DGM Game Day with Junk Aristokens

Because I hadn’t played enough Magic the last two days, I also went to Game Day. I’d had quite enough of Bant Auras and wanted to go in a different direction. What I really wanted to play was the 4C Progenitor Mimic Reanimator deck because that looks like a blast, but I only have two Mimics and I knew my FLGS didn’t have any in stock so I didn’t want to show up with an incomplete deck, and it just wouldn’t be as fun to play with only two of them in the deck. I also didn’t have the time or inclination to brew, as I’m not much of a brewer to start with and even when the urge strikes me, it takes me forever to work out the deck, and I didn’t have time for that.

So instead, I went hunting for a fun rogue deck. And, courtesy of Jake Van Lunen’s very nice survey of the current Standard, I found a deck. I know it’s called “Junk Ghost Hulk” there but I like the name “Aristokens” better, as it’s really more of Junk Tokens plus Aristocrats Act 2 fusion. It’s a riot:

The deck has all kinds of cool synergies in it—very fun. Anyway, as mentioned in my last post, there was an SCG open in Dallas this weekend so attendance was down a little. 5 rounds of Swiss cutting to top 8.

Round 1: Alan playing Rakdos Aggro
Game 1 was all about Lingering Souls—I think I drew three of them and flashed them all back, and they carried the day. Would have been blown out if he had a Thundermaw, but he didn’t draw one. Game 2 I drew two Advent of the Wurm and he swung into the first one, and the second one was just more than he could handle.
1-0 matches, 2-0 games

Round 2: Josh playing Dark Bant… something. Elves, kind of
Josh is a good player (a couple PTQ top 8s) who had something of a wacky, but very powerful deck. Lots of elves including Archdruid and Gyre Sage, plus Master Biomancer and a few other goodies. Game 1 a couple Sorins did some heavy lifting, generating multiple tokens and emblems between them, and once the Blood Artist got involved it got silly, despite his Biomancer making a few very large guys on his side. It helped that he never drew a white source. I sided in the Putrefys, the Garruk, the Charms, and 2 of the Appeties (enough cards, I think). He dropped an Arbor Elf and passed, I came back with Appetite. He had two targets, an Increasing Savagery and a Master Biomancer. I had an inkling how bad the Biomancer might be from Game 1 and so I took that, which was a mistake. He dropped a Gyre Sage on turn 2 and then on turn 3 put 5 counters on it, allowing Thragtusk the next turn and flashback of Savagery the following turn. I had no removal in hand and just died to big guys—you know it’s bad when you have Advent of the Wurm in hand and it’s useless because it’s too small to really be relevant. Game 3 wasn’t very interesting—he kept a hand with an Arbor Elf and two Sunpetal Groves, and didn’t draw out of it quickly enough to answer my early pressure and then Sorin. I had him down to 2 and had a Cartel Aristocrat on board, and he realized that was game.
2-0 matches, 4-1 games

Round 3: Matt, playing Jund
Matt is a regular at my FLGS that I haven’t played in a while. I won the roll and went Doomed Traveler into Voice into Lingering Souls into High Priest and he was mostly dinking around with Farseeks. When it was clear he wasn’t going to be able to stop me from making a demon with the High Priest, he just scooped. I’m not sure exactly what I sided in; I think it was the Charms, the Putrefys, and Obzedat, but I could be remembering that wrong. Game 2 went completely the other way. I drew a slow hand and he ramped into turn 4 Thragtusk, turn 5 Thragtusk, turn 6 Thragtusk and I just couldn’t do very much with that. Game 3 was even worse. I kept a two-lander (all three colors, though), missed two land drops, and then drew… Township. Not really a good color solution. All I was doing was casting Lingering Souls and flashing it back, and he was developing a real board presence. I missed my next two land drops, finally drew a fourth land, but it was just way too late. Ugh.
2-1 matches, 5-3 games

Round 4: Audra, playing Big Naya
This was a beefy version of Naya Midrange with ramp, Aurelia, Advent, Trostani, Call of the Conclave, Sigarda; the red was mostly a splash for a couple burn spells and Aurelia. Oh, and I got rounded up for this one. Audra is not the fastest player around—every draw step is a slow roll, like she’s looking for a Bonfire and then decides to put it in her hand. Game 1 we traded a couple early blows but she just got bigger stuff out than I could deal with, and she got Sigarda out and Trostani going and she just ground me out. I sideboarded the Appetites, the Charms, and the Putrefys (again). Game 2 was an epic battle. I cast Appetite turn 1 and took Sigarda over Trostani. Turn 2 was an Aristocrat, turn 3 was Lingering Souls, and turn 4 was Sorin. Sorin stayed around for a long time, alternately making emblems and tokens, and the lifelink on those tokens kept me alive, though she gained a ton of life from Trostani before I finally drew a kill spell. I did manage to have a Tragic Slip in my hand for Aurelia and sacrificed a spirit to Aristocrat to power up morbid, so that was good, but I didn’t draw much else in the way of removal, so we were grinding out Wurm tokens against each other. I was at 6 and she was at 20 when she finally drew a Reckoner but I finally drew a removal spell, an Orzhov Charm, putting me in Helix range. However, the Reckoner was her last guy on the board, and I still had the Aristocrat and two Sorin emblems (Sorin was dead by this time), and managed to get there by (finally) drawing a Blood Artist. I think we both had like 14 lands in play at this point—it was a very long game. We had less than five minutes on the clock when it ended. I didn’t think we’d make it through game 3, and we didn’t. I will say that if the game had been allowed to finish, I was in a fair amount of trouble, as she was at 43 life (Trostani again; where was all that removal?) and I was at 14, but we were stalled out such that there were no productive attacks to be had on either side.
2-1-1 matches, 6-4-1 games

Round 5: John, playing Naya
So, I again got rounded up. John could draw in, but I couldn’t, so we had to play it. There was still some outside chance he could get in if he lost, so he wasn’t too upset at his bad luck of being rounded down. His build was a little more midrange, but definitely not the Blitz-style Naya deck. Game 1 was really interesting. I started off with Doomed Traveler into Blood Artist into Aristocrat into Sorin. Sorin made a token, then got hit by a Resto that was flashed in for no value at the end of my turn. Sorin gave me one more token before dying to the Resto. However, I had two more Sorins in hand. The second Sorin made an emblem and got eaten by a second Resto. He followed that Resto with an Assemble the Legion, which I had no way to interact with. Sorin #3 came out and made an emblem before dying to Resto. I got in for a few more to get John down to 11, but his next turn had him up to six soldier tokens and I knew I just didn’t have the numbers… so I swung with the Aristocrat and a vampire token for 7. No blocks, putting John at four with one card in hand that I guessed probably wasn’t instant-speed life gain, and I had a total of five creatures in play, so I sacced the other for to the Aristocrat, draining him for four and the game. I don’t think he saw that coming. Game 2 was curvetastic for me. Doomed Traveler into Voice into Varolz, follow with Blood Artist, sac the Traveler to regenerate Varolz from a burn spell, scavenge the Traveler onto the spirit token, Putrify a blocker, swing in to bring him to 2 with his only permanent being Assemble the Legion at 1 counter, concession. Yay, into the top 8 for me. Unfortunately, John’s breakers weren’t good enough and he didn’t get in.
3-1-1 matches, 8-4-1 games

Quarterfinals: Bobby, playing Boros Aggro
This was pretty dumb, actually. Basically, both games he got Legion Loyalist on turn 1, meaning all the Doomed Travelers and Lingering Souls and Advent of the Wurms in the world weren’t going to stop his rush, and the High Priest I drew in game 1 just wasn’t going to come on line fast enough to save me. Maybe if I had managed to draw a single removal spell in either game it would have helped, but I didn’t. Actually, that’s not quite true, as I did draw one Orzhov Charm game 1 when I was at 4 life and him with a Boros Reckoner on board. Not exactly helpful.
3-2-1 matches, 8-6-1 games

The last match was awful, but overall not a bad showing for having found the decklist the morning of the tournament and throwing it together, then playing it for the first time in round 1 of the tournament. Also on the upside, I got two packs for finishing in the top 8, and they had Ral Zarek in one and Ætherling in the other, so that was pretty decent.

Now, comments on the deck. As I noted in the intro, this deck is really a cross between Junk Tokens and The Aristocrats Act 2. Junk Tokens isn’t a particularly popular archetype right now, but it does work together with some of the tricks in the Aristocrats, but it does give up the explosive power of Blasphemous Act for a more grindy, midrange feel.

The deck is fun to play. The synergy between Cartel Aristocrat, Blood Artist, Voice of Resurgence, and Varolz is great, and enables all kinds of fun shenanigans. However fun these interactions are, they mostly aren’t fast, and while they can be useful, they aren’t always all that powerful. The biggest scavenge target in the deck is Voice, which is +2/+2—nothing to sneeze at, but not exactly overwhelming. In principle it seems like it ought to be really good against aggro decks with all the tokens and incremental life gain, but if the aggro opponent is running Legion Loyalist and you don’t draw a removal spell for that guy, you will get run over even with many blockers on the table. I didn’t get to play against any control decks, but it seems like it ought to be highly resilient to sweepers and sacrifice effects, as you would expect from a token deck. So the big question is how the deck plays against other midrange decks. It is somewhat weak against large creatures, especially if those creatures have trample. There’s a fair amount of removal in the deck (and it’s generally easy to have morbid live for Tragic Slip) but if you don’t draw it, an opposing Thragtusk or Olivia can be a real problem, and Angel of Serenity seems like a blowout. I think I need to play it more against other midrange decks to get a clearer sense of those matchups. Still, a very fun deck to experiment with, even if it may not be quite Tier 1 right now.

FNM and TCG Player with Bant Auras

So, this week I did something I almost never do: I played the same deck multiple tournaments in a row. I know it hurts my consistency to constantly be fiddling with different decks; you don’t really learn all the subtleties of a particular deck until you’ve played it a bunch. So I thought I’d play one deck a bunch. Unfortunately, I didn’t really think that cunning plan all the way through, because the deck I played is not one that has a lot of subtleties. However, it’s a good deck, and lessons were learned, so I thought I should write them down.

The deck, of course, is Bant Auras (a.k.a. Bant Hexproof). It’s straightforward and only a few cards different than the one I played at the most recent Sunday Standard at my FLGS:

The differences: (1) Got rid of Fencing Ace in favor of Loxodon Smiter. I came to really dislike the Ace, because it just dies to everything and simply isn’t any kind of threat on its own. Yes, it can be better when it’s suited up, but the Smiter just wasn’t doing it for me. (2) I changed up the sideboard, adding two Rootborn Defenses in place of Selesnya Charm. I expected more Supreme Verdict and Sphinx’s Revelation, which are bad for this deck, and can only really be managed by Nevermore and cards like Rootborn Defenses. Turns out this sideboard probably wasn’t optimal; Strangleroot Geist would have been much better than Nevermore, though I’m still not sold on Selesnya Charm.

