January 29th, 2011
So, a couple weeks ago I had this idea for a Standard deck, and it wasn’t until tonight that I’d gotten a chance to actually play it in a tournament. This is the last Standard tournament for a while and the last one before Mirrodin Besieged rotates in, so I’ve been bummed that I haven’t had a chance to play it, but I had to miss FNM last week for a date night with my wife. These things happen.
Anyway, I’ve changed the deck some since I originally posted it. Here’s the list I actually played:
Not playing Day of Judgment in the main was simple lunacy; Day is amazing. Admonition Angel is very cute and all, but with Gideon and Luminarch Ascension, my opponents tend to swing, so Sunblast Angel is just too good not to play 2 of in the main deck. Emeria Angel is a weird card. There are some games when she is just so good it’s ludicrous, and other games where I just want to hit myself for even thinking about playing her. I never figured out a better option, though, so I kept her in. The Revoke Existence in the sideboard are admittedly iffy; Act of Treason is probably a better choice.
In my mind, the sketchiest thing about this deck going in is the mana base. Three colors is hard to support without any really serious color fixing beyond the fetchlands. Fortunately you never really need more than one black or one red source, as long as you have two white available, the deck is happy.
The deck name comes from the color combination, in case that isn’t obvious. Sin City is partly a response to something someone said at FNM earlier, that there are only two viable choices in the current envrionment: all-out aggro and decks that require 4 or more $40+ mythic rares, usually Jace. I wanted to build a viable control deck where nothing in the deck cost more than $25; Gideon Jura is by far the most expensive card in the deck and is findable at under $20, so this fit the bill… if it’s actually viable. I am not, nor have I ever been, a great deckbuilder, but I’m proud of this one.
Turnout at Montag’s Games hasn’t been all that great lately and that trend continued tonight, only 16 people showed. 4 rounds of Swiss, cut to top 4.
Round 1: Brandon, playing RDW
Well, a real test right out of the gate. I’d seen Brandon at Montag’s before, but we had never played. I knew he was playing RDW because he and a friend were talking about it beforehand. Game 1 can be pretty tricky but post-sideboard should favor me since nobody actually plays Combust and four Wall of Omens plus multiple Baneslayers is still awfully good against RDW. Game 1 I opened with an Inquisition and a couple spot removal spells. He won the die roll, played a Mountain, and passed. I Inquisitioned him first turn and saw a Mountain, a Staggershock, a Koth, a Searing Blaze, and two Goblin Ruinblasters (main deck? really?). I took one of the Ruinblasters. Now, I don’t know why he kept this, as it’s not exactly what you’d call a pressure-packed hand. I guess in an environment with a lot of Lotus Cobras, it’s keepable. However, this gave me time to play out a Chalice then a Vat and then Gideon on turn 4. He got a Goblin Guide after I put down Gideon so Gideon was at 6, and I just killed the Guide with Gideon and put the goblin under the Vat… not exactly the greatest Vat run ever. He Staggershocked Gideon down to 2, so I pumped Gideon back up and played an Angel, which ate his topdecked Bolt. From there I just beat him up with Gideon. He threw various bits of burn at me before playing Gideon and I did end the game at 8, but I never felt like I was in serious danger. I sided out the Luminarch Ascensions, two Inquisitions, and two Emeria Angels for the extra Day, the Pyroclasms, and the three Baneslayers. Game 2 I opened with a Bolt, a Doom Blade, and a Pyroclasm and four lands, which I kept. He put down a Plated Geopede on his turn 2, then swung without landfall on his turn 3, then played out another Geopede. Then I Pyroclasm’d. He came back with a Mountain and a Kargan Dragonlord, which I did not immediately Blade, but waited for him to pour all three of his mana into next turn before paying homage to @Doom_Blade_Guy. I followed up with Gideon. He burnt Gideon out after two hits, but I had drawn into a second one and he went all the way. Hey, not bad!
1-0 matches, 2-0 games
Round 2: John, playing Valakut
John is a regular at Montag’s and we’ve played many times, though not lately as John has been kind of sour on Standard of late. Nobody at the store had played Valakut in a long time (I think I may have been the last person to do so) and so I hadn’t really thought about that matchup much. In retrospect, my deck seems pretty soft to it. Game 1 I mulled down to 5 because of no white mana at either 7 or 6… and actually the five I kept had no white either. I didn’t draw a white source until turn 5 and by then it was just way too late, Mountains were bolts and I just died horribly. I sided out all four Emeria Angels and something else for the four Duresses and the extra Day.Game 2 I took a hand with 3 hand kill to keep him off ramp, but… no black source. In fact, I got stuck on two Plains and a Tectonic Edge for a couple turns, and I had to Edge off a Valakut. Needless to say, I lost this one as well. These were two quick and hopeless beatings. Completely hosed on mana, but I knew that was a risk with this deck so I decided to just suck it up and win the rest of them.
