All posts by Mike

PTQ Report – Charlestown, MA 6/5/10 – Top 8 w/ UW Control

After I finished 2nd at the TCGPlayer.com 5k at the beginning of May, I must’ve thought I was “the man” to break a promise I made to myself that this standard season I would figure out one deck I wanted to play and stick with it. I ran UW Control at the PTQ the next day and went something like 2-3 drop, losing to a bunch of Jund decks after mostly steamrolling Jund the day before. Annoyed, and wanting to jump on the bandwagon of the Big Deck of the Week, I ran Mythic Conscription the next weekend and gave up abotu 130 points on my total rating just in time for me to lose some byes for Grand Prix DC.

At said Grand Prix, I got back to what I wanted to be doing and sleeved up UW and my list was only a few cards off of the winning list. I started out 2-0 and lost my next three, bowing me out of competition. Remembering the aforementioned promise that I made to myself at the end of Extended Season, I stuck to my guns, changed my sideboard a bit and tossed Sphinx of Jwar Isle back in the Main Deck, gearing up to take on all sorts of creature decks (presumably Jund). What transpired was me starting 5-0, losing to the sole control deck I would play all day, beating another creature deck in Round 7 and drawing into the top 8 as the #3 seed. Not Bad.

I mentioned earlier that I wanted to gear my deck towards creatures. Naya, Jund, Mythic and to some degree Next Level Bant were all predominantly creature decks even if NLB had a distinct control aspect to it with hard-to-kill Planeswalkers. Still, I wanted to be ready for creatures, so I wanted at least three Path to Exile and at least three Day of Judgment as the foundation of creature kill. I am in the camp of loving Baneslayer Angel. I know that she is a lightning rod for removal and that people will hold removal in order to kill her, but I’m no pro. Sometimes I need my cards to do some of the work for me and this bitch is a workhorse. She is like Kerri Walsh to Linvala’s Misty May.

Anyway, Let me just show you this list. It’s not super different than what I or anyone else has been running, but if you’re going to browse this TR you might as well have the frame of reference.

Here’s the sideboard I ran:

I stuck the into the roil in there because I love it against control decks, it can be such a blowout. Whether it bouncing a baneslayer blocker, or bouncing your own Oblivion Ring with the trigger on the stack, or bouncing your own Oblivion Ring to legend rule their planeswalker, to bouncing a conscripted creature, I like what the card does. I ran it in the MD in Washington DC because I wanted it as the fourth path/fourth Oblivion ring combo card. Here I kept it in the board but I might just cut it alltogether next time out.

I put in 4 Celestial Purge because Firewalkers just don’t do enough against Jund right now, and while sometimes when playing Jund and facing them down they can be very annoying, but when Sarkhan the Mad flies over them all, it can be pretty useless. 4 Celestial Purge was aweseome for me in 4 rounds against Jund and 1 round against Mono Red. I think it was the smartest call I made all weekend and one of the reasons I top 8′d this PTQ.

Round 1 vs. Joe Canadas playing JUND

I figured this kid had a really loose keep in game 1 because he wasn’t really playing anything the first few turns. I slapped down an Elspeth on turn 4 and then started activating my Collonade and swinging for 7 on Turn 6. A few turns of that ended the game pretty quick.

I was pretty sure this kid was new, but when he announced “sideboarding eight!” in between our match while I was shuffling it was clearly confirmed. I told him not to announce that anymore and then kind of took it too easy on him. I cast Path to Exile on one of his creatures and he passed the turn and I reminded him he can search for a land, allowing him to get a second red mana on the board and almost letting him back into a game I had heavily under control. I still ended up winning but I learned an important lesson in playing down to the level of my competition and it was a mistake to not just give him the tip at the end of the game. Giving beginner players a way to beat you is not the way to grind into the pro tour.

Round 2 vs. Joe Pease – RG Land Destruction

This guy just completely blew me out in game 1 by hitting bloodbraid elf on this turn 4 and 5 and hitting resounding wave every time, bouncing my land and keeping me out of the game. I never got to cast a decent spell though on the final turn if I ripped a land I could’ve cast Day of Judgment and possibly gotten back into the game.

