Howdy folks! This here is a fairly special event: today’s article is presented to you by not one, not two, but three different authors! Joe Dyer, Dennis Gabriels, and Harrison Stoddart are each here to talk about the experience of playing in a Team Constructed event, specifically StarCityGames Cincinnati!
Before we dive into the meat of the article and each of us has a chance to go over our experiences, lemme first talk about how this all came about.
I had been considered for part of a team locally for the Team Open. Unfortunately, due to some issues, I was left without a team. The more I spoke with the Strictly Average Patron chat about it, the more it became a distinct possibility that we could assemble a team from within our ranks.
Dennis was the first to say “Hey I’m gonna play Modern for you.” He agreed to drive all the way from Boone, North Carolina to Dayton, OH so we could make this happen. This left us in need of a Standard player. One of the other patron members, Harrison, looked at his schedule. He decided it was in the cards for him to make the trip from Canada to the US for the weekend.
Thus, Team Strictly Average was born.
Over the next few weeks things began to accelerate. We came up with a Modern list for Dennis to play. Harrison and I put in time rep testing in our formats. Suddenly, the event was here!
The main event itself was Team Trios Constructed. For those unfamiliar, Team Trios is a format where each team is comprised of three players, one for each format (Standard / Modern / Legacy). All three players sit side-by-side, facing their respective format opponents. The whole team wins as soon as two matches on one side of the table are won (meaning that the third game is abandoned unless it’s the game-deciding win).
In addition, team members (as long as all team members do not leave the vicinity of the match for any reason) are able to communicate with each other and discuss plays and mulligan decisions.
SCG Cincy was an Open, so in order to progress to Day 2 through 9 rounds on Day 1, teams needed to have a record of 21 points or greater (X-2 or greater).
Unfortunately for us at Team Strictly Average, the wheels fell off slightly early, leading us into a very early 0 – 3 drop finish. Each player in the team will get a chance to talk about their matches and how this event went. All in all, despite the finish, we all felt we played as best as we could despite a few punts here or there. The matchup lottery definitely punished us to an extent. Regardless of the finish, there are always things to take away and learn for future competitive events. We consistently kept in mind that we were having fun and enjoying each other’s company while doing so.
After the main event, we met up with two other members of the Strictly Average patron chat, and got a chance to take a picture together!
After some lunch and some refreshing, we each went off to do side events and enjoy the rest of the day.
Now, let’s dive into each of our player’s experiences for this weekend!
For the main event, I sat in the Legacy seat. I chose to play Legacy Scapewish (which I wrote about recently on this very website). Let’s take a look at the decklist!
Legacy Scapewish – Joe Dyer
I had been relatively settled on this list for some time, since I’ve been continually playing and improving upon my play with the deck for several months. It was a no brainer to go with what I felt was comfortable to me.
Playing the deck still felt great, and I feel like it definitely is very strong competitively, but I did make a few misplays in Round 1 specifically.
Let’s take a brief look at my rounds.
R1 vs 4C Loam (LOSS 1-2)
So, Aggro Loam (or 4C Loam) is a pile of cards strung together by Life from the Loam, Chalice of the Void, and Punishing Fire primarily. It’s major threats tend to be cards like Liliana of the Veil and Dark Confidant.
Game 1 – I am able to establish a solid board presence with this game, and grind back and forth pretty heavily until I am able to whittle my opponent out of the game. Nissa, Vastwood Seer and Nissa, Vital Force played a huge role in the grind fest of this game, since flipping Nissa in the same turn as playing her gave me the ability to really dig through my library.
Game 2 – I get out to a bad start and get punished by it and his Leyline of the Void for most of the game.
Game 3 – The grindiest game of the day and probably one of the most interesting game that takes us into turns. This is the game where I feel I misplayed the most however, and lost my patience. My major punt here was a late game Green Sun’s Zenith in turns that should have gotten a Thragtusk to try to stabilize and instead gets me a Carnage Tyrant. My opponent flips a Liliana off their Bob the following turn and I am severely punished for it. Unfortunately, I am also the last team member still playing their game, and my opponent is able to squeak through the win.
R2 vs Depths Reanimator Shell (LOSS 1-2)
Game 1 – I get out of the gate with some solid discard spells, and manage to snag two Smallpox out of his hand. He is left with not much in hand and has a Tabernacle in play. I untap and pay for my Veteran Explorer, hit him to put him to 18, sac the Explorer to Cabal Therapy to fetch up enough lands to throw a Scapeshift at his face.