1-1 matches, 2-2 games
Round 3: Daniel, playing Caw-Go
Daniel is a regular who I’ve played before, though not too many times. He got stuck on a Seachrome Coast, a Mystifying Maze, and a Tectonic Edge for a couple turns. I wasn’t really putting much pressure on, but I did get a Luminarch Ascension on turn 4 and then just hit him a couple times with a pumped manland. He got Gideon, but that turn I got the fourth counter and thus two Angels, who made short work of his planeswalker. I came back with my own Gideon, but he came back with his second, killing both. However, I still had angels and they ended it. I sided out all four Walls and the two Days plus one Emeria for two more Luminarch Ascensions, the Duresses, and Liliana. Game 2 I got a little land-hosed, and he hit me with Spreading Seas three times in my first four land and I never really got anywhere. Game 3 I got a Luminarch Ascension on turn 2, hit him with Duress on turn 3 and took a Revoke Existence, and then got another Ascension on turn 4. I actually almost let him keep the Revoke and took big Jace since I had the second Ascension in hand, but I decided it was better to put max pressure on him. That worked, and angel tokens went all the way.
2-1 matches, 4-3 games
Round 4: Carlos, playing Gr homebrew
Carlos is another regular who I’ve played many times. His deck was largely Elves (including Nissa) with Bolts, but with a few curveballs in there, like Precursor Golem. Game 1 Carlos managed to get ahead and had a couple Nissa’s Chosen (one summoned by Nissa, who ate a Bolt) and 3 golems beating up on me, but I had a Wall of Omens, a Luminarch Ascension, and a Wurmcoil Engine. He had me at 7, but I dropped Gideon and made him swing into the Wurmcoil. Gideon took 7 but lived to force another attack, costing Carlos another dude, gaining me 6 more life, and I was accumulating Ascension counters. Gideon died to a kicked Burst Lightning, but by then I had 4 counters on the Ascension and that was it. I was at like 31 life when it ended. Game 2 I thought I had a good draw with a Day and a Baneslayer, but Carlos hit my land with Acidic Slime on turns 4 and 5. I had fetches to get more Plains to replace the lost ones and got a Day off killing the elf and both Slimes and followed that up with a Baneslayer, and I figured I had it, but he immediately answered my fattie angel with Chandra Nalaar. Wow, Chandra, hadn’t seen her in a while. Well, I got stuck on those 5 land with both a Wurmcoil and a Sunblast in my hand, and Carlos finished me off. Ugly. Game 3 I got off a Day on turn 4 and then got a Baneslayer on turn 5, which I had to swing into his Garruk which had made two Beasts. He also had two other creatures on the board and swung with everything since I had no blockers. This meant on turn 6 I managed a 4-for-1 with my Sunblast Angel. He never really recovered from that, and scooped when I followed that up with a Wurmcoil.
3-1 matches, 6-4 games
Semis: Daniel, playing BUG Wave
The other two in the top 4 were my round 1 opponent Brandon (he hadn’t lost since) and my round 2 opponent John (undefeated). I’d played Daniel a couple weeks before and knew he had the same deck as that time. It’s basically a green ramp deck with Genesis Wave, which waves into Ob Nixilis, the Fallen or Avenger of Zendikar. The only blue main is, I believe, Jace. It’s a very streaky deck: when it doesn’t work, nothing much happens, and when it works, it’s a freaking explosion. Anyway, game 1 was a train wreck. He won the roll, and I faltered a little on mana after hitting him turn 1 with Inquisition and seeing Explore, Ob, Primeval Titan, Genesis Wave, and three lands. I took the Explore, and of course he topdecked a Cobra. Meh. He Cobra’d into Primeval Titan getting two fetches, and while I had a Doom Blade, it did not bode well. He got an Oracle then Ob and then Waved for the win. Yikes. I sided out all four Emeria Angels for the Pyroclasms, the Day, and a Duress. I got a turn 2 Luminarch and that was the difference. He ramped into a bunch of land but I knew what he had from an early Inquisition and he didn’t have the two black he needed for the Ob in his hand. I got the Luminarch active and made angels, hitting him down to 7. He fired off a big Wave and got an Avenger, but all the plant tokens in the world won’t block a sky full of 4/4s. I went back to the sideboard, putting in a third Luminarch and changing out the Inquisitions for Duresses. This game was really tight. I got a turn 2 Luminarch again, but he got Ob before I got enough counters to go crazy. I came back with a Wumcoil. He played a basic land to Ob me down to 8, but of course he didn’t swing. I swung with the Engine going back up to 14 and played a Sun Titan. He got a Wave and hit some land and an Oracle and a couple small dudes. He flipped the top card in his deck and missed a land, so he cracked a fetch to put me down to 2 and missed land again on the top of his deck. He probably figured he had to get rid of the Sun Titan to get in next turn with his new little guys, so he swung with Ob. I chumped with my Titan, and came back with a Sunblast Angel to kill Ob. I could then swing in with the Wurmcoil to go back up to 8 life. He was at 7 so he chumped with a Treespeaker. We both knew his next draw was another Oracle, so he couldn’t really do anything, and that got my Ascension up to 4 counters. I made an Angel and swung for lethal. Whew!
4-1 matches, 8-5 games
Brandon bested John in the other semi, and because he really wanted to get to another store that was having a midnight prerelease, we agreed to split.
I got to bank my credit toward a Tezzeret 2.0 which Guy (the store owner) said he’d almost certainly acquire on Sunday, which is when Montag’s has its prerelease. Excellent!
