Saturday Night Fever: The Unofficial Guide to SCGLive – Journey to Somewhere with Ben Heath

Journey to Somewhere – Developing Tempered Steel by Ben Heath


As a single student living away from my family, I love getting up at the crack of noon on a Saturday, which is great because you’ve got nothing going on on a Saturday, usually. No university deadlines. No girlfriend to appease. No family commitments. Just me, some food, a lot of free time and the Star City Games Open coverage. I don’t have that much interest in Legacy so I skip the Sunday coverage, plus it’s Sunday so I’m obviously at church playing 6-a-side football for one or more of the 4531 teams I play for.

This weekend the SCG Open is in Detroit, home of the awful (in more ways than one) Detroit Lions, the constantly underachieving Detroit Red Wings, and 8 Mile. Basically, nothing good has ever come out of Detroit. For those of who you have never watched the coverage, there are a few things that you need to know:

  • The feature matches are on camera, and people make a ton of mistakes under pressure, it’s almost laughable. Having thousands of potential viewers watching you is a nerve-wrecking experience, which I can tell you from doing daily events for YouTube.
  • The commentators range from amazing (Brian Kibler), funny (Cedric Phillips) and knowledgeable (Patrick Chapin) to downright awful (Adrian Sullivan). Of course, there is always the one who’s commentating form always varies wildly (Jacob Van Lunen), a bit like my articles. How a commentator performs greatly affects the quality of the stream and my enjoyment, so it’s important that the commentators don’t mess up constantly (Adrian Sullivan, again). The Detroit coverage team is Patrick Chapin (YAY!) and Adrian Sullivan (oh, ffs…)
  • If you’re on Twitter, there are plenty of trolls about taking the mick out of everything in general. Owen Turtenwald is the prime example. But, I believe he gets a really bad rap for all this, because underneath the scathing sarcasm is, quite often, a serious point and is oft something that irks me as well.
  • There are an awful lot of lessons you can learn from one day of watching SCG Open coverage…

…and that’s what this article is about today. I’m writing this as the coverage is happening, so everything I point out has pretty much happened as I’ve typed it out, so I’ll even give the time of said action so it at least looks live. It’s a shame I can’t actually do this live, but I hope it makes entertaining reading none the less. To save myself (and you guys) from boredom, I’ll only be covering the first three rounds, cos things can get repetitive after that…

I also put this article’s fate in the hands of BT, and I’m hoping that the internet won’t cut off at any point, something that happens quite often and, as a result, I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re doing it on purpose because they like to screw with their customers’ heads. You can’t prove otherwise, therefore it must be right, so there!

2.54pm – Breakfast time! Frosties, Peanut Butter and Toast and a glass of ice cold Irn-Bru. Good start. I promise this’ll be the last time I make a facebook update on this article.

3.43pm – I mock Detroit, turns out Chapin is from there. Who knew?

3.44pm – 10 rounds, cut to Top 8. This is going to be a long tournament, so there will be mistakes aplenty. If you find yourself playing in a big tournament like this, such as a grand Prix, keep eating and drinking, otherwise you’ll lose focus and won’t be minimising your opportunities to make mistakes.


Round 1 – Esper Control (Player 1) versus UWr Delver (Player 2)

3.49pm – Player 1 is manascrewed. Not great, especially in a quick format like this, but it’s not the end of the world. What’s happening is that you are accumulating more gas, and eventually you’ll draw into lands, then you can play all your awesome spells that you’re drawing. In other words, don’t panic!

3.53pm – Player 1 has Blade Splicer, a 3/3 Golem token and 4 land. Player 2 (the active player) has the same setup, but with 6 land instead. Player 2 attacks with his Golem token, and Player 1 blocks with his own token. Player 2 Gut Shots P1’s Blade Splicer, which P1 responds to by playing Restoration Angel. P2 counters it with Mana Leak. As a result of all this chaos, P2 has 3-for-2’d his opponent, and his board state is a lot healthier as a result.

The lesson? Just because you made the right play (P1), doesn’t mean that it will end up going the way you wanted it to. Just because you lost the skirmish doesn’t mean you didn’t do the right thing.

3.56pm – P2 accidentally reveals Snapcaster Mage as he’s hardcasting Bonfire of the Damned. Be careful when slinging spells! This lesson is sponsored by Captain Obvious (but everyone does it, even you. Yes, you).

3.56.30pm – Overextending is a cardinal sin in MtG. However, there is a difference between overextending and applying pressure. Sometimes, if playing more creatures cuts down the time you opponent has left (by a turn or two), that is the right play (but not always), it’s situational.

4.00pm – P1 casts a Lingering Souls from his graveyard, which has been in there since 4 turns ago. Don’t forget what’s in your graveyard! It can give you more (and better) options than what’s just in your hand.

4.01pm – First mispronunciation, everyone! It took 18 minutes. I think that’s a new record.

4.02pm – If there was ever a game where correctly figuring out who the beat down was, it’s this one. If you want more information on this topic, which is vital to understand if you want to become a better MtG player, look up Michael Flores’ ‘Who’s the Beatdown?’ article.

4.03pm – Miracles are swingy and, whilst cranking up the tension so it’s more spectator friendly, I feel it’s bad for the game overall. Player 1 deserved to win this game,  but Player 2 nearly snatched it from him, simply because he got lucky. Although luck plays some part of MtG, that just doesn’t sit well with me.


