Hello everyone! Previously I had an article go up here on Cardsphere where I talked about my preparation for SCG Con and the SCG Invitational. For those of you that didn't read that article and are unsure of what I'm talking about, think of SCG Con as a Magic Fest and the SCG Invitational as the main tournament at a Magic Fest. In comparison to a Magic Fest where the Grand Prix main event is open to anyone who pays an entry fee, the SCG Invitational is an invite-only tournament where you have to earn your spot to play in the tournament. So for today's article, I'm going to talk about my experience and how I went from being down on myself and questioning myself as a player to drafting for $10,000 in prizes!

Day 1

Technically, the convention itself started on Thursday, but we didn't have to be there until Friday, so we'll start with Friday as Day 1 . Which begins with us arriving at our hotel room at about 2:30 in the morning. It was a 6 hour drive and we couldn't leave for Virginia until everyone in the car were done with work.

In the car were Brandon Dempsey, who has won an SCG Standard Classic event and got 13th at the SCG Standard Open in Worcester earlier this year, Joe Fortini who has 4 SCG Classic top 8 finishes and a 13th place finish at the SCG Standard Open in Philadelphia in 2015, Matt Tumavitch who has 4 SCG Open top 8 finishes and 1 SCG Open win from the SCG Standard Open in Philadelphia in 2015, and me, Marc Yeager. A mediocre Magic: The Gathering content creator attending his first large SCG event.

The Invitational is set up to be 4 rounds of Pioneer and 4 rounds of Modern on day 1. After 8 rounds, anyone with a record of 5-3 or better moves onto day 2 where you play another 4 rounds of Pioneer and 4 rounds of Modern. The top 8 records after 16 rounds play on day 3  to determine a champion. We begin with 4 rounds of Pioneer. Here was my decklist for the event:

4 Aether Hub
4 All That Glitters
1 Battlefield Forge
4 Bomat Courier
4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Ensoul Artifact
4 Gingerbrute
1 Hallowed Fountain
2 Hangarback Walker
2 Hope of Ghirapur
1 Island
4 Ornithopter
1 Shivan Reef
3 Shrapnel Blast
2 Skilled Animator
4 Smuggler's Copter
4 Spire of Industry
3 Spirebluff Canal
1 Steam Vents
4 Steel Overseer
3 Stubborn Denial

1 Aethersphere Harvester
3 Encase in Ice
2 Hangarback Walker
1 Lava Coil
3 Magma Spray
2 Pithing Needle
1 Spell Pierce
2 Wear/Tear

I like the premise of the deck. I think it's strong and it has treated me well online. All That Glitters is super underrated right now and more people should give Jeskai Ensoul a try over the Izzet lists based solely on the power level of this card alone. The manabase is the only thing that displeased me. Playing a 3 color aggro deck that also needs to jam 4 copies of Darksteel Citadel in it is not an easy task.

Round 1 vs Izzet Phoenix Loss 0-2 Record 0-1

Unfortunately, there isn't too much to talk about in my first match of the day. I mulliganed to 5 both games and my opponent played well. His name was Allen Steinberg and he finished the main event in 21st, so it sounds like he played well all weekend and not just against me! The only play during this match that had any relevance worth talking about was that in game 1 I had the option to Shrapnel Blast a Thing in the Ice with the transform trigger on the stack, but I chose to not. My opponent was at 7 and I was at 17. If I draw one of my 1/1s with Haste, I can potentially win the race by using the blast to hit my opponent for 5 and stealing the game. In hindsight, I'm probably supposed to just kill the Thing in the Ice, but oh well. Hindsight is 20-20 and I know for next time now!

Round 2 vs Mono Green Loss 0-2 Record 0-2

2 rounds played, 0 games won. I don't hate the Mono Green matchup as long as they don't have Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. If they have it though, then the matchup is pretty poor. We had a really close game 1, but double Vivien, Arkbow Ranger was too good even without the Nykthos. In game 2, opponent had the turn 2 Nissa, Who Shakes the World. I had a turn 3 5/5 flyer, but his start was more broken than mine was and I lost. My opponent's name for this round was Ben Bugalter and he also had a solid weekend. He finished 71st and was either 1 match win or better breakers away from cashing the main event.

