June 16th, 2013
I’ve been playing MTG off and on (mostly off) since 1997; you can read more of my story on that here. I am not a particularly high-level player, mostly an FNMer. I don’t play PTQs, but if there’s a GP within driving distance, I’ll go. (Exception: I am flying to Las Vegas for the Modern Masters GP.) Since there was a GP in my own back yard, of course I was happy to sign up. This, however, is not really my story.
This is Simon’s story. He’s 12 years old and has been coming with me to FNMs and other events at my local store since New Phyrexia; his first FNM deck was Tempered Steel, which is of course now one of his all-time favorite decks. He only played Standard for a while, but eventually started to come to drafts as well. Almost all his Sealed experience comes from pre-releases; Innistrad was his first one of those. We also play sealed at home whenever we buy a box or win packs.
Simon’s favorite thing to do outside Magic is play lacrosse. He was the defensive captain for his team this year, and on the same Sunday as the GP was the first day of summer lacrosse camp for him. I figured this wasn’t really going to be a problem, after all, what 12-year-old makes day 2 of a Limited GP? (Twitter later told me that this has actually happened before; a kid in Seattle Day 2’d a GP there that was INN/DKA.)
I had Friday afternoon off so we went up early for side events. PV had tweeted that he really liked the GP Houston playmats, so I took a picture of Simon with his playmat and tweeted it to PV. Here’s Simon:
The hat will re-appear in the story later.
We played in the Friday Grand Melee, which was very silly but was also much fun. Simon also played a Standard grinder but lost in the second round in game 3 to Jund. The other event of note on Friday was a bunch of pros did a Modern Masters draft. Simon went over and watched some of it and also spoke to several of them. He talked more to Reid Duke than anyone else, Reid was very friendly and Simon was very pleased he got to meet some pros and see them play.
He brought some cards with him on Saturday that he hoped to get signed by his favorite pros. For the player meeting and deck registration, we were seated near Sam Black, and Simon just loves Sam’s “Walking Dead” Legacy deck, and Sam was nice enough to sign a playset of Bloodghasts for Simon.
So, we got our pools and built. I won’t bother with my pool because this isn’t about me. It turns out of you’re going to make day 2 of a GP, it helps to have a good pool to start with. Here is the deck Simon ended up registering:
I won’t go into great detail on the individual matches, partly because he doesn’t remember all the details and partly because I want to stay more on the big picture.
Simon won round 1 fairly easily with Snare Squad as his MVP.
He lost round 2 to turn 2 Pack Rat both games. He was understandably kind of miffed about that. However, I think it was after this round that we spotted Brian Kibler, Simon’s favorite pro, and Simon got Brian to sign a Knight of the Reliquary, so Simon was pleased about that.
In round 3, Simon lost the third game to Angel of Serenity. But not to hard-cast Angel. Simon had used Mind Rot in the first few turns, and his opponent discarded the Angel. His opponent had ramped with a Cluestone and got back Angel with Obzedat’s Aid, blanking Simon’s entire team.
Simon was a little down after this, clearly expecting to lose the next round and drop, so we had a little pep talk. I reminded him that his deck was really good, and that if he played without mistakes and let the deck do the work, he could come back and still do OK. I also told him that yes, it’s a big event, but it’s still just a Magic tournament and to just play like he does at our local store and not think about that. He seemed to perk up a little after that and went to battle in round 4.
He won round 4 2-0, said he curved out and just ran his opponent over.
I should note this was Simon’s first Limited tournament that required decklists. In round 5, Simon got deck checked and got a game loss for a mis-registration. However, his opponent for the round did not show up (which I think will be referred to as “pulling a Ben Stark”—sorry, Ben—for the next while), so I think this went on the books as a 2-1 win. If you’re going to get a game loss for deck registration, that was the time to do it.
Round 6 Simon said his opponent was playing 4 colors and got color screwed game 1, and game 2 the Baron came for a visit.
Round 7 Simon carried a game 2 he thought he might lose because his opponent had an Advent of the Wurm token with Knightly Valor on it, and nothing in Simon’s deck can tangle with that and live. However, he kept his cool, realized that trample damage doesn’t go through if the attacking creature is actually dead, and Smited the beast.
At 12 years old and X-2, Simon started showing up on other people radar. The judge staff was clearly watching out for him. He got LSV to sign an Elvish Visionary (and, in honor of Mr. Vargas’s penchant for puns, we will forever refer to this card as “LSVisionary”), he got Tom Martell to sign a Boros Reckoner, and he talked with Brian Kibler again. Both LSV and Tom Martell looked over his deck (nobody liked the Mind Rot in it, otherwise all the feedback was thumbs-up), and Simon got great encouragement from all of them.
This is also where the hat comes in. Simon said to me that he was definitely keeping his hat on for the rest of the day, because the only two rounds he lost were the rounds where he didn’t wear his hat. This, apparently, is how lucky hats are born.
Round 8 was the aggro mirror, which Simon carried in game 1 thanks to Snare Squad’s interference in blocking, and game 2 was another visit from the Baron.
One more match! After a 1-2 start, Simon was one match away from making day 2 of his first GP! He was really excited about it, and very hopeful without being cocky.
Round 9 was really the highlight of the day. I was playing in a Standard side event at the time, and I missed the beginning of the match. I came over and saw Simon had superior board position, and it played out in his favor from there. Game 2 he kept a slightly sketchy hand with no white source in it. However, he did have a Mind Rot. Normally, not too impressive—but his opponent mulliganed to 5 (on the play, of course), which makes Mind Rot pretty much a bomb.
I pulled myself away from the match at this point to stop and talk to one of the judges, Arther Halavais, who I’ve been Twitter buddies with for a while but who I didn’t actually meet in person until Friday afternoon. Arthur had a free moment and I asked him if he knew who the youngest player ever to day 2 a Limited GP was. We both remembered there was a kid in Singapore who day 2’d a GP in the Bloodbraid Jund standard era who was probably younger than 12, but I didn’t know about Limited. Nor did Arthur, but he promised to check for me.
Here’s the part of the day that was the highlight. Arthur then told me that he and the other judges had kind of been keeping an eye on Simon for a while, and that, yes, his deck was good, but he was also playing really well—keeping calm when he got behind, making clean plays with very few mistakes. Most importantly, Arthur said he was also impressed by Simon’s demeanor, very polite and respectful. Now, maybe Arthur was just trying to make my day, but the day before Father’s Day, that’s about the best thing anyone can say to you—those of you who are parents understand.
We looked over, and Simon’s match was done. As expected, he had carried it. Simon said that one of his opponent’s friends was watching, and when Simon Mind Rotted his opponent, the friend rolled his eyes and turned away, signaling that is was pretty much over.
Holy cow! My 12 year old son had just made day 2 of a GP after starting 1-2! A 6-0 run is pretty amazing at a GP for anyone, much less a 12-year-old. As you might imagine, Simon was SUPER excited, and I was just as excited for him. I’ve never made day 2 at a GP, so it was quite an event for both of us. Simon told me the part of his deck that was his hardest set of decisions were mulligan decisions, mostly on colors. Obviously, he did that part of it well.
Day 2 was a very novel experience for Simon. He had never done a draft at competitive REL, much less professional. He doesn’t have a lot of experience drafting and had never done a timed draft before. However, this is where the Web coverage of the Pro Tour is a great thing—Simon had watched a couple of these drafts, so he knew how it worked. He also got a little drafting advice from the pros and Arthur, all of whom were enthusiastic in cheering for Simon after he made the second day. Simon was definitely nervous going in to the draft, but also excited for the opportunity. We spectators were not allowed to be too close to the draft, so I couldn’t get a very good picture of him in action, but I got this blurry one from a distance:
Unfortunately for Simon, no hat during the draft. He could have just turned it around, but chose to take it off instead. Anyway, here is the deck he registered:
He also had a Golgari Charm in the sideboard. I got to look over his deck after the draft, and my thoughts on it were that it was OK, maybe a little slow, but good overall card quality, though the mana might be a problem because he was so three-colored. However, he was very three-colored yesterday and it went fine, so maybe that would hold up.
Simon usually is OK with me watching him play, but today he preferred I didn’t, so I wandered off and tried to watch feature matches or guys from my local store, of which there were a at least three others who made day 2.
Round 1 went long. Simon won game 1 on the back of Necropolis Regent, lost a grindy game 2, then lost a grindy game 3 where he never drew a source of green mana and also never hit his third black for Regent.
Round 2 went very quickly. Simon didn’t draw any white in game 2, and didn’t draw any black in game 3. The match was over quickly, and we got a snack so Simon could unwind a little. We talked about plans for the day, and we determined that Simon had to win out to make top 64, so if he lost his next round he would drop so he could still make it to lacrosse camp in time.
The third round, unfortunately, didn’t go much better. Simon won game 1 very quickly as his opponent got stuck on three lands. Game 2 Simon again had color issues. Game 3 Simon lost when his opponent overloaded a Dynacharge for exactly lethal damage.
So, that was the end. Simon collected three packs for his troubles and we went home, and he geared up for lacrosse camp. Nothing like getting to batter someone with a titanium pole to vent any frustration.
Overall, the experience was absolutely fantastic. Simon was so excited to make day 2, and I was so proud of him.
One of the things that really made it great was how friendly and encouraging everyone was. Simon got to meet a bunch of pro players who were all very friendly and really gave him a lot of inspiration. Special shout outs to Tom Martell, Brian Kibler, and LSV for really taking the time out to look over Simon’s deck and give him advice to get him ready for day 2 and for all the encouragement. (Simon got a great high five from LSV after making it.) Also, thanks very much to Arthur Halavais for keeping an eye out for Simon and keeping him company after the last round while I was still in my side event.
I think it’s the best story you won’t see on the GP coverage site—but I may be more than a little biased. Happy Father’s day to me!
