BantBlade, 6/10/2011 FNM Report

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.