By Deion Smith
I was first introduced to Magic at the age of 14. Even at a young age my goal was to Top 8 big tournaments, and by doing so build my fame as a top player. Isn’t that the dream after all? Despite stepping away from Magic for a bit, after moving to buffalo I was back on the hunt for that Top 8 spot. Getting back into the competitive scene lead me to WNY Gaming for a PPTQ. After finishing second in the PPTQ, my career really started to take off. Spending time at the shop I realized the players in the area are talented and driven and just overall great humans. After establishing friendships with people in the community I began to practice and test at a higher level. So, shout out to the shop!
But, enough with the 3 episode filler and discuss my experience at Nationals and my ninth place finish! Building up to this event, I participated in countless FNMs, Monday Standard Showdowns, and GPs. In a format where the meta is decided by the best Planeswalker or a God, what is a man supposed to do if he just wants to turn the boys sideways? That’s where Steel Leaf Stompy came in to play. I’ve always had a thing for playing 5 power creatures on turn 2 –shout out to Doran, The Siege Tower. What sets this deck apart is its very explosive start, putting down large creatures early. The removal in the format doesn’t line up well against the curve of the deck allowing threats to stick long enough to see an attack step. Another benefit of the Steel Leaf Stompy Deck is the numerous recurring threats, with Scrapheap Scrounger and Resilient Khenra returning from the graveyard to lead the charge against midrange/control decks. With red/black being the most popular aggro deck, the 5 power and 4 toughness creatures, seemed hard for the red/black deck to deal with, or race. On day one, I played a lot of UB midrange and control; where the draw engine Lifecrafter’s Bestiary was the real MVP, along with a little help from Carnage Tyrant.
Nationals consisted of seven rounds of standard and six rounds of draft split over two days. I ended up leaving with an overall record of 10-2-1 with my only loss in standard coming in the first round to the mirror. I went 2 -1 in the draft portion with my loss coming down to game three, where I had to mulligan to five cards. I kept the hype train going for day two, which went better thanks to some much needed sleep. My Jeskai aggro deck had a good curve that ended in Jaya’s Immolating Inferno. Let me just say: Jaya’s Immolating Inferno, wow!
After the draft the event shifted back standard, and with my 3-0 record the train was still rolling. After winning my first standard match of day two against Esper control, I was about to go undefeated. Facing down RB in the final round, I was ready to achieve my best finish yet. The red black deck had a hard time with the big creatures that my deck was able to put on the board, and I won my match 2-0! Due to a draw on day one, I missed Top 8 by two points. Looking back on the event, I have to say the experience was worth more than a Top 8 finish. I also have to say I wouldn’t be in this position without the amazing magic community of WNY gaming. I owe a big thank you to everyone who believed in me, pushed me, and collaborated with me to achieve what I have to this day.