Champions are forged in Hellfire” –Norman Mailer
Tournament Report from SCG Los Angeles Legacy
Saturday, March 27th proved to be another good day of magic for me. It was my second SCG open this year, but it was quite a different story than the disaster that became my trip to San Jose. Los Angeles was destined to be different for many reasons, some known and obvious and some lurking like premonitions in a Poe story waiting to creep out like the majestic doom they deserved to be. And as I will detail all of that in time, the most important reason that performance mattered in LA was because it is the home turf. I may not be from here, but I have come here and decided that it is mine, and I was not about to sit around and let an army of villainous ringers storm in and take away what rightfully belonged to the local heroes.
But more of that later. This tournament starts with a flash of recollection of some of my finer days in a distant kingdom called Detroit, when I learned that contrary to what pros and writers abound want to tell you, the best way to storm through a tournament is not always to be rested, nourished and focused. Soldiers don’t stay in hotels and eat home cooked meals before war, they snort PCP and listen to Slayer and bust out their guns in anticipation of making the world safe from any would be enemy. So my plan had to be something similar, though I decided early on that illegal substances had no place in this fight. I am a champion of the people, so I was going to do this thing right. The only way to prepare for this kind of war is by depriving oneself of sleep and consuming excessive amounts of whiskey, chasing oblivion all the way to the edge without falling over, and then after finding the proper mind for war going at it like a Hound of Tindalos and bringing home some enemy gold, hopefully spilling some enemy blood in acts of vengeance along the way.
The story, as I proclaimed, does indeed start years ago playing vintage in Detroit, but we will skip the bulk of that after extracting three ideas in the briefest fashion I am capable of. The first is that even after I sold my entire collection near the end of 2005, including my power, I somehow managed to remain in possession of a 2 land belcher deck with ten proxies. That deck became vital when I got back into vintage, sniping side events at RIW Hobbies and acquiring a ridiculous number of Mana Drains, and it sort of limped my collection back into existence. When I rebuilt the empire only to burn it down once more, selling again under some duress in 2007, it seemed unlikely I would play again, but the belcher deck remained with me once again, reforged and prepared for war, even if it was shelved and forgotten. The second extraction is that, after locking my keys in the trunk of my car numerous times at events when I was out pounding shots of Irish Whiskey between rounds, I learned that there are some decks I know well enough to pilot drunk, and that frame of mind allows me to be a little less reserved with a deck that can require you to take chances at times. I could write a novel on this thought, but it would take a lunatic army of wandering heathens to really appreciate the work, so I will simply leave it at that. The third thing I will pull out of the past is that after buying a collection that allowed me to play anything I wanted in Legacy, I pretty much failed to remember or really try out my long lost weapon of choice and was pleasantly distracted by the scenery of the format. When I started playing legacy just under a year ago I opted for Reanimator with much success, and when mystical tutor vanished I found myself struggling with deck after deck but only having success with storm combo and one extravagantly hostile performance with Aggro Loam.
So, as the take aways, I still had my favorite gun, I still love to drink whiskey even at events, and I am easily distracted if I am not rallying myself to win the war.
To pick up a little later, say during the Saturday standard portion of the SCG LA open, I was downtown already and taunting an anti war demonstration with absurd wisdom when I found myself outside the Staples center. I had two choices, the first of which involved watching the Kings play the biggest pack of villains still allowed to freely wander the Earth (the Colorado Avalanche) or wander into the convention center to see who was around and maybe sell some cards to finance the continuance of a pretty strong drinking run. After all, the Wild Turkey I was drinking on the subway was just a memory now, and I was not sure that I was ready to sober up in light of a poker game starting about six hours later at my Valley Apartment.
Out of fear that the wretched Avalanche might rob the brave but often befallen Kings and thus ruin my mood for weeks to come, I decided to phone an old friend who was getting ready to watch the Wings play the Leafs in a bar in Detroit, wearing his Leafs jersey like a lunatic with a penchant for being lynched, and he reminded me that in LA they largely don’t get hockey, and that you find more intensity in a bar in hell than you do live in LA. Its sad really, and its perhaps the closest thing to something negative I would ever say about my new homeland, but it was enough to persuade my drunken form to make my way into the convention center.