I saw him cascade past several Rolling Terrain so I boarded in my negates and my cancel.

Game 2 on the play he really couldn’t do much. He might’ve gotten some lands killed or spreading seased but I was able to stick Elspeth and Baneslayer and he didn’t have much for that.

Game 3 was the crazy one. He kept me off double white forever and my hand was 3 Baneslayer Angel and 2 Day of Judgment. Finally I was able to start dropping baneslayers and he mind controlled the first, and then the second one. I ripped oblivion ring to take one of them back rather than killing everything with Day of Judgment because time was about to be called. I used elspeth to start bashing in with a 7/7 baneslayer and he let the damage go through. I then pathed his (my) baneslayer and swung in for 12 with baneslayer and colonnade + elspeth ftw on turn 2 of extra time.

Round 3 vs. Luke Bardsley playing JUND

It was Jund with Vengevine and Cunning Sparkmage in the maindeck. I started with 2 wall of omens and he dropped a sparkmage. I went to oblivion ring it and he suicided his sparkmage in response making me lose one of my walls, which sucked. He wasn’t doing much when he’s leading with sparkmages though. He ended up cascading into Putrid Leech in consecutive turns with runner-runner Bloodbraid Elf which I Held off with ELspeth and then cast Day of Judgment to blow him out and get there with a baneslayer angel.

Game 2 he mulled to 4 and cast a turn 4 sarkhan the mad with his lotus cobra that I had no kill spell for. He stabilized quite a bit, mainly because I allowed him to keep his second red source on the table far too long when I had tectonic edge up. This allowed him to cast at least 2 extra spells he wouldn’t have been able to cast. He got me down to 6 but elspeth protecting me enough to cast a mind spring for 5 made it impossible for him to finish me off.

Round 4 vs. Devon O’Donnell playing Mono Red.

I’m buddy’s with Devon through my little bro and I knew he was running mono red, which I was happy about given my sideboard. He started game 1 with double goblin guide which I ripped 5 lands off of, so I could to discard a bunch of stuff I know wouldn’t matter. I had double spreading seas to keep him off early ball lightning and bought myself some time to drop a baneslayer. This is where I think I made a mistake. He had two Kiln Fiend out but clearly had no spells b/c he had been attacking in for 1 each with them. I had a baneslayer out with another in hand. I was at decently low life and while he was at 6 mana, two spreading seas meant he could not go double ball lightning or ball lightning + Hells Thunder. I decided to attack with my Baneslayer angel and drop the second. He dropped smoldering spires, Ball LIghtning and tried to play a Hell’s thunder until I reminded him that he didn’t have the correct mana to, and extended the hand. but I should’ve held up the baneslayer b/c I knew smoldering spires could be coming down and ruining my day.

Im game 2 Devon mulled to 5 and my opener was Wall of omens, celestial purge x2 and 4 land. I let him back into the game somehow by tapping out on turn 3 and he dropped a turn 3 hell’s thunder and again I was tapped out when he ripped the land to bring hells Thunder back. As a result he bolted and then burst lightning w/ kicker’d me and got me to 5, meaning he had an out with unstable footing, but alas it was not to be and he was dead to my double baneslayer beyond that. But still, I should’ve just played slow and allowed myself to pick off his threats with my purges and not ended the game with one still in my hand.

Round 5 vs. Justin Desai playing Lotus Cobra Jund

So Justin Desai is one of my closest friends and we’ve been CCG Partners for almost a full decade now. We’re considered one of the best Decipher SWCCG tandems of all time and are two time world champions in that game. We’ve only faced each other in sanctioned magic games a few times and never in a ptq.

Justin and I both stall out on lands early and are just playing draw go. Eventually he hits a couple of Leeches and Bloodbraid elfs and I get a really huge swing off of a Day of Judgment with Elspeth out. After that Elspeth and Colonnade go the rest of the way.

Game 2 I keep a hand with some spreading seas and 2x Celestial Purge. He plays lotus cobra on turn 2 and ramps into a turn 3 bloodbraid where he hits another cobra. I’m tapped out on account of the spreading seas so I can’t purge his bloodbraid, so I take 5. His next turn he drops a Terramorphic Expanse and casts a Sarkhan the Mad but doesn’t activate it, opting to swing for 7 into my empty board. I respond by Purging his Sarkhan, effectively timewalking him. After that I stabilize with Elspeth and Baneslayer angel and he can’t get much going after the mistake.

