First Place at M12 Release

I had to miss the M12 prerelease because of an annual family reunion/camping trip near Rochester, NY. Following that, I had a work obligation in North Conway, NH. So, I drove starting on Friday afternoon. Based on what I thought I could do each day, I figured the best stopping point for Friday night was Amsterdam, NY. Luckily for me, the WotC site let me know that a new shop called Prof. Bond’s Emporium was having a release party on Friday evening. So, I packed some sleeves, dice, a deckbox, and playmat and headed over for the party. The store itself is beautiful, just a really nice gaming space. Players were all incredibly friendly and welcoming to this out of town stranger. Overall, I think the level of competition is not what I’m used to at my local game shop, but I think having a store available to the audience will improve everyone’s game. Turnout was pretty good, but I don’t think the five rounds of swiss was quite necessary for the size of crowd. Overall, though, it was a terrific time and I was very happy to be able to play with M12 cards for the first time.

Here’s what I opened:

Yes, it’s a bomb-tastic card pool. The three obvious bombs are, of course, Gideon, Chandra, and Mind Control. Turns out that I’d classify Druidic Satchel a bomb in any deck not trying to race, so that was four. Given that my creature base was not exactly awe-inspiring in any color, I decided that the best route to victory was… stall. Play the long game, get the bombs out, and grind out the wins.

This of course meant three colors, which I generally dislike in any format like this when I can’t play some kind of green ramp/fixing, but I figured I had a Manalith and not very many double-color cards until the casting costs got a little higher, so it’d be worth a shot. I will admit that I flirted with the idea of a heavier Red build, as I do like Fling, particularly with Lightning Elemental, but that was just too aggro for what the rest of the deck felt like it wanted to do.

Here’s the list I played:

My most often sided in cards were Negate, Celestial Purge, Manic Vandal, Turn to Frog, and Circle of Flame. I may have sided Act of Treason once as well.

I know some of the decisions are pretty weird, and now post-event, even I can’t quite remember exactly what I was thinking. For example, I’m not sure about 2 red 1-drops with only 4 Mountains. The Thran Golem is the biggest beater, and yet I ran only one enchantment when I had two Divine Favors available. The thing about the Thran Golem is that he represents such a potential threat that he garnered an awful lot of attention when he hit the table. Still probably should have run the Aven Fleetwing or even the Phantasmal Dragon in its place, maindecked the Negate, and cut the one Divine Favor completely. Alternatively, I should have cut the Master Thief from the main and run both Divine Favors.

I didn’t take notes, so everyone will have to excuse my many memory flaws here.

R1: Dave, playing RW
This one is now kind of lost in my mind. Mainly, what I remember was grinding out a very long victory in game 1 largely through the magic of the Satchel. I do recall that I got Chandra and then he immediately top-decked an O Ring, which was unfun. However, the Satchel did everything in this game: built up my life total, kept me drawing gas, made tokens to chump and then later attack with. I remember when that card was spoiled and my first thought was “wow, that seems like it’ll be really good in Limited.” I didn’t know the half of it. Game 2 we were in danger of timing out and I punted by tapping wrong when I drew what was actually an answer to his 12/12 Furyborn Hellkite. We didn’t get to a game 3. Not a good start.
0-0-1 matches, 1-1 games

R2: Nick, playing WB
Nick had a good build with a Royal Assassin in it, but just had no answer to my bombs (I know in one game I had both Planeswalkers out, and Game 2 chumped almost every attack of his with Saproling tokens thanks to the Satchel) and I pretty much plowed through these two games.
1-0-1 matches, 3-1 games

R3: Cody, playing RW
Game 1 I kept a two-lander (on the draw) with both a Mountain and an Island in it, never drew a Plains the whole game, and died with five white cards in my hand, including Gideon… and he pummeled me with his Gideon. Game 2 he killed me very quickly with the amazing combo of Goblin Tunneler and Firebreathing on a 1/1, and I was again color-screwed. Pretty much an all-around spanking.
1-1-1 matches, 3-3 games, a ludicrous record given the conditions.

