Aw, the largest SCG invitational ever and I was invited to play in it. It had been awhile since I've played in a big event like this. And so it began.
Round one I get paired against a Monoblack Pox player and lose pretty horribly. It wasn't exactly how I wanted to start my day but it was what it was. I wasn't very upset, maybe it's because I don't get to play Magic as much as I used to, and when I do I just enjoy playing it, or maybe it was because I was hanging out with friends I hadn't seen in a while and I was just happy to be there. Regardless of what it was, I didn't really let it get it to me and continued to play my matches. Round two I play against Will Chanaberry playing Temur Twin and in game three he had resolved a Cryptic Command that swung the game pretty heavily but he had cast it without having the right mana. It was pointed out by a friend watching the match, but at the time it was too late to Rewind so it was ruled the game would play out from there. After he won the match he told me he was going to concede. I tried telling him that it wasn't needed and that it wasn't a big deal, but he insisted and told me to go win. I preceded to not lose another match in Modern and ended the day at 6-2. Not the best record but I was in for Day 2.
Going into Day 2 I didn't think about Top 8ing the event. I just played every round as best as I could with as few mistakes as possible. I was leaning on Magic Online as a crutch for all my triggers and all my opponent's triggers, so I needed to buckle down and focus. Ended up only losing one match during the Modern portion and we were moving on to the Standard portion. Luckily I've been playing Naya Dragons for quite a while now so I was very comfortable with the deck. Not saying it was the best deck in the room, but I just knew it very well. I knew what I needed to do in all my matchups and how to board against each one. I sat down for my first round and take a mulligan, then see players to my right and left playing Heroic variants; I just prayed I wasn't playing against that. I dodged a bullet and played against Jeskai Tokens instead. Every game was insanely close, but I managed to pull through. I only started thinking about Top 8 as I got called for more and more feature matches and before you know it, I'm playing for my win-and-in against Esper Dragons. I end up sealing the deal with a Xenagos, God of Revels and Dragonlord Atarka. I hear a 16/16 flying, hasty trampler is pretty good at that.
As soon as I made Top 8 I gave my buddy Justin Parnell a hug and told him, "I'm gonna win this whole thing man."
"Yes, yes you are," he replied.
I felt that way not because of arrogance, but because the top eight was best three out of five and I got to see my opponent's decklists. You know how important it is for Tron to know what to bring in or not? Seeing that your opponent isn't play Fulminator Mage, Blood Moon, or Sowing Salts is huge. I didn't have to debulk my main deck for pesky things like Nature's Claim or Crucible of Worlds. I didn't have to play the guessing game. I knew if I could just search for more Urza's Towers or if I should hold this Sylvan Scrying because of a land destruction spell and I was pumped for that. My friends and I immediately proxied the deck I was playing against and began to jam games to better understand how their deck works and how to board correctly against them. And it paid off, big time.
The next day I was pretty confident going against JB Milo playing Abzan Company. I was very favored game one and after board it got a little rougher for me, but I was still favored overall. I mulliganed to five and ended up losing the first game and just hoped I didn't mull to crap the rest of the games. Luckily I didn't and ended up winning. Milo is an amazing player and someone to keep an eye on. That kid is going to go far; he's wise beyond his years and I really enjoyed playing against him.
After winning the match, as I exited and made my way to the restroom, I looked over and saw my best friend Justin Parnell working by himself and proxying up my next opponent's deck. At that moment I just felt extremely lucky to have him as a friend. It was almost as if he wanted me to win more than I wanted win. He's an amazing guy and I'm very thankful for him. Honestly if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have won the event. He made sure I knew how to sideboard correctly and helped me learn the matchups for the whole Top 8. And because of that I was able to take down the whole thing.
First off I just want to say I couldn't afford a Modern deck at the time. So I literally borrowed the whole deck from a friend of mine named, Chris Ingram. My Tron lands were mismatched and, while it was annoying at times, I didn't really worry about it. But it came back to bite me here. In my Semifinals match I played against Richard Adams playing Merfolk. In a game I had Urza's Power Plant and Urza's Tower in play. So I cast Sylvan Scrying and tutored up Urza's Mine, the last Tron land I needed. I then proceeded to say, "Urza's Mine" and played a land. Then I tapped my Tron lands to produce a bunch of mana. What nobody noticed was that I had not in fact played Urza's Mine, but instead played another Urza's Power Plant with different art. When it was caught I had to take back my Karn Liberated play and Richard and I both got warnings. I was still able to play said Karn because I then played the mine and assembled Urza Tron. But the damage had been done. In the next game I was on tilt from that and ended up tapping something like 11 mana to blow up my Oblivion Stone because I thought I didn't have Tron, but I did. And that cost me to lose the game in a horrific fashion, because I could've played a lot more spells with that mana. After this match was over the lands were replaced to be matching for the Finals against CVM.