Upon wandering in I had a hard time not noticing the plethora of attractive women and very non-magic like other passersby and I suspected that they were not in attendance for the jewelry show I passed any more than they were for the SCG event. That is when I discovered with some surprise that the adultcon was also going on, and I suddenly realized that the numerous girls in less than expected clothing on the streets were not prostitutes and somehow it made me feel a little better about the world around me. That effect and all memory of arriving was quickly left behind when the first person I saw entering the general gaming area was my fellow crusader and savior of the peasants Liam Kane, and as always we devolved into deck discussion.
At this point it occurred to me that I had no idea what I intended to play on Sunday, and I had not played a single game of magic since a few weeks prior at the local Knightware tournament where in a field of 57 I top 8’d with Charbelcher and won two taigas, losing a close game three to the SoCal Paladin Alexander Kwan. I still had belcher built, and while there was a definite desire to pilot it, I was also pretty set on finishing Cephalid Breakfast and giving that a run. After a large amount of wandering around and trading for things I felt at the time were essential for my War against Ringers to come, and eventually procured a ride back to the valley and spent an hour at our local shop Knightware to briefly discuss the event to come.
I made it home with another bottle of Wild Turkey 101 about two hours later, just in time for a group of ruthless savages widely unfamiliar with magic and probably oblivious to the fact that I play it to start arriving at my home. It didn’t take long to get some small games firing, and before long nine bottles of whiskey and 33 bottles of beer were slain by eight or ten fiends from the world around, and my living room somehow evolved into an MMA ring. I am certain it was after three am at this point and I knew I needed to sleep, so I doused the natives with pig blood and sent them wandering into the night in the hopes they would not burn down or destroy my relatively peaceful neighborhood. I made it to bed shortly after four, realizing that I was not going to be able to sleep off this kind of drunken stupor in four hours, but I decided not to worry too much and made short work of getting to sleep.
As anticipated, I was still pretty wasted when I woke but I managed to get up any way. I gathered up all the empty bottles and attempted to make breakfast, but discovered that all I managed to do was finish off the Glass of Jameson in the refrigerator and stagger back to my room for clothes. This was going to be a brutal day, and I was going to need some caffeine, but it was already past the point where my ride should have arrived and I suddenly realized I might not be going at all.
When Ethan arrived there was no way we could make it by ten. I resigned to playing the draft open and trading, but then a miracle happened, much like the parting of the red sea, and we made it all the way to downtown LA with no traffic or cops. I walked into the convention center at 10:03, was the last player to register, and found a group of locals help get the decklist right. It was clear that the room was full of villains, hungry for the blood and wealth of my new homeland, and it was clear that fate intended for me to dispense them and protect the innocent. I was to be a champion of the people for the day, a real life good guy. I was a drunken vigilante cowboy with a gun, and I was going to proceed to shoot fiends and villains at every turn.
At the players meeting I started to wonder about all the articles I have been reading about being well rested and pacified by healthy food and plenty of water, all for the purpose of focusing and taking down a tournament. I never paid too much attention to this before SCG San Jose, when I accomplished exactly that, only to be clearly aware of how bad the universe wanted to crush me with good match ups and humiliation at preparing for nothing. I started to realize that I was not as hungry for the blood of my enemies when I was living like a fat and sassy banker drinking tea and eating crumpets, and now as I happily drained the remaining whiskey from my diet coke bottle, I realized that the only way to truly crush the fiends that were so determined to violate my home was to be this savage and ready to do battle.
At this point I will begin the meat of the tournament report, and I will try to refrain from adding too much between round content to keep a little bit of focus, especially in light of the length of this report already. There will be some points where it needs to happen, or where I cannot resist, but my ranting and raving are as essential to understanding with clarity what was really going on in LA and the significance of my quest. I was charged with protecting the masses and making the world safe, and I could not lose sight of it.
