It was time to take on the big challenge i’d been waiting for. The Mox invitational was an event held on a Sunday with the prize being a whole box of the latest set. This was a standard tournament which was four rounds with the winner getting an invite to the grand finals at the end of the season. I’d been playing in the showdowns for a while and was feeling confident but nervous. I know most people in Edinburgh are friendly, but it would be interesting to see how people played with such a prize on the line.
When I started my journey into Magic I was keen to get into the competitive side at some point. With the weeks of gathering cards and getting ready for my first PPTQ (preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier) before Christmas, my work schedule got in the way and I had to miss out. With that in mind I was excited for the next one until WoTC decided that PPTQ’s weren’t a thing anymore. It was an excellent stroke of luck that my local game store had picked up the slack and organised something as a replacement.
After thinking about the possible decks I could play throughout the week, I finally settled on playing on a variation of the White Weenies list. being able to splash blue for counter spells to help match ups against Control decks. This Azorius (White/Blue) Aggro list was similar to what I’d enjoyed playing online, as it was fast and creature based with a few key cards being able to make turn four/five wins a big possibility. The deck revolves around playing small creatures (dorks/weenies) in the early turns, then leading up to the power saga History of Benalia or a lord effect (something that effects all your creatures). In this case, Benalish Marshal (give your creatures +1/+1) to swing in for lethal damage early. This deck has a few short comings in that if someone else is playing a creature deck that goes bigger (Green decks in particular) then you can get overwhelmed fast. There are still a lot of creatures that keep every one of mine in check, so the plan was to stay low to the ground and push through early. Decks that contained a lot of sweepers would also be an issue, so adding in the new card Unbreakable Formation would give my board a way to stick around The deck contained a few removal enchantments and then the sideboard was the best way to interact with other decks. The new edition to the deckwas Tithe Taker, a 2/1 creature that on my turn, makes opponents spells cost one more mana to cast. This is a huge swing if they need to clear the board up on turn four with cards like Settle the Wreckage, as it can be a game changer if this comes down and they’d been holding on to their answers. It also has Afterlife one attached to it, which is a new mechanic from the Orzhov guild that leaves behind a 1/1 spirit token upon death. With lots of ways to get value even if the board was wiped I felt that I was positioned to hold my own against control.
Four rounds was a lot to take in at the time, I had made up some small notes whilst playing but the game reviews this time are mostly from recall due to being in the tank whilst I was playing.
I was happy that my first match up was against a close friend that I’d basically played every week since starting magic. We knew each other well and always are able to joke around when there is dead time or when the game is flowing well. Last time we’d seen each other he was sporting an Esper (Blue/Black/White) deck pre-expansion. I knew that most lists were control focused and the big win condition of Teferi was probably not going to come down as he was playing a version more tuned to hand hate. The most recent expansion had some great cards that were synergistic to Esper, with more sweepers being available and Thought Erasure being a powerful turn two play that can take out some of the best cards from my hand. Luckily my deck can play off the top quite well, with an early board in place it would be easy to push through the counter spells and force immediate answers to be used. The advantage that I was able to get game one was getting a clean History of Benalia down and then powering up everything with a Venerated Loxodon, a similar card to a lord effect but with the Selesnya mechanic of Convoke (Creatures can tap to help cast this spell). Elephant Jesus had done it and game one was over pretty fast.
Game two my opponent was able to side in a couple of threats that were going to be hard to get past. Basilica Bell-Haunt was a 3/4 creature for four mana that had a lot of upside. Not only was it a great blocker, but it also gained life and made me discard a card. The board was stalled out and I was in a bit of a panic as this threat was going to be difficult to outmaneuver. The lucky top deck of Ixialan’s Binding led to me being able to hold up a Negate and got me through. The Binding makes him unable to cast another to keep him alive, with the Negate being able to counter a mortify to bring it back.
This game was quick and we both laughed that his deck wasn’t fully tuned to beat aggro as he was missing a couple of sweepers. The deck played out fast was an impressive start. A quick win and 2-0 meant I was off to the best start possible.
Match two my opponent was playing a weird Sunbird’s Invocation deck. This match up was about him trying to do something big and flashy whilst not decking himself with card draw or being able to shuffle back all his cards. The first game I got crushed in unfortunately. I’d kept a risky hand and my board was wiped early which lead to me getting land screwed and not being able to keep up in tempo.
After sideboarding in my interaction and knowing that I had to have a good start to get ahead of the ramp deck, I was feeling a bit better about the match up. I started off in the usual fashion with a few creatures and even being able to get down Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants down that allowed me to return and pump my creatures up. The game was fast to end after that, being able to counter sweepers is a god send when your opponent is playing something that requires a combo. Deputy of Detention was an all star card here, where for three mana I could essentially binding his best enchantment and hold up a counter to stop it being removed.
Game three I had a blisteringly fast start with two History of Benalia and my opponent getting screwed on lands gave me a lot of chances to get ahead. I became the aggressor in a match up that I probably wasn’t favoured or meant to over extend into. It was a bit unfortunate that he flooded but he’d been going on about his deck was meant to beat aggro so I was surprised I was able to pull ahead and win.
With a 2-1 win I was sitting on an overall 2-0 win record, a great place to be at the mid point in the tournament.