Anyway, on to the matches.

Tournament 1, May 24th: Friday Night Magic

There was an SCG Open in Dallas this weekend, plus it was a holiday weekend, which meant attendance wasn’t great, only 17 players, so 4 rounds cutting to top 8.

Round 1: Ryan, playing Junk Midrange (not Reanimator)
Game 1 I got off to a slow start, and he was the one who ended up with a Fencing Ace with Unflinching Courage on it, and then later he got a Hydra out, and I lost that race. Game 2 I got early Geist with Courage and something else, and ran him over easily. Game 3 was similar, though this time it was an early Stalker instead of a Geist.
1-0 matches, 2-1 games

Round 2: Melody, playing Possibility Exhaustion
What, you might ask, is Possibility Exhaustion? It’s a RWU combo deck based on Possibility Storm and Cure of Exhaustion. Once your opponent gets that, you cannot cast another spell for the rest of the game. Other than that, it’s a control deck with lots of sweepers and card draw. The earliest the combo can come down is turn 5, but if it does and you don’t have any way to get rid of enchantments, you have to get there with whatever creatures you have on the board at the time the combo comes down. Urgh. Game 1 I punted, getting her down to 2 and failing to pump with the Simic Charm in my hand, and she came back with a Supreme Verdict and then next turn, the combo. Oops. I sided in all the Nevermores, the Negates, and the Ray. I got Nevermore for Curse of Exhaustion but she did get down a Possibility Storm. Let me tell you, playing Magic with one of those in play is an experience in annoyance. You cast what you have, and hope it turns into something. I managed to get two Stalkers on board, but no enchantments, which was not a fast enough clock. I finally turned a Pilgrim into a Smiter, had a Ray in hand that turned into a Negate for her Terminus, and won the day. Game 3 I got turn 2 Geist, turn 3 Rancor, sat back on a Negate and brought it home quickly.
2-0 matches, 4-2 games

Round 3: John, playing Junk Rites
John is one of the top players at the store; he makes very few mistakes, and always plays a Tier 1 deck. Fortunately, I think this particular matchup favors the Bant deck. Game 1 I got an early Giest suited up and was bashing for 9 with lifelink plus the Angel token. He even got an Angel of Serenity out, but that doesn’t stop Ghost Pants. I boarded in the Ground Seals and maybe the Feeling of Dread and off we went. I did not get a great start, though not an awful one, with a turn 2 Voice which got Rancor. He blocked it for a trade, and I followed with a Stalker and a Pilgrim. When I cast Rancor on the Stalker, he blew me out with Golgari Charm, a nice little 4-for-1. Oops, forgot about that card. The good news is that I had a Smiter next turn, and drew into the enchantments I needed, so he carried the day. This deck just really punishes decks that can’t race and don’t have enough removal, which is where Junk Rites sits.
3-0 matches, 6-2 games

Round 4: John, playing BR Zombies
We ID’d, something he had never done before—he’s a relatively recent convert from kitchen table to the tournament scene, but coming along really strong of late. We played three games without sideboard just for funsies, and I won games 1 and 3 of those. This is actually not the best matchup, since BR Zombies can race pretty well and has enough removal that a hexproof guy is pretty much a requirement. Game 1 I got it off a turn 2 Stalker that got suited up, game 2 I didn’t get anyone hexproof and lost the race to Messengers, and game 3 I won with an early lifelinked Geist.
3-0-1 matches, 6-2 games

Quarterfinals: Zach, playing BR Vampires
Vampires? Seriously? In the top 8? I guess it was a softer field than usual. He won the roll and ran out an early Vampire Nighthawk to my Stalker, then he followed with a Stromkirk Captain. Turns out that’s actually pretty good if you’re a deck with no removal, so we had to race. I eventually got lifelink on the Stalker to make up for the lifelink on his Nighthawk and then slowly drew into enough enchantments to win the race with his other vampires. I sided in Feeling of Dread and the Nearheath Pilgrims. Game 2 I got an early Geist followed by Rancor and Spectral Flight and hit him for 10. He had a Captain again, and then put out a Nighthawk, which could actually block and kill Geist. Good think I had the Feeling of Dread in hand.
4-0-1 matches, 8-2 games

The top 4 were Melody and John (from round 3) and someone I didn’t know playing BW Tokens. I rather liked all those matchups but everyone else wanted to split to play EDH, so I agreed to it. I have to remember when I agree to top 4 splits at FNM to make getting a promo one of the conditions, though I already have one of this month’s promos from the previous week.

The deck did exactly what I wanted it to, so I was happy to sleeve it up for the next day’s tournament.

Tournament 2, May 25th: TCG Player Platinum Qualifier $1k

Houston hosts a comic con of its own every year called Comicpalooza. The relevant thing for me is that it was also hosting a TCG Player Platinum, which is a $1k event. With an SCG open within driving distance, I figured the field would be reasonable. Turns out it was not only reasonable, but quite small: only 48 players showed up. My 12-year-old son Simon came with me with his UB Zombies deck that has been doing really well at our FLGS. The real downside to the tournament was that the start time was listed as noon, but the room was really well-hidden so they gave people some extra time to find it… but they gave way too much extra time, so we started nearly two hours late. Look, an hour is excusable, even reasonable, under the circumstances, but two hours? Come on.

Anyway, we eventually got started. I was really optimistic, as I’d been playing pretty well and the deck had been cooperating. Ha, ha.

Round 1: Paul, playing RDW
RDW is not exactly the best matchup, since it can race. Pretty much like BR Zombies, I have to get hexproof guys or lifelink to win. The good news was that game 1, I won the roll, got turn 2 Geist, turn 3 Rancor and Spectral Flight, and killed him in two attacks. The bad news was that he still managed to get me down to 8, so on the draw I’d have been dead, even with that opener. Game 2 illustrated that problem pretty well; I had both a Pilgrim and a Geist in my opener (and a Smiter, which is a good roadblock against RDW) and a couple auras, but a Sunpetal Grove as my only green source. I guess I should have mulliganed that hand, as I lost with him still at 20. Game 3 I probably should have mulliganed again, as my opener was four land, two Geists, and an Unflinching Courage. Unfortunately, in the four draw steps I got, I drew… four more land. Even with the lifelink on the Geist, I could not race him. I hit him twice down to 4 but still died. If I had drawn a single chump blocker I think I should have had that one. Ah, well, variance…
0-1 matches, 1-2 games

Round 2: Dominic playing RUG PeddleCaster
I lost the roll and he played a turn 2 Nighshade Peddler followed by a turn 3 Izzet Staticaster, stranding the pair of Smiters in my hand. From there, I drew essentially only land for the next five turns… but I wasn’t dead, because he wasn’t drawing anything either. (I was taking one per turn from the Peddler.) I finally drew a Stalker and immediately suited him up and hit for 7 with lifelink the next turn. He also finally started to draw action but he could not race the 14-point swing I was generating per turn. Game 2 was one that he readily admitted he had no business winning. I got an early Geist, suited him up, and hit for 10… and then he dropped Glaring Spotlight and killed the Geist. Fine, I played another Geist, he played a Huntmaster. I suited up the Geist, which he double-blocked but it still put him at 1. I played Giest number three and still hand a Rancor. He topdecked… Thragtusk, going back to 6. I decided I had to hit him, but that again only put him at 1. Grr. I drew and played a Pilgrim, and put Rancor on him… but that didn’t get me past the beast token. My next four draws were, you guessed it, land. He came back with Huntmaster and Ral Zarek and a second Huntmaster, and killed the Pilgrim when his pair of Huntmasters flipped because I had no spell to play. OK, fine, game three. My opener was Stalker, Simic Charm, and five land. Not a keeper. My six had no land. My five had no land. My four, however, had two land in it. It turns out, however, that four cards is not enough to win with, especially when your opponent plays Huntmaster on turn 3 and 4 (he had Farseek on 2). Yeah, my Rancor’d Voice of Resurgence could hang with that. Ultimate suckage. 0-2, but I refused to drop because 4-2 could still make top 16 and my son was 1-1 so he wasn’t going anywhere, anyway. Still, not really the start I was hoping for.
0-2 matches, 2-4 games

Round 3: Robert, playing Boros Aggro
My round 1 opponent lost and I was literally at the bottom table–worst record with the worst tiebreaks. Whee. Worse, my opponent was playing what looked a hell of a lot like my DGM prerelease deck. I lost the roll, but kept since I had a Geist and some auras in hand. I still lost this game, on the funniest thing ever. He dropped a Boros Elite on turn 1, and on turn 2 dropped a Syndic of Tithes. Turn 3 he played a Firefist Striker and extorted. That one extort won him the game. Why? I swung back for ten (Geist plus Spectral plus Rancor), which put him at… 11. I could not kill him next turn and so I was dead to a haste creature or a burn spell. I had not other play so I had to just swing and hope. I hit him to 1 and died to I don’t remember which. I guess I could have held the Geist back to block, but there was no other draw that got me out since the Striker would have prevented any other creature I could have put in the way from blocking. Grr. In went the Nearheath Pilgrims, the Fogs, and the Feeling of Dread. Game 2 I mulled to five (ugh), keeping four land and a Stalker. Fortunately, the top of my deck was kind and gave me Courage on turn 3 followed by a pair of Ethereal Armors. Game 3 I got an early Geist and got him suited up and killed him in three attacks, including a second attack with Courage, bringing my life from 6 to 12 so I could win the race. Of course, the thing that even kept me at 6 was… Fog. Tech! And fortunately I got off the schnide, which was good.
1-2 matches, 4-5 games

Round 4: Clark, playing RWU
Clark’s deck was something between a midrange deck and a control deck. I got turn 2 Stalker with Courage and he went all the way, though on his last turn to live Clark did burn me down to 11. In went the Negates, the Rootborn Defenses, and two Nevermores. Game 2 was a near thing. The key thing was me drawing both Negates and both Nevermores. I managed to nullify both Revelation and Verdict and Negated a key Helix along the way, and actually outraced an Ætherling with a 8/6 flying, trampling Loxodon Smiter—one of the few things Ætherling cannot do is fly. He died with both a Revelation and a Verdict in hand and was none too pleased about it. Not really my best matchup but I got there. I was also finally above .500 in games, which was good.
2-2 matches, 6-5 games

