Last Weekend of Road to Nationals Season – RTN @ Bento Gaming (Calgary)

It’s currently Sunday evening as I write this initial draft. My flight back home was delayed, so I thought I would get a head start on writing up my weekend experience. This Labor Day long weekend has flown by in the blink of an eye. Feel free to skip straight to tournament recap below, as this will be more of the personal/preparation bit leading up to Bento Gaming’s RTN. 

First off, there was only a week in between Infinity’s RTN and Bento’s RTN, so there was not a lot of time to actually prep. I really only had a chance to playtest two short evening sessions with Eric. We had been talking about attending the Alberta RTN ever since the dates and locations were announced, so it was never a last minute decision to make the trip. Eric was still pretty cold on Chane given his experience at RTN and missing out on Top 8, but after testing Katsu (aggro), we just both felt there was no point to go off of Chane. He just has the beat matchups against the entire field, and we know Alberta’s meta was a lot more diverse and had more Bravos. We were not afraid of the Bravo matchup – as long as you know what your endgame is against Bravo, you should be fine (unless they hit the Snag or they back to back Spinal Crush you). So after a bunch of testing on Chane, we settled on our final deck.

As you can see, we made a few changes from my previous iteration of the deck. We added 9th Blade for the Prism matchup since we knew Herald Prism would be there. We added (B) Plunder Run for the increased chance of drawing it. Removed the Whispers since it wasn’t doing much anyway against the Boltyn matchup (had to get lucky to draw it, and we didn’t really feel the need for additional NAA). We added the Crown for arcane barrier 1 against Viserai and Kano, both of which we knew would be present as they appeared in the Edmonton RTN the week before. We took out the Flock package since we felt it was too awkward, and I personally did not find them that useful at Infinity’s RTN. We also added back in Meat and Greet and 1 Rip for the aggro matchups, which actually proved to be great additions. The two of us spent quite a bit of time on figuring out our sideboard matchups, but the night before the event, we both settled on a gameplan against everything.

Leading up the event, I had a whirlwind of a weekend. Friday night, I drove up to Whistler for a bachelor’s party, but because of the RTN, I was unable to spend the entire weekend with the boys. Still, I was more than happy to go for the night, as it had been a long time since I saw all of them. We rented a really nice air bnb, and of course, drank a lot (we had some crazy beer pong swiss/tournament). I woke up early the next day to drive back down myself and catch my flight to Calgary. Upon landing, Sarah (my buddy’s wife) picked me up and we went straight to the restaurant to meet up with Terence, as he was just getting off work. It was a basically a restaurant that serves meat and whiskey. Terence tried to get me drunk after we got back to their place, but I made sure to keep myself fairly sober, and he eventually had to sleep given he had a 6 AM shift the next day, not to mention I also did not want to head to the tournament hungover, given the 9 AM start.

Bachelor bottom right – yup, I’m trying to get my MTG buds into FAB as well! Ian is teaching Justin here how to play.

It was again, a pretty terrible night of sleep. Woke up at 7 AM, had breakfast cooked by Sarah. She even packed me a lunch which was greatly appreciated, and then she dropped me off at the venue. Bento had set up a pretty nice gaming area with a ton of advertisement for the game and the store, even with a backdrop for taking pictures. From here on out, this is the recap of the tournament from my perspective. 

Bento had some pretty cool custom banners on display! Had to get one with the Exude art in honor of winning the mat last week

Round 1: Adrian – Chane
The first thing I noticed about this matchup was that it was not going to be the traditional Chane game. Adrian ran Timeskippers, played a ton of unconventional cards like Rifted Torment, Piercing Shadowvise, basically a ton of cards that the meta Chane decks do not run. Still, this game went down to the wire with me blocking out the final turn and Adrian dying to BD on his turn (he banished a bunch of 2 cost cards, and he only had 2 cards left in hand. We talked afterwards, and Adrian had mentioned his deck was 74, running about 40% BD so he banished pretty well in that game all things considered. I thought it was a pretty cool deck, and it was nice to face something different. I could tell that in this matchup, I was not really functioning at 100%, as I was calling cards by the wrong title or trying to play cards out of the banished zone without having played a NAA. The weekend was definitely taking a toll on me. 

