I’m writing this article at 10am Thursday morning from 30,000 feet in the air, on a plane headed from San Francisco to Orange County California. Final decklists are due in 8 hours time. This is the beginning of my journey to the $100,000 DreamHack MTG Arena event, which is as far as I’m aware is the single largest tournament not run by WOTC ever. This is the first time Magic as an Esport has gone public. Will it sink or swim?
I for one had to find out; I wanted to be there at this history-making event. I also wanted to win $30,000 and etch my name into the history books. First place. It has a special connotation. Even this year at Worlds, we were bombarded with pictures of Shawn “HAMMER” Reigner, the first “World Champion”. Sure money is nice, but don’t fool yourselves; we play for the clout. We play for prestige; we play to be recognized as the best.
The fact that this tournament has a 100k prize pool and caps at 350 players and somehow isn’t sold out is insane. I’ve been going to Grand Prixs in Los Angeles for years with thousands of participants and only a 50k prize pool. The winner still qualifies for the Mythic invitational, so it’s not just a cash tournament either; the prestige is still there. Some say it was poorly marketed, some say Arena isn’t as good as paper Magic.
If this article seems disjointed, it may be because I haven’t slept since Tuesday night. I thought I saw Javier Dominguez in first class as I boarded… I figured it wasn’t when the gentleman in question looked at me blankly following my plea for “a Gruul list to rule them all”.
Ok, let’s rewind. You see, I made the classic mistake of thinking my flight left at 6PM today. I was on a hot 11-0 Arena Ladder run at midnight when I casually double checked my flight time. Oh, it said six alright. 6AM. Which meant I needed to be at the airport in 4 hours.
I hadn’t packed. My passport was at my friend’s house. The drive to said friend’s house, and then on to the airport was a solid two hours. I was also in the grips of a UW (Azorius) mirror that was going to take up at least another hour. Sure I could have conceded and given myself more time to get ready. But once you’ve tasted the sweet air at top 50 Mythic, there’s no quitting cold turkey.
As you can guess, I savagely outplayed (lucksacked) my UW opponent. Packed my things like a cartoon tasmanian tiger, floored it to my besties’ house and woke him as I barged into his house at 4 am. “Uhhh who’s there!?” comes the call from his bedroom as he wonders if an intruder has just violated the sanctity of his home. “Oh hey sorry, it’s just me” I reply as I run to the desk where I’d left my passport from a previous trip. “Ok cool no worries”. How amazing is it to have people in your life that love you so much that they dont mind you crashing into their house at an ungodly hour for your own personal needs like a 5 mana generic green 4/4?! Everyone should have this kind of friend.
Ok wait, we need to go farther back, to truly understand my deck choice, and also give you gentle reader a smidgeon of advice on how to prepare for a tournament and how to pick a deck.
At the end of the last Standard season, I had told my small testing group that I thought UW was well positioned and had some teeth. They ignored me. Tier 2 they said; immediately after that tournament, Theros was released and we had a whole new set of cards to use.
Shatter the Sky would have been enough to make the deck a real contender, but then I saw. Dream Trawler, Elspeth Escapes Death, Oblivion Ring, and Omen of the Sea. I realized immediately that we have a whole new beast on our hands. I made mythic in two days; I was slaughtering all comers.
But what’s the point of being ahead of the curve if there weren’t any tournaments to play in? I watched as Corey “Bam Bam” Baumeister and others took down SCG after SCG. Being firmly locked on the West Coast, the SCG Tour is akin to the Pyramids of Giza for me.
Alas, everyone catches up on the UW train and then PV and the Czech house surpass us. I watched Worlds coverage, confused about who to pledge my fealty to on Standard’s battlefield.
Mono Red? As a younger mage, I used to have a rule: “play the best aggro deck”. This rule worked very well for me and I had a lot of success applying it. Perhaps it was my recent success that prevented my ego from relinquishing Control to go after it, like Seth and Andrea. True masters.
Temur Reclamation? Not even I’m that much of a Masochist.
That leaves UW and Jeskai Fires.
I decided to try PVs list. If I played nonstop and mastered this deck, I could be a champion. I jumped into the ladder and quickly got outplayed in the mirror and dropped some games through sloppy play. Hmm what to do. My first thought is to splash black for Thought Distortion; the guys from the Czech House told me it wasn’t good, but I didn’t listen. I even went as far as to play one copy main, because you always have time to find it in the mirror. I proceeded to lose two games in a row where I cast it on turn 6 and stripped my opponent down to a land and a dream trawler. I decided to hang it up; I’m no PV, maybe next year kid.
I too had a load of success; mono red was a bye so laddering was easy. I felt favored in most matchups, but something was wrong. Deep down I knew something wasn’t right in my data. I knew I wasn’t playing enough high calibre players playing UW, Temur, and Fires. Despite that, I went on an 11-0 run and skyrocketed to the top 30 of the Mythic ladder.
I was set to submit my deck, but then a funny sequence of events happens. First Terence told me we had another 24 hours to submit decks; might as well take advantage. I was still going to play Fires though; I was beating everything!
But then came the second funny thing. I got paired against the big cheese himself, Little…Beep.
He had quietly sat atop the ladder for weeks by this point. I’d tried his Temur Clover list before, thinking it might’ve been the answer to my Standard problems. He boasted an undefeated 16-0 record against the UW scourge, whereas I quickly went 0-3 against it, and couldn’t figure out how to beat a Dream Trawler.
I thought this was my chance to prove how good Jeskai Friends and my piloting abilities both were. I put up a good fight, but in the end it became obvious that the deck was stacked against me in this matchup – without Fires in play, the deck is slow and derpy. Sure, you can grind out other decks without Fires, but you’re not outgrinding Temur Clover.
I wasn’t too disheartened because I figured almost no one would play that deck at Dreamhack. I’d beaten average Clover Pilots before, NO.BIG.DEAL.
I immediately fired up a new match to get my confidence back. But, much to my chagrin, I found another Clover player, one with new technology no less!
I realized that the Fae of Wishes package was very powerful and that I had finally realized how to properly implement it. You need to be proactive with your wishing; you can’t wait for threats from your opponent to emerge and then wish for answers. You need to know what your opponents are going to throw at you and proactively find the answer. Temur Clover seems like a value town deck that snowballs card advantage, and sometimes it is, but most often it plays out more like a Prison deck. It reminds me a lot of the Modern Mono Blue Whir of Invention Prison deck. You go and find the pieces that will break up what your opponent is trying to do and then close out the game, all with a tutor package. This is, I think, the reason that most players have not replicated the success that Little Beep has had.
15 minutes until decks are finalized and I am happy to be rocking the clovers. Wish me luck and be sure to watch out for my tournament report vlog!
Props: The stewardess let me have an emergency row all to myself.
Slops: Jeff Cunningham
We hope you enjoyed Jason’s pretournament report and we hope he does well! This whole weekend we will be posting the decklists and providing text coverage for this three day tournament, as we did with the World Championships. Jason will also be providing us with live updates while he is over there! You can check out the tournament hub for DreamHack Anaheim here.