Stoking The Flames

Feeding The Fire

I just lost my win-and-in for top eight and I’m two hours away from home. This sucks.

I played some of the best Magic I have played in a long time today and I desperately wanted this win more than any tournament before. I won games and matches off of bluffs, strategies, and good old-fashioned luck, but in the end I got beat by variance—and those are the losses that hurt the most. The thing is: this one was different. I was told I looked basically dead, empty, despondent. While, yes, it did create those feelings, this one poured gas on the fire. I don’t know why it did, but I’m excited that this is the life I’ve chosen to lead for at least the next few years.

My Goals

Going into 2015, I set some goals for myself to improve as a player and I put some big-ticket items on my wishlist.

1. Win a Star City Games Open

This one is huge and just one of the big-ticket items sitting on the list

2. Day two all four Star City Games Invitationals.

Thanks to my late-in-the-year successes from 2014, I found myself qualified for the next three, and picking up a fourth invite shouldn’t be that hard.

3. Top eight multiple Star City Games Premier Invitational Qualifiers.

These are where I first found success and I feel at home in a tournament of this size.

4. Have fun with friends new and old traveling and grinding the Open Series.

I love to travel and see new places and I love to play Magic. I love small towns and weird cities, and grinding IQs on the weekends lets me visit these places. When an Open is in driving distance, I’ll happily go do battle.

The Tournament Today

Today, to me, felt like it was supposed to be the start to this journey, and I guess it was just not the way I wanted it to play out. I’m still gathering my thoughts and piecing it all together as I write this, so please bear with me. I, of course, battled today with my usual Zoo list and a couple sideboard changes (like adding a third [card]Choke[/card] and experimenting with different Affinity hate in my sideboard for the observed field of Delver, Affinity, UWR Geist, and Pod).

Round one I beat Bogles. This one is still sinking in. My boogieman, my nemesis, my worst nightmare: and I slew it. I felt good and nearly unstoppable afterwards. Following that, I beat Tribal Zoo thanks to outplaying an opponent who didn’t know how to play the deck or the matchup as well as I did. I lost the next round to RG Tron. I got to battle against UWR Geist and Pod after that, and while the UWR Geist matchup was close, I was able to keep the Lightning Angels at bay and just 2-0 smash my mana-screwed Pod opponent. My deck likes to mulligan to five far more than theirs does.

Round six, and I’m in ninth place. I have a clear-cut win-and-in for top eight: 5-1 is in and 4-2 is out. Every single person in the building was there for a PPTQ, but I wanted those Open points more than anything else. The short story is I lost. I was lax about watching my opponent shuffling my deck this round and I lost to the mono-lands draw. You know, the one I’m all too familiar with. Crack fetch, draw fetch, crack fetch, draw fetch and repeat until they find a threat to kill me with or I fetch every fetchable land from my deck.

While I don’t have any concrete proof of anything fishy going and I do blame myself for not being as vigilant as I was during the other five rounds, I feel like something must’ve been happening—or that when the variance gods strike their vengeance down upon me, they do it in the most heartbreaking fashion possible.

The New Fifth Goal

This brought me to a fifth goal for the year, and a list of five looks much nicer than four.

5. Promote good clean play on the Open Series and within any other tournaments I happen to play in.

Simply put, Magic is a game and I feel it should be played for enjoyment and not just money and prizes. I have been a victim before and I don’t want others to have to go through the heartbreak of being cheated.

Moving Forward

I’m up in the air about what I want to do with Modern. I was talking on the long drive home with my friend Barrett about Modern and he was pointing out that maybe some variation would be good for me. He recently set his Faeries aside for Pod and I feel like because of this and how we have dealt with our decks quite similarly, he knows what he is talking about. I know Zoo is good for me and I can attack the format very well with it, but I autopilot far more matches than I should and I win a lot based on surprise factor and play skill with my deck—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I do see how it can definitely hinder growth to be just a Zoo player.

I own most of the cards to build a Junk Pod list and I have easy access to the few I am missing. Maybe it is time for me to branch out and learn more of the format and attack it from different angles instead just for three damage on turn two. I’m still planning on developing Zoo lists, and I have a fun five-color list in the pot right now, but it’s still cooking and needs time to thicken. This will all shake itself out. I love this deck and all it has done for me, but I think I need to branch out and grow as a player more. I’m still going to be battling with Zoo for SCG Philly’s Modern Premier IQ, but I don’t know after that. The Baltimore Open is coming up in a month and hopefully I’ll have a better idea by then.

For Standard, I toyed with the idea of playing Jeskai Tempo right before the deck came screeching to a halt and died. I realized I wouldn’t enjoy myself playing a deck that to me always felt like it was digging for a win and just barely getting there. I’m now on the Constellation deck and I’m loving it. I think a third color would be amazing, though, and I am debating moving the shell into an Abzan Whip deck or jumping more towards a Sultai Sidisi Whip. I’ll be watching the format closely, but I don’t think I want to be doing anything besides slamming [card]Doomwake Giant[/card]s and drawing my entire deck off of [card]Eidolon of Blossoms[/card]. Maybe I’ll add a crash of Rhinos to the deck, because for lack of a better term: [card]Siege Rhino[/card] is sweet!

Well, thats all for now so thank you for reading and I hope I can keep you all updated throughout the year and hopefully the successes of last year were just the beginning. I feel a fire under my ass, and no, it isn’t just the seat heaters from my new car. I want to win and I want to succeed, but most importantly I want to have fun.

P.S. I know I still owe you guys a few Zoo combo matchups. Life has been hectic and hopefully I’ll be able to set some time aside and bang out those last few matchups for the guide.


About the Author
I am a full time student at Hampshire College and a Modern format specialist. I have been playing Big Zoo since the unbanning of Wild Nacatl. I hope you enjoy my writing and through it I can help us all improve and people and players in the Magic community.

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