March 21st, 2011
This is a report I didn’t expect to write, since I really didn’t expect to play FNM this week. Why? Because it is the kids’ spring break, and we all took a trip out to Albuquerque to visit my younger brother Ben, his wife, and their daughter. Now, my brother actually plays MTG, but strictly on a casual basis. What we’ve done the last couple times we’ve gotten together is buy a bunch of packs and play sealed against each other, which is a blast. However, this time when I asked him if I should get packs, he said no, I should bring some tournament decks. So, that’s what I did. I had three decks together: SparkBlade, Valakut, and a UB Infect deck based on the one Brian Kibler posted on SCG earlier in the week. Thursday night we played a few matches after playing Settlers of Catan with my sister in law. It went pretty well, and on Friday to my surprise the schedule worked out and so Ben and I headed over to Active Imagination for FNM. Ben took Valakut and I took SparkBlade for Ben’s first-ever sanctioned match.
Here’s the list I played:
Ben’s list was pretty much the same main as the winning deck at SCG Memphis with a couple small changes: one Avenger of Zendikar in the main deck, and in the sideboard, I added two Wall of Tanglecord.
I didn’t remember to bring a pen so I have no notes, everything is from memory and it’s now Sunday, so there will be errors and omissions, for which I apologize.
Round 1: Kitty, playing BR Vampires
I hadn’t seen Vampires in ages and had given zero thought to the matchup. I sort of thought that it might go OK with Sparkmage-Collar and SoFF main deck, but actually it’s not as great as I hoped. She got a turn1 Pulse Tracker all three games, and game 1 she pretty much just ran me over. Game 2 she managed to get me down to 1 but I managed a Hawk with both the Sword and the Collar on it so I could get out of Bolt range, and then got out my Sun Titan for long enough to take control of the board and pull it out. Game 3 she just came out a little bit too fast and had a Vampire Hexmage for what I was hoping to be the game-swinging Gideon and I lost the race. Basically, this game came down to my inability to find either a Pyroclasm or an Arc Trail, despite running through all 3 Preordains. Sometimes your deck just won’t cooperate.
0-1 matches, 1-2 games
Round 2: Brandon, playing Angry Birds
Whee, the near-mirror. Terminology note: I call the CawBlade variant running red “Angry Birds” if it isn’t running Sparkmages main, and “SparkBlade” if it is. There are way too many variants of this deck right now. Anyway, Brandon was clearly not a slouch player, since he was sporting various bits of evidence of playing GP Denver and his conversation with a friend indicated that he got paid there and he was planning to use that for GP Dallas. So, this would clearly not be a walk. Game 1 was quite long with neither of us able to get much done in terms of advancing the board. He got three Jaces but I had a Bolt for one, a Hawk and an Arc Trail for the other, and two Hawks plus a Sparkmage for the third. He got Gideon, I boneheadedly lost a counter war over my reply Gideon by mis-tapping land, but my second Gideon stuck to empty the board. By this time we were both pretty much out of counters and so my Sun Titan stuck and he carried the day. An unanswered Titan is a good thing. Game 2 he got a Kor Firewalker on turn 2 and I was unable to prevent him getting a Sword of Body and Mind on it, and that’s a monster. He only managed to get through with it a couple times, but it was enough that I just wasn’t able to quite catch up. We knew going in to game 3 that we didn’t have much time. He got another Firewalker in the game, though not quite so early, and I was in some trouble and I figured my best outcome was probably a draw. I refuse to slow down my play, but I did go into heavy defensive mode. Time was called, and he might have had a shot on turn 5 of extra time, but I landed an Inferno Titan on turn 4 and had enough in the air to kill his active Gideon so he didn’t have enough for a lethal counterattack, and that was it.