Round 3 vs Mono Green Win 2-0 Record 1-2

We did it. We won a game. Not just 1 game either. 2 of them! My opponent had Elvish Mystic + Nykthos + 3 Burning-Tree Emissary on turn 2, but he never drew anything to take advantage of all the mana to which he had access. In game 2, I drew 2 of my sideboard cards in my opening 7, Magma Spray and Encase in Ice, which helped quite a bit. I had a pretty fun way of winning this game too. The board was a little awkward and clogged, but I had a Smuggler's Copter that could chip in for some damage in the air or block his 2/2 Emissaries or 1/1 Mana dorks and get some added value from the block trigger. I decided to hold back from attacking and just play defensively. After 2 or 3 turns of playing defensively, I was able to crew my Copter and put two copies of All That Glitters on it to hit my opponent for the full 20 in one turn. My opponent for this round was Ryan Repp, who has 2 great finishes in SCG Legacy Classics this year including a 2nd place finish.

Round 4 vs Simic Loss 0-2 Record 1-3

My opponent's deck this round was basically Mono Green again except he was splashing blue for Hydroid Krasis and Oko, Thief of Crowns. In game 1, I was set up to have a turn 2 5/5 with Indestructible. I played my Darksteel Citadel on turn 1 and Oko turned it into an Elk on turn 2 before I could even tap it for mana. So, at one point in that game, I had more Elks in play than lands. Magic is great. Anyway, I only had 1 other land in hand at the time and didn't draw another one for the rest of the game. Game 2, I mulliganed to 5 and then got double hit with 2 big Hydroid Krasis that were cast with plenty of mana from a Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.

At this point in the day, I'm 1-3 and have only won 2 games through 4 rounds. I was feeling really deflated and was questioning myself. I earned my invite to get here, but now that I was finally here at my 1st SCG event, I'm getting absolutely demolished. I felt like I was letting everyone down. That means everyone that was supporting me on social media and wishing me good luck, my friends who were all proud of me just for qualifying, the guys at Cardsphere who are paying me to represent them at the event, and myself. Sure, it's only 4 rounds into 1 tournament of many, but with this being my biggest tournament ever, I felt pretty bad at the time.

After a short break, it was time to play 4 rounds of Modern. If I manage to 4-0 the Modern portion of the event, then I can still technically make day 2 with a 5-3 record. I qualified for the Invitational by winning a tournament with Modern Infect. Luckily for me, Infect is positioned really well in the meta right now and I know how to play it well. This made it an easy deck selection for me. Here is the list I played.

1 Become Immense
4 Blighted Agent
4 Blossoming Defense
2 Breeding Pool
1 Dismember
3 Distortion Strike
4 Glistener Elf
1 Ichorclaw Myr
4 Inkmoth Nexus
4 Might of Old Krosa
1 Misty Rainforest
4 Mutagenic Growth
4 Noble Hierarch
2 Pendelhaven
4 Scale Up
3 Snow-Covered Forest
2 Spell Pierce
4 Vines of Vastwood
2 Waterlogged Grove
4 Windswept Heath
2 Wooded Foothills

1 Dismember
3 Grafdigger's Cage
1 Piracy Charm
2 Pithing Needle
3 Return to Nature
1 Spell Pierce
2 Spellskite
2 Wild Defiance

The deck is great. Enough said. I really can't advocate for this deck anymore than I already do. There are 2 cards that a lot of people have been playing recently that I don't have in my list that I'd like to touch on briefly. Once Upon A Time is a great card, but I didn't have any practice with the them in Infect and I couldn't justify spending $80+ at the time for unproven cards in the archetype. With that being said, now that their price dropped after being banned in standard, I'll have my playset soon and will be testing extensively with them. The other card is Oko, Thief of Crowns. Oko is bad in the main of Infect. Stop playing it in your main. I get it. Infect is simic? Well, let's just jam some Okos in there since you play it in every simic deck. No. Stop. Please. If you want to play it in the sideboard to board in once the games get more grindy post-board, that's totally justified and you should do it if you think that's the best card to have in your sideboard for a given tournament. Ok. Rant over. Let's talk about Modern went for me.

Round 5 vs Tron Win 2-0 Record 2-3

Tron is one of the easiest matchups for Infect. They lack interaction and sometimes are just dead before they even have Tron assembled. I'll gladly take my free win. At the time, I needed it.

