For those of you who read last week’s piece, while researching it, I paid a bit of attention to my own DCI rating and discovered that it was possible for me to qualify for Worlds with a lot of winning and a bit of luck. I was initially very intrigued to see if it could be done, and it’s doubly interesting when you take into consideration a few things. First, I’ve gone to very few large events this season, and none of them were at the professional level. Second, and perhaps most important, nearly all of my play this season has been Legacy, and I have played no matches of Standard. So that means that all of my rating gains were from the format I love to play, have defended in the past, and represent to many people. This brought up a number of interesting questions: How many people have ever qualified for a Pro Tour from playing Legacy? How many people have done it without placing in a large event? Once I realized that this was going to be a unique opportunity that could never be repeated under Planeswalker Points, I took a deep breath and accepted the challenge. The goal was to go from 2058 Total to 2100 in a week.
How I Got Here
Before I go about telling you the tale of last week’s grinding, I imagine that some of you are curious how I even got to the point where pushing for points to qualify for Worlds would even be possible. I have never been proud to admit this, but almost the entire time I’ve played Magic, I’ve never been able to spend money on the game. I stand by my opinion that Magic is a relatively cheap hobby, but I have seldom been able to set money aside for it. I’m not just talking about buying singles for the deck I wanted to play, but even the price of getting to events and, on some occasions, paying entry for tournaments. Essentially, if I wanted to play every week, I had to prize, and that meant I had to win.
For most of the time I’ve played, my Eternal rating (up until very recently, the only one I’ve cared about) hovered around the mid-1700s, and the goal of the elusive 1800 Eternal rating always managed to escape me. By the time Grand Prix: Chicago happened in 2009, I had just come off reaching the goal of an 1800 rating for the first time, and I was feeling very good about the event. After coming off my three byes, I dropped after being thoroughly disgusted with my 0–2 performance, and I wouldn’t get back up to that rating for several months.
Once I finally hit the 1800 mark again, I was able to stay there for over a year, enjoying a relatively high amount of success with Reanimator, and later Landstill, until I decided that I wanted to get creative and play Battle of Wits, mono-Blue control, and a few other brews that not only exhausted all of my store credit at local stores, but also sent my DCI rating to lows I hadn’t seen in over a year.
Seeing that I was paying cash to enter events again, I decided that it was high time to pick up a powerful deck that could replenish the coffers. New Phyrexia offered some interesting choices, and chief among them was an old friend of mine—Reanimator. The deck was good, and soon I was able to not only enter events, but pick up a few extra cards on the side. Meanwhile, in six events, I went from 1753 to 1856 Eternal, and in two more, I was on the cusp of reaching a big goal of mine: 1900 Eternal. All the time, while I was staring at my Eternal rating and making goals of trying to get to 1950 or even 2000 Eternal, something was happening with my Total rating as well. Over those same eight events, my Total rating went from 1853 to just under 2000, and while I was busy getting excited about becoming so high in Eternal, my Total rating was already remarkably high—much higher than I had expected.
I think that there is a certain level of charm about the situation—paying attention to the details to such an extent that I missed the big picture. With a little bit of work, I thought I might be able to do something rare and very cool.
So, how did I get here? Well, I’m pretty good at Legacy, and pretty lucky in general. I had come off a streak of running very well, and by the time I realized what was happening, I was in the perfect position to try to reach this goal. A Legacy player for Worlds.
Why Is It Cool?
For me and for many of the people I’ve spoken with, this is such a cool story and goal for a couple of reasons. First, because I primarily play Legacy, people are glad to see one of our own being represented in that level of competition. Second, although perhaps more important, this is going to be the final time anyone is going to be able to grind events in this fashion in order to make a final push for rating. Under Planeswalker Points, there will be essentially zero opportunities to get ahead from playing Legacy events at a ×1 multiplier. The only way a player who focuses on Legacy is going to shine is if he has several hot streaks at Star City Games events and Legacy Grand Prixes, and even then, a player playing FNMs reasonably well is probably still going to come out on top.
In short, even if someone has done this before, no one will ever be able to do it again.
Day 1: Monday
My deadline for article submission was coming up, and I was way behind where I normally was at this point in the week, so I was quickly running some numbers and trying to fact-check myself with the DCI’s page, which is where I read that the top fifty ranked players in the United States would receive an invite to Worlds (much later, I learned that it was not the United States’ but rather North America’s top fifty who got invites). I was curious to see where I fell on this scale, and so I checked it out. At the time, I was in 175th place, and I looked to see about how many points I’d need to make the cut. I’d need to get to around 2107, which seemed a like a world away—49 points from where I was—but maybe something I would consider after I finished writing.
