June 22nd, 2011
Reaction to the Ban
First, let me be clear that I was not an advocate of the ban. My thoughts on it ran pretty similar, not surprisingly, to Alexander Shearer’s as outlined in his blog post. (I disagree with Dr. Shearer on the degree to which Jund and CawBlade are skill-intensive, though, as I do think there really is a meaningful difference between the two on that score that goes beyond the dollar value of the cards.) However, I definitely agree on other stuff, in particular I don’t think Jace was the main problem and they could have gone a long way toward solving the CawBlade problem simply by banning Batterskull. Vampires and RDW have been getting better against CawBlade and with no Batterskull I think it’d be a tough match for CB, especially game 1.
I’d also point out that while the top tables at SCG Opens and Grand Prix may have been dominated by CawBlade, I didn’t see that at FNM. Since that’s almost entirely what I play—and I suspect a lot more players play FNM than either the Opens or GPs—I don’t think Standard was really as “broken” a format as many people said. I don’t play MTGO, but people tell me that it also was not dominated by CawBlade, either, for whatever reasons.
That said, I understand WotC’s reasons for the ban and I’m not up in arms about it.
What I am a lot more interested in than complaining (some other people need to get off that bus) is what the environment will be once the ban kicks in. I don’t think it’s at all clear what the “best deck” is. Maybe Valakut, but maybe not. Remember, we’ve had a few new cards come out since Valakut was king, and I think those will change things. RDW and Vampires are still viable, Exarch Twin decks seem very good and I think there are good decks out there yet to be found because they just lose to CawBlade, based on Tezzeret, Birthing Pod, and maybe even Tempered Steel that have a shot. It’s also an environment that will be extremely short-lived, since M12 will become legal just weeks after the ban takes effect. I think we’re in for pretty much chaos in Standard for a while starting July 1—chaos can be fun, too!
In fact, it’s got me brewing again…
These are just deck ideas I’ve kind of thrown together in response to the ban. Got some help from @AuranAlchemist on the first one, which is my favorite of the two. I liked SuperFriends as a deck the last time around, and while I don’t think it’s quite the same without big Jace or Ajani Vengeant, it still has potential:
The sideboard is kind of thrown together—maybe too much Valakut hate—but I think the deck could be fun and might have some game. One of the things that Jace TMS taught us is that the current environment doesn’t have enough good answers to Planeswalkers, and with CawBlade going, I suspect there won’t be as much flying, so Walkers protected by Wall of Omens and Day of Judgment seems like a viable plan.
The other deck is a RUG Twin deck, but of course one without Jace.
Comments so far are that Mimic Vat seems kind of random and that might be right, but with Sparkmage/Collar, there are going to be a lot of dead things, and it makes your opponent’s removal so much worse. If your opponent kills your Exarch, if you have a Vat out, they haven’t solved the problem in quite the same way…
Anyway, it needs some testing and a sideboard, but seems like it might also be fun. The Vengevines give you a way to win without the combo, and the Sparkmage/Collar interaction should allow you to go the long game against any creature-based deck.
If anyone has any thoughts on either of these, I’d love to hear them! I’m likely to sleeve up some form of SuperFriends for the July 1 FNM.
Hey, look, another Tuesday at Montag’s! I don’t let myself play the same deck twice in a row at Montag’s and last time around was CawBlade. Now, with the ban hammer coming down soon, I decided that “different” could be awfully similar in that it’s also a deck with Jace and Stoneforge Mystic, but there aren’t any Squadron Hawks and there’s a fun alternate (and immediate) win condition. Here’s the list I played:
I threw this together without playing it a single game first… I figured, as usual, that I’d learn it as I went. (And I wonder why I don’t win more, right?). I’ll talk more generally about the deck after the blow-by-blow.
Turnout was decent for a Tuesday (13 or so), so four rounds of Swiss and cut to top 4.
Round 1: Rolaund playing RDW
I’ve played against RDW a lot lately, but of course not with this deck. I kind of have a thing about RDW as being the one archetype that I never play (though we’ll see after M12 comes out. Grim Lavamancer? Really?) Game 1 I got turn 2 Stoneforge into Sword of War and Peace, and he didn’t have removal for the Mystic, so I flashed in the Batterskull that was in my opening hand. He clearly wasn’t expecting that, looked at it for a turn, and just scooped to it. Game 2 was sick. Turn 1 he played a Spikeshot Elder, I played land and passed, he hit me and played an Ember Hauler, my turn 2 I came back with a Spellskite. He attacked and I blocked the Elder. He added another Elder and passed. My turn 3 I played land (now had one of each color up) and passed. We went to combat and I flashed in a Deceiver Exarch, tapping down his Hauler, and he passed the turn. I untapped, topdecked a Scalding Tarn, cracked it for a Mountain, and got the combo on turn 4. Whee, magical Christmasland! We were done in like 10 minutes, most of which was me pulling my sideboard out of my deck after game 1 because I accidentally shuffled the whole thing in. Best RDW match ever.
1-0 matches, 2-0 games
Round 2: Danesh playing Grixis Twin
I’d never played Danesh before but I hope I get to do so again, as he was a really fun opponent. I wasn’t sure how this matchup would go and it’s pretty intense. Game 1 was a lot of back-and-forth trying to establish some kind of control and build up mana on both sides to try to be able to combo off… I did get a Stoneforge, but she ate a Go for the Throat and the Sword I got was blown up eventually as well. He finally got ahead enough to combo off. Game 2 was another long, drawn-out affair. I Probe’d him early (ouch!) to see two Exarchs and two Twins in his hand, yikes. I managed to get Jace on the board for a couple turns before losing Jace to the legend rule, but that was enough to put some removal in my hand. I bluffed counters and kept him from going off, and got out a pair of Exarchs and got one Sworded up (Feast and Famine) and he eventually got there, but it took considerable time since he had an active Tumble Magnet and a Spellskite that I took a long time to get rid of. Whew! We started game 3 with only a few minutes left and tried to play quickly to get a resolution, but neither of us were able to combo off, though he did get me down to 7 with a Creeping Tar Pit, it wasn’t enough.