Round 6 vs Grixis Shadow Win 2-0 Record 3-3

I'm still amazed that I won 2-0 here. Grixis Shadow one of Infect's worst matchups. If I could pick 3 decks to never have to play against with Infect, they'd be Jund, Burn, and Grixis Shadow. I played really well this round and brought back some of that self confidence that had been lost during the Pioneer rounds. In game 1, I was very patient and held up double protection for my creatures every turn until I had the win. Game 2 was significantly different. One of the best cards that Infect usually plays against Death's Shadow decks is Dryad Arbor. The opponents need their life totals to be low to maximize their Death's Shadows, but by doing so, they open themselves up to death by regular damage from an unexpected attack from a Dryad Arbor plus a pump spell. I chose not to play Dryad Arbor because I was expecting more decks like Simic Whirza, Tron, and Amulet Titan where Dryad Arbor ends up being more of a liability. Opponent and I played game 2 and it went exactly as expected. He kills all my creatures and plays a giant Shadow. I play out a Noble Hierarch. On his turn, he attacks with the Shadow and I can take the damage as long as he doesn't have Temur Battle Rage.  If he has Battle Rage, I'm dead whether I block with the Hierarch or not. I choose not to block, take the damage, and he plays a Bloodstained Mire in his second main phase which represents lethal damage next turn if he fetches and shocks. However, my opponent wouldn't get that next turn. 2 copies of Might of Old Krosa and an exalted attack with my Hierarch win me the game with regular damage.

Round 7  vs Tron Loss 0-2 Record 3-4

I deserve this. It only makes sense that if I 2-0 my worst matchup that my best match up then gets to 2-0 me in return. In game 1, I win if I'm on the play, but lose because I'm on the draw. He has turn 3 Tron and gets to exile my Glistener Elf with his Karn Liberated and then Tron continued to do what Tron does as I die to a combination of Wurmcoil Engine and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. In game 2, I kept a reasonable hand, but it's possible that I should have mulliganed once to try to hit the turn 2 kill just to guarantee the win. The hand was creature heavy which is great against grindy matchups, but kind of mediocre against Tron. Against Tron, you just want a creature, maybe 2, and then pump spells that kill them as soon as possible. I didn't find my pump spells to speed up the game and he had a Walking Ballista which is fantastic against Infect. So, with the combination of Ballista as removal and drawing more creatures than pump spells, my opponent was able to stabilize and beat me. One of the cards that really shined for my opponent was Trinisphere. Oblivion Stone to stabilize with Trinisphere to ensure that there was no way that I could ever come back was impossible to beat.

Now that it is mathematically impossible to make day 2, I drop from the event and call it a day.

Day 2

I woke up and headed over to the convention center for a Cube Qualifier that began at 10. Star City Games was doing a cube draft that would be streamed after the Invitational was over. There were 8 qualifier events and the 8 winners all got to compete in that streamed cube draft. The 8 players would then play for $10,000 in prizes with $4k going to 1st, $2k going to 2nd, $1k going to 3rd and 4th, and $500 going to 5th-8th. There were 5 qualifiers that were cube draft from the new curated pauper cube the SCG is selling and 3 qualifiers that were Modern. The way that the tournament schedule was set up, once the 4 rounds of the qualifier were over, I could go play in a Pioneer Pro Tour Qualifier right afterwards. So, now that I have my day planned out, it's time to play some Magic.

The Cube Qualifier event that I played in was Modern, so I ran the same 75 that I played yesterday in the Invitational.

Round 1 vs Tron Win 2-0 Record 1-0

My opponent had to take quite a few mulligans in a matchup that was already pretty bad for him. A nice little 2-0 win was a solid way to start the tournament.

Round 2 vs Amulet Titan Win 2-1 Record 2-0

This was a fun match. Game 1 was close, but my opponent was on the play and I was on the draw. We both would have won the game on the same turn, so my opponent wins since he's on the play. Game 2 went pretty nicely for me. Countering Amulet of Vigor  is crucial since that is the card that my opponent's deck revolves around. I got to Spell Pierce the Amulet in game 2 and follow it up with a Blighted Agent, which resulted in a win. The only other thing worth mentioning from game 2 is that my Noble Hierarch ate a Primeval Titan. He had Titan boosted by Slayers' Stronghold and I blocked with my Hierarch and then cast Become Immense and Might of Old Krosa to kill the Titan. Game 3 was great. Possibly the best game from that weekend. My opponent mulligans to 6 and keeps a hand without an Amulet of Vigor, but it has an Ancient Stirrings to help him find it. He doesn't find the Amulet, but he does find Ghost Quarter. This card is really good against Inkmoth Nexus and I happened to have kept a hand with a Nexus in it. However, my hand also had a Pithing Needle in it that I boarded in over a Return to Nature because I was on the draw. I played Nexus and named Ghost Quarter with my Needle.