So, the deck. It’s not the most consistent deck in the universe, as the mana is a little suspect. Sphere of the Suns would be much better than Everflowing Chalice here, though the Chalice was pretty good to me overall, I only cast it with more than 1 counter once all night. On the other hand, the deck has some great tools. Luminarch Ascension is a really terrific card against non-aggro decks, and combined with 8 1-mana discard spells makes post-board games pretty good against control decks. Day and a full suite of Walls and Bolts, plus Wurmcoil, is a fantastic pain in the ass for aggro decks and that worked out great as well. Valakut is definitely the worst matchup and I’m not sure what the best solution is there.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that a 16-man FNM isn’t exactly the Pro Tour or anything and 8-5 isn’t a stellar game record. I’m not suggesting that Sin City is a Tier 1 Standard deck. However, I think I was able to make my point that it is possible to build a reasonably viable deck that isn’t all-out aggro and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
Later edit: OK, so the right answer for Valakukt is (well, was, since the format is all different now) probably Leyline of Sanctity. Not sure that it’s really all that great since most Valakut builds run some kind of artifact/enchantment control in the side, but it has to better than the current nothing.
January 23rd, 2011
I’ll come right out and say it: I have absolutely no idea, in either game. I have no trouble seeing these going either way. Well, OK, I have trouble seeing the Bears blowing out the Packers, but I can see the Bears winning. And I have less than no clue on the Steelers and the Jets. So, given that, here we go…
Packers @ Chicago(+3.5)
So, right now the Packers have all the hype. More quietly, the Bears have actually been pretty good in the second half of the season, and they certainly played the Packers to a near standstill in week 17. However, if Aaron Rodgers has another week like last week (though that seems unlikely), it won’t matter what the Bears do. That was a performance for the ages.; the Falcons are good and really didn’t play that badly in that game, Rodgers was just that amazing. But that was in a dome and not on the Soldier Field slop. Oh, screw it, this game isn’t really about that. It’s about the side of the ball nobody is talking about: the Packers’ defense vs. the Bears offense. I don’t trust Cutler at all. The only reason he didn’t get picked twice last week is that the Seabags DBs can’t catch. If the Bears get behind and have to throw, there will be picks. Cutler has been too quiet on that front lately but I see him reverting to form when it really matters, and then getting all pouty about it. I’m taking the Packers to cover just because of Cutler.
Jets @ Pittsburgh(-4)
So here’s the thing. I’ve been a little sour off and on with the Steelers because their offense seems shaky to me at times. That seems like a Very Bad Thing™ when facing a Jets team that has just schemed out Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. On the other hand, Big Ben seems like he’s harder to beat via scheme, since what he does is salvage broken plays. On the other hand, the Steelers O-line is subpar and hurt, and I don’t think Polamalu is really fully healthy. Of course, then there’s the other factor, which is when the Jets have the ball. I don’t see them being able to just run over the Steelers the way they ran over the Pats last week. <sigh> Remember that I said I have no clue? Yeah, that. OK, here’s the pick: I think this will be a defensive struggle, it will probably be decided by a turnover or a freak kick return (cf. Jets vs. Colts two weeks ago), and I think whoever wins, wins by a field goal. Therefore, because the spread is more than a field goal, I am taking the Jets. I expect ugly football, in a good way, and a very tight game.
January 15th, 2011
It’s late in the rotation and a new set is about to come in, and people are complaining that Standard is getting stale. So, here’s something new to try.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not much of an original deckbuilder. However, every once in a while I have an idea that I think is worth at least exploring. Yesterday as I was doing errands before FNM, an idea struck me and I thought it was worthy enough to hastily try to throw it together and give it a spin. Unfortunately, FNM didn’t happen last night since not enough people showed. I did get to play the deck a few times against what I think is actually a pretty good Metalcraft aggro deck. I was worried that the deck would be soft to aggro in Game 1 and it didn’t seem bad at all.
The deck name is obviously drawn from the color combo: black and white with a splash of red. Here’s the list:
The deck was actually inspired, in a weird way, by Mike Flores’s Mythic Titan deck and the point he made about Luminarch Ascension and then some other thoughts I had about changes to that deck I was going to make. In particular, I wanted to add Wurmcoil Engine (because it’s amazing) and the “other white Titan,” Admonition Angel, to take advantage of all the land the deck generates. Then I realized that Emeria Angel would be good there as well, and then it occurred to me that many of those effects would be fine off fetchlands. @dcampa93 on Twitter suggested going more control and adding Wall of Omens somewhere, and that made me think about Pyroclasm as a mass removal option in lieu of (or in addition to) Day, and I realized I wanted to try something that doesn’t use the Jace-Cobra-Preordain-Mana Leak basis that makes Flores’s deck in some way just the Bant variant of BUG and RUG.
Once I decided on the color combination, and realized I’d be running eight fetches, I really wanted Emeria Angel. There have been some interesting discussions out there about using her in UW control decks as a way to protect Planeswalkers, but I think she’s actually pretty good even without a large number of Planeswalkers.
The other card I really wanted was Mimic Vat. I think this card is incredibly underrated, or maybe just underplayed. It makes your own removal better, can blank opposing removal, and is simply nuts with creatures that have ETB effects. It’s also amazing with a Wurmcoil on the table.
Overall, Sin City plays like a control deck but one that can turn aggro very quickly. Gideon is key to this ability, and the other thing I’ve noticed about the current environment is that it is, in general, light on fliers. The titans are all ground-pounders, and even most of the aggro decks are pretty much all on the ground. Bird tokens are great blockers but also can go aggro very effectively. Lavaclaw Reaches is also really aggressive in the late game if you can get their board clear or get all blockers tapped via Gideon, and of course you can finish with Lightning Bolt.
