My first constructed event since 1999, as previously noted. I’d managed to show up for three FNM Zendikar drafts, and the local shop has a good, friendly atmosphere. Did OK in one, made the finals in one (black removal + Rampaging Baloths + Woodcrasher = fun beats), and both drafted and played horribly in the third. Based on what I had seen people playing before we started and in between rounds, I expected the store metagame to be Vampires, Jund, Boros, and Naya in that order of probability. I took Aaron Forsythe’s second gunslinger deck and tested it against a proxied-up Jund and Vampires, and ended up with this build:
Creatures & Planeswalkers (22)
4 Steppe Lynx
4 Elite Vanguard
3 White Knight
3 Kor Skyfisher
2 Knight of the White Orchid
4 Emeria Angel
2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
Other spells (13)
1 Path to Exile
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Burst Lightning
4 Honor of the Pure
1 Conqueror’s Pledge
2 Salt Marsh
1 Terramorphic Expanse
4 Arid Mesa
3 Teetering Peaks
1 Scalding Tarn
2 Devout Lightcaster
1 Burst Lightning
3 Oblivion Ring
1 Emeria, the Sky Ruin
3 Harm’s Way
3 Goblin Ruinblaster
2 Celestial Purge
I’d been calling it “Angelfall” in my notes but I still think it needs a better name. It differs from Aaron’s deck in that it runs White Knights and Knights of the White Orchid main, runs a little less land, and doesn’t run Baneslayers since I didn’t have any. The Conqueror’s Pledge is in one of the Baneslayer slots.
The White Knights are actually important, as they’re completely awesome against Vampires, they’re very good against Jund (less there because Jund runs Bolts, of course) and actually pretty good against Boros because of the first strike. I’d consider Kazandu Blademasters in that slot (and run 4 of them) if Vampires and Jund were less popular.
Oh, and the Scalding Tarn, which Aaron noted as “random,” is different. I wanted another fetch that could get me a Mountain and didn’t come into play… err, enter the battlefield tapped, so that’s why it’s in there, also since I cut one of the Teetering Peaks just for that whole ETB tapped issue. You really want to hit 4 land early so you can drop one of the Angels or Elspeth.
- Jund: -3 Burst Lightning, -2 Knight WO, -2 Elite Vanguard; +2 Lightcaster, +3 Ruinblaster, +2 Purge
- Burn/Boros: -2 Angel, -2 Honor of the Pure, +1 Burst Lightning, +3 Harm’s Way
- Vampires: -2 Elspeth, -2 Knights WO, -1 Elite Vanguard; +2 Lightcaster, +1 Burst Lightning, +2 Purge
- Control: -3 Skyfisher, -2 White Knight; +3 Oblivion Ring, +1 Emeria, Sky Ruin, +1 Burst Lightning
Only 18 people showed up, which is a much smaller crowd than had been showing up. I don’t think it was because we switched from draft to Standard, but because there was a PTQ in town the following day. I couldn’t make that anyway.
Round 1: Doug, playing W/R Planeswalker Control w/Baneslayers
Game 1: I lost the die roll and got a moderate start, but then drew mostly land. He picked off my guys one at a time—they weren’t coming out all that fast—and dropped a $50 bill on the table and beat me up with it. Oh, wait, that was a Baneslayer. Not a good game, I know I drew a majority land, probably on the order of 2/3 land.
Game 2: I didn’t get off to a fast start but I drew a little bit less land this time. I got in a couple small hits and dropped an Elspeth on turn 4, which he Oblivion Ringed on his turn. His next turn, he dropped an Elspeth, and I had a Ring in my hand. I wasn’t sure whether to Ring his Ring, killing both Elspeths, or to just Ring his Elspeth. I did the latter. In hindsight, I should have done the former, since that way they’d both be gone. By Ringing his, I gave him a chance to get his back with another Ring. It turned out not to matter, though. I got our a White Knight and he got out a Luminarch Ascension. I got… Honor of the Pure, and he came back with Ajani Vengeant. He started tapping my lone Knight, which meant he’d start getting counters on the Ascension. I didn’t want to take the one-way Armageddon so I bolted Ajani… and then started drawing almost entirely land, again. He got Chandra and then Elspeth out and I just wasn’t drawing threats. I scooped when the third Ascension counter went on and he was one counter away from the big blast with Chandra. I drew only about half land this game.
0-1. Not a good start, but I didn’t feel like it was because the deck wasn’t good or that I had made a lot of misplays; I just never got what I needed when I needed it.