Game 3 – I get stuck on two lands with 3 Veteran Explorers in play and no way to get rid of them. He manages to discard me out of the game with Raven’s Crime and I have no answers when he does assemble Marit Lage.
R3 vs BR Reanimator
My opponent is running one of my utmost loathed matchups, Black/Red Reanimator. This deck can easily stick a Turn 1 Griselbrand.
Game 1 – He mulligans a bit and appears to be stuck on a quick creature, giving me time to assemble a little. When he finally does make a Griselbrand and draws a bunch of a cards off of it, I am able to hit him with an Innocent Blood. He makes another Griselbrand and I am able to hit Eternal Witness to get back Innocent Blood. From there I swing with small dudes and Thragtusk to end the game.
Game 2 – I manage to Surgical a Griselbrand, but have to do so in response to a Thoughtseize and he is able to snag a Chancellor of the Annex instead. I scramble to find an answer to the Chancellor, but am unable to before I die.
Game 3 – This game ends up being played mostly for fun, because my two teammates had lost their matches as we were shuffling up for Game 3, so my opponent and I just decided to play it out for fun. I get stuck and stumble a bit and lose to a few reanimated fatties.
Regardless of the event’s performance I felt fairly happy with how I played other than the match against 4C Loam. The late game GSZ definitely should have been for a Thragtusk; I definitely feel like I let my team down in that scenario by not at least playing towards the inevitable draw and getting ahead of myself. This is the biggest crutch of playing Legacy is that tiny bad play decisions, even if they seem inconsequential, can add up and lead to a loss over the course of a game.
After having lunch with the guys and reassembling my thoughts I dove into a Modern Challenge side event! For those of you at home who just exclaimed “Wait, you play Modern??” The answer is yes, yes I do. The list I assembled for the Modern event is a list my friend Kevin McKee and I have been playing around with, a Jund-inspired Scapeshift list we’ve called “Master Shift”
Master Shift – Joseph Dyer
All I have to say about this deck is “man, it was sweet to play.” Over the four rounds I went 2 – 2, beating Mardu Pyromancer and Grixis Control with losses to GR Ponza (despite nearly winning a very close Game 3) and Surge Node/Paradox Engine Combo (honestly I wasn’t even mad about this, because holy cow the deck was sweet to watch go off).
That’s all I have for this event, so now I’m gonna turn the mic over to Dennis Gabriels!
After Joe told me his original plan to form a team fell apart, I decided to join him as the Modern player for the Team Open. After some debate, we decided I was going to play a blue control list and hash out details after the banlist announcement in February. When Jace, the Mind-Sculptor got unbanned, we knew we were going to fit him into our list. We kept a close eye on the metagame to see how the various control lists adapted to the new environment. We eventually settled on the following list:
Jeskai Control – Dennis Gabriels
Round 1: Traverse Shadow
Game 1: I keep a solid hand with 3 lands and 4 interactive spells. My opponent wins the die roll and starts with Mishra’s Bauble, Thoughtseize turn 1, and Bauble, Thoughtseize turn 2. Turn 3 he plays a threat which eats my Lightning Bolt, Turn 4 he has no action, which allows me to drop my Jace, the Mind Sculptor on an empty board on my 4th turn. I fateseal my opponent to put Jace out of Bolt range. My opponent sees no threat turn 5 and I fateseal again, denying my opponent access to his 4th land. On my own turn 6, Jace gets joined by Elspeth, and my opponent is unable to recover.
Game 2: My opponent plays 1 Thoughtseize, but I find Path to Exile with Serum Visions, which deals with his turn 3 Death’s Shadow. I manage to flip a Search for Azcanta while controlling the board, and once I resolve Elspeth I take over the game.
Round 2: Grixis Shadow
Game 1: I am able to fight on the back of a Path to Exile, but am unable to find enough removal to deal with Gurmag Angler and Death’s Shadow. My opponent attacks me and has a Temur Battle Rage for lethal
Game 2: I keep a solid hand with plenty of interaction. My opponent has no discard, but is able to play Liliana, the Last Hope on turn 3. This starts his engine and he is able to cast several threats which I manage to kill via Path to Exiles. When he presents lethal with Death’s Shadow, I cast Jace with Dispel backup (he tried countering with Stubborn Denial). I bounce his Shadow, and Jace eats a Kolaghan’s Command which also returns an Angler. On his turn he plays both threats, but I manage to topdeck Elspeth to create 3 soldiers and chump block them. He is unable to push any damage through and scoops to Supreme Verdict.