The sideboard is also really important. Against control decks, the other two Luminarch Ascensions come in with all four Duresses and Liliana. This gives you 8 cheap hand kill, 1 expensive but recurrent hand kill, and 4 Ascensions, which certainly seems like it should be good. And even if they can kill and Ascension, you can possibly get it back with Sun Titan.
Against aggro decks, you obviously take out the Ascensions and bring in the Baneslayers and Sunblast (Sunblast is great with Gideon) as well as the Pyroclasms and the two Day of Judgment. You end up with a lot of lifelink with the Baneslayers and the Wurmcoils which should give you a lot of extra clock. What else you take out would depend on the matchup. Emeria Angels aren’t very good against decks running Bolt, but they don’t die to Disfigure, so that’s at least something. Regardless, the two Days, two Pyroclasms, and all the lifelink makes you hard for aggro decks to kill.
(B/R)UG is probably one of the tougher matchups. Pyroclasm is great against the Cobras and Oracles but you only have two, and that’s not in game 1. I need to test more against this matchup; it might be the case that something like Sword of Body and Mind is called for in the sideboard. The good news is that Inquisition of Kozilek kills Lotus Cobra, Explore, and Mana Leak, which is pretty good. Unless they run Acidic Slime main (unfortunately, some do), they most likely won’t have an answer to Mimic Vat in game 1 and that can be a game-swinger but again, you only have two.
In general against anybody playing Blue I’m thinking keep in all the Bolts as an answer to Jace. You want all 8 hand disruption cards not only to keep them off things like Jace and Mana Leak, but to make sure you know when they have permission so you can safely cast your big guns.
There are a few things that definitely merit further consideration:
• Act of Treason. It certainly seems really good right now against some decks and Sin City runs the right color, but I’m not sure what to take out to run one or two copies. Except maybe:
• I’m not 100% sure that I’m sold on Grave Titan in this deck. Is that the card to cut for an Act of Treason or a second Admonition Angel or perhaps another removal spell?
• The mana base might not be quite right. Three Tectonic Edges seems like the right number, particularly since they can be recurred with Sun Titan; but because of the Titans perhaps even two would be OK. It’s great to have eight fetches, too but maybe there’s something else that would be good.
• Is there a call for Oust or Journey to Nowhere? Bolts and Doom Blades seem pretty good, but they don’t handle indestructibles or produce great results vs. things like Wurmcoil Engine, and of course neither one really handles Grave Titan, either.
Maybe it’s awful, but it seems at least feasible in concept and of course, you can build it without $300+ worth of Jace. It’s not as cheap as Boros and Vampires, of course, but if you want to play something other than aggro without Jace, maybe some version of this is an option for the next couple weeks.
I’d love to get feedback! Comment here or hit me up on Twitter, @SunByrne.
January 15th, 2011
Ravens @ Pittsburgh(-3)
Yes, Baltimore blew out the Chefs. However, that was as much about KC playing like ass as it was the Ravens playing well. The Chefs looked like they panicked in the second half for no apparent reason, since they were only down by seven. Both defenses very tough, both teams set up to stop the run. I think the difference in this game is the quarterbacks, and while Flacco looked OK last week, when the game is on the line, I trust Big Ben more than Flacco. I’d really rather have to give two because I’m worried about a 9-7 kind of thing happening. However, I’ll still take the Stillers.
Packers @ Atlanta(-1.5)
I have absolutely no idea whatsoever. I love the way the Green Bay defense is playing, but the Falcons have been fantastic at home over the last couple years. The last meeting was close, and I see no reason to think that it’ll be anything other than that this time around. I will guess that Al will go with his local team, the Falcons, so I’ll take the Packers to riverside.
Seahawks @ Chicago(-10)
The Seahawks have played inspired football the last couple of weeks. I think the Bears are the better team (unless Cutler flakes out), especially on defense, but I just don’t see the Bears turning it into a blowout. I’ll take the points.
Jets @ New England(-9)
It’s a shame they can’t delay this game for a few days, because the war or words leading into it has been so good that I’ll be sad to see it go. The Welker thing the other day was fan-freaking-tastic; how he kept such a perfectly straight face I’ll never know. Just the best stuff ever. I thought the Jets really played well last week in Indy. Again, I think the Pas are the better team, but I’m guessing that the Jets can hang with them, no matter what happened last time.’’
January 14th, 2011
My local shop, Montag’s Games, has the occasional Tuesday Standard-for-a-box, but we didn’t have the 8 necessary for a box, so a couple people decided to play a standard tournament for $5 instead. This may be the death of standard-for-a-box, but since I can only make Tuesday night some of the time anyway, that’s OK.
So, last Friday I played GW Quest, which was fun, but of course I lost to my own BUG deck that I had loaned out. Funny and all, but I figured I’d give BUG another run. I made one minor tweak, going down to 3 Explore for a Garruk. Here’s the list:
With the small turnout, 4 rounds cutting to top 4.
Round 1: Trevor, playing Boros
Trevor plays at Montag’s often enough that we’ve played a few times in the past, though not too many. I had no idea what he’d be playing, but it became apparent when he played a first-turn Goblin Guide followed by a second-turn Plains. The Guide actually helped ramp me into an early Grave… Titan, and he didn’t have an answer for that, so I was able to outrace his little guys. Game 2 he got in a couple whacks, but I got an early Oracle followed by Ob, then played a regular land land and a fetch, killed the blocker he left back with either a Doom Blade or a Disfigure, and swung for lethal. Ob is seriously good in this deck.
