Legacy 2-for-1 report w/ BLUE-RED DELVER: Card Kingdom 4K & Puget Sound Battleground 2

Here is a pair of guest tournament reports written by my good friend Jeremy Edwards, who goes by the name of ESG on MTG The Source. Jeremy is based in Seattle, WA — home to an amazing Legacy scene.

These reports go together, since Jeremy played some of the same people, ran almost the same list in both tournaments, and went 0-2 followed by 5-0 each time.

A bit about Jeremy, in his own words:

I’ve been playing Legacy since 2009 and have experienced many different eras of the format. I started playing Magic in seventh grade, in the spring of 1995, and began playing competitively a couple years later. I proudly wrote for a nascent Star City Games before it became the professional hub it is today.

I’m known for metagaming, scouting, note-taking, and piloting primarily non-blue decks. I’m also the Flower Power guy.

Jeremy pic

The list: Blue-Red Delver

Main:
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Young Pyromancer
4 True-Name Nemesis
4 Brazen Borrower
4 Brainstorm
4 Ponder
4 Preordain
4 Force of Will
3 Daze
1 Price of Progress
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Volcanic Island
3 Island
1 Mountain
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Flooded Strand
2 Prismatic Vista
4 Wasteland
Sideboard:
1 Surgical Extraction
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
4 Leyline of the Void
2 Exquisite Firecraft
1 Price of Progress
1 Abrade
1 Null Rod
2 Venser, Shaper Savant
2 Karakas

 

About Brazen Borrower:

Brazen Borrower is a strong addition to the deck. I value it for its flexibility in being able to temporarily answer problematic permanents.

The only matchup where it’s questionable is RUG Delver. RUG is the epitome of mana efficiency, and my build has a lot of three-drops, (I consider Pyromancer to be a three-drop because I usually don’t want to cast it on Turn 2 unless I have a second copy or can defend it), so I’m disadvantaged in that matchup. I’m still figuring out that matchup, although it’s definitely not favorable.

About the RUG Delver matchup:

RUG has been evolving mainly due to mirror matches. RUG went back to Stifle because mana advantages are powerful in the mirror, then RUG adopted more Spell Snares to beat Tarmogoyf and Wrenn, and then the next level was adding copies of Hooting Mandrills because those dodge Spell Snare, and Submerge is mainly popular because it’s so good in the mirror. I think I’ll try Mind Harness and/or Submerge next time. Mind Harness is more powerful, but it’s another card that requires mana investment.

Card Kingdom/Mox Boarding House 3K/4K (Bellevue, WA) — October 12, 2019

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I did some testing leading up to the 3K, assuming I would play GW Depths, and it turned out that GW Depths couldn’t beat UW decks. I was concerned about the performance of Jeskai Mentor and Miracles with Mystic Sanctuary, so I decided on Wednesday to run UR Delver. The rub was that my prior testing session showed that UR Delver is a dog to Depths decks. I decided to try out Brazen Borrower for the event, even though it was untested, and I committed to the full four copies in the main, dropping Dreadhorde Arcanist, Abrade, Vapor Snag, and Chain Lightning from the main.

The 3K was a huge success. We had 83 players, so the 3K was upgraded to a 4K and was set for seven rounds of Swiss.

Round 1: Phillip Werner

I was paired against Phillip Werner, whose basic Swamps soon revealed he was on Mono-Black Reanimator.

In Game 1, I let him resolve a Reanimate on a Griselbrand, putting him to 4 life, then bounced it with a Brazen Borrower, which earned the concession.

Game 2 I had plenty of counterspells and graveyard hate, seeing Tormod’s Crypt, Grafdigger’s Cage, and Surgical Extraction, but I couldn’t find a clock. The game stalled out until he resolved a Grave Titan. I knew the previous turn that I was in trouble when I Surgicalled something in his graveyard and saw a hand of triple Dark Ritual and Grave Titan. I tried to bounce it and race, but my draws weren’t incredible, so I lost the race, as expected.

