Season Three of the Venus and Mercury League concluded with Carolyn Kavanagh as the back-to-back winner after many weeks of play. I participated in the League for the first time this season and while my results weren’t great, I had a lot of fun playing and I’m looking forward to the beginning of the next season. In the League, the players play against others in their division in weekly round robin Standard matches. Since it’s common for people to expect me to play Mono-Red in a tournament and I didn’t want my opponents to easily metagame against me, I challenged myself for this tournament to never register Mono-Red.
I love to play all kinds of decks when laddering on Arena or playing leagues on Magic: Online. When it comes to tournaments, I default to playing a red deck even if I know there are decks that are better positioned out of comfort or fear of playing a deck sub-optimally. The problem with only sticking to one kind of deck is that there are times a certain deck won’t be good enough to win a tournament even if the pilot is experienced. In this situation, switching to the best deck won’t result in wins either because after dedicating all that time to a different strategy, it will be challenging to play something unfamiliar.
The VML required players to register a deck every week, so I thought this was a good environment to force me to register decks I wouldn’t normally register. The League started at the beginning of September and everyone who played Standard these past couple months knew there were a lot of shake ups to the format.
Week One I played Mono-Green. This was still an aggressive strategy but it counts because it wasn’t red. The creatures were bigger and I wasn’t winning on turn four. I’ve played similar big creature aggro decks in tournaments before and I thought this was a good deck to ease in with. I lost the match in three games in a mirror match.
4 Pelt Collector 4 Stonecoil Serpent 4 Barkhide Troll 4 Scavenging Ooze 4 Garruk's Harbinger 4 Lovestruck Beast 3 Questing Beast 2 Shifting Ceratops 2 Vivien, Arkbow Ranger 4 Primal Might 2 Mobilized District 4 Castle Garenbrig 19 Forest 3 Ugin, the Ineffable 2 Ram Through 2 Shifting Ceratops 3 Gemrazer 3 Oakhame Adversary 1 Voracious Hydra 1 Elder Gargaroth
Week Two is when I went way out of my comfort zone. It was very clear at this time that Sultai Control was the best deck by far and it was the last week before rotation. I also lost this match in 3 games against Rakdos Sac. I remember playing very well in a long game 2. Unfortunately the sacrifice deck was fast and with only a few days to test, I didn’t quite figure out how to navigate that. One of the reasons why I shy away from decks like Sultai is because I don’t like playing long games. I’m just glad I didn’t play another mirror match.
4 Narset, Parter of Veils 3 Nissa, Who Shakes the World 1 Tamiyo, Collector of Tales 2 Hydroid Krasis 4 Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath 1 Agonizing Remorse 1 Casualties of War 2 Extinction Event 4 Thought Erasure 3 Aether Gust 1 Eat to Extinction 3 Eliminate 3 Shark Typhoon 4 Breeding Pool 1 Castle Vantress 4 Fabled Passage 2 Forest 3 Island 4 Overgrown Tomb 2 Swamp 4 Watery Grave 4 Zagoth Triome 2 Extinction Event 1 Shark Typhoon 1 Cry of the Carnarium 2 Enter the God-Eternals 4 Heartless Act 3 Negate 2 Thought Distortion
Week Three I was a little disappointed in myself. I played Gruul aggro with
Embercleave. While technically it wasn’t Mono-Red, I can play Embercleave decks with my eyes closed. I went way out of my comfort zone and then right back in. This was the first week after rotation and the format was already taken over by
Omnath, Locus of Creation. The correct choice for this week was to play Omnath but I shied away from it because I thought it would be too challenging for me to play and I already felt disheartened by losing the first two matches. I lost this match vs my opponent who correctly chose to play Omnath.
3 Cragcrown Pathway 4 Rimrock Knight 5 Forest 4 Robber of the Rich 4 Bonecrusher Giant 4 Edgewall Innkeeper 4 Mountain 3 Scavenging Ooze 1 Radha, Heart of Keld 4 Lovestruck Beast 4 Questing Beast 4 Embercleave 2 Fabled Passage 2 Temple of Abandon 2 Primal Might 3 Shatterskull Smashing 4 Turntimber Symbiosis 3 Garruk's Harbinger 2 Primal Might 2 Redcap Melee 4 Thundering Rebuke 2 Klothys, God of Destiny 2 Elder Gargaroth 3 Garruk, Unleashed
Week Four I did the right thing and registered Omnath. I would say this deck was even farther out of my comfort zone than the Sultai deck was. At this point, there were no other correct deck choices besides Omnath. Despite playing a few matches before the real match, it was very obvious that I was uncomfortable and didn’t know what I was doing. The hands I kept were weak. My opponent ran right over me with their own Omnaths. This match is a good example of what I mentioned earlier where dedicating so much time to one archetype leaves you without the skills to pilot something completely different.
