliers. He was playing blue, with Opportunity and a lot of counters. I saved my ass by killing one of his fliers with Corrupt while he was tapped out — that took me from two life to six. I had Barrage on Board, so I was really hoping to pull an Act of Treason to turn things around. I had a couple other removal spells that helped me stay alive, and he was at six life as well. When he played his Sengir Vampire, I thankfully top-decked my Act of Treason and was able to sacrifice it. I won by sacrificing three creatures to Barrage and killing him. It was awesome. Game two wasn’t so great. I started off OK, but he played Rod of Ruin, which just killed me. A lot of the creatures I played that game were 1-toughness, and everytime I got something out he was all NOPE, gonna kill that before it can even block. I sided in Demolish, just for that game three. I didn’t end up needing it, though, because I got out my Sengir on time and had other creatures to back him up. I even put Lightening Talons on it, so all my opponents fliers turned into chump blockers. (I forgot to put counters on my Sengir though… oops.) Apparently I could have killed him a turn earlier by taking advantage of my sacrifice outlets more, though: I’d played a Blur Sliver, but I could have sacrificed my creatures to my Barrage and Gnawing Zombie instead and killed him. I was at six life at the end, so my opponent said there could have been a way for him to get back in the game after I didn’t kill him when I had the chance. Luckily that didn’t happen though. It was a good match, and when I told the judge I won, his response was “Really? That’s awesome, [my opponent] is really good, this is a top 8 you should be proud of.”

And I was really proud. It was a really good feeling and when I played for the foil, I felt confident in myself and my deck. That match went well, too. It was slow and grindy, but I still won. Observers pointed out that I could have been more aggressive with my attacks because of my Barrage, which probably would have been smart. But I still won, so I’m not too worried. It’s definitely something to keep in mind though. Just because going slow is working, doesn’t mean it’s going to win the match — the more draw steps you give your opponent, the more chances you give them to get back in the game.

I got lucky that my opponents never did. But my success wasn’t due to luck, it was due to playing well, drafting well and trusting myself. I am a good Magic player, so I just have to remember that. Confidence — not cockiness — is key. Good luck is just a bonus. (And fun fact: I actually lost most of my die rolls all night, and only got Molten Birth back to my hand a couple times.)

All for now,
Bale

What are your biggest lessons from misplays? Have you ever thrown a game because you didn’t just win when you could?

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