R4: Jeff?, playing GU
His deck had green fatties and a couple nice blue cards, but basically no removal and no way to get through Gideon’s Lawkeepers and Gideon himself. I think I ultimated Chandra once in this match as well, and I know in game 2 that I won by Mind Controlling a Giant Spider that had Trollhide on it. Seemed good.
2-1-1 matches, 5-3 games

R5: Brett, playing BR
Game 1 he took by getting a Gorehorn Minotaurs out after pinging me, then giving it hexproof with Boots, then pumping it with a Goblin War Cry. Basically, all I could do was chump it, and when the 7/7 started to get through, it was ugly. When he got out a Grim Lavamancer to boot, that was it. Game 2 I got a first-turn Goblin Fireslinger that went most of the way by himself. I Mana Leaked a couple of his early plays, stole his Swiftfoot Boots with my Master Thief, and then Mind Controlled his one creature and finished him with the trio. Game 3 I don’t remember as well, though I do know that the key plays were early Mana Leaks and when I Mind Controlled a creature of his that had Dark Favor on it.
3-1-1 matches, 7-4 games

Quarters: Nick, playing WB
Rematch from round 2. Game 1 he had to mull down to 4 and there was just no way he could beat me with that. Game 2 was a little more back and forth, but only a little. Unfortunately I don’t remember it all that well, other than once again getting huge advantage out of the Satchel, but it was pretty one-sided.
4-1-1 matches, 9-4 games

Semis: Matt, playing WG
Game 1 he kept a 1-lander on a mull to 6 and didn’t draw a second land until it was way, way too late. He discarded a lot of cards, including his three bombs: Garruk, a Sun Titan, and an Archon of Justice. Game 2 was more interesting, including a really horrific punt, but I still won it. The punt: He got out both the Archon and a Sun Titan, and I drew into Mind Control… and took the Titan. Hunh? So, of course I had to kill the Archon at some point, and so he killed the Mind Control. Duh. However, the good news is that he killed that instead of the Gideon that I had out, and I got a Lawkeeper, and that allowed me to keep the Titan off me long enough to grind out enough card advantage through the Satchel and swing enough life through my Alabaster Mage that I was able to take it in a long game.
5-1-1 matches, 11-4 games

Finals: Mike, playing BW
Game 1 was a medium-length affair decided primarily by my inability to draw things other than land; I think I died with 12 of my 16 lands on the table having drawn little gas. Game 2 I don’t really remember all that well, but I won it without too much difficulty. He did Doom Blade Gideon when I attacked with him, but I also had Chandra and was able to ultimate her while still keeping her on the board (also killing his only creature), and took it home with her and a Fireslinger. Game 3 I played an early Goblin Fireslinger followed by Boots, he had turn 2 and 3 Stormfront Pegasus and a turn 4 Cemetary Reaper. Here’s where I punted in this game: On my turn 3 I didn’t equip the Boots on the Fireslinger. On turn 4, I dropped Chandra and killed a Pegasus, figuring that my Fireslinger could chump the Reaper and then kill the other Pegasus the next turn. Of course he had a Sorin’s Thirst to kill the Slinger and then killed Chandra by attacking into her. Bleah. He got two Zombie tokens out of the Reaper but I was able to Mind Control it to make his tokens smaller, and forced him to use a Celestial Purge to kill his own Reaper. I got Gideon and then a Dignitary and a Divine Favor on the Dignitary, and then a Lawkeeper, which I protected from his spot removal with Boots. He made a Zombie token indestructible with an Aegis Angel, but I killed the Angel with Gideon after tapping with the Lawkeeper. He did get me down to 6, but after that, he couldn’t attack through the 2/6 Dignitary meaning I was free to use Gideon alternatively as an assassin and a fog. He had been holding the same one card since I cast Gideon, which I read as the Doom Blade, so I never attacked with Gideon and just waited for creatures to come and won with Skywinder Drake and Alabaster Mage and a couple Saproling tokens created by the Satchel.
6-1-1 matches, 13-5 games

So, for eight rounds of work, I got… 5 packs of M12. Seems a little light if we had enough people to justify 5 rounds of Swiss, but I had a good time, and that’s what was key.

Some comments on cards: Chandra is very good, but not nearly as good as Gideon, at least in a deck like this. Don’t get me wrong, she’s still very good, but she’s a bit slow to get to ultimate, and I didn’t use her -2 at all. Gideon, on the other hand, was absolutely fantastic. Druidic Satchel is terrific; in particular, it’s a real beating to throw lands directly into play to be able to continuously draw gas in the mid to late game. Think about that for a second—how many Limited games end up in board stalemates, with the winning player being the one able to draw out of it? Now, think about building up your available mana while never drawing land in the mid to late game. It’s pretty insane.