Later, when I went back to check some more numbers, I realized that I had accidentally checked my rating in the world and not the United States. So, I went ahead and checked it out—78th in the United States, and I’d only need around 30 points to be on the fence to get an invite. Now, that wasn’t too bad. I’ve gained nearly 30 points from weekly events before, so it couldn’t be that difficult if I just went to a couple of extra events. I started giving it a good thinking-about, and I told a couple of friends the interesting news.
As I thought about it more, I was getting pretty caught up in the idea, and it was getting difficult to focus. I could do it. I had to do it. I estimated that if I were to get 2 points per round, I’d just need to win sixteen matches in a row, which wasn’t impossible. I had just come off a streak where I won every match for five events; this was pretty much the same thing, except that if I lost a match this time, the goal was going to be unattainable, and all of the previous time and effort spent would have been wasted. I just had to hope that everyone would either be sympathetic to the cause or that I would be able to out-play them.
So, I needed sixteen wins, and I had about a day to do it. The first step was to identify who had events and on what days, so that’s exactly what I did. I made up a chart of all of the local gaming stores I could think of and a few more from the Store & Event Locator to make sure that I had an event I could attend every day. This is what I had to work with:
Events I attended are in red.
I am fortunate to live in an area where there are so many stores that run a wide variety of events, and that gives me a lot of options—many more than I could display here. There were various stores in the area to which I’d never been, but that run FNM or drafts on various nights, and I took note of them, but it looked like I was going to have plenty of events to choose from already. The straight Legacy events are all tournaments that I attend regularly, but I seldom get to all of them in a single week. I wanted to make sure that I hit as many events as I possibly could, and I favored the Legacy events, since that is the format I’m most comfortable with. And then I’d do a draft.
I wouldn’t mind playing in a Modern event, but the problem is that the events cannot yet be sanctioned, so it isn’t worth my time to play in them. The same is also true of FNM events—since they’re 8k, I would only gain points starting against people with a 1700 or higher rating, but could lose up to eight points against anyone, and I’d like to gain at least a point every round and avoid situations like this one from the previous week:
I took a look at my comprehensive chart and decided that on Tuesday I was going to head up to Pandemonium and try to get a Legacy event to happen. If that didn’t work, I would be able to default into a draft.
Day 2: Tuesday
The first event was going to be in an area that I didn’t go to all that frequently, so I wasn’t likely to know many people. This means that the chances of a stranger trying to dream-crush me were much higher, but at least the highest-risk event was going to be the first. My friend Jordan and I arrived with about forty minutes to spare. He brought a book in case we drafted, but we were both hoping for Legacy. Instead, there wasn’t even a sign-up sheet for the event, so we signed up for the draft. I did see a familiar face—another Legacy player from Ann Arbor. He lives out near Detroit now, so we caught up, and sadly, he ended up in the second draft, so the hope of running into a familiar face in my draft was halved. When the event finally was seated, I was pleased to see that the only friendly face in my draft was in Seat 8, while I sat directly at the opposite side of the table in Seat 5.
I opened my first pack and saw an Arachnus Spinner and Pacifism, which were probably the only playables in the pack. Spinner seemed good enough, and Green tends to be underdrafted, so I took it. My second pick was a Grim Lavamancer, then a Fireball third, and a Stingerfling Spider solidified that both Red and Green were open. In the next pack, I picked up a Pacifism, considering that there wasn’t another playable, and for the rest of Pack 1, I managed to get only a Giant Spider and a lot of powerful White flyers. Not quite how I thought the draft would go, but I do tend to be the weak link who is often forced into three colors.
Pack 2 had me taking a first-pick Pacifism from a very light pack, and I was passed my first and only Shock and Arachnus Web. For the rest of the pack, I picked up a pair of Manaliths and a Rampant Growth as I took a deep sigh about going three colors. Later, in Pack 3, I opened a Frost Titan, which I couldn’t pass, got an Incinerate passed to me, and then had to hate-draft a Royal Assassin at third pick. Pack 3 ended with only a couple more playables being added to my pile, but I had a pretty solid deck. After the draft, I learned that Green was cut so hard because an unheard-of five people were drafting it. A girl in Seat 1 was the only person in Blue and had a pair of Mind Controls to go with her Fireball.