4.06pm – The commentators are talking about sideboarding, which is another vital component of Magic. How many of you playtest pre-board only? I bet there’s an awful lot of you. More than half of the games you play will be post-board, so practice post-board, too!

4.14pm – Chapin has mispronounced Insect Aberration so many times, I reckon he’s trolling.

4.18pm – Sometimes it’s not always right to play your Gitaxian Probes straight away. By saving them for later, you can get perfect information at a vital point. Do you really need that extra card right now? Sometimes the answer is actually, ‘No’.


4.23pm – Despite the Bonfire of the Damned putting P1 on 1 life, P2 had nothing to finish him off, and P1 got there, winning 2-0. Justice?



Round 2 – GW Humans (Player 1) vs UW Humans (Player 2)

4.46pm – Tapping you mana correctly can sometimes mean the difference between victory and defeat. P1 tapped Razorverge Thicket to cast his T2 Champion of the Parish instead of his Cavern of Souls naming ‘Human’. I know that it feels insignificant in this format, but there are formats where this could be vital. Get into good habits, people, for when it matters!

4.48pm – Sometimes in the aggro mirror, your opponent has a sweet hand and there’s nothing you can do. Sh*t happens, don’t beat yourself up, don’t berate their good luck. Shuffle up and recover for Game 2.


4.51pm – Timely Reinforcements. Never has a card been so aptly named. It’s also the card that spelled the beginning of the end of red decks in this format. They also slow down Zombies decks, and aggro decks in general, significantly. And you guys all complained about Cavern of Souls

4.56pm – P2 is well on top, constantly laying down threats to but P1 on the back foot. So, how awkward would it be if P1 played Day of Judgment? DoJ used to be played in Kithkin decks back in the day, and I think white-based aggro decks should be playing them as well in the sideboard, just in case they fall behind, so they can reset the game. That can be vital on the draw against another aggro deck. The issue being, of course, that Strangleroot Geist and Geralf’s Messenger are in thsi format…

5.06pm – Left field cards can raise eyebrows and win games, just like Altar’s Reap did for me in Lille. Faith’s Shield can be added to that list.



Round 2 – Esper (Player 1) vs. Esper (Player 2) – Player 2 is up 1-0

5.17pm – Cut to Game 2 of a control mirror. Oh joy. These are a bore to watch…

5.20pm – Missing land drops in control matchups can be fatal. As a pretty loose rule of thumb, whoever misses their land drop first loses the game…

5.27pm – INTERESTING PLAY: P1 plays Batterskull, leaving 3 mana up, with his opponent having 6 mana up and a Snapcaster Mage in play. P2 responds with Mana Leak, so P1 pays the 3 mana. P2 then casts Restoration Angel, flickering the Snapcaster Mage, which targets Mana Leak. With the trigger on the stack, P1 casts Surigcal Extraction, targeting (surprise, surprise) Mana Leak.

5.34pm – Whenever you make an attack, look at your opponent’s resources on the table. Sometimes, it’s not a good idea to attack with a single creature into a Golem with first strike and a Vault of the Archangel with a bajillion mana available…

5.35pm – In the rare situation where you’re 1-0 up with time in the round coming to an end, sometimes it’s best to just stay defensive and to not throw it away. P2 did this perfectly. At the same time, if you’re 1-0 down, speed up your play, because despite increasing the opportunity to make mistakes, pondering just wastes valuable time.



Round 3 – RG Aggro (Player 1) vs RUG Pod (Player 2)

5.56pm – Thrun, the Last Troll is such a nice card, and it’s a shame that there isn’t a place for it in the meta right now, thanks to 2-mana and 3-mana Clone effects.

5.59pm – Whenever a Pod deck curves out perfectly, with or without Birthing Pod, it’s near unbeatable, which is why I love the deck right now.


6.07pm – Mulligans are a topic that divides peoples’ opinions greatly. Some people seemed to be scared of mulligans, but I’ve learned to love them. They’re a tool, and need to be utilised effectively. At last night’s FNM, I mulliganed to 5 in three different games in three different matches, and I won all of them. P1 mulliganed to five and got a Batterskull out ahead of the curve. That’s pretty neat, people…

6.09pm – COMMENTARY MISHAP – The commentators have only just figured out that P1 is female. Despite having a female name and painted fingernails…

6.17pm – Wurmcoil Engine vs RG Aggro = bad news Bears. Can’t wait for that card to rotate out…



Final Thoughts

So that’s that. In summary, yes the play can be comically bad and, as armchair analysts, we can pick up on every single mistake ever. But, if you put the cynicism to one side and properly analyse what’s going on, especially as a beginner, your understanding of the game and meta will improve at a great rate.

Next week/fortnight, I’ll be talking about the WMCQ, and I’ll give you a report, regardless of how well I do (I know there’s a trend of me only reporting on good results, so I’m making this promise more to myself than to anyone else!)

Thanks for stopping by, mtgUK



P.S. I got Civilisation V recently. Does anyone have a tip on taking out City-States? Because I had more trouble taking out Vienna than I did taking out the whole of Thailand…

Also, what tips do you have for Civ V in general? Do you have a specific strategy in general? Which advisors do you listen to, if any? Let me know!

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