June 11th, 2013
Shards of Alara was released in fall of 2008. Almost four years later, “Jund,” “Esper” and the other shard names are still firmly entrenched in the Magic lexicon, and my guess is that they’re not going away anytime soon. In contrast, when I started playing (a second time, after a ten-year absence) in fall of 2009—that is, right about four years after the original Ravnica block—almost nobody ever used the Ravnica guild names. The exception was Boros, as there was a Standard deck around that time that was known as “Boros Bushwhacker.” And, frankly, I had no idea where the name “Boros” came from for quite some time, because none of the other guild names were in regular use. UW control decks were definitely a thing at the time and literally nobody, either verbally on in print, called these things “Azorius.”
So, the question is, why? That is, why did the guild names (mostly) die over four years whereas the shard names are still going strong over roughly the same time period? Why do some names work and some names fail?
As it turns out, this isn’t exactly a science, but there are some ideas out there about this, for instance, there’s lots of advice in the world of marketing about the criteria to use when evaluating brand names that kind of apply here. Names for color combinations aren’t exactly brands, but some of the principles overlap. I think the key ideas are these:
Distinctiveness. A set of labels that all sound very similar isn’t going to be a very good set because people will confuse them. They must be distinct, both visually and by sound.
Brevity. Why do we make acronyms and abbreviations, and why do they stick? Because they take less effort to say and type. Almost any successful new name has to be shorter than the name its trying to replace. “Golgari,” for instance, is twice as many syllables as “black-green” so it seems unlikely that it will ever really replace just using the names of the two colors involved.
Likability. This one is admittedly more cloudy, but a good linguist could probably quantify this reasonably well. This is sort of a “how good does the word feel in your mouth?” kind of criterion. Since in MTG these are generally made-up words this isn’t (usually) a question about what kind of imagery is invoked or what other associations the name will create.
Easy Spelling and Pronunciation. I’ll just quote directly from the cited piece: “Will most people be able to spell the name after hearing it spoken? Will they be able to pronounce it after seeing it written? A name shouldn’t turn into a spelling test or make people feel ignorant.”
So, let’s look at some of the names that have been generated for MTG color combinations. I’ll start with the Alara shards:
- Jund. Distinct, brief, feels good, easy to spell/pronounce. I give it an “A.”
- Bant. Right up with Jund. A
- Naya. Not quite as brief, spelling might be an issue if you hear it but don’t see it written out. B+
- Esper. Easier to spell based on sound than Naya, not quite as brief as others (two syllables), but still strong. A-
- Grixis. Probably the worst shard name, not very likable, easy to misspell if you just hear it first. B-
Overall, this is a very strong set of names. These caught on with the player base and really stuck, and that’s because they’re really good.
Now, the guild names:
- Azorius. Distinctive but way too long, spelling issues (“azorious”). D+
- Izzet. Short, but completely indistinct from regular English “is it.” B-
- Golgari. Distinct, but way long and clunky to say. D
- Rakdos. Not bad, pretty short, but not as distinct from Boros as it needs to be. B+
- Selesnya. Again, way too long and a little bit clunky. D+
- Boros. The best of the guild names: shortish, distinct, hard to mess up, likable. There’s a reason this was the only one left four years later. A-
- Dimir. Fails on spelling/pronunciation, but at least it’s short. C-
- Orzhov. Another minor spelling problem, though at least it’s short to say. C
- Gruul. Who hearing this for the fist time didn’t spell it “grool” in their head? Seriously sounds like WotC was trying to evoke “drool” with this name, which I guess kind of matches up with the guild’s style, but still. D+
- Simic. Probably the third best guild name, though still occasional spelling/pronunciation issues (I’ve heard people say “SIGH-meeck” until being corrected.) B
We have a few pretty decent ones (even the best one still doesn’t get the full A because its two syllables), but lots of not very good ones. Unless we have “Revisiting Ravnica Again” block in the next couple years, I expect these guild names to recede again, though it may take a little longer this time since this is the second time the community has gotten to see these.
So, let’s talk about the wedges. There are three naming schemes I’ve heard for these: the Apocalypse names (Necra, Raka, etc.), the names of the Planar Chaos dragons (Numot, Teneb, etc.), and the common names MTG players actually use. I’ll consider each of these in turn.
The Apocalypse names had the first shot at this and basically failed. I have literally never heard a Magic player use these names in describing a deck, but every once in a while someone on the Internet will reference them, usually when showing off how long they’ve been playing or what an MTG encyclopedia they are or to correct someone else when they say the wedges don’t have names. These are based on a some cycles of creatures in the set, and they aren’t really names, but prefixes. They are Ana, Ceta, Dega, Necra, and Raka. (Bonus point to readers who can actually name what wedges go with which names without looking it up. The fact that I have to look it up every time does not bode well for the names.) The names are short and easy to spell and pronounce, but completely fail on distinctiveness, both from each other (not so much in print, but say them out loud) and from other common words or MTG terms. (For example, “Necra” a couple years after “Necro” was the shorthand name for both a card and a deck that are mono-colored? Not a win there.) Also, these names weren’t pushed very hard by WotC; there aren’t multiple cycles of lands and artifacts and coherent themes for these things, so they don’t really have identities under these names.
The Planar Chaos dragons (Intet, Numot, Oros, Teneb, and Vorosh) are moderately well-named as a set, though overall they could be a little shorter and more distinct. Also, “Oros” is a complete disaster because of the Boros guild name (and the guild name was there first). Once again, these names weren’t pushed very hard by WotC so they don’t really have identities with these labels. Plus, of course, these are names for creatures, not actually names of wedges themselves.
What’s most interesting to see about the wedges is what people in the community actually call them. Effectively, three of the wedges have names, one of them kind of does, and one of them simply doesn’t. The color combinations black-blue-green and red-blue-green just go by “BUG” and “RUG.” Not very distinct, but very short to both say and type. Black-white-green is generally called “Junk” both verbally and in print, and I believe comes from a pretty old extended deck. For instance, the currently trendy black-white-green reanimator decks are usually called “Junk Rites” decks. Notice that brevity is the clear win here, as all of these are single-syllable names, just like the best shard names.
Red-white-blue is sometimes called “U.S.A.” or “American” after the U.S. flag, but those aren’t much shorter than just saying “red-white-blue” and in print people usually just type UWR or RWU or whatever. And, of course, using U.S. flag references as a name is just wrong anyway, since lots of other countries have flags that are red, white, and blue—looking at you, U.K., France, Australia, etc.
Poor white-black-red (that’s the order the colors are on a printed card of this wedge) really doesn’t have a name in common usage. It’s a shame because that’s my favorite wedge. Personally I refer to it as “Sin City” because black and white plus red was basically the color scheme for the comic/movie, but this doesn’t work because nobody gets it. That’s the problem with names, they only work if most people actually know and use them. So while technically this wedge could be called “Oros” or “Dega,” if you use one of those, most people won’t get what you’re talking about. That more or less defeats the point of a name in the first place, so this wedge effectively has no name, no matter how pedantic people want to be about it. (If a name exists but nobody uses it, does it still have meaning? I’d argue no.)
So, WotC, we have a clear need here. We need a block that is wedge-themed like Alara was shard-themed, it needs to have good names for the wedges, and those names have to be reinforced by multiple cycles of lands, creatures, artifacts, etc. just like the shards in Alara were. I know you’ll get right on that.
June 9th, 2013
I don’t actually play much Modern, but like many other MTG addicts, I’ve been following along as pieces have been revealed and planned a trip to Vegas with the MM Grand Prix as my flimsy excuse to go. Now that the whole set is out and I’ve gotten to play it I thought I’d share some of my reactions:
• The limited environment is fantastic. Kudos to Erik Lauer and everyone else involved for another absolute home run. (I say “another” because the esteemed Mr. Lauer was also lead developer of Innistrad, which was also a tremendous limited environment.) The boxes have 24 packs with the obvious intent to draft, and wow, it’s fun to draft and to play. I wasn’t actually playing for most of the Modern run and it was terrific to see all these archetypes that I’d heard about but never actually played. The strategies seem well-balanced and fun things abound. I don’t think it’s possible for me to say quite enough here about how good this was to draft. I’m not sure it will go quite as well as a sealed environment, but we’ll have to see. But there was all kinds of cool stuff going on all over the place at my FLGS’s MM draft event, such as:
- A mono-red Storm player won by suspending four Rift Bolts on turn four, then on turn 5 following those with two Grapeshots. GG.
- I lost a game to turn 3 Vedalken Shackles followed by Kira, Great Glass-Spinner. However, I won the match in game 3 by countering a key Peppersmoke with a (foil) Spellstutter Sprite. (Note: I had never played Faeries before. Wild mirror.)
- A rebels deck winning where something like 18 of the damage in the game was dealt by 4 copies of Blightspeaker.
- A match won by one player playing Lotus Bloom on turn 1 both games, then getting one of the Kamigawa dragons on turn 3—two different dragons in the two different games.
• I will say that I am flummoxed by a couple omissions from the set. Note that this is not because I desperately wanted these cards or that I’m upset that they weren’t included, but I just found certain omissions very surprising. These were the two: Thoughtseize and Remand. I seem to recall that both of these cards have been labelled “too good to be reprinted in Standard” so I was surprised they wouldn’t be reprinted here, because they don’t seem like they’d adversely affect the limited environment to have those around (assuming Thoughtseize would come in at Rare). I guess I was a little surprised, though less so, that Cranial Plating and Mutavault were also not printed (though I’d think Plating would be an uncommon in this environment). Great to see Lightning Helix and Elspeth, Knight-Errant, though.
