This past weekend I finished in third place at the World Magic Cup Qualifier in Philadelphia piloting a Monowhite Devotion deck built primarily by Justin Heilig. The deck was very good and I would recommend it to anyone for this weekend. I made a few changes and today I'm going to discuss those changes as well as how my tournament went and how to sideboard with the deck. Then I will close with some personal reflections on an area of my own game that I need to work on.

This is the list I played:

DECKID=1247938

I played Jared Sherman's Monowhite Tokens deck at Grand Prix San Diego a couple weeks ago and wrote about the tournament here and the deck here (including videos). It played reasonably well, but was missing a few key ingredients. That's when Justin Heilig messaged me with a monowhite list he had been tuning that had more of a devotion focus instead of a token focus. We all worked together on the deck for the following week and decided on the above 75 I was happy with the deck for the WMCQ. The deck played great, but unfortunately I did not play at the top of my game in the semifinals and ended up losing because of it. Here are how my rounds went:

Rd 1: Win Abzan Hangarback
Rd 2: Win GR Devotion
Rd 3: Win Abzan Hangarback
Rd 4: Loss Abzan Aggro (Andy Boswell)
Rd 5: Win Abzan Hangarback
Rd 6: Win UB Control
Top 8: Win RB Dragons
Top 4: Loss GW Megamorph

The finals would have been a rematch against Andy Boswell for a spot on the US National Team, with me on the play in game one since I was the top seed after swiss.

Cards I would change:

-1 Kytheon, Hero of Akros
-1 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
-1 Spear of Heliod
-1 Foundry of the Consuls

+1 Mastery of the Unseen (move to main from SB)
+1 Wingmate Roc (move to main from SB)
+1 Soldier of the Pantheon
+1 Plains

SB: +1 Revoke Existence
SB: +1 Valorous Stance

Leaving us with the following...

DECKID=1247939

Sideboard Guide

Abzan Aggro
-4 Mastery of the Unseen
-3 Banishing Light
-1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos

+1 Valorous Stance
+3 Celestial Flare
+2 Glare of Heresy
+2 Elspeth, Sun's Champion (if Hangarback Walker) or +2 Surge of Righteousness (if Rakshasa Deathdealer)

GW Megamorph
-4 Mastery of the Unseen
-3 Banishing Light

+1 Valorous Stance
+2 Glare of Heresy
+2 Elspeth, Sun's Champion
+2 Tragic Arrogance

Abzan Control
-1 Banishing Light
-1 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
-1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos

+1 Valorous Stance
+2 Glare of Heresy

UW/x Heroic
+1 Banishing Light
+1 Valorous Stance
+2 Glare of Heresy
+3 Celestial Flare
+2 Elspeth, Sun's Champion

-2 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
-2 Kytheon, Hero of Akros
-3 Wingmate Roc
-1 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
-1 Mastery of the Unseen

UR Mill
+1 Banishing Light
+2 Revoke Existence

-3 Valorous Stance

UR Ensoul Artifact
+1 Banishing Light
+2 Revoke Existence
+2 Tragic Arrogance

-4 Mastery of the Unseen
-1 Kytheon, Hero of Akros

Esper Dragons
+3 Celestial Flare
+2 Elspeth, Sun's Champion

-1 Valorous Stance
-4 Wingmate Roc

UB Control
+1 Banishing Light
+2 Celestial Flare (if Silumgar, the Drifting Death) or +2 Elspeth, Sun's Champion (if no Silumgar, the Drifting Death)

-3 Valorous Stance

GW/x Constellation
+1 Banishing Light
+2 Revoke Existence
+2 Glare of Heresy
+2 Tragic Arrogance

-3 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
-1 Valorous Stance
-1 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
-2 Soldier of the Pantheon

Red Aggro
+1 Banishing Light
+2 Surge of Righteousness
+3 Celestial Flare

-3 Valorous Stance
-2 Wingmate Roc
-1 Foundry of the Consuls

BR/x Dragons
+1 Banishing Light
+3 Celestial Flare
+2 Elspeth, Sun's Champion
+2 Surge of Righteousness (if on draw against Goblin Rabblemaster)

-3 Valorous Stance
-1 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
-1 Soldier of the Pantheon
-1 Wingmate Roc

RG Dragons
+3 Celestial Flare
+2 Elspeth, Sun's Champion
+2 Tragic Arrogance

-3 Valorous Stance
-1 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
-2 Soldier of the Pantheon
-1 Wingmate Roc

GR Devotion
+1 Banishing Light
+1 Valorous Stance
+2 Tragic Arrogance

-4 Soldier of the Pantheon

Jeskai
+1 Banishing Light
+1 Surge of Righteousness
+1 Glare of Heresy
+3 Celestial Flare
+2 Elspeth, Sun's Champion

-3 Valorous Stance
-1 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
-3 Hangarback Walker
-1 Soldier of the Pantheon


Reflection on Self-Improvement

In the semifinals against Joel Sadowksky (GW Megamorph) I made two critical mistakes that cost me the match. In game one I don't recall the exact board but it was approximately:

Joel had three creatures on the battlefield (Deathmist Raptor, a 2/1 Den Protector, and a Fleecemane Lion), five lands (including a Mana Confluence), four cards in hand, and was at seven life. He taps three of his five lands to play a morph (very likely Den Protector) with Deathmist Raptor and Dromoka's Command in the graveyard.