The first match against my friend was uneventful, as he understood why we were there and gave me the win so that I could carry on, although his deck was very good. Moving on to my second-round opponent, we sat down and he seemed like a nice enough guy, so I explained to him what the goal was for me and what I needed to have happen in order to reach it. He gave me the response that I was dreading hearing at any point—let alone the first time I played a match—“Well, sorry you’re playing against me, then.” He intended to derail the train.
Luckily for me, the player was rather inexperienced and had drafted a relatively weak deck, featuring something in the range of six Gladecover Scouts without any Auras to put on them or any bloodthirsty creatures. After surviving the first few turns, my slightly more expensive creatures started trading for combat tricks. Eventually, he was forced into a defensive position, and I was able to press my advantage from there. Game 2 went a bit more quickly, as I was able to stop his offense with a Blood Ogre and a Giant Spider. I took care of a pair of Greater Basilisks and chipped away at his life total while he flooded on lands.
The last round of the draft was played against a girl who had a very strong U/R deck. I explained the situation to her, and she wanted to play out a game, so we did. I ended up with removal for every one of her creatures, and she didn’t really have the tools to deal with my larger threats, like Gorehorn Minotaurs and Bonebreaker Giant. She didn’t feel bad about giving me the match, saying that she didn’t think she could handle the deck.
I was able to take down the riskiest event of the week, and with a sigh of relief, the dream lived on and I went home.
Day 3: Wednesday
The DCI ratings updated at midnight, and I checked them eagerly. 2058. Exactly 1 point higher than I was last week, but two places lower in ranking, at 77th, or 83rd in North America.
Good ol’ Legacy night. This was likely to be the night that was going to be the easiest for me, since I’ve been playing at Get Your Game On for years now, and am good friends with most of the people who play up there. I expected even the players with whom I wasn’t close to be sympathetic to my story.
Round 1 was against Kuldotha Red, which wasn’t too frightening, but what was scary is that the pilot had one of the lowest ratings in the state. A loss here would cost me a full 16 points, and, as I learned afterward, a win would get me 0 points. Essentially, because of a bad pairing, I now had to play seventeen rounds instead of the sixteen I had estimated. We talked during the match, and he’s a great guy; I was able to clean it up pretty easily with either Jin-Gitaxias or Iona on Red in both games.
In the second round, I played against a good friend who was sympathetic to the cause, but wanted to play out our games to see what would happen. He got me in Game 1 by getting an early Scavenging Ooze. Game 2, he kept a hand with only Mental Misstep as defense against my very fast hand, and in Game 3, I had to battle through a Tormod's Crypt, but was able to Show and Tell a Jin-Gitaxias in, with the Misstep for his Plow, which allowed me to set up a Show and Tell for Sphinx of the Steel Wind as well. It was good to see that even against the players who agree to scoop to me, I could get the wins on my own.
My third round was against a new player who was piloting Goblins with Misstep. I was glad to see new players in Legacy, and I think that Goblins is actually a fine choice for the format at this time. I lent Rishadan Ports to him before the event, so I thought that he would for sure be willing to scoop to me, but, to my surprise, he insisted that we play it out. I couldn’t really complain, because it was his right, so we shuffled up. Before this round, he and I had actually played out a few games casually and split them 2–2, so it was somewhat concerning that I could lose this match. Luckily, both games ended rather quickly after I landed Elesh Norn in the first game and Iona in the second. We played a few more games out after our match, and I won them 5–0.
In the final round of Swiss, I was paired against Ari Lax, who was also playing Reanimator. He’d been in positions like mine before, and was on the train anyway, so he was very kind in scooping to me. I thanked him, and we discussed a few of the points of this goal, how I hadn’t played Standard, and how many points I thought I needed. During the conversation, I said something about top fifty in the United States, and he corrected me by saying that it’s the top fifty in North America. I initially freaked out, but I remembered that I had checked this last night on a whim—I was 83rd in North America. I would only need a few more points than I would have if it had been the United States. Ari also told me that I was probably not gaining the number of points that I thought I was. I remembered the previous night when I Googled a ratings calculator and just played with it a little bit, but I really didn’t know how many points I was going to get off someone with a 1600 rating. It gave me a lot to think about until the Top 8 started.