Round 6 vs. Bryan Lynch playing UWR Planeswalkers

At this point there were like 4 or 5 X-0′s so I was hoping to avoid Lynch who was pretty much the only UWR at the top of the standings. Of course I have awful luck and did not avoid him. Knowing my deck was more geared for creature decks, I didn’t have a lot of high hopes.

Nor should I have as this match was a massacre. Game 1 he kept me off double white mana all game with Spreading Seas and Ajani Vengeant. Game 2 I boarded out my wall of omens, kept a 2 lander with some spreading seas and some early plays. Lynch comes down with calcite snapper and four turns later I’m dead without having drawn another land.

Round 7 vs. Kyle Machado Playing R/G Weekend Warriors

I again kept a 2 lander against Kyle, never drew a third and got beatdown pretty hard by what seemed to be just a straight RG beatdown deck. I decided to board in 3 of my celestial purge but not all four because of Vengevine and other green based cards I figured I would see. Game 2 was a battle as he hit Goblin ruinblaster after goblin ruinblaster. Luckily I was on the play and slapped an elspeth down first so I was making tokens like it was going out of style. I also had a few wall of omens down. Eventually I drew out of my mana lock, got some baneslayers down and climbed out of range.

Boarding for game 3 I realized that as long as I stuck a baneslayer he really had no answer for it, save Threaten. I kept a pretty slow hand but one with day of judgment and baneslayer angel and 3 basic lands. My first couple of draws were also basic lands so I was able to lay basics on the first 5 turns and stay away from an onslaught of ruinblasters. Luckily for me he stalled on mana for a couple turns and wasn’t able to do much damage while I got to baneslayer mana. This is big time becasue he played the new threaten that makes the guy he steals power +2 and was able to swing be down to 4 life before I was able to get my baneslayer back, swing in and drop another one, keeping myself out of range, but had he not stumbled I would not have been sitting in third and able to draw into the top 8.

Round 8 vs. James P Syed playing Naya

We intentionally drew. I was in third, justin in fourth, so me and justin both make our first IRL PTQ top 8s.

TOP 8 Quarterfinal with Cameron Preston playing Jund.

To make a long story short, I got blightninged 7 times in 2 games and lost 0-2. It was pretty lame considering I had been 6-0 against Jund on the day going into this game. There was a chance I could’ve pulled game 1 out when I had some baneslayers on the way, but I did some math wrong and went to 3 when I thought I’d be at 4 and he had his blightning #3 of the game for me.

In game 2 it was just a total beatdown as he blightninged me all 4 times and never got to play anything that could’ve gotten me back into the game.

So all in all a pretty big bummer. Especially now since this next level bant deck is doing so well that UW control might not be an option anymore. I have another PTQ this weekend in Rhode Island but I’m unsure what I’m going to run.

Justin has been doing really well with Lotus Cobra Jund online and obviously had some success at the PTQ above. He used a similar if not the same list in the online ptq sunday and started 5-1 before losing his next two. I would say you could look for his decklist at the following link, but for some reason his decklist is ommitted, which sucks b/c it’s his first top 8. But you can check out the rest of the top 8 decklists here: http://www.wizards.com/magic/magazine/events.aspx?x=mtg/daily/eventcoverage/amsterdam10ptq/0605boston

Until next time,

Mike Gemme
Mike@power9pro.com
bobbysapphire on MTGO

Sleeving Up U/W for Grand Prix D.C.

After my top 2 finish at the Boston 5k a few weeks ago, I was looking good going into the GP with at least one bye and if I played well in any of the PTQs on the following two weekends I could be looking at 2 byes. That didn’t happen.

The day after the 5k I was pretty beat, sleeved up mostly the same 75 from the day before and went 2-2 drop at a PTQ. The following weekend was another PTQ in connecticut and I decided to switch to mythic. Mythic was a bit more complicated than I estimated and while it was capable of those blowout, turn 3 Eldrazi Conscription wins- playing a deck that just turns sideways was not what I was used to in standard and I coughed up a couple wins by simply not attacking in with my lotus cobra, forgoing one exalted trigger and losing with my opponent at 1.