Game 3 was pretty interesting. He started with Turn 1 Dark Ritual into Liliana of the Veil, which I Forced, protecting my Turn 1 Delver, which I used Brainstorm to flip. I Forced a Collective Brutality on the Delver and had another Force to spare, so I had a tough choice to make when Phillip played a Liliana’s Triumph with a Griselbrand in the graveyard. I figured I couldn’t win if he reanimated a Griselbrand and drew seven cards (unless it was with actual Reanimate), so I let him have the Triumph and intended to finish the game later with a Brazen Borrower.

This is a matchup where Borrower would have benefited from having an ETB bounce ability instead of an Adventure spell stapled to it, since if it got discarded, it could brick Exhume. Phillip got out a Pack Rat, and I failed to find permanent removal for the Pack Rat, so we were again in a racing situation, and he topdecked a Collective Brutality to kill my Borrower after I’d spent my Force on something else (it might have been another Triumph, or it might have been a Toxic Deluge).

Round 2: Bill Li

Milan had gotten the R1 bye and scouted almost the whole room, so I knew Bill Li was on RUG Delver.

Game 1 I represented Stifle (I played zero copies), and he played around it. I was able to take him down to zero lands, but I wasn’t able to close fast enough. He drew running lands, played W&6, and I couldn’t find the burn to clinch the victory.

Game 2 I kept a two-land hand. My Brainstorm missed, and Bill countered my Ponder with no knowledge that I was out of lands, but that became abundantly clear from Turn 3 onward. Bill resolved and even ultimated W&6 before I drew a land, so I lost with two TNNs stuck in hand.

Round 3: George Wall

I played against a Canadian, George Wall. George had a white-bordered Ruby Storm deck with cool custom full-art lands (extended Revised Mountains that looked like daguerreotype). His foils looked like Un-set cards because the borders were silver, so he may have altered those with acetone or something.

These games went pretty rough for him. He mulled to five in the first game and passed without a play for the first two turns, so I thought he might be on Manaless Dredge. I was able to counter his attempt at Ruby Medallion, and that was the nail in the coffin.

Game 2 he again mulled, then started with Ancient Tomb into Chalice of the Void. This was pretty solid against my hand of all one-drops. I Wastelanded him, and he played three Lotus Petals but no lands. Fortunately, I soon drew the Abrade I’d sided in and unlocked my hand. I countered his engine, and he couldn’t get off the ground.

Round 4: Garrett Yockey

I played against a Shane’s regular, Garrett Yockey, on BR Reanimator.

Game 1 he started on Chancellor into Faithless Looting but couldn’t combo, and I was able to Wasteland him and contain him with counterspells.

Game 2 he started with double Chancellor, blanking my Surgical, and was able to reanimate a Chancellor on Turn 1. I thought I’d be able to handle it with my Borrower, but it got Thoughtseized. I was able to cantrip into a second copy, but I was one mana short of casting it and paying for Chancellor, and he never missed a trigger.

Game 3 I rocked him. He ran out Xantid Swarm Turn 1 off a Lotus Petal, but I had expected Magus of the Moon and maybe Pack Rat, so I had kept in my Lightning Bolts. I killed his first Swarm with a Bolt, bounced his second Swarm with Borrower, and when he Reanimated a Swarm later, I bounced it with another Borrower. He Unmasked me at one point, and I proudly displayed my hand of Daze, Spell Pierce, Force of Will.

Round 5: Michael Tessier

Michael was one of the people I had tested with earlier in the week, so I knew he was on Miracles with Mystic Sanctuary.

In both games, I resolved a Young Pyromancer, he resolved a Counterbalance, and I aggressively played spells into it. In the first game, I created an opening with Brazen Borrower to bounce CB, which blind-revealed Misty Rainforest, and that proved critical.

For Game 2, I brought in three copies of Exquisite Firecraft, which I felt was my trump card vs. UW decks, since UR Delver is good at taking a chunk out of opposing life totals but can struggle to close against Teferi + countermagic. In this game, I was able to get off a Firecraft and chip Michael down to single digits before a Terminus cleaned up Pyro and friends.

In the midgame, Michael made a couple of mistakes. He fetched out a Mystic Sanctuary, targeting a Ponder, and I Surgicaled it, sensing weakness. He responded with Snapcaster Mage, which I let resolve, and he targeted the Ponder. OK … He must’ve been thinking of Brainstorm. We had a few turns of draw-go, and I Wastelanded two of his Tundras.