• The set’s “limited” print run is a bit of a problem. I understand that WotC is trying to walk a very fine line here, trying to bring more people into Modern while stabilizing the prices on the money cards but not collapsing them. I acknowledge that’s a difficult task. However, so far it looks like it might have gone a little too far on the side of the collectors, which, frankly, seems like the wrong direction to go. Maybe it’s because I’m not that much of a collector, but I’d rather see cards in play than cards being hoarded for dollar value. Boxes being sold for $300 and local stores running $50-60 drafts is just ridiculous. Why put in the effort to make this a fantastic draft set if it’s going to be prohibitively expensive to draft it? If the goal is to support draft, then it’s got to be at least kind of affordable to draft. If the set is primarily for collectors, why worry so much about the limited environment? Seems like a very mixed message. Again, I realize this is a difficult line to walk and WotC has a tough job to do here, but it does appear they fell over one side of the line, and unfortunately I think it’s the wrong side. Maybe it’s just that I want more drafts!
So, the TLDR version: home run in terms of draft fun, too bad it’s so co$t-prohibitive to make one happen.
June 3rd, 2013
Well, it’s not completely different, as I guess that Bant Hexproof is on the aggro end of the world, but normally I don’t play much aggro, I’m more for the midrange or control decks, but I dip into the aggro pool for a while. When I do, though, it’s usually something at least a little off the beaten path. This one is definitely off the beaten path. I saw a couple lists kind of like this in the States lists, and came up with my own version. Here’s the list:
I think half my desire to play this deck was just because I wanted to play with Duskmantle Seer. I know other builds with this deck play Zameck Guildmage, but Varolz just seems so much better. Also, most lists I’ve seen didn’t run Lotleth Troll, which seems zany to me; that is a pretty sweet 2-drop. I’ve also been on something of a hot streak at my local FLGS, having finished in the money with great regularity lately. So I thought I’d push that pretty hard. I have to say, my initial thought is that this deck looks like a pile of crap—but it plays a lot better than it looks. The night before my son insisted that I actually build it and test against him playing RWU control. Much to my surprise, I won probably 75% of those games.
So, off to my FLGS Sunday Standard. Only 15 people showed up, so just 4 rounds cutting to top 4.
Round 1: Zach, playing BR Vampires
OK, so not exactly a tier 1 deck on the opposing side, but it’s actually not that bad: Vampire Nighthawk, Falkenrath Aristocrat, Stromkirk Captain, Bloodline Keepers, Olivias, various black removal spells for 1 and 2 mana, a couple Vampire Nocturnus, and a full slate of Blood Artists and a couple Killing Waves. I’ve played worse (and played against worse). To be honest, I don’t really remember game 1 all that well. I know I had some early plays, used Decay to kill a Nighthawk, countered something with a Rupture, and got there. I sided in the Appetites, the Far // Aways, and the Sever. I didn’t have a fast enough early draw, got a little flooded, and he got a Bloodline Keeper going and it was over when he dropped Olivia. Game 3 he came out with two early Blood Artists, which meant this game took a while because he kept gaining life. I eventually got everything off his board except the Artists and fused a Far // Away, which slowed down his life gain, and got Varolz out and was scavenging onto it, which got me there.
1-0 matches, 2-1 games
Round 2: Tony, playing Junk Midrange
This was a pretty terrible round. Tony mulled to five both games, apparently all on 1-landers. At least in game 1, he immediately topdecked a land and was able to cast Farseek, so he was OK on mana. Unfortunately, I came out blazing: Experiment One followed by Strangelroot Geists on the next two turns put him on his back foot, and I Hybridized a Giest to evolve my human ooze to put way too much on the board for him to deal with. I read him as playing Reanimator so I sided in the Deathrites, the Sever, and the Evil Twin. Game 2 he again mulled to five on one land, but he drew out of it in, but even with a Centaur Healer and a Smiter he could not keep up with another relatively fast start from me. The Smiter got Decayed and Rancor let me swing through the Healer and keep the pressure on, and he scooped to me casting Duskmantle Seer with him at 5.
2-0 matches, 4-1 games
Round 3: Zachariah, playing Junk Rites
Zach was 8-8 at Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze, which was his first PT; so this was a real test for this deck. Game 1 he had a slowish start whereas I went Experiment One into Strangleroot, so I quickly had him at 12. He came back with a Thragtusk, but I came back with a Lotleth Troll and eventually a Rancor, so eventually he had to chump with the Thragusk. Then I came back with a Duskmantle Seer. That was kind of interesting, as having him draw cards wasn’t likely to actually be good for me unless he drew something monstrous to take a big hit of damage, which he never did. He also never drew an Unburial Rites, which was good for me because he had Salvaged an Angel of Serenity fairly early. However, he made a tech play after that, and cast Fiend Hunter then cast Restoration Angel with the trigger on the stack, meaning he took out both the Troll and the Seer. Fortunately for me, I had another Seer. My next turn, he was at 7, took 4 from the Resto he drew off the Seer trigger, but he thought he was OK because he had Resto back to block. However, I had not one, but two Rancors for the Seer, so the trample damage killed him. I sided in the same anti-reanimator package I put in round 2. Game 2 he got an early Rhox Faithmender, followed by a Thragtusk (bringing him to 31) and I had a Seer and a couple other dudes with me at 10 and him at 15 when he did pull off the Angel of Serenity, wiping my board. I just scooped to that. I sided in two Appetites for Game 3, and that was definitely the right call, because when I did it I discovered he had no land in hand and was relying on two mana dorks, plus I managed to get the Faithmender in his hand. I also had a Deathrite Shaman out so I wasn’t too worried about reanimation shenanaigans. Next turn I Slipped one of his mana dorks, leaving him with only two mana sources. From there I pretty much ran him over, though at one point I did lose a Dreg Mangler to Renounce the Guilds. I knew he had it from the Appetite, but I wanted to get it out of his hand and I thought I’d rather lose that than the LolTroll on the board. When I played a Seer, he just scooped.
3-0 matches, 6-2 games
Round 4: Daniel, playing Jund
We were the only two undefeateds, so we ID’d into the top 4.
3-0-1 matches, 6-2 games
Semifinals: Zachariah, playing Junk Rites
The top 4 ended up being me, Zachariah, Daniel, and another Junk Rites deck. Most of them wanted to leave to go eat so I agreed to a top 4 split.
3-0-2 matches, 6-2 games
I got about $20 in store credit, which I used to buy a Progenitor Mimic so next FNM I can play 4c Progenitor Reanimator, and I also got a Domri Rade to go up to 2, or maybe 3 of those.
Now, 3 rounds isn’t exactly a stringent test, so I played a few other matches afterward. One of them I played against the BUG Walkers deck that just top 8’d an SCG Open. I rolled that game 1 with turn 1 Young Wolf, turn 2 double Rancor; lost a sideboarded game 2 off a hand I should have mulliganed, and easily won game 3 with the Experiment One, Strangleroot, Rapid Hybridization EOT turn 3 to just come in with a huge attack the following turn. I also played against a RUG Control deck and beat that 2-0 without too much difficulty, particularly fun was the double-Seer game where he drew Turn // Burn to take 5, then Ral Zarek to take 4. Oops.
So, while the deck kind of looks like a pile, it’s actually surprisingly good. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a great deck, but it catches people by surprise and is definitely not an easy out.
Varolz is a great addition to this deck, as being able to scavenge everything in the graveyard is really excellent, especially onto Experiment One, giving that regeneration. The really fast draws with this deck are almost as fast as the Gruul Aggro decks, but this deck is a little more resilient in the long run because of all the undying and regeneration. As I said earlier, half the reason I wanted to play it was to see how Duskmantle Seer really plays out. Since other than the Seer, everything in the deck costs 3 or less, he’s actually pretty decent. Given the number of decks running big expensive spells, Seer is actually a real threat, since the opponent is often under 10 life by turn 5 or so, which is when he usually comes down. He’s not a general-purpose card, but in the right deck (like this one), he’s not bad at all.
So, if you’re looking for something different that’s fun to play and a little off the wall while still being good, give this a whirl.
May 28th, 2013
Because I hadn’t played enough Magic the last two days, I also went to Game Day. I’d had quite enough of Bant Auras and wanted to go in a different direction. What I really wanted to play was the 4C Progenitor Mimic Reanimator deck because that looks like a blast, but I only have two Mimics and I knew my FLGS didn’t have any in stock so I didn’t want to show up with an incomplete deck, and it just wouldn’t be as fun to play with only two of them in the deck. I also didn’t have the time or inclination to brew, as I’m not much of a brewer to start with and even when the urge strikes me, it takes me forever to work out the deck, and I didn’t have time for that.
So instead, I went hunting for a fun rogue deck. And, courtesy of Jake Van Lunen’s very nice survey of the current Standard, I found a deck. I know it’s called “Junk Ghost Hulk” there but I like the name “Aristokens” better, as it’s really more of Junk Tokens plus Aristocrats Act 2 fusion. It’s a riot:
The deck has all kinds of cool synergies in it—very fun. Anyway, as mentioned in my last post, there was an SCG open in Dallas this weekend so attendance was down a little. 5 rounds of Swiss cutting to top 8.
Round 1: Alan playing Rakdos Aggro
Game 1 was all about Lingering Souls—I think I drew three of them and flashed them all back, and they carried the day. Would have been blown out if he had a Thundermaw, but he didn’t draw one. Game 2 I drew two Advent of the Wurm and he swung into the first one, and the second one was just more than he could handle.