1-0-1 matches, 3-1-1 games
Round 3: Joe, playing CawBlade
Ah, Joe, one (if not the) store’s strongest player, and one against whom I have a terrible record, was 2-0 and got rounded down. We did some early draw-go and I got to Probe Joe to see that he had no Mystic or Hawks in hand so I knew I had time. He Jaced and I Pierced, and he Pierced back, giving him Jace but tapped out. I came back with Inferno Titan to kill Jace, which surprised Joe—I don’t think he was expecting the Titan. He Dismembered an Exarch at some point, bounced the Titan with Into the Roil the next time he came out, and they killed it with Day the time after that, but the 3s were adding up and I had a Sword out which I equipped to a Colonnade and that got me there. Game 2 he did the full CawBlade thing and had Jace and Hawks and was Brainstorming fresh cards each turn and I could not get through to Jace or get much going. I did hit a Sword with Divine Offering, but I was too far behind. I did get an Exarch out and had mana to pay for a Leak and tried to go off, but rather than Leak he had Into the Roil and two mana to pay for the Pierce I had in my hand, so that failed. When he dropped Sun Titan to get back his Sword, I was done. Game 3 he got little Jace out and I had to tap out to activate a Colonnade to kill it, and he followed that up with Big Jace, and again I had to tap out (nearly) to bring the Colonnade to kill it. However, I had Probe’d him (ouch!) and I knew he didn’t have anything major after that, just a Hawk and a Leak. He did brainstorm into another Jace and had two Hawks out, but I was up to 8 land with the combo pieces in hand, flashed in an Exarch with Pierce backup, untapped and Twin’d him up for the match. Whew, very intense match.
2-0-1 matches, 5-2-1 games
Round 4: Tony, playing JunkPod
Tony and I were 1-2, but there were 5 people with 6 points, one who got rounded down and was playing someone with 4, so I was not guaranteed to be in if we drew, so we played it out.
Before getting into it, a few words about Tony’s deck: it’s outstanding! Almost every card in the deck (other than the Birthing Pods, a little removal, and the equipment) is a creature with an ETB or leaves play effect, and it has a full curve up to 7 mana: Birds of Paradise, Stoneforge Mystic, Squadron Hawk, Mirran Crusader (ok, no ETB there), Viridian Corrupter, Cadaver Imp, Phyrexian Metamorph, Kozilek’s Predator, Entomber Exarch, Acidic Slime, Massacre Wurm, Wurmcoil Engine, Elesh Norn. I know some of those seem subpar, but trust me, it’s quite effective. I’m probably missing something, and of course many of these are 1-ofs. If you cannot keep Pod off the table it’s a massive beating, very flexible.
Anyway, the games. Game 1 was pretty crazy. I got an early Stoneforge and then more of them later, and got to the point where I had a germ token wearing a Batterskull and both Swords. That’s when he fetched up a Predator, making two Spawn tokens, which are colorless and can be sacrificed before damage, meaning they can block something on the ground with whatever swords and vanish before damage to prevent the life gain. Now, I had gotten through with the just the Batterskull once and with the Sword of Feast and Famine on the Batterskull once and I was at 26 life, but Tony got the Corrupter to kill one Sword, got it back with the Imp to kill the second, and despite going down to 1 life, managed to keep himself alive and gradually grind me out. It was ugly. Game 2 I kept a hand with 4 lands, a Jace, and 2 Preordains. Both Preordains yielded… more land. I drew into another Preordain, which yielded… land. The game was over quickly, ending with me having seen 9 lands and six non-lands, three of which were Preordains. Not going to win many games like that.
2-1-1 matches, 5-4-1 games
Now, in a strange twist, the 2-1 who got rounded down lost, so I made the top 4 in 4th, behind Tony and the two 3-1s. Unfortunately, that meant my semifinal match was… Tony. Ugh.
Semis, Tony… again
Game 1 I got early Mystic and Batterskull pressure, and then a Jace to fateseal, but he got out a Pod and Hawk into Corrupter killed the Sword and eventually the Batterskull, but I managed two Exarchs on the table, Jace at 9, and two Splinter Twins in hand along with an Inferno Titan… and only one Mountain in play. I had to start brainstorming with Jace, and not only could I not find a fetch or a Mounain in several turns of that before Jace died to a Crusader, I never found a shuffler to get me another shot at it. Dying with the combo and a great answer to half his deck in hand because you’re color-screwed is… frustrating. Game 2 I finally drew a sideboard card, but not the right one: Pyroclasm. I had a Stoneforge on the table and a Batterskull in hand, which I bounced to avoid a Corrupter the previous turn, and he had a Bird, a Pod, and the Corrupter out, so I Pyroclasm’d and activated the Mystic in response to put the Batterskull back in play to his creatureless board. I also had the combo in hand, but again, only one red source on the table (four lands), so I figured even if he dealt with the Batterskull I had him in two turns. Here was his play: Corrupter cast from his hand to kill Batterskull, sacrifice Corrupter to Pod up Entomber Exarch to kill the Splinter Twin in my hand. I of course next drew a second Mountain but had no Twin, and Tony killed it anyway, saccing Exarch for Acidic Slime, then Slime into Wurmcoil into Elesh Norn. Well, that was fun… not. I was pretty aggravated with my deck since I definitely had the first game if I could have drawn just one out of 10 red sources still in my deck, with several turns to hit it and even a deeper dig with a brainstorm. Would have been nice if somewhere in the two post-board games I had ever drawn an Offering, too, but not meant to be.
2-2-1 matches, 5-6-1 games
I got like $10 for coming in the 3-4 slot, so at least I got double my entry fee back. Got some Puresteel Paladins for post-rotation; we’ll see how that goes.
Comments on TwinBlade
This kind of hybrid deck is weird, it’s like a bad CawBlade deck fused with a bad Exarch Twin deck, so it’s not really as good at the main plan as either one in purer form, but of course it has a different way to win than either of the pure forms. All of my opponents save the RDW player in round 1 commented on how difficult it was to sideboard against this deck, because most decks just cannot afford both the full anti-Caw and anti-Twin package. It’s a little weird to play, too, since a lot of the decisions involve which game plan you want to pursue. That decision isn’t always hard—sometimes the opening hand makes that very clear—but sometimes it isn’t clear. The deck also sacrifices some permission (only two Leaks and two Pierces) and you cannot play the control game like with the purer forms of either deck, but you can still bluff it credibly. The lack of Hawks is also weird, since you have absolutely no defense against anything in the air other than tapping with a flashed-in Exarch.
Were I playing it again at FNM or in a PTQ before the ban kicks in, I would definitely change a few things. First, the mana base. I played only one Colonnade, figuring that wasn’t the way you wanted to win with this deck anyway. Wrong, wrong, wrong; Colonnade is still a great answer to an opposing Jace or your own board that is empty save for a lone piece of equipment. I’d go up to two or maybe three, and I’d cut one of the Islands for a 4th Mountain, too.