Alabaster Mage is another card I thought would be good but is, in fact, much better than just “good.” The fact that the ability can be used the turn he comes into play and can be used multiple times in a turn is outstanding; I won several games on the back of life gained this way. Master Thief was a little disappointing and I’d relegate him to sideboard duty in the future. Unsummon is really good in a format where Bloodthirst means creatures often have counters on them, and there are a fair number of token generators and creature enchantments as well. Manalith is also even better than expected; the fact that it comes in ready to use means you can cast it on turn 4 and then still have two mana open for a counter, which I did several times. Absolutely a must-run, if you’re in a three-color deck, and worth thinking about even if you’re in two.

In general the format seems sort of medium speed, not blazing fast like Zendikar but not glacial like Rise of the Eldrazi. I think in draft it’ll work out to be a little faster than M11 because some of the Bloodthirst guys seems pretty aggressive, but II don’t yet have as good a feel for it as M11 as I haven’t drafted it yet, but it seems like a pretty well-balanced format in terms of both speed and color parity. Looking forward to drafting it next FNM!

SuperFriends and TezzeredSteel FNM report, 7/1/2011

That’s right, I’m reporting on FNM for two players… plus there will be a bonus decklist at the end!

The two players are me and my 10-year-old son, Simon. This was his second outing to Montag’s for FNM. We’ve been playing at home for a while and I figured he was ready for some real tournament Magic as long as he played something simple. So I built a Tempered Steel deck for him that he played to a 1-2-1 record with his one win being a bye. However, all his matches went to three games. He made a lot of play and sideboarding mistakes, even though we had talked about it beforehand, but for his first time out I thought he did pretty well. So I took him again, and I’ll cover it from his end after going over my tournament.

So, my deck. I’m a big fan of Planeswalker-centered decks running Day of Judgment; probably more fond of it than I should be. Anyway, back when Shards block was still legal, I enjoyed the SuperFriends deck of that time. It’s not the same, of course, without cards like Ajani Vengeant, Oblivion Ring, and Martial Coup. However, there are some new cards like Koth, Venser, Tezzeret’s Gambit, and Preordain that seem good, so I put this together. I originally suggested this via Twitter and put it up in my last report. I didn’t like Elspeth at all in a few test games so I cut her for a Sun Titan and a Wurmcoil Engine. Here was the list:

Frankly, in testing this list a little bit, I came to not like it very much. It’s inconsistent and the mana base is shaky. I wanted to switch to a different deck but I didn’t really have time to put one together. Well, I might have been able to, but nothing really excited me other than the Sin City deck (list further down), but I couldn’t make that since I only have one set of Marsh Flats, and my son’s deck already had them, and I really didn’t have time to deal with two decks, so I just went with it.

Round 1: Joey, playing Beastmaster Ascension
The deck was ramp, lots of little guys, and of course 4 copies of Beastmaster Ascension. Game 1 I drew removal when I needed it, and the right Walkers at the right time, and he was a little land-flooded, and I took this one pretty easily. I sided in three Pyroclasms and that was it. Game 2 I got behind a little and he managed to get an Ascension active. I had 8 land out and was able to dig with a Wall of Omens into a Spreading Seas into a Day of Judgment to stabilize, but after that I could not draw out of it other than a Gideon that was turned into a token via Beast Within. Game 3 I had some early mana color issues, but managed a Koth, and managed to wipe his board, but he came back with Fresh Meat. He eventually got two Ascensions active, and managed to Beast Within Gideon again, and I just could not draw a Day to get back into it.
0-1 matches, 1-2 games