Those kind of things drive me crazy and I am in no mood to play the Conscription deck again after going 0-2 in a PTQ and 2-2 drop in a WPN qualifier (losing to grixis 3 times, which is just a brutal matchup post board when you have to face down 4 lightning bolt, 4 terminate and the rest of the b/r goods and jace, the mind sculptor).

To be quite honest I’m a little torn what to do right now. Jund is certainly back on the rise and a couple of my teammates here in Mass really like it (and I’ve always considered them blue mages). It’s certainly very good as the results don’t lie, and going into the 5k weekend earlier in the month, Jund kind of punched me in the teeth a little, as I thought it was a very favorable matchup for UW Tapout; but really, nothing is favorable enough vs. cascade.

For the first time maybe ever, we’re bringing all 7 members of our squad to the same tournament, so decks are pretty sparse. We can put together two Junds or a Jund and a Naya, but I likely won’t be sleeving up anything green. There is plenty of time to play Jund for me at the online PTQs next month.

So unless I want to sleeve up some devastating summons, and I don’t think I do without having a card to kill baneslayer; I don’t really want to rely on mark of mutiny and a swing FTW to beat any deck with baneslayer angel in it, I’m going to be playing UW TAPOUT.

I’ve made some tweaks, and made some pretty brutal decisions (and I still have a couple more to make I fear), but I’ll talk about the deck a bit and what changes I’ve made and why.

I really liked UW control the weekend that I played it. I always felt like there was something I could do, or that I could draw (plus ways to draw it) that would bail me out of whatever situation I found myself in. I don’t feel like that has really changed. I like cantripping on turn 2 as much as I can. I love oblivion ring and mind spring, and while people can tell me all day that Baneslayer Angel sucks, she doesn’t and she’s a baller, and I love her.

I think that UW is fine vs. most matchups, I don’t think Dauntless Escort is very hard to play around in mythic with the right answers. I think UW can still beat Jund just fine if you gear it to the aggro matchup (and I don’t think wrath effects are nearly as bad as many people think they are vs. the deck). Furthermore, creature decks are all the rage right now with jund, naya and conscription running rampant at regionals and on MTGO.

The biggest issue I’ve stuggled with is how to deal with the creatures. I know a lot of people say to just run Sphinx of Jwar Isle and not baneslayer b/c it just gives opponent’s dead cards, but most jund players are already cutting terminates and just running maelstrom pulse x4. I think that a deck that maindecks a bunch of terminates is rough, don’t get me wrong; but the meta seems to be going the other way. People are now expecting UW tapout to not run baneslayers and the UWR Planeswalker deck doesn’t (Even though they should run them out of the board), and this could be the weekend to re-capitalize on running a full squad of Baneslayers.

So I’ve decided to neglect Sphinx of Jwar Isle despite how “good” (read: unkillable) it is against Jund. If you don’t hit several sphinx of Jwar Isle it’s really hard to actaully beat in against Jund with your 5/5. Which is why I like Baneslayer, even if they have a couple answers to it, you can turn it sideways and not fear that you’re going to die on the swing back.

I’ve upped the Planeswalker count to be a little strong against the aggro decks and put them on difficult decisions. Gideon works best with baneslayer on the table to kill one of their attackers. Elspeth is just a difficult planeswalker to kill. This also presents far more Pulse targets, making my baneslayers a bit better.

I cut an oblivion ring, conceding that creature decks are far more popular than the control decks right now, and a lot better. Instead of just upping a Path to exile however, I decided to toss in an Into the Roil. I like into the roil for a number of reasons. It’s as good as removal vs. Mythic and it’s just a lot better than path against the control matchups. Being able to bounce my own obring to legend rule a planeswalker and reload my removal seems really strong. It’s one more maindecked blue answer to a polymorphed Iona naming white and in plenty of situations itll draw me a card.

I’ve cut a mind spring, because games where I draw 2 in my opening hand were driving me a little nuts and while I know it’s practically a win condition, the cantripping in the rest of the deck will hopefully get me there.