Later in the game, I had a True-Name, and he was digging for a Council’s Judgment. He finally found it, fetched a Scalding Tarn to get a Tundra, and realized he was out of Tundras. Since he’d already played the Tarn and was facing lethal, that cut him off from cantripping to try to find a Plains or a Prismatic Vista for Plains. His Hail Mary Ponder and Portent failed to hit, and that was it.

Round 6: Mike Giuliani

He commented that his last name hasn’t aged well (but no relation, I assume). Mike was playing 4c Delver, and these games were varied but pretty straightforward.

Game 1 we traded removal for creatures and lands, and I was able to eventually keep him stuck on Volcanic Island, and he scooped to my second Young Pyromancer.

Game 2 I got run over by triple Tarmogoyf.

Game 3 I think he made some fetching mistakes that left him unable to counter a TNN (he had Pyroblast but ended up having an Underground Sea up, I think), and he wasn’t able to find a Plague Engineer in time.

Round 7: Damon Alexander

I had hoped to be able to draw into Top 16, but my tiebreakers were too poor, so I would have to win. I wasn’t a lock with a win, either. Some of the 15-pointers were going to miss on tiebreakers.

Damon Alexander, who I beat in Round 1 of the Mox Boarding House Invitational last summer, was my capable opponent, but I knew we wouldn’t have a rematch of Delver vs. Stoneblade, since he was on GB Depths today.

Game 1 I knew I would have the element of surprise and was able to defend that advantage, countering his discard to protect my hand and the crucial information it contained. He eventually went for Marit Lage, and I bounced it with Brazen Borrower. Unfortunately, he also had an Elvish Reclaimer, so the Borrower was a mere speedbump. I couldn’t push Pyromancer damage through his Reclaimer, so I had to settle for making tokens and trying to find another Borrower. I succeeded in bouncing his second Marit Lage with my second Borrower, then stuck a Wasteland to interrupt the combo while I deployed Borrowers from Adventureland, and I snuck out the victory a turn or two before he could have dealt with the Wasteland, made a third Marit Lage, and given it pro-Blue with Sejirri Steppe.

Game 2 I had to mull to four. I Forced his Turn 2 Sylvan Library and took some beats from Elvish Reclaimer. I tried to mount an attack with TNN, but a Plague Engineer answered it. I drew enough lands to play out Venser, Shaper Savant, which bounced the Plague Engineer and ambushed a Sylvan Safekeeper. I Forced the Plague Engineer on the way back down. This was a pretty big swing, but I wasn’t able to contain Damon from comboing through his Life from the Loam. I had expected to lose this game, especially with the meager four-card hand I started with, but it may have been competitive if I had been able to start with seven. Damon didn’t seem as confident after this game, given that it wasn’t a rout.

Game 3 was a nail-biter. I mulliganed to six or five. I mulled a four-land hand with TNN and Karakas, feeling strongly that this hand wouldn’t hold up against Damon’s particular build of GB Depths, which had Wastelands, Loam, Plague Engineer, and at least one Pithing Needle. I was rewarded with a more balanced hand with multiple good things. Thoughtseize stripped a Borrower, but Wastelands and Karakas made Damon jump through a lot of hoops to combo while I was attacking him with a Delver.

Things got really interesting when he was at 7 life and I judged that he could potentially beat me if I swung in with Delver and he had Crop Rotation. I had a Venser, but I needed one more land to have Venser mana open and Karakas up, so I hung back, and we had a tense standoff for a few turns. My patience paid off, and I drew the land to be double-covered, so I resumed attacking with the Delver, which forced Damon’s hand. He blew up Karakas with a Wasteland, made a Marit Lage, and I was able to bounce it with Venser while he was tapped out.

I just snuck into Top 16.

Puget Sound Battleground 2 (Everett, WA) — November 9-10, 2019

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I’ve been happy to run back UR Delver since Brazen Borrower was printed, so I didn’t indulge the temptation to play something brand new at this high-stakes event. Instead, I tweaked the deck in anticipation of what I would encounter.