The other thing I would change is the sideboard. Mental Misstep is awful; I’m not sure what I was thinking there. Well, I know, it’s there to stop Spell Pierce, Duress/Inquisition, and Goblin Guide. This just isn’t good enough. What I really want in that slot, maybe even main deck in place of all the other permission, is Dispel. The main answer in most decks to your big hitters—both the equipment and the combo—are instants, e.g. Divine Offering, Into the Roil, Dismember, Go for the Throat, permission, etc. (Combust still hoses you, but neither Spell Pierce or Mana Leak help there, either.) Now, Dispel would not have helped against the Birthing Pod deck, but neither does Mental Misstep. The only solution there is to counter the Pod or Divine Offering it, or of course just have two red sources so you can actually combo off.
I would probably keep the Inferno Titans. They have good surprise value, are amazing vs. a lot of the field, and give you another reasonable target for Splinter Twin that does not die to Dismember or Combust.
June 15th, 2011
The good news: I haven’t been able to make it to Tuesday night Magic at Montag’s since December, so I was pumped to be able to go back to it. The bad news: no time to really brew, so I just picked up CawBlade. Boring, yes, but so good… Here’s the list I played:
I still run Day of Judgment main because I expect a majority aggro in my local meta and relatively few mirrors. If I were to take it to a PTQ or something I’d probably swap the Days and Divine Offerings.
8 players, so four rounds of Swiss cutting to top 4.
Round 1: Parker, playing Puresteel Paladin
Parker’s a regular I’ve played many times, though he doesn’t often play Standard. I had no idea what to expect when we started but I won the roll and took a hand with 2 Mana Leaks and drew into a third pretty early, so I was able to mostly keep the pressure off, though he did get one whack in with a Paladin equipped with a Sword of Body and Mind, which I had some trouble with since I couldn’t bounce it with Jace. I finally killed it and a germ token on a Batterskull with Day, and was able to recover faster and bash back for the win. I boarded in the additional Day and of course the two Divine Offerings. I know I boarded out Jace Beleren but I don’t remember what else. Game 2 I got both Jace and Gideon out (felt like pre-NPH Caw there for a bit) and got help from him being land flooded and carried that one pretty easily.
1-0 matches, 2-0 games
Round 2: Paul, playing mono-Black
I was 0-2 the last two tournaments against this particular deck, first with CawBlade and then with BantBlade, so I really wanted this one, but my expectations were low. I ran out a turn 2 Spellskite, then on turn 3 I Preordained. I saw two Colonnades, and I know how badly Caw wants land, but I decided to send them both to the bottom and I topdecked a Mystic. I cast it (fetching Sword of Feast and Famine) and he tried to Disfigure, but I redirected to the Spellskite and he was still stuck on one 1 land, so he just scooped. I boarded in the Divine Offerings (for his Swords and Lashwrithes), the Dismembers (for his Phyrexian Obliterators), Gideon, and of course the two Purges. Game 2 I took a two-lander that had a Preordain and mostly blue spells, but I got stuck on those two land, missing both turn 3 and 4 land drops, and was just too far behind to get back in it. I got beat down by a Bloodghast that I couldn’t keep dead or even slowed since I was under 10 life. Game 3 I was able to get a Sworded Hawk going, and he was a little light on land, and the Hawk carried the day.
2-0 matches, 4-1 games
Round 3: Chris, playing RDW
Chris has been around a lot lately, but I haven’t played him before, though I knew he was playing RDW. Game 1 was a disaster, turn 1 Guide, burned my turn 2 Mystic, Elder, then second Guide, and I just could not keep up and died holding a handful of too-slow blue spells. Game 2 was much better, I opened with two Day of Judgment, and got 3-for-1 both times, then followed with Linvala, which I was able to equip with Sword of War and Peace, and that ended it with me at 11 life at the lowest point—a comfortable win. Game 3 was a more drawn out, and I did get down to 5, but I managed to stop the bleeding with Gideon, then Jace, then a Batterskull. I was just lucky that he didn’t topdeck a couple more burn spells before I could get the beastly skull fired up, but it only took a couple turns of Gideon+Batterskull both swinging.
3-0 matches, 6-2 games
Round 4: ID
I was the only undefeated, so I drew in. My opponent was taking a chance by doing so, but the other 4 2-1s all played, so he was seeded #4, and me #1, so we still got in our match.
3-0-1 matches, 6-2 games
Semis: Joey, playing UB Tezz
Joey also doesn’t play that much Standard, but his deck was really, really interesting. Tezz, lots of artifacts, 4 Phyrexian Metamorphs, and… Phylactery Lich. The coolest play I’ve seen in a while was Joey in an earlier round with a Metamorph on the board, having copied a Lich in play and putting the counter on itself. Very tech! (Though I just read Oracle on the card and it turns out that’s not a legal play. Hmm.) All three of these were very long games. I got a turn 2 Mystic into SoFF, but he copied the Mystic to get a Darksteel Axe. I got a Batterskull, and he copied it… twice. He got a Tumble Magnet, which kept my own Sword off him. When he got Tezzeret and made the Axe a 5/5—nice play—I was in trouble, and he got more counters on Tezz and was able to ultimate him for 16, and I couldn’t get back in it from there. I really didn’t know what to sideboard, and decided to board in a lot: the Offerings, the Emeria Angels, the Purges, the Sphinx, and Gideon. I struggled with what to take out of after the two Days and decided that Batterskull was just dangerous, so I took it out. That meant I could take out a Mystic, too, and then I was stumped. I finally took out two Preordains, which is dangerous, but I wasn’t sure what else to do. Game 2 went pretty smoothly as I got Jace out on my turn 5 and had one blue open for the Pierce, which caught his Tezz, and that was enough of a lead that I carried it. At one point I had an Emeria Angel out that he copied with a Metamorph, but I had an Offering for it. He managed to make a bird token, but I bounced that with Jace, but he was able to go for the Angel’s throat before I could make any tokens, though. I still pulled it out anyway. Game 3 was another epic. He came out with turn 1 Inquisition and saw that I had two Pierces in my opener. He played around them really well, and got two Spellskites on his side and then used Tezz to make one of them a 5/5, but I was able to kill Tezz with a Hawk and an activated Inkmoth. I had Jace, but couldn’t bounce the big Skite because of the second, and then he got a Lich, ugh. I had a handful of Hawks, though, and was able to chump and get a Gideon. I had Gideon send everyone over, blocked one of the 5/5s with a Hawk and Gideon took 5. I bounced Lich with Jace, which of course got redirected to the 0/4 Spellskite, and then I used Gideon to slay the 5/5 Skite. I swung back with a Colonnade and Gideon next turn, then just chumped the Lich until I could fly over for two more hits with the manland. I was at 4, so it was pretty tight. It was a great match that could easily have gone either way, and I have to say I really really liked the deck a lot. It would get blown out by Creeping Corrosion, I’d think, but who plays that?