Round 2: Kris, playing WUB Control
One of the problems with coming back to the game after a while is that while I’ve learned the Zendikar and M10 sets, I’m not all the way up on all the Shards of Alara cards—if it’s not in Jund or Naya or a couple other decks I’ve looked at, then there’s a good chance I don’t know it well. Kris was very patient with me reading many of his cards.
Game 1: I lost the die roll and he played some W/U land, I don’t remember which one. I don’t remember my first turn; I either had nothing or an Elite Vanguard. Turn 2 he played a source of black and a Meddling Mage. He didn’t know what I had, so I think he named something not even in my deck, like Baneslayer. Later, when I played Honor of the Pure, he decided he should have named that. I got in a whack with the Vanguard and got out a Lynx. He wiped everything out with Zealous Persecution. I got our a Elite Vanguard and an Honor and then another Lynx, but he nuked both of them when he blocked the Vanguard, then cast Agony Warp. I had Elspeth against his empty board and he cast Luminarch Ascension. Grr. I cast Conqueror’s Pledge making six 2/2’s, but he had a Day of Judgment in his hand and cleared me out. Elspeth got Ringed and he got a Luminarch counter, but I drew an Emeria and had a fetch, so I had a 4/4 angel with two 2/2 bird helpers against a clear board, and I think Kris was at around 10 life at the time. He topdecked another Day of Judgment and that was it. With no haste guys or burn in hand I died to a swarm of 4/4 angel tokens.
Game 2: In went the anti-control package. He Duress’ d me on turn 1 or 2 and saw I had an Angel in hand, so he named that with his Meddling Mage. Grr. I got out a Lynx and then he got a Kor Skyfisher with a Tidehollow Sculler. I got a White Knight and he dropped a Wall of Denial and a Luminarch Ascension. (Hmm, a theme…) I had two uncastable Angels in my hand, and drew an Honor of the Pure. Luminarch counter. He cast a Sphinx of Lost Truths, no kicker, drew three and discarded all land. Great, a handful of gas. I got down Elspeth and made a guy, but there was no way to get through. Luminarch counter. Kris untapped and passed. Next turn I drew fire so I threw it at Kris but he countered with Punish Ignorance. Well, drawing out a counter was good, so I cast Conqueror’s Pledge and it stuck. That should stop the counter madess. Kris drew and, oh, hey, look at that he topdecked a Day of Judgment and blew everything up. Great. I don’t remember what I drew, but I made a Soldier token and cast my now-usable Angel, but did no damage, which meant he had his 4th counter and he made his own Angel and Path’d my Angel. I finally drew an Oblivion Ring but it was just too late, I had to Ring the angel token and cast my own Angel just to stay alive, but of course he made more angel tokens and I drew nothing helpful (an Honor of the Pure, I think) and I scooped.
0-2. Well, that bit. Kris was at least nice enough to admit that he got pretty much perfect draws and topdecks against me and said he felt bad about it. No need to feel bad, that’s how it goes. Anyway, I decided to stay in because one 2-2 could make the top 8, and because hey, it’s Magic, it’s fun to play. My rating is so bad it hardly matters.
Round 3: John, playing Graveyard
I don’t know if it was card-for-card the same as the the one here, but it was close and it was certainly the same idea: mill yourself to fill your graveyard with guys, then use Crypt of Agadeem to generate massive amounts of mana and unearth everything to do massive damage all in one turn. More comments on this in a bit. Anyway, John is a nice guy, very friendly opponent; I had played him in the draft finals a few weeks ago where his Green-Blue allies deck took me down.
Game 1: I didn’t get a particularly fast start and drew no burn, nor did I have any initial idea what to do with his turn 1 and turn 2 Hedron Crabs, and he went off on like turn 5. This took only a few minutes to play.
Game 2: I didn’t sideboard, I don’t think, because it wasn’t clear that anything in the sideboard makes my deck a lot faster. Maybe the Ruinblasters, but the deck can go off the turn that it’s played because of Fatestitcher. It turned out not to matter, as I got a really fast draw, something like: Elite Vanguard, Plains, Steppe Lynx, Honor of the Pure, fetchland, Bolt. Turns 2 and 3 I swung for 5 each and I bolted his first Crab. He was dead on my 4th or 5th turn and really had no chance to even try to go off. This also took like five minutes to play.
Game 3: This was the only contest that was really in doubt at any point. I had just attacked John down to 8 or 9 and I had out a White Knight and something else, I think a Savannah Lion (Elite Vanguard, whatever). I had three Plains in play, and my hand was Plains, Kor Skyfisher, Elspeth. I could kill him next turn if I got down the Skyfisher this turn and then Elspeth the next turn, as Elspeth could jump-and-pump the Elite Vanguard (he couldn’t block the Black Knight with his Rats) which would be lethal. So, I played the Plains, cast the Skyfisher, and bounced a Plains. Well, on his turn he got another two Rats, which meant I had to chuck everything, so he had one more turn to try to go off. I drew nothing useful (a Mountain or a fetch, I think), I smacked him down to 2 or 3, and he got to try to go off. He only had one Crab, though, so his graveyard wasn’t that full. His land pay didn’t generate enough extra in his graveyard, so he died next turn.
