FNM Report, 11/20/09

Whee, my second constructed tournament in the last decade, FNM at Montag’s Games. I experimented with a mono-white weenie deck, but I just didn’t like it that much. I really like the bolov0 UW Aggro deck, but I didn’t have the cards for it so I decided to go back into battle with the WW/r deck from last time, though I made some changes as I have since acquired two Baneslayers and in playtesting the mono-white thing, I’ve come to be an even bigger fan of Conqueror’s Pledge. The other thing I realized is that I just didn’t like the Burst Lightnings in there. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good card, but the problem the deck has is rarely the ability to do 2, or desperately need to pick off a guy with 2 toughness. The problem is the mid-game clog. With mostly weenies, if the game goes on to later turns, it can be hard to get guys through. I wanted a finisher, something that could do 5 or 6 in the late game. The deck needed Banefire. I also really liked Kazandu Blademasters against Boros Bushwhacker and Vampires, so I pulled the Elite Vanguards for those. That’s a speed compromise, but I thought it was worth it. So, here’s the listing:

Creatures & Planeswalkers (20)
4 Steppe Lynx
4 Kazandu Blademaster
3 White Knight
2 Baneslayer Angel
2 Knight of the White Orchid
3 Emeria Angel
2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant

Other spells (15)
2 Path to Exile
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Banefire
4 Honor of the Pure
3 Conqueror’s Pledge

Land (25)
2 Marsh Flats
1 Terramorphic Expanse
4 Arid Mesa
3 Teetering Peaks
1 Scalding Tarn
2 Mountain
11 Plains
1 Emeria, the Sky-Ruin

2 Path to Exile
3 Oblivion Ring
3 Devout Lightcaster
2 Celestial Purge
3 Goblin Ruinblaster
2 Ajani Vengeant

I went with two extra Paths in the sideboard for any green (or Naya) fat or Baneslayers, the O-Rings for control or anything random, the Lightcasters/Purges for Jund and Vampires, and the Ruinblasters for Jund and Valakut, as I thought John might be playing that. That’s also what the Ajani was for, as well as for any control deck. I didn’t actually have the second Ajani Vengeant, but I successfully traded John for one before we got started.

The critical feature of this deck is that it’s very good against Jund. It doesn’t come out as fast as Bushwhacker, though the fast draws are very quick, but it has a much better mid-game than Bushwhacker with the Pledges, Angels, and Elspeth. White Knights are also very good against Jund, and of course the sideboard options with both Lightcasters and Ruinblasters makes it a tough out for Jund. Of course, really good cascades can still swing games, but if that’s their only good out, then I think it’s a good matchup.

We had a light crowd of only like 16, so four rounds and cut to a final 4.

Round 1: Trevor, playing Jund with Nighthawks and Sign in Blood
I had never played Trevor before but I had seen him at FNM in previous weeks. He was playing before we got started and I thought it was Boros Bushwhacker, but that obviously wasn’t what he was playing in the tournament.
Game 1: I got an early White Knight and had an Honor of the Pure pulsed, but the Knight got in a couple whacks before being Bolted, then got out an Emeria Angel and Elspeth, but he got a Broodmate and friend. I had an Elspeth-generated token in play with the Angel and a bird token, but they were staring at the two 4/4 Dragons and something else on the ground (a Thrinax, I think). He Pulsed off the Emeria and put down a Nighthawk, but then I dropped Baneslayer and he didn’t have an immediate answer, so Elspeth pumped her up and she swung for 8, crunching the Nighthawk. He didn’t want to swing with the dragons for fear of the mad rush of tokens. His next draw didn’t help him and I swung with everything, bringing him down to 5. I had exactly six lands in play and Banefired for the win.
Game 2: I went down to six cards and took an OK draw with a Blademaster and a couple Plains, an Honor, a Banefire, a Teetering Peaks, and a couple other cards I don’t remember. Plains, done. Trevor blew a fetch, done. I put down a second Plains, cast Honor, and passed the turn. He blew a Catacombs, done. I topdecked a Steppe Lynx. He went down, done. Trevor played another land and passed. Awesome: draw Bolt, fetchland, Lynx for 5. I think his next play was a Nighthawk. Bolt it, Teetering Peaks, swing for another five, leaving him at 5, put down the Blademaster. He Blightning’d me for a couple cards and Bolted the Lynx and blew another Catacombs. He Signed in Blood down to two, and I threw fire at him for the win.

Round 2: Doug, playing Jund with Great Sable Stags
I was 0-2 against Doug, one loss in a draft and one loss last time in Standard.
Game 1: Doug mulliganed down to five cards and I got a fast draw, running a Steppe Lynx on turn 1 with a fetchland and a Blademaster on turn 2. Turn 3: Plains, swing for five, leaving him at 11. I’m not 100% sure exactly how it went down after that (sorry, a lot of these Jund games run together); I think he dropped a Stag that I bolted and then I whacked him and then Banefired him out. Or something. Starting at five cards can be rough.
Game 2: I took a two-land draw, which is normally something that should not be a problem. However, I never saw a third land and died with a variety of stuff in my hand that never hit the table. A couple two-drops got in there somewhere—I remember a White Knight getting Bolted—but I never really mounted enough of a threat to make this even remotely interesting.
Game 3: I took a slow draw but it had good land and a Ruinblaster. He still had nothing on the board besides land at the end of his third turn—two Savage Lands and a basic—so the turn 4 kicked Ruinblaster was not well-received. (“Wow, dirty pool for a white deck!” he exclaimed. Hey, it’s worth running red just for Ruinblasters vs. Jund.) That gave me the time advantage. We both got stuff out and traded some blows—I don’t remember very many details, though I do remember a couple specific plays. I got off a Conqueror’s Pledge that looked to be terminal (there was an Elspeth token in play too), but he played a Bloodbraid and cascaded into a Pulse which wiped them all out. Nice one. Next turn I had five land out with a fetch in my hand, and rather than playing the Baneslayer in my hand I put down the Lynx and held the fetchland. Stupid, stupid—he of course Blightning’d me on his turn, so they both went into the graveyard and he zapped Elspeth down from 6 counters to 3, which was a great play for him. However, Elspeth pumped the guys who were still on the board and I managed to get him down before he drew enough answers.