4-0-1, 8-3 games
Joe, who was also playing UW CawBlade (but was the only other one playing it), also made the finals but wanted to leave so we agree to a split before we finished the semis.
I’m going to miss FNM at Montag’s this week because I’ll be in Minneapolis, but I plan to play at a store there. I’ll either hit up Monster Den, Dreamer’s, or Universe Games since they’re all about the same distance from my parents’ place (bringing my kids up to visit their grandparents). If anyone has any thoughts on this, please share! (I’m @SunByrne on twitter.)
June 12th, 2011
My rule is that I never bring the same deck to two events in a row at my local game store, Montag’s Games. I played CawBlade last week and wanted something without counters, and so I decided on a Bant deck. It’s certainly Caw-like in that it still runs Jace and the Stoneforge package, but otherwise not so much. This was what I considered to be the “missing deck” from Alexander Shearer’s (@parakkum, and my favorite MTG columnist) recent excellent column.
Here’s the list:
Always slightly scary to play a deck with exactly zero maindeck removal, but I loved the idea of discarding a Vengevine to tutor up a Stoneforge, so why not? You’ll notice that I also went Hawk-less.
16 players showed up, 4 rounds with top 8. I feel the need to put in a note here about the store metagame given the amount of bitching going on in the Twitterverse about the CawBlade hegemony. Exactly 1 out of the 16 of us played standard UW CawBlade. Now, there were a total of 4 decks running the Stoneforge package: me, the UW Caw, a Junk (WBG) deck, and a Darkblade, but without the blue (that is, straight White-Black). Yes, the recent GPs and SCG Opens have been dominated by CawBlade, but FNM really isn’t.
Round 1: Weylin, playing BUG
Weylin used to be a regular, then didn’t show up for about a year, and has started showing up again recently. He only has a limited pool of standard cards as he’s getting back in, so this wasn’t the strongest build possible, but Weylin is a strong player so you never know. I honestly don’t remember these games very well. I know I got early Stoneforges both games, the first game for a Batterskull, though I think he handled the Batterskull at the expense of losing to a Vengevine, and game 2 it was a Sword of Feast and Famine that did the trick.
1-0 matches, 2-0 games
Round 2: Tony, playing Stoneforge Junk
Tony’s a regular, we’ve played many times. Game 1 I got a Sword of War and Peace early, but he killed it, then he got a Sword of War and Peace of his own onto a Mirran Crusader, and ended it quickly. Man, that thing is a beating. Game 2 I opened with two Stoneforge Mystics, Jace, and four land, two of which were Scars duals. I got Sword of War and Peace on the same germ token carrying the Batterskull and it was over pretty quickly. Game 3 I opened with a Stoneforge and two Mirran Crusaders and no white source, and didn’t draw into any white until it was far, far too late. My fault for being too greedy with my opening hand.
1-1 matches, 3-2 games
Round 3: Elijah, playing Grixis
Elijah seems to be turning into a regular, as he’s been there a bunch lately. Game 1 After a bad turn 4 where I cast Jace into one open blue and had it Spell Pierced (yes, I’m a moron), I lived the dream: I had an active Fauna Shaman, pitched a Vengevine to get a Mystic, tutoring up Batterskull, then played the Mystic (with 3 mana open for a leak, which did not come) and then a Spellskite (which he responded to by Doom Blading the Mystic), triggering Vengevine. Whee. Player at the next table: “that is a sick, sick play.” I won that game, natch. Game 2 was a long, drawn-out game where I had trouble getting much going until I could hard-cast a Batterskull, which I got onto a Mirran Crusader. Unfortunately, he had a Grave Titan out, so I only got a little ahead… until he got Splinter Twin on the Titan. Ouch. Still, Batterskull was gaining me all kinds of life, all the way up to 65, but eventually he started to swarm with tokens, got a Manic Vandal (forcing me to bounce the Batterskull), and then a couple turns later, after I got a second Batterskull, he got a Splinter Twin on the Vandal as well. We actually had time called on us, but he won in extra turns.
1-1-1 matches, 4-3 games
Overall, not going as well as I’d have expected. Had to win the next round to have a chance.
Round 4: Kelly, playing RDW
I played Kelly last week and won 2-1. RDW certainly seems like it could be potentially difficult in game 1, but sideboarding seems good. That pretty much was how it went, as game 1 she just ran me over with Guides and burn. Game 2 I got a turn 2 Stoneforge into Sword of War and Peace, though she burned the Mystic right away. I got to four land and had two Birds out, but she smartly Arc Trailed the two Birds. However, I managed to keep myself alive until I got to six land, then dropped a Frost Titan and she hit me down to 5. Next turn I equipped it with the Sword and cast a Phyrexian Metamorph copying the Frost Titan, and there was no way she could come back from that. Game 3 I again had an early Bird roasted, meaning I couldn’t drop an Obstinate Baloth until turn 4, but Baloth was huge, bringing me from 10 to 14. She had two Guides out and I was pretty successful at drawing land off of it. She, on the other hand, had only two land, and turn 5 I cast an Acidic Slime (rather than the Batterskull) to kill her second land. That slowed her down even more, and I got out Linvala and then a Batterskull that I hard cast. That was it, and so I got to move on.I should note that in game 2 she got me down to 5 and game 3 she got me down to 6 before I could come back and take it, so these were pretty close.
2-1-1 matches, 6-4 games
Quarterfinals: Joe, playing UW CawBlade
Joe is the strongest player in the store and my lifetime record against him was 3-10-2 going in. (I don’t really keep track, but I looked it up online.) I was pretty sure he didn’t maindeck Day of Judgment, which I think gives the Bant version a small advantage in the matchup. I took a one-land draw because it had a Bird, a Cobra, and a Stoneforge in it. I won the roll, produced a turn 1 Bird, turn 2 did not draw a land and played my Stoneforge for a Sword of War and Peace. He noticed that I missed my land drop and passed. Turn 3 I drew a Seachrome Coast and equipped the Stoneforge, which he bounced with Into the Roil (unkicked). Turn 4 I drew another Coast, decided to press the advantage since we both had full grips of cards and equipped the Bird and swung for a total of 9. He never got back in it. Game 2 was a little more drawn out. He got Squadron Hawks early and a Stoneforge, but I had the Nature’s Claim in hand when he went to equip the Sword. I was still taking a couple points per turn from the Hawks and didn’t want to run out too many creatures since I knew he boarded in Day. I drew into a Batterskull, and the germ token ate a Dismember. Next I sent out a Jace into open mana to draw out a Mana Leak (he had only two cards in hand) and followed that next turn with a Frost Titan. He had multiple Hawks out with a Sword of Feast and Famine and had me at 4, but Frosty got a Batterskull and that turned it for me. Hey, I beat Joe!
