Last weekend, former pro mainstay and longtime burn-slinger Patrick Sullivan won the StarCityGames.com Open Series in Edison, NJ with a mono-red burn deck.
Of course, as always, this has prompted a slew of people to copy the list for their local tournaments (and odds are, it will show up in greater numbers this weekend in Memphis than it did in Edison).
But it’s not always about the weapon.
Patrick Sullivan is known to favor red cards. Actually, that’s an understatement. The guy literally carries around a box of every playable red card in Standard (and Legacy). On Saturday, he only decided at the last minute to enter the tournament, and proceeded to construct a deck from his tinderbox.
I think it’s pretty clear that right now, the “best deck” (and I use that term loosely, because it’s always in flux) is some version of the CawBlade deck that won Pro Tour Paris last month in the hands of Ben Stark. Yet somehow, Patrick made his way through 10 rounds to make top 8 and emerge victorious. How is this possible?
Sullivan wasn’t looking to out-meta the metagame by playing a deck whose function was to attack the most commonly-played decks. He built and played the kind of deck he is most comfortable with—the deck whose strategies he has mastered over the course of years—and took it all the way to the finish line.
The same 75 cards in the hands of almost any other player would not have gotten there. Patrick Sullivan did not choose to play the best deck for the tournament; he chose to play the best deck for himself.
Just because your sword is sharper doesn’t mean you won’t lose in battle to a master wielding a dull blade.
So when the time comes to choose your weapon, be wary of choosing the sword with the dull blade. It may not perform to your expectations.
This is one of the most important lessons any serious tournament MTG player must learn. I’ve won countless games of Magic with an inferior deck I felt good about and I’ve lost even more games playing the ‘best deck in the format’ that didn’t match my play style at all (looking at you Valakut).