1-0 matches, 2-0 games
Round 2: Jack, playing Caw-Go
Jack is also a regular who I’ve played several times. This was a pretty long match, and unfortunately my notes aren’t all that good. Game 1 I know I took a bunch of whacks from a Hawk and eventually a Colonnade and I was down to 4 with multiple cards on Journeys to Nowhere, but I stuck a Frosty and a Jace, and things swung my way quickly after that. Game 2 he got a very slow start, missing his turn 3 land drop, but I was drawing pretty much all land so I couldn’t put on any real pressure. I do remember getting Ob and a land and then cracking two fetchlands and Ob eating a Celestial Purge in response to the double-crack. Oops. Game 3 I also don’t remember that well, but given that his life total went 20-14-8, I’m pretty sure I stuck a Frosty. Good match.
2-0 matches, 4-1 games
Round 3: Joe, playing UB
I play Joe pretty much every time I head over to Montag’s. Joe is almost certainly the strongest player in the store and UB is a very good deck, so we were both expecting a long, drawn-out battle. Amazingly, games 1 and 2 were both very quick. Game 1 he tapped out for something (probably Jace) and I stuck Ob, then got an Oracle next turn, and just exploded on him. Game 2 on turn 4 I Memoricided him for Mana Leak and got all 4 of them, so I thought I’d be able to not have to play around his permission. However, he Duressed me on his turn 5 and got the one Mana Leak I was holding, so his turn 6 he stuck a Grave Titan, and I never came up with an answer for that. Game 3, however, was epic. I made one key mistake here, and it probably cost me the match. In my opener I had two or three spells with Green in the cost—including a Cobra—but no Green sources. However, one of my lands was a Halimar Depths, so I figured it was worth keeping since odds are good there’d be a green source in the next three cards. I played the Depths and found… no green sources. It was an Explore, a Preordain, and another Green card (Garruk, maybe, I don’t remember). Great, I could put the Preordain on top, slide past the two nonlands, and hopefully draw into a source of Green. However, when I got to my next draw phase, I drew… Explore? Oops. I put the cards back in the wrong order! I basically gave Joe a free Time Walk. Very sloppy.
Fortunately, Joe had no early pressure. Many things were countered, I was Duressed a couple times. I did get the Cobra and an Oracle out and with a Tar Pit had Joe at 7. He Edged my Tar Pit and stuck a Frost Titan which got in a couple whacks before I was able to put down Jace and brainstorm for a Doom Blade. He dropped Jace to kill my Jace. We were both in topdeck mode, I drew a couple lands which did nothing but with two Cobra hits had him down to 3 when he topdecked a Wurmcoil Engine. Urgh. However, I drew an Acidic Slime and so had to Slime his Wurm. I still had a problem with those nasty tokens, and he topdecked… Mimic Vat. I drew I don’t remember what and passed. He swung with the tokens, so I blocked the lifelinker with the Cobra since I didn’t want him to get the Slime, putting me at 1 and him back up to 6. I topdecked Jace and bounced one of his tokens, killing it. I figured next turn I could then bounce the Slime and recast it to kill the Vat, and then he’d have a token to my ooze and we’d be stalemated so I could brainstorm for an answer after that. (Something about this doesn’t add up, so I know I’m remembering something wrong but I’m not sure what.) Unfortunately, he topdecked a Doom Blade so he killed the Slime and swung in for the game. So close! Oh, well, my own fault for the bonehead play on turn 1.
2-1 matches, 5-3 games
Round 4: Dillon, playing UB
Ugh, another UB control deck… Dylan is also a semi-regular who I had played a couple times before. Dylan is also a strong player so I figured I’d be in for it. Game 1, however, I got Garruk on turn 4 so on turn 5 I got a Grave Titan, Dylan having tapped out (well, only 1 land untapped) for little Jace. When I swung the next turn he tried to Consume the Meek in response to blockers, but I had a Leak and countered it. He was again tapped down, so I followed with Frost Titan and he scooped. Game 2 he hit me early with an Inquisition (getting a Cobra) so he knew I had a Grave Titan in hand. I got an Ob through with Spell Pierce help, and so he came back by tapping out for his own Grave Titan. I put down my Grave Titan on my ensuing turn, so the board was Ob, two black Titans, and four zombie tokens. He drew and passed the turn. Since I had the advantage of having Ob, I swung in with my Titan only. He blocked with two tokens and an animated Tar Pit. He drew and passed. I drew a fetchland, making Ob into a 9/9 and swung with Ob and all the zombies. He had no answers, so that was it.