I really loved the 2 negates maindeck when I played it and I don’t want to cut them, they’re only really bad against Conscription and Naya, but they’re great in the mirror and against jund, so I like them in the front 60.

I’ve decided to cut a Day of judgment to add in a martial coup which is a little worse against jund and mythic and to be honest, the one maindeck change I’m likely to make is to go back to three DOJ, one martial coup, I just don’t like making myself worse in the control mirrors, especially since right now I haven’t been able to fit one of the Eldrazi gods into my sideboard.

Speaking of Sideboard:

The only matchup I really don’t like is the Vengevine Naya matchup. I’m not really sure what I want to be doing vs. that post board but I’m going to get some testing in tonight and friday before the GP.

This is geared pretty heavily towards the control matchups, in which I like more negates, another into the roil, the sanctifiers and the Luminarchs. A few weeks ago I thought luminarchs were trash but looking at lists, people are cutting an oblivion ring or two from their 75 and enchantment destruction is almost non-existant. Some people are adopting into the roil, which could be an issue, but with 4 negates I should be able to back it up. I like keeping the sanctifiers for the mirror to deal with luminarchs and obrings still. I think that the firewalkers and the purges will be enough for the jund matchup, combined with leaving DOJ in and bringing in the Mind Control.

Maybe some more testing this weekend will tell me I’m wrong, but I’m hoping the white planeswalkers and arsenal of celestial purge in the board will help swing the Jund matchup a little bit, it’s possible that it’s not enough.

I’m pretty excited about the GP, GP Trials and even a fallback ptq on sunday, and I’m happy to be sleeving up this deck on the real battlefield. I’ll likely switch to Jund talk next week as ONline PTQs start back up and I’ve already traded for my Sarkhan the Mads and Consuming Vapors.

Til next time,

Mike Gemme
Mike@Power9Pro.com
Bobbysapphire on MTGO

Taking 2nd Place at the Boston $5K

Last week I discussed my preparation for the big TCGPlayer.com 5k / PTQ weekend in Boston, MA. All week I was pretty certain that I would be sleeving up UW tapout for Saturday but was contemplating some Mythic for Sunday. I also talked about my helping friend and former pro tour-er Blaine Hatab get Kiln Fiend into a winning deck. Well, Blaine and my testing (or lack thereof) worked out as he finished 9th and I came in second losing in the finals to JUND when I couldn’t rip one of 14 outs to take home my first Magic Trophy.

First I’ll start with the list I brought to the tournament Saturday and some discussion of it.

you can see me discuss the list here.

My big insistance in the deck was to run 4 Oblivion rings. I really like the Obring vs. just about every deck out there right now. Even against mono red or R/x, being able to oblivion ring a Kiln fiend is invaluable. I wouldn’t leave all four in postboard vs. red decks, and I’d only cut them all if I didn’t see kiln fiend in games 1 and 2. But Planeswalkers are everywhere right now, and so aren’t baneslayers; Obring is just a good catch all, I even Obring’d a 1/1 Goblin Token vs. polymorph once last weekend.

I also liked 2 path and considered 3 just because of how good mythic is, and how an unchecked baneslayer angel can simply rule the mirror.

Probably the strangest thing about my list is the inclusion of 4 total fetchlands, 2 white and 2 blue. This is for a number of reasons. 1 they make both Jace and Sphinx of Jwar Isle better. Sometimes the sphinx just isnt enough late game and that’s when you have most of your card advantage. Numerous times on the weekend I would end up with a sphinx and some fetches and they would give me the chance to see more cards. Same goes with Jace, I once Jace: brainstormed 3 times in a row and got all lands each time, luckily the third time yielded a fetch so I could mix things up and ended up taking the game down despite not havnig a single threat for a few turns.

My Board was as follows:

Nothing really crazy in here except the 2 Jace Beleren. Those are in there for the control match to vindicate their jace and net me some cards when I can slap em down and get it done. I also ended up bringing them in vs. UR polymorph b/c in game 1 my opponent seemed really reliant on Jace to find his stuff.

This tournament really started off on the wrong foot for me. Out of 228 players I got paired up aganist my best friend Steve Baroni in round 1 and he was playing Open the Vaults / Time Sieve, the one deck that UW has almost no chance of beating.

