Throughout the past 3 months, I (and several other Edmonton players) have been racking up points in an effort to qualify for the Wizards Comics Championship Series. Wizards Comics is my local came store of choice where I play and occasion judge and/or TO, and they also have a store in the neighbouring town of Sherwood Park. At the beginning of June, the staff announced the championship series which would gather the 8 best players from each store, and have them compete, for free, in a multitude of different formats.
The point structure worked as follows.
For each tournament at a given store that one attended, they would receive 1 point.
For each 3rd place won, a player received an additional point.
For each 2nd place won, a player received 3 extra points.
For each win of a tournament, a player received 5 more points.
Note that players couldn’t amalgamate points from both stores, so players would generally stick to whichever store was closest. Here are the final standings for my store.
45 Brian Bo
Aaron didn’t show up, and Marcel, the 9th place seed was at GP Portland (where he won a PTQ for Paris), so Stephen, a player who’s returned to the game with a vengeance, took the last seed for our store.
For this day, we weren’t told much, except to bring a Standard deck, as well as sleeves for a draft. I sleeved up a variation on Gerry Thompson’s BantVine list, a blue-white-green take on the dredgevine concept where one uses Hedron Crab to mill themselves of their Vengevines, and uses cheap creatures to reanimate them. Gerry T’s list originally played 2 Lotus Cobra and 1 Meddling Mage mainboard, but I replaced them with 3 Renegade Doppelgangers. This change allowed me to, in effect, give my Fauna Shamans and Knight of the Reliquarys haste, weakening the effectiveness of my opponent’s removal spells. They’re also fine when a bunch of Vengevines come back.
Here’s the list I ended up playing.
Dredge-uh-Vine (Bant version)
And the sideboard:
I chose this deck for 2 reasons. First, I expected a lot of blue-white, and Dredgevine typically has a solid matchup against them. Between scouting people at FNM and lending out Jaces, Colonnades and Elspeths to at least 3 different people, I had a good idea of the field. With this in mind I debated for a while on whether to play this version or one with Extractor Demon. However, the allure of Ranger of Eos and huge Knight of the Reliquarys swayed me to the bant list.
The second reason I played this deck was because it was an archetype I knew relatively well. I’ve played Dredgevine in almost all of its incarnations since its debut, and even though this was a newer take on it, I was familiar enough with the archetype to know what I was doing.
After I filled out my decklist, they announced that the first round pairings would be cross-store based on standings. For example, the number 1 seed from my location would play the number one seed from Sherwood Park, etc.
I sat down across from Andrew, a solid player who’s also a great guy to play with. I had a hunch he’d be playing Grixis control, as that seems to have been his deck of choice at the last few tournaments I’ve played in with him.
I win the die roll and elect to go first, hoping for an explosive start of either a Hedron Crab or a mana accelerant. I get the latter, and start off with a turn 1 Noble Hierarch. He plays a Dragonskull Summit, tapped, and I reply by playing a Hedron Crab and starting to mill myself. He quickly casts Lightning Bolt on my crab, but then I augment my forces with a Fauna Shaman. She starts doing her thing, pitching a Vengevine and getting another, while I drop a Knight of the Reliquary.
After playing his 5th enters-the-battlefield-tapped land in a row, Andrew casts Jace, the Mind Sculptor and bounces my knight. I’m more than happy to replay it, and kill the planeswalker with my Fauna Shaman. He made the same play next turn, and I replied in an identical fashion, also dropping 2 small creatures to rebut a Vengevine and start hacking away at his life total. I continued to attack him while he played a removal spell to kill my 7/7 knight (one of the lands that made him so big was my only Sejiri Steppe), and he eventually slammed down a Grave Titan. I immediately used my Path to Exile to dispatch it and continued to attack with my Vengevines, forcing him to chump with a token. By the time he resolved a Cruel Ultimatum, he was at a low enough life total that my vengevines overwhelmed him.
1 – 0
In round 2 many of us had to play against players from our own stores. I sat across from Brian, one of the best players in the area and a very good friend. I knew he was one of the many players battling with blue-white control, so I thought I should have an alright time with it.