There’s been an uptick in Hogaak at the Card Kingdom/Mox Boarding House Monday night weekly, and that’s a gruesome matchup. Due to the prevalence of RUG Delver and people’s opinions that Hogaak beats up on RUG, I wanted to be ready for Hogaak in this event, so I made the ultimate commitment and ran four Leyline of the Void in my sideboard. I’m pretty low on Leylines in general, and if I’m playing them in a deck that can’t cast them, they feel even worse to me, but I really do think I need them against Hogaak.

The other change I made was to cut my one-of Spell Pierce from the main and replace it with a Price of Progress. I dropped an Exquisite Firecraft from the sideboard for a second copy of Price. I had visions of blowing up RUG Delver with a Wrenn and Six and six lands onboard, and I really like the card’s surprise value in general.

The alarm goes off and I am momentarily tempted to skip the tournament, forfeit my $50, and return to the sweetness of slumber, but I find the strength to rise to the call of battle. After a month of fair weather, today is a washout. Visibility is poor on the freeway, but I make good time and arrive with 40 minutes to spare. I’m briefly stymied by the arena itself: It seems to be a Wall of Stone blocking my passage. There are plenty of doors, but each set is locked.

I soon locate other players milling about, and we find someone — a MUD player — who knows how to get in. Always turn to the MUD player for matters of steel or stone. It turns out that Disney on Ice has taken over part of the arena and has it locked down for an evening event, so we have to walk down a city block and enter from the east side.

I run into numerous faces I haven’t seen in a while, including Frank Stanley, Paul Riordan, Joe Ricci (he does real “Deadliest Catch” stuff up in Alaska), Brian Bennett, Alex Staver, Chase Hansen (the now-storied Stryfo), and Anton Beck of Mirkwood. Mirkwood hasn’t run any big tournaments for a few years, and I heard through the grapevine that Anton was looking to sell the building at one point. That rumor was true, Anton confirms, although Mirkwood is on much steadier footing now. Anton, the king of diversification, has a construction side business in addition to the restaurant, the tattoo parlor, the hair salon, etc., and he’s considering getting back into tournaments.

Turnout is strong: We have 99 players for Legacy and 170 for Modern. (Later in the day, 44 show up for Canadian Highlander and 42 show up for 93/94.)

Round 1: Mike Guiliani

If this name looks familiar, it’s because we played at the Card Kingdom/Mox Boarding House 4K last month.

I quickly find out that he’s not on 4c Delver anymore; he’s on RUG. I keep a reactive hand in the dark and win the war over Wrenn and Six. Unfortunately, he wins the follow-up war over Tarmogoyf and then immediately finds a second copy. I try to put something together with double Young Pyromancer, but he has the Lightning Bolt to slay one of them and I can’t keep up.

Game 2 I double mulligan two middling five-land hands into a serviceable five, but Mike has a monster hand that has all the answers and then some. I get stuck on two lands, miss on my cantrips, and any hope for a come-from-behind victory are likely extinguished when he resolves a True-Name Nemesis. I can’t remove it and can’t race it after my attempt at Petty Theft on Tarmogoyf gets Dazed, so the match is Mike’s this time.

Round 2: Andrew Maher

Andrew is a young player, possibly still in high school, and I think I’ve seen him play Death’s Shadow before.

He starts with a Wooded Foothills, no plays, which starts ringing alarm bells that he’s playing Stifle. This is later confirmed after we play a cat-and-mouse game of blowing up lands and finding replacement lands with cantrips. Unfortunately, this enables an early Hooting Mandrills from him. My hand is fine, but I get rocked by a sequence of Daze on Young Pyromancer, Spell Snare on second Pyromancer, Spell Snare on Petty Theft targeting Mandrills, and then Force of Will on my True-Name.

I don’t mind the running-perfect part, but it was a little frustrating that Andrew didn’t acknowledge it. He’s young, though. People can be oblivious when they’re young. I maintained my composure.

Game 2 quickly drifted into disaster territory when Andrew resolved a Wrenn and shot down my fresh Young Pyromancer. I Bolted down the Wrenn and played a Delver I had set up. But he had another Wrenn and pinged the Delver down. With a follow-up soon after of Tarmogoyf and Hooting Mandrills, my prospects were very grim. I had a True-Name, but Andrew was at 17. My only hope was Price of Progress and a Wrenn player’s greed. The difficult part was going to be selling the line.