The game goes on for another 2 or 3 turns and we end up in the position where my opponent has 3 lands and I have Glistener Elf, Noble Hierarch, and Pithing Needle in play with an untapped Breeding Pool or Waterlogged Grove. My opponent casts Engineered Explosives for X=1. If he blows up the EE, then my board is gone and he has an on board answer to my Nexus. I have a Spell Pierce in my hand, but my opponent has the 2 mana open to pay for it and resolve their EE. Most player will just see that they have the 2 mana to pay and not cast the Pierce because they'll feel like they got no value out of it. I choose to cast the Spell Pierce. Why? If my opponent pays the 2, they can't pay the additional 2 to use the EE once it has resolved. Based on the way my hand is set up, if he taps out to pay the 2 and I draw a pump spell, I win on the spot. My opponent thinks really hard about it and then chooses to let his Engineered Explosives get countered by my Spell Pierce. He then passes the turn. I draw for my turn and it's a land. So, if my opponent had payed the 2 to resolve the EE, he gets to wipe my board and likely goes on to win the game. I attack with my Glistener Elf and he casts Dismember on it. He came to the same conclusion that he couldn't tap out for the EE because he'd die on the crackback and needed to hold up the removal spell. I cast a Vines of Vastwood to save my Elf and get in for 2 points of infect damage, but the Engineered Explosives led to a very interesting, hard to navigate situation that ultimately worked out favorably for me. I won the game the next turn to improve to a 2-0 record.

Round 3 vs Dredge Win 2-0 Record 3-0

I won game 1 by baiting my opponent into making a play that heavily favored me. I created a situation that enticed my opponent into casting his Conflagrate from the graveyard instead of casting Stinkweed Imp from his hand as a blocker. I had the protection spell to beat the Conflagrate, but not the Distortion Strike to be his blocker with flying and deathtouch. Inkmoth Nexus was the only Infect creature that I had at the time, too. My opponent attacks and I make a seemingly random block on a Bloodghast or something like that and then Pendelhaven my Nexus. From my opponent's point of view, he feels like he wins the exchange. I activated Nexus on his turn to open it up to be removed by his sorcery speed Conflagrate and he gets to dome me with the rest of the cards in his hand to set up lethal for the next turn. Seems great for him, but he fell into my trap. I save my Nexus with a Vines of Vastwood and then kill him on the crackback since he doesn't have a flying blocker for Inkmoth Nexus. In game 2, my opponent had a great start of Thoughtseize into Collective Brutality, but I had 2 of my copies of Grafdigger's Cage and drew into an unblockable Blighted Agent that I used to win the game several turns later.

Round 4 vs Amulet Titan Draw 0-3-0 Record 3-1-0

This was the final round of the swiss portion. The tournament structure was set up so that if it reached the 256 player cap, then the 8 remaining 4-0 players would be the top 8 and would enter the single elimination rounds. However, since the tournament didn't reach the player cap, my opponent and I were able to intentionally draw with each other to ensure that both of us made the top 8. Also, in case you didn't know, when you intentionally draw in a tournament, instead of going into the system as each player winning 1 game or both players drawing 1 game, it goes in as both players drawing 3 games, which is why I wrote 0-3-0 above. I'm sure there's some mathematical reason for this with how it would effect tiebreakers, but I don't know what that mathematical reason is. Also, that PTQ that I thought I was playing in today was no longer on my mind at this point. I got my money back for the PTQ entry and decided I was just going to win this instead. Of course, that's infinitely easier said than done.

The top 8 decks for the tournament in order by seed were: Simic Whirza, Bant Snowblade, Infect, Amulet Titan, Simic Whirza, Dredge, UW Stoneblade, and Eldrazi Tron.

Quarterfinals vs Dredge Win 2-0

For my quarterfinals match, I played against the same Dredge player that I had played against in round 3. In game 1, my opponent was on a mull to 5, but I put him out of misery quickly. Game 1 ended on turn 2. Game 2 things went a little slower. Since I had played against this opponent earlier, I had information regarding how he sideboards in this matchup. At one point during the previous game 2, I had looked at my opponent's graveyard and I wrote down relevant cards when I thought there was a possibility that we would be going to game 3.