Round 5: Chuck, playing Gruul Aggro
Chuck was top 4 in Texas States the weekend before with the same deck, so he was a capable pilot with a good deck, and a bad matchup for my deck. Game 1 proved that really effectively; he got the god draw, turn 1 Stromkirk Noble, turn 2 Burning-Tree into Firefist Striker, turn 3 Flinthoof Boar with haste, turn 4 Hellrider. Yeah, OK, no way I’m beating that. In went the Nearheath Pilgrims, the Fogs, and the Feeling of Dread. Game 2 he mulled to five, kept a one-lander, and was looking at turn 2 Geist and had no second land to play, so he just scooped. Game 3 was more interesting. He burned my turn 1 Avacyn’s Pilgrim, which I followed up with a turn 2 Nearheath Pilgrim and I could tell he was annoyed with that play. I followed with Geist, bonded to the Pilgrim. I then had turn 4 Spectral Flight plus Ethereal Armor, hit him for 10 and gained six back up to 17. He came back with a kill for the Pilgrim but did not have the damage to kill me, and I had another Armor to hit him for a zillion. He was annoyed that he didn’t have the mana for a Reckoner because he drew the one Forest in the deck, but I don’t see how even a turn 3 Reckoner was going to get him out of that. Nice to now be above .500 in matches after the horrible start I had.
3-2 matches, 8-6 games

Round 6: Ryan, playing Junk Rites
Yay, a midrange deck! I lost the roll and he opened with a Pilgrim off a Temple Garden, and I opened with a Pilgrim as well. His turn 2 was swing with the Pilgrim, land, go. My turn 2 was Geist. My turn 3 was Armor, Armor, swing for 12. He scooped. I put in the two Ground Seals. I have to admit I don’t really remember how game 2 went other than that I didn’t have much going on and he managed both a Thragtusk and a Centaur Healer during that game. Game 3 I got an early Voice and a Geist but no auras and he kept holding up 4 mana on his turn, which I read as Resto. When I drew the second Geist I tested that, and he did indeed have the Resto. I drew auras after that, including Courage, trampling over another Resto, then drew Armor, then Armor, and that was it.
4-2 matches, 10-7 games

I had the worst tiebreakers of all the 4-2s (by rather a lot), so 4-2 was only good enough for 16th, but given the horrible start I was pretty OK with that. Unfortunately, 16th wasn’t enough for cash, but I got a very nice playmat and 10 TCGPlayer points, though I’m not sure what good those are since there are few TCG events in my area, so getting the other 10 necessary to go to their $50K tournament in November seems unlikely, not that I could make it anyway—November is horrible time for me to be traveling.

Deck Notes

Anyway, the deck. It’s not like I could say I didn’t know what I was getting into with this deck. First, it’s inconsistent. It’s a high-risk, high-reward deck. The great draws are fantastic–turn 2 Geist plus a meaningful aura can win against most opposition. The bad draws are unplayable, so you have to be willing to mulligan aggressively, which sometimes backfires. It’s not a hard desk to play in terms of the number of decisions that have to be made, but because the deck is so “all in” on its core strategy, the decisions you do have to make (frequently, the decision is “can I win if I just race?”) are very high-impact.

Second, it’s pretty matchup-dependent. Its best matchup is against midrange decks like Jund and Junk Rites, and there are a lot of those in the field right now. It can be soft to sacrifice effects (e.g., Liliana) that do appear in some of those decks, but that’s not a fatal weakness and can often be played around. It does not match up particularly well with the premier aggro decks because it can be out-raced; the better draws of Gruul Aggro, for instance, are very difficult to beat. Control decks are a mixed bag: RWU isn’t too bad, but Esper control seems like a tougher matchup because of the possible sacrifice effects; Far // Away seems like a particularly good card against Bant Auras, though I haven’t actually played that matchup.

Were I to play it again, I wouldn’t modify the main deck at all; I strongly prefer Loxodon Smiter over Fencing Ace, but that may be a matter of personal preference. I would change the sideboard, however. I did not fully appreciate why some people are running Strangleroot Geist in the sideboard, but now I get it. SG buys time against the aggro decks, being able to trade with most of the stuff in those decks more than once. It’s also good against sweepers and sacrifice effects. It’s good enough here that I would consider running it main deck if it weren’t for the GG casting cost.

The one real upside to this deck, particularly for long tournaments, is that the matches are usually short, one way or the other. It’s much less draining to get through many rounds when your matches take 10–15 minutes.

Early DGM Standard Metagame Overview: 2013 Spring States

This is, in some ways, almost scooped by a very nice survey of the current Standard by Jacob Van Lunen appearing on the mothership. I’d refer you there for decklists for almost all the archetypes mentioned here, though I will have a couple comments on some of them.

Van Lunen’s piece does a great job of detailing what is in the metagame, but it doesn’t describe how much of each thing there really is in the meta. That’s my main purpose here.

First, what I did: I looked at all 368 top 8 decks posted for the 2013 TCGPlayer Spring States. States are an interesting meta, not quite a PTQ but more competitive than your average FNM. By looking at the top 8, however, i think it may provide some insight into what might be expected to be found running around a PTQ or maybe an SCG Open (of which there are two Standard Opens in Dallas this week, plus a TCGPlayer 1K in Houston—what’s up with Texas this weekend?). It’s also not quite the MTGO metagame, but again, I think it’s an interesting picture. The data aren’t perfect, of course, since the listings on the site aren’t always consistently named, but I think there’s enough overall data to overwhelm that little bit of noise.

So, I did a little counting and aggregating across decklists, and generated this:

wpid-StatesMeta46States-2013-05-23-23-38.png

That is a lot fewer overall archetypes than appeared in Van Lunen’s piece, but of course the “other” slice of the pie is quite large here. That “other” slice represents all decks with less than 2% of the metagame, 47 different archetypes spread across 100 decks.

So, your Big Two decks are clearly Jund Midrange and Junk Rites. Junk Rites was maybe not the consensus “best deck” before Dragon’s Maze, but it was pretty clearly one of the top “decks to beat.” It still is, but it looks like at the top tables, there are more Jund Midrange decks being played. Sire of Insanity is be the big addition from Dragon’s Maze.

Our next two decks are Bant Auras, a deck that was popular for a while then went away, and now is back, probably mostly because of Armadill…err, Unflinching Courage. (Voice of Resurgence is pretty good in that deck as well), and Gruul Aggro, a deck that mostly doesn’t run any Dragon’s Maze cards at all.

The real takeaway, though, is that the metagame has a lot of variety in it. There is no single “deck to beat” and a lot of different things can be successful right now. Control continues to be a little down, though I have a suspicion that as Ætherling starts to show up in standard, we may see at least a little bit of a comeback for control. (Esper control also go Far // Away and RWU got Turn // Burn, both of which seem very viable.)

I tweeted an earlier version of this graph to Aaron Forsythe, head of WotC R&D, to get his reaction. Here was his reply:

wpid-PastedGraphic-2013-05-23-23-38.png

It is indeed very green. In fact, a substantial proportion (69%) of the “other” slice include decks that run Forests (remember, many shocklands count as Forests). Green is almost everywhere in the current metagame. Aristocrats, Esper Control, American Midrange, and a few rogue decks aren’t running green; everyone else is.

After I tweeted another version of the graph—which Aaron kindly retweeted—@joshuamilliken asked a very pertinent question: Which decks actually won those top 8s? So I generated another graph, this time with just the winners, and something interesting emerged:

wpid-46States1st-2013-05-23-23-38.png

Whoa! What happened to Junk Rites? And look how hot Naya Humans (also commonly called Naya Blitz) is, relative to how many made the top 8. Also, looks like going rogue can get you to the top 8, but it’s not as good a bet once it gets there. Note that American Midrange, Naya Midrange, and Bant Flash are now part of the “other” category, and that all 8 decks in the “other” category are singletons. (Esper Control is not—not a single Esper Control pilot won any of these 46 states.)

So what’s going on?

I think Jund Midrange gains here because it’s a hard deck to hate out. Look at a typical Jund Midrange 1st-place list from States. It’s just a collection of strong, moderately synergistic cards from the Jund colors. There’s no one clear strategy to hate out there. True, it’s not super fast, but it has a lot of removal for the early game and life gain for the middle game, plus ‘walkers and Olivia for the long game. There’s no obvious “sideboard this particular card” that handles this deck, so it’s pretty resilient against the field. I also think Sire is helping Jund in the control matchups.

The one place you’d think it might be weak, particularly game 1, is against Junk Rites. However, what’s particularly interesting here is that I took a more careful look at the 12 Jund Midrange decks that came in first, and the majority of them (I think it was 7) run at least one, and often two, Ground Seal in the main deck. That’s right, not just in the sideboard, in the main deck. Sure, most Junk Rites decks are running 3 or even 4 Acidic Slime main deck, but still, that’s a meaningful hurdle.

Main decking Ground Seal seems like a great strategy against Junk Rites and any deck running Snapcaster Mage, and while it doesn’t seem very good against the rest of this pie chart, at least it doesn’t cost a card. Making what can be a tough matchup into something where you’re actually favored game 1 is probably worth it, and those can be boarded out in game 2 against everything else.

Naya Blitz also gains a lot when it reaches the top 8. I think this is because the deck is just too fast for Junk Rites, which lost a little in this matchup because of the popular change from Centaur Healer to Sin Collector. The Collector is a great 2-for-1 against a lot of decks, but Blitz runs few non-creatures and a 2/1 body is just not the speed bump that a 3/3 body plus a Healing Salve is. So my guess is that Junk Rites is giving away top 8 matches to both Blitz and Jund, but even that’s not enough to quite account for Blitz’s big jump here.

Bant Auras, Gruul Aggro, and The Aristocrats also all get a little bit better in the top 8, but this change is not dramatic. My guess—and this is speculation, I don’t have numbers to back this up—is that this is mostly at the expense of the “other” category, and this is probably where most of the Blitz increase is coming from as well.

Also note that this chart is even more green than the last one. Apparently, in the current Standard, is actually is easy being green.

First DGM Standard: Money with Bant Auras

I know I haven’t done one of these things in ages—not since GTC Game Day—but I’ve been busy. I only played about a half-dozen constructed tournaments with GTC standard anyway, and had to replace a bunch of cards because my son lost a deck along the way. So not the best set for me.

So, my first DGM Standard, and I decided to play something simple and fast, or at least potentially fast. During GTC I played Aristocrats a couple times, Junk Rites a couple times, and Bant control a couple times, and wanted something a little less grindy. Here’s the list I played:

Not a huge turnout, so 4 rounds of Swiss cutting to top 4.