Round One: Brian Kibler with Junk
Perhaps the politest of villains, I could have easily been charmed out of crushing my opponent due to his calm nature and pleasant demeanor after losing game one on my second turn. I felt certain that I met Brian once before, but at no point could I recall actually doing so, and I suspect it may have been just the tone of his articles matching the tone of his personality. As we shuffled up for game two I started to wonder if it was actually I that was the monster, but when he cast thoughtseize on turn one, taking away my win condition and depriving me of the chance to celebrate with 14-16 goblin tokens, I decided that I was probably still the good guy. I drew a mana source and passed, ready to rally the forces, and he followed with a turn two hymn to tourach and forced me to part ways with my precious land grant and a mana spell. I drew an Elvish Spirit Guide and passed again, patiently awaiting a weapon, and my opponent followed up with a dark confidant. I decided on my turn to play my tinder wall to protect me from the wrath of his evil and mean spirited 2/1, and after flipping a land he proceeded to play a second confidant and a tarmogoyf. It would seem like a fantastic line of play to shred an opponent’s hand and drop three monster of this sort onto the table, but as I felt the need to protect the less fortunate from such vicious tyranny I drew a goblin charbelcher and played through my hand until I had the seven mana needed to cast and activate it.
An auspicious start for our hero, I congratulated my opponent on his top 4 finish the prior day and marched off to find my henchmen and report my good deeds. I discovered that most of them were taking a ridiculous amount of time to dispatch their foes, so I headed to an area I knew to be safe to patiently await until I was joined by my comrades and eventually the keeper of the flask that would fuel a far less frienldly opponent in round two.
Round Two: Michael with Solidarity
I lose the die roll to my opponent, and as I wish him luck with no response I decide that this may be a round to just keep quiet. I was pretty intoxicated at this point and all I wrote down was that my opponent had two islands in play when I killed him with belcher on my second turn, but I do remember that he was pretty upset and made a comment about the fairness of my deck and how decks like it ruin the format. I choose not to taunt this bitter and jaded villain too thoroughly, and we proceed to a second game that he opens again with an island. I try to resolve my belcher on the first turn with two red blasts in hand, one of which is able to counter his force of will. I don’t have the mana to fire and he is able to cunning wish for chain of vapor before I do, so I am left in the situation of getting more mana. I eventually cast it again only to get it countered, then eventually resolve a xantid swarm to push the next one through. It resolves and my opponent passes, letting me draw before attempting to go off. He casts something to which I respond with a fire of my belcher, off the ESG in my hand, but he is able to mill away my deck off a series of remands, resets, high tide and brain freeze. I scoop when he makes it clear he has it, which takes a while, and I discover that the game took almost thirty five minutes, most of which was spent on my opponent taking time to make decisions on brainstorms and staring at the cards he drew, and at no time did I give him even the slightest hassle about the time he was taking. We went to game three and I was on the play. I resolved a lion’s eye diamond and a series of mana spells to play my belcher, intending to kill him turn one, but I was met with force of will and passed with my land and LED on board and an ESG in hand. He played an island and passed, I drew and cast a tinder wall and passed. He played a second island and passed, so I drew a charbelcher and cast it. A brainstorm did not find an answer and I was able to dispatch my enemy and avenge many innocent victims of mono blue combo decks with my brazen desire to make the world a better place.
At this point, my opponent continued to express his distaste for my deck and eventually verbalized a heavy and disrespectful assessment of the personality and playskill of its pilot, who sat drunkenly quiet through three games of insults as my opponent bashed me without relent. When it became directed more at me than my deck I considered responding, but I decided against it even when my opponent told me I would be the cause of him never playing another sanctioned game of magic and offering to sell me his deck. I wondered to myself why I would want to buy a slower and less pleasant combo deck, when I already had one that I really appreciated, but I figured he was not the sort to have answers to that sort of question and I choked it down with a few more sips from the flask. I returned to the small collective whom I was sworn to protect and was informed that my opponent has expressed similar sentiments in the past, and I decided that even if he did quit that I at least protected a younger and less thick skinned player from having to endure his abuse in the future. My victory was now bigger than a match win, it was a protective endeavor to keep other players from being killed by a combo player that so clearly disrespected other combo decks.
Round Three: Kyle with Dredge
I greet my opponent and face the decision to mulligan or keep a hand that makes 8 goblin tokens, on the draw, wondering if I might get to ten tokens of my draw or if I should throw back. I don’t know what my opponent is playing and while 8 goblins seems strong I am not confident, so I go to six and then five, according to my notes, which would have been able to cast turn one belcher if it had ESG instead of SSG. I lose a game that I would not have won with 8 goblin tokens and I decide not to worry, comfortably certain that I can take down the next two games if my charge to dispatch all foes for the good of the people is to stand. At this point my notes say that I did 90 damage to him on turn two, which seems vicious and appropriate in the face of a demonic force who so casually plays with dead things, and I set the screws in my head to making game three a success. If my memory serves correct it was not as difficult as it could have been, and it appears that I scrawled something about winning with sixteen goblin tokens cast on turn one. Seems like my mission of purification through vigilante justice was destined to continue unfettered.