1-2. The graveyard deck is definitely a very clever design and it’s a fun mechanic, but the problem is that it’s basically a goldfish for the first few turns. I can’t see how it wouldn’t be an auto-loss to Boros, and of course any Jund deck running, oh, you know, Jund Charm… Well, that’s a tough match as well.
This all hadn’t taken very long, so John broke out his other deck—the one he said he should have played—and we played a few games. The other deck was a Red-Green ramp-Valakut deck, which has been floating around the net for a while, I guess. His build had Harrow, Khalani Heart Expedition, Rampant Growth, Exploration Map, Bloodbraid Elf, Goblin Ruinblaster, Bolt, Siege-gang Commander, and Lavaball Trap. We didn’t do any sideboarding, but I won a majority of these games anyway. The key, again, was killing John before he got really ramped up, because once a single Valakut got active, things got dicey, and when two were up, it was Really Bad. Now, I didn’t side in Ruinblasters, and I think with those around I think the matchup favors my deck a little more, but of course he’d have some effective sideboard options as well. It’s definitely a viable deck, though, and something to think about for future matches.
Round 4: Dustin, playing R/G Double Strike
Game 1: First time I won the die roll. I had a good start, turn 1 Plains, Steppe Lynx, turn 2 Elite Vanguard. On his Turn 2 Dustin cast a Warren Instigator. OK, double strike, but nothing huge… I figured I could race that without difficulty. I dropped another small guy and swung again. Dustin swung on his turn 3 and I let the Instigator through. Well, that was bad; he cast both Giant Growth and Colossal Might and ended up doing 16, all in one swing. Yikes! Wow, double strike makes Giant Growth into a serious card. OK, so no more unblocked swings. The good news is that I was able to keep the pressure on him and fry double strike guys when he cast them, so I won without further damage.
Game 2: More of the same: I got weenies out, burned his double-strike guys, and prevailed without too much trouble.
It’s an interesting idea, pumping up double strikers, but frankly I don’t think this was an optimal build. For instance, he ran Bloodbraid Elves and yet had a deck full of things that were simply not cascade-friendly; Giant Growth isn’t a good cascade card when you have no other guys on the table. Nor are X spells like Banefire. But I like the idea, anyway; swinging for 16 with a 1/1 is a neat trick.
2-2. Only one 2-2 made it top 8, and I wasn’t that guy because my tiebreakers weren’t good. It was still early and I didn’t feel like going home yet, and so I found another non-top-8 finished and we played just for the hell of it. He played Vampires during the event, but he played a monored Sligh/Burn deck for our matchup. This turns out to be not a bad matchup for me. His turn 1 Goblin Guide was great, as it meant I only drew threats and always had landfall triggers; he eventually left it back to block an Elite Vanguard. I went on to win that game, lost the second, and won the third despite drawing no source of red mana and being stuck on three land for several turns—yay Kor Skyfisher and Honor of the Pure. (We played EDH after than an he just rolled me, as my EDH deck was really conceived with multiplayer in mind, and his was designed for 1-on-1. Oh, and his deck was also just plain better.)
So, I felt like the deck was pretty decent in general. I was a little unlucky on my matchups in the first two rounds. I probably made a mistake or two somewhere in the second match, but otherwise I felt like I played OK. The question is whether or not I misread the metagame. There were a couple people playing Vampires and a couple people playing Jund, but I don’t think that was anything close to the majority of the field. There was indeed a Naya and there was a Cascade control and a couple monored Sligh-like (I guess these are called RDW now, but they look somewhat like Sligh to me). What I didn’t see (this was right before the Star City $5k) was any Nissa Monument decks, but I suspect I’ll see those next time around. I didn’t see any Boros, which was a surprise. It seems to me that it’s an interesting metagame right now with a lot of viable archetypes in play. Sideboarding is going to be a bitch for a while. For any big tournament, you’ve probably still got to be ready to play Jund and I guess overall Boros is still popular, but after that it’s anybody’s guess. I think this deck matches up OK against the field, though I think the sideboard needs work; definitely needs more Paths, particularly if Nissa decks get more popular. If Planeswalker control, whether RW or UWR or something else, becomes common, then this deck won’t be a good metagame choice. The deck would have to either get a little bit faster (a la Boros) or run Oblivion Rings main deck.