Round 1: Ryan, playing Junk (not Reanimator)
I lost the die roll, and I actually managed to lose Game 1 to a turn 4 Primordial Hydra despite hitting for 16 on my turn 4 (that’s Fencing Ace with Spectral Flight, Rancor, and Ethereal Armor), because he O-Ring’d the Ace the next turn and the following turn put an extra counter on the hydra with Common Bond. Ugh. Game 2 he kept a 1-lander and scooped to my turn 2 Geist, turn 3 Spectral Flight. Game 3 I got turn 3 Geist and while I didn’t immediately have enchantments for it, I found some and carried it home.
1-0 matches, 2-1 games

Round 2: Paul, playing WBR Control
Paul is a regular who I’ve played many times. I got turn 2 Invisible Stalker and turn 3 Unflinching Courage, so I decided that I could just race him regardless of what he did and didn’t immediately kill his turn 4 Sorin (with four spirit tokens on the board from a Lingering Souls with flashback). That was a mistake, as he ultimately was able to race with some timely lifelink of his own. Game 2 I got an early Geist with Ethereal Armor and sailed in. I have to admit I don’t really remember game 3 all that well, but I’m pretty sure it involved a Geist as well.
2-0 matches, 4-2 games

Round 3: Ryan, playing Bant
Didn’t see any Prime Speakers or Wolf Runs but there were mana dorks Farseeks and Acidic Slimes and Ætherlings. Game 1 I got a turn 2 Fencing Ace followed by turn 3 Unflinching Courage and got in once, but he took out the Courage with an Acidic Slime. We went back and forth a bit, he got down an Ætherling but actually had to chump with it (he couldn’t blink it out before damage because the Fencing Ace he was blocking had Rancor on it) when I alpha struck with the Ace and a Geist. That killed both my Geist and Ace, but left him at 2, and I was able to get there with a Voice. Game 3 he got an early Centaur Healer an then a Thragtusk but I had a Stalker out with Rancor and then Unflinching Courage and then Spectral Flight and his lifegain wasn’t going to outrace that.
3-0 matches, 6-2 games

Round 4: Simon, playing UB Zombies
Yeah, you read that right, UB Zombies: Diregraf Ghoul, Gravecrawler, Messenger, Blood Artist, Killing Wave, Diregraf Captain, etc. It’s better than you think, as Simon has won or top4’d three straight tournaments with it (note: sans sideboard!) and every time I play against it, it’s just better than it should be. The only RTR-block cards are shocklands, Syncopate, Rakdos Cackler, and Ultimate Price, but those are pretty good ones. Anyway, we were the only undefeateds, so we ID’d.
3-0-1 matches, 6-2 games

Semis: Angel, playing RWU Control
Angel is one of the store’s quality players and always plays a strong deck. I lost the roll, came out with turn 2 Fencing Ace (ate a Pillar), turn 3 Geist, turn 4 Spectral Flight on the Geist, hit him down to 11. He came back with Supreme Verdict, I played another Geist and a Rancor, he played Snapcaster to flash back the Verdict, I came back with a Voice with Rancor on it. Voice ate a Warleader’s Helix, I got the token, Rancor’d it up, played a mana dork, and hit him back down to 10. He was out of cards and top decked… his singleton Entreat the Angels. Well, then. Game 2 an early Verdict netted me an Elemental token, which got Rancor on it, and went almost all the way while I was stuck on two lands. He killed it, I got another Voice, he killed that and was down to two cards and mostly tapped out, I came back with Nevermore and named Sphinx’s Revelation, which he conveniently had two of in hand. He drew, I hit him down to 1 and tried Nevermore again for Supreme Verdict, he countered it and I passed back. He didn’t have many outs there, said “I need a miracle” and then topdecked… Entreat the Angels. Again? Really? I never got through his wall of fliers.
3-1-1 matches, 6-4 games

Not too bad overall, though a bit of a bummer losing to the same topdecked singleton both games. (At FNM two days prior I lost in the final to turn 2 Pack Rat both games… I think I’ve had enough of this for a while.) Still, a money finish is a money finish, and I’ve finished in the money the last five straight events I’ve played (counting this one; the last four were all limited), so I’m on a bit of a roll right now, which is nice.

Now, the deck. It’s been in the top 8 or top 16 of a lot of big events recently, and that’s not an accident. It is, however, a pretty high-variance deck. The best openers are amazing (turn 2 Geist, basically) and the weaker ones still have potential. I think the hardest part about playing this deck is mulliganing, otherwise it’s pretty much suit guys up and turn them sideways. Playing a deck with no removal at all always creeps me out a little, but the deck is fast enough to race a lot of things, even Thragtusks.

Most of the lists for this deck are pretty much the same—maybe a little variance in the land mix (but not count) and the sideboard. Fencing Ace feels like the weak link here because it just dies to everything. Yes, the double strike is great when he’s got some kind of enchantment, but he dies to Tragic Slip and Electrickery and Pillar and leaves you with nothing when he goes down. There was a recent list that won a PTQ that didn’t run Voice in favor of a playset of Loxodon Smiter. I’m not sure I like that, as Voice seemed pretty good, especially with Rancor around.

A more interesting variant finished 12th at this weekend’s SCG Open: it ran a playset of Loxodon Smiter and didn’t run any Fencing Ace. I’ll have to test out that version as well.

The deck also felt like it was running 1 too many land. If I put in Smiters then the curve goes up a little and that will probably be fine. If I keep in the Fencing Aces, I’d consider cutting the basic Forest and adding another Simic Charm, which seemed very good in this deck.

Double Top 8 at Game Day

So, today was an exciting day, since it was the first sanctioned tournament for my 8-year-old son, Stuart. I wasn’t actually planning on playing at Game Day at all but he really wanted to play, and I decided he could be ready if we gave him a deck that was somewhat forgiving and generally straightforward, so he piloted RDW. I really wanted to play The Aristocrats, but couldn’t make that happen since RDW got the Boros Reckoners, and I only have one playset of those. So I played Orzhombies.

Here’s Stuart’s list:

I didn’t catch all the names of all his opponents, nor did I watch everything in every match, but I caught enough of it to get a general feel for things.

Round 1: Andrew, playing GB Rats
I know this went 3 games. Stuart won the first one very quickly, I didn’t see the second one at all, and the third one Stuart just drew the right combination of creatures and removal that, despite making several mistakes, he still cruised to victory here.
1-0 matches, 2-1 games

Round 2: Jake, playing GriselBros
In case you’re not familiar, GriselBros is a reanimator deck that attempts to reanimate Griselbrand and Borborygmos. I didn’t see all of what happened in game 1, but I know it involved reanimating one of the big guns. Game 2 I also didn’t see, but they were playing right next to me and I heard how it ended: “Traitorous Blood your Gisela, attack with everything.” Very tech play, Stu. Game 3 Jake got out both Griselbrand and Stu never quite caught up.
1-1 matches, 3-3 games

Round 3: Nick, playing something GW
Game 1 Nick kept a 1-lander, took a couple turns to draw his second land, and was pretty much dead by then. Game 2 I didn’t see at all, but it was over very quickly in Stuart’s favor.
2-1 matches, 5-3 games

Round 4: ? playing Boros
I didn’t see game 1 at all, but Stuart won that. Game 2 Stuart lost to a Boros Reckoner that had Madcap Skills on it. Game 3 Stuart won with a Boros Reckoner with Volcanic Strength on it. Hard core.
3-1 matches, 7-3 games

Round 5: Me!
All the 3-1s could draw into the top 8, and so we drew.
3-1-1 matches, 7-3 games

Top8: John, playing Naya
John kept a sketchy hand game 1 and Stuart came out blazing to a quick win. Unfortunately, Stuart kept a 1-lander game 2 and didn’t draw a second land for a while, and he got rolled. Stuart mulled to 5 in game 3, as his six were six mountains, yikes. His five he actually kept a zero-lander but did draw some land fairly soon and made it a game for a while, but just couldn’t quite keep up all the way.
3-2-1 matches, 8-5 games

All in all, a fantastic outing for an 8-year-old playing in his first tournament! 5th through 8th place got the Game Day promo card, of course, and two packs, and Stuart pulled a Sacred Foundry from one of them, so a sweet deal all around.

OK, so my deck and rounds:

Seriously can’t believe people just call this “BW Zombies.” Could that be more boring? “Orzhombies” makes it clear immediately what the deck is, and has some cache. Let’s get with the program, people.

Round 1: Jason, playing UWR
Jason is one of the store’s better players, has multiple PTQ top 8s and GP day 2s to his record. However, he’s been in and out of the game lately since he started college, which is understandable. Game 1 I won on the back of Obzedat, and sided in three Thalias and 2 Duresses. Game 2 I dropped a Thalia that he eventually killed, but it did slow him down a little. I took it with multiple Sorins—both of which made emblems—and got there for lethal with Blood Artist and Cartel Aristocrat. Game 2 he actually drew 3 Reckoners but I had two Orzhov Charms so I was able to keep them off me for the most part.
1-0 matches, 2-0 games

Round 2: John, playing Naya Humans
Both of these games were very, very close, but I lost both of them. Too much Silverblade Paladin in the deck made it so that I could not race. I sided in the 3 Nighthawks and the Sever. I got a turn 3 Nighthawk in game 2 and eventually had him down to 4 but he made a tech play, playing a Resto to blink Silverblade Paladin, pumping his Champion and giving it double strike to just kill me the turn before he died. Actually, in game 1 he also just killed me the turn before he would have died—these were both close, fun games.
1-1 matches, 2-2 games

Round 3: Oscar, playing Bant Aggro
This deck was a little weird, Silverblade Paladins again with Rancors and other Bant-flavored weenies. Game 1 was close—he double-Rancored a lifelinker, which made it hard to race, but I eventually was able to block enough to kill it and got there. I again sided in the Nighthawks and the Sever. Game 2 he had a slower start and I got turn 5 Obzedat, and that was just too much.
2-1 matches, 4-2 games

Round 4: Ryan, playing RWU
I got reasonable starts both of these games. Game 1 I got Obzedat on turn 5 with a Cavern, which pretty much went all the way. I sided in the three Thalias and the Duresses. Game 2 I got a turn 2 Thalia that he was clearly unhappy about. He never really mounted much of a threat and I managed to Resto a Messenger that had already died once and had Lingering Souls going as well, and carried that one without too much trouble as well. Obzedat seems really good in this matchup.
3-1 matches, 6-2 games

Round 4: ID with Stuart
See above.
3-1-1 matches, 6-2 games

Top8: Angel, playing Naya
This at least had the good grace to be over quickly. Game 1 he won the roll cast T1 Pilgrim, T2 Smiter, T3 Huntmaster, and I had kept a 2-swamp hand and didn’t draw a third land, though I had a pair of Gravecrawlers, they aren’t great blockers, and I got rolled. Game 2 he again got T1 Pilgrim into T2 Smiter, which I Orzhov charmed, then he went T3 Bonfire for 1 to kill my two Gravecrawlers, then went T4 Thragtusk, T4 Thragtusk, T5 Thragtusk, and had both a Township and a Wolf Run on the board. Yeah, OK, no way I’m beating that, no matter what I draw.
3-2-1 matches, 6-4 games

The deck is OK, but I don’t think this particular build is optimal. It doesn’t feel like it has enough removal, and I sided out all the Diregraf Ghouls every single match. It feels great against RWU—the two sweeps didn’t feel like accidents—but it’s just slower than the Naya decks. Maybe some main deck Victim of Night would help.