In the Top 8, I was paired against a new face. He took his sideboard out of the box and dropped Submerge and Ancient Grudge onto the table—so this was the NO R/U/G player I had heard about. I liked the matchup, but it could go either way. I decided to keep quiet about the quest for 2100, and we shuffled up. He mulliganed, and while I looked at a slow, but permission-heavy hand, I told him about it. He didn’t seem impressed, and I said, “Well, just think about it while we play.” He gave me a shrug and kept his six. I heard someone say that this was his first Legacy event, so I felt comfortable that I would probably be able to win the match if nothing else then with my familiarity with the format.
He led with Noble Hierarch, and I played an Island and passed. He played a Green Sun's Zenith for 2, and I let it resolve, expecting a Tarmogoyf, but of course it was Scavenging Ooze. I panicked for a moment. Considering that I had no main-decked answer to the Ooze, as long as he just kept his mana up, I was dead. As the turns went on and he hit me for 3, I wondered to myself, “Does he know what I’m playing? Was he sent here from the future to destroy me? Why isn’t he casting any spells at all? He has entirely too much Green mana available.” While I was flooding on lands, he finally attempted a Vendilion Clique. I tapped out to Force of Will; he thought for a moment and let it resolve. On his next attack, I dropped to 6 life and untapped. NO R/U/G plays Lightning Bolt and Fire // Ice, so being at 6 is essentially being at 3—if I was going to make a play, it needed to be that turn. I had a full grip, but he had four Green sources, so I could only get a creature back if he did something wrong.
I cast a Careful Study, and he read it and responded by cracking his fetch land to get his fifth mana source. Luckily, he was looking down, so he was unable to see my body posture perk up as it happened—I knew what was coming. He tapped out, just as I had the turn before to cast Force of Will, only I had a Daze for his Force, and my Daze resolved, along with Careful Study. I drew, drew, and discarded Jin-Gitaxias and a noncreature card. I cast Animate Dead, drew my seven, but was sure not to discard any creatures. On his turn, he attacked with his 2/2 (+Exalted) Ooze, and I hastily blocked with my Jin-Gitaxias. He exiled the only creature in a graveyard, which was his Vendilion Clique, so that the creatures traded, and he followed it up with a Tarmogoyf. On my turn, I Careful Studied away Sphinx of the Steel Wind and returned it with Animate Dead. I got a few attacks in before he drew Natural Order, making it too late to race.
He boarded in about twelve cards for Game 2, but I had a Sphinx of the Steel Wind by turn two, and he apparently did not see anything useful, so he packed it in. In conclusion, he wasn’t sent from the future to destroy me, and I was able to win at least the first game because my opponent didn’t have a firm grasp of what I was doing until it was too late. I imagine that when the Careful Study was cast, he put me on some sort of combo deck, not realizing that the Ooze was going to be able to answer anything I could possibly do with Study.
In the Top 4, I was paired against a friend who was playing aggro MUD, which was a fair match that he didn’t require me to play out. Ari defeated Landstill and Goblins to meet me in the finals and was kind enough to scoop to me so everyone could go home.
When I got home, I started running all kinds of numbers through the Elo calculator I had found a couple of nights before. I realized that I was likely only going to gain an average of 1.3 points per round, which meant that I was going to need to win a lot more rounds than I had expected. With the null-win from Round 1, this was going to make things a lot more complicated than I had hoped. Luckily, the wins from Ari were going to give me 8 points apiece, and that was a really great boost. I realized that this entire goal may have been unattainable if that night had not gone very close to how it did, although gaining points in Round 1 still would have been nice.
Day 4: Thursday
I didn’t sleep at all. It may sound silly, but I couldn’t stop counting and recounting points, making sure I was where I thought I was and stressing that I wasn’t going to get the points I still needed. 30 points put me to 2088, but others were going to be making a push in the last week as well, right? But how many of them would have access to the same number of events that I did or the vast network of friends and acquaintances that I’ve been lucky to cultivate over the years? These were the thoughts that plagued my mind well after the time I had to drag myself out of bed.
BC Comix is a store that I’ve started going to recently. They’ve been trying to push Legacy, and I really enjoy the store. I’ve only known a number of the people for a few months, but a lot of them have a lot of potential. I didn’t know if any of them would agree to help me out along the way, but I’d won the event several times anyway, so I may not have needed concessions, although they could take some stress out of the ordeal.
My first round was against Jordan again, who wasn’t happy about it and refused to even play me. In my defense, Landstill versus Reanimator isn’t very favorable for Landstill, or interesting to play, so I don’t blame him. We went to get sandwiches from what is likely the best sandwich shop I have ever been to: The Fenton Deli. Since the medium was far more than I could hope to eat before the next round starts, I feasted until pairings went up.
