You Don’t Always Get What You Want – Journey to Somewhere with Ben Heath

Journey to Somewhere – Developing Tempered Steel by Ben Heath


Recently my articles have consistenly hit the 2,000 word mark which, whilst great when there is a lot to talk about that may or may not have been covered before, isn’t so good when everyone already has all the bases covered. This often happens during the period when a new set is coming out, and every man and his dog wants to give you his or her opinion on various cards. As everyone knows, I’m a Standard specialist, dipping into Modern when there is a tournament coming up. I do try and play a bit of Legacy, but other commitments prevent me from doing any adventuring into that field. For now.

Today’s article will look at my recent experiences at 3 different levels of organised play in the space of two weeks. I won’t compare and contrast them, since casual play and competitve play are effectively chalk-and-cheese. They don’t even feel like the same game. So here goes!



Let’s start with a game of ‘State the Obvious’, shall we?

I didn’t win the WMCQ. I wasn’t even close

A massive disappointment for me, but a massive congratulations to Manveer Samra (Delver) who did win it, beating Andy Devine (4 Colour Pod) in the final. Andy has been playing Birthing Pod ever since it first came out, and is very dangerous with it, so to see him in the final was no big surprise to me, it’s been a long time coming.

My own tournament started well enough, and I was confident in the deck I was running. Having toyed with different versions of Naya, I went for Brian Kibler’s  updated (at the time) list, which looked pretty strong. Nearheath Pilgrim was a sleeper hit, and did a lot of work for me against aggro decks in testing.

After crushing BR Zombies 2-0 in the opening round, I faced Aaron Biddle (Esper Midrange) in Round 2. To the spectator it was fascinating, to both players it was an absolute ball-ache. It was just like a game of chess, and just like all high-level games of chess, this one went on for a very long time. A draw was the right result.

Rounds 3 (Kat Donohue – Naya Pod) and 4 (Daniel Merritt – UW Delver) were coasted with relative ease (a slight scare after Game 2 of Round 4, but Game 3 followed the same pattern as Game 1). And that’s where the fairy tale ended, folks. There was no shame in the calibre of players I lost to in the following rounds (Jack Mitchell-Burns – RUG Pod; Jonathan Randle – Esper Midrange), but whilst Round 5 I can put down to being out-drawn, Round 6 was my own undoing, simply because I sideboarded incorrectly. If you’re going to bring in Bonfire of the Damned, don’t take out your mana-fixers (Borderland Ranger). A lesson I learnt the hard way, so make sure you don’t make the same mistake!

Two delver decks made the Top 8, and one won it. Two players made Top 4 with Naya Aggro, but they both fell short. Bad luck? Perhaps, but Naya is supposed to have a good matchup against Delver. In the same way that Zombies is supposed to have a good matchup against Delver. And it’s true, they do. But the power level of Delver very much depends on the pilot of the deck. Wizards told us recently that the win percentage of Delver is 51%, which doesn’t surprise me, because it’s very easy to misplay with Delver, as it involves a lot of decisions that, to the untrained eye, appear to me insignificant, but they can cost you the game.

A lot of people I saw playing Delver on Saturday were making a train-load of mistakes in my eyes. If you’re going to play with the deck, you’ve gotta practice, or have a massive understanding of Standard and played so many of the deck archetypes that you know their weaknesses and how to exploit them. Preferably both*.


The M13 Prerelease Weekend

As part of my training to become a Level 1 Judge (test coming at the end of this month), I floor-judged 2 of Fanboy3’s Prereleases, and played in the other two.

Although it sounds like an easy gig, it was made harder due to the sheer humidity of the room (it gets very hot very quickly in that store in the summer, despite the best efforts of the staff), and it was fairly difficult to keep your concentration for the whole of the day, which is a basic requirement of you as a judge. I had one ‘brain-fart’ all weekend, but luckily both myself and others were able to catch me just before I made a howler of a ruling involving the activated ability of Ring of Xathrid and Xathrid Gorgon.

Why on earth was Xathrid Gorgon printed in a core set? It’s got a pretty complicated ability that can be difficult for new players to understand (it was, by far, the most ruled-on card of the day). It’s just not very core-set-y (yes, I’m fully aware that’s not a real word.)

On the playing side of my weekend, my first sealed pool was full of bombs. In 3 colours. And nothing else. Just bombs. People thought the deck was absurdly powerful, but it wasn’t particularly well balanced. There was just enough mana-fixing to make the deck viable, so I went with the Bomby McBomberton of Bombsville plan and went 2-1, losing to the best (and more consistent) deck in the room.

My second sealed pool was choc-full of green goodness, with a splash of red for triple Searing Spear and double Chandra’s Fury, as well as an Akroma’s Memorial to gain the upper-hand in stale board states. What Akroma’s Memorial isn’t so good at, is helping you come from an unwinnable board position to mount a come-back. In other words, I saw the Memorial twice, and lost both times when it was in play.

Initial thoughts on Sealed? Green is absurd. It’s almost as if they’re making up the fact that Green was piss-poor in M12…



I treat FNM as playtesting*, because a lot of the people who are there aren’t me or Ross. That’s my usual playtesting group, by the way. FNM is when all the constructed players in Manchester get together and bash Naya, Zombies and Control against each other. It’s a pretty good reflection of the UK Meta right now, if I’m honest. Since I don’t have University until September, and because I’m a good student and do all my work earlier in the day (unbelieveable, I know, but this is actually true. Hooray for good habits!), I’ve been able to get down to Fanboy3 earlier to get more games in before the event proper.

This week’s FNM was draft, which only happens when a new set comes out. Luckily, 8 people (including myself) signed up for Standard, so that fired. Core Set drafting loses a lot of appeal when there’s no such thing as Nationals. It was my only reason to draft it before, so now that’s gone I have no desire to draft it when Standard is available for me to play.

So how did it go? I did pretty well. I won Round 1 with relative ease, before defeating UB Zombies 2-1 in Round 2, which was nice because it’s supposed to be a bad matchup*.

My Round 3 opponent was Alex Shoemark, piloting a Battle of Wits deck built by that man once again, Ross Silcock (are you happy now, Ross? ARE YOU?) After getting crushed in Game 1, I fought back to win Games 2 and 3 to spoil the party and upset pretty much everyone in the room (even the drafters).

What was I playing? Well I’ve left plenty of subtle hints in this article. I’ve even been nice and pointed them out to you!*

Sensible? Absolutely. Do I still feel dirty and wrong? Yup.


Next time, I’ll be looking at the initial impact of M13 in Standard and what I think is just waiting for other cards to come along in order to be played more. That’s right, the Cynic’s Guide to M13 is just around the corner!

Thanks for stopping by, mtgUK


*These are the hints, in case you haven’t already figured it out!

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