Undefeated Night of Naya

So, it’s been almost a month since my last MTG entry. I missed a few weeks with the holidays and all, but since that last report I’ve played 4c PeddleCaster (fun but I made a couple too many mistakes and missed the cut on breakers at 2-1-1), Dark America (went very badly, mostly because I again played poorly, finished 1-2 drop—but still a fun deck), and UWR Flash (2-1-1 then lost in the top 8 to Dark Naya, played a little better but should not have had the one draw on time; however, this was not a fun deck, not sure why). So, time for something new!

Having just completed my grand survey of RTR Standard, and since my son was playing Golgari meaning I had no access to Overgrown Tombs, I decided to play Naya this week at FNM. Naya has been getting more popular lately at big events, and I haven’t played it yet, so I went with it. Here’s the list I played:

5 rounds of Swiss, cut to top 8 as per usual at my FLGS, Montag’s.

Round 1: Parker playing RDW
Parker has been playing RDW pretty consistently for a while so I knew what I was in for. Since my custom is to switch decks every time, he had no idea what he was facing. Game 1 I curved beautifully for this matchup: Centaur Healer, Huntmaster, Thragtusk. Too much life gained for him to win the race once a Silverheart came down. In came the Pillars, the Smiters, and the third Bonfire. Game 2 he came out blazing. I had a turn 3 Healer but his first three turns were Rakdos Cackler, Ash Zealot, two more Cacklers. I never really caught up to that, and when he put Volcanic Strength on his Ash Zealot, though I had no Mountains, even a Huntmaster didn’t get me back into this one. Game 3 I again had an early Healer and then a Huntmaster, both of which got burned off, but I carried it with a Resto soulbonded to a Silverheart.
1-0 matches, 2-1 games

Round 2: John, playing Selesnya life gain
This is a deck based around Trostani and other life gain dudes (Centaur Healer, Rhox Faithmender, etc.), set up to crush RDW and Rakdos aggro/BR Zombies. Unfortunately for him, I wasn’t playing either of those decks. Game 1 it was me with the life gain with a turn 4 Thragtusk followed by a Huntmaster that flipped, followed by an Angel of Serenity to clear the board and let me swing for lethal. I don’t remember what I boarded for this one. Game 2 was a little more back and forth, but I hit a Bonfire when he had only 3-toughness dudes out and that was enough of a path clear for me to win.
2-0 matches, 4-1 games

Round 3: Jeff, playing Jund Midrange
This is a really interesting matchup in that the two decks share a lot of cards (Farseek, Huntmaster, Thragtusk, Bonfire, etc.), but still have important differences. Naya gets the re-use of the value creatures through Resto and the top-end power of Angel of Serenity, Jund gets more removal (including the very good Sever the Bloodline) and Olivia. Olivia, it turns out, is very good in this matchup, and it’s what carried game 1. I had a Selesnya Charm in my hand most of the game, but he never put a second counter on Olivia and I never got a flier to stick (never drew Serenity) and he ground me out. His tech play of the day was I had two Huntmasters out and he cast Abrupt Decay just to kill a wolf token on my end step to keep them from flipping. Pretty good, particularly when he next topdecked Sever to kill both of them. Grr. In came the third Bonfire and the two Zealous Conscripts, and possibly the ORings though I’m not sure about those. Game 2 contained a sweet play for me, though I don’t remember the exact sequence of events that got us there. Regardless, the board state was me with a flipped Huntmaster and a Thragtusk, he played Thragtusk to go back to 19. My next turn: Zealous Conscripts! I borrowed his Thragtusk to swing for 17 and brought him down to 2 while I was at 27. So that one went my way. Game 3 featured another battle of value life-gaining creatures. I got a Huntmaster and two Thragtusks, he got a Huntmaster and only one ‘Tusk—the total life gained on both sides was silly. I again broke the board stall with Zealous Conscripts, stealing Thrag and getting through. I was all set up for an amazing following turn, as I had a Resto in hand and a Stronghold out with enough mana to Resto the Conscripts and activate the Stronghold. Unfortunately, on his turn he killed the Conscripts. It took away my tech play but actually since he didn’t play a creature I had enough to swing for lethal with Wolf Run anyway.
3-0 matches, 6-3 games

Round 4: Michael playing Jund Midrange
Sometimes from 3-0 you can ID in with the number of players we had, but I couldn’t because I got rounded down and so my opponent needed to play. Michael’s build was a little different than most, as he ran a few off the beaten path cards like Deadbridge Goliath and a one-of Mikeaus, the Unhallowed. I have to admit I’m a little fuzzy on the details of these games, especially game 1. I know in game 1 that I Charmed a Deadbridge at one point and won by grabbing another Deadbridge and a couple cards from my graveyard with Angel of Serenity. Game 2 we did a lot of my creatures trading with his removal, but his board was pretty light, and when I cast the big Angel it was to his empty board so I pulled three things from my yard. He managed a Thragtusk when he was at 8 followed by a Deadbrige. I came back with Zealous Conscripts. He came back with Mikeaus and then made a tech play by casting Disciple of Bolas, sacrificing his own Thragtusk with Mikeaus out to gain 11 of life and create another big blocker, which was pretty cool. I played another Zealous Conscripts to borrow Mikeaus and bash him down to 2. I was at 9 from the swing backs, and then he played a Nighthawk to give him a blocker for the Angel, but I had a Wolf Run out and drew another land, so the Angel got there with trample damage.
4-0 matches, 8-3 games

Round 5: ID with American Midrange
We were the only 4-0s, so we shook hands and watched everybody else.
4-0-1 matches, 8-3 games

Quarterfinals: Zack, playing Azorius Humans
We sat down to shuffle up and then Zac realized his ride was on the way so he scooped. I felt bad that we couldn’t play, but sometimes this happens—it was getting late. I wasn’t sure what my winnings would end up being, but surely something, so I gave him a pack out of my projected winnings.
6-0-1 matches, 8-3 games

Semifinals: ID
So, it turned out that the quarterfinals took forever. My third-round opponent, Jeff, played my fifth-round “opponent” and they took three incredibly long, grindy games to come up with a winner. The top 4 was thus two Jund Midrange and two Naya midrange. It was after midnight at this point and these were probably going to be long matches (yay for 16 copies of Huntmaster and 16 copies of Thragtusk in the top 4). There was a PTQ the next morning and one of the guys in the top 4 was going to be playing in it, so we just decided to split. I came out with $27.50 of store credit, minus the pack earlier, and bought two Liliana of the Dark Realms and a pack of Pokemon for my younger son. I went with Liliana because I don’t have any and I have a suspicion that with Boros Charm coming up that Mutilate will be making a comeback in control decks.
6-0-2 matches, 8-3 games

Thoughts on the Deck
Well, I can see why it’s become a more popular decks as it’s very good. However, I didn’t face a single deck with any kind of counterspell in it all night, which seems a little on the lucky side to me—that seems tougher for this deck. Some thoughts on specific cards:
• I’m glad I played two Wolfir Silverheart. He seemed really good most of the time. I almost didn’t play these and I think it would have been a mistake.
• Zealous Conscripts are fantastic. I didn’t main deck them because they’re bad against control and not particularly great agains the really fast aggro, but they rock in the midrange matchups.
• Angel of Serenity was also very good, but I do think two is the right number. It’s not the easiest card to cast, though with the Pilgrims and with Farseek it’s not too hard to hit the right mana, but I don’t think you want three of them. The 1 Sigarda was in the slot instead, and that seemed pretty good, though I might relegate that to sideboard duty next time around.

Not sure what I’m playing next week; we’ll see what my son wants to play and therefore what dual lands are available to me…

Yes, I’m Still Playing: Money Finish with Esper Flash

I know, I haven’t posted in a long time—a really long time. I’ve been really busy at work and with both kids in sports, my evenings have been pretty taken up. But the semester is over (yay) and fall sports are over (both kids went to the postseason, too, so great but long seasons). I really have played since August, but I haven’t actually played since mid-November. Prior to rotation, I played some mono-Green Infect and some ZombiePod and a very fun Izzet control list with a one-of Lone Revenant and some Titans—that was a fun list.

Post-rotation, we did a month of draft, and for Game Day I played Grixis Control, which was OK but had trouble with Zombies (probably a bad metagame choice) and then a UWR midrange list that I couldn’t draw well with at all (and made a couple mistakes)… and that’s it. So, this was my third time out for RTR standard and I basically hadn’t touched a Magic card in a month. So, what to play? I like the style of the UW Flash lists but they always felt to me like something was missing. That is, until I saw an Esper list with Lingering Souls in it. That’s the stuff! Here’s the list I played:

I know it’s a little goofy with a lot of one-ofs and three-ofs, but sometimes that’s actually OK. For example, the mix of counters (2 Syncopate, 2 Dissipate, 1 Rewind) seemed exactly right. I haven’t seen this exact list anywhere, but of course it’s not really all that different from the other “Esper Midrange” lists you can find on TCGPlayer.

Round 1: Ryan, playing BR Zombies
Game 1 was all about Lingering Souls. I drew many of them, and he had a somewhat slow opener, though he did have a turn 4 Aristocrat. I eventually got a Pike on one of the Spirit tokens and while he was able to chump with the Aristocrat and sac a Gravecrawler to it, then re-cast the Crawler, when I got the second Pike it was all over. Game 2 he got a fast start and I didn’t have much early and I pretty much got run over. Game 3 was a little more back-and-forth, but again, he came out quickly. I was able to stop some of the beating with a Purify, but eventually he got ahed of me. I had to equip a Pike on a Resto just to stay alive, holding back a Revelation, but he top decked a burn spell so I had to use the Revelation for only two life just to stay alive, and of course drew 2 lands off of it. Just not quite enough.
0-1 matches, 1-2 games

Round 2: Bye
Odd number of people at FNM, someone with a loss gets a bye in round 2. It was me.
1-1 matches, 1-2 games

Round 3: Chris, playing BR Zombies
One of the guys I chatted with before the tournament started commented to me that BR had taken over the store meta, and clearly he was right. I had turn 2 Augur in both games, which is a nice roadblock for Cackler and Gravecrawler. One of those drew me a Lingering Souls, too, which is about as good as it gets. He had trouble getting red mana both games, too, which didn’t help his cause. Game 2 I cast a Verdict to 3-for-1 him with two Lingering Souls in my graveyard, that was pretty much that game right there.
2-1 matches, 3-2 games

Round 4: Dave, playing BW Exalted
Game 1 was pretty much the perfect opener: turn 1 Thought Scour, putting two live cards in the yard, turn 2 Pike, turn 3 Geist. He went all the way. Game 2 he came back with a turn 2 Knight of Infamy and I all had were Spirit tokens. He kept drawing exalted guys and removal so he was winning the race. I finally put my foot down and cast Verdict with a Pike on the board and two Lingering Souls in the graveyard, and that sealed the deal.
3-1 matches, 5-2 games