Round 2: Simon, playing Tezzered Steel (see below)
Yep, the pairings computer hates us. We had actually practiced this matchup before heading over to the store, and it’s pretty close. SuperFriends can’t always handle the early swarm, but if the game goes long, it has the edge; the combination of Day and Gideon is pretty difficult. Game 1 was long; I got two early Spreading Seas to cut off his access to double white so he couldn’t cast Tempered Steel, but he got enough creatures to make it difficult. I cleared with Day but then he got Tezz and got to draw a blocker, but I bolted it, dropped Koth, and hit Tezz with a Mountain. He followed with his second Tezz, made his Mox Opal into a 5/5, and smashed my Koth. I had to use Day to kill the 5/5 Mox and eventually killed Tezz with Gideon, and then got another Koth, and was able to get him all the way with help from a Sun Titan, though Gideon did eat a Go for the Throat shortly thereafter. Simon had used Tezz’s +1 a couple times and one time he was pretty agitated about it, and he told me afterward that yes, he got an artifact, but he had to put all four Tempered Steels on the bottom. Ouch. I sided in the two Divine Offerings and two Pyroclasms. Game 2 he got off to a bit of a slower start, I was able to 3-for-1 with Day and get Gideon and Venser up, and was able to draw many extra cards off blinking a Wall with Venser. Venser went ultimate and I finished him with two turns of Gideon plus Colonnade. A shame we had to face each other and I felt kind of bad beating him, but he took it well.
1-1 matches, 3-2 games

Round 3: Weylin, playing mono-Black
Game 1 he got off to a slow start and I got out a couple Spreading Seas and a Wall and then Venser. He came back with a Grave Titan and then I dropped a Wumcoil. He swung with the Titan which of course killed them both, but I got two tokens out of it. He had multiple Zombies, of course, and I gained still more life blocking his zombies with my tokens, and I also generated another Wall. He did get Venser down to 1 at one point, but I was able to build Venser back up and ultimate him, and he scooped. I drew a zillion cards in this game by using Venser to bounce Walls and Spreading Seas; the ludicrous card advantage really was the difference in this game. I boarded in the two Purges and maybe a Pyroclasm. Game 2 I was a little land-light and never saw a Wall. I did eventually get Koth and got in a couple swings with Mountains, but Koth doesn’t actually protect himself or the player very much and he only made a token effort to keep Koth off ultimate and mostly just swung at me for the win. Game 3 I again had colored mana problems (no white for a long time) and while I once again got Koth going and had a couple Walls for protection this time, he got down not one, but two, Phyrexian Obliterators. Man, O Ring or Path would be great… I cast every draw spell I had digging for a Purge or a Day, but saw neither, and died… with a Day as the top card in my library. Argh.
1-2 matches, 4-4 games

Round 4: Chris, playing UB Tezzeret
While I was clearly going to miss the top 8, hey, playing Magic is fun! I rarely drop unless I’m really not having fun, which happens pretty rarely. Anyway, game 1 was pretty interesting. We both did a lot of nothing the first couple of turns, then both came out with planeswalkers, him with Tezz and me with Koth. My Koth was protected by a Wall, but only for a turn as Tezz turned a Tumble Magnet into a 5/5 and swung. He had a Go for the Throat for the first Mountain that I sent at Tezz and then he held the Magnet back since I had another Wall. He got a Batterskull and I came back with a Wurmcoil. He misplayed by equipping the Batterskull onto the Magnet and swinging into the Wurmcoil. Yes, we both gained all kinds of life, but he didn’t initially realize that his 9/9 still died because of the deathtouch. Oops. He drew very little action after that, and I managed to get in with some token hits before he bounced the Batterskull, re-cast it, had it die to attacking into a deathtouch token at Gideon’s command. Somewhere around here I went ultimate with Koth after taking out Tezz with an animated Mountain. He bounced Batterskull again and re-played it, saw I had three cards in hand, and he Inquisitioned me. In response, I Dismembered the token and Bolted him twice down to 9, pinged him with a Mountain, then next turn untapped, hit him with Gideon and another Mountain ping for the game. I boarded in the two Divine Offerings and the three Luminarch Ascensions. Game 2 I took a two-lander since it also had a Bolt, an Ascension, a Divine Offering, a Day and a Koth. He started with an Inkmoth Nexus and a Tectonic Edge and just started hitting me for poison counters, which I pointed out to him did not cause loss of life after I put down the Ascension on turn 2. I drew not lands for a few turns and when he hit me with an Inquisition it was a whiff since I had drawn into both a Venser and a Gideon as well as the Koth, Day, and Wurmcoil all stuck in my hand. I bolted a Hex Parasite immediately after he cast it and he knocked two counters off the Ascension, but I finally got it active, which was important since he had a Clasp and was proliferating poison counters on me. I finally drew some land and made Koth, then was able to make Angels enough to win. We had a few spectators for this last game since the top 2 decided to bird as did some of the people who dropped, and the Luminarch Ascension got more than a few comments. “Wow, bringing it back! Killer vs. UB control.” Yep, I’m bringing it back exactly because it is so good against other control decks…
2-2 matches, 6-4 games