Round 2 was against NO R/U/G and a player who I’m not sure would scoop to me if I asked, so we played it out. Game 1, I was able to get Sphinx down rather early, and he waited for lethal damage while a pair of Tarmogoyfs stood around. For Game 2, I boarded in my Darkblast that I was excited to play with, and was met with a Leyline of the Void off his mull to six. I treaded water for some time, looking for a Show and Tell, but couldn’t make anything happen before his Tarmogoyf got me. In Game 3, I started with Darkblast in hand, but his seven had a Leyline of the Void, so I still couldn’t try this card out, and shuffled it away with a Brainstorm. He quickly played Scavenging Ooze to double the pressure, but I was able to find the lands for a Show and Tell and pair it with Sphinx again to soar over for a quick victory. Afterward, he told me that he was willing to concede, but wanted to make me earn it. People seem to like making me work for it.
Round 3 brought Elf Combo to the table, piloted by a player who I’m pretty sure had no interest in scooping to me. In fact, he seemed hell-bent to try to crush Reanimator. Luckily, Game 1 was ended swiftly with an Elesh Norn on turn three, followed up with Iona on turn four. In Game 2, he boarded in several cards and had a turn-two Scavenging Ooze, for which I had a Force, which was good, because I couldn’t set up until turn three. He played a couple of Elves, but Iona silenced him from that point on. He showed me a Beast Within from the board as he packed it in.
In Round 4, I was paired against a new friend of mine from the store. He joked about dream-crushing me, and we played a few games, because he wanted to know what the matchup was like. He was playing U/W Landstill, and we played about five games total pre- and post-board. I won them all, and we reported with time to eat a bit more of my sandwich.
Top 4 was announced: Landstill versus Elves, and me versus Stone-Blade. I have had some trouble with Stone-Blade in the past, but this build was a slower one—a lot more like Landstill, so it wasn’t too much trouble. Elves fell to Landstill, and rather than going through the motions and increase the record to 0–7, he was kind enough to scoop to me in the final round.
On the drive home, I counted the points I estimated I’d earned again and again. I was feeling pretty good. I got in and took some notes, and after a sleepless night, I was finally sleeping for the entire night.
Day 5: Friday
Back up to BC Comix again. This time, I was hoping that a draft formed after FNM. I got up there around 8:00 p.m., which was far too early for a draft, but I was able to get around and talk with a lot of people. After the previous night, a lot of the local players had been talking, and I was getting a lot of greetings and well-wishes from people who thought that what I was trying to do was really cool. It was great to see such a warm response from people—even strangers at a store that I’d only been coming to for a couple of months.
FNM ended late; a lot of people were not going to be able to do a draft, and some of the people who I had been hoping would get in on the event had bowed out early. We did still manage to get a small draft together, and it was actually one of the most fun drafts I have ever done. Everyone was very good-humored, and the atmosphere was light. I drafted what I hoped would be an aggressive R/B deck, but I ended up with a number of control cards mixed in with my Tormented Souls and Goblin Fireslingers. The deck felt pretty solid, though, so I was happy with it.
My first round was against an aggressive Blue deck with a small splash of Red for Blood Ogre and Fireball. Blue was super-open in this draft, and this was evidenced by the fact that I got both a last-pick Skywinder Drake and Divination, so I was sure his deck was stacked. I got an aggressive start with Devouring Swarm and Reassembling Skeleton with a lot of removal. His creatures didn’t show up for the early game, so to keep up, he locked Ice Cage around my Swarm, which I was able to break with a top-decked Dark Favor. From there, I was able to play out the top end of my curve, and my removal finally found targets in the form of Phantasmal Dragon and Blood Ogre. In the second game, I got a very fast start and chipped him down with Tormented Soul and Child of Night. Again in this game, I broke an Ice Cage with Dark Favor—this time on Child of Night, which gave me a healthy 10-point life swing.
In the next round, I was paired against another R/B deck. His deck was on the plan of Act of Treason + Fling. We went to three games; in Games 1 and 2, we exchanged flooding out, and in Game 3, I had a very aggressive start and he couldn’t get anything to stick. He expressed that he was willing to concede to me, but that it felt better to be able to get the wins anyway, and so far I’d beaten everyone who had agreed to scoop to me.