1-0 matches, 2-0 games
Round 2: Josh playing Dark Bant… something. Elves, kind of
Josh is a good player (a couple PTQ top 8s) who had something of a wacky, but very powerful deck. Lots of elves including Archdruid and Gyre Sage, plus Master Biomancer and a few other goodies. Game 1 a couple Sorins did some heavy lifting, generating multiple tokens and emblems between them, and once the Blood Artist got involved it got silly, despite his Biomancer making a few very large guys on his side. It helped that he never drew a white source. I sided in the Putrefys, the Garruk, the Charms, and 2 of the Appeties (enough cards, I think). He dropped an Arbor Elf and passed, I came back with Appetite. He had two targets, an Increasing Savagery and a Master Biomancer. I had an inkling how bad the Biomancer might be from Game 1 and so I took that, which was a mistake. He dropped a Gyre Sage on turn 2 and then on turn 3 put 5 counters on it, allowing Thragtusk the next turn and flashback of Savagery the following turn. I had no removal in hand and just died to big guys—you know it’s bad when you have Advent of the Wurm in hand and it’s useless because it’s too small to really be relevant. Game 3 wasn’t very interesting—he kept a hand with an Arbor Elf and two Sunpetal Groves, and didn’t draw out of it quickly enough to answer my early pressure and then Sorin. I had him down to 2 and had a Cartel Aristocrat on board, and he realized that was game.
2-0 matches, 4-1 games
Round 3: Matt, playing Jund
Matt is a regular at my FLGS that I haven’t played in a while. I won the roll and went Doomed Traveler into Voice into Lingering Souls into High Priest and he was mostly dinking around with Farseeks. When it was clear he wasn’t going to be able to stop me from making a demon with the High Priest, he just scooped. I’m not sure exactly what I sided in; I think it was the Charms, the Putrefys, and Obzedat, but I could be remembering that wrong. Game 2 went completely the other way. I drew a slow hand and he ramped into turn 4 Thragtusk, turn 5 Thragtusk, turn 6 Thragtusk and I just couldn’t do very much with that. Game 3 was even worse. I kept a two-lander (all three colors, though), missed two land drops, and then drew… Township. Not really a good color solution. All I was doing was casting Lingering Souls and flashing it back, and he was developing a real board presence. I missed my next two land drops, finally drew a fourth land, but it was just way too late. Ugh.
2-1 matches, 5-3 games
Round 4: Audra, playing Big Naya
This was a beefy version of Naya Midrange with ramp, Aurelia, Advent, Trostani, Call of the Conclave, Sigarda; the red was mostly a splash for a couple burn spells and Aurelia. Oh, and I got rounded up for this one. Audra is not the fastest player around—every draw step is a slow roll, like she’s looking for a Bonfire and then decides to put it in her hand. Game 1 we traded a couple early blows but she just got bigger stuff out than I could deal with, and she got Sigarda out and Trostani going and she just ground me out. I sideboarded the Appetites, the Charms, and the Putrefys (again). Game 2 was an epic battle. I cast Appetite turn 1 and took Sigarda over Trostani. Turn 2 was an Aristocrat, turn 3 was Lingering Souls, and turn 4 was Sorin. Sorin stayed around for a long time, alternately making emblems and tokens, and the lifelink on those tokens kept me alive, though she gained a ton of life from Trostani before I finally drew a kill spell. I did manage to have a Tragic Slip in my hand for Aurelia and sacrificed a spirit to Aristocrat to power up morbid, so that was good, but I didn’t draw much else in the way of removal, so we were grinding out Wurm tokens against each other. I was at 6 and she was at 20 when she finally drew a Reckoner but I finally drew a removal spell, an Orzhov Charm, putting me in Helix range. However, the Reckoner was her last guy on the board, and I still had the Aristocrat and two Sorin emblems (Sorin was dead by this time), and managed to get there by (finally) drawing a Blood Artist. I think we both had like 14 lands in play at this point—it was a very long game. We had less than five minutes on the clock when it ended. I didn’t think we’d make it through game 3, and we didn’t. I will say that if the game had been allowed to finish, I was in a fair amount of trouble, as she was at 43 life (Trostani again; where was all that removal?) and I was at 14, but we were stalled out such that there were no productive attacks to be had on either side.
2-1-1 matches, 6-4-1 games
Round 5: John, playing Naya
So, I again got rounded up. John could draw in, but I couldn’t, so we had to play it. There was still some outside chance he could get in if he lost, so he wasn’t too upset at his bad luck of being rounded down. His build was a little more midrange, but definitely not the Blitz-style Naya deck. Game 1 was really interesting. I started off with Doomed Traveler into Blood Artist into Aristocrat into Sorin. Sorin made a token, then got hit by a Resto that was flashed in for no value at the end of my turn. Sorin gave me one more token before dying to the Resto. However, I had two more Sorins in hand. The second Sorin made an emblem and got eaten by a second Resto. He followed that Resto with an Assemble the Legion, which I had no way to interact with. Sorin #3 came out and made an emblem before dying to Resto. I got in for a few more to get John down to 11, but his next turn had him up to six soldier tokens and I knew I just didn’t have the numbers… so I swung with the Aristocrat and a vampire token for 7. No blocks, putting John at four with one card in hand that I guessed probably wasn’t instant-speed life gain, and I had a total of five creatures in play, so I sacced the other for to the Aristocrat, draining him for four and the game. I don’t think he saw that coming. Game 2 was curvetastic for me. Doomed Traveler into Voice into Varolz, follow with Blood Artist, sac the Traveler to regenerate Varolz from a burn spell, scavenge the Traveler onto the spirit token, Putrify a blocker, swing in to bring him to 2 with his only permanent being Assemble the Legion at 1 counter, concession. Yay, into the top 8 for me. Unfortunately, John’s breakers weren’t good enough and he didn’t get in.
3-1-1 matches, 8-4-1 games
Quarterfinals: Bobby, playing Boros Aggro
This was pretty dumb, actually. Basically, both games he got Legion Loyalist on turn 1, meaning all the Doomed Travelers and Lingering Souls and Advent of the Wurms in the world weren’t going to stop his rush, and the High Priest I drew in game 1 just wasn’t going to come on line fast enough to save me. Maybe if I had managed to draw a single removal spell in either game it would have helped, but I didn’t. Actually, that’s not quite true, as I did draw one Orzhov Charm game 1 when I was at 4 life and him with a Boros Reckoner on board. Not exactly helpful.
3-2-1 matches, 8-6-1 games
The last match was awful, but overall not a bad showing for having found the decklist the morning of the tournament and throwing it together, then playing it for the first time in round 1 of the tournament. Also on the upside, I got two packs for finishing in the top 8, and they had Ral Zarek in one and Ætherling in the other, so that was pretty decent.
Now, comments on the deck. As I noted in the intro, this deck is really a cross between Junk Tokens and The Aristocrats Act 2. Junk Tokens isn’t a particularly popular archetype right now, but it does work together with some of the tricks in the Aristocrats, but it does give up the explosive power of Blasphemous Act for a more grindy, midrange feel.
The deck is fun to play. The synergy between Cartel Aristocrat, Blood Artist, Voice of Resurgence, and Varolz is great, and enables all kinds of fun shenanigans. However fun these interactions are, they mostly aren’t fast, and while they can be useful, they aren’t always all that powerful. The biggest scavenge target in the deck is Voice, which is +2/+2—nothing to sneeze at, but not exactly overwhelming. In principle it seems like it ought to be really good against aggro decks with all the tokens and incremental life gain, but if the aggro opponent is running Legion Loyalist and you don’t draw a removal spell for that guy, you will get run over even with many blockers on the table. I didn’t get to play against any control decks, but it seems like it ought to be highly resilient to sweepers and sacrifice effects, as you would expect from a token deck. So the big question is how the deck plays against other midrange decks. It is somewhat weak against large creatures, especially if those creatures have trample. There’s a fair amount of removal in the deck (and it’s generally easy to have morbid live for Tragic Slip) but if you don’t draw it, an opposing Thragtusk or Olivia can be a real problem, and Angel of Serenity seems like a blowout. I think I need to play it more against other midrange decks to get a clearer sense of those matchups. Still, a very fun deck to experiment with, even if it may not be quite Tier 1 right now.
May 27th, 2013
So, this week I did something I almost never do: I played the same deck multiple tournaments in a row. I know it hurts my consistency to constantly be fiddling with different decks; you don’t really learn all the subtleties of a particular deck until you’ve played it a bunch. So I thought I’d play one deck a bunch. Unfortunately, I didn’t really think that cunning plan all the way through, because the deck I played is not one that has a lot of subtleties. However, it’s a good deck, and lessons were learned, so I thought I should write them down.
The deck, of course, is Bant Auras (a.k.a. Bant Hexproof). It’s straightforward and only a few cards different than the one I played at the most recent Sunday Standard at my FLGS:
The differences: (1) Got rid of Fencing Ace in favor of Loxodon Smiter. I came to really dislike the Ace, because it just dies to everything and simply isn’t any kind of threat on its own. Yes, it can be better when it’s suited up, but the Smiter just wasn’t doing it for me. (2) I changed up the sideboard, adding two Rootborn Defenses in place of Selesnya Charm. I expected more Supreme Verdict and Sphinx’s Revelation, which are bad for this deck, and can only really be managed by Nevermore and cards like Rootborn Defenses. Turns out this sideboard probably wasn’t optimal; Strangleroot Geist would have been much better than Nevermore, though I’m still not sold on Selesnya Charm.
Anyway, on to the matches.
Tournament 1, May 24th: Friday Night Magic
There was an SCG Open in Dallas this weekend, plus it was a holiday weekend, which meant attendance wasn’t great, only 17 players, so 4 rounds cutting to top 8.
Round 1: Ryan, playing Junk Midrange (not Reanimator)
Game 1 I got off to a slow start, and he was the one who ended up with a Fencing Ace with Unflinching Courage on it, and then later he got a Hydra out, and I lost that race. Game 2 I got early Geist with Courage and something else, and ran him over easily. Game 3 was similar, though this time it was an early Stalker instead of a Geist.
