This is the story of how I managed to secure my slot at the Regional Championship in Atlanta with Green Devotion and the many fortunate things that had to fall into place for that to happen.
I was going to play Azorius Control at this RCQ. I had been beat up on Magic Online three or four times in a row by the sixty-card version while testing Green Devotion and I figured that Azorius would be a good choice to attack the top decks I’d expect to play at an RCQ. Thankfully, I went to FNM that night and battled against some Rakdos Midrange and Green Devotion.
I got slaughtered. 1-3 drop and without much thought, I walked up to my friend who had given me plenty of shit for switching from Mono Green to Azorius when I handed the deck back at the beginning of the night and he asked if I wanted Mono-Green back jokingly. I said yes. Sometimes in Magic as well as life, you have to know when you’re wrong. After getting beat up by what was likely going to be a heavily-played deck and feeling less happy with my gameplan against Mono Green, I knew my options were to go into the event unhappy with my deck selection or eat some Stormcrow.
I chose the latter.
The day of the RCQ, my friend Craig and his girlfriend came over with some delicious bagels and cream cheese and we had a quick breakfast at my dining room table to kick off our RCQ adventure. He was playing Rakdos Midrange and we were ready to head out to the venue. Our drive down was uneventful, marking off if there was a Dunks near the LGS and chatting about what hot takes had come out on Twitter or on podcasts leading up to the event.
We’ve traveled to many events together and our pre-event ritual often boils down to enjoying the calm before the storm as we find ourselves once again at a new store battling for an invite, much like in the old PPTQ days.
The first RCQ I played in paper saw me finish 4-2 for a 12th place finish and my carmate – Cain take down the whole thing with Izzet Phoenix. When Craig got into the car, I joked that clearly my car was a lucky charm and that one of us was a lock to win the event. Little did I know that our car would in fact make up both slots of the finals and ensure one of us was taking home the invite… but that’s for later.
Round One – Jeskai Ensoul
Like in many small field events, I went into this match knowing that my opponent had played Ensoul Artifact the previous day at FNM. While normally that wouldn’t make a huge difference, I knew that Karn, the Great Creator and Boseiju, Who Endures would be at their best in this matchup. I was able to steal game one by setting up a turn-two Wolfwillow Haven on an untapped land thanks to Elvish Mystic and passed, holding up Boseiju. When my opponent went to Ensoul Artifact their Ornithopter, they instead ended up with a Hallowed Fountain and when Karn came down the next turn, they were too far behind to come back.
Game two, I kept a close hand that had all the tools to win but needed to find any land in the top five cards thanks to being on the draw and having an Oath of Nissa. Unfortunately, I missed and by the time I found my second land, I was far enough behind I couldn’t beat a Stubborn Denial on my Karn, the Great Creator.
Game three was the most back and forth of the three games with me killing off creatures with Voracious Hydra, them making a large Stonecoil Serpent, and me needing to fade a Shrapnel Blast for one turn so I could get The Great Henge online and gain four life a turn thanks to Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner. Once I got out of blast range, my opponent knew they didn’t have any reasonable outs and conceded.
What seemed like it should be a great matchup, ended up being much closer than I expected, but stealing game one thanks to Boseiju proved to be just enough to give me a chance in game three to start the event off right.
Round Two – Abzan Greasefang
Next up, I found myself against fellow Playing Pioneer writer Bailey, who was playing Abzan Greasefang. We both knew what the other was playing and it was just a matter of who could execute their gameplan fastest.
In game one, I was able to find an early Karn and Cavalier of Thorns while the mills from various effects weren’t kind, making it difficult for Bailey to get any traction towards the combo while also not being able to chip down Karn. In game two, Bailey mulliganed to five and couldn’t find a quick combo before I was able to pull too far ahead.
Granted these games weren’t the most demonstrative of how this matchup often plays out, we both felt that Green had the advantage outside of turn three Parhelion II. While I got the better of this match, Bailey would end up making a strong run into the top 4 following this matchup.
Round Three: Bant Spirits
In round three, I was up against another friend Viet who brought Bant Spirits. Of the decks at the top tables, spirits was certainly the matchup I least wanted to play, and we both knew that going into the match. Game one I was off to a reasonable start, but Shacklegeist locked down my early elf and helped slow me down enough that the rest of the spirits could easily kill me before I found my footing.
Game two was much closer, with Voracious Hydra able to take out an early Shacklegeist and a lack of meaningful interaction letting me sneak through some larger threats. Being on the play this game certainly helped and I was able to sneak through lethal with some large creatures before the spirits could finish amassing their offense.
Game three played out in the worst possible way for me. With one-drop, into two-drop, into three-drop lord, into Collected Company, I couldn’t get anything going before facing down lethal. As expected, the tempo fliers deck quickly flew over me and left me defeated for the first time today.
Round Four – Mirror
Knowing that we were at a five-round event, winning this match would lock me for top 8, but even with a loss, I could potentially sneak in with a win in the final round. I sat down across from my opponent, who seemed a bit nervous playing a win-and-in for top eight, and we quickly figured out we were playing the mirror. Their hand game one was the perfect thing for the mirror: Elf, into Kiora and elf, into turn three Storm the Festival. Storm found Cavalier and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and I was buried before I even got off the ground.
Game two was much the same, but I was the one with the early storm. I found double Cavalier into Nykthos on turn four and was able to assemble the Chain Veil Combo. So, as expected, the player on the play with the first Storm was able to take down the first two games.
In game three, my opponent and I both kept solid hands, but neither of us had a turn three storm, simply playing a bit more of a fair start. I was able to start pulling ahead with a turn four Cavalier finding Nykthos, while my opponent had turn four Storm to find their own Cavalier, but not Nykthos. Knowing that if they found Nykthos, I would be in trouble, I untapped, cast Storm, and was able to find Karn and Kiora and lock up the win with a Chain Veil combo. My opponent was on a slightly older build, one running Vivien, Arkbow Ranger and without The Chain Veil and it came to bite them in games two and three when I could combo a turn sooner thanks to the more current technology.
