Hot Poker Danced – Journey to Somewhere with Ben Heath

Journey to Somewhere – Developing Tempered Steel by Ben Heath


This article will not be providing any decklists, in order to preserve what little secrecy I can as a result of writing this article, so that both Ross and myself  are not put at any more disadvantage than usual for when we play in PTQs and WMCQs. Apologies, as the deck is pretty sweet and the numbers are pretty interesting. I have no issue about talking about what the deck does and certain cards in the deck, as they’re pretty much staples. There are a few surprises that I won’t mention, however!

It’s time for another edition of your favourite column-which-takes-its-name-from-a-white-Zendikar-enchantment.

After getting absolutely annihilated by Grant Hislop in the fantasy Pro Tour, I’ve decided to come out of hiding to give you a report as to what I’ve been up to this weekend. As some of you know (and many of you don’t), I have been taking a break from competitive Magic for various reasons,  but this weekend saw me compete in only my 2nd FNM in 2 months and the Avacyn Restored Game Days held at Fanboy 3, where turnout was low, but there were some pretty quality decks on display.

Obviously when coming back after an extended break, you should play a deck that doesn’t require much thought and is quite easy to play, in order to ease your way back into things. What you shouldn’t do, is play with an unorthodox variant of a Naya Pod deck, so of course that’s what I did!

No prizes for guessing who built this monster, but here’s a clue. His name is an anagram of ‘Scissor Lock’.

The deck was slightly different as it had particular emphasis on the likes of Cloudshift and Restoration Angel to flicker creatures back into play. This is great because Pod decks use a lot of creatures with a lot of great Enter The Battlefield (ETB) effects, such as Fiend Hunter and Zealous Conscripts. Thanks to the use of the flicker effects, you can permanently exile creatures with the Hunter (via using the correct use of the stack) and nicking creatures and keeping them with the Conscripts (flicker the taken creature to control it for the rest of the game).

I had initial doubts about the deck, and felt that the Pods were unnecessary and wanted other cards in their place. I also wanted some cards that were in the sideboard to be in the main deck and vice versa. Despite all my fears, Ross asked me to just play the 75 as it is, and not change or move a single card (I say ‘asked’, I mean ‘demanded’ and ‘implied that if I did, then I would die in my sleep’.)

So I sat down for Round 1 of the FNM (and of the weekend), and got ready to crush/get crushed.

Round 1 – UB Zombies – Lost 1-2
Fast starts vs. Stuttering starts. Disappointing.

Round 2 – BR Vampires – Won 2-0
New player against a Tier 1 deck. Crushed.

Round 3 – Boros – Won 2-0
Bonfire of the Damned for 1, wiping his board. Rough.

Round 4 – UW Miracles – Won 2-0
My opponent’s average starting hand was 4.5. Rough (again).

3-1 (7-2)

There were no big moments worth talking about, so I won’t waste your time with drawn out reports of each game.

I got home really late and laid the deck out. Scissor Lock was cooking dinner whilst I was discussing the deck and thinking about the changes. I was about to go over to the pile of cards before I did something that I’d never done before, and the biggest lesson I will take out of this weekend.

I told myself that I was wrong.

My exact words were: ‘F*** it, I’ll give it another chance. There must be something I’m missing.’ The Pods stayed. The cards I wanted to bring in stayed in the sideboard, or out of the deck entirely.

Luckily, the next day was the first Fanboy3 Avacyn Restored Game Day. 12 players, 4 rounds, cut to top 4. The field had a few very good players running some very good decks, so it wasn’t an easy tournament to win, but I gave it a go.

Round 1 – Big Red – Won 2-1
Average starting hand: 5. Topdecked Oblivion Ring to deal with a lethal Inferno Titan. Unlucky/MASSIVE LUCKSACK.

Round 2 – UW Humans – Won 2-0
Opponent had a slow start in Game 2. Never recovered.

Round 3 – UW Delver – Won 2-1
Mistake by opponent led to him falling too far behind. Tragic Slip.

Round 4 – UB Zombies – Won 2-0
Remember kids, don’t play instant speed effects at sorcery speed! 0-for-2’ed.

Semi-Final – BW Tokens – Won 2-0
Birthing Pod earns its pay for the entire tournament in 1 game. The other game saw Zealous Conscripts on turn 3 followed by Zealous Conscripts on turn 4. Brutal.

Final – UB Zombies (same as Round 3) – Lost 2-0
Colour screw game 1 after both Birds of Paradise get killed. Game 2? Mull to 5. Don’t play a single spell all game. Painful.

5-1 (10-3)
Weekend: 8-2 (17-5)

A few moments to talk about here, and a few lessons to learn.

Lesson #1: Huntmaster of the Fells can flip.

In Round 3 Game 3, my opponent had a Delver of Secrets out and 3 mana (open). I had Huntmaster of the Fells out. He passed without casting a spell. Whoops. Shocked him, shocked the Delver. Next turn he played Ponder, searching for something to deal with Ravager of the Fells. After he did that, I proceeded to play Cavern of Souls naming ‘Ooze’, then destroyed his 3rd land with Acidic Slime. Ouch.