In Round 3, I got paired down to the person who had given me one of my two losses the week before. He instantly scooped to me, but we played out our games to see where it would go. In Game 1, I drew eleven of my seventeen lands, and he was able to stick several enchantments, including Spirit Mantle, so after a few quick swings, the game ended. In our second game, I mulliganed a zero-land hand to a six-land hand and kept it—oddly enough, this was the game I won. In Game 3, he got a very slow start, but finally found a Hexproof creature and unloaded everything he had on it in a single turn. I was not able to keep up, so, for the first time, I actually needed someone to concede to me—which, luckily, we had already reported.
The draft had a couple more rounds and ended very late into the morning hours, which is where my memory gets hazy. I ended up being fixated on this match because this was the first one I had really lost, and it really hit home for me that I had the support of a lot of people—not just in the form of concessions from those who were playing in the tournaments, but also in the form of all of the kind words from the day before, and of the people who were willing to stay up until 5:00 a.m. to do a draft that I hoped I would do well in, and all the way to the friends who let me tag along with them when they go to events. I wouldn’t have been able to even make it to any of these events without the support of my friends and even a few strangers who entered the tournaments just to get them to fire. I tried to express my gratitude to everyone for staying so late—I don’t know if they quite understood how much it meant to me.
Day 6: Saturday
I woke up much earlier than I had hoped, having received a text from Jordan—the tournament would start in an hour, and he wanted to know if I could make it over there. I got out of bed and sleepily headed out of the house. We met up and headed on over to Stadium, which is another risky event that I was not totally excited about playing in—but I needed to get into all of the events that I could. We called them up since we were going to be a bit late, and let them know—they said that they had a few people and they’d wait for us.
When we arrived, there was only Jacob sorting out his Commander deck, and he informed us that the other guys had just left, but that we would not have had enough players anyway. I played him with my G/W/r Astral Slide Commander deck against his Child of Alara Commander deck. Highlights included sliding out Child of Alara in response to Birthing Pod and having both Mirari's Wake and Mana Reflection on the table by turn five. The conclusion of that game was that I am apparently still unable to build a Commander deck that people don’t hate playing against. After that, Jordan and I stopped at a Chinese place, and then headed home. It was upsetting that we weren’t able to get that event to happen, but I was totally exhausted, so I was looking forward to taking a nap. I ended up sleeping for sixteen hours.
Around 1:00 a.m., I awoke to a text message from Facebook.
“What about Gosta Dirk for Reanimator SB or does Blazing Archon basically do the same thing?”
“What the hell is Gosta Dirk?” I thought to myself in my freshly awakened stupor. I wondered if it was a typo, but figured that it must have been a new card, so I went to the Innistrad spoiler and Ctrl-F’d “Gosta”. No results. Well, maybe “Ghosta”. Nope. How about “Dirk”? Nothing. Well, I figured it was a typo anyway, so I went ahead and looked at every card in the spoiler at that point—nothing. So, I Googled “Gosta Dirk”. I switched back to my Facebook tab and typed out my reply.
“Is this a joke?”
I went back to sleep.
Day 7: Sunday
The only event on Sunday was going to be all the way in Lansing, which is about an hour away, and I didn’t think going out there was going to be a possibility. I was fine with it, though; I figured that my rating was probably good enough for the invite at that point, and while I do have a number of friends out there, the event could be risky. However, the night before, a member of the A2 Crew, Mike, asked me if I wanted to go out there. He wasn’t able to make it for the Wednesday event at GYGO as he normally does, and he wanted to help out. I got up around 10:00 and started planning out the trip. Last week, I had heard from three of my friends that Evolution Games hadn’t had their Legacy event because they only had three people sign up. So, the first step was to get the word out. I had talked to the twins, Joel, and a couple of others in the area earlier in the week to see if they would be able to come out, and as long as there were about two other people, it looked like we were going to have an event.
Mike and I got stuck in traffic and arrived at almost exactly 2:00 p.m. We were the only two people. I made a call to the twins, since they hadn’t answered my text that morning. They told me that they were swamped with homework, but that they would come out if they made eight. Joel said he’d be coming up with Joe in about thirty minutes. That was six players, and I thought it might happen after all.
Mike and I sat down and played a few games out while we waited to see if anyone came. There was a guy with long hair in the corner whom we’d seen play Legacy a few times prior, but the guys who work at the store said that he didn’t have anything built at the time. Mike and I started to lose hope as 2:30 rolled around and no one had shown up. As we started talking about packing it in, James showed up; he used to play in Ann Arbor quite a bit, and he did a lot of work on the Buried Alive/Necrotic Ooze combo, which he normally plays. I told him about the quest, and he didn’t seem excited, but in his defense, he doesn’t have a huge range of emotions—that I’ve seen, at least.