3-1-1 matches, 8-4 games
Semis: Paul, playing mono-Black
Same Paul with the same deck that I lost to in the Swiss last week. Game 1 he got off to an OK start with a pair of Bloodghasts but stalled a little after that. I had a Sword of War and Peace on turn 3 and I got turn 4 Jace. He spent a lot of damage trying to deal with the Mind Sculptor, and I was able to pull off what I pulled off against Kelly, which is Frost Titan followed by a Metamorph and an equip on Titan #1, and he could not handle that. Game 2 he came out very fast and had removal when he needed it, and I wasn’t really in it. Game 3 I kept a two-lander with no white land because I had a Bird and two Cobras as well as a Stoneforge. I got the Bird turn 1 and the Stoneforge turn 2 into Sword of Feast and Famine. He killed the Mystic immediately and my turn 3 I put down a Lotus Cobra and then a fetch, tapped to equip the Cobra and he Verdicted me. I sacrificed the Bird so that I had a Sworded Cobra… and never drew another land. Even with the Sword I could not race him, particularly when he got a Lashwrithe on a Vault Skirge. Ouch.
3-2-1 matches, 9-6 games
Always nice to earn for top 4, even it it was only $10, but hey, that was twice my entry fee, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.
Frankly, the deck underperformed, or more appropriately, I did. What I didn’t like about the deck was the mana. Despite the 8 mana creatures, I frequently had trouble getting white, especially the double white needed for the Crusader. This is my fault, I didn’t think hard enough about the mana base here and should have played a couple of Plains or made some other change. I certainly should have mulliganed more aggressively.
I was also a little underwhelmed by Vengevine, to be honest, and often boarded out one or two of them. Fauna Shaman was pretty good in that when I got one, it almost always ate a removal spell, but every once in a while I managed to get a Stoneforge off of it. Crusader was great when I could cast it, but that wasn’t quite often enough.
The interesting thing about this deck is that I think it’d be better in an environment more full of CawBlade. With so little spot removal and generally no main deck Day, it feels like it should be pretty solidly favored against the current UW builds, but if they have a lot of spot removal you end up with a lot of expensive spells in hand. In a more diverse environment, straight UW CawBlade is probably slightly better.
I wasn’t able to play at Game Day on Saturday, but I heard Joe won it all with his UW Caw and Tony took second with his JunkBlade. I hear that Stoneforge Mystic is a pretty good card, or rather, there’s some pretty amazing equipment out there these days.
Not sure what to sleeve up for Tuesday night… I’d actually like to give Exarch Twin a try, but I only have two Splinter Twins and the store didn’t have any more for me to pick up on Friday. I might just go back to UW CawBlade, though that’s kind of boring. Maybe Vampires or RDW, though neither of those is really my style.
June 8th, 2011
This post is a response to Neale’s (@wrongwaygoback) blog post Against the Dying of the Light. I realized it got too long to really be a comment so I’m making it a full post, but if you haven’t read Neale’s piece, go do that first, I’ll wait. Oh, and read the comments, too, they’re interesting. I’ll wait again…
OK, now, my take.
Frankly, I hate turn-two kills, much less turn one or zero kills. If I want to play a game of solitaire that lasts three minutes, there are about a thousand Flash games on the web that will serve that function.
Now, I don’t know if you were playing in early 1999, but the PTQ season then was Extended… and it was owned by High Tide, a combo deck that could go off as early as turn 3, and almost completely ignored the opponent unless that opponent was slinging counterspells. Oh, and the deck had no creatures. And it sucked. I stopped playing Magic for about a decade, not entirely because of that, but it was a factor. The game environment Neale described would be awful and I’d stop again if the game was dominated by completely non-interactive combo decks that could go off reliably in the first few turns.
I want to interact with my opponent (well, not all of them, but at least their decks). I want to have to figure out which of multiple plays is better given a board state of moderate complexity, and that decision should be more than “can I go off now or do I have to wait another turn for counterspell mana, too?” Creatures bashing into each other can be a part of the plan, that’s fine. I’m perfectly OK with creature-less decks, too, but not if they are the only really viable option.
Yes, big combos can be fun in Commander, but that’s a different animal. People tolerate non-interactive combos in Commander because generally speaking, most of them don’t happen on turn 2 or 3. And if someone at the table is known to have a deck that is likely to combo off really early in the game, that person is almost always singled out and bashed by everyone else, which often disrupts the combo (or just kills them before they can go off anyway).
Also, I have to take issue with the “best deck” chronology Neale laid out, because the “best deck” mantle didn’t hand off straight from Jund to Valakut. There was a window, admittedly small, in between the release of Rise of the Eldrazi and M11 where Jund was really just one of a handful of Tier 1/1.5 decks, and almost certainly not the best one:
Next Level Bant
UW control (usually tap-out, but sometimes with main deck counters)
I blogged about that while it was going on. That was the best Standard has been since I started playing again right after Zendikar came out. Man, that was fun. Maybe Neale didn’t approve since all of those except for Superfriends are essentially creature-based decks, and even Superfriends ran a playset of Wall of Omens. However, I think most other players would agree that the environment then was varied, interesting, and a hell of a lot of fun to play—though putting together a sideboard was a challenge, because you couldn’t possibly sideboard for all of those.
[Sidebar: Note that right now we have a card pool of almost exactly the same size in Standard (two full blocks plus one core set) but nothing like the variety of that environment. I’m a big a fan as anyone of WotC R&D, but I will say that I don’t like Scars block nearly as much as Shards block, at least in terms of Standard. I think Zendikar block is really good and I’m a little worried about what happens when Zen rotates out and Scars block makes up the bulk of the Standard environment. We’ll see how it goes.]
Now, to agree with Neale, Jace is not the problem here. That awesome post-Rise, pre-M11 environment had Jace, and yes, many of the decks on that list played him, but not all of them did. However, that environment also had Stoneforge Mystic, which only one of those decks (Naya) ever played at all, and not all builds of that ran everyone’s favorite Kor Artificier. This suggests to me that it is not, in fact, Stoneforge Mystic that is broken; I’d take that a step further and say it’s not creatures that are the problem right now.
