Meta Games 2013 SCG IQ £3000 Standard Tournament Report: Rakdos Aggro by Ben Heath
It’s been a long few months since I’ve been here, real life dictating that I had to make a sensible decision and step away from Magic to concentrate on my degree and save money. I gave myself a goal of paying my overdraft off (I was, at the time of my decision, a nauseating £1000 overdrawn, and had been for five years). Since then my life has changed. I have:
Adopted a positive mental attitude, which has seen me through all the problems I’ve had, including the death of my grandmother last month.
Found myself in a stable relationship. It’s just over three months now (it’s not a coincidence, by the way), so whilst there’s a long way to go yet, many of you will know that this is actually a record for me.
Taken up American Football once again. I played during my time at Leeds and I was desparate to play again, so I signed up for the Manchester Uni team. I write articles for them as well, but please don’t look them up because the grammar is appalling ;)
With life back in my control for the first time in what felt like forever, in late December I played in my first FNM for some time. I went 3-1 despite some awful decisions on my part (Cavern of Souls naming ‘Human‘? What do you mean there’s no humans in my deck?…)
Then Christmas happened, where I made the decision to go to the Star City Games Elite Invitional Qualifier in Doncaster run by Meta Games. The plan was to go, play aggro, go X-2 pretty quickly, have a laugh, maybe win my money back, and see my friends again. I mean come on, I wasn’t going to just turn up to my first competitive tournament in seven months and magically Top 4 it, win an invite and also win a substantial amount of cash, right? Right… about that…
The Deck Choice
On the Friday I turned up to FNM and played the RB aggro deck that had won the SCG Standard Open the day before. After losing round 1 to mana screw I went on to win Rounds 2 and 3, before getting destroyed Round 4 by another aggro deck to finish with a record of 2-2. I return to my house to eat and then sit down with Ross Silcock to do some testing with our decks. The more I play with the RB deck, the more I thought it was a pile of junk, so I switched to BR Zombies, also known as Rakdos. Basically, I just wanted to play with my best mate Geralf’s Messenger again. After sleeving up the deck at 2am, we then carried on playing until 3am before I retreated to my bed to get some much needed sleep.
The decklist I settled on was this:
Rakdos Aggro (aka BR Zombies)
4 x Gravecrawler
4 x Diregraf Ghoul
4 x Rakdos Cackler
4 x Knight of Infamy
4 x Geralf’s Messenger
4 x Falkenrath Aristocrat
3 x Hellrider
2 x Thundermaw Hellkite
4 x Pillar of Flame
4 x Searing Spear
Saturday rolled around and after oversleeping, we catch the latest possible train to Doncaster, and whilst the people I was travelling with playtesting on the train, I choose not to as I believe that if anything goes wrong on the morning, then negativity will creep into my mind and I won’t be able to play at 100%. We then made our way to the hotel where the tournament is being held, where I had 10 minutes to quickly scribble down my deck. It’s been so long since I last played that when Jonno Randle looked at my deck list, he saw that I had written Incinerate instead of Searing Spear. After making some ‘let’s not get a game loss’ adjustments, it was time to get down to business.
Round 1 – UW Flash
I played creatures and bashed his face in, both games. Game 1 he was manascrewed but Game 2 he was just overwhelmed. He nearly got himself a game loss after forgetting to shuffle an exiled card back into his deck, but luckily he caught it just in time to avoid a game loss. It was nice to see some sensible judging and the right decision being made in the end.
Round 2 – Raka – Michele Lo Conte
Game 1 he was mana screwed after we both mulliganed to 6, and Game 2 he was colour screwed when he couldn’t find a white source. In all honesty, though, I don’t think the colour screw in Game 2 mattered, as I had so much business that I could have got through what he had in his hand. It was interesting to see Izzet Staticaster as a sideboard card, as I had brought in Ultimate Price, which had no effect. On the other hand, he only deals 1 damage, and the only 1 toughness guy in my deck that isn’t invulnerable is Gravecrawler, which I can just bring back, so I’m not sure if it’s a good card against me or not…
Round 3 – Jund – Aaron Copping
I thought I had dodged Jund when it finally rotated out of Standard with Shards of Alara, however it’s now more playable than ever (thanks, WotC!).
Game 1 saw my opponent lay down an Olivia Voldaren, and I couldn’t deal with her game-changing prowess.
In Games 2 and 3, however, Rakdos does what Rakdos does best, and punish inconsistencies that other decks have, none more prevalent than the current Standard Jund, it seems. As awesome as the current land bases are, three colours is still three colours, and I felt that there were often games where I was simply rewarded for playing one less colour. I was feeling good about my deck choice.
Round 4 – Bant Lifegain – Nick Ball
Game 1 I just cruised through him, despite the presence of Rhox Faithmender. When he was on 1, he tried to crack an Elixir of Immortality to gain 10 life, so I Searing Speared him in response. Yes, it felt as good as it sounds.