Going into the Finals matchup I felt like I had no chance to win and tweeted, "I can never beat Bloom." I walked over to the Finals match dejected and I was stopped by Justin Parnell again and he told me that it wasn't over and to stop acting like it was (I'm using nicer words, but you get the point). And he was right. I put my man pants on and I was going to play the best I could. I had played this matchup a lot because I was going to play Amulet Bloom for this tournament but opted to play Tron instead. So I knew how it played out and what Bloom needed in order to win. I was able to barely keep CVM off Hive Mind game one until I was able to summon Emrakul to clean things up. Game two was an insane game where I ended up dealing with all four of his Primeval Titans thanks to Spellskite and Wurmcoil Engines. Tron has more raw power than Bloom, but Bloom is usually much faster. Luckily I was able to Ghost Quarter him at the right times and every time he had an Amulet of Vigor out I was able to Nature's Claim it before he could do any shenanigans. Game three he didn't explode out of the gates and I was able to gain control with Ghost Quarters and Karn Liberated. I had just swept a bad matchup. It was bittersweet though. I was extremely happy I won, but I also empathized with CVM. I knew how it felt to lose in the Finals of a tournament and I told him that. I congratulated him on his finish then got a bear hug from Justin. That's when it all slowly started to sink in. I had just won the biggest Invitational in history and I was going to be immortalized in a token. For those that don't know, I ended up picking to be an Angel Token and I'm excited to see Kristen Plescow's results.
Decks I Piloted
While this deck is very powerful, it's also easy to hate out if people really want to hate you out. I honestly wouldn't recommend this deck for a while. Things need to cool off because everyone and their mom is ready for it. I wanted to play a different deck for GP Charlotte but I didn't quite end up getting all the cards for it. So I played RG Tron again and ended up playing against maindeck Fulminator Mages, Ghost Quarters, Sowing Salt, and Boom // Bust. I don't even want to get into the sideboard hate. Not only that, but people were also playing decks that were heavily favored against Tron like Infect, Twin, and Burn. I didn't make day two and I wasn't at all surprised. Oh well, always next time!
The deck I played in the Standard portion of the event was Naya Dragons. It was a list originally given to me by Darryl Donaldson. I've been championing this deck for over a month now and I've been telling people to play it because it was very good. I even wrote an article about it a while ago where I said, "I think this deck is amazing. Not only is it a "new" or "rogue" deck, but I seriously believe it's one of the best decks in the current metagame." And it was. Here's that list.
The deck is very powerful, but the meta has shifted again and people know about this deck now. You can no longer just Xenagos, God of Revels people out of nowhere with Dromoka and Atarka. They see it coming and will play accordingly. I personally am laying off this deck for now. It did what it was supposed to, but I feel like it's no longer the best choice without some changes. Stormbreath Dragon is a problem and Ashiok control decks are on the rise along with Heroic style decks, and this deck doesn't fair to well against them. Don't get me wrong, it can definitely beat them, but it no longer has its "rogue" factor and the matchups will be an uphill battle. Don't worry, I'll be working on Standard and will hopefully get back to you next week with a sweet deck!
Before I go I seriously want to thank everyone for the huge support and kind words that were given to be during the tournament and after I won. It really did mean a lot to me and made me feel all emotional and stuff. I also would like to thank Frank and everyone at TCG for having me as a writer and being great to me, you guys rock! I would also like to thank Chris Ingram for loaning me the Tron deck and a huge, huge thanks to Chad Himes for supporting me by letting me test on his Magic Online account. Honestly, without it, I couldn't provide the decks or results that I've been providing recently. Thanks to Justin Parnell for being there for me through thick and thin; you're seriously an amazing person and I love you man. I'd also like to thank Amberly Goins, my girlfriend, for the support and encouragement she has given me. Love you, babe. Last but not least, I wanna thank you, the reader. If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't be writing any of this. You guys are amazing and thank you for following me on my journey through Magic.
Love you all,Ali
P.S. First MTG Dad to win a large Magic event?