It’s the equipment; it’s just too good. When Stoneforge Mystic’s best target was Basilisk Collar, she wasn’t a problem. Even with Sword of Body and Mind, SFM wasn’t a card that saw a lot of play. Sword of Feast and Famine, however, is just a little too good, and Batterskull, well, that bad boy is, to quote the original article, “ass-fuckingly” amazing.
Yes, the current environment is a little boring because of the Caw hegemony, but at least Caw is an interactive and skill-testing deck. “A little boring” is not particularly ban-worthy, though if they ban anything, I say it should be Batterskull, not Stoneforge Mystic or Jace.
Also, the whole “ban this card” conversation is getting a little tiring. I’d go on about this, but it’s already been said pretty well.
Now, I do also agree with Neale that the game is becoming more creature-centric, and that seems to be pretty clearly by design. But I’m not all that troubled by it, since there aren’t that many ways to make creatures really good relative to spells, which by their nature have immediate impact on the board, which most creatures don’t unless they have flash or haste. So, you can make creatures really mana-efficient and load them with abilities (e.g., Baneslayer Angel, Thrun… neither of which see much play in Standard), or you can make them essentially hybrids between creatures and spells (e.g., the Titans, Stoneforge). Come on, the 1/2 body on the Mystic isn’t a problem, nor is the flying 1/1 of Squadron Hawk. It’s the spell-like abilities. Just realize that most of your spells are just “spells with legs” and you realize that most of the best creatures right now are the best because of the “spell” part, and you realize that spells really are still in control.
June 6th, 2011
I have yet to see a decent-length review of these speakers yet so I thought I should get one up before the Web is flooded with them, though perhaps this is enough of a boutique item that won’t actually happen anyway. We’ll see.
What is the Ascend Acoustics Sierra-1 NrT?
It’s a speaker you cannot actually buy right now, but will be able to perhaps sometime soon. Essentially, it is an upgraded version of the highly-regarded Sierra-1. Ascend has allowed owners of the Sierra-1 to upgrade before the Sierra-1 NrT is made available. I am one such owner so I did the upgrade.
The original Sierra-1 is a very, very good speaker for the money. I posted some initial reactions to the speakers not too long after I got them. Since that post I’d done some shopping around while I was still in my 30-day return window. Local dealers aren’t abundant anymore and those that are around are scattered to the four winds here. I went with a friend of mine and we listened to some other speakers, then came back to my house and ran the same music through the Sierra-1s. We listened to the Focal Chorus 706V and the Paradigm Studio 20. On my own, I also listened to the B&W 685 and the B&W CM1. Frankly, the Sierra-1 is a markedly better speaker than all of these. The Focals were, IMO, absolutely awful with no midrange whatsoever. The B&W 685s have a very congested midrange. After I had heard them I found a review that said it much better than I could: they are like listening to music with a heavy beige quilt draped between you and the music. I couldn’t agree more. I liked the CM1s better than the 685s, but they just have no bass at all, which didn’t cut it for me. The only thing that came close was the Paradigm Studio 20s, which only somewhat close. Bass on the 20s is very good, but still not quite as tight and controlled as the Sierra-1s. The Sierras image better and have a cleaner midrange. The only thing I liked better on the Paradigms was the very top end. The metal domes give the tweeters more sizzle, though in the case of the Studio 20s it might be too much of a good thing and I found them a little harsh with violins. And, of course, the Paradigms are more expensive.
The friend I took with me to listen to the Focals and Paradigms, when he heard the Sierra-1s, almost immediately said “do not send these back—nothing we heard today was even close.” Well, I thought the Paradigms were vaguely close, at least at the high end.
My father, who currently has a lovely Sonus Faber setup, also concurred that he’d never heard anything like the Sierra-1s in their price range. He still likes his Fabers better, of course, but it’s not like that’s the same price class.
Anyway, the point I’m trying to convey here is that the “vanilla” Sierra-1 is an excellent speaker for the price. I really, really liked them, with only a minor quibble about high-frequency performance.
How Is the NrT Different?
There are two differences between the original Sierra-1 and the NrT version. First, the NrT uses a different tweeter. The original tweeter was made by SEAS of Norway, and so is the new one. The new one uses a much lighter but more powerful neodymium magnet in a “ring” configuration. (“NrT” stands for “neodymium ring tweeter.”) The tweeter housing is the same size so the new tweeter simply drops into place.
However, it would be pure foolishness to put a new tweeter, with different performance characteristics, into a speaker and just be done with it. The crossover also had to change—and change it certainly did. Check out the picture of the two crossovers (old one on the left, click to embiggen):
The new crossovers are supporting some serious caps and loops.
So, what is the new tech supposed to do? The primary thing I was looking for is more sparkle at the top end. The soft dome tweeters on the original Sierra-a are just a smidge too smooth for me, even in cases where I wanted them to be more edgy. Note that was I was looking for was not simply a more forward presentation. I tend to dislike overly forward sound; for example, I don’t care for Grado headphones because of this. I just wanted, and was promised, more overall crispness on the high end. The manufacturer described the difference like this:
This new tweeter is fast, delicate and with loads of top-end air. It is the perfect solution for those that like the advantages of a soft dome but yet miss some of the positive aspects of a metal dome.
The upgraded tweeter is sharper and quicker, there is a noticeable improvement in attack and decay, such that instruments have more *snap* to them, a more concise impact. For example, with cymbals, the impact is clearly more defined with more delicacy and shimmer.
I should mention that there is a lot more to this new tweeter than frequency response improvements. Improved damping, better transient accuracy, higher power handling, better cooling and lower distortion — but I feel the most obvious way to visualize the improvement is to simply compare the response measurements.
And those are exactly the kind of things that I wanted, so I took the plunge and plunked down for the upgrade.
Ascend gave two options for the upgrade: ship the speakers back to them and have them do it, or have the parts shipped to you and do it yourself. I chose the latter option. The upgrade was easy to to do, requiring pretty much just a screwdriver and a small wrench, and the nice folks at Ascend provided both paper and video instructions on doing the upgrade. I was a little paranoid doing the first one and it took me probably 25 minutes. With better familiarity and working with less paranoia, I did the second in between 10 and 15 minutes. These times do not count the time to wipe down the speakers afterward, as I have the high-gloss finish and I managed to cover them in fingerprints, which I just couldn’t leave.
Did the NrT Deliver?
In a word, yes. The NrT setup not only provides the desired sparkle at the high end, rendering cymbals with appropriate sizzle, but it has opened up the speakers even further. The soundstage is wider and imaging overall even better, which I’m not sure I would have thought possible for speakers that already excelled in these areas. There is additional clarity starting in the upper midrange, making female vocals even more airy and compelling.