Game 2 I followed the 3 step aggro plan:
1) Hit them with lots of small creatures
2) Make them think you have no late game
3) Beat them with your late game
And by ‘my late game’, I mean ‘topdeck Zealous Conscripts and run through them’. How lucky.
Round 5 – Quentin Martin’s Lotus Love Affair
Getting to play Quentin in a feature match was a massive privilege for me. It would have been an even greater privilege to beat his face with creatures on camera, so I decided to give that a go. I could tell you what happened, OR you can watch the awesome feature match video they did, which will be up in a couple of days (I will link to it wen it is available ;) )! Forget #twoexplores, #threehellriders is where it’s at. Right, Quentin?
Round 6 – Rakdos – Quinton Lip
I always favour myself in aggro mirror matches. I’ve developed this belief that with an aggro deck in my hands, I am a dangerous player, and that I can beat anyone in an aggro mirror. Even after four months out, I still truly believe this.
Game 1 saw my opponent mulligan to 6, and I pretty much had the nut draw. You know, the free wins that people play the deck for.
Game 2 saw my brain go into derp mode as I forgot that Flames of the Firebrand was a sorcery. I let out a bit of anger before succesfully calming myself and taking my aggression out on him by smashing his face via the medium of creatures in Game 3. Welcome to the Top 8. You moron.
As an aside, I have found that a good way of dealing with stupid mistakes is to let it out straight away. I said ‘you’re stupid‘ out loud to myself after losing Game 2, before using the time between rounds to calm myself and remind myself that I had been playing well all tournament, and that one mistake was not worth beating myself up on. A player in the match next to me was convinced that I was going to go full tilt, but I knew how to control my emotions and successfully managed to calm myself and win.
Round 7 – Thomas Buettner
My friend from Worcester had played tight and technical the whole way through and thoroughly deserved his place in the Top 8. We ID’d and then sat down to discuss possible Top 8 matchups with Jono.
Round 8 – Jonathan Randle
‘I can do this’, I told myself. ‘I can snap my losing streak and bring his mental reign of tyranny over me to an end, just focus at the task in hand and you’ll be fine’
Since everyone else who was a lock also ID’d in, I was top of the Swiss standings on breakers, meaning that I would play first the whole way through. After denying a money split for the Top 8, I sat down for my Top 8 feature match versus an old friend of mine
Quarter Finals – Jund – Lee Parker
Lee has been a good friend of mine ever since he Blood Mooned me on turn 2 of our PTQ match when I was on Zoo and he was on Affinity (Note to everybody: it’s called Affinity. Not Artifact Aggro. Not Robots. Affinity.) Lee has Top 8’d multiple PTQs and is a dangerous man to play against. If you want to get invited to the big tournaments, you need to be beating the Lee Parkers, a task that I can assure you is a most difficult one.
Since it was a feature match and is on glorious video, I won’t describe what happened, but it’s a belter, with lots of difficult decisions made under pressure, providing plenty of talking points. Please watch it. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Top 4 money split? Nah, I’m playing first the whole way through with my AGGRO deck. I’m playing for all the marbles, baby!
Semi Finals – Mono Red – Carrie Oliver
Carrie is an excellent aggro player. I wish she would stop playing with decks that clearly don’t suit her play style and just play decks like this which she can crush people with. There. I said it. I’d never played against Carrie before, despite the fact that we’ve known each other for some time, so I was looking forward to our match, which whilst it isn’t the easiest match-up in the world, I was confident of winning as I was on the play and had played so well in my last match.
Nothing happened in the match. I mulliganed to 5, see no red with all red spells in hand. She had the nut draw. I mulliganed to 6, don’t see a third land with cards with cost three or greater in my hand. She had the nut draw. Thanks for playing.
I allow myself to show some emotion and get visibly upset. Other people see this, and yes, other people have since taken the piss, but I genuinely don’t regret it. I didn’t have another round to play, so I didn’t need to restrain myself. I don’t mind losing, it’s just the circumstances of the loss that got to me. Would I have beaten Carrie if my draws were better? Perhaps not, but at least I would have gotten the chance. To put it simply, I felt robbed.
So that was that. My deck let me down at a crucial point in the tournament. Not the first time this has happened (ask anyone who’s played me in a Game Day final, where my average starting hand in these matches is less than 5), and it certainly won’t be the last. However, I still won £250, I still had a great time, and I still got what I thought I wouldn’t get, but really wanted. My SCG Invitational invite. My highlight of a Magic career where I feel that stubbornness, no will to learn, and a smidgeon of bad luck (although this has only played a very small part) have stopped me from doing anything major with the game. And now I’m off to America to take my game to the next level and try and win $10k. I mean, anything’s possible right? Now, how to stump up £600 for plane tickets… suggestions, anyone?
Meeting all my friends again, and even making new ones.
Sharing a bed with Ross Silcock in a hotel. As good as it sounds.
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