Empty Belly’s at the Mardu Buffet – Heroes of FNM by Liam Casserly

Empty Belly’s at the Mardu Buffet – Heroes of FNM by Liam Casserly

Today I’m going to start a new series of articles about ‘Heroes of FNM’.

A lot of you, I’m sure, like to keep abreast of what is going on in the top level of Magic. I certainly like to know what the meta is doing in the Top 8s of the SCG Opens and the big GPs each weekend. A lot of the time it helps me to make judgements on cards.

Me and my son brew our decks together. So when we see a card, that we hadn’t considered in a deck, doing well or showing up over and over again, we like to give it a try and see how it does. Sometimes it’s a good card to include. Sometimes when we run it against our local meta, the card is just too cute and ends up worse than another less playable card.

Why could this happen?


Well, a few reasons, but the main one is that FNM is supposed to be a fun format. My friends and I like to say that it is rules level enforcement ‘don’t be a jerk’. FNM is a place where you should let players have take backs and point out better play against yourself to newer players. You should also feel free to hold your friends to a higher level of scrutiny because you both take things seriously. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating sloppy play, I’m just pointing out that this is the first level above casual and it’s where we all take our first few steps into a more competitive area.

Because of this, it makes the meta weird. There will always be players running a known list, the one that took down a Pro Tour or the latest brew from a popular YouTube Channel, but having the best deck is not always a guarantee of success. Nothing hurts like losing to a card from a set that has been out for month but you had to ask to read several times. Sure you’ve heard the name, before but what does it do? Oh, I don’t have any answers for that jank in my deck.

I was in the final at FNM last week and I was up against my good friend Sebs. He came to FNM a little over a year ago, but he was playing casual games at home with his girlfriend before that. I don’t want to do him down but when he first turned up he was playing the sort of decks that we all start with: a cute five-card combo, or some massive bomb that he never quite got out. He took his losses and improved, until we get to last week where he and I are in the finals, both at 4-0. (This isn’t a look-how-awesome-I-am sort of article. I went 1-3 with the exact same list the week before.) This is why I still go to FNM. I love being spiky and testing with my playgroup, but I also get a kick out of being in the final with a foil Disdainful Stroke on the line.

After the obligatory smack talk we settle down to a moody silence. Ha, no – we chat all the way through our games. The first two games go the way of serve and it’s one apiece. He’s running a Mardu list and I’m playing Red Green Monsters. After a first games I can see why he’s in the finals. Mardu has access to some great beaters: Bloodsoaked Champion and Butcher of the Horde along with Crackling Doom. I was wary heading into game 3.

gift of immortality

In the early turns I set myself up with my mana elves. Sebs played out Akroan Hoplite. I’ve not seen this before but I’m not too worried. In the next few turns I start deploying my threats and threatening his life total. With all my mana I’m able to make enough guys to leave back and still keep knocking him down.

He plays out Butcher of the Horde but doesn’t sack the Akroan Hoplite or his Brutal Hordechief to give it haste. It gives me a bit of a headache how to attack around it but, as I’m at 20 life, I throw caution to the wind and attack. I put him down to 3 life and next turn I just untap and play one of my burn spells in hand for the win. I’ve taken into consideration that he can lifelink his Butcher, or even play a second one and give it haste, but to do that he will have to sack his other creatures. I’m taking 10 and he gains 5 or I’m taking 13 and he doesn’t gain any life. The game is mine and with it the foily spoils.

But, it turns out, I’m too busy counting chickens. He untaps, thinks for a moment, and then taps all his mana. “Twinflame, targeting the Butcher and then striving it onto the Akroan Hoplite.” I’m tapped out, so there are no responses.

[draft]Butcher of the Horde
Butcher of the Horde
Akroan Hoplite
Akroan Hoplite[/draft]

20 exactly. He doesn’t have to turn his guys sideways… I’m dead.

I know. You’re going to say I misplayed and I should have been much more cautious. Sure – but I had taken into consideration what I knew of a Mardu list. A deck that had been doing quite well in higher level tournaments and had even been played by others at FNM. What I hadn’t done – was to think about Twinflame. Why? Obviously, because it had been dismissed by the pros and rated low for Constructed play by a series of articles. These pros and writers are nearly always considering the implication at the very top of Magic Constructed tournaments. However, down at FNM, Twinflame is a bomb.

Another card in the list that had the pro’s scoffing was Master of the Feast, a three drop that hits for five but it gives your opponent an extra card draw in your upkeep. Now, there is no way a pro is going to give another pro a free card but at FNM, where deck variance is much greater, a 5/5 on turn three is worth it. I have said this before but Magic is a puzzle. Not just one but lots and lots of puzzles that are all trying to be solved in shops around the world every Friday night. No one shop is quite the same as another.

I walked away from the game stunned. I felt like the game was won and then the unexpected happened, the million-to-one shot, and the game was lost. Another player asked how I got on. I shook my head. “Twinflame?” they asked. I nodded. “Yep, same thing happened to me.”

This week’s Hero of FNM is not Sebs, although he does deserve some credit, but Twinflame. 

Community Question: Is there a card, totally overlooked by the pros, that has worked for you in Standard?

Is there a card, totally overlooked by the pros, that has worked for you in Standard

Liam Casserly

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