So, I knew there were at least 2 copies of Lightning Axe, at least 2 copies of Thoughtseize, at least 1 copy of Collective Brutality, and at least 1 copy of Fatal Push. It was pretty convenient that I was lazy and threw the paper that I had written that on in my bag instead of getting up and walking it over to a garbage can. Having a general idea of the density of removal spells and hand disruption that he was bringing in impacted some of my decision making in game 2. In all honesty, I don't remember the specifics of this game very well, but I do remember it ending by my opponent tapping out while I had a Blighted Agent on the table. This gave me the green light to go for it, so I pumped it up a bit and he extended the hand. Luckily for my opponent, this defeat ended up being a blessing in disguise. He would play in the Players Tour Qualifier on Sunday and he came in 3rd/4th with a super sweet Pioneer deck. He played the Jeskai Ascendancy with Sylvan Awakening deck. In case your interested in looking up his deck, his name was Daniel Will. He ended up losing in game 3 to Todd Anderson who has pretty much established himself as the best Pioneer Mono Green Devotion player in the world right now with 4 Pioneer PTQ top 8 finishes and 2 PTQ finals appearances all coming with Mono Green Devotion.

Semifinals vs Bant Snowblade Win 2-1

My opponent this round was Lucas Molho. I didn't know who he was before this tournament, but he was the best opponent I played all weekend up to this point. He played great and all the small nuances of his play seemed really well done. He gave himself the greatest possible chance to win the game in every scenario with no slip-ups. Game recognize game. This guy is a great Magic player. All 3 of our games were insanely close. This matchup has a lot of play to it because he has a lot of great cards against me. Ice-Fang Coatl provides a great flying blocker that cantrips at instant speed, 4 copies of Path to Exile provide my opponent with cheap interaction that is very easy to hold up or bluff being held up, and Spell Queller is both a clock and a counterspell because I only have 2 ways to remove it in my 75. In game 1, I was on the draw and I was also on a 6 card hand.

This felt like a clear foreshadowing for how many tournament was about to end. My opponent correctly took the control role and only ever tapped out 1 turn in the game. It was turn 1 so that he could play a Noble Hierarch. My key to victory in this matchup is to put together a combination of at least 3 cards. I need either Distortion Strike or Blighted Agent to get through a wall of creatures, Vines of Vastwood or Blossoming Defense to protect against the inevitable interaction, and the necessary pump spells to close out the game. In game 1, I could only put together 2 out of these 3 on the last turn of the game. I had Blighted Agent and the pump spells to make it 10 poison, but I was lacking the protection and Path to Exile quickly ruined this game for me. I only got to bring in 2 sideboard cards after game 1, but both of them are pretty strong in this matchup. Dismember provides interaction for Spell Queller and other annoying creatures and Piracy Charm can either kill a Noble Hierarch, kill a Ice-Fang Coatl that's attempting to ambush block, or provide another source of unblockability because my opponent will have something like a Breeding Pool or Snow-Covered Island in play at some point during the game. In game 2, I had a nice opening hand that included a Blighted Agent, a Dismember, relevant lands like Pendelhaven and Inkmoth Nexus, a blue source to cast the Blighted Agent, and 2 ways of protecting the Blighted Agent.

When I have opening hands like this, I like to play the games slower and leverage the protection spells. I have played a ton of games with decks that are generally considered as aggressive strategies like Infect, Burn, Mono Red Prowess, Merfolk, etc. I have also watched a ton of gameplay from these kind of decks and one thing that I've found from the true experts of these strategies is that the best players are able to adjust and still win games on turn 10 or 15. Game 2 went back and forth a lot where both of us were being patient and making minimal game actions. He wanted to have the interaction ready for my creatures and I wanted to have the interaction ready for his interaction. One of the key things that happened in this game was my opponent having a Stoneforge Mystic that found a Sword of Fire and Ice. Pendelhaven helps to negate the sword a bit, but it's still very good against me and puts me on a pretty decent clock. He took a turn to move the sword onto a Caustic Caterpillar, which was doing a great job at preventing me from doing anything with Inkmoth Nexus. I activated my Inkmoth Nexus and threw away a pump spell on it to get him to use the caterpillar. He does it. I then play a backup Nexus in my 2nd Main Phase. I end up using this Nexus and Distortion Strike on a Glistener Elf to put together enough damage over 2 turns to take the game. If I didn't win when I did, I think things would have gotten out of hand and my opponent would have run away with the game.