Quarterfinals: Dillon, playing Grixis control
3-1 was good enough for the top 8, so in I went. Dillon is one of the stronger players in the store, and this was a Grixis build aimed squarely at the store meta, meaning three main deck Curse of Death’s Hold. Not fun. He managed to stick one of them when I had 4 Spirits on the board. I got out a Resto, got a Pike on it (though only for +1) and then he stuck a second Curse. My next draw was, of course, a Geist. Grr. He eventually killed the Angel with a Pillar and eventually killed me with a Snapcaster and a Rakdos Keyrune. I boarded in The three Spheres, both Appeties, the Dispel, the Negate, and the Tamiyo. I took out two Lingering Souls, the Verdict, all three Charms, 1 Scour, and 1 Ultimate Price. I’m not 100% sure if that’s right, but I think it’s close. Anyway, Game 2 was one of the best games of Magic I’ve been in for quite a long time. Here’s the kind of game it was: turn 2 I cast Appetite for Brains, and whiffed. Ugh. I got out some Spirits and a Pike, he kept generating answers, and I kept answering his answers. We eventually were both down to zero cards, just working off the tops of our decks. Most critically, I did draw all three Detention Spheres from the sideboard (and got all of them to stick), nabbing a Tamiyo, a Curse, and a Desecration Demon. That last one allowed me to swing for lethal with my Piked token. Absolutely great game, though it did take like 40 minutes. Good thing no time limit in the top 8. Game 2 I again had an Appetite on turn 2, but this time I nabbed a Jace. I had a Resto in my hand along with a Dispel, so a the end of his sixth turn I went for Resto into an empty board, he Dissipated, and I countered with Dispel. He tapped down for something else the next turn, and I came back with another Resto. From there I just rode the Angels all the way, trying to counter and disrupt anything he did, and the winged ladies got me there.
4-1 matches, 7-3 games

It was getting late and the rest of the top 4 decided they just wanted to split prizes and go home, and that was OK with me.

So, it was nice to come back after a hiatus and a losing streak with a good night. The deck is solid in concept if a little sketchy in execution; Lingering Souls is just amazing in this shell; that was definitely my MVP card. I’m not sure I’d take it to a PTQ or anything, but even there it’s probably not awful. Obviously it’s bad against Thundermaw Hellkite and the more Zombies players that run Knight of Infamy the worse off you are, but otherwise it feels like most matchups are sound. I’m still just loving Augur of Bolas. It’s awful when you whiff, but it’s so great when he pulls a key card like Lingering Souls or a counter.

Izzet Delver Top 8s FNM but I Scooped Anyway

I’d been playing the same deck, the Bantnanigans deck, for a while now and prior to that Naya Pod and then UW Delver, so I wanted to play a deck with no green or white in it. I don’t have the cards for Monoblack control, and Esper is also out because of the white.

So, that meant either Grixis or Blue-Red. I wasn’t up for Grixis and since it was a really busy week at work for me I decided to just netdeck. I also love the Izzet color combination since I used to play CounterHammer and CounterPhoenix back in the day. In fact, I played a UR Delver deck back in December, but that was a couple sets ago. Anyway, based on a recommendation from @Smi77y’s tweet, I decided to go with Henry Romaro’s PTQ-winning list, though with a couple tweaks of my own. Here’s my version:

Basically, I cut the Twisted Image and one Arc Trail for two Bonfires, and I moved one Cavern to the main deck. Having now played the deck, I’m happy with those changes.

Incidentally, I’m calling it “Izzet” rather than UR as I’m trying to get myself to use the Ravnica Guild names with Ravnica coming up soon.

Round 1: Andrew playing Elf Wave
I got a Delver on turn 1 and got it to flip, repeatedly Snagged his one Elvish Archdruid to prevent him from ramping like crazy, Arc Trailed a couple other elves, and got in there for the win. Game 2 I got an early Lavamancer and had enough cantrips to keep him fueled up, which is bad news for a bunch of little Elves—he was pretty much a machine gunner. This was over pretty quickly.
1-0 matches, 2-0 games

Round 2: Kevin, playing Esper Midrange
This was not the “standard” build of Esper Midrange that has been around. This featured Silverblade Paladin, Geist of Saint Traft, and Sun Titan. Game 1 he got a turn 3 Geist to my empty board and I was never really able to catch up. Game 2 I managed to have a Phantasmal Image when I needed it and burn when it was relevant, and crucially got a Sword on something to keep him off cards. Game 3 I got stuck on three land for a long time and he got out a Sun Titan and was recurring a Geist and a Paladin. I kept Snagging the Geist’s Angel token (I actually had all four Snags in hand at one point in this game. In fact, I Pondered once with three in my hand, the fourth was in the top 3 and I shuffled, and drew… the fourth Snag. Ugh.) that was soul bound to the Paladin and chumping the Sun Titan. This game had my punt of the night, when I finally drew an Image and copied his Titan. What happened is that on my own next turn I drew Talrand, cast Talrand and then Ponder to make a token, all of which would keep me alive for another turn… and then forgot to attack with the Image to copy his Titan and get the other Image in my graveyard. Oops. Unfortunately I drew nothing useful the turns after that, and he just killed me. Ugly mistake.
1-1 matches, 2-3 games

Round 3: Josh, playing BW Smallpox
Game 1 was back-and-forth, with me drawing enough Ponders so that his Smallpoxes were not keeping me off land. At one point he had Liliana at 4, then cast Lingering Souls and flashed it back. I usefully managed to topdeck a Bonfire to wipe his board, attack with my Snapcaster, and Gut Shot Lily to take her out. I was assisted in this game by the fact that he was kind of flooded. Game 2 he had a rough opener without two sources of black and it took him a couple turns to get the second black when he had two Sign in Blood and two Lilys in hand. He did get the Lily down, and I killed it with an attack from a Snapcaster and by using an Arc Trail to do one to myself and two to her. I followed that up with a Sword, and that carried it.
2-1 matches, 4-3 games

Round 4: Blaine playing 4C Pod
Blaine is someone I thought I had seen in the store before and never played, and he’s clearly kind of new. Game 1 I Pondered on the first turn to set up both a Delver flip and Bonfire for 1 to kill both a Bird and an Elvish Visionary. He did get a Pod and a Blade Splicer, but I Snagged the token and he podded the Splicer itself later (though I don’t remember what he got with it). I then just raced him, using Vapor Snag a couple times on his Wurmcoil Engine to finish him off. Game 2 my sideboard did some great work. He started the game with turn 1 mana dork, turn 2 dork and Rampant Growth. His next turn he Imaged my non-flipped Delver. I flipped Delver (I had just cast Ponder) and hit him for three. He came back with a Sunblast Angel (I love that card) to kill my Delver, and he swung for one with his copy of my Delver. So next turn I Imaged his Angel to kill all his mana dorks and his Image. Next turn I attacked with my Image because I had an Arc Trail in hand. He didn’t take the bait and just let me hit him for 4. He cast Thrun so I didn’t swing next turn, and instead I cast Talrand and a Scour to make a Drake. He cast a Metamorph, and said he was copying Thrun. I asked “Are you sure?” He looked at the board, asked if he couldn’t cast it because of the Hexproof, and I pointed out that the copy ability doesn’t target. “Hmm,” he mused, “so what’s the problem?” I probably shouldn’t have answered but instead I was nice and said “Legend rule.” He realized what was up, and then figured out that right thing to copy was Talrand. Hey, it’s FNM. Anyway, I topdecked an Image of my own to kill his Thrun, Arc Trailed him down to 10, and equipped a Sword I had cast earlier. He came back with an Acidic Slime to kill the Sword but nothing else, and was tapped out. With him at 10 and with no other fliers but the Angel, I borrowed his Angel with Act of Aggression and swung for exactly lethal in the air.
3-1 matches, 6-3 games

Round 5: Jeff, playing RG Aggro
Game 1 was actually pretty interesting. I got an relatively early Delver flip off a Ponder and he came back with a main deck Daybreak Ranger—yikes. The good news was that I had a Sword out and was able to equip it to protect my Delver and swing in, costing him a card. Next turn I had a cool play: I had four land out, the Sworded Delver, and in my hand Talrand, Ponder, Snag, Probe, and Thought Scour. I tapped out for Talrand, swung in and untapped my land, and cast all of that to make four drakes. He shot one with the Ranger, of course, but he did not topdeck a Bonfire and I made two more drakes during his end step off the cards I drew from the cantrips, and easily swung for lethal in the air. Game 2 he went turn 1 Birds, turn 2 Elf and Rancor the Birds, swing for 2. I Arc Trailed the dorks. He did nothing his turn 3 (still with the Rancor in his hand), and his turn 4 he tapped out for Huntmaster. I came back with Delver, Ponder, and Pillar for the Huntmaster, leaving a blue open and with Snag in hand. He went for the play I hoped for next turn, which was to Rancor the wolf token, which I of course Snagged in response—sweet. Delver flipped, I drew a Leak to go with the Snap in my hand, and pretty much cruised through the rest of the game.
4-1 matches, 8-3 games

Quarterfinals: Simon, playing Esper Control
Yes, I got paired with my 11-year-old son in the top 8. Sucky. We had played this matchup on Thursday night when I put the deck together and he’s definitely favored in game 1 unless draws are bad or mistakes are made. It went pretty much according to script: I failed to open with a Delver, eventually beat him down to something like 7 before he got Gideon and Day through and finished me off with Elesh Norn. Game 2 I sided out the Bonfires and Gut Shots and an Arc Trail for the Dissipate, the two Negates, and the Steel Sabotages (he runs a Batterskull and a Wurmcoil, so Sabotage isn’t great, but it’s less awful than Gut Shot). I didn’t get off to a fast start, but I had a Snap and multiple counters in hand so I just sat back and countered stuff, drawing two Augurs to keep my hand full and peck at him, and managed to ultimately draw both Negates, one Leak, the Dissipate, and multiple Snapcasters and just locked him out. At one point he did stick Sorin because he had Leak backup but by then I had a flipped Delver and a Lavamancer so I took care of the Lord of Innistrad without too much trouble. So, here it was for all the marbles and… I gave him the win. Come on, it’s my own kid! We played a third game just for bragging rights and I managed to pull it off with two Augurs and two Lavamancers that went all the way against both Gideon and Sorin. So, while I did actually win, he was the one who advanced to the semis, where he got blown out in about ten minutes by Zombies. Much better matchup for me, but Simon got store credit for making top 4 so he was happy, and having your kid be happy is always a win.
5-1 matches, 10-4 games

Thoughts on the deck:
• I firmly believe that adding the two Bonfires was the correct thing to do. I’m not sure about main-decking the Cavern as I only drew it a couple times. Everybody in the deck is a Wizard so it seems reasonable in principle.
• In general, this deck performed much better than I thought. I had grossly underestimated just how good Lavamancer is right now. Lots of people asked why I was playing Swords instead of Pikes (particularly since I was playing 4 Thought Scour), but I’m sold on the Sword because you want the cards in your graveyard to power up Lavamancer, which was amazing.
• Arc Trail was fantastic. Right now I actually think the right mix for red decks is a split between Bonfire and Arc Trail, and I think the 2/3 split I ran was actually pretty good. Bonfire is pretty bad in a non-ramp deck when you don’t miracle it—though sometimes even a non-miracle Bonfire for 1 is a value play—and in this deck, I think Arc Trail is overall slightly better.
• Auger is awful when he misses, but it was so worth it for every time I hit a Ponder. I think 3 is correct.
• The sideboard was just about perfect. The only iffy card, I think, is the Flashfreeze; I would actually consider a Redirect there because of what a blowout it is for Bonfire, Brimstone Volley, even opposing Vapor Snags. Might be too cute, maybe a Dismember or Grafdigger’s Cage/Tormod’s Crypt instead.