1-0 matches, 2-1 games
Round 2: Melody, playing Possibility Exhaustion
What, you might ask, is Possibility Exhaustion? It’s a RWU combo deck based on Possibility Storm and Cure of Exhaustion. Once your opponent gets that, you cannot cast another spell for the rest of the game. Other than that, it’s a control deck with lots of sweepers and card draw. The earliest the combo can come down is turn 5, but if it does and you don’t have any way to get rid of enchantments, you have to get there with whatever creatures you have on the board at the time the combo comes down. Urgh. Game 1 I punted, getting her down to 2 and failing to pump with the Simic Charm in my hand, and she came back with a Supreme Verdict and then next turn, the combo. Oops. I sided in all the Nevermores, the Negates, and the Ray. I got Nevermore for Curse of Exhaustion but she did get down a Possibility Storm. Let me tell you, playing Magic with one of those in play is an experience in annoyance. You cast what you have, and hope it turns into something. I managed to get two Stalkers on board, but no enchantments, which was not a fast enough clock. I finally turned a Pilgrim into a Smiter, had a Ray in hand that turned into a Negate for her Terminus, and won the day. Game 3 I got turn 2 Geist, turn 3 Rancor, sat back on a Negate and brought it home quickly.
2-0 matches, 4-2 games
Round 3: John, playing Junk Rites
John is one of the top players at the store; he makes very few mistakes, and always plays a Tier 1 deck. Fortunately, I think this particular matchup favors the Bant deck. Game 1 I got an early Giest suited up and was bashing for 9 with lifelink plus the Angel token. He even got an Angel of Serenity out, but that doesn’t stop Ghost Pants. I boarded in the Ground Seals and maybe the Feeling of Dread and off we went. I did not get a great start, though not an awful one, with a turn 2 Voice which got Rancor. He blocked it for a trade, and I followed with a Stalker and a Pilgrim. When I cast Rancor on the Stalker, he blew me out with Golgari Charm, a nice little 4-for-1. Oops, forgot about that card. The good news is that I had a Smiter next turn, and drew into the enchantments I needed, so he carried the day. This deck just really punishes decks that can’t race and don’t have enough removal, which is where Junk Rites sits.
3-0 matches, 6-2 games
Round 4: John, playing BR Zombies
We ID’d, something he had never done before—he’s a relatively recent convert from kitchen table to the tournament scene, but coming along really strong of late. We played three games without sideboard just for funsies, and I won games 1 and 3 of those. This is actually not the best matchup, since BR Zombies can race pretty well and has enough removal that a hexproof guy is pretty much a requirement. Game 1 I got it off a turn 2 Stalker that got suited up, game 2 I didn’t get anyone hexproof and lost the race to Messengers, and game 3 I won with an early lifelinked Geist.
3-0-1 matches, 6-2 games
Quarterfinals: Zach, playing BR Vampires
Vampires? Seriously? In the top 8? I guess it was a softer field than usual. He won the roll and ran out an early Vampire Nighthawk to my Stalker, then he followed with a Stromkirk Captain. Turns out that’s actually pretty good if you’re a deck with no removal, so we had to race. I eventually got lifelink on the Stalker to make up for the lifelink on his Nighthawk and then slowly drew into enough enchantments to win the race with his other vampires. I sided in Feeling of Dread and the Nearheath Pilgrims. Game 2 I got an early Geist followed by Rancor and Spectral Flight and hit him for 10. He had a Captain again, and then put out a Nighthawk, which could actually block and kill Geist. Good think I had the Feeling of Dread in hand.
4-0-1 matches, 8-2 games
The top 4 were Melody and John (from round 3) and someone I didn’t know playing BW Tokens. I rather liked all those matchups but everyone else wanted to split to play EDH, so I agreed to it. I have to remember when I agree to top 4 splits at FNM to make getting a promo one of the conditions, though I already have one of this month’s promos from the previous week.
The deck did exactly what I wanted it to, so I was happy to sleeve it up for the next day’s tournament.
Tournament 2, May 25th: TCG Player Platinum Qualifier $1k
Houston hosts a comic con of its own every year called Comicpalooza. The relevant thing for me is that it was also hosting a TCG Player Platinum, which is a $1k event. With an SCG open within driving distance, I figured the field would be reasonable. Turns out it was not only reasonable, but quite small: only 48 players showed up. My 12-year-old son Simon came with me with his UB Zombies deck that has been doing really well at our FLGS. The real downside to the tournament was that the start time was listed as noon, but the room was really well-hidden so they gave people some extra time to find it… but they gave way too much extra time, so we started nearly two hours late. Look, an hour is excusable, even reasonable, under the circumstances, but two hours? Come on.
Anyway, we eventually got started. I was really optimistic, as I’d been playing pretty well and the deck had been cooperating. Ha, ha.
Round 1: Paul, playing RDW
RDW is not exactly the best matchup, since it can race. Pretty much like BR Zombies, I have to get hexproof guys or lifelink to win. The good news was that game 1, I won the roll, got turn 2 Geist, turn 3 Rancor and Spectral Flight, and killed him in two attacks. The bad news was that he still managed to get me down to 8, so on the draw I’d have been dead, even with that opener. Game 2 illustrated that problem pretty well; I had both a Pilgrim and a Geist in my opener (and a Smiter, which is a good roadblock against RDW) and a couple auras, but a Sunpetal Grove as my only green source. I guess I should have mulliganed that hand, as I lost with him still at 20. Game 3 I probably should have mulliganed again, as my opener was four land, two Geists, and an Unflinching Courage. Unfortunately, in the four draw steps I got, I drew… four more land. Even with the lifelink on the Geist, I could not race him. I hit him twice down to 4 but still died. If I had drawn a single chump blocker I think I should have had that one. Ah, well, variance…
0-1 matches, 1-2 games
Round 2: Dominic playing RUG PeddleCaster
I lost the roll and he played a turn 2 Nighshade Peddler followed by a turn 3 Izzet Staticaster, stranding the pair of Smiters in my hand. From there, I drew essentially only land for the next five turns… but I wasn’t dead, because he wasn’t drawing anything either. (I was taking one per turn from the Peddler.) I finally drew a Stalker and immediately suited him up and hit for 7 with lifelink the next turn. He also finally started to draw action but he could not race the 14-point swing I was generating per turn. Game 2 was one that he readily admitted he had no business winning. I got an early Geist, suited him up, and hit for 10… and then he dropped Glaring Spotlight and killed the Geist. Fine, I played another Geist, he played a Huntmaster. I suited up the Geist, which he double-blocked but it still put him at 1. I played Giest number three and still hand a Rancor. He topdecked… Thragtusk, going back to 6. I decided I had to hit him, but that again only put him at 1. Grr. I drew and played a Pilgrim, and put Rancor on him… but that didn’t get me past the beast token. My next four draws were, you guessed it, land. He came back with Huntmaster and Ral Zarek and a second Huntmaster, and killed the Pilgrim when his pair of Huntmasters flipped because I had no spell to play. OK, fine, game three. My opener was Stalker, Simic Charm, and five land. Not a keeper. My six had no land. My five had no land. My four, however, had two land in it. It turns out, however, that four cards is not enough to win with, especially when your opponent plays Huntmaster on turn 3 and 4 (he had Farseek on 2). Yeah, my Rancor’d Voice of Resurgence could hang with that. Ultimate suckage. 0-2, but I refused to drop because 4-2 could still make top 16 and my son was 1-1 so he wasn’t going anywhere, anyway. Still, not really the start I was hoping for.
0-2 matches, 2-4 games
Round 3: Robert, playing Boros Aggro
My round 1 opponent lost and I was literally at the bottom table–worst record with the worst tiebreaks. Whee. Worse, my opponent was playing what looked a hell of a lot like my DGM prerelease deck. I lost the roll, but kept since I had a Geist and some auras in hand. I still lost this game, on the funniest thing ever. He dropped a Boros Elite on turn 1, and on turn 2 dropped a Syndic of Tithes. Turn 3 he played a Firefist Striker and extorted. That one extort won him the game. Why? I swung back for ten (Geist plus Spectral plus Rancor), which put him at… 11. I could not kill him next turn and so I was dead to a haste creature or a burn spell. I had not other play so I had to just swing and hope. I hit him to 1 and died to I don’t remember which. I guess I could have held the Geist back to block, but there was no other draw that got me out since the Striker would have prevented any other creature I could have put in the way from blocking. Grr. In went the Nearheath Pilgrims, the Fogs, and the Feeling of Dread. Game 2 I mulled to five (ugh), keeping four land and a Stalker. Fortunately, the top of my deck was kind and gave me Courage on turn 3 followed by a pair of Ethereal Armors. Game 3 I got an early Geist and got him suited up and killed him in three attacks, including a second attack with Courage, bringing my life from 6 to 12 so I could win the race. Of course, the thing that even kept me at 6 was… Fog. Tech! And fortunately I got off the schnide, which was good.
1-2 matches, 4-5 games
Round 4: Clark, playing RWU
Clark’s deck was something between a midrange deck and a control deck. I got turn 2 Stalker with Courage and he went all the way, though on his last turn to live Clark did burn me down to 11. In went the Negates, the Rootborn Defenses, and two Nevermores. Game 2 was a near thing. The key thing was me drawing both Negates and both Nevermores. I managed to nullify both Revelation and Verdict and Negated a key Helix along the way, and actually outraced an Ætherling with a 8/6 flying, trampling Loxodon Smiter—one of the few things Ætherling cannot do is fly. He died with both a Revelation and a Verdict in hand and was none too pleased about it. Not really my best matchup but I got there. I was also finally above .500 in games, which was good.