This match up was against Mono Red and the new list was running less creatures and more burn. I was very worried about this deck and kept a slower hand in game one which gave my opponent a great chance to get ahead on board by using his cheap removal to clean up mine. He was then able to hit me for five with Ghitu Lavarunner and Viashino Pyromancers. I didn’t have a ton of life gain in the deck other than tokens that made 1/1 life links that were quickly dealt with and me shortly after.
Game two we were both off to a better start and I was trading well with his creatures meaning I was slightly ahead on the board, with turn three History of Benalia being answered by two shocks I was quickly behind on the board again. I had a couple of Deputy of Detentions waiting to come down on his two creatures and with a lucky land draw I was able to play the first one. Unfortunately, it was answered immediately with a Wizard’s Lightning. The next Deputy came down and I was feeling a lot better. My opponent was ahead on land and I thought he might be flooding out a bit. Shortly after I countered his card advantage spell but then disaster struck. Risk factor came down and I didn’t want to give up four life as I was sitting on around eight at this point. I gave him the cards which then he was able to take down my other deputy and then just straight up get through with a few more bolts.
After thinking over the match a bit I feel I shouldn’t have relied on the Deputy of Detentions too much, possibly playing them far to early or just cutting them altogether. My opponent did suggest he had drawn many of the answers off the top but I still should have had them in mind. So sitting on 2-1 it was time for standings.
At this point I was sitting at third place, with my previous opponent in second and someone else in first place.
This was an interesting point to be in, my opponent mentioned that since we were ahead it was up to fifth and sixth to see if he’d drop out of the top four play off. Since both of us hadn’t draw a match so far in the tournament we had actual points on the board. Wins were counting for three and draws only as one point.
We couldn’t figure out the standings so decided to start playing whilst we heard fifth place had got a win (who also happened to be the player I beat in the second round who was still being a bit too arrogant).
My opponent was playing a Rakdos (Red/Black) burn deck. This list was similar to Mono Red with a few bigger creatures that were demons and also had a lot of the same burn Spells. Normally aggressive decks play out quick and I’d never faced this opponent before but he was a really nice person so we had a long game in the first match that was extremely back and forth. We were both playing creatures out and trading to chip each other down to a lower life total. After a while, Spawn of Mayhem came down which was going to be a massive threat. This is a new card that deals one damage on your upkeep but if your are below ten life it gains +1/+1 each turn. I knew this was going to be the game changer. I had a removal spell in hand but was saving it as the damage was becoming less incremental and closer to lethal. I had a spirit token ready to block and although the demon didn’t had trample (something I wasn’t fully accounting for) I knew that if my blocker was removed it would swing in and hurt for a lot. Luckily my wide board state and Loxodon was able to stop all of the spot removal. My opponent decided to go for the massive swing and we worked out I’d be on three whilst he was on two with only the spawn to block next turn. We laughed at how close the game was.
Game two played out in a similar fashion, we had both been playing our creatures and luckily no early Spawn of Mayhem came down. I’d learnt from previous mistakes that the deputy might not be as much use this game and with creatures such as Rakdos Firewheeler being about, I didn’t want to play into any traps. We had both been removing creatures and swinging our larger threats in that would cause both to either have disadvantageous blocks or take a substantial amount of damage. After a few more minutes of us both looking at the board state time on the round was called. This meant there were five more turns of play to finish off the match or it would conclude as a draw. We’d been discussing the standings throughout the game and it was clear that since I’d won game one a draw would keep us both ahead at this point. I was looking down at the board and was convinced I had lethal on the board but my opponent had been an absolute joy to play against and any removal would have lead to a change in the board state so we shook hands and took the draw.
Afterwards I asked to see his hand and noticed I’d probably have had the 2-0 but felt that a new friendship and sportsmanship was better than getting further ahead in a one time event to be honest. The thing about magic is that on paper it’s not like an online game. There isn’t any walls or anonymity. It was the reason I wanted to start Magic in the first place was to meet new people and have fun. The match itself was a blast and the company was great so semi taking a knee was really a plus rather than being even more in third.
Top Four Play Off
I’d made it into the finals, something that in itself was an achievement I was pretty chuffed about. The three others were two of my previous opponents (Rakdos/Mono Red) and the current first place in the standings which was a Jeskai (White/Blue/Red) Control deck.
I’d played against this opponent before and he was very good. Knowing when to play out spells and hold up mana for certain plays is a key part of the game and in both I was quickly taken care of. Jeskai was a deck I wasn’t expecting to see and I should have been more prepared for it. After looking back at the matches I can honestly say that I did my best, I held up counter spells when I had them and wasn’t over extending into board wipes. My favourite card Niv Mizzet, Parun is an amazing answer to my deck and my opponent was able to do a lot of work once reaching six mana to cast him. I knew that the Jeskai deck was basically an Aggro Killer so I didn’t mind the quick games an he went on to win the tournament.
Third place was a great finish and I was extremely pleased with how I’d played. It turned out that since the winner had already qualifed for a previous event and because we were a tournament of twelve that third place counted as half a win, so I might still be in for a chance at the finals.
For future games I think the changes I would make would be reincluding Adanto Vanguard and more Unbreakable Formation. Both cards are difficult to interact with and the Formation can be played both Proactively and reactivity which makes it even more effective in game one.