Some specific thoughts based on my Audio Test Mix:
* Cymbals, cymbals, cymbals. This is what I was really looking for, and it came through in spades. Marked improvements in “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” “Oasis,” and “Root Beer.” This was the only thing I thought the metal-domed Paradigms did better than the Sierra-1, and now the crown here goes back to Ascend. Absolutely nailed it here, though I wasn’t terribly surprised because this is what was promised.
* The place where the NrT most surprised me was the acoustic guitar, particularly the Rodrigo y Gabriela piece “Hanuman.” The additional crispness and detail was probably most felt, and most impressive, here. The NrT upgrade improved not only the high end, but the midrange as well, quite significantly. Anecdote time: my younger brother is not much of an audiophile. Not in the sense that he can’t discriminate better from worse, but in the sense that he almost never feels that the level of improvement justifies the expense. (He’s got more of our mother’s skinflinty leanings than I ever did.) Anyway, he knows RyG’s work very well (he was the one who got me into them) and when I played “Hanuman” for him on these he was just blown away. This was the first time I have ever seen my brother visibly impressed by audio equipment. He’s a tough audience, and he was really floored, and this was the track that really did it.
* As noted, female vocals are improved as well. This was very clear on “Il Pleure” though it didn’t seem to make quite as much of a difference with Tori Amos on “Precious Things.”
* Electric guitar on “Stinkfist” was also much improved, much more aggressive-sounding, more in-your-face, which I’m pretty sure is Tool’s goal there. The improvement was less noticeable with the Cult’s “Wild Flower” probably because it’s not as good a recording, so YMMV here.
* The violin-oriented classical (“Summer” and “Concerto for 2 Violins”) didn’t improve as much as some of the other material. The wider soundstage is nice and it feels like there’s more “air” with these speakers, and the imaging is improved, and all of these things are most definitely better—it simply made somewhat less difference here than elsewhere. I think the slightly more forward presentation offset the other gains just a little bit, though overall I would still say these tracks sounded better, just not as much better as some of the others.
Overall, I’d have to say I’m definitely very happy with the upgrade.
To be fair, I should note that the speakers are now somewhat more forward overall. For example, they do not contain the screech of a violin’s highest notes quite as well. However, this effect is not pronounced. The frequency response graph for these speakers is still remarkably flat, but where there was a small (maybe ~2.5 dB) dip in high-end response (around 3kHz), it’s now flatter in that region and actually shows a spike at very high frequencies (25kHz, but I’m sure I’m deaf at that frequency anyway). The additional detail and resolution can punish bad recordings, though it doesn’t always. The place where I’ve most noticed this is mediocre 1980s recordings that use drum machines in place of real cymbals. While real cymbals sound much better, bad fake cymbals actually sound slightly worse by virtue of it being more obvious that they’re fake. This doesn’t seem to be a problem with more recent drum machines; for example, Underworld sounds just fine.
This is, on balance, a small price to pay for the overall upgrade in sound quality. My friend who had been speaker shopping with me before came down to listen to the upgraded speakers, and he agreed that they were both slightly more forward but overall even more amazing. As far as I’m concerned, the NrT has upgraded the speaker from “excellent” to “superlative,” as it rectified my only previous quibble with the sound. Now, this does make the speakers overall somewhat more expensive, but for me it was definitely worth it. If you own Sierra-1s and you’re already perfectly happy with the top end and absolutely do not want to mess with the overall balance of the speaker, the NrT upgrade may not be for you. If, however, you want more sizzle, an even wider soundstage and even better imaging (and don’t mind an ever-so-slightly more forward speaker), then the NrT is definitely the way to go.
This is not HT, this is strictly two-channel music. This is my study, which is the home of my primary computer setup. Music is mostly lossless (ALAC) fed from the optical out on my Mac Pro into the outboard DAC built into a HeadRoom Desktop headphone amplifier, which routes the RCA outs to a NAD C740 receiver. This is obviously not super high-end or anything, but it’s definitely a cut above standard Best Buy-grade fare. I do have some tracks at 256 kbps VBR AAC/MP3 (stuff bought through the iTunes store or Amazon MP3), but I avoid those for critical listening.
June 4th, 2011
I know, I know, CawBlade isn’t exactly original, but I hadn’t been thinking much about constructed and I had it still together from GP DFW, so I broke that out and made some changes to deal with New Phyrexia. Frankly, I’m not surprised that Caw is still the dominant deck, since Batterskull is the stone cold nuts, and is at its best in none other than Caw. Stoneforge Mystic wasn’t a broken card when it was first printed because there wasn’t any really insane equipment in the environment. I think the power of the Mystic would have been more apparent had a card like Jitte been present. Now with three Swords and Batterskull, the Mystic is simply way too good not to play it.
I have to say that normally I’m not a fan of playing whatever is the “best deck” at any given time—I never played Jund, for instance—but I actually kind of like CawBlade. While Caw is the big boogeyman of the format, it’s actually not very popular at my local FNM. I think this is in part due to expense, but I don’t think that’s the whole story. The other thing about Caw is that it’s skill-intensive and really rewards good play in ways that other “top” decks didn’t. While skill was certainly a factor with Jund, I don’t think it was nearly as much of a factor as it is with Caw. Also, I just find CawBlade so elegant in the way it all works together. As Lauren Lee (@mulldrifting) put in an awesome tweet: “In my experience, aggro-control is about tempo; midrange is about board presence; control is about cards/endgame. Caw does all of it.”
So, after that homage, here was the list I played. I expected a lot of aggro in the local meta and not very much in the way of mirror matches, so I went with a build with two main deck Day of Judgment and no main deck Divine Offering, which seems to becoming more common in the PTQ scene.
16 players at Montag’s Games, so four rounds of Swiss cutting to top 8 with only top 4 earning.
Round 1: Kelly, playing RDW
I’d never seen Kelly at Montag’s before. She seemed both capable and was fun to play against, so I hope she comes around again. Game 1 was a disaster. She went first, leading off with a Spikeshot Elder on both turn 1 and turn 2. My turn 2 I got a Mystic into a Batterskull, but she had a Burst Lightning to kill the Kor so I couldn’t flash in the equipment. Her turn 3 was a Goblin Chieftain, and her turn 4 was a kicked Bushwhacker—too much, too fast, and not enough in the way of answers for me. I sided in 10 cards: Condemn, Purge, Flashfreezes, Spellskites, third Day, Linvala, second Batterskull. Game 2 went much better. I dropped Linvala early against her board of two Spikeshot Elders and an Ember Hauler and even had a Purge in hand when she cast Koth. Thus, I was able to hang on long enough to actually hard cast a Batterskull, even though she had killed the Mystic I had used to tutor it up. Batterskull is amazing, especially against RDW. Game 3 I also got Linvala and a Batterskull out, and then a Sword of War and Peace. She Shattered the Sword after one hit, but it was too late by then for her to come back.