Lesson #2: Restoration Angel is a real card in this format

This is what happened to be precise.

Relevant board info: I control an Avacyn’s Pilgrim (untapped) and a Fiend Hunter with a Gravecrawler underneath, with four mana available (you can see where this is going) . He controls a Geralf’s Messenger.

In pre-combat, he makes a Fume Spitter and kills off the Pilgrim, and I float white mana in response. He then Tragic Slips the Fiend Hunter, so I flash in Restoration Angel, giving him back Gravecrawler and taking the Messenger. It’s not exactly a 0-for-2, but it sure as hell felt like it.

Don’t play instant speed effects at sorcery speed, especially when there is mana floating. Otherwise things like this will happen, and you will feel very silly. However, I believe the offender (who shall be named as ‘Egg I Milked’) has improved as a player and is a quick learner, so he won’t be doing things like this again any time soon. And neither will you. Right? Right.

Lesson #3: Sometimes, you don’t appreciate something until you break it

I did some stupidly nutty things with Birthing Pod in the semifinal. I had been sceptical of the card all day until that point. Blinking Sun Titans to bring back Fiend Hunters to kill Angel tokens is always a satisfying experience. After that game, I appreciated and respected the Pod a lot more for the rest of the weekend, and as a result utilised it a lot more effectively for the rest of the weekend.

Lesson #4: Magic is a cruel game

This may sound arrogant, but I dominated the tournament, right up until the final. Sadly though, sometimes your deck just doesn’t want to play ball, and the final becomes an absolute farce. Fair play to Egg I Milked, he had to beat some pretty good decks to get to the final, so he was definitely a worthy winner. Doesn’t mean that I’m not allowed to be bitter, though.

Except, I shouldn’t be.

I’d just 5-0’d a tournament and got unlucky in the final. The deck was a masterpiece and I was now fully comfortable playing it. I hadn’t mastered the deck, but I could feel myself getting better with it in each game. I’d just take down tomorrow’s Game Day instead.

The Next Day

So that was the plan as I sat down 12 hours later, looking for revenge. Yesterday’s winner hadn’t made it, but my Delver opponent from yesterday had, and was playing a different deck, UW Midrange with Blade Splicers and Restoration Angels and stuff.

10 players, 4 rounds, cut to top 4.

Round 1 – GB Birthing Pod – Won 2-0
Battle of the pod decks. Naya won.

Round 2 – UB Zombies (same as round 1 of the FNM) – Won 2-1
Two pretty tight games, before I ran away with it in the third game. Revenge.

Round 3 – Zombie Pod – Won 2-0
I’ve never been a fan of this deck, until I ate it for breakfast. Stomped.

Round 4 – UW Delver – Won 2-1
I had 26 life at one point in Game 3. Huntmastered.

Semifinal – Zombie Pod (Same as Round 3) – Won 2-0
Pretty much panned out the same way as the swiss. Deja Vu.

So I sat down for the final, against my good friend who was playing UW Midrange. I’d been unlucky in yesterday’s final, so I was hoping for better fortunes in this one….

Final – UW Midrange – Lost 0-2
Mull to 4 on the play. Mull to 5 on the play. G. Effing. G.

5-1 (10-4)
Weekend: 13-3 (27-9)

Lesson #5: If you’re watching a sanctioned match, STFU and just watch.

It’s fair to say that sometimes people forget about outside assistance at levels below PTQs. Nonetheless, it’s still very irritating. My opponent in Round 2 made a huge misplay that could have kept him in the game (if only for a little while. He was still far behind on board), but we had a few people watching and I could sense that everyone except him knew what the correct line of play was. I was fearful that someone would have spoken out, and they did. Luckily, this was after the game. I had barely shaken the guy’s hand before three different people told him how he should have played.


Come on guys, give the players a bit of breathing space after the match, no matter what level you’re playing at. I personally have a rule where I don’t like being spoken to for the first 30 seconds after my match has concluded by anyone other than my opponent, whether I have won or not. It gives both players some (respectful) breathing space after the game. I have no problem with advice, there’s just a time and a place.

If you see something illegal, stop the game and call a judge. Apart from that, don’t talk.

Lesson #6: Magic is a REALLY cruel game

So, two finals, two blowouts. What more can be said? I personally feel that they were outliers, as I didn’t mulligan any more than usual and there weren’t many mana issues with the deck, I just got unlucky, and you know what? That’s just fine. Annoying? Sure, but it won’t stop me from playing any time soon.

Lesson #7: I’m back, just don’t expect to see me at Nottingham.

Magic Con looks sweet. Sadly, I won’t be there, due to financial reasons (boo hiss etc.) Have a great time everybody, and good luck in the PTQ and WMCQ!

Thanks for stopping by, mtgUK.

Shaman Jean Jibe Them



P.S. Figured out the title, yet?

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