Game 3: Joe and Harrison already lost their matches, so we did not play Game 3.
Round 3: Jund
Game 2: I keep a solid hand and drop a turn 2 Search for Azcanta, but my opponent happens to have her single copy of Abrupt Decay in her hand. When she resolves Liliana turn 3, I am unable to find any Paths or Snapcaster Mages and slowly die to Tarmogoyf.
Overall, I felt happy with the deck, and while in all 3 matchups the Bolts and Helixes where underwhelming, I feel that they give you a lot of game in other matchups. Control is still well positioned and has matchups against most decks in the field (testing against Tron the night before I was able to fight it fairly well in every post board game).
I want to give a shout-out to Joe and his family for his hospitality. Also, thank you Joe and Harrison for putting up with my neverending deck changes and requests for feedback! I dubbed myself the least prepared teammate, and wouldn’t have been as prepared as I was without your input. I will definitely want to have either/both of you on my team again.
Also, thanks to Zach and Nate for showing up. I had a great time talking to you and getting to know you better. Grabbing some burgers and beers after the event with all of us was without a doubt the highlight of my weekend!!!
Lastly, props to Elspeth; I won every game where I resolved her, and she has been a powerhouse for me as long as I have played control!
While most of you probably know Dennis and Joe, you probably don’t know me. At least not by Harrison. On Discord you would know me as Zadan. This was my first time playing in the main tournament of a large event. I was in the standard seat for the main event. After testing several different archetypes, I decided to focus my efforts on the God-Pharaoh’s Gift archetype. It was what I found the most fun, and suited to my playstyle. From there I went from Esper to Jeskai and even dabbled with a Bant build for a bit before settling back in on Esper for the event. My final list, settled on about 3 weeks prior to the event, looked something like this.
Esper God-Pharaoh’s Gift – Harrison Stoddart
1 Cast Out
A quick note on the list before delving into the matches. I really wish I had gone with Ravenous Chupacabra over Hostage Taker. In initial testing I was not impressed by Hostage Taker; it would come down and my opponent would just untap and destroy the Hostage Taker to get their creature back. I had eventually decided to switch back to them, but was disappointed every time I drew one during the event. Without further ado, on to the matches.
R1 vs RB Aggro (Loss 1-2)
Game 1 – I keep a decent hand with removal and creatures. My opponent mulligans to 5 but I have a slow start and the game goes back and forth. He has a fairly quick start with a double Bomat Courier hand. Eventually he lands a Hazoret; since I can’t find an answer for it he closes out the game.
I had a slight hiccup with sideboarding; when I went to sideboard I realized I was missing the Fatal Push out of my sideboard. I ended up calling a judge on myself. Thankfully because nothing illegal had happened I did not receive a game loss. Instead the judge’s decision was that we just play it out as-is, and verify what card was missing from my sideboard after the round was over. I was incredibly relieved at the call that was made by the judge. Even though I had double checked my deck and sideboard that morning I still did not catch that I was missing the Fatal Push. My advice is to triple check everything.
Game 2 – I keep a really strong hand that contains Authority of the Consuls. This is my strongest sideboard card against aggro. He keeps a 7 card hand and we begin. I’m on the play with a tap land. He plays a land with no 1 drop. I untap and play a 1 drop and my Authority of the Consuls. From there I just find removal and stonewall him with my Authority of the Consuls and board presence. Eventually I made a God-Pharaoh’s Gift with a Refurbish, and had an Angel of Invention in my graveyard. He concedes.
Game 3 – I keep an really strong hand with 4 lands; a little land heavy, but it’s fine. Besides lands my hand contains a Settle the Wreckage, a Fatal Push, and most importantly an Authority of the Consuls. My opponent keeps a hand of 7. I open on an Authority of the Consuls, and eventually sweep away a board of 4 creatures with my Settle the Wreckage and use my Fatal Push. This loss was heartbreaking because I drew eight straight lands. I found no more action besides what was in my starting hand and eventually lost when I ran out of removal.
RB aggro is typically a matchup where I’m slightly favoured, especially post board. That said, drawing only lands meant that in any matchup I still would have lost. After that brutal game 3 I’m just trying to not be tilted and settle back in for my next round.
R2 vs Grixis Control (Loss 0-2)
Game 1 – We both keep 7 cards. I’m fairly happy with this keep in the dark; the game goes back and forth with both of us us making plays and having answers. Eventually I make a misplay and don’t leave up my Disallow, allowing him to resolve an important spell. This was the turning point in the game for my opponent. From there I just get ground out of the game and he takes game one.