3-1 matches, 7-3 games
Semis: Jeff, playing Wb Metalcraft homebrew
Jeff is a regular and we’ve played many times. I didn’t quite know how this would go, as I didn’t really know what was in his deck other than 0-drops and Steel Overseer. I presumed Tempered Steel but otherwise wasn’t sure. Game 1 was over quickly. He had no 1 drop but his two-drop was a Myrsmith. Didn’t seem too bad and it was something I could kill later if necessary so I tapped out for an Oracle. Turn 3 he got Tempered Steel. Yikes. Turn 4 he produced 3 Ornithopers, making Myr tokens with the Smith and suddenly I was staring down six 3/3s. I Disfigured the Myrsmith next turn, but it was just too late. Yow. In went the Consume the Meeks, the Acidic Slimes, the Baloths, and the two extra Disfigures. Unfortunately, he was a little mana flooded and I was mana light, which made my Leaks dead. He had a Chalice and a couple little metal guys out and then dropped an Etched Champion. It turns out Etched Champion is really, really good against my deck when Metalcraft is active. My only real out is that they’re not very big so it’s a slow death so I had some chance of drawing Consume the Meek. I got a Slime to kill his Steel Overseer, though he responded with an activation so his Champion was 3/3. I also got a Baloth, but I could not keep him off Metalcraft. He drew a second Champion and that meant he could outrace my Tar Pit, and that was it. The two Consumes were in the bottom five cards in my deck, so it wasn’t like help was on the way. Really wicked little aggro deck, great homebrew. Very soft to Day, but not enough people are playing UW. Pyroclasm would be good, but only assuming no Tempered Steel. Nobody is running 4 Consume. Next time I play BUG I’ll run 3 in the board.
3-2 matches, 7-5 games
Still loving BUG, though I might tinker a little more with it. I might try Duress in the sideboard instead of Memoricide, and definitely go up to 3 Consume the Meek. So the big problem is what to play next FNM. I don’t want to go with RUG or BUG, I did GW Quest last time, and I don’t want to go with UB or UW since there’s enough of that around. I haven’t played a lot of Vamps but I’ve seen it at the store. I’m definitely not going back to Valakut after the last time I played it, so… hmm.
January 8th, 2011
OK, so welcome to 2011! Here’s my first report for the new year. Standard at Montag’s Games, my local shop.
Last Standard I played a BUG deck that I really, really liked. However, I have a “no repeats” rule for Standard so I had to find something else to play. I really liked Sovereign Conscription before Shards block rotated out, and Quest has a similar feel to it. I had done some playtesting with the standard mono-White version of the deck, and I just never really liked it that much, despite really liking the Quest-into-Argentum Armor mechanic. I’d seen a list running Blue for some interesting tweaks, but I still just didn’t like it against decks like RUG and UB.
However, I’ve always really liked Vengevine and Fauna Shaman, and I put together a version running those and I liked it a lot better. The Fauna Shaman makes it easy to cut down some of the suboptimal cards in the mono-White list, like Kor Outfitter. The Vengevines give you a much better game against permission and removal, and Green also gives you a fun 1-of, Beastmaster Ascension. It seemed like it was worth a go. Here’s the final list that I played:
One of the regulars, Tony, who has become less regular because of a loss of cards (long story) showed up but couldn’t play because he didn’t have a deck. He asked me if I had an extra one (I had loaned him Dredgevine a few months back) and so I loaned him the BUG deck I played last time. This will become relevant later.
Turnout was a little on the small side, not a huge surprise coming off the holidays and all, so four rounds of Swiss cutting to top 4.
Round 1: Dan, playing Gbu Genesis Wave
Dan was brand-new to the store, having just moved here a few days ago. He’s also getting back into the game after a hiatus, which I can certainly identify with. Game 1 I didn’t get the fastest start but got a Sword active and that was definitely enough. Game 2 was utterly stupid. I opened with Quest, Birds, Shaman, and four lands. Not a great hand but turn 1 Quest isn’t bad. So, next I drew land. And then land. Then land. In fact, I drew land for 8 straight turns before he finally killed me, having done nothing of any real use. The deck has only 22 lands and 30 creatures, and not a single non-land card appeared. Game 3 was again not the fastest start, he mostly got a lot of ramp and thus had a ton of land out. He was at 9 and I was at 20. All I had out was a Vengevine, he played an Ob and passed the turn. I had a second Vine in my hand so I cast it and swung with both, putting him at 1. He topdecked a Wave, Waved for four, and hit three lands, one of which was an Evolving Wilds, meaning I took 12 direct and the one swing from Ob was lethal. In all likelihood I misplayed this somewhere, which I didn’t have space for given game 2, in which I could have done nothing different to win. I was a bit displeased with myself.
0-1 matches, 1-2 games
Round 2: Jason, playing GB Infect
Jason is a regular, and he’s been playing this deck for quite a while. This was about a five-minute match. I got Quest on turn 1 both games, and did silly things with the 0-artifacts and Glint Hawks both times. I took a total of 2 poison counters in game 1 and none in game 2.
1-1 matches, 3-2 games
Round 3: Chris, playing WU Myr
Chris is also new to the shop, and also just came back to the game after a really extended hiatus—since Mirage! That’s an even longer break than the ten years I took. Chris said he only got back in the game Monday, which seemed pretty amazing. The deck was interesting, kind of a light Standard version of the Extended Tempered Steel deck. Myrsmith, lots of mana Myr, Steel Overseer, Tempered Steel, Chimeric Mass, some counters. Good concept. However, it was short on removal. Game 1 I got a Sword early, which wasn’t really great, but certainly wasn’t awful, but I eventually triggered a Quest and ended it quickly. Game 2 I got an early Shaman and when he dropped a Tempered Steel, I tutored up Kor Sanctifiers. I again eventually got a Quest to go and again ended it quickly.