0-1-1 matches, 2-3-1 games. Ben, of course, hadn’t dropped a game and was a very pretty 2-0
Round 3: ? (sorry) playing a home brew UB Control featuring Tezz
Tumble Magnet, Contagion Clasp, Inquisition, both Trinket and Treasure Mage, Wurmcoil Engine, counters, Creeping Tar Pit. A perfectly reasonable deck. though I didn’t see Jace come out, which I certainly would have included. Anyway, game 1 he got a Trinket Mage to get an Everflowing Chalice on turn 3 and I came back with Jace after playing Hawks on 2 and 3. I was able to protect Jace and grind out a slow win since I couldn’t seem to find a Mystic and he had an active Mystifying Maze, so this was slow death by unequipped birds. Eww. Game 2 I opened with a Colonnade that promptly became a basic Island thanks to Spreading Seas. That was the only source of white in my hand so I Deprived his turn 4 play to bounce the Colonnade, but I was so far behind the mana curve that when he cast Tezz a couple turns later with a counter to back it up, I couldn’t stop it, and he eventually beat me to death with a 5/5 Tumble Magnet. Game 3 was another fairly drawn-out affair. I don’t remember the early part of the game, but late game I had a Gideon and a Sworded Hawk. He got a Phyrexian Revoker naming Gideon and a Maze with enough land to fuel it. I got Jace, though, and bounced the Revoker and then swung, and he Mazed the Hawk, knocking off the Sword, but took the Gideon hit. He replayed the Revoker, lather, rinse, repeat. He bounced Gideon instead because he couldn’t afford the extra 3 points of damage and I got to untap and he had to pitch a card. Next turn I got a Colonnade and that was too much and I killed him—on turn 3 of extra time, so whew.
Ben lost to UW CawBlade, I believe in two.
1-1-1 matches, 4-4-1 games
Round 4: Rob, playing Boros
I’ve played this matchup enough to know how it works. If Boros doesn’t get SparkBlade down near Bolt range in the first four turns, it has no long game against the planeswalkers. Both these games basically worked to this formula. I got early Sparkmages both games, and while they were eventually exiled with Journey to Nowhere, I was able to get both Jace and Gideon in play and had enough burn to keep Gideon from being run over, and prevailed. Game 2 was a little more tense in that I missed my turn 3 land drop, but I had a Bolt and a Pyroclasm and kept him off me long enough to find a third land and get the Sparkmage out, which held him at bay long enough before he found a Journey that I had a chance to find a couple more land (thank you, Preordain) and stabilize a little. It still took me a long time to get the double white I needed to cast Gideon for the win, but a second Sparkmage helped me get there. Never really felt in danger in either of these games.
Ben lost again to some mono-White concoction running Ajani. I don’t know the details.
2-1-1 matches, 6-4-1 games
Round 5: Ben, playing Valakut
So, the pairings computer hated me. Not only did I get paired down, but I had to play my own brother, wielding my Valakut deck. These games played out in eerily similar ways. I had turn 2 Stoneforge, turn 3 Sparkmage, and no second source of blue for a long time in both games. However, I had the Sworded Stoneforge doing work for me in game 1, and in game 2 I actually got a Collar with my Stoneforge since I had the SoFF in my opening hand. Ben took an opening hand in game 2 that we agreed he should never keep—no source of green—and by the time he drew a Forest it was just too late. I don’t think Ben was playing his best, though, as we didn’t realize that this FNM didn’t run a top 8 and just paid based on standings after five rounds of swiss (which is really, really weird, by the way), so he was playing a little on the soft side thinking I’d have a better chance in the top 8. Nonetheless, it was interesting to see how SparkBlade could win against a deck it’s supposedly unable to beat—mostly bad draws by Valakut, and countering the early ramp. A Collared Sparkmage is also helpful at limiting the effectiveness of their Titans.
3-1-1 matches, 8-4-1 games
A rocky start but overall an acceptable showing, though not nearly good enough for the upcoming GP.
The deck is still solid, though I want to try out GerryT’s Darkwing variant as well as a Tezzeret list that I’ve recently been thinking about. Unfortunately with GP Dallas coming up and me having to miss the next FNM (it’s my wife’s birthday), well, I don’t have a lot of time to mess around and I might just end up sticking with SparkBlade. Main decking the Sparkmages/Collar and not running Day really does seem very good overall and I like this variant better than Angry Birds or the straight UW list, though the straight UW list is also very good. As for changes, Twisted Image is just a little too cute in the sideboard, however, and I’d probably cut those in the future and go with Kor Firewalker instead. Sun Titan in the main was very good and that I would most certainly keep. The biggest problem I have when playing this deck is figuring out what to take out when I sideboard.