I made a mistake in my first game where I kept lands, Fauna Shaman, Renegade Doppelganger and Vengevine. As soon as the word “keep” left my lips, I knew it was a mistake, especially on the draw. The problem with this hand is that if he counters or removes my Shaman, I just straight-up lose. If it does resolve and I manage to untag with it, my game will probably go well, but that’s a fatal assumption to make against blue white. I didn’t have a blue-producing land (that’s what I get for changing the spell configuration and not the manabase) so I slammed down the shaman which predictably got Mana Leaked. After that it was pretty much Brian goldfishing as he resolved a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and ticked it to 13 loyalty, with me unable to mount any sort of offense. When I managed to get a couple guys on the board, he used Gideon Jura to make sure I couldn’t attack Jace, and he milled me out.
I resolved to keep a better hand in game 2, and I was happy to play a first-turn Hedron Crab. Brian retaliated with an Oust, and I cast a Noble Hierarch. On his turn 2 he has a Meddling Mage, naming the Hedron Crab that I was about to draw. The game state didn’t evolve beyond there, as I drew 2 un-castable Hedron Crabs in a row, and Brian made matters worse by casting a Relic of Progenitus. The game was over quickly from there.
1 – 1
I was now back to facing a player from the other store, this time Travis playing a variation on Jund with Magma Phoenix and Inferno Titan. I had watch Brian beat him in the first round, so I knew that I should be able to out-aggro him.
I won the roll and game blazing out of the gates with a turn 1 Hedron Crab and consecutive fetchlands. My turn 2 Fauna Shaman got Terminated, but I backed it up with a Knight of the Reliquary, which also died, this time to a Maelstrom Pulse. Travis made an early attack with his Raging Ravine that signalled to me that he didn’t have much gas left, and on the next turn I was able to Ranger of Eos some more creatures to reanimate a pair of Vengevines. Although he tried to mount a defines with Putrid Leech and Sarkhan the Mad, I kept swinging in for lethal until he just died.
In game 2 I get off a first turn Noble Hierarch, and reply to his Putrid Leech with a Knight of the Reliquary and a Fauna Shaman on consecutive turns. I tutor up my Meddling Mage and name Maelstrom Pulse. He manages to Jund Charm most of my board, and then Pulse my knight. However, I manage to cast another Vengevine which is able to go the distance as he doesn’t hit enough mana to play his more expensive threats.
2 – 1
For the final round of standard, I’m facing Sean, the number 1 seed from the rival store. He’s playing Soul Sisters, a deck which I have never had the chance to play against. The one thing I knew going into the matchup was that the only way I can win is to keep milling him, as the Vengevine route will not be able to break through. I get the first turn Hedron Crab, and enjoy the look of surprise on Sean’s face when I announce “mill you”. I quickly get a Knight of the Reliquary online and have to fetch up my Sejiri Steppe to protect my crab from a Path to Exile. The milling continues as he taps out for a Ranger of Eos, fetching a pair of Serra Ascendants. I punt the game here because I have a Path to Exile in my hand. I looked through his graveyard and see that he has only 1 copy of Brave the Elements after milling 3/4 of his deck. For some reason, I think that I might have to path one of my own dudes to mill 3, but don’t realize that I straight-up die to him if he does have the Brave and his ascendants go unchecked. Sean untags, attacks, I path, he braves, I lose. Simple enough.
While sideboarding I overhear my friends Blaine and Jim talking. Blaine has one win, and Jim has 2 draws (his deck went to time a lot), and they’ve agreed to draw. I realize that not only can I boost Jim’s tiebreakers by losing this match (he played Sean earlier), but I can reduce Andrew’s in the same vein, as he is also in contention for elimination. I decide that I’ll concede even if I win, but we play it out. The match goes pretty quickly, with me not getting a Hedron Crab until much too late, and I pretty much die.
2 – 2
After the final standings are posted, Jim beats out Andrew by 5 percent, so I’m happy I lost the final game and that my friends are advancing. Those who were eliminated receive consolation prizes of intro packs and theme decks, and we’re off to the next format.
Matt (The TO) arranges everyone around a set of tables and numbers us off. We’re wondering what he’s doing, as we can’t really have a 14 man draft. He then announces: “Players with an odd number look to your right, players with an even number look to your left. This will be your partner for Two-Headed Giant Draft.”
I’m paired with Buddy, a local player who I’ve played with in the past, and I’m ready to try a brand-new format.
Expect Part 2 within the next day or two.