Round 2 – Grant – Boltyn
If you read my previous post, you will know I have a pretty bad experience with Boltyn. Grant actually had the full equipment this time, and he told me he was 5-0 in swiss at the Edmonton RTN the week before. This game came down the wire. Grant mentioned he could have won if he had used his Courageous Steelhand on the first Raydn hit off of the Lumina turn. But essentially, it came down to me winning by killing him with a Seeds and a Vexing Malice, as the three arcane was just the right amount to kill him. 

Round 3 – Eric – Chane
Our worst fears realized, the two playtesting buds face each other. If you go 3-0 in 5 rounds of swiss, you can breathe a sigh of relief since you get in no matter what to Top 8. So far, I had lost every die roll, so it was no surprise I lost this die roll as well. Either way, I didn’t mind who won this game, since we had agreed to win together for this tournament. This game went pretty close, and it came down to me using the Snap on a somewhat weak turn, and Eric had used his Snap on a great turn to force me to block out and ended up sealing the deal to die to an Invert. With that, Eric was guaranteed for Top 8, which I was happy for him given his luck at the last tournament.

Lunch Break
I had the option to go with a few buddies of Eric to grab food, but since Sarah had already packed me lunch, I opted to stay behind and use the alone time to just get my head back into the game. I knew I had to win Round 4 to get good tiebreakers, because a loss would basically mean I was out, even if I won Round 5. 

Rejuvenating lunch!

Round 4 – Matteo – Chane
This was a rematch from Round 3 at Infinity, so I knew exactly what Matteo was running. It was unfortunate that we both had to face each other, since we’re both BC boys. This was the standard back and forth, but I had the edge because I was able to get in arcane damage and go wide with things like Rip and Meat and Greet. Matteo had some bad luck, as the turn he died, he Art of War twice to get some cards in his hand to block more, but all he drew were Seeds, which did not get the defense bonus. 

Round 5 – Andrew – Chane
With the pressure off of me and having won round 3, I went into this round much more relaxed, but still with a clear mind and wanting to win, just to be safe in case something weird happened with the LSS GEM system. I was watching Andrew play the round before as he was playing Eric (who was now 4-0 playing a Prism player to determine who would be the sole 5-0 player). It was a pretty standard Chane deck, and this came down to who had the fewer off turns with the banishes, and I got swept. It was a close, but well played and clean game. Pretty great player and very friendly as we had a lot of banter. I believe Andrew mentioned he comes from a MTG background and had just been playing the game for a short amount of time and his main playtesting partner was also Top 8 bound.

So at this point, I was 3-2 and not too confident on tie breakers. Overall, I was happy with how I played as I took the lessons from last week with making sure I play every match as well as I can and not get in a place of “content”. Tyler (who also came to Infinity last week) had the exact same record as me, losing and winning on the same rounds. Going into round 5, we were 5th and 6th on the standings, so we knew it was going to be really close. We were also just a table apart in the final round of swiss. 

It doesn’t get any closer than this

I barely squeaked in, and Tyler just missed the cut. I felt bad for the guy since he drove 10+ hours just to get to each RTN, and he also barely missed the Top 8 cut last week. But he did win a raffle mat! Speaking of raffle prizes, I also won 12 packs of Monarch, which was pretty generous of Eric (owner of Bento Gaming). Really friendly guy. He sent me a replacement 1st edition box when the first one got lost in the mail by Canada Post. Was really happy to meet the guy in person. For the Top 8 prizes, I got a Levia randomly, so I joined Chris on the Levia train. Missed on the Prism by 50% though. Top 8 was 3 Bravos, 4 Chanes, 1 Prism. Eric (BC Eric) and I joked about how if we both won all our games, we would meet in the finals.

Top 8 – Tarek – Prism
Tarek was the undefeated player from swiss, having beaten Eric in the final round. I knew he was running Herald Prism, and it seemed very similar to the deck Matt Rogers was raving about on his latest video, as he was running yellow Plunder Runs. This game started off really rough rough me (it’s on stream). I didn’t have great hands to block on his aggressive turns, and my turns were also weak on pressuring him to block too. At one point, the life totals were like 30 to 15 or something, and it was looking really dire. I managed to get the game to around 2-2 life apiece, but a well timed Celestial into another Herald put me to 1 with no cards in hand. My 5 card shackle was not lucky enough to bail me out, and I lost. 