2-1 matches, 5-2 games
Round 4: Mike, playing WW Knights
Mike is a semi-regular at Montag’s, but I’m not sure if we’ve ever actually played before. Game 1 we both mulled to six with me on the play. It wasn’t a great hand but I kept it. Turns out he kept a one-lander, and while he had three one-drops, all Students of Warfare, I had a Vengevine on turn 3, which was just too much. I boarded in the Ousts and out the Sword and the Mystic. He got a Knight Exemplar and then a Kemba Skyguard, which is actually pretty good, though I had a Beastmaster Ascension. I also managed to get a Quest, but counters were slow in coming until I got a Squadron Hawk, and once that happened, I worked up to getting the Quest and then the Ascension, and that was just too much.
3-1 matches, 7-2 games
Made the cut to the top 4, but of course you knew how this would work out…
Semis: Tony, playing my BUG deck
Of course. Joe and Tony both asked me who was favored, knowing I had gone through this matchup numerous times. In general, pre-sideboard, the Quest deck has a small edge, but post-sideboard it’s a coin flip, as Disfigure, Consume the Meek, and Acidic Slime are all really good against this. Game 1 I got a Sword in my opener and dropped it turn 3 and it went all the way. I boarded in the second Mystic, the Ousts, the Veil, the Lightcaster, and maybe the Journey (not sure on that one). Game 2 I got a turn 2 Mystic and got the Sword, but the Sword got Leaked. He dropped Ob on turn 5 and I came back on my turn 5 with the Lightcaster, which seemed like a pretty sweet play. I beat him down to 9 and then (finally) got a Quest, but he pulled a Consume which wiped my board completely. He got out a Frosty and beat me up before I could get the Quest active. Game 3 was a train wreck. No early Quest, he ramped into an early Slime, hitting one of my two sources of green, and pinning the Vengevine in my hand. He then got Frosty out again and I just never drew an answer. Grr.
Tony drew in the finals. As a rental fee, I confiscated his promo Chalice. I pulled in more store credit than my entry fee for finishing in the top 4, too, so that was good.
So, the deck. It certainly has amazing draws, and the Hawk-Shaman-Vengevine engine is wonderful. The problem is that if you don’t get a Quest early, you’re still playing with a lot of really substandard cards (e.g., Ornithoper) and that puts you at a disadvantage against a decent deck. If your opponent has good ways to deal with artifacts and/or enchantments, it’s also not as good, but not a lot of decks pack a great deal of that so I didn’t see that as a big problem. And hey, at least I lost to my own deck…
January 8th, 2011
Saints @ Seattle(+10)
So, I actually watched the Seahawks-Rams game last weekend, and I was pretty impressed with the Seahawks; they certainly looked much better than any team with a losing record had any right to look. I also watched a lot of the Saints-Bucs game, and wasn’t particularly impressed with the Saints. Now, both of these impressions probably also had a lot to do with the competition, but at the same time, the Saints don’t really have it completely together and the Seahawks are much better at home than on the road. I think New Orleans is the better team and will win this game, but that’s rather more points than I’m willing to give, so I will actually take the Seahawks. Yikes, that feels weird to type.
Jets @ Indianapolis(-2)
I’m really on the fence with this game. I love picking against Manning in the first round of the playoffs, because while everybody drools over his regular season numbers, he’s gone one-and-done six times in his career. On the other hand, someone really needs to smack Rex Ryan and tell him to shut his pie hole. And in the middle of this season, I most certainly would have taken the Jets. However, I like the Colts here because, of all the things you wouldn’t expect, the Colts have been playing the run tough and have been committed to running the ball themselves lately. Good coaching, really, in that they were struggling earlier and they really did change their approach. The other side here is that the Jets have not looked all that great of late, in particular when running the ball. If they have trouble running, which I think they will, I don’t trust Sanchez to go out and win it. Plus, Manning has kind of owned the Ryan defenses of late. I am really glad it’s only two points, though, as I don’t see the Colts blowing the doors off. I kind of feel like the Colts win by a FG, so two is just perfect. As much as it pains me to do it, I’m taking Indy.
Ravens @ Kansas City(+3)
Baltimore has really struggled late in the season with putting teams away, and Flacco just doesn’t seem to be getting it done of late. However, how crappy have the Chefs looked? That loss to Oakland was a thing of great ugliness. I just don’t see KC pulling this one out, and think it’s kind of remarkable the spread is only three. Ravens.
Packers @ Philadelphia(-2.5)
I’m going to take Green Bay in this game because Vick is banged up, which is really bad for them, and because the Packers’ defense has been playing lights out lately. I like them to really keep Vick bottled up and frustrate him into some bad throws, which he’s been doing more lately. While Rodgers isn’t having the season he had last year, he’s solid. I expect another low-scoring game here, and again, I’m happy that it’s less than a field goal because I could easily see the Packers winning this game 10-7 or some such. Actually I’m slightly worried that it’ll be 9-7 and I’ll lose by half a point, but I’m going to hope that the Iggles blitz just a little too often and Rodgers finds someone open deep for a cheap TD so that Green Bay covers.
January 2nd, 2011
Yikes, just got up…
Buccaneers @ New Orleans(-7.5)
Bungles @ Baltimore(-9.5)
Panthers @ Atlanta(-14.5)
Falcons win, but is that too many points? Nah, the Panthers are awful…
Steelers @ Cleveland(+6)
Not even a full TD? OK, Stillers.
Vikings @ Detroit(-3.5)
Wow, Lions actually favored. However, they have no Calvin Johnson, and AP is supposed to be able to go. I’ll take the points.