2-2 matches, 6-5 games
Round 5: Chuck, playing Gruul Aggro
Chuck was top 4 in Texas States the weekend before with the same deck, so he was a capable pilot with a good deck, and a bad matchup for my deck. Game 1 proved that really effectively; he got the god draw, turn 1 Stromkirk Noble, turn 2 Burning-Tree into Firefist Striker, turn 3 Flinthoof Boar with haste, turn 4 Hellrider. Yeah, OK, no way I’m beating that. In went the Nearheath Pilgrims, the Fogs, and the Feeling of Dread. Game 2 he mulled to five, kept a one-lander, and was looking at turn 2 Geist and had no second land to play, so he just scooped. Game 3 was more interesting. He burned my turn 1 Avacyn’s Pilgrim, which I followed up with a turn 2 Nearheath Pilgrim and I could tell he was annoyed with that play. I followed with Geist, bonded to the Pilgrim. I then had turn 4 Spectral Flight plus Ethereal Armor, hit him for 10 and gained six back up to 17. He came back with a kill for the Pilgrim but did not have the damage to kill me, and I had another Armor to hit him for a zillion. He was annoyed that he didn’t have the mana for a Reckoner because he drew the one Forest in the deck, but I don’t see how even a turn 3 Reckoner was going to get him out of that. Nice to now be above .500 in matches after the horrible start I had.
3-2 matches, 8-6 games
Round 6: Ryan, playing Junk Rites
Yay, a midrange deck! I lost the roll and he opened with a Pilgrim off a Temple Garden, and I opened with a Pilgrim as well. His turn 2 was swing with the Pilgrim, land, go. My turn 2 was Geist. My turn 3 was Armor, Armor, swing for 12. He scooped. I put in the two Ground Seals. I have to admit I don’t really remember how game 2 went other than that I didn’t have much going on and he managed both a Thragtusk and a Centaur Healer during that game. Game 3 I got an early Voice and a Geist but no auras and he kept holding up 4 mana on his turn, which I read as Resto. When I drew the second Geist I tested that, and he did indeed have the Resto. I drew auras after that, including Courage, trampling over another Resto, then drew Armor, then Armor, and that was it.
4-2 matches, 10-7 games
I had the worst tiebreakers of all the 4-2s (by rather a lot), so 4-2 was only good enough for 16th, but given the horrible start I was pretty OK with that. Unfortunately, 16th wasn’t enough for cash, but I got a very nice playmat and 10 TCGPlayer points, though I’m not sure what good those are since there are few TCG events in my area, so getting the other 10 necessary to go to their $50K tournament in November seems unlikely, not that I could make it anyway—November is horrible time for me to be traveling.
Anyway, the deck. It’s not like I could say I didn’t know what I was getting into with this deck. First, it’s inconsistent. It’s a high-risk, high-reward deck. The great draws are fantastic–turn 2 Geist plus a meaningful aura can win against most opposition. The bad draws are unplayable, so you have to be willing to mulligan aggressively, which sometimes backfires. It’s not a hard desk to play in terms of the number of decisions that have to be made, but because the deck is so “all in” on its core strategy, the decisions you do have to make (frequently, the decision is “can I win if I just race?”) are very high-impact.
Second, it’s pretty matchup-dependent. Its best matchup is against midrange decks like Jund and Junk Rites, and there are a lot of those in the field right now. It can be soft to sacrifice effects (e.g., Liliana) that do appear in some of those decks, but that’s not a fatal weakness and can often be played around. It does not match up particularly well with the premier aggro decks because it can be out-raced; the better draws of Gruul Aggro, for instance, are very difficult to beat. Control decks are a mixed bag: RWU isn’t too bad, but Esper control seems like a tougher matchup because of the possible sacrifice effects; Far // Away seems like a particularly good card against Bant Auras, though I haven’t actually played that matchup.
Were I to play it again, I wouldn’t modify the main deck at all; I strongly prefer Loxodon Smiter over Fencing Ace, but that may be a matter of personal preference. I would change the sideboard, however. I did not fully appreciate why some people are running Strangleroot Geist in the sideboard, but now I get it. SG buys time against the aggro decks, being able to trade with most of the stuff in those decks more than once. It’s also good against sweepers and sacrifice effects. It’s good enough here that I would consider running it main deck if it weren’t for the GG casting cost.
The one real upside to this deck, particularly for long tournaments, is that the matches are usually short, one way or the other. It’s much less draining to get through many rounds when your matches take 10–15 minutes.
May 23rd, 2013
This is, in some ways, almost scooped by a very nice survey of the current Standard by Jacob Van Lunen appearing on the mothership. I’d refer you there for decklists for almost all the archetypes mentioned here, though I will have a couple comments on some of them.
Van Lunen’s piece does a great job of detailing what is in the metagame, but it doesn’t describe how much of each thing there really is in the meta. That’s my main purpose here.
First, what I did: I looked at all 368 top 8 decks posted for the 2013 TCGPlayer Spring States. States are an interesting meta, not quite a PTQ but more competitive than your average FNM. By looking at the top 8, however, i think it may provide some insight into what might be expected to be found running around a PTQ or maybe an SCG Open (of which there are two Standard Opens in Dallas this week, plus a TCGPlayer 1K in Houston—what’s up with Texas this weekend?). It’s also not quite the MTGO metagame, but again, I think it’s an interesting picture. The data aren’t perfect, of course, since the listings on the site aren’t always consistently named, but I think there’s enough overall data to overwhelm that little bit of noise.
So, I did a little counting and aggregating across decklists, and generated this:
That is a lot fewer overall archetypes than appeared in Van Lunen’s piece, but of course the “other” slice of the pie is quite large here. That “other” slice represents all decks with less than 2% of the metagame, 47 different archetypes spread across 100 decks.
So, your Big Two decks are clearly Jund Midrange and Junk Rites. Junk Rites was maybe not the consensus “best deck” before Dragon’s Maze, but it was pretty clearly one of the top “decks to beat.” It still is, but it looks like at the top tables, there are more Jund Midrange decks being played. Sire of Insanity is be the big addition from Dragon’s Maze.
Our next two decks are Bant Auras, a deck that was popular for a while then went away, and now is back, probably mostly because of Armadill…err, Unflinching Courage. (Voice of Resurgence is pretty good in that deck as well), and Gruul Aggro, a deck that mostly doesn’t run any Dragon’s Maze cards at all.
The real takeaway, though, is that the metagame has a lot of variety in it. There is no single “deck to beat” and a lot of different things can be successful right now. Control continues to be a little down, though I have a suspicion that as Ætherling starts to show up in standard, we may see at least a little bit of a comeback for control. (Esper control also go Far // Away and RWU got Turn // Burn, both of which seem very viable.)
I tweeted an earlier version of this graph to Aaron Forsythe, head of WotC R&D, to get his reaction. Here was his reply:
It is indeed very green. In fact, a substantial proportion (69%) of the “other” slice include decks that run Forests (remember, many shocklands count as Forests). Green is almost everywhere in the current metagame. Aristocrats, Esper Control, American Midrange, and a few rogue decks aren’t running green; everyone else is.
After I tweeted another version of the graph—which Aaron kindly retweeted—@joshuamilliken asked a very pertinent question: Which decks actually won those top 8s? So I generated another graph, this time with just the winners, and something interesting emerged:
Whoa! What happened to Junk Rites? And look how hot Naya Humans (also commonly called Naya Blitz) is, relative to how many made the top 8. Also, looks like going rogue can get you to the top 8, but it’s not as good a bet once it gets there. Note that American Midrange, Naya Midrange, and Bant Flash are now part of the “other” category, and that all 8 decks in the “other” category are singletons. (Esper Control is not—not a single Esper Control pilot won any of these 46 states.)
So what’s going on?
I think Jund Midrange gains here because it’s a hard deck to hate out. Look at a typical Jund Midrange 1st-place list from States. It’s just a collection of strong, moderately synergistic cards from the Jund colors. There’s no one clear strategy to hate out there. True, it’s not super fast, but it has a lot of removal for the early game and life gain for the middle game, plus ‘walkers and Olivia for the long game. There’s no obvious “sideboard this particular card” that handles this deck, so it’s pretty resilient against the field. I also think Sire is helping Jund in the control matchups.
The one place you’d think it might be weak, particularly game 1, is against Junk Rites. However, what’s particularly interesting here is that I took a more careful look at the 12 Jund Midrange decks that came in first, and the majority of them (I think it was 7) run at least one, and often two, Ground Seal in the main deck. That’s right, not just in the sideboard, in the main deck. Sure, most Junk Rites decks are running 3 or even 4 Acidic Slime main deck, but still, that’s a meaningful hurdle.
Main decking Ground Seal seems like a great strategy against Junk Rites and any deck running Snapcaster Mage, and while it doesn’t seem very good against the rest of this pie chart, at least it doesn’t cost a card. Making what can be a tough matchup into something where you’re actually favored game 1 is probably worth it, and those can be boarded out in game 2 against everything else.
Naya Blitz also gains a lot when it reaches the top 8. I think this is because the deck is just too fast for Junk Rites, which lost a little in this matchup because of the popular change from Centaur Healer to Sin Collector. The Collector is a great 2-for-1 against a lot of decks, but Blitz runs few non-creatures and a 2/1 body is just not the speed bump that a 3/3 body plus a Healing Salve is. So my guess is that Junk Rites is giving away top 8 matches to both Blitz and Jund, but even that’s not enough to quite account for Blitz’s big jump here.
Bant Auras, Gruul Aggro, and The Aristocrats also all get a little bit better in the top 8, but this change is not dramatic. My guess—and this is speculation, I don’t have numbers to back this up—is that this is mostly at the expense of the “other” category, and this is probably where most of the Blitz increase is coming from as well.
Also note that this chart is even more green than the last one. Apparently, in the current Standard, is actually is easy being green.