I stayed on defense and Andrew used Wrenn to build out his real estate, up to four duals. He briefly chilled me when he fetched and made a comment that he couldn’t get any more Volcanic Islands, and I pictured my cunning trap collapsing because of budget reasons (if you’re short on duals, you just play more fetches in that deck). But instead he just fetched up another Tropical Island and played a Delver and a spell to set it up. This time, I attacked with True-Name, knocking him to 14.

I figured I sold it because his Wrenn was too high to kill and he had overwhelming power onboard, so it looked more like going out on my own terms rather than a sneaky strategy. He flipped his Delver with a Pyroblast, dutifully plussed Wrenn and fetched out another dual, and attacked me for 12. On my turn, I crossed my fingers and pulled the trigger. He didn’t have countermagic for it. His fetch had taken him from 14 to 13. Price knocked him to 3. True-Name got the KO.

Game 3 was a little more back-and-forth and ended up with a racing situation: his Delver vs. my True-Name. I failed to draw a Bolt or a Borrower for his Delver, and he drew Bolts to speed up the clock, winning the race.

At this point, I had a sinking feeling because to my right was a RUG mirror and I had doubts that my build — or even my deck choice — was correct for this tournament. I considered dropping to play 93/94, but I prefer to finish my tournaments unless I’m feeling unwell.

When I went 0-2 last month at the CK 4K, I won five in a row and ended up in the money, so that was going to be my goal again. Plus, my deck was not giving me average hands (I’d mulled four times over five games, which is really costly in a quasi-mirror). I wanted to at least be beaten when I didn’t feel I had a hand tied behind my back.

Round 3: Gregory Nelson

Gregory told me he’s from Woodinville and plays at Mox Bellevue on Thursdays. Cool. I told him about the 1K in Ballard next weekend.

His opening of Snow-Covered Island into Astrolabe had me thinking he was on 4c Snow, but he soon proved to be on Jeskai Mentor. This was a great game and made me grateful for not dropping. On Turn 3, he played a Narset and chose not to tick up, which is a heads-up play, but I made it backfire with a Petty Theft. I countered a Teferi and Bolted down a Mentor, then resolved a True-Name and killed the Narset.

At one point, he cast a desperation Palace Jailer in order to draw a card on the end step, and we played tug-of-war with the Monarch emblem for a few turns. He chained Astrolabe into Astrolabe into Ponder, and at 1 life, he found the Council’s Judgment for the True-Name and then deployed a Monastery Mentor, but I Brainstormed into Young Pyromancer and a Delver.

He managed to clear the board with a Supreme Verdict, but any threat would be lethal. He had a Plow for my future Delver, but he botched the timing, and it put me up to 5 life, so when he later resolved a Mentor and couldn’t kill me in one swing with Mentor + token, I was able to fetch away my dead draws, falling to 1 and giving myself another turn to topdeck the win. My Ponder failed to find a Bolt or a Price of Progress, so I spun the wheel, but it missed.

Game 2 Delver, True-Name, and a pair of Bolts got it done against Teferi and a Mentor.

Game 3 Young Pyromancer made five tokens before eating a Plow, which set up an easy Bolt-into-Firecraft sequence.

Round 4: Gary McNeely

Gary is from the Bremerton area. For some reason, I thought he had been a Sneak and Show player in the past, but he said he’s never played the deck.

He started this game on the play with a Turn 1 Inquisition of Kozilek off Underground Sea, so I expected a fair deck. He resolved a Strix off Tropical Island but didn’t have a third land, and I Dazed his second Strix. Young Pyromancer pumped out some tokens, but they got swept away by a Plague Engineer on Elemental. I made what I thought was a free attack, but he elected to block with the Plague Engineer and trade (which I’m not sure is the right play, but it’s an intriguing debate), and I immediately followed up with a Wasteland on his black source and a True-Name, which went the distance.

Game 2 I had an early Delver and Bolted down a Baleful Strix. Gary had Turn 4 Goyf into Turn 5 Plague Engineer on … Wizard. Wizard? That was puzzling. On Turn 6, I made a Young Pyromancer and a token. Gary answered the flipped Delver with a Red Elemental Blast and the Pyromancer with a Bolt, but my Price of Progress took him out.