It would have been nice to have made the top 8, but I guess when you know your deck isn’t all that great and you still win more games than you lose, that’s OK. Mana issues were indeed a factor in more than one of my losses. Frankly, I think a straight UW build would be better (though I admit I’d miss the Bolts). Actually, the M12 version of Chandra would be pretty good here, as it’d then be possible to build it with a less Mountain-heavy mana base. Tezzeret’s Gambit is already very, very good in this deck and with Chandra in play, yikes.

However, I certainly wouldn’t bring this deck to a PTQ or even an FNM unless you just really, really like to play with Planeswalkers.

Now, on to Part II. Simon played a very straightforward Tempered Steel deck last week, and in watching him play, four things stood out: [1] Dispatch, while really nice when you have Metalcraft, is beyond awful when you don’t, [2] The deck tends to just barf up its hand and then kind of fizzle. There’s no card draw/advantage of any kind, [3] The deck has very little in the way of disrupting combo decks, other than just winning first, and [4] Simon made a lot of sideboarding mistakes. That’s pretty understandable, but I thought it would be good to help him with all of these things beforehand.

So, the deck. Essentially, it’s Esper colors to beTempered Steel and then still run Tezz and a few other black cards, most importantly Go for the Throat in the main and Memoricide in the sideboard.

Here’s the sideboarding/play guide I gave to Simon before he went in:

Red Deck Wins
+2 Refraction Trap, +1 Ajani Goldmane, +2 Celestial Purge
-3 Porcelain Legionnaire, -2 Phyrexian Revoker

+3 Celestial Purge, +2 Etched Champion
-2 Phyrexian Revoker, -1 Memnite, -1 Glint Hawk, -1 Signal Pest

Exarch Twin
+3 Memoricide, +3 Celestial Purge
-3 Legionnaire, -3 Glint Hawk
Revoker names Deceiver Exarch
Memoricide names Splinter Twin

+3 Memoricide, +2 Etched Champion
-3 Legionnaire, -1 Overseer, -1 Memnite
Memoricide names Primeval Titan

Blue-Black Control
+2 Phyrexian Revoker, +2 Etched Champion
-3 Legionnaire, -1 Memnite
Revoker names Jace Beleran or Liliana Vess

Blue-White Control
+2 Phyrexian Revoker
-2 Legionnaire
Revoker names Jace Beleran, Gideon Jura, or Venser, the Sojourner

Tempered Steel
+2 Divine Offering, +1 Ajani Goldmane, +2 Phyrexian Revoker
-3 Go for the Throat, -2 Etched Champion
Revoker names Steel Overseer

We played some test games and he liked it a lot better, especially the Go for the Throat.

Round 1: Joe, playing UW control
Joe’s got a rating in the high 1800s, multiple PTQ top 8s, day 2 of GP Fort Worth, top 16 Star City Open Dallas, etc. Basically, the store’s best player and the worst possible matchup for Simon. Game 1 Simon managed to kill Joe’s Sun Titan with a Go for the Throat but Joe just saw too many Days for Simon to hang in there. Game 2 Simon Revoked both Gideon and Jace and Joe didn’t see enough Days and Simon just ran him over. Game 3 I didn’t really see, but Simon told me Joe managed three Days and that was just too much. I was glad that Simon at least took a game off Joe, that was something.
0-1 matches, 1-2 games

Round 2: Mike, playing SuperFriends (see above)
0-2 matches, 1-4 games

Round 3: Chris, playing UB Tezzeret
I didn’t see very much of this match, either, but Simon apparently played it quite well. I looked over at one point and saw Simon was swinging with four artifact creatures, one of them being Signal Pest, and a Tempered Steel out, which seems good. Hooray! Simon won his first sanctioned tournament match, 2-0!
1-2 matches, 3-4 games

Round 4: Joey, playing Beastmaster Ascension
Simon got a really good draw in game 1, coming out with two Memnites and a Mox Opal into turn 2 Tempered Steel—pretty good. Game 2 I know Joey got an Ascension active and I think that let him outrace Simon. Game 3 Joey also got an Ascension active, but pretty late, and Simon had Tempered Steel and a timely Go for the Throat. Apparently Signal Pest was key in this game since Joey could never block it. Hey, Simon won another one!
2-2 matches, 5-5 games

By virtue of tiebreakers, Simon actually finished one ahead of me in the standings. Way to go, Simon!

