Mage-Blade Takes Down FNM

Missed FNM last week because I went to GP Austin, where I scrubbed out at 3-3, but that let me catch the second half of the Texans’ playoff game, which was absolutely worth watching. Also played in a great side event on Sunday, Standard Sealed. One pack of everything from standard, with the exception of Innistrad, which was two packs. Lots of zany decks. I didn’t end up actually doing all that well in that, either, but it was definitely a fun format.

Anyway, I’m back, and since I played Mono-Black Infect last time around, I had to play something different. I find it humorous that Mage-Blade is now a real deck, as I designed a deck along the same lines right when Innistrad came out. It was Esper and more of a control build, and definitely not as good as the current versions, but some of the same concepts are there. Here’s that list, which my computer tells me I generated back on October 7th:

The mana base was terrible and there were too many cards with double-colored casting costs, and it never tested well, but I’m gratified to know that in the long run it had the right direction in mind. I obviously didn’t recognize how amazing Vapor Snag is, and wasn’t up on Delver, but I got Snapcaster/Blade/Haunt/Stalker/Geist, anyway. So, here’s what I actually played:

Note that this is not Gindy’s list from SCG Atlanta, though it is obviously similar. My local meta is pretty aggro-heavy and I really wanted main deck Missteps, and Swords are a little slow at a cost of 3, so I cut down to only one of those.

Five rounds of Swiss, cut to top 8.

Round 1: Mike, playing RDW
Game 1 I got turn 3 Geist, got a Pike on it, and that carried it on my last turn to live. Game 2 he burned me out with a large Shrine on his last turn to live. Game 3 I got a Stalker early and we were pretty even after that, until eventually I got a Pike on the Stalker and that won me the race thanks to a little help from Vapor Snag.
1-0 matches, 2-1 games

Round 2: Scott, playing RDW
Game 1 was very close; he got there because of a Spikeshot Elder—I didn’t realize anyone played those anymore, but it seems very good in this matchup; many Spirits died to it. I drew very badly in game 2, missed turn 3 land drop with only an Island and a Haunt out, then drew another Haunt, and missed the next land drop, and finally drew a second Island, but it was too late.
1-1 matches, 2-3 games

Round 3: Chris, playing Tempered Steel
Game 1 he got double Tempered Steel but was light on dudes and with Vapor Snags, a Geist, and a couple chumps, I got there pretty easily. Game 2 was a near thing. He opened turn 1 with triple Memnite. I played very conservatively, holding back counters and an O Ring in case of Tempered Steel. He did stick an Etched Champion but I had Spirits and Delvers to block the rest of his team, and got there with a flipped Delver wielding a Pike.
2-1 matches, 4-3 games

Round 4: Festus, playing Esper Control
Similar in spirit to the list LSV has been playing on CFB. Festus is a great guy but a slow player and I was worried about how much time we’d have to finish this. Game 1 was close; I had him down to 2 with a Gut Shot in my hand and another in the graveyard, but was facing down a Sphinx and just could not draw either a Snapcaster or the third Gut Shot. I spent the entire game with a dead Misstep in my hand. Oops. Game 2 I had decent early pressure via a turn 1 Delver, which flipped turn 2, and drew just enough permission to keep him off his big plays, which I knew were coming courtesy of a very timely Probe. Game 3 was a near thing. I drew all 4 Snapcasters through the course of the game, snapping back two counters and two Midnight Hauntings. The end was zany: Haunting end of his turn, swung my turn, he cast Day on his turn, I snapped back the Haunting end of his turn, swung, he snapped back Day, I used the Snapcaster with the Haunt, and also snapped back the Haunting to swing for the lethal 5 on the first turn of extra time. Whew.
3-1 matches, 6-4 games

Round 5: Paul, playing RDW
Since we were both guaranteed a spot in the top 8, we ID’d.
3-1-1 matches, still 6-4 games

Quarterfinals: Tyler playing WW
Not even Haunted Humans, just straight-up White Weenie with Honor of the Pure and a lot of 1 and 2 drops. Game 1 I got counters and Gut Shots and flipped a Delver early and pretty much sailed in. Game 2 was close, we went back and forth, and unfortunately the Timely and the O Ring in my hand were dead because I never drew a source of white, and he killed me on his last turn to live. Game 3 I opened with both Missteps and a Snapcaster, and countered three of his early plays, Leaked another, and pretty much cruised through with Vapor Snags.
4-1-1 matches, 8-5 games

Semifinals: Kevin, playing Uw Delver Illusions
Game 1 he kept a one-lander and was tapped out on my turn 3, so I put down a Geist. I got a Pike on it and he went all the way in three turns. Game 2 I remember my exact opening hand: Misstep, Gut Shot, Midnight Haunting, Plains, Glacial Fortress, 2 Haunts. He went Island, Delver, I Missteped, he Missteped back, and EOT I Gut Shot his Delver. Whee, five cards out turn 1 before I even played a land. My first draw step was a Leak and then next was a Pike. I Leaked his next play, cast Haunting at the end of his turn 4, put the Pike on one of the tokens. He got in once, then got Vapor Snagged, and the other Spirit carried the Pike to victory.
5-1-1 matches, 10-5 games

It was late and I wanted to get my son home since he had a sleepover the next night, so we split the finals. Not a bad night for a deck I had never played before and threw together right before heading over to FNM. The other nice thing was that last weekend at GP Austin I punted numerous times, but I played pretty clean Magic tonight. Not perfect, of course, but a lot better than I played last weekend.

A few deck comments:
• I’ve played some UR Delver and some UW Delver Illusions lately, and I definitely like this better than Illusions.
• Vapor Snag is one of the best cards in Standard when it’s in this deck. I think I boarded in the Disperse against almost everything, so I might go to main deck for that.
Gitaxian Probe was great against the control deck, but continues to underwhelm me against everything else. I think 2 would be plenty, and zero might even be right.
• I didn’t like Ratchet Bomb out of the sideboard, but then I didn’t play against Haunted Humans.
• I was very happy with the decision to run only one Sword, and I could see cutting it completely. Pike is great, though. Pike plus Geist is amazing.
• Main deck Misstep was great vs. everything except the control deck. I would definitely keep those; there are just so many juicy targets for that right now.

Also, my 11-year-old son Simon played as well. He played Mono-Black Infect, which either I or he have played a few times now. Here’s the current list:

Here’s how it went for him:

• Won 2-0 vs. a Black-Red Vampires deck, which he said wasn’t a very good deck.
• Won 2-1 vs. Esper Control, my round 4 opponent.
• Lost 2-0 vs. Haunted Humans. Deck is solid against Humans, that was a little odd.
• Lost 2-1 vs. RDW. Apparently drew zero Spellskites in game 3, despite boarding up to 4. Grr.
• Won 2-0 vs. a “weird Quicksilver Amulet deck” in a very fast match.

Not a bad showing, really, considering that he’s 11.