Well, I did it. I won a Magic tournament! I honestly didn’t know how to start this article or what direction to take so buckle in, it’s story time.

Our story begins the Wednesday before the tournament. I was set on double sealed PPTQ’ing in Manhattan and Queens, but my plans fell short when I realized the Saturday event I was set on going to sold out in online registration in only a few days’ time. With no PPTQ’s within travel distance, I looked to my friend Kamil Lupicki, a local NJ grinder who was planning on going to SCG Regionals. Skipping out on a PPTQ within walking distance for a Modern event two hours away? I must’ve been out of my mind. But hey, maybe this was the universe’s way of telling me things were going to go right for this event. Well, thank you universe.

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As far as the deck choice and sideboard goes, there isn’t a ton more I have to say on the deck. I’ve talked about the list in a couple of articles now (which can be found here and here). After the most recent Modern bannings, Burn’s Dredge and Infect matchup got notably better – so it was time to say goodbye to Relic of Progenitus out of the sideboard (which wasn’t doing enough in that matchup anyway). Flores and I decided to try out 4 Kataki, War’s Wage as a way to hedge the Affinity matchup, one of the decks I lost to at the RPTQ. Kataki gives us some more advantage in a 50/50 matchup while not playing a third color. However, when I showed up at Kirwan’s Game Store half an hour before the event, they were all sold out.

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As a last minute choice I swapped out an Inspiring Vantage for a Stomping Ground, threw together a sideboard with 4 Destructive Revelry and was ready to go to battle.

Here’s the deck I played in the event:

R/W Burn by Roman Fusco at SCG Regionals – 1st

Creatures (12)
4 Goblin Guide
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel

Non-Creature Spells (28)
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lava Spike
4 Rift Bolt
4 Lightning Helix
4 Boros Charm
4 Searing Blaze
4 Skullcrack

Lands (20)
2 Mountain
2 Sacred Foundry
4 Arid Mesa
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Wooded Foothills
3 Inspiring Vantage
1 Stomping Ground

Sideboard (15)
4 Destructive Revelry
3 Deflecting Palm
3 Path to Exile
2 Kor Firewalker
2 Sudden Shock
1 Kataki, War’s Wage

Although I won the event, this is not the exact list I’d play again – some changes need to be made going forward.

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I had lent my playset of Scalding Tarn to my little brother for an event about a month ago, forgot they were at home, and left going to the event with Arid Mesa in my deck box. Although it’s not a huge deal at times, if you have to lead on an Arid Mesa turn one instead of any other red fetch land it immediately signals to your opponent what deck you are. This is important in influencing whether or not they go to fetch for a shock on their first turn. In game one against Jund in the swiss I kept a hand with Bloodstained Mire, Arid Mesa, and 2-mana burn spells. I play Mire, and pass. Opponent goes Bloodstained Mire, fetch for untapped Blood Crypt, Grim Lavamancer. If I had played Arid Mesa, pass, there’s some big consideration in fetching for a basic.

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The sideboard, although solid, was not by any means perfect. I threw in the Kataki, War’s Wage as a 15th card, 3 Path to Exile was definitely a little too much (although it was fine in the Goryo’s Vengeance and Bant Eldrazi matchups), and I wish I had had a third Sudden Shock.

Cutting the fourth Inspiring Vantage for Stomping Ground felt pretty free, many players have chosen that route already, notably Gerry Thompson – it’s not a tax on your mana for the most part and I’m going to stick with that change going forward.

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As for the tournament, the event went pretty smoothly. I felt advantaged in most of my matchups during the day, some harder than others. As some people may think, Burn isn’t as easy as “counting to 20.” There are times where it’s vital to be aggressive and times to be conservative. In the finals against Dan Ward’s Grixis Goryo’s Vengeance deck, I consistently kept up 2 mana during his turn, even though I could have been casting burn spells in combat to trigger my Monastery Swiftspear. I always kept up Skullcrack, regardless if I had it in my hand or not, because if I decided to tap out that would freely allow him to combo me out with Griselbrand. Know your matchups and when it’s important to strike.

To recap here are the decks I played:

Round 1: Affinity (2-0) – 1-0
Round 2: Living End (2-0) – 2-0
Round 3: Jund (2-0) – 3-0
Round 4: Elves (2-1) – 4-0
Round 5: Infect (2-0) – 5-0
Round 6: Tron (2-1) – 6-0
Round 7: Skred Red (2-1) – 7-0
Round 8: Intentional Draw – 7-0-1
Round 9: Intentional Draw – 7-0-2

Quarterfinals: Elves (2-1)
Semifinals: Abzan Company (2-1)
Finals: Grixis Goryo’s (2-1)

Although I had a cold the whole day and ended up playing 10 rounds of Magic, I was able to clinch the win. I don’t know if it was luck or if my technical play won me the trophy, but I know one thing that influenced my tournament was mindset. I mentioned this in my Rptq recap article, having a winner’s mindset if you’re set on taking down an event.

At one of our weekly trips to Outback Steakhouse, Mike brought up one his old articles – “How to Win a PTQ” from 10 years ago. In it, he talks about how success at Magic events cannot always be given to just luck or skill, but rather the attitude you bring to the event. To be honest, I’m probably not a great Magic player. I’m not a Modern aficionado by any means, and my decklist wasn’t perfect. But when I decided to go to the event, I had it ingrained in my mind I would come out on top. I know it sounds cocky and somewhat ignorant to have this mindset, but without it I don’t think I could have won that event.

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My lowest point in the tournament was in the semifinals. In game one, I threw away a game by not realizing I had two Eidolon of the Great Revel triggers, killing myself and locking myself out from winning a completely winnable game. On top of that, it was my first game on a feature match. Man did I feel like an idiot, I made it all this way and now I was going to lose. Then I mulliganed to five on the play, “how could I possibly win?” I thought – but I played it cool, dismissed the thought and kept in the winner’s mindset. No one was going to take this win from me.

It’s nice to finally say I have a big tournament win under my belt, and I’m even more excited now for the upcoming Grand Prix and Invitationals. Winning this event meant a lot to me, and I’m grateful for everyone who’s supported me in my Magic goals thus far. Thanks to Flores for being a good deck builder and supportive role model, Kamil Lupicki for driving me and waiting around in the feature match area, Kirwan’s Game Store for running a great event, and especially my parents, who were rooting for me from home.

I’m still looking to grab my Pro Tour Qualification this year, but this was nice too.

Cheers,

Roman

If you want to read about another aggressive red deck in Modern, read this article which is a part of our Deck of the Day series.

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