He played a Teferi, Time Raveler that bounced my Glistener Elf and prevented me from casting Distortion Strike off of the Rebound ability. In game 3, my opening hand was perfect. It had 2 creatures and a Dismember to interact. Fun fact, the probability of me having Dismember, arguably my best card in the matchup, in my opening 7 for 2 games in a row is less than 5%. Rather lucky than good. I ended up winning this game by surprising my opponent with the Dismember on a Spell Queller in my opponent's end step to set myself up to attack with a Blighted Agent and a Glistener Elf instead of just the Elf like my opponent was expecting when he played out his turn. I'm unable to beat my opponent on this turn, but he does end up with 9 poison counters at the end of the turn and I'm left with 1 card in hand and 1 mana open. From my opponent's perspective, the 1 card left in my hand can't be a 1 mana pump spell because I would have just used it to win, it's statistically unlikely that it's a 1 mana removal spell, and it isn't a 1 mana creature because I would have played the creature. This means that from my opponent's perspective, the statistical conclusion is that the card in my hand is either a 2 mana spell or a land. My opponent knows that I have nothing and he is in a great position if he has a way to remove the Blighted Agent. He draws for turn and casts an Ice-Fang Coatl to cantrip to find either a removal spell or to get as much information as possible before casting one. He casts Path to Exile on my Blighted Agent. There is only one card in my deck that fits the criteria of being a 1 mana noncreature, nonland card, that couldn't have just won me the game last turn. That card is Vines of Vastwood. The last card in my hand: Vines of Vastwood. My opponent extends his hand and I'm onto the finals. Lucas ended up losing again in the semifinals of the next $10k Cube Qualifier tournament too. Lucas already has 2 SCG Regionals Top 8 finishes, but it wouldn't surprise me at all to see Lucas with an SCG Open Top 8 finish or something of similar value next year.

Finals vs 4 Color Whirza Win 2-0

I won. I actually did it. Let's go over how I did it. So, the first thing to point out is the results of the the other semifinals match. It was Amulet Titan vs 4 Color Whirza. I like my matchup against Whirza better, but if Amulet Titan won, I'd get to be on the play. So, there was upside and downside to either of these players winning. The 4 Color Whirza player won in 3 games and it was time for the finals. My opponent was on a mulligan to 5 in game 1, but still managed to have the turn 2 Oko, Thief of Crowns.

He turned my Glistener Elf into a Glistener Elk, but I was able to take care of the Oko quickly and used Inkmoth Nexus to end the game two turns later before Emry, Lurker of the Loch can start generating too much value for him. In game 2, we played a very grindy game. It felt like every card in my opponent's sideboard was removal. Fatal Push, Drown in the Loch, etc. It was significantly more than I was expecting. We end up in this really weird situation where I'm left with an Elk and a Noble Hierarch, he's left with an Oko, and both of us are empty handed. I end up killing the Oko and I'm forced to then start going for regular damage. I get in a hit or two and then he takes care of my Elk. I draw into a Glistener Elf and start going back on the Infect plan, but don't get all the way there before it dies.

The good news for me is that my opponent really isn't doing much, so I'm not under any kind of pressure. He was drawing cards like Mox Opal, Mishra's Bauble, lands, and other non-impactful cards to go along with all of his removal spells. Noble Hierarch beatdowns happen for a few turns until I draw a Blighted Agent and then switch yet again to the Infect plan. My Blighted Agent lives through his turn, I draw Scale Up on my turn, I cast it on my Agent, attack for 7 poison, and my opponent extends their hand. I won. I then felt one of the best feelings I've ever felt. A few of my friends were standing behind be grabbing my shoulders, giving me high fives, and congratulating me. Throughout my Magic career so far, I've always been the person doing the congratulating and giving the high fives. It seems like every time I have a good tournament, I'm always alone when it happens or if I'm with friends, I'll just lose in the quarterfinals. So, I'm used to getting the congrats texts the next day or something like that, but to feel the genuine excitement from my friends for me in that moment was incredible.

So, now I'm qualified to cube draft on the Star City Games livestream for $10k in prizes. Even as I'm writing this now, it all still just feels so surreal for me. From questioning everything I knew about myself as a competitive Magic player on Friday to being one of only 8 people that get the opportunity to draft cube for a shot at $10k in prizes. It was an insane turnaround.

Day 3

Not much happened earlier in the day leading up to the cube draft. I watched my friends put up good results of their own. Brandon Dempsey Top 8ed a cube qualifier and Matt Tumavitch Top 4ed the Pioneer PTQ with a Temur Midrange deck that he sleeved up earlier that morning. A few more cube qualifiers were going on and so was the Top 8 of the invitational, so there was plenty of great Magic to watch. I did a Throne of Eldraine side event draft, but that went horribly. The guy next to me opened a foil Questing Beast and I opened bad cards. I drafted UB Control and lost to triple Loch Dragon UR Spells 0-2 in the first round. I played a lot of Mental Magic on Sunday. That was fun. If you consider Mental Magic to be format, then it's easily a top 3 format for me. If you don't know what Mental Magic is, please look it up. It's so much fun.