I was really pleased that he managed to win two matches. He played a lot better, apparently, and that’s really good to see. He’s really coming along as a player and might be ready for something more complicated, but it’ll be a while since he will have to miss the next FNM and we’ll both miss the pre-release due to travel. After that it’ll be draft for a while, and I’m not sure he’s really ready to draft just yet. I might just buy a dozen packs of M12 just for us to play sealed against each other to give him some practice with that first.

I personally probably wouldn’t bring this to a PTQ or even FNM myself, but it’s good for a novice deck, I think, and I think the Tezz addition, while making the mana base a little worse, allows some stronger other cards. Simon mostly didn’t have mana problems except when he played me and I hit him with Spreading Seas multiple times in the same game.

So, what would I play at a PTQ, or at least the next FNM? Actually, this is what I would have played at this FNM if I could have scared up another playset of Marsh Flats. Back at the end of January, before Mirrodin Besieged came out and CawBlade became all the rage, I took down an FNM with a White-Black-Red control deck that I dubbed “Sin City.” I really liked that deck a lot and I came up with an updated build that I am now just dying to play at FNM. Here’s the list:

I know, I know, it looks like the SuperFriends deck, just with Black instead of Blue. But that makes a huge difference, as you never need any double color except for white, and while you lose Preordain, you get hand kill and better instant-speed removal. The big changes from the original version are that I got rid of the Emeria Angels, replacing one in the main deck with Lilliana and the other three with Hero of Bladehold. I think Lilliana is better against other control decks, and I think Hero with Gideon allows a faster transition from defense to offense and is much better under the Vat than the Angels. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Emeria Angel—it’s one of my favorite cards—but I think Hero is probably just a better 4-drop, in no small part because it doesn’t just die to Bolt. The three Memoricides in the board are also new additions, as that’s good against both Exarch Twin and Valakut.

Against control you side in the other two Luminarch Ascensions and the 4 Duresses and possibly the two Go for the Throats depending on exactly what they’re playing. Nine hand kill plus 4 Luminarch Ascension should be pretty good against most control decks; UB generally has no way to get rid of an Asecnsion and UW often doesn’t, either, since Revoke Existence isn’t that common. This is one of those places where the lack of Oblivion Ring (my favorite FNM promo card) is actually to your advantage.

Against aggro, you side in the Baneslayers and the Pyroclasms and again, possibly the Go for the Throats. Actually for Vampires the Baneslayers are iffy, but definitely against RDW or Elves.

Against Exarch Twin, you side in the 4 Duress, the 2 Go for the Throat, and the 3 Memoricide. I considered Combust for that slot since it’s uncounterable, but there are too many other matchups where you’d just rather have the Go for the Throat that I thought it’d be worth the risk.

Your worst matchup is, unfortunately, Valakut. You side in the 3 Memoricide, the 2 Go for the Throat, the 2 Baneslayers for sure and then it kind of depends on how they’re ramping. If they’re using Cobras, you side in the Pyros, otherwise you side in the Duresses. I know Baneslayer doesn’t really stop the combo, but life gain is relevant as sometimes they don’t draw enough in the way of Mountains to get there. If you hit once you gain five and they have to spend two triggers to kill it, which overall means that’s 4 triggers more you get to live through. Note that you keep in Day of Judgment in this matchup; Mimic Vat makes any way of removing a Primeval Titan good, because not only is a Titan under the Vat good in general, it is awesome against Valakut because it lets you tutor up your Tectonic Edges. I know it only runs two… three might actually be a possibility now that the deck can run Sphere of the Suns rather than Everflowing Chalice; I’ll have to test that out.

If anyone has thoughts or comments, you can leave ‘em here or hit me up on Twitter (@SunByrne).