Shuffling in the stream table before my loss XD – but really nice professional photos!

Going into Top 8, I was definitely feeling burnt out and mentally exhausted. Likely a byproduct of the entire weekend and there are a few moments in the game where I think I could have made a different decision, but that’s how we learn, by analyzing and pointing out the areas we could have made a better decision. Will definitely be looking back on that game to see where I could have improved my play lines. 

Being knocked out, I went to support Eric, and he was in a grinder match against a Bravo player. This game went to down the final hand, as Eric was on 1 life and needed to kill his opponent or else he would die to BD. His opponent had a 5 card hand thanks to Helm, and I saw a Snag in his hand as well. Eric, however, did not banish any Rift Binds off of the shackles. His opponent pitched Show Time to block out arcane damage, and Eric’s go wide turn, he ended with a CNC in arsenal (they both spent a lot of time thinking in their final two turns, so I imagine they were both mentally exhausted). With the CNC coming for 6 and his opponent at 3 ( I think), Bravo could not block 6 since he had kept the Snag in hand instead of the Show Time, so he blocked 3 and died to the remaining 3. His opponent recognized his misplay right away (I believe he mentioned having misunderstood the text on Rift Bind or something, which is why he decided to keep the Snag just in case).

At this point, I was debating whether or not to just head to the airport and chill since I was pretty tired, but I ended up staying behind to keep cheering on Eric and sat with him for his next two games. His next matchup was against another control Bravo. This Bravo player beat out Andrew (my Round 5 opponent), and Eric and I both had no idea if he was an aggro or fatigue Bravo. I’m not sure how we would have sideboarded if we thought he was aggro (likely no full control package and just hedge the sideboard), but I quickly asked Andrew what Bravo he was playing and passed on the information to Eric (thanks Andrew)! This match started off pretty rough for Eric as he took a full Spinal Crush to the face in the first turn of the game (rough hand for blocking). In the previous game, he had complained about the CNC in arsenal doing nothing, but it did win him the game. This game, he also had to arsenal one at a certain point (pretty early on), and he was very unhappy about it. But this game came down to his final banish turn that he had set up (completely decked out at this point) and the Ursur was just too strong for Bravo. It was a pretty sick comeback because he was on the losing end for most of the game. 

With that, Eric was in the finals. I could tell he was really burnt out from the two Bravo games, as they both went to about 50 mins. Now, he was up against the player he lost in round 5, the Herald Prism. Being lower seed, he went second. There’s not much to say about this game, other than he drew godly and banished crazy well. His opponent also had some rough no block hands (like 2 ALS) and also decided to not run NR Gloves (he usually ran them in the other Chane matchups). Eric was never losing in this game, and he sealed the revenge revenge. Oh, it could be that Eric had the luck because he got a CF Chane for the Top 8 prize and swapped out his RF Chane right before the match.

Very happy for Eric after his rough RTN showing in BC. I’m very grateful to have him as a playtest partner. He even honored our agreement to split the prizing for the event (which I would have completely understood if he opted out of). After winning, he was starting to second-guess his decision to sell it and wanted to keep it (which I very much agree since it’s symbolizes and represents his win). Apparently Bento will be sending him a trophy too! Forgot to take a picture with him unfortunately.

But I at least got this picture with Eric! Top 8 at Bento
Got a picture with the EA Tunic – am I allowed to say I contributed to Eric’s win? Ahaha

So that wraps up RTN season, as this was the last week. It felt great to attend events in person and really made me think of the old days playing MTG events like Grand Prix and Pro Tour qualifiers. 
Thanks to Eric from Bento Gaming for hosting the event (and the judge who I didn’t catch their name). They have a cool video recap of the event here! Nice meeting the Choco man in person too! Arthur was super friendly and came up to say hello to me, which I really appreciated. 

Again, got to give my man Eric thanks and props for the playtesting and going all the way with the deck we built together. May you enjoy that Fyendal Spring Tunic playmat bro! Also just a quick shoutout to Chris who kept sending me positive vibes when I lost my third round and throughout the day. 

Also a quick shoutout to Tsubasa and Matteo for coming out and representing BC! They both missed the top 8 cut barely as well.

Header image: Chane, Bound by Shadow by Frederico Musetti

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