4 Bonecrusher Giant 3 Escape to the Wilds 4 Fabled Passage 4 Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath 2 Spikefield Hazard 3 Genesis Ultimatum 4 Ketria Triome 2 Raugrin Triome 1 Felidar Retreat 2 Terror of the Peaks 3 Cultivate 4 Lotus Cobra 4 Omnath, Locus of Creation 3 Branchloft Pathway 4 Cragcrown Pathway 4 Riverglide Pathway 2 Forest 1 Mountain 1 Plains 3 Island 2 Mystical Dispute 2 Negate 1 Mystical Dispute 2 Thundering Rebuke 2 Sublime Epiphany 2 Confounding Conundrum 2 Elder Gargaroth 1 Kenrith, the Returned King 2 Wilt 1 Felidar Retreat
Matches five and six were played in the same week with the same deck.
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath was just banned but Omnath decks continued to stay on top. Despite playing so poorly with it the week before, I stuck with the deck. This time the deck was more centered around the adventure cards and
Lucky Clover. I lost the first match of this week to Gruul with Embercleave. This felt similar to when I played Sultai and lost against Rakdos Sac, I wasn’t sure what to do with the cards I had in the early turns to prevent dying. Playing those two matches against aggressive decks highlighted to me that while I have mastered the early turns of the game for an aggro player, I had a long way to go as a midrange/control player.
The next match for that week I played against Jeskai Control. I wasn’t expecting this kind of deck and it led to slow, grindy games. I did manage to finally pick my first win in the tournament and with a challenging deck. The more matches I played with Omnath, the better I felt about it.
1 Bala Ged Recovery 1 Giant Killer 1 Shatterskull Smashing 3 Riverglide Pathway 2 Raugrin Triome 1 Plains 4 Omnath, Locus of Creation 2 Mountain 4 Lucky Clover 2 Lovestruck Beast 4 Beanstalk Giant 1 Kenrith, the Returned King 5 Island 2 Ketria Triome 4 Forest 4 Fae of Wishes 3 Fabled Passage 3 Escape to the Wilds 4 Bonecrusher Giant 2 Brazen Borrower 4 Edgewall Innkeeper 3 Cragcrown Pathway 1 Redcap Melee 1 Storm's Wrath 1 Stern Dismissal 1 Return to Nature 1 Once and Future 2 Chainweb Aracnir 1 Primal Might 1 Fling 1 Negate 2 Mystical Dispute 1 Escape to the Wilds 1 Fabled Passage 1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
During the final week, I think everyone was burnt out on Omnath because my opponent for this match was the only one in our division to register Omnath. The namesake card was banned right after decklist submission. So if I wasn’t playing Omnath, I was of course playing Gruul. I am less disappointed in myself for registering Gruul at this point because I heard from players much better than me that it was in fact playable and it was the last round so treat yourself. I ended the League on a high note by picking up another win.
2 Shatterskull Smashing 4 Primal Might 4 Embercleave 2 Scavenging Ooze 4 Brushfire Elemental 4 Edgewall Innkeeper 2 Evolving Wilds 4 Mountain 4 Fabled Passage 4 Cragcrown Pathway 6 Forest 4 Lovestruck Beast 4 Bonecrusher Giant 4 Gemrazer 4 Kazandu Mammoth 4 Stonecoil Serpent 3 Thundering Rebuke 3 Chainweb Aracnir 3 Embereth Shieldbreaker 2 Ranger's Guile 2 Vivien, Monsters' Advocate 2 The Great Henge
To results-orientated people, this tournament would be considered a failure. My final result of 2-4 didn’t earn me anything. However, I think an important part of getting better at the game is branching out and expanding one’s skills. Playing decks I wasn’t skilled at with only a few days to practice, I would not be expected to do well. There are many talented players who play this game but no one can play every single deck with 100% accuracy.
I am always looking for ways to improve my game and in the long term, it is better to get used to playing all kinds of decks in a tournament setting. By playing these decks, I now have a list of skills I know I need to work on and can focus on specific weaknesses I have with these decks.
The goal for this tournament was to play decks I wouldn’t normally register in tournaments and work on developing the skills to get better at unfamiliar strategies. I did just that so I’d consider this tournament to be a success