Tired of Delver and the rest of Standard? Try Bantnanigans!

So, people are complaining a lot about the current state of Standard—not that this is news, everybody always complains about Standard. Frankly, I think the Standard environment is actually pretty good. Yes, there’s a lot of Delver, but it’s not like Delver is unbeatable or expensive. However, I think there’s a lot of space left in the current meta for new stuff, and every once in a while, I see an idea that, even if not really the best deck, looks like so much fun to play that I just have to go for it.

This is one of those decks. I would love to take credit for the design, but that wouldn’t be right, since I didn’t really design it. I first noticed it in one of Frank Lepore’s columns. I didn’t actually watch the videos, but I threw it together since I got a second Tamiyo for Father’s Day (do I have the best kids, or what?) I figured why not? I tweaked the sideboard some and only had 2 Caverns to it since my son had two in his deck for our FLGS’s Sunday afternoon Standard. Here’s the list:

This deck is so much fun to play it’s insane. Really, build it and try it out!

Anyway, four rounds cut to top 8.

Round 1: Alan, playing RUG Delver
Build with Huntmasters, Mayor of Avabruck, the usual Delver-Snapcaster-Ponder-Snag package, and some burn. Pretty fun deck, actually. Game 1 didn’t go very well for me, just not able to draw what I needed; mostly I drew land. And not enough action. Game 2 went mostly my way; I think I got hit with a non-flipped Delver once and ramped into an early pair of Restoration Angels and also got a Venser out. Game 3 was the really interesting one. I put down mana dorks on both of the first two turns with a Frost Titan in hand while he got a Delver on turn 1 and got it flipped. After my second mana dork, he cast Arc Trail on his third turn. Ugh. I took multiple Delver hits, but on my turn 6 I got a Frost Titan (protected by a Cavern). Of course, at this point I was at 6 life, but he had only three land, a Cavern of his own and two Sulfur Falls. I tapped down his Delver. He got a Snapcaster out but could not Snag the Titan. He followed with two more Delvers and I came back with a Bird and… Acidic Slime for one of his Falls. His Delvers did not flip, he got me down to 3, and I followed with Venser. He was at 7 after taking two hits from my Frosty, so I actually used Venser’s -1 to make my team unblockable for the win.
1-0 matches, 2-1 games

Round 2: Jon playing UB Control
I have to admit that I had no idea what he was playing in Game 1, as all he did was cast an early Ratchet Bomb, which killed I don’t even remember what, then a Black Sun for 3 after I had a Frost Titan out. I blinked the Frosty with Venser, beat for 6 more, and that was it. Game 2 was the better one. He got an early Bloodline Keeper against my Restoration Angel and Acidic Slime, then he got Jace and started milling. He managed to chump for a long time with vampire tokens but I managed to draw an Oblivion Ring for Jace and beat him down to 9 but then he got Karn. I actually ignored Karn and beat him, with a nice Cloudshift to blink a Blade Splicer to get an extra token in for lethal the following turn.
2-0 matches, 4-1 games

Round 3: Jake, playing Frites
Yes, folks, Frites is still in the format; don’t ask me how in a world full of Delver-bearing countermagic. Both being 2-0 we could probably draw in, so I offered the draw but he decided he’d rather play, which was cool. I lost the roll and game 1 was pretty dumb from my end. I got down a turn 2 Blade Splicer, which he ignored completely because he managed to Unburial a Griselbrand on like turn 4. I had no answer to that and he just beat my head in. Game 2 was one of the most drawn-out games I think I’ve ever played. I got an early Venser but he came back with Elesh Norn, which I chumped and saved my Restoration Angel with a Cloudshift. I then held him off a turn with a Stonehorn Dignitary. He came back with Sheoldred, and I sacc’d my Angel, then played a Mimic Vat. I blinked the Stonehorn with Venser and then on my upkeep sacrificed the Stonehorn to Sheoldred trigger, then put the Stonehorn under the Vat and cast a Frost Titan. Now, at the time, I only had six land, and he was able to kill Venser with a Slagstorm. However, he had no way to get through my ability to produce a Stonehorn every turn. I had nothing in my hand. He generated a Griselbrand to go with his Sheoldred and several spirit tokens. I couldn’t cast anything, though, so we just went a few turns where he cast fatties but couldn’t swing with anything. He activated Griselbrand once, but then realized that would only get him milled out faster. He said he didn’t think he had any artifact removal in his deck since he didn’t see any artifacts in the first game; why he didn’t scoop at that point I’m not sure. I finally drew something I could cast and put an O Ring on Sheoldred to exile Griselbrand. He came back with another Sheoldred and more spirits. I eventually drew another spell I could actually cast—I think a mana dork—to get rid of Sheoldred. Eventually I was able to get out two more Frost Titans and exile/tap enough of his spirits and mana dorks so that I could swing in for the win. This all took a very long time, though, and we only had a few minutes left, so we decided not to start a third game.
2-0-1 matches, 5-2 games

Round 4: Brandon, playing Solar Flare
We were first and second in the standings, so we decided to draw in. We played a few games for fun, which we split, probably with a slight edge to him, though we didn’t sideboard—it was definitely close.
2-0-2 matches, 5-2 games

Quarterfinals: Festus, playing Esper Control
I’m not entirely clear on exactly what the difference is between Esper Control and Solar Flare these days, but I’m going with what these two guys called their own decks. Game 1 I finally won a die roll, and cast a mana dork on turn 1. He played a Glacial Fortress. My turn 2 was was a Rampant Growth and another mana dork. He played a land and a Ratchet Bomb and put a counter on it to threaten my mana dorks. I played Slime to kill one of his lands. He untapped his one land, failing to draw another, and blew the ratchet bomb. I untapped, drew a land, attacked with Slime, played my fourth land, and blinked the Slime with Restoration Angel, destroying his only land. He scooped. I have to say I don’t really remember the first couple turns of game 2 (I know I had a mana dork), but that he tapped out his turn 4 and that left me free to cast Slime on my turn 4 for his only source of black. He tapped out to Day, and then Tamiyo came for a visit and tapped one of his lands. He came back with an Isolated Chapel, which then became Tamiyo’s target. I got a Thalia, which made life difficult for him, and for five of the next six turns I was able to get in with Thalia and keep him off black. At one point during that stretch he did actually drew a Swamp and tried to Go for Thalia’s throat, but I Cloudshifted her in response. I eventually got another Slime and then was able to Cloudshift that. (Incidentally, I should have ultimated Tamiyo once I had that Cloudshift but instead just kept him off black with her +1.) I sent in my pair of 2-power guys to bring him to 4. He finally killed Thalia and I got in for 2 with Slime to get him to 2, and followed that with… my third Slime. He extended his hand, clearly extremely frustrated. There’s a reason that WotC R&D doesn’t really want land destruction to be seriously viable—it’s no fun to lose that way. I would have felt bad but I owed Festus one from a previous top 8, so we’re even now.
3-0-2 matches, 7-2 games

Semifinals: ID
Everyone wanted to go home as it was getting on to dinnertime, so we drew out the top 4. Both Jake and Brandon were also in the top 4, the fourth being someone playing UWr Delver. I had played him for multiple games before the tournament actually started and we determined that I was a heavy favorite in that matchup. Three-color Delver is very finicky about lands. Mostly I didn’t want to play Jake because that matchup is very bad in game 1 and still not all that great after sideboarding.

Comments on the Deck
• This deck is outrageously fun to play, partly because it’s so outside the current metagame, and partly because it is just as goofy as the decklist looks. I’m not suggesting that it’s a Tier 1 deck for a PTQ or a GP or anything, but it’s no slouch and has amazing abilities. I know the sample size in this tournament isn’t large, but I played an unusually high (for me) number of games before and between rounds, and the deck is actually much better than I thought it would be. It’s definitely better than it looks from looking at the decklist, while still being as fun as the list looks. Sleeve it up and play it, it’s a blast. Note, however, that it can be kind of annoying to play against. I guess it’s fun if you’re a griefer, which apparently I am.
• Cloudshift is amazing. Do not play less than 4 of them! I thought about cutting one for a Dismember main, but decided not to, and that was definitely the right decision. I might consider cutting down to 3 Rampant Growth for a removal spell or a main deck Thalia or something, but I’m not sure.
• The sideboard probably isn’t right, particularly if you think there’s any chance you’ll run into Frites. It probably needs a couple Grafdigger’s Cages in the sideboard, which would also be useful in the Delver matchup (though Misstep and Thalia are very good there.) I would cut the Metamorph, Dungeon Geists, and probably the Sphinx for two Cages and maybe a third Thalia.
• Tamiyo is a little weird in this deck, in that there’s really only one card you expect to be able to get back with her emblem, which is of course Cloudshift. More than once I had her with enough counters to ultimate and just didn’t bother. Probably wrong.
• Thrun doesn’t seem to fit with the deck in that he’s not a good blink target, but I would definitely not cut him. He’s a beatstick and is very good in the land of Delvers because he forces the Delver player to be proactive, making them more likely to tap out, which makes your other trumps (Venser, Slime) that much better. It’s important that Resto Angel cannot trade with Thrun. Sword of Feast and Famine is out of favor now because of the Delver mirrors, which helps make Thrun more effective.

Mo’ Money FNM finishes: Resto Delver & Naya Pod

Been on something of a roll these last two weeks and I’m stuck at a kids’ birthday party at a bowling alley so I thought I’d generate a report.

Delver

Last week (June 1st) I had had a really busy week at work with a pair of grant proposal deadlines so I had no time to think about MTG, so I went least-effort on deck selection and just played Gerry Thompson’s list from SCG Nashville. It’s a REALLY good deck, though having played it I would tweak it a little.

Anyway, the event. 34 players, meaning five rounds cutting to top 8. I’ll admit up front that my memory for some of these is pretty sketchy.