Steve started with a mull to 4 or 5 and dropped game 1, then proceeded to take game 2 easily. As we began to shuffle up for game 3 Steve wanted to reboard some cards and when he reached for his deckbox it was gone. Someone had taken his box with his postboarded deck and he was missing some important hard to find commons and unless he replaced them would’ve had to scoop from the tournament. As we played game 3 Blaine tried to track some cards down, after coming up with nothing Steve decided to scoop to me and drop from the tournament to do some free drafting.

Then I proceded to drop my second game to the UW mirror after I couldn’t handle my opponent’s baneslayer angels in either of the second or third game.

I was not feeling great at this point, clearly I should’ve been 0-2 drop but with one win I *simply* had to win out…

I ended up beating, in no particular order, UW Tapout x2, Mythic, Jund, Naya SHallies, and White weenie to finish up 7-1 and able to draw with eventual champ Josh Herr into the top 8.

I was pretty nervous for the top 8 simply because I had played so horribly in the 8th round. I faced a good local player I knew and had beaten the last two times we faced (Dustin Taylor – 1859). I played really poorly against Dustin who was in it to win it. He gave me a real run for my money in game 1 after he mulled to 3 and I had a fairly slow start. In game 2 he rolled me on the play and in game 3 I ripped running baneslayer angels to give him no hope of top eighting. Most of my good fortune on Satudray was due to my supreme rips and not having to mull once.

In the top 8 meeting we were discussing splits and Gerard Fabiano was undecided on a split himself. I proposed we each take 500 and put the final 200 in the pot and play a winner-take-all top 8 event. Everyone eventually agreed to this and we were off.

Quarter Finals vs. Jund

I was pretty confident about Jund going into this event and was glad to see it in the first round of the top 8. Now that I had $500 in my pocket the pressure was off and I was able to just do work. If you watch my opponent’s interview he said he felt like he got outjunded this match and mabye that’s true because there weren’t any difficult decisions to be made during these games. It was all about surviving blightnings and casting as many spreading seas as I could to get to my Baneslayer Angels and Sphinx of Jwar Isle.

Semifinals vs. UW Tapout.

This is the only match other than mythic that I 2-0′d all day. In game 1 I stuck a Baneslayer Angel on 5 and then he played one on his turn 5. I laid down a jace the mind sculptor and bounced his angel then swang. At this point the lock was on as he could either try and take out my jace or keep dropping his Baneslayer. He dropped the baneslayer again and I didn’t have to play another card the rest of the match because of Negate in my hand and no reason to tap.

In game 2 it was more of the same, I answered his baneslayers but he couldn’t answer my 5/5 fliers. On the game winning turn I had a Sphinx and a Slayer vs. his Slayer. With plenty of Mana I cast mind spring for 4 leaving 3 mana open in hopes of ripping a path or an oblivion ring, the fourth card I drew was an Obring and that was that.

Finals vs. Jund

He takes down game 1 after casting Blightning once from his hand and another off of a cascade. In game 2 I have 7 mana on the turn after he drops Malakir Bloodwitch to a pretty full board facing down my baneslayer angel. I drop a Wall of Omens drawing Mind Control taking his bloodwitch and he scoops us into game 3.

Game 3 was a little nuts as he has the triple Putrid Leech Start after my Spreading Seas suck on the draw. Between all his Putride Leech activations and a swing from my Baneslayer Angel we’re both sitting under 10 life. I have a Colonnade on the board but my only other lands are plains and tectonic edges. I can draw any one of 3 islands, 2 blue fetches, 4 Glacial Fortresses or 3 Wrath of Gods to even this game up. I draw a blank and he’s able to burn me with Siege Gang Comander and have more than enough to swing in for the win and the trophy (though he and I split the final $200).

All in all I was pretty happy with UW tapout. I sleeved it up again on Sunday but it did not perform as well, I had to mulligan a lot and my draws weren’t very optimal and I was out by the sixth round. If I had to sleeve it up again I would definitely include a Gideon Jura in my Maindeck and likely a second martial coup. Martial Coup is really important in the mirror and my opponents having multiples took me down plenty of times over the two day weekend. I think I would cut down to 2 mind spring and try to throw in a Divination. Some potential cuts are 1x Baneslayer Angel, 1x Day of Judgment or an Oblivion Ring. I really like the maindeck negates so I wouldn’t personally cut those but I can see why people would not want them in the big 60.