Round 3: John, playing R/g Valakut
I love playing against John, he’s a fun opponent and I really like this deck, too. We had played slightly different versions of these decks against each other two weeks ago after we finished our match that counted, and so I was expecting a fairly even match. I think I have a slight advantage, particularly if I got a fast start.
Game 1: I had to mulligan down to five, but it was a monstrously good five: Steppe Lynx, two Teetering Peaks, Elspeth, and a fetch. Turn 1: Fetch, Lynx. Turn 2: Peaks, Lynx, swing for 4. Turn 3: Lynx, Peaks, swing for 4. Turn 4: Scalding Tarn, crack for a mountain, swing for 4, play Elspeth. He managed to burn off the Lynx and got rid of Elspeth after a token or two, and I couldn’t cast the Conqueror’s Pledge in my hand even though I had five lands in play, because only two of them were sources of white, but I drew fire and burned him out.
Game 2: In came the Ruinblasters and the Ajanis. I got a slow draw, but his deck doesn’t do much the first couple turns anyway and it had Ajani in it, so I kept it. I got Ajani on turn 4, then an Emeria Angel. Next turn I got greedy and it cost me. I played a Knight of the White Orchid, making a bird token, then I played a Teetering Peaks to pump up the Angel and make another token. BLAM, Lavaball Trap. I knew he played these and I should have been more patient; he blew up the Peaks and a Mountain, leaving me with three Plains and nobody on the board. I then proceeded to draw nothing but red cards: Bolt, Ruinblaster, Banefire, and another Plains. A Siege-Gang commander and his crew of tokens beat me up. John never got a Valakut in this game, but that Lavaball trap was enough to stall me for long enough that it didn’t matter.
Game 3: John unfortunately had trouble drawing any Forests and while he managed to Burst Lightning my turn 2 White Knight and then something else, I had managed to get two Honors in play and had a couple Steppe Lynxes on the board. They weren’t getting landfall, but they were swinging for 2 each. I had John down to 2 and drew a fetch with a Bolt in my hand, and played the land and cracked it, which was dumb as John again had the Lavaball Trap. (Why I didn’t just swing for the game I’m not sure.) I bolted in response to the Trap, though, so it was over.

Round 4: Wyland, playing Jund
We decided to just draw into the final 4.

Semis: Trevor, playing Jund with Nighthawks and Sign in Blood
John won his fourth-round match and I was Trevor’s only loss. Obviously the top two wouldn’t play each other, so I was destined for a rematch, and got Trevor, meaning John and Wyland played in the other semi.
Game 1: He won the die roll and went first. I got a fast draw, Steppe Lynx, Plains, and two fetches, and he didn’t get a Leech or a Thrinax early, so he was at 12 at the end of my third turn. He did deal with the Lynx but I got out Elspeth and a White Knight and they went the distance.
Game 2: I mulliganed down to six and kept a hand with two Plains, a Mountain, a Bolt, a Devout Lightcaster, and a Purge. I kept waiting for targets but they never came out. I topdecked a White Knight and played that on turn 3. Turn 4 his Garruk came out and made a beast, but I bolted that and attacked Garruk. Trevor was holding a full handful of cards but not dropping permanents; he Signed in Blood twice and actually discarded and I was still looking at an empty table. I got out two Honors, but had no guys, but then drew Elspeth, and had in my hand just two Purges and the Lightcaster. He Durress’d me, taking a Purge, and I made a 3/3 token. Whack. He Blightning’d me for the Purge and the Lighcaster, and I made another token. It was too much.

Finals: Wyland, playing Jund
Because it was still really early and there was talk of having a draft if we finished early enough, we decided to draw and split prizes. Drafting sounded a lot better to me than playing another Jund. However, Gus, the store owner, wasn’t feeling well and decided he wanted to go home, so I got my foil Oblivion Ring (with kick-ass art, I might add) and I blew my store credit on some Glacial Fortresses, so maybe next time I can play something different… something with Sphinxes.

Heh, and I wondered if maybe the eight-card package against Jund (3 Lightcasters, 2 Purges, 3 Ruinblasters) was too much sideboard space… not by a mile. Yes, there’s a reason that 1/3 of the field at Worlds played Jund; it’s definitely a good deck. Regardless, what fun is that, playing what everyone else is playing? If a lot of people play it, there will be a lot of hate floating around, too. Personally, I think the mirror is especially degenerate in the case of Jund; it just seems to come down to whoever gets luckier in the Cascade lottery. Meh, not for me. Oh, and since I wasn’t playing during Shards block, I don’t have the cards, too—there’s also that.

So, the family and I will be visiting my parents in Minneapolis next week and maybe I’ll check out FNM up there. The three closest places are Chaos Games, Dreamers Cards & Games, and Monster Den Games. Which of those three is the best place to go?