One of the surprising things about last year’s Nerd Rage Championship was that there were 16 players in it not named Joe Bernal.
To put it simply, Joe has a well-earned reputation as one of the best players in the Chicagoland area, which made his absence from last year’s championship noticeable. There will be no such concerns this year, as Joe took down May’s Legacy CT to lock up a spot in the 2017 NRG Championship.
Legacy is a format that Joe is known for, so it’s no surprise that it’s the format that qualified him for the championship. Here’s a look at his U/W Stoneblade list, with which he didn’t lose a match on the way to winning the CT.
U/W Stoneblade, by Joe Bernal, 1st place, May NRG CT
Casey Laughman (CL): How long have you been playing Magic? What got you into the game and what keeps you coming back?
JB: My cousins taught me how to play back in 1998ish. I played off and on very casually but started playing fnms around 2006 and have not stopped playing since.
CL: You’re known for your love and knowledge of Legacy. How did the banning of Sensei’s Divining Top affect the format generally and your decision-making process about what to play specifically?
JB: The banning took one of the major pillars out of the format and opened up a spot for a Tundra deck, so I have been trying to find the correct Tundra deck.
CL: You ended up on U/W Stoneblade, which is a deck you’ve been known to play some variation of before. What made this particular build your deck of choice for the CT? Will it remain your deck of choice going forward?
JB: I just wanted a build that allowed me to play magic vs the field and this build let me do that well enough. Its very stock and straightforward.
CL: Given how recently Top was banned, do you feel the format has settled into what it will be for a while, or are people still working out the kinks?
JB: Still a lot of room for growth. I don’t think it will be solved for a while. Some of the old decks are getting played more now, but there is a ton of wiggle room in the format for new archetypes.
CL: What was the most difficult match-up you faced during the CT? What match-ups were very good?
JB: Lands was the worst matchup I played in the tournament, and is not a good matchup. You have game (like against most decks with this type of deck) but it’s an uphill battle.
CL: You’ve played in a number of the CTs over the last couple years. What are your thoughts about the series and how it has evolved?
JB: I love the fact that we get more local tournaments where we get to play for something. Love how it has evolved and am optimistic about the future.
CL: With this win, you become the second player to qualify for this year’s championship who did not play in last year’s. Do you feel the players who have experienced the championship before will have an advantage, or will it not matter?
JB: The returning players might feel more comfortable in the tournament than some of the new competition. At the end of the day though I think the multi-format tournament will reward the player who is best prepared.
Joe Bernal is the winner of the May 2017 CT. Casey Laughman is editor of Nerd Rage Gaming. Email questions and comments to email@example.com.