Round Four: Kanan with White Weenie
My opponent is rather young and seems a little standoffish at first, but we exchange greetings and converse a little as we shuffle up. He wins the die roll and I wish him luck, wondering to myself if he is a true villain or perhaps just a misguided champion of some other cause caught in the crossfire, but when he summons a turn one weathered wayfarer I decide it doesn’t matter because I cannot take chances and potentially let my cause falter. Knowing I will never have more lands than he will to activate his creature, I still decide to get some guys of my own, and I summon sixteen goblins for the second time in a row on turn one. They get there without showing me any more cards, and I start to relax a little, even as I watch my opponent bring in 8 or 9 cards against me. I decide at this point that I am invincible, and I shuffle up only to mul to 5 and keep a hand that needs to draw a red source to win. A turn one needle actually makes no difference, nor does the one that later joins it or the runed halo, and I am fairly slowly dispatched by a stoneforge mystic with an umezawa’s jitte without ever casting a spell. This was a mistake on my part, probably a result of the intoxication, and I remind myself not to do it again in game three. I succeed in killing him on turn one, wish him luck, and head out into the wild of the room in search of friends and more liquid refreshment.
Round Five: Patrick Sullivan with Burn
I am unfamiliar with my opponent even though everyone else seems to know him, and I am later informed that not only should I as well but I also should have known what he was playing. I shrug it off and make a poor mulligan decision, eventually going to five cards and almost killing my opponent game one as he draws the lethal burn spell right before I shoot him. I am actually pretty excited by his deck and its efficiency, and I take no further notes though it appears I won game two on the first turn and summoned my army of vengeful friends from the warrens to close out game three quickly. At this point I realize that the villains I came to slay are surprisingly nice guys, the sort of guys you actually might let date your sister or that your girlfriend’s parents might be happy to see come to dinner, and once again I am left questioning whether or not I am the true monster. I decide that my success proves otherwise, knowing well that history is written by victors, and even if I am the more diabolical combatant that my victories will allow me to paint the story otherwise afterwards.
Round Six: Tim with a Dredge Variant
My opponent leads with an underground sea and a putrid imp in game one, a little to my confusion, but I decide kill him with my belcher before discovering what sort of no good he is up to. Game two he gets a couple zombies up early and is beating me down as I try to recover from mulling to five and getting nowhere, but I do not draw out of my predicament before I die.
Game three becomes the pinnacle of my crusade for the moment, and is also the last swiss game I play. I have a hand of SSG, Rite of Flame, Desperate Ritual, Manamorphose, LED, Goblin Charbelcher, and Empty the Warrens. I have to hit a mana source off the manamorphose to win, but I decide to keep after a realize I am more than four to one to draw what I need. I rip a lotus petal and shoot for lethal on turn one, dispatching another foe and moving into the rounds where I can draw into top 8.
Round Seven: Joe with Breakfast (DRAW)
Round Eight: Carlos with Merfolk (DRAW)
I end the swiss with 76 percent breakers, as many of my opponents were able to say that I was their only loss.
Top 8: Joe with Breakfast
I attempted to cast seething song on turn one and it got countered with FOW. I did the same on turn two and it got FOW again. I resolved a belcher on turn 5 and activated but missed, doing only 8 damage, and the following turn my opponent played his combo.
Game two I ran out a belcher from my hand of five only to meet another force of will, and he went off before I had a chance to do much. I wondered if eating and sobering up before top 8 was a mistake, but I loved the deck my opponent was playing and was happy to congratulate him on going further than I did.
So ends my quest, or at least the better part of it, even though it was many hours later that I finally arrived home, just in time to get ready for work. I had a great day and felt good about reuniting with my old one landed friend, and about getting to play so many games to such pleasant effectiveness even if I was mocked a few times about the lack of playskill required to make top 8 with such a deck in such a way that you would think it would be easy enough for everyone to always play it without being defeated.
I would like to congratulate Liam and Alex on their top 8 finishes, as well as Tony for making 32, along with the five of my swiss opponents that made top 16.