With this win, I was able to lock up a slot in the top 8 and now all that was left was to draw in and get some Taco Bell.
Round Five – UW Control
Drew with a friend and locked up the 4th seed. Of the group that all knew each other and came down together, we managed to get seven people into top 8 and nearly lock up an RCQ invite for one of us at bare minimum.
Quarter-Finals – Soulflayer
I got paired against the only person who wasn’t in our group in the top 8 and I was thrilled. I knew that my opponent was on Soulflayer, and I figured this had to be a great matchup. If I could find a turn three Karn, the Great Creator, I should be able to stunt their speed with Tormod's Crypt and Cavalier of Thorns can stop a non-double striking Soulflayer easily.
Game one proved to play out exactly as expected, with turn three Karn taking their graveyard and being able to fully combo out by turn five while they were trying to refill their graveyard. Game two saw them try to rush out a Soulflayer on their turn three but couldn’t get double strike. With a quick Caviler, they could no longer attack, and it wasn’t long before I had assembled the combo once again and they were out of the tournament.
With that win, our group made up the top 4 and we were now locked to send at least one person to Dreamhack Atlanta. I was the first one done in top 8, so I was able to watch the other matches and quickly see that the semis were going to be tough.
Semi-Finals – Boros Heroic
My friend Kenny, whom I top 4’d SCG Philly 2019 with, quickly dispatched of the other Mono Green player in the quarter finals in what is arguably one of the worst matchups for Mono Green. Between Mono-Blue Spirits and Boros Heroic, it’s hard to choose which is worse, but the result is an expected loss either way.
In game one, Kenny kept a five-card hand that needed to find any creature to pop off. After cycling a Defiant Strike on my elf, Kenny found a creature, killed my elf, and quickly presented a huge threat I couldn’t deal with. It wasn’t long before a Gods Willing closed out the game and I was down a game.
Game two saw a quick start from me with dork into Old-Growth Troll into another Old-Growth Troll, which locked up the ground. While Kenny developed his board, I was able to find a Caviler, Nykthos, and Storm the Festival to lock up the board and eventually Meteor Golem the largest threat, stranding a God’s Willing. While I was able to take game two, the prognosis going into game three, was not favorable.
Kenny once again mulliganed down looking for something, what I suspected was another creature-light hand, but he led on land one-drop. I played my own one-drop and passed, hoping it would live. Kenny Ancestral Anger’d his creature, attacked, and passed. He was missing his second land drop. Presumably, he had more re-draws, but I needed to leverage this chance and I deployed everything I could, hoping I could pull far enough ahead before he found land number two.
In the end, I had out a God-Pharaoh's Statue out on the turn Kenny found his second land. Often to win a Magic event, you need to get a little lucky and, in this case, I got very luck to beat an incredibly strong player in a terrible matchup.
Finals – Rakdos Midrange
As was promised, the final was a carmate matchup: the classic of Rakdos Midrange versus Green Devotion. Game one was a straightforward affair. I was able to get off the ground quickly, while my opponent’s lands betrayed them a little, with a tapped land on turn one not enabling a Thoughtseize and by the time they were able to interact, I had already over developed onto the board. We quickly moved to game two where the matchup gets much closer thanks to cards like Go Blank, Epic Downfall, Lava Coil, and more.
Game two, I kept a speculative hand of two lands, two Wolfwillow Havens, and two Kiora. After a Thoughtseizeand a Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger, I was down some resources, but had some mana to work with. After some more interaction in the form of Dreadbore, I was left with too few resources and facing down an escaped Kroxa. It all came down to game three on the play for the RCQ invite.
I’ve known my finals opponent for a very long time. We have played a team RPTQ together, we have driven to many events from SCGs to GPs together. We worked together on many decks including the Bant Scapeshift deck from the aforementioned SCG Philly top 4. For game three, I looked at my hand and it was perfect.
I had lands, Elvish Mystic, Sylvan Caryatid, two Old-Growth Trolls, and Cavalier of Thorns. Everything you could possibly want against Rakdos, I had. I played land, elf. It died. I played Caryatid. My opponent cast Thoughtseize and told me ‘I don’t think I can beat that hand.’ We were in the finals of an RCQ, so we both knew it was going to go until a life total hit zero, but at that moment, we both saw the writing on the wall.
I deployed my threats, got ahead on board, got a massive mana advantage, and was able to leverage my litany of hard to answer threats that are the worst things for Rakdos to see all before they could apply pressure or strip my hand. It wasn’t long before we shook hands and I had locked up my slot to Dreamhack Atlanta.
Final Record: 6-1-1
There were many places where even a slight change could have changed the outcome of this tournament. As is often the case when it comes to Magic events, there had to be some fortune to steal some difficult matches, especially against tough matchups or on the draw. I was very happy with my deck, and it managed to do a lot of the heavy lifting in a room full of strong players. After an eventful Saturday, we all grabbed some food, laughed about the event, and half the table got prepped for a team event the next day.
Winning the RCQ is great, and I’m thrilled to be going to Dreamhack Atlanta to play for a shot at the Pro Tour and the World Championship, but it’s no joke when people say that the best part of Magic is the Gathering. Winning an RCQ surrounded by friends, most of whom made the Top 8 with me, was the perfect way to qualify.
Thanks for reading; be sure to keep an eye out for Bailey’s upcoming article on Green Devotion and the many updates it has gone through in the short time between this RCQ and today and stay safe out there at your local RCQs!
See you in Atlanta!