May 19th, 2013
I know I haven’t done one of these things in ages—not since GTC Game Day—but I’ve been busy. I only played about a half-dozen constructed tournaments with GTC standard anyway, and had to replace a bunch of cards because my son lost a deck along the way. So not the best set for me.
So, my first DGM Standard, and I decided to play something simple and fast, or at least potentially fast. During GTC I played Aristocrats a couple times, Junk Rites a couple times, and Bant control a couple times, and wanted something a little less grindy. Here’s the list I played:
Not a huge turnout, so 4 rounds of Swiss cutting to top 4.
Round 1: Ryan, playing Junk (not Reanimator)
I lost the die roll, and I actually managed to lose Game 1 to a turn 4 Primordial Hydra despite hitting for 16 on my turn 4 (that’s Fencing Ace with Spectral Flight, Rancor, and Ethereal Armor), because he O-Ring’d the Ace the next turn and the following turn put an extra counter on the hydra with Common Bond. Ugh. Game 2 he kept a 1-lander and scooped to my turn 2 Geist, turn 3 Spectral Flight. Game 3 I got turn 3 Geist and while I didn’t immediately have enchantments for it, I found some and carried it home.
1-0 matches, 2-1 games
Round 2: Paul, playing WBR Control
Paul is a regular who I’ve played many times. I got turn 2 Invisible Stalker and turn 3 Unflinching Courage, so I decided that I could just race him regardless of what he did and didn’t immediately kill his turn 4 Sorin (with four spirit tokens on the board from a Lingering Souls with flashback). That was a mistake, as he ultimately was able to race with some timely lifelink of his own. Game 2 I got an early Geist with Ethereal Armor and sailed in. I have to admit I don’t really remember game 3 all that well, but I’m pretty sure it involved a Geist as well.
2-0 matches, 4-2 games
Round 3: Ryan, playing Bant
Didn’t see any Prime Speakers or Wolf Runs but there were mana dorks Farseeks and Acidic Slimes and Ætherlings. Game 1 I got a turn 2 Fencing Ace followed by turn 3 Unflinching Courage and got in once, but he took out the Courage with an Acidic Slime. We went back and forth a bit, he got down an Ætherling but actually had to chump with it (he couldn’t blink it out before damage because the Fencing Ace he was blocking had Rancor on it) when I alpha struck with the Ace and a Geist. That killed both my Geist and Ace, but left him at 2, and I was able to get there with a Voice. Game 3 he got an early Centaur Healer an then a Thragtusk but I had a Stalker out with Rancor and then Unflinching Courage and then Spectral Flight and his lifegain wasn’t going to outrace that.
3-0 matches, 6-2 games
Round 4: Simon, playing UB Zombies
Yeah, you read that right, UB Zombies: Diregraf Ghoul, Gravecrawler, Messenger, Blood Artist, Killing Wave, Diregraf Captain, etc. It’s better than you think, as Simon has won or top4’d three straight tournaments with it (note: sans sideboard!) and every time I play against it, it’s just better than it should be. The only RTR-block cards are shocklands, Syncopate, Rakdos Cackler, and Ultimate Price, but those are pretty good ones. Anyway, we were the only undefeateds, so we ID’d.
3-0-1 matches, 6-2 games
Semis: Angel, playing RWU Control
Angel is one of the store’s quality players and always plays a strong deck. I lost the roll, came out with turn 2 Fencing Ace (ate a Pillar), turn 3 Geist, turn 4 Spectral Flight on the Geist, hit him down to 11. He came back with Supreme Verdict, I played another Geist and a Rancor, he played Snapcaster to flash back the Verdict, I came back with a Voice with Rancor on it. Voice ate a Warleader’s Helix, I got the token, Rancor’d it up, played a mana dork, and hit him back down to 10. He was out of cards and top decked… his singleton Entreat the Angels. Well, then. Game 2 an early Verdict netted me an Elemental token, which got Rancor on it, and went almost all the way while I was stuck on two lands. He killed it, I got another Voice, he killed that and was down to two cards and mostly tapped out, I came back with Nevermore and named Sphinx’s Revelation, which he conveniently had two of in hand. He drew, I hit him down to 1 and tried Nevermore again for Supreme Verdict, he countered it and I passed back. He didn’t have many outs there, said “I need a miracle” and then topdecked… Entreat the Angels. Again? Really? I never got through his wall of fliers.
3-1-1 matches, 6-4 games
Not too bad overall, though a bit of a bummer losing to the same topdecked singleton both games. (At FNM two days prior I lost in the final to turn 2 Pack Rat both games… I think I’ve had enough of this for a while.) Still, a money finish is a money finish, and I’ve finished in the money the last five straight events I’ve played (counting this one; the last four were all limited), so I’m on a bit of a roll right now, which is nice.
Now, the deck. It’s been in the top 8 or top 16 of a lot of big events recently, and that’s not an accident. It is, however, a pretty high-variance deck. The best openers are amazing (turn 2 Geist, basically) and the weaker ones still have potential. I think the hardest part about playing this deck is mulliganing, otherwise it’s pretty much suit guys up and turn them sideways. Playing a deck with no removal at all always creeps me out a little, but the deck is fast enough to race a lot of things, even Thragtusks.
Most of the lists for this deck are pretty much the same—maybe a little variance in the land mix (but not count) and the sideboard. Fencing Ace feels like the weak link here because it just dies to everything. Yes, the double strike is great when he’s got some kind of enchantment, but he dies to Tragic Slip and Electrickery and Pillar and leaves you with nothing when he goes down. There was a recent list that won a PTQ that didn’t run Voice in favor of a playset of Loxodon Smiter. I’m not sure I like that, as Voice seemed pretty good, especially with Rancor around.
A more interesting variant finished 12th at this weekend’s SCG Open: it ran a playset of Loxodon Smiter and didn’t run any Fencing Ace. I’ll have to test out that version as well.
The deck also felt like it was running 1 too many land. If I put in Smiters then the curve goes up a little and that will probably be fine. If I keep in the Fencing Aces, I’d consider cutting the basic Forest and adding another Simic Charm, which seemed very good in this deck.
February 27th, 2013
So, today was an exciting day, since it was the first sanctioned tournament for my 8-year-old son, Stuart. I wasn’t actually planning on playing at Game Day at all but he really wanted to play, and I decided he could be ready if we gave him a deck that was somewhat forgiving and generally straightforward, so he piloted RDW. I really wanted to play The Aristocrats, but couldn’t make that happen since RDW got the Boros Reckoners, and I only have one playset of those. So I played Orzhombies.
Here’s Stuart’s list:
I didn’t catch all the names of all his opponents, nor did I watch everything in every match, but I caught enough of it to get a general feel for things.
Round 1: Andrew, playing GB Rats
I know this went 3 games. Stuart won the first one very quickly, I didn’t see the second one at all, and the third one Stuart just drew the right combination of creatures and removal that, despite making several mistakes, he still cruised to victory here.
1-0 matches, 2-1 games
Round 2: Jake, playing GriselBros
In case you’re not familiar, GriselBros is a reanimator deck that attempts to reanimate Griselbrand and Borborygmos. I didn’t see all of what happened in game 1, but I know it involved reanimating one of the big guns. Game 2 I also didn’t see, but they were playing right next to me and I heard how it ended: “Traitorous Blood your Gisela, attack with everything.” Very tech play, Stu. Game 3 Jake got out both Griselbrand and Stu never quite caught up.
1-1 matches, 3-3 games
Round 3: Nick, playing something GW
Game 1 Nick kept a 1-lander, took a couple turns to draw his second land, and was pretty much dead by then. Game 2 I didn’t see at all, but it was over very quickly in Stuart’s favor.
2-1 matches, 5-3 games
Round 4: ? playing Boros
I didn’t see game 1 at all, but Stuart won that. Game 2 Stuart lost to a Boros Reckoner that had Madcap Skills on it. Game 3 Stuart won with a Boros Reckoner with Volcanic Strength on it. Hard core.
3-1 matches, 7-3 games
Round 5: Me!
All the 3-1s could draw into the top 8, and so we drew.
3-1-1 matches, 7-3 games
Top8: John, playing Naya
John kept a sketchy hand game 1 and Stuart came out blazing to a quick win. Unfortunately, Stuart kept a 1-lander game 2 and didn’t draw a second land for a while, and he got rolled. Stuart mulled to 5 in game 3, as his six were six mountains, yikes. His five he actually kept a zero-lander but did draw some land fairly soon and made it a game for a while, but just couldn’t quite keep up all the way.
3-2-1 matches, 8-5 games
All in all, a fantastic outing for an 8-year-old playing in his first tournament! 5th through 8th place got the Game Day promo card, of course, and two packs, and Stuart pulled a Sacred Foundry from one of them, so a sweet deal all around.
OK, so my deck and rounds:
Seriously can’t believe people just call this “BW Zombies.” Could that be more boring? “Orzhombies” makes it clear immediately what the deck is, and has some cache. Let’s get with the program, people.
Round 1: Jason, playing UWR
Jason is one of the store’s better players, has multiple PTQ top 8s and GP day 2s to his record. However, he’s been in and out of the game lately since he started college, which is understandable. Game 1 I won on the back of Obzedat, and sided in three Thalias and 2 Duresses. Game 2 I dropped a Thalia that he eventually killed, but it did slow him down a little. I took it with multiple Sorins—both of which made emblems—and got there for lethal with Blood Artist and Cartel Aristocrat. Game 2 he actually drew 3 Reckoners but I had two Orzhov Charms so I was able to keep them off me for the most part.
1-0 matches, 2-0 games
Round 2: John, playing Naya Humans
Both of these games were very, very close, but I lost both of them. Too much Silverblade Paladin in the deck made it so that I could not race. I sided in the 3 Nighthawks and the Sever. I got a turn 3 Nighthawk in game 2 and eventually had him down to 4 but he made a tech play, playing a Resto to blink Silverblade Paladin, pumping his Champion and giving it double strike to just kill me the turn before he died. Actually, in game 1 he also just killed me the turn before he would have died—these were both close, fun games.