Game 2 – Again we both keep a hand of 7 cards. Turns 1 and 2 are uneventful, with both of us playing something and both having an answer. Turn 3 I play a Kitesail Freebooter and take a Disallow. I felt that the coast was clear to bring back a God-Pharaoh’s Gift. On turn 4 I untap and use my Refurbish to bring back the God-Pharaoh’s Gift in my graveyard. He lets it resolve, but has the Abrade to destroy it before I go to combat. From there he flips a Search for Azcanta and just grinds me out of the game with the value generated by Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin. He eventually wins with Torrential Gearhulk beats.
At this point my level of technical play is starting to break down due to being discouraged by the losses, I also feel that I’m really letting down my teammates. Unfortunately Grixis Control is a rough matchup for God-Pharaoh’s Gift decks due to the presence of Abrade and Magma Spray.
R3 vs Mono Red Aggro (Loss 0-2)
Game 1 – I keep a decent hand in the dark, and my opponent keeps 7. He opens with Mountain, Bomat Courier and my heart sinks a bit. The game goes back and forth until he plays a Scavenger Grounds, which eventually wins him the game. I was able to make a God-Pharaoh’s Gift, but he had the Scavenger Grounds up to combat it.
Game 2 – I mull to a decent 6, but my opponent keeps 7 and curves out well. He has the turn 1 Bomat Courier, turn 2 Earthshaker Khenra, turn 3 Ahn-Crop Crasher, turn 4 Hazoret, and I just lose in a quick game.
The mono red aggro version is a 40/60 matchup primarily due to the presence of mainboard Scavenger Grounds. This negates my game one advantage of typically not seeing any graveyard hate. The other contributing factor is that by staying one colour mono red is a bit faster than the red black variant, giving me less time to stabilize.
By this time my technical play is a mess and I was feeling like I had totally failed my teammates. Our current record is 0-3. We then discuss the fact that with our record we are out of Day 2 contention and end up dropping. In retrospect dropping was absolutely the right call. For me personally I knew I that if we continued my level of play likely wouldn’t improve. Other than the misplay in game 1 of round 2, I was fairly happy with how I played in rounds 1 and 2. Round 3 was a bit of a trainwreck though, combining a rough matchup with my discouragement and being a bit tilted by my first two rounds. This culminated in a situation where I played quite poorly. We then met up with some other friends from the Strictly Average Patreon group and got some lunch at Skyline Chili. Signature Cincinnati, making me hungry right now – Editor
From there we all decided to sign up for side events, I ended up signing up for the Modern Challenge at 4:00 pm. I only had one modern deck with me: Eggs, also known as Krark-Clan Ironworks Combo. I know there is stigma around the deck and the 10+ minute turns it often takes. Honestly, I don’t play it very often because of that. However I didn’t feel like playing draft, sealed or standard; that left me with modern, meaning Eggs it was. The list of the deck I had with me utilizes the package of Sanctum of Ugin and Myr Battlesphere to tutor out Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.
KCI Eggs – Harrison Stoddart
4 Mox Opal
I only own 1 Leyline of Sanctity and no Engineered Explosives. I also had forgotten my Defense Grids at home, so this is what I had after grabbing the copies of Fatal Push out of my standard deck. I dove into the event with my head cleared thanks to several hours between dropping from the main event and the start of the modern challenge.
Round 1 I beat 5c Slivers 2-0. My opponent was super cool about it, and was surprisingly happy to face KCI Eggs. He had just played against it the night before at FNM, and wanted to see how effective his sideboard cards would be.
Round 2 I faced Merfolk and beat it 2-1. In Game 1 I comboed off fairly quickly and he didn’t have an answer. Game 2 he stuck Spreading Seas on my Darksteel Citadel and slowed me down enough for him to get there. Game 3 was fairly even; I held him off a bit with my Glint-Nest Cranes, but couldn’t find a Scrap Trawler. I had already drawn my Emrakul. On my last possible turn I realise that with my 2 Sanctum of Ugin and the resources I had I could combo off, so I sacrificed some stuff with my Krark-Clan Ironworks to hard-cast Emrakul, tutored up a Scrap Trawler and a Myr Battlesphere. After that I was able to combo off, building up enough creatures to be able to kill him in one shot so as to not die on the crackback.