This weekend I’ve got another PTQ in Hartford Connectictu, I’ll be wearing my bright orange Power9pro tshirt but I’ll likely be sleeving up Mythic Bant. I haven’t decided about which version I’m going to run, I’m leaning towards the Eldrazi Conscription version but with at least 1 Rafiq of the Many to give it more of a threat level if I can’t find my Sovereigns of Lost ALara during a game.

Thanks for reading

Mike Gemme
mike@power9pro.com
bobbysapphire on MTGO.

Kicking Off the Standard Season

Here we go again.

It’s another season here on the PTQC and the grinding begins this weekend at the TCGPlayer 5k in Boston followed by a Sunday Funday PTQ.

Right now, public enemy #1 is UW Tapout; a deck that you can barely damage in the early game and is nigh untouchable in the mid-late game due to the hand sculpting card advantage given to the deck by cantrippers Wall of Omens and Spreading Seas, as well as Divination and Mind Spring, and of course Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Those, along with three-time all-star Oblivion Ring, and hall of famer Wrath of God there just isn’t a whole lot you can do to this deck before they resolve Baneslayer Angel or Sphinx of Jwar Isle.

Since I took this gig, I’ve been pushing Jund hard. Play the best deck I always say, and that deck is Jund. Well, unfortunately, it’s not anymore and I’ve been contemplating dumping my Maelstrom Pulses online for a cool 66 tickets though I’m not abandoning the bandwagon just yet. I am however, probably going to sleeve up UW Tapout this weekend at the 5k, so if you’re at the event and you see a better looking guy than you sitting across the table in a bright orange power9pro tshirt, mulligan appropriately.

That isn’t to say that I haven’t been trying like hell to brew up something spicy for one of these two events, because I have. I wish I had a better head start on things but life sometimes gets in the way and I was left with just a couple weeks to prepare for “The New Standard” as you see it called around the internets.

When Prophetic Prism was spoiled, old-school Open the Vaults / Time Sieve popped into my head because of its ability to replace elsewhere flask. I got the team involved because my brother had top 8′d an Australian PTQ with the deck last year and got to seeing if we could make it work in Standard where UW is what everyone is trying to do. We put a list together, tried some different things, and like I suspected it ran shop against UW Tapout. I was struggling against Jund a bit, but I wasn’t really comfortable with what hands I should’ve been keeping and what hands I should’ve been shipping. I passed it across the table to my buddy Steve and he immediately was feeling the deck. One of his big hangups has been that he really didn’t like any deck and he wanted to hit the 5k with something spicy and off the radar. And while Open the Vaults with Filligree Angel is certainly a deck right now, it’s possible to lose despite climbing to absurd amounts of life. The Tezzerator concoction simply never passes the turn back because of Time Sieve.

Mike Siever is not very spicy, and this is pretty much just a drummed up old list with some prophetic prisms and a couple extra glassdust hulk, but it gets the job done. We found that the Hulk is pretty much the key to beating jund. They have so much disruption that it’s not exactly feasable to get the Time Sieve loop going, but if you can beat in for a couple turns with the Hulk while ramping and possibly rocking out an Open the Vaults, you simply catch the Jund Player unawares and tapped out and eventually at 0 life. Depending on how Steve does with this bear I might run it on Sunday.

Another buddy of mine fell in love with a new ROE card: Kiln Fiend. We pretty much spent an entire 24 hours discussing and testing decks with this guy trying to make him work. Sometimes he was just broken. If Jund tapped out for a sprouting thrinax on turn 3, he could straight up end the game with Distortion Strike[card], [card]Lightning Bolt, Burst Lightning; attack take 15, you’re pretty damn dead. Distortion strike makes him very good but in games you don’t draw the card, or in games that your opponent has like, a lightning bolt, things get ugly quick. We sleeved up just about every 1cc spell for red and blue (what’s up Burst of Speed ) and it was just too flimsy against Jund. There’s a possibility that this guy could be really good in Boros because you have a lot of other creatres to use who are strong and Emerge Unscathed takes the place of Distortion Strike, but outside of lightning bolt, burn spells are so underwhelming in standard that Boros doesn’t seem very well placed.