1-1 matches, 2-2 games
Round 3: Oscar, playing Bant Aggro
This deck was a little weird, Silverblade Paladins again with Rancors and other Bant-flavored weenies. Game 1 was close—he double-Rancored a lifelinker, which made it hard to race, but I eventually was able to block enough to kill it and got there. I again sided in the Nighthawks and the Sever. Game 2 he had a slower start and I got turn 5 Obzedat, and that was just too much.
2-1 matches, 4-2 games
Round 4: Ryan, playing RWU
I got reasonable starts both of these games. Game 1 I got Obzedat on turn 5 with a Cavern, which pretty much went all the way. I sided in the three Thalias and the Duresses. Game 2 I got a turn 2 Thalia that he was clearly unhappy about. He never really mounted much of a threat and I managed to Resto a Messenger that had already died once and had Lingering Souls going as well, and carried that one without too much trouble as well. Obzedat seems really good in this matchup.
3-1 matches, 6-2 games
Round 4: ID with Stuart
3-1-1 matches, 6-2 games
Top8: Angel, playing Naya
This at least had the good grace to be over quickly. Game 1 he won the roll cast T1 Pilgrim, T2 Smiter, T3 Huntmaster, and I had kept a 2-swamp hand and didn’t draw a third land, though I had a pair of Gravecrawlers, they aren’t great blockers, and I got rolled. Game 2 he again got T1 Pilgrim into T2 Smiter, which I Orzhov charmed, then he went T3 Bonfire for 1 to kill my two Gravecrawlers, then went T4 Thragtusk, T4 Thragtusk, T5 Thragtusk, and had both a Township and a Wolf Run on the board. Yeah, OK, no way I’m beating that, no matter what I draw.
3-2-1 matches, 6-4 games
The deck is OK, but I don’t think this particular build is optimal. It doesn’t feel like it has enough removal, and I sided out all the Diregraf Ghouls every single match. It feels great against RWU—the two sweeps didn’t feel like accidents—but it’s just slower than the Naya decks. Maybe some main deck Victim of Night would help.
January 13th, 2013
So, it’s been almost a month since my last MTG entry. I missed a few weeks with the holidays and all, but since that last report I’ve played 4c PeddleCaster (fun but I made a couple too many mistakes and missed the cut on breakers at 2-1-1), Dark America (went very badly, mostly because I again played poorly, finished 1-2 drop—but still a fun deck), and UWR Flash (2-1-1 then lost in the top 8 to Dark Naya, played a little better but should not have had the one draw on time; however, this was not a fun deck, not sure why). So, time for something new!
Having just completed my grand survey of RTR Standard, and since my son was playing Golgari meaning I had no access to Overgrown Tombs, I decided to play Naya this week at FNM. Naya has been getting more popular lately at big events, and I haven’t played it yet, so I went with it. Here’s the list I played:
5 rounds of Swiss, cut to top 8 as per usual at my FLGS, Montag’s.
Round 1: Parker playing RDW
Parker has been playing RDW pretty consistently for a while so I knew what I was in for. Since my custom is to switch decks every time, he had no idea what he was facing. Game 1 I curved beautifully for this matchup: Centaur Healer, Huntmaster, Thragtusk. Too much life gained for him to win the race once a Silverheart came down. In came the Pillars, the Smiters, and the third Bonfire. Game 2 he came out blazing. I had a turn 3 Healer but his first three turns were Rakdos Cackler, Ash Zealot, two more Cacklers. I never really caught up to that, and when he put Volcanic Strength on his Ash Zealot, though I had no Mountains, even a Huntmaster didn’t get me back into this one. Game 3 I again had an early Healer and then a Huntmaster, both of which got burned off, but I carried it with a Resto soulbonded to a Silverheart.
1-0 matches, 2-1 games
Round 2: John, playing Selesnya life gain
This is a deck based around Trostani and other life gain dudes (Centaur Healer, Rhox Faithmender, etc.), set up to crush RDW and Rakdos aggro/BR Zombies. Unfortunately for him, I wasn’t playing either of those decks. Game 1 it was me with the life gain with a turn 4 Thragtusk followed by a Huntmaster that flipped, followed by an Angel of Serenity to clear the board and let me swing for lethal. I don’t remember what I boarded for this one. Game 2 was a little more back and forth, but I hit a Bonfire when he had only 3-toughness dudes out and that was enough of a path clear for me to win.
2-0 matches, 4-1 games
Round 3: Jeff, playing Jund Midrange
This is a really interesting matchup in that the two decks share a lot of cards (Farseek, Huntmaster, Thragtusk, Bonfire, etc.), but still have important differences. Naya gets the re-use of the value creatures through Resto and the top-end power of Angel of Serenity, Jund gets more removal (including the very good Sever the Bloodline) and Olivia. Olivia, it turns out, is very good in this matchup, and it’s what carried game 1. I had a Selesnya Charm in my hand most of the game, but he never put a second counter on Olivia and I never got a flier to stick (never drew Serenity) and he ground me out. His tech play of the day was I had two Huntmasters out and he cast Abrupt Decay just to kill a wolf token on my end step to keep them from flipping. Pretty good, particularly when he next topdecked Sever to kill both of them. Grr. In came the third Bonfire and the two Zealous Conscripts, and possibly the ORings though I’m not sure about those. Game 2 contained a sweet play for me, though I don’t remember the exact sequence of events that got us there. Regardless, the board state was me with a flipped Huntmaster and a Thragtusk, he played Thragtusk to go back to 19. My next turn: Zealous Conscripts! I borrowed his Thragtusk to swing for 17 and brought him down to 2 while I was at 27. So that one went my way. Game 3 featured another battle of value life-gaining creatures. I got a Huntmaster and two Thragtusks, he got a Huntmaster and only one ‘Tusk—the total life gained on both sides was silly. I again broke the board stall with Zealous Conscripts, stealing Thrag and getting through. I was all set up for an amazing following turn, as I had a Resto in hand and a Stronghold out with enough mana to Resto the Conscripts and activate the Stronghold. Unfortunately, on his turn he killed the Conscripts. It took away my tech play but actually since he didn’t play a creature I had enough to swing for lethal with Wolf Run anyway.
3-0 matches, 6-3 games
Round 4: Michael playing Jund Midrange
Sometimes from 3-0 you can ID in with the number of players we had, but I couldn’t because I got rounded down and so my opponent needed to play. Michael’s build was a little different than most, as he ran a few off the beaten path cards like Deadbridge Goliath and a one-of Mikeaus, the Unhallowed. I have to admit I’m a little fuzzy on the details of these games, especially game 1. I know in game 1 that I Charmed a Deadbridge at one point and won by grabbing another Deadbridge and a couple cards from my graveyard with Angel of Serenity. Game 2 we did a lot of my creatures trading with his removal, but his board was pretty light, and when I cast the big Angel it was to his empty board so I pulled three things from my yard. He managed a Thragtusk when he was at 8 followed by a Deadbrige. I came back with Zealous Conscripts. He came back with Mikeaus and then made a tech play by casting Disciple of Bolas, sacrificing his own Thragtusk with Mikeaus out to gain 11 of life and create another big blocker, which was pretty cool. I played another Zealous Conscripts to borrow Mikeaus and bash him down to 2. I was at 9 from the swing backs, and then he played a Nighthawk to give him a blocker for the Angel, but I had a Wolf Run out and drew another land, so the Angel got there with trample damage.
4-0 matches, 8-3 games
Round 5: ID with American Midrange
We were the only 4-0s, so we shook hands and watched everybody else.
4-0-1 matches, 8-3 games
Quarterfinals: Zack, playing Azorius Humans
We sat down to shuffle up and then Zac realized his ride was on the way so he scooped. I felt bad that we couldn’t play, but sometimes this happens—it was getting late. I wasn’t sure what my winnings would end up being, but surely something, so I gave him a pack out of my projected winnings.
6-0-1 matches, 8-3 games
So, it turned out that the quarterfinals took forever. My third-round opponent, Jeff, played my fifth-round “opponent” and they took three incredibly long, grindy games to come up with a winner. The top 4 was thus two Jund Midrange and two Naya midrange. It was after midnight at this point and these were probably going to be long matches (yay for 16 copies of Huntmaster and 16 copies of Thragtusk in the top 4). There was a PTQ the next morning and one of the guys in the top 4 was going to be playing in it, so we just decided to split. I came out with $27.50 of store credit, minus the pack earlier, and bought two Liliana of the Dark Realms and a pack of Pokemon for my younger son. I went with Liliana because I don’t have any and I have a suspicion that with Boros Charm coming up that Mutilate will be making a comeback in control decks.
6-0-2 matches, 8-3 games
Thoughts on the Deck
Well, I can see why it’s become a more popular decks as it’s very good. However, I didn’t face a single deck with any kind of counterspell in it all night, which seems a little on the lucky side to me—that seems tougher for this deck. Some thoughts on specific cards:
• I’m glad I played two Wolfir Silverheart. He seemed really good most of the time. I almost didn’t play these and I think it would have been a mistake.
• Zealous Conscripts are fantastic. I didn’t main deck them because they’re bad against control and not particularly great agains the really fast aggro, but they rock in the midrange matchups.
• Angel of Serenity was also very good, but I do think two is the right number. It’s not the easiest card to cast, though with the Pilgrims and with Farseek it’s not too hard to hit the right mana, but I don’t think you want three of them. The 1 Sigarda was in the slot instead, and that seemed pretty good, though I might relegate that to sideboard duty next time around.
Not sure what I’m playing next week; we’ll see what my son wants to play and therefore what dual lands are available to me…