Round 3 I faced Burn and lost 0-2. Game 1 I couldn’t find my combo until it was too late. Game 2 he had an Eidolon of the Great Revel and I punted by destroying one of my own artifacts with my Nature’s Claim to gain some life. At this point I had played 6 rounds of magic and was getting tired; I forgot that Eidolon of the Great Revel is an enchantment. I did open with my single Leyline of Sanctity, but after that I slowly lost by not being able to answer the Eidolon. I went out on my own terms, dealing the last few points of damage by casting artifacts to trigger his Eidolon.
Round 4 With my current record 2-1, I’m hoping to to win this match to end up with a 3-1. I sit down to find that my opponent is the Ponza player who narrowly beat Joe in the previous round. Knowing what my opponent is playing caused me to be a little concerned about the matchup, since my deck only runs 16 lands. I ignore that thought and just focus on playing well. We both keep 7-card hands; I have a decent Mox Opal opener, but he lands a turn 2 Blood Moon. It would have choked me on mana, but I play a Prophetic Prism the next turn and am able to use it to filter mana for Ancient Stirrings and Glint-Nest Crane to dig for my combo. Eventually I find my missing combo piece and win. Game 2 I open with a Nature’s Claim and a Pyroclasm in hand along with lands, a Krark-Clan Ironworks, and eggs. I Nature’s Claim his first Blood Moon and use my Pyroclasm to sweep away an Arbor Elf and his Tireless Tracker. That is likely the play that won me the game due to the destruction of his draw engine. I still almost lost this game; the turn I comboed off I was playing around the Ancient Grudge I knew he had due to his Courser of Kruphix. Just as I’m about to pass I realised that he was tapped out (I was tired at this point and not at my best). I then proceed to combo off; I’m close to being able to slam Emrakul when my opponent asks me to show him Emrakul. I reveal it from my hand and he concedes. We ended by discussing the match, and how I almost gave away Game 2.
This side event really highlighted for me how much I love the Krark-Clan Ironworks combo, and the intricate sequencing it can require. I hadn’t played the deck in quite some time and had forgotten how much fun I always have playing the deck. I want to thank Joe and Dennis for giving me the opportunity to play the deck again; without them I would never have ended up at the SCG Cincinnati Open playing the deck. I’ve been trying to find “my” deck in Modern and this side event brought me to the realisation that that deck is definitely KCI Eggs.
I also just want to make a quick shout out for the mana and energy counters I picked up at the event. They are from Inklin Customs and not only are they super cute, they were quite helpful for keeping track of my mana during the side event. At times I had upwards of 50 mana in my mana pool.
The Best of the Rest
While the main event didn’t go so well for us, we all learned a lot. We had time to get to know each other better, as well hanging out with other members of the SA Patreon group. I wanna give a few shoutouts to both people, and useful tools:
- A huge shoutout to Lindsay of Hurley Burley Alters! Lindsay’s significant other, fellow Discordian Confusionisbliss is a part of the SA Patreon Discord Chat; and it was great to get to meet both of them. If you get a chance, head over to their Facebook and check out some of Lindsay’s alters. They are excessively amazing!
- A massive shoutout to the awesomeness that is TopDecked! For those unaware of this App, it’s an Android/IOS App that provides a lot of functionality from collection management, decklist management (including being able to print out deck lists to PDF), and one other major thing – push notifications for pairings at large events! All day long, our team used TopDecked to get our pairings, negating the need to use the SCG site or the pairings boards. The best part is that this app worked even for side events, so I was able to get pairings for the Modern Challenge as well! This app is absolutely 100% recommended by us to try out if you’re ever going to a competitive Magic event.
- SA Discordians Dengerous and GrayFox both also came down to spend the day with us, hanging out and enjoying playing some Sealed Spectacular! It was a great time getting to hang out with these folks!
- My own personal shoutout to a few of my locals and a few folks I got to meet for the first time, including Rebecca Adlman of the MTG: Valakut Facebook group. Rebecca was a super cool person, and I enjoyed getting to talk to her about Scapeshift related stuff. Her team ended up in 10th, which is hyper amazing and a solid run! Also, hype shoutout to Jack Komer and Tyler Maloney, two of my local buds who at the end of Day 1 were 8-1! Unfortunately, their Day 2 did not progress as well as they would have liked, but I’m still happy for them and their run.
Finally, I personally would like to thank Dennis and Harrison for making their way to me and spending this weekend with me. I really enjoyed getting to know them better and playing Magic with them. I certainly hope that someday soon we can do this again.
That’s all the time we’ve got this week folks! Next week we’ll be returning to our regularly scheduled “Strictly Eternal 101” series, with a look at a BUG-based Nic Fit shell.
Catch you on the flip side!