After this round, I chatted with a fellow at the next table over, and wouldn’t you know it: We end up paired in Round 5.

Round 5: Alex Vallandry

He loses the die roll. We both mulligan and I bottom a Wasteland. Alex plays Turn 1 Cloudpost(!). Uh-oh. His Turn 2 Once Upon a Time is intriguing, and he proves to be on an Eldrazi Post variation with green for Crop Rotation. Things get scary quickly, and he has an Oblivion Sower on Turn 3, hitting an Island. Turn 4 is double Thought-Knot Seer, and I’m left to try to cobble together an improbable victory on the backs of Young Pyromancer and Delver of Secrets. Cantrips make some blockers, and I’m digging for Price of Progress, because I don’t think I can win the race otherwise, although I’m really trying to find an additional line. Brazen Borrower buys some time and resets a Thought-Knot, but Alex has an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. He exiles my Price of Progress with the attack trigger the next turn, so I know I’m toast, but since time isn’t an issue, I choose to play on to make him think I have outs. He shows me a Karakas. OK, Ulamog is back for seconds. I scoop to that.

Game 2 I mull to 5, with a Delver and a Wasteland. Alex’s Turn 1 is Ancient Tomb into Sorcerous Spyglass, naming Wasteland. My Delver fails to flip, Alex plays a Cloudpost, and I feel like the wheels have come off and the car is scraping its rusty body on the pavement. I’ve tested Post vs. Delver matchups more than most people — usually from the Post side — and this has all the ingredients of an Eldrazi victory. The Delver flips next time, and Ancient Tomb helps a bit as Alex plays a Thought-Knot Seer and then an Oblivion Sower. Petty Theft on Spyglass allows me to Wasteland a Cloudpost and keep him off Ulamog mana, but he buys himself more turns with Glimmerposts and then casts a Stonecoil Serpent for X=7. Did you know this thing has Reach? Fortunately, I’ve been making Elemental tokens with my cantrips and doing math for a few turns, so I know I can bounce the Serpent with Petty Theft and swing for lethal through his remaining blockers.

Game 3 we both mull to six, and I keep a double Delver hand with no Wastelands. On the play this time, Alex starts with Turn 1 Post, and I drop a Delver. He plays Bayou, Chalice(!), and then plays Spyglass on the next turn, seeing a stranded Delver and four cantrips. Again, doom feels very near. But a Brazen Borrower off the top allows me to bounce the Chalice and deploy Delver. I think I do this again a little later, because I end up with three flipped Delvers and race him. He ends up just short of being able to activate Eye of Ugin for an answer.

All in all, I’m not impressed with the green splash. I think Crop Rotation is very powerful, but it obviously clashes with Chalice and playing one-drops. Spyglass, on the other hand, is excellent, and I think it’s underplayed in Legacy. I’m not sure about Once Upon a Time. My gut feeling is there isn’t enough time in the average Legacy game to pay retail for it instead of doing something else with the mana, although it’s sweet as a Turn 1 play.

Round 6: Garrett Yockey

This is another flashback from last month’s 4K. I assume Garrett is still on BR Reanimator.

We both mull to six, and I pull up a powerful hand of double Force and Borrower. Just need to dodge Chancellor plus the Turn 1 combo, since he won the die roll. He has the Chancellor … but not the whole shebang. He Unmasks himself the next turn, and I already feel like I’ve won. I counter his two attempts at Animate Dead, Wasteland him, and resolve a True-Name. I allow him to resolve an Entomb (he bins Elesh Norn), and I flash in a Brazen Borrower to speed up the clock. He finds no way out.

Here I board in my Leylines and assume Garrett will stick to his previous plan of Xantid Swarms, so I keep in my Bolts.

I open a hand with Leyline. Snap keep. Turn Zero: Leyline. He looks through his sideboard and concedes. The element of surprise.

At this point I’m 4-2 and in decent position to repeat my phoenix move from last month. I’m able to scout all the tables up and down the row, and there’s a massive glut of combo mirrors and combo-vs.-Chalice matchups in the bracket below me. I also see four Lands players currently in my bracket, including a Lands mirror, so it seems like the final round could potentially be good or grisly for Delver.