I would like to thank everyone who contributed positively to the day, who willingly dealt with my absurd banter, and who politely accepted defeat at the hands of my deck even if they felt a little jaded by losing to it. I would especially like to thank Caleb for keeping me Fueled for so long.
And finally, thanks everyone for reading. I dedicate this report to Jack, who didn’t think I could write anything longer than the last one. Bear in mind this is a rough draft, and if I took a few hours to expand it out I could push it well beyond ten thousand words rather than letting it rest at slightly less than five.
Actually, long introduction but Congratulations!
Enjoyed the indepth report, but maybe next time more Frazzled Editor.
You're a fuckin' alcoholic, but we love you man.
Congratz, next time don't forget to pack your anti-zombie and goblin sword
West Coast Legacy
Liam Kane, follow me on Twitter @liamdkane
Loved the intro, it was pretty entertaining.
Congrats on top 8ing
What an opening intro/story, that made your report epic. Grats on the top 8.
Congratz on top 8, I Was Sitting next to you when you beat that Solidarity player he seemed like a total ass iam glad you beat him lol.
Grats man, you were the bigger man shutting up against the trash talker. I've played against a couple before and it's best to just shut up and put him on tilt. If he wins, it's annoying as hell though. Glad you kicked his ass.
Congrats on the finish :D You are a great writer, I enjoyed the read haha.
As for the guy you faced 2nd round, I faced him 1st round. Also he was the guy that I used to idolize because back like eight years ago he was the super-good person at the store I played at. Of course back then I didn't notice but playing him 1st round, seeing him play someone else 3rd round, and reading your tournament report, made me realize that well he's a dick. So I'm glad you beat him... he's a great player (he beat his 3rd round opponent game 3 without any high tides) but I'd prefer less of people like him in the game.
Congrats on your finish. Thanks again for the jet medallion. Sucks that your solidarity opponent was such a dick, when solidarity is one of the most unfun decks to play against as they goldfish for 25 minutes before they kill you. At least belcher has the courtesy to kill your opponent on turn one, so they can go and get some food after the round.
Dude I can't wait to read the book. When's it coming out?
Anytime for the flask hits. Maybe if I had taken some more hits from it myself, I would have performed better...
Shades of Hunter S. Thompson...
Fun read, and good job in the event!
So you were the tall man with the tattoo on his arm? Huh, I mistook you for a friend of mine a few times. Sadly, I was piloting le 'Folk there, and while there was plenty of blue, none of it got passed to me. In short, cats eat fish.
Thanks everyone for the writing praise... it was a little rushed but I really enjoy writing so I try to put a lot of myself in it.
As for my round two opponent... I really minimized the true depth to which he was being a jerk, knowing that anyone else who played against him or around him would understand. If when I beat my junk opponent he was upset I would be a little more understanding, but when you are playing a goldfish deck as well and you complain, its just wrong. The only difference is I give my opponent time to come off tilt, trade, eat, joke, laugh, reflect, and in general return to humanity instead of wasting an hour of his life chaining blue spells. I have respect for the deck, just not that particular player, and it is perhaps the third time in the year I have been playing legacy where I felt that way about anyone, as the legacy format is full of some of the best people I have gotten to play against (reminiscent of why I used to love vintage so much.)
Yeah I was the tall guy with all the tats, alternating between the Down Hoodie and the Lovecraft T. Props to everyone who praised my shirts throughout the day as well, you guys are awesome.
My round three opponent wrote the match like this, which I think is significant and more detailed than my jargon:
In game one when he mulled to five on the play and did nothing I put him on combo. I played/disrupted accordingly and won.
I boarded in Force of Wills. Take out the slow stuff, for me that's Ichorid, Deep Analysis and the like. Second game I kept a decent hand, but without Force, and got hit for 80+ before I had a turn. For the third game I kept a solid hand with a first turn Therapy and able to flash it back the following turn. This is where I make another mistake, and this time it costs me the game. I Therapy, and name Charbelcher. I knew it was the wrong choice almost immediately. At the beginning of the game my opponent took a bit longer to decide upon keeping and made a comment on the fact (while he could have been bluffing, I still should have at least though to consider his actions). I didn't take this into consideration and miss, seeing an Empty the Warrens hand about to go off. He empties for 16 Goblins on his turn and I don't recover.
In hindsight it's easy to tell myself that I miscalled on my Therapy, but I still think I could have taken my opponent into consideration prior to naming a card.
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