Now, let's get to the fun part: the cube draft. Before we could draft, we got our pictures taken by a professional photographer. That was a surreal experience in itself.

I'm certainly not photogenic in the slightest, but look at that Cardsphere merch!

They also took a group picture of the 8 qualified participants.

From left to right we have:

Ryan Leek, Me (@AlbyMTG), Johnathan Brostoff (@jbrostoff), Anderson LeClair (@leclairandymtg), Baker Neenan (@VTCLA1), Michael Boland, Noah Strasler (@NoahStrasler), and Zac Hill (@zdch)

The list for the cube can be found here: http://old.starcitygames.com/articles/38993_Cubing-For-Dollars-The-10K-Cube-Draft-And-Players-Cube-Qualifiers.html

In terms of preparation for the cube draft, I would say that I was moderately prepared. I had the time to go over the archetypes and to look at what key cube cards were missing from this cube specifically. For example, this cube had no Ponder or Preordain because the creator of the cube felt they were too good at adding consistency to 40 card decks and there was a Tinker, but no Blightsteel Colossus to go along with it. I knew I would never have to play around Force Spike or Spell Pierce because they weren't included either. Tutors like Natural Order and Green Sun's Zenith had no Progenitus or Dryad Arbor to find. So, I knew of a lot of intricacies like these going into the drafting and playing portions of the event.

One thing that most of my opponents did have on me was general cube knowledge. Johnathan Brostoff and Zac Hill for example are literally know for being cube aficionados. Zac was a guest on a live panel earlier in the convention that was all about cube and Johnathan Brostoff has written articles about cube on some major websites and has been a trophy leader for more cube MTGO cube drafts than any other player in the world. My cube experience is drafting vintage cube a handful of times for FNM and playing 2, maybe 3, cube drafts on MTGO every few months.

The featured drafter for SCG's livestream was Zac Hill and I was passing to Zac during the draft. So, if you want to watch that and judge me for passing specific cards to him, feel free! The vod is up on SCG's YouTube channel right now. I've already gotten a few comments and questions about why I passed Oko, Thief of Crowns, Thoughtseize, and Reanimate to Zac instead of picking one of those as my pack 1 pick 1.

The answer is pretty simple. My pack 1 pick 1 was Ancestral Recall. It's a pretty good Magic card.

Pack 1 was pretty mediocre for me. I ended up with some powerful cards like Ancestral Recall, Grave Titan, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Counterspell, Lingering Souls, and some lands like Windswept Heath and Tundra. So, at this point, I'm thinking that maybe I'm Esper with a higher focus on Blue and White.

Pack 2 is where my deck really started to form itself. I picked up Mox Sapphire as my pack 2 pick 1. My next pick was Treachery, so we're still on this Esper Midrange or Esper Control plan. I then grab some 1 mana white removal spells in this pack too like Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile. What I picked up on the wheel though is what really made my deck into what it ended up being. I wheeled Bonesplitter, On Thin Ice, Giant Killer, Winds of Abandon, Thalia, Heretic Cathar, and a last pick Ranger-Captain of Eos. With all of these going so late and me choosing Recruiter of the Guard, Containment Priest, and Giver of Runes later in the first pack too, I knew I could be the only White drafter at the table and just go all in on a Blue White tempo aggressive strategy. In this pack, I had also picked up mana fixing like Hallowed Fountain and a Fiery Islet that would be just be better than a basic Island for my aggro deck.

Pack 3 Pick 1 was pretty unfortunate for me. The pack had 1 White card in it and it was a mediocre one in Tithe Taker. I ended up picking Mox Emerald partly so my opponents would have it and partly because I thought I my deck was shaping out to still be more tempo or midrange than aggressive. I thought I might still be playing the Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and the Treachery at this point. I had to pass on a Stoneforge Mystic because I had no equipment for it other than Bonesplitter, which felt pretty bad. I knew I was going to wheel all of the White cards I wanted, so I took a few slightly more risky picks in this pack like picking a land instead of a creature because I knew the creature would wheel. It went all right and we ended up picking up a lot of more aggressive creatures in this pack like Champion of the Parish, Skymarcher Aspirant, Adanto Vanguard, and Flickerwisp as well as some blue disruption in the form of Force of Will and Force of Negation.