About this time, I got a call from Joel—he wouldn’t be able to show up until 4:00. Things were looking pretty grim. I told James the news, and he said he was going to go take a nap until then, and the twins said that if they were coming, they’d come with Joel and Joe. Mike and I sighed deeply and went to get some lunch.
When we got back, Mike wanted to test his G/W maverick build against Reanimator, so we played a few games, and the store got a call inquiring about the Legacy event. I started counting people in my mind:
4. Twin 1 (James)
5. Twin 2 (William)
8. Mystery Caller
That was eight! I thought we might be able to do this after all. It was about 3:50, and, as promised, the twins, Joel, and Joe all showed up, and James actually came back from his nap. I told them all the good news about the guy who called up asking about the event, and I made sure that it was not any of them who had called. We had it—all we needed to do was wait a bit longer.
4:00 came around, then 4:15. No one else had shown up, so the guys who worked in the store started asking if anyone would play as our eighth in the event, and luckily someone did it. As long as I could avoid the guy who might have wanted want to dream-crush me, this event could be all right.
Of course, in the first round, I was paired against the guy I didn’t know. He didn’t look happy about playing in the event, so I didn’t mention anything to him about ratings, considering that it seemed like little would make him happier than to ruin my day. In all seriousness, he was polite, but looked a bit tired, and he was clearly playing in the event just because we needed him to, and I think he wanted to prize in it.
In Game 1, he opened with Llanowar Elves. I wondered if it could really be Elf Combo. I had a slower hand than I was comfortable with, since I thought he was on Stone-Blade, but nearly any hand is doable against Elves. It turned out that my Ponders and Brainstorms didn’t find me any gas, and he had developed on the board quite a bit as my life total dwindled. I shuffled off a Ponder and drew into an Entomb. On his turn, he started to combo, but I had the Misstep for his Glimpse of Nature, so that stopped him cold. I dropped to 3 and Entombed Elesh Norn on his end step, and I was able to Exhume on my turn to end the game.
For the second game, he boarded in quite a few cards, but the only cards I was worried about were the three Tormod's Crypts. I kept a slow hand that I should have mulliganed, and I start throwing Mental Missteps at his mana Elves, which almost worked, considering that he was stuck on one land. The turn I intended to Entomb, he played a Tormod's Crypt, which meant that I’d need to find a way to get another creature into my graveyard, considering that my Elesh Norn was instantly gone. In a couple of turns, I was at a low life total, but hoped that I could stabilize with Iona, providing that I got a great top-deck. But he responded to my reanimation spell with a Beast Within targeting his own land, which put him to lethal damage. Beast Within—I’ll need to remember that one.
I was pretty shaken, considering that this was the last event I’d be playing in, and it would totally suck to be knocked out of contention after all of this. I drew a very strong hand with Pithing Needle, Entomb, Animate Dead, and a pair of lands, as well as a Brainstorm. If only I always had this hand. I played a fetch and passed. He played a Wirewood Symbiote, and I cast Entomb for Iona. He asked to see if I could put it on the battlefield and extended the hand when I showed it to him.
The second round was against James, who was the third person to arrive. I asked him what he was playing nowadays, and he told me, “Knights.” I thought he was joking, but I talked to Mike after Round 1 and asked him how it went, and he said that he, in fact, lost to Knights. “His guys have First Strike,” he told me, and I laughed. I remember that James let me look at his sideboard and deck to prove that he really had a Knights deck, and I remember that his graveyard hate was Faerie Macabre—that card is dreadfully obnoxious, much like every other card with the Faerie creature type.
Game 1 started, and he had a hand with a couple of Knights, but Elesh Norn killed most of them, and he picked it up when I had the counter for his Plow. In Game 2, he did a lot more boarding than I had expected, but I had a pretty controlling hand, so it didn’t seem like a problem. He mulliganed to six and kept a hand with a fetch for Temple Garden and Student of Warfare. I played a Ponder on my turn, and he missed his second land-drop, then his third, then his fourth. I thought, what would be so good that he would keep one land and keep tapping out on his turn to level his guy? Faerie Macabre! Great, now I had to play around that. I Careful Studied and discarded one of my two cards that I could get rid of, so that if I hit another discard outlet, I’d have a threat. He uses the Faerie, and I was swimming, looking for some action. On his next, turn he played a Bojuka Bog, which hit my graveyard that was filled with blanks. I imagined that he just really needed a land. On my turn, I drew Show and Tell and told him all about Jin-Gitaxias. He read it and commented about how good that guy was as he revealed that his card was a Plains. I drew my seven, and he tapped his deck and revealed that he’d drawn his fourth land, then cast Day of Judgment. I smirked, as I remembered seeing those in his sideboard. They were pretty good here—I couldn’t Misstep them, but I did have a Daze, and with that, he said that was good enough, and I moved on to Round 3. James told me that he probably would have given it to me had he won. People love to make you work for it—luckily, I am willing to work for it.