1-0 matches, 2-1 games
Round 2: Paul, playing mono-Black
Paul is a regular who I’ve played many times, and is always a fun opponent. His deck was pretty interesting, and set up specifically set up to beat CawBlade. It’s hand kill, spot removal, and a few very efficient creatures: Vault Skirge, Bloodghast, Nantuko Shade, and Phyrexian Obliterator. Game 1 was ridiculous. I kept a hand of Jace, four land, and two Preordains. I won the roll and Preordained on the first turn, which netted me… a Preordain. His turn 1: Duress, and of course he took Jace. Then he blew me away by casting Surgical Extraction, naming Preordain, meaning I was down three cards and had only land in hand. I never quite made it back from that, and his Shade applied some serious beats. I think I sided in the Condemn, the Purge, the second Batterskull, and the two Spellskites. It didn’t matter, though. I got turn 2 Stoneforge to get the Sword of Feast and Famine. He killed the Mystic right away and I never drew another creature. I mostly just drew land and died pretty quickly. Not very interesting, unfortunately. We had a lot of time to kill, and I switched decks and played with Tempered Steel and mostly rolled him with it. Ah well.
1-1 matches, 2-3 games
Round 3: Daniel, playing Esper Tezzeret
Daniel is an irregular who I’ve played maybe once or twice before. He won the roll and went first. Game 1 I got turn 2 Mystic into Batterskull, he didn’t kill the Mystic, and I blocked his turn 4 Hero of Bladehold with a Germ token wearing a Batterskull that I flashed in. He did get out a Grave Titan, which I bounced with Jace, and then I got a Sword of Feast and Famine, and went to town. He never recovered and I won at 40 life. I sided in Spellskites, Condemn, and the Purge. Game 2 was pretty similar, but without the Grave Titan on his side. I felt like I kind of cruised in this one.
2-1 matches, 4-3 games
Round 4: Andrew, playing Br Vampires
Andrew is a semi-regular, and I’ve played him several times before. He won the roll and started Game 1 with a Pulse Tracker on turn 1. I got a Mystic into Batterskull on my turn 2, but he came back with Arc Trail to kill her. He beat me down for a while with the Tracker and another small Vamp, which I slowed down a little bit with an Emeria Angel and two tokens off a fetch, then Jace, and eventually I was able to hard cast the Batterskull and stabilize at 9 life. He managed to generate enough removal and chump blockers to stall for a while, but eventually I got the ‘Skull on a Hawk and he couldn’t block that at all and I carried the game. This took a while so we knew we didn’t have a lot of time for the remaining game(s). In came the Purge, the Condemn, the Spellskites, the third Day, and the second Batterskull. Game 2 I once again got out a Batterskull early on and he was never able to handle it, and I won at 41 life.
3-1 matches, 6-3 games
That was good enough to give me a good seed in the top 8, so I got to continue on.
Quarterfinals: Dillon, playing Grixis Twin
Dillon is a semi-regular at Montag’s and a strong player, so I was really looking forward to this because I wanted to see the combo in action. I also knew this was going to be a slow grinding match with a lot of “draw-go” turns, which it was. Game 1 was an epic 40-minute battle. I kept a questionable hand: two Day of Judgment, which I knew were bad against him, but the hand had three land and two Jaces. Unfortunately, he got an early Jace TMS and started fatesealing right away. I actually had three Jaces in my hand (one Beleran and two TMS), but only one source of blue mana so there was little I could do about his Jace. He was fatesealing me every turn, and my only recourse, stuck on 4 land, was to hit him with an Inkmoth Nexus equipped with the Sword of Feast and Famine I had cast on turn 3. I had to swing at Jace, though, to keep him off his ultimate, and he started hitting me with manlands. I finally drew another source of blue and tried for baby Jace, but he had a Negate (main deck, wow). My next Jace got through, though, which was big because his Jace was at like 10 counters. I managed to draw a couple more land and stick a Jace of my own, killed his manlands with Tectonic Edges, and eventually grind out a victory with a Sworded Hawk. I brought in the 4th Into the Roil, the Spellskites, the Celestial Purge, and Linvala. Game 2 he again got an early Jace and I had a Hawk with Sword of Feast and Famine on it. I actually made a horrible mistake and gave him a window to go off, tapping out to animate a Celestial Colonnade to attack Jace while attacking him with the Hawk, and he flashed in an Exarch to tap my Hawk so my land didn’t untap. If he had a Splinter Twin in hand I was dead, but fortunately he didn’t. I managed to kill his Jace next turn with my Hawk, but he Duressed me for my only answer to the combo (Into the Roil), so he had another open window to win, but again could not go off. The Sworded Hawk had him down to only two cards and I got out another Hawk with the other Sword on it and him at 8. I had two Spell Pierces in hand in case he tried to go off, he didn’t have it, and the two sworded Hawks swung for lethal. I got a little lucky in the second game, but I’ll take it.
4-1 matches. 8-3 games
My opponent in the semis was to be my round 1 opponent Kelly, but she and the other two people in the semis wanted to just split and go home. After the marathon match I just had, and the fact that I had skipped dinner and was really hungry, I agreed to it even though the RDW matchup seems pretty reasonable with Batterskull.
Thoughts on the deck: obviously, as I mentioned in the intro, CawBlade is spectacular, particularly with Batterskull, which just seems too good to be true. After losing three games in the first two rounds, I didn’t lose another game all night, which is pretty impressive (for me, anyway). There was only 1 other CawBlade there, and he didn’t make the top 8: 2-2 with bad tiebreakers. Both losses were to RDW, too, which seems a little unlucky.
What I didn’t expect was to be siding in Spellskite in literally every match. Maybe main decking them would be OK—I’d probably take out the Emeria Angels, even though that’s one of my favorite cards. I wouldn’t have brought the Spellskites in for the mirror, Elves, Valakut, or Knights (Knights have been oddly popular at Montag’s of late, but of course I didn’t face it tonight). I was really happy with the sideboard, though. Almost every time I drew a sideboard card it was perfect, and I always felt like I knew what to side in and what to take out.
Now I just have to figure out what to play next week since I don’t allow myself to play the same deck two weeks in a row…