I’m able to quickly peruse some of the artist booths in the hallway, and I can’t resist a Lake of the Dead playmat from Pete Venters. Pete tells me he extended the art on it, digitally painting it to make it fit the aspect ratio. I’ll inspect it more closely later, but Pete is a master, and I can’t discern any difference from the original. Lake of the Dead is one of my favorite cards from my favorite set, Alliances, and I got Pete to sign one of them years ago (it now lives in my cube).

Pairings go up, and I see I’m battling Lauren Mulligan, who is not who I want to see in a potential win-and-cash spot.

Round 7: Lauren Mulligan

Lauren is a Lands lifer and is the best Lands player on the West Coast. The pressure is definitely on now. We’re seated at the end of the first table, so our match has a judge and spectators crowding around, which only raises the tension.

I win the die roll, and my seven is great. I have a Delver, lands, Force + blue card, and my one-of Price of Progress. I drop out a Delver, and Lauren doesn’t have an Exploration, Manabond, or Mox Diamond, so she’s probably on the Marit Lage plan or has Punishing Fire + Grove. Turns out she has both, along with a Turn 1 Tabernacle to stall my development. My cantrips, though, find more lands and a Wasteland. She slays the Delver, but I stick a True-Name as she builds her board. I know she can race my True-Name with Marit Lage, so I have to keep Wasteland up to interrupt it. In order to work around my Wasteland, she’ll need to deploy more lands, and that will play into Price of Progress. But the Price plan won’t work if she has a Crop Rotation for Glacial Chasm.

Lauren Ports my Wasteland at one point, and I consider firing off the Wasteland, but she still has Grove of the Burnwillows up, so she could Rotate, and I can’t deal lethal yet with Price. I know Price is not standard in UR Delver lists, so I have hidden information on my side, and I want to use it to the fullest. I let the Port activation resolve. She plays another land on a future turn. I draw and play a second Wasteland, and I’m feeling good. Now I can force action. I attack her to 9 with True-Name and pass. She Ports one of my Wastelands, and I fire it off on Dark Depths. She responds with Crop Rotation on Depths, and I Price her for 10. She had a second Crop Rotation in hand but not a second green source.

Game 2 she leads with Taiga, Gamble, which I let resolve, and she discards a Wasteland. I play a Delver, and she plays Tabernacle. So we’re in a similar position, but this time she’s especially short on colored mana. I Force her Loam, then go for an aggressive Wasteland on Taiga. She doesn’t have another green source. Delver chips her down to 14 as she assembles Thespian’s Stage, Depths, and then a Blast Zone, along with a Sphere of Resistance, which makes my Price line a lot more complicated. I can’t pay for Tabernacle to keep my Delver and pay three mana for a Price, so instead I use my mana to Ponder to try to find more lands.

A Glacial Chasm stops the bleeding and gives Lauren a force field from my Price, and there’s a dangerous scenario where I can lose this game if she’s able to make a Marit Lage from behind a Chasm, in which case Price is nullified even if Chasm goes away, because her lands will be gone. I also don’t want her to be able to Blast Zone away the Delver while protected. The Ponder, however, was golden, and allowed me to set up Wasteland. I Waste her Chasm and win with Delver plus a Bolt, not even needing to reveal the Price.

Lauren and I discuss the games and compare sideboards. I show her the four Leylines that I didn’t mull to and never saw, and then the waiting game begins.

The Top 8 is announced. Tim Wilder and Ian Hathaway are in, but most are players I don’t know. When the final standings are posted, a big crowd quickly forms, and I ask Jake McCune, who’s in front of me and made a deep run with Humans, if we made it in, and he proudly holds up his phone and says, “Yeah!! We made it!!”

I’m so ecstatic my legs tense up, ready to catch air like an antelope. But I don’t see my name. The names are so small on Jake’s phone. “Where am I?” I say. He’s confused. He looks again and realizes he misheard me. “Oh, I thought you asked if I made it,” he says. “Sorry, you’re here.”

20th on tiebreakers. Almost there.

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