What’s good, Spirit Squad!

Today we’re gonna talk about a Pioneer RCQ I played this weekend, and the fairly important takeaways that I got from it. Of course, I’m speaking of the Chinese food I’d ordered the next day, and it came with a fortune cookie. Appropriately, the cookie told me that “You learn more from losing than you ever will from winning”. Truer words, little cookie.

For those who are interested in a tournament report, we can include that too. I’m playing my signature Azorius Spirits deck, but this week I’m playing 2 Spell Pierces in the main deck rather than Slip Out the Back. Doesn’t have any effect on how the day went, but I just felt like playing around Fable of the Mirror-Breaker more than Supreme Verdict this weekend.

Round 1 – I face against a younger player, and it turns out he’s on Dimir Control. A fairly annoying matchup, since we never like fighting against Shark Typhoon piles that also have a bunch of efficient removal. However, the tradeoff is that they don’t have uncounterable Supreme Verdicts to worry about, so I kinda coast through this matchup.

Round 2 – This time I play against Azorius Control feat. Lotus Field, and this is another matchup that typically doesn’t play Supreme Verdict, instead favoring more copies of The Wandering Emperor for spot removal and bigger sweepers like Farewell. Those play nicely into my copies of Mausoleum Wanderer, and I coast through this matchup as well.

Round 3 – Finally, some non-Blue cards! My opponent is on Mono-White Aggro, and we both trade games and blunders. In Game 1, I kind of run him over since I don’t allow any of the 3-drops to resolve. In Game 2, we were getting scrappy and he has a Coppercoat Vanguard with a bunch of friends, but if I’m allowed to untap he’s toast. I block in a way that allows me to kill off his Vanguard and use an Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire at another of his Creatures. Forgetting about the Ward from the Coppercoat Vanguard, I insta-lose this game, but he gets stuck on 2 lands in Game 3 and my double Spell Queller hand is not about to show mercy.

So now I’m 3-0 and can double-draw into the Top 8. Hooray!

Top 8 – a couple of hours has passed since I’ve last played Magic, and I’m on the play as the #2 seed. I play against the only Rakdos Sacrifice player in the room, and if I’m being honest… this is easily the worst-played match of Magic I’ve put myself through in months, if not years. There’s a few reasons for this, and the point of writing this is to highlight what happened, and hopefully this stops some of you from repeating my (many) mistakes in this round.

First, it had been multiple hours since I’d last played and I’d allowed myself to lose my focus. This is an excuse, but it’s also true that my 20-year high school reunion party was starting right at this time and I was preoccupied with leaving and going to that. As someone who was playing an event to win, I should have simply acknowledged this, sent off a couple of messages saying I was going to be late, and gotten my head back into the game.

Next, and somewhat along the same vein, I’d started off by playing pretty quickly. This is normal for me, but my opponent did ask me to slow down so that he could keep up. I will admit that this annoyed me, but there was no justifiable reason for being annoyed. The time-crunch I had put myself under is irrelevant, and it’s not my opponent’s job to care about what other obligations I have going on. It’s my job to make sure my head’s in the right place when entering a tournament, and I failed to do so.

As a result of this, we have a Game 1 in which we were doing some attacking back-and-forth, and we have a scenario in which I’m at 5 life. He’s got a Bloodtithe Harvester and a Hive of the Eye Tyrant, but only 4 lands in play. I have a Shacklegeist and 2 other Creatures, and can kill him over the course of 2 turns. What I do is attack with the Shacklegeist and a Spell Queller, leaving behind a Spectral Sailor to block. This means that I need to resolve another Spirit in order to use the Shacklegeist’s ability, but if I’d just held back the ability to use Shacklegeist right then and there I could have easily use the Shacklegeist’s ability to ensure that I didn’t die. Instead, my line opened my opponent up to being able to use removal and instead of sealing up a game I had won, I lost.

Game 2, I see an Invasion of Gobakhan on Turn 2 and don’t really allow him to play Magic.

Game 1 was bad, but 3 is where I really just… crumble. I see an early Invasion of Gobakhan and make Rending Volley cost 3. Knowing this, and the rest of his hand, I’m able to play around most of what he’s got going on and I do get to flip the Invasion into a Lightshield Array. The Array helps to get him down to just 5 life, and I resolve a Katilda, Dawnhartt Martyr, which is just a 2/2 (Katilda herself and Lightshield Array). I have one mana open, and the next turn reminds me of a scene from an anime I’ve been really into the past few years.

Because why would there not be an anime tie-in somewhere.

So the show I’m talking about is called Haikyuu, and it’s about a teenage boy who’s really short but still wants to be good at volleyball. He’s also new to the game at the start of the story, and is much less skilled than everyone around him. But he’s super fast and can jump as high as people who are 30 whole centimeters taller than himself (a foot, for those of us who… yeah)! Anyway, because he’s fast but unskilled, his job is to score points by following the directions of his genius, expert teammate.

But eventually he starts learning things, and the biggest thing he learns is to just hit the ball up high so that he can give himself and his teammates a chance to just take a deep breath, slow down the pace of the game, and give everybody a chance to think clearly before making their next play. He does this in a big game against one of the strongest teams in the country, and he helped his team to recover from the mistakes they’d made because of this chance he gave them to just slow down and breathe for a bit.

I did not do this.

Back to the 2/2 Katilda. My board is a 5/5 Mutavault, a 2/2 Mutavault, Katilda, and the on-board Lightshield Array. My opponent goes to resolve a Meathook Massacre, to give everything -2/-2. I can activate a Mutavault in order to make Katilda a 3/3, but if my opponent has a Fatal Push or something to kill the 5/5 Mutavault then Katilda is back to a 2/2 and dies to the Massacre. Activating the 2/2 Mutavault loses to the same Massacre, since the 2/2 would die and Katilda would go back to being a 2/2 and would also die. I can, however, activate the 5/5 Mutavault and hope to fade a Fatal Push. I don’t, he’s got it.

I could have simply popped the Lightshield Array to at least save the 5/5, but I allow myself to get angry and have one of those salty “of course he’s got it” moments. I just let the Mutavault die, and the Katilda dies along with it. I have a Lightshield Array on the board, but what good is that gonna do me with out really much more than a 2/2 Mutavault. I wasn’t guaranteed to win this game by any stretch of the imagination, but I was super-far ahead and that Mutavault had the ability to make my opponent sweat something fierce, and I just… let it die.

Of course, this loses me the game. I get punished by not drawing another creature for the remainder of the game, and instead of giving myself a very likely chance to win a game, I lose this crucial Game 3. The worst part is that this is something I know better than to do, since one of my little catchphrases for exercising patience is “Don’t Press Any Buttons”. That phrasing comes from fighting games, since there are moments in which you need to just block an opponent’s attack but can’t block if you’re pressing buttons to make your own moves. I pressed a button, and got hit.

And that’s the lesson for the day. Hit the ball up high, don’t press any buttons, and give yourself a chance to win more of your games!

About The Author

SpiritSquadMTG, or just Dre, has been playing games at a high level for 25 years, 13 of that within the Magic: the Gathering space. You can find him talking about Magic, especially Spirits, on YouTube or occasionally playing in Upstate New York.

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