Round 3 was against Joel, who was playing a Landstill list that I handed him. He beat both of the twins to meet me in the finals. I ask him if he wanted to play, but he staunchly refused and reported that I won 2–0. I thanked him, and we talked about how he’d been out of the game for a while, and if Misstep was banned, he wanted to work with me on Counter-Top Thopters again. We talked about Misstep in the format and if it would get banned. I think it will either tonight (Tuesday, September 20 at midnight) or December 20, although part of me will miss it. Reanimator with Misstep is basically easy-mode for Legacy—it gives the deck such a potent tool to use against what were at one time close matches. However, it’s difficult to gauge if the deck is still going to be such a powerhouse after Mental Misstep is banned, because I’ve never Reanimated a Jin-Gitaxias without Misstep in the deck.
I spent a lot of time considering how a reader would see this entry. There are a couple of negative twists that one could put on it, but I’d like to tell you what I think all of this is. It started out as my documentation of the final relevant days of the Elo system, which is about to be entirely replaced by Planeswalker Points. Furthermore, it’s the tale of something that a Legacy (or Modern, or even Vintage) player could do that will be impossible under the new system; grinding for Planeswalker Points is basically impossible. However, most important, over the week as I wrote this, I realized that this is a story about networking and friendship. The only reason I was able to get an event together in Lansing from nothing was that I have been an active part of trying to get people involved in Legacy and in trying to help them to get better at the game. This is much the same reason that anyone was willing to draft at 1:00 a.m. after a long FNM, or why many of the people were so willing to drive me around or even scoop to me. It is true that no man is an island, and my ability to compete at any event, let alone Worlds, is proof positive of that.
In Magic, as in most things in life, if you set your mind to something, take the time to become good at it, and network well (being friendly to new faces doesn’t hurt here—a misguided sense of elitism will get you nowhere), you can set out to achieve your goals. Mine started out small and went in logical steps—1800 Eternal, 1900 Eternal, 1950 Eternal. Then, finally, one of the most difficult goals concerning rating was within grasp—qualifying for rating without placing in a large event or even attending a PTQ or Grand Prix that year.
I really want to stress how important networking is in Magic, and even more so in real life. If you want to get better, you share ideas and you get other viewpoints—you even need to be wrong now and then. Being a prick may get you short-term benefits of putting an opponent on tilt, but being welcoming and willing to share insight in constructive ways can really get you far, and all of this really shone through for me during this last week.
The quest wasn’t about going to Worlds at all. Hell, I don’t even know if I’ll be attending the event for sure. Trying to qualify for Worlds was to reach another personal goal for me—something that was attainable and interesting—not to prove myself to anyone else. If you’re not happy with where you are in Magic, I challenge you to do the same thing: Set attainable goals, do the reading, watch the videos—they’re all available. If Magic is something you want to be good at, you’re going to have to make the effort; no one is naturally skilled at the most complicated game on the planet.
A little over a year ago, Sam Stoddard wrote this piece, which I think I’ve linked to before, but which I want to point out again for anyone who wants to get better at the game. Even if you don’t go through this exact process, stay cognizant of yourself, and challenge yourself and those around you to do better.
In five short hours, I’ll learn if Misstep is banned or not, and I can start figuring out what to do with Modern, although I’m pretty sure that the goal is still to find the best combo deck available. The day after, I’ll see where I fall in the rankings for North America. I hope nothing goes wrong; it’s exciting, and I know a lot of people are pulling for me. This article and the journey that it’s based on was the hard work of a lot of people—too many to thank here in a context that would properly convey my gratitude, but I hope that I’ve expressed that all personally. As a result of a lot of work and a little bit of luck, we just may have a Legacy player for Worlds this year.
~ Christopher Walton in the real world
im00pi at gmail dot com
@EmperorTopDeck on Twitter