Round 1: Jack, playing Bant Pod Spirits
I do like this deck. It’s a lot like Finkel’s deck from the last Standard PT, but with green for Strangleroot Geist and Birthing Pod to make sure you get the Captain. In this particular matchup, I should be favored unless the game goes long, because a whole bunch of hexproof spirits is not something I can handle. Game 1 I got an early Delver to flip and got a Sword on it, and that was it. Games 2 and 3 were much the same, in that I got stuck without white mana in either game and just could not stop him, even though I had Divine Offering in my hand in game 2. Game 3 I lost mostly because my two Delvers did not flip for four or five turns. A source of white in either game would have won it for me, but some days you just don’t draw it.
0-1 matches, 1-2 games

Round 2: Seth, playing UB Zombies
I got turn 3 Geist of Saint Traft, got it in a couple times with Snags, got a Resto and a Sword, and that was it. Game 2 was better. He got a Diregraf Captain, then another. I had Timely Reinforcements to buy time. He Imaged a Captain, I Snagged the Image, he cast another, I Snapped and Snagged it, got a Geist and a Resto, Snagged yet another Image, and that carried it.
1-1 matches, 3-2 games

Round 3: Nick, playing UG blink/bounce
This is kind of a weird deck, designed to bounce ETB creatures with things like Conjurer’s Closet. Frankly, it’s not really all that good, and I didn’t have that much difficulty. Restoration Angel with a Sword carried it both times, I believe.
2-1 matches, 5-2 games

Round 4: A.J., playing Jund Wolf Run
This is Wolf Run with black for Black Sun’s Zenith, Glissa, and Go for the Throat. I got a turn 3 Geist, blinked out of combat on turn 4 with Resto Angel. Next turn I swung in again with both the Angel and the Giest, he double-blocked Giest with Solemn and Glissa. I Snagged Glissa and used Divine Offering on the Solemn, dropping him to 8. Next turn I swung again, 7 through the air he couldn’t block, and did the lethal point with Vapor Snag. Game 2 he mulled and looked unhappy, on turn 2 Zenithed for a Bird, and I Gut Shot the bird and he missed his turn 3 land drop, casting only an Emissary. I flipped a Delver early, and raced his single Viridian Emissary, using counters and Snags to keep his other threats off the board. I got a Sword on the Delver, beat him to 1, and Snagged for the win.
3-1 matches, 7-2 games

Round 5: Nathan, playing BR Heartless Summoning
My tiebreakers were awful so I could not draw in. I won the roll and Pondered into a couple of Mana Leaks. He killed my turn 3 Geist with a Whipflare, , but ultimately I got a Delver flipped and Sworded, Leaked both of his attempts at Heartless, and that was it. Game 2 he got out a Wurmcoil Engine, which I copied with Image and then killed with Divine Offering. He Doom Bladed my Image, we traded tokens, but I had a flipped Delver and an Angel and they went all the way pretty easily.
4-1 matches, 9-2 games

Quarterfinals: Warren, playing RG Wolf Run with Glimmerposts
I have to confess that I don’t remember the details of this one very well. The important point was that I didn’t take a single point of damage in either game and his life total went down in large chunks both games.
5-1 matches, 11-2 games

Nobody else in the top 4 wanted to play it out so we all split, got $42.50 each. I got myself a couple more Huntmasters so that I could play Naya the following week along with some Pokemon cards for my younger son.

So, the deck deserves some commentary:
• It’s a terrific deck. This version, running Sword of Feast and Famine instead of Pike or War and Peace, plays more like Caw-Blade. Basically if you get to four mana you just sit on it and do nothing, either countering, Snapping something in, or dropping an Angel. The Angel is pretty amazing.
• I hated Thought Scour and sided them out literally every single match. I would replace them with two things from this set: a fourth Probe, a third Gut Shot, a Mutagenic Growth, or a Faith’s Shield.
• Too many Moorland Haunts. You don’t have enough targets, and you need colored mana. I’d replace it with a Plains, especially if I had added a Faith’s Shield.
• The sideboard is excellent, and it’s a really easy deck to sideboard; I always took out the Probes, the Gut Shot, and the Scours for whatever the best six were in that matchup.

Naya Pod

Now, this most recent Friday I had a little more time and decided not to play someone else’s list. Yes, Naya Pod isn’t exactly an original idea, but at least this is my own take on it. I actually looked at a bunch of recent successful lists, did some math to come up with an “average” version, and then did something else anyway. Here’s what I sleeved up:

The single Angel of Glory’s Rise was because Zombies is moderately popular at my local FNM and I thought it’d be funny to pod into that. I would rather have run a Wurmcoil over the Inferno Titan but my son had all the Wurmcoils in his Tezzeret deck this week.

The really dumb thing here is that while this is ostensibly a Pod deck, I drew a Pod exactly once all night, so this was pretty much Naya Aggro.

Round 1: Eric, playing Mono-Black Infect
I actually played a version of this deck off and on for a while prior to Dark Ascension, and it can be better than many people think. Anyway, I won the roll and led off with a Strangleroot Geist into turn 3 Blade Splicer, he led with turn 2 Livewire Lash followed by turn 3 Phyrexian Crusader. I Slimed the Lash and dropped a Huntmaster. He came back with a second Crusader and a Lily, making me sac the wolf token. Neither of us could productively attack, but the stalemate let me flip the Huntmaster to kill Lily. I followed with a Borderland Ranger to fetch out a seventh land, and cast Elesh, to which he scooped. Game 2 he again led with a Lash but followed with a Whispering Specter. He hit me for three poison but did not make me discard and the Specter died when my Huntmaster flipped. From there I had gas and all he could muster was another Lily, so it was brief.
1-0 matches, 2-0 games

Round 2: Chris, playing Resto Delver with Blade Splicers
I lost the roll and he opened with Probe and Ponder. I had kept a sketchy hand with a Geist but no second source of green, but it didn’t matter that much. We both had Blade Splicers and were both blinking them with Angels, but he drew one more Angel than me and Leaked my third one and that carried the day. Game 2 he again opened with Probe and Ponder, and followed that with a Delver. I came back with a mana dork into a turn 2 Splicer. His Delver did not flip, but did hit me and I came back with a Fiend Hunter. He answered with Geist of Saint Traft. I played land and swung with everything, and he took the bait and blocked the Splicer with Geist. I activated my Gavony Township to pump my team so he lost his Geist and never recovered from the lead that created. Bit of a punt on his part, but it’s easy to forget about lands that do stuff like that. Game 3 was the most interesting. For the third game in a row, he opened with Probe and Ponder on turn 1. I opened with a mana dork on 1 and a Mimic Vat on turn 2. I next stuck a Garruk and made a Wolf, he came back with Geist. He swung with Geist and I flashed in an Angel which I threw in front of the token, meaning the Angel died… and I put it under the Vat. Today’s MTG Tip of the Obvious: Restoration Angel under Mimic Vat is amazing. I was able to protect Garruk and kept pumping out Wolves, blocking with my Angel token. He got a Snapcaster to Snag a token, and I killed that with Garruk to make smaller, but more lethal, Wolves. He got a Resto Angel of his own to save his Geist from a Wolf and we were kind of stalemated, except that he couldn’t get through to Garruk, and so tokens continued until I could build up enough mana to both make an Angel token with the Vat and activate Township on the same turn, and then things quickly went my way.
2-0 matches, 4-1 games

Round 3: John, playing UB Tezzeret
This is actually a very cool deck with amazing inevitability, but it’s sometimes a bit slow. I mulled my opening hand because the first action it had was a 4-drop into a fast hand with Pilgrim, Geist, Blade Splicer, Huntmaster, and two land. My hand was fast enough to overwhelm him before he drew enough removal to deal with it, especially since my second draw was another Geist. Game 2 was more interesting. I opened with a hand with two Geists, a Sunblast Angel, a mana dork, a Zenith, and land. Turn 1 he Despised me, taking a Geist. I went out hard but didn’t make the kind of progress I made in the first game and he slowed me down with a Torbor Orb and double Pristine Talisman. I drew an O Ring for the Orb and then a Grudge for both the Talismans. I had out a few guys with 1 or 2 toughness and the Sunblast Angel, and he Black Zenith’d for 2 to kill most of my team. I was beating him up with a 2-power Angel and drew a Metamorph that I used to copy my Angel, and fortunately he didn’t draw a Metamorph of his own and my Angels got there.
3-0 matches, 6-1 games

Round 4: Jack playing Resto Delver
I have to admit that I don’t remember the first game very well. I can tell from my life totals that he hit me with a flipped Delver and I had a Huntmaster come out at some point, but other than that, I don’t really remember it. I do remember game 2 better, though, as I distinctly recall getting two mana dork killed via Gut Shot (the second one off a Snapcaster) but he was stuck on three lands, then I hit one of his lands with Slime, then used Restoration Angel to blink the Slime and take out his second land. He did topdeck a land, but then I got a Daybreak Ranger and got it to flip, followed it with another. He got another land and Snapped back a Probe, saw an Inferno Titan, and scooped.
4-0 matches, 8-1 games

Rounds 5 and 6: ID
There were only two of us who were undefeated going into round 5, so we figured out that we could just draw in, which we did.
4-0-2 matches, 8-1 games

Quarterfinals: Daniel, playing UW Miracles
My opener here was pretty awesome: turn 1 mana dork, turn 2 Geist, turn 3 Huntmaster which flipped when he had no play on his turn, then team swing on turn 4, pumping the team with Township, dropping him to 3. He came back with Day of Judgment, but he was at three. Another Geist finished him off. Game 2 I got a turn 2 Mimic Vat followed by a turn 3 Huntmaster, and for the first time all night, I got a Birthing Pod! I made a Huntmaster token, swung, then podded the token into Vorapede. He miracled Terminus, but that didn’t stop me from making the same play the next turn. He miracled Entreat the Angels for only three Angels, but I came back with Zealous Conscripts. Now, I did make a mistake here in that he blocked the Conscripts with one of his two Angel tokens and I didn’t put Conscripts under the Vat. I hit him next turn with a Huntmaster token, dropping him to three, but then he miracled Devastation Tide, so it ended up not mattering. I drew a mana dork, played Pod again, podded the dork into Geist, and he scooped.
5-0-2 matches, 10-1 games

It was a little after 1:00 in the morning at this point, so since there were 40 people, there was $200 in the prize pool and we decided to four-way split again.

Comments on this deck:
• The deck is good, better than I thought it would be. I wasn’t expecting to do so well with it.
• Pod? Who needs Birthing Pod? I drew it once in 11 games. Now, I did only run three in favor of one Zenith, but what impressed me most about this deck was its ability to win without Pod. Since there are a lot of 3-ofs and a couple 4-ofs in drops 1 through 4, it is more consistent than other Pod decks I have played in the past when Pod doesn’t show up.
Gavony Township is outstanding. Play this card if you’re playing Naya.
• Oblivion Ring was very good. I would not cut this.
• As I said, I would cut the Inferno Titan for a Wurmcoil Engine.
• I’m not so sure about Vorapede, but maybe that’s because I never drew a Pod. Might go with Archon of Justice or Wolfir Silverheart instead. Zealous Conscripts is great, though, definitely keep that.