The way my deck turned out, I ended up very aggressive with 6 one-drop creatures and an average non-land converted mana cost of just under 1.85. That's also counting Force of Virtue as a 4 mana spell even though I'm hoping to never spend 4 mana on it. I ended up cutting the expensive cards and just focusing on being aggressive, which means I have to cut most of my Blue cards too. However, I kept some additional basic lands with me in case I wanted to sideboard into a UW Midrange deck instead of the UW aggressive deck. I would bring in cards like Treachery, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Conclave Tribunal, Counterspell, Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Mox Emerald, and one or both of the Blue Forces. So, I had a reasonable deck and a plan to make things work. Here are the images SCG posted of my card pool and my final deck.

The structure for play was a single-elimination bracket. So, if I lose one match, I'm out.

My opponent in the quarterfinals was Baker Nennan. I knew who Baker was because he runs a Twitter account where he posts about a lot about decklists and his successful finishes in high-level MTGO events. We had no information about what anyone else was playing going into round 1, but here is what Baker's deck looked like.

His deck was one of my favorite cube archetypes, Blue Green Opposition. He didn't get as many of the mana dorks as the deck normally likes to have, but his top end is great and he can still put a very scary creature on the table very quickly.

In game 1, I was on the draw and we had a pretty close match. I drew a lot of my aggressive one drops and was pushing through damage pretty easily. Unfortunately for me, Baker drew into a Batterskull right when he needed it and I proceeded to flood out from there. Yes, you heard me correctly. My deck with 15 mana sources still managed to flood out. As for game 2, my opponent just did dumb vintage things. I was on a mulligan to 6 without a one-drop, so I knew my chances were pretty low already after that, but then I just got obliterated.

Also, I know we all have that friend that always blames their losses on the opponent hitting the right card at the right time or their opponent just doing something too good that no one could ever beat it. We all know someone like that. I promise you, I am not that person. Here was Baker's tweet after our match:

When your opponent acknowledges that they got lucky and then did something that was basically unbeatable, that's when you can feel free to tell your peers that you lost because your opponent was lucky and then did something unbeatable!

Losing in the quarterfinals was definitely disappointing and felt really bad at first, but now that I've had time to fully process the events of that weekend, I'm somewhat proud of it. I have been playing Magic for a lot less time than the vast majority of the players in that convention center and I had never even been to an SCG Open, but here I was managing to walk away with $500 in prizes from an event that a few hundred talented players also tried to qualify for. The invitational didn't go my way, but that's just how some days of Magic go. I was able to shake it off quickly and come back the next day to put up the proudest moment of my competitive MTG career so far.

Before I wrap up this article, I have a few fun facts about my overall SCG Con experience that you might enjoy.

  1. I was on the draw for game 1 in 13 out of the 15 matches that I played at SCG Con. Everyone knows how important being on the play vs being on the draw can be in Magic, so putting up such a solid result despite my bad luck makes this achievement feel even sweeter than it would have if I had been on the play for 13 of my 15 matches.
  2. Both times I was on the play happened against Daniel Will. Round I had gone 9 rounds straight being on the draw before finally winning a die roll against Daniel in round 3 of the Cube Qualifier tournament and I had the better seeding while playing him in the top 8 of that event, so I was able to choose to be on the play.
  3. One of the members of the MTG Underground team recognized my Cardsphere shirt and hat while I was at the convention center. It was cool getting to talk to another Cardsphere user while I was there. If you don't know MTG Underground, check the top 5 senders by value on the Cardsphere homepage and you can find them there the majority of the time.
  4. The hotel room we stayed in was the worst hotel room I've ever stayed in. It was super cheap and we learned quickly why it was that way. One of our beds was broken, our TV didn't work, there were people yelling at all hours of the day and you could hear everything they were saying, there were stains of various colors all over the bed sheets, one of my friends forgot his room key and they gave him a room key without asking for any identification or anything else to prove that he wasn't just a random stranger asking for a door key to room X, and we called a pizza place to have it delivered to our room on the last night and they wouldn't delver to the hotel's address because they've had too many problems in the past with their delivery drivers getting harassed and robbed. Needless to say, our group has decided to spend the extra money to not stay at this place again if we all qualify for the next Invitational.

This concludes both my SCG Con experience and this article. I would like to thank everyone that was following along the whole time with my round result posts on Twitter and the love, support, and congratulations messages that I received over the course of that weekend. It was a surreal experience and I'm glad I was able to represent the Cardsphere team and got them some camera time on the Star City Games livestream while I was there. If you made it to the end of this article, you are a true champion as this article is nearly 8,000 words and I truly appreciate you taking the time out of your day to read my writing.

Thank you.