Raiders @ Kansas City(-4)
The Chefs have nothing to play for and will rest guys. Take the points.
Bills @ New Jersey Jets(-1.5)
Bills rock against the spread, and Panthers have the #1 pick locked up, so they’ll cover.
Dolphins @ New England(-6)
Pats don’t care, and Miami is great on the road. Take the points.
Giants @ Washington(+4)
The boys in blue need a win to have even a shot at the playoffs. They’ll cover.
Cowboys @ Philly(-3)
Why would the Eagles risk Vick or Jackson or really, anybody, in this meaningless game? Cowboys.
Titans @ Indy(-9.5)
The Colts are better, but that seems like too many points. I’ll take a chance and take them.
Bears @ Green Bay(-10.5)
Chicago has nothing to play for, the Packers do. Good enough for me to give the points.
Jaguars @ Houston(-3.5)
Jacksonville has an outside shot at a playoff spot, and the Texans are done. Plus, Andre Johnson is out. Horrific. Take the points.
Chargers @ Denver(+3.5)
Game means nothing to either team, but Denver has been playing like they care, and the Chargers haven’t.
Cardinals @ San Francisco(-6)
Oh! New coach in San Fran! So far this season that’s meant that the team wins. Plus, Arizona is stone-cold awful on the road. I will give the points.
Rams @ Seattle(+3)
Woo hoo! Opening for the worst playoff team—possibly ever—up for grabs. Gotta like the Rams here going against most likely a backup QB.
January 1st, 2011
Happy New Year!
And New Year’s means bowls, and lots of ‘em.
1/1, TicketCity: Northwestern vs. Texas Tech(-7.5)
The Red Raiders are better, but that seems like too many points, so I’ll take them.
1/1, Hall of Fam… err, Outback: Florida vs. Penn State(+6.5)
The Gators are better, and this time I think they’re enough better that I’ll give the points.
1/1, Citru…err, Capitol One: Michigan State vs. Alabama(-8.5)
Depends on which Crimson Tide team shows up… the one that played way over Auburn in the first half of that game, or the one that looked like total ass in the second half. On the off chance we get the latter, I will take the points.
1/1, Gator: Michigan vs. Mississippi State(-3.5)
I don’t quite know how to say this, but… the Wolverines really suck. I mean, seriously, historically bad on defense. Their secondary makes the Texans look like they’ve got Ronnie Lott and Deion Sanders. Yes, Denard Robinson is amazing to watch and all that, but they have so little defense it’s a joke. Give the points.
1/1, Rose: TCU vs. Wisconsin(+3)
Those points, however, I will take. The Horned Frogs defense is fast, but the Wisconsin O-line is enormous. The Badgers are huge, and will simply run it down their throats, control the ball and the clock, and make this a real game. Badgers, baby…
1/1, Fiesta: UConn vs. Oklahoma(-15)
This is a freaking joke. The Big East is a joke. No team that lost to Michigan should be in a BCS game, period. I’d say “Sooners by at least three touchdowns,” but this is OU in the Fiesta bowl here, which is not a building they seem to play well in. (Boise State, anyone?) However, the Huskies are so bad it won’t matter.
1/1, Orange: Virginia Tech vs. Stanford(-3.5)
Yeah, not going with the ACC. Go Cardinal!
1/1, Sugar: Arkansas vs. Ohio State(-3.5)
This one is interesting. How will the Buckeyes be affected by all the off-field stuff? Also, and people might not remember this, but the Razorbacks QB used to play for… Michigan. The Buckeyes might be out for blood in this game. I think I’ll give the points.
1/6, GoDaddy.com: Middle Tennessee vs. Miami, pick
Err, I pick not to watch? I hate these post-New Year’s crappy bowls. I know exactly nothing about Middle Tennessee, so I pick the Redhawks.
1/7, Cotton: Texas A&M vs. LSU(-1)
Interesting that the Cotton Bowl has moved into this time slot. This is actually a game that might be worth watching. The Aggies are better than most people realize, but Vegas knows what’s up. I also hate to bet on the Tiger offense, which has had some pretty awful showings. I think the extra time off favors LSU, though, so I’ll give the point.
1/8, CompASS: Kentucky vs. Pitt(-3.5)
OK, my blinding dislike for the Big East has maybe cost me a couple picks, and Kentucky is in a bowl? Really? OK, this time I’ll give the points.
1/9, Fight Hunger: BC vs. Nevada(-7.5)
WTF? The “Kraft Fight Hunger” bowl? Seriously? Was “BP Clean Water” taken? Who comes up with this stuff? Err, anyway, the game. I have to admit, I had no idea BC had qualified for a bowl game. And in case anyone missed it, Nevada is 12-1 and beat Boise State. Yeah, I’ll give these points.
1/10, BCS “National Championship” Game: Oregon vs. Auburn(-3)
Auburn is good, no question. However, they’ve not played an offense like Oregon’s; nobody in the SEC is even vaguely in their league, not Arkansas, not Alabama, not South Carolina. The Ducks can move the rock like nobody’s business, and against real opposition, as the Pac 10 was legit this year. On the other hand, the Ducks’ defense does not leave me with great confidence, and I expect Auburn to be able to move the ball at will. The over/under on this game is an astounding 74. Yikes! I think this will come down to whoever has the ball last, to use a very tired but possibly accurate football cliche. Given that it could go either way, I think I’m going to take the points.