I have seven total creatures on the battlefield, including two Thopter Tokens, three Knight of the White Orchids, a Soldier of the Pantheon, and a face down Archangel of Tithes that I manifested off Mastery of the Unseen the previous turn. I'm at 17 life with no cards in hand. I untap and draw Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit. Seeing that his plan is very likely to flip Den Protector to get Deathmist Raptor back from the graveyard before blocks, my plan was to attack with everything and then flip Archangel of Tithes after he taps out so he cannot block anything and he takes lethal damage.

But then I did some Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx math and saw that if I flip Archangel pre-combat I would have the devotion necessary to cast Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit and manifest twice, pumping each of my Thopter Tokens. And if I don't flip Archangel pre-combat he could block and then cast Dromoka's Command from hand if he has another one, which would leave me in a bad spot. So I flipped it pre-combat and then he cast Valorous Stance on my Archangel after I attacked with everything, leaving himself at two life. He then untapped, flipped Den Protector to rebuy Dromoka's Command, got back Deathmist Raptor, fought one of my creatures, and had me sacrifice Mastery of the Unseen. I then drew five lands in a row and died to a Boon Satyr attached to Den Protector.

If I had not rushed my play on the final turn and instead thought about the likelihood that he blocks before tapping out to get Deathmist Raptor back, I would have seen that he has no good blocks. He would go to one life and not be able to tap his Mana Confluence anymore. He was basically not in a position to play around the small chance that my manifest was Archangel of Tithes and so I was in a position to win the game with my initial play that I was going to make. But instead of making it I rushed my play and went with an alternate line without adequately comparing it to the play I should have made.

Then, after winning game two, I found myself in a winning position again in game three. I had stabilized at three life and was ticking up Elspeth, Sun's Champion each turn. I had her up to six counters. The whole game I had been playing around Tragic Arrogance but unable to beat Tragic Arrogance + removal spell. I was also thinking if he played Den Protector and then cast Boon Satyr on it I wouldn't be able to stop it. So I decided to play Wingmate Roc so that the following turn I could attack with some number of creatures to gain life and stay out of range of Tragic Arrogance + removal spell or Den Protector threatening Boon Satyr bestow. So far my thinking was correct, but then right before I played the Wingmate Roc I decided there was no reason not to trigger raid by attacking a Soldier Token into his Deathmist Raptor. So I attack with the soldier...and he didn't block it!!!

I had momentarily forgotten why I wanted to cast the Wingmate Roc without triggering raid (because I was playing around Tragic Arrogance). As soon as he took the damage I knew I threw it all away and was about to get beat by Tragic Arrogance. Sure enough we went through the motions and he left me with a tapped Soldier Token and an Elspeth at six loyalty before attacking me for lethal with a 3/3 Deathmist Raptor. He even had the presence of mind to sacrifice his 4/4 Deathmist Raptor to the Tragic Arrogance in order to play around Valorous Stance. Joel played better than I did that match and therefore deserved to beat me.

After the match I felt sick to my stomach, a feeling I remember all too well from some of the most important matches of my career. I spent the next few hours in solitude reflecting on what happened, why it happened, and what I can do to prevent it from happening again. Ultimately I determined that I have a recurring shortcoming in my game that I need to work on. I have a tendency to speed through key moments in a game, moments that I had spent most or all the game working toward. To prevent this recurring problem from continuing, I need to spend more time making sure the key play on the key turn is carried out according to plan and to not rush through it or switch to a new plan without giving the new plan adequate thought.

In the wise words of Reid Duke from an article he wrote five months ago, "It's completely unacceptable to blunder when you're so close to a win. You should always take your time and make sure you execute your plays in the best way you can, particularly if it's on the deciding turn of the game".

I say this is a recurring hole in my game because it has happened multiple times in the past at key moments in some very important matches of my career. In the quarterfinals of my first Grand Prix Top 8 (Minneapolis 2001) I had several turns to draw a burn spell to kill my opponent. Then on the last possible turn I finally drew the burn spell and immediately played it without thinking about what to play around. My opponent then cast two copies of Evasive Action to counter the spell. If I had played my land first before casting the burn spell I would have been able to pay for both copies of Evasive Action but instead I lost the game and match. To that point in my career it was the biggest match I'd ever played and I punted because I rushed through the final turn. I felt sick to my stomach and the feeling did not go away anytime soon.

Then, in the Top 8 of Worlds 2011 against Conley Woods (video here), game five of the quarterfinal came right down to the wire and the board was complex. My key decision was whether to play Timely Reinforcements or Fiend Hunter. After tanking for a full 30-40 seconds on my play I was still doing math about which cards I could play around and how combat would unfold over the next two turns. So I rushed myself before I could come up with the right play and chose Fiend Hunter. This ended up giving Conley an opportunity to draw Glint Hawk to barely pull ahead in the race and win the match. If I had cast Timely Reinforcements instead, he would have had no way to keep me from winning the match the following turn. Had I spent an extra 15-20 seconds finishing the math instead of rushing myself, I would have very likely arrived at the correct play and advanced to the semifinals. Instead I lost and my tournament was over. I remember leaving the table with that same feeling I had from Minneapolis.

I can handle losing. It happens to everyone. It's just extra difficult when the loss is the direct result of a mistake on the pivotal turn of the game. I threw away the quarterfinals of my first Grand Prix Top 8, I threw away the quarterfinals of my first World Championship Top 8, and now I threw away the semifinal of my first WMCQ Top 8. In each of these cases I rushed myself unnecessarily at a key moment in the game. Everyone has room for improvement, and I am certainly no exception. I'm going to work hard to improve this area of my game by making Reid's advice my mantra in those spots: "Don't rush!"

What areas of your game are you working to improve?

Craig Wescoe
@Nacatls4Life on twitter