I’ve given MBC some serious thought this week but haven’t had any time to test it, once ROE comes out online I’ll probably sleeve this up virtually at some point and see how it does b/c I have most every card for it and somehow Abyssal Persecutor is like $10 less than it is IRL

I really like Contaminated Ground, this deck is trying to nickel and dime the opponent, and maybe bash in with an abyssal once or twice. Contaminated Ground goes a long way and works as a removal spell for a turn 1 Celestial Colonnade. I love Ob Nixlis and Sorin Markov and this deck is just filled with good stuff. I think if you’re running Mind Sludge (which you should) then just don’t bother with tactonic edge, but this is definitely an archtype that could embrace the edge with a different approach.

My other option this weekend? Mythic Bant. The deck is pretty narrow, but it can sure as shit steamroll people. I haven’t played any games with it, which is against my motto for this season, but it is tournament one with a new set and I have to start somewhere. It does look like a pretty fun deck. If you haven’t seen the version with Sovereigns of Lost Alara and Edlrazi Conscription, I suggest you check it out because that looks like even more of a blast; “does my Sovereigns of Lost Alara Trigger Resolve? +10/+10 trample, Annihilate 2, thanks for playing” sounds like a fun mantra to repeat on the weekend. I think if anything I’d go with the Thronling version because it owns Jund, but I have to come up with a couple Rafiq of the Many if so because nobody ever seems to have that card.

I’ll let y’all know how things go next week, thanks for letting me air out my thoughts on the format and as always feel free to slam me or give me some better ideas.

Mike Gemme
Mike@power9pro.com
Bobbysapphire on MTGO

Tilting Hard, and Dealing with it.

Tilt n (tlt): a state of mental confusion or frustration in which a player adopts a less than optimal strategy, usually resulting in the player becoming over-aggressive.

I hate it when poker terms bleed out into real life situations. I cringe anytime someone (including myself) says that they were “all-in” on something that isn’t a no-limit pot. I have to actively restrain myself from whipping out my pimp-hand when someone says something is “the nut,” but there’s just no better way to describe being tilted other than to say you’re on tilt, and having to admit that I’m on tilt when I am only makes me tilt harder.

I haven’t picked up a magic card in nearly two weeks because I’m on tilt. Hard.

That statement isn’t entirely true, because some friends and I team drafted at a hip bar in Boston a couple of weeks ago; I wasn’t happy about it, but I thought having some fun with magic might help my issue.

This all started after I had been killing it on Magic Online last month. After my online PTQ top 8 things had been steady, I was winning a bit but drafting a bit and not winning so everything kind of offset. Then I won a limited premiere event and my account was actually pretty respectable. I already had JUND built online so I really didn’t need to invest in anything, I could just pay entry fees to try and build the account to what I envisioned as a most ludcrious state by “going infinite” in daily events.

It had also been my goal since I got into MTGO to participate in a Magic Online Championship Series Event, something you have to qualify for by winning events online and earning points. In march after just a few days I had 11 out of the needed 15 points to participate; three weeks later I was holding steady at 11, the season over and my account nearly zeroed out of packs and tix.

This alone is enough to piss someone right off, but this is just the end to justify the means. The path that I took is what drove me into a downward spiral of Anger, Fear and Aggression: The Dark Path.

Anger. Don’t think you’re better than the game:

Magic is a quick game, often times over within 8 turns for each player. With so many fast decks out there the game can end even earlier. A lot of times when we lose there was something we could’ve done to win, but sometimes you just lose. If, after a loss, you open your mind to the idea that losses are inevitable you can avoid tilting.

But if you’re really angry about a loss, instead of jumping in another 8-man queue, go watch your games and see if there was any other play you could’ve made.

Fear. Don’t make stupid decisions because you are afraid to lose, these will only make you madder:

1271254281947

I have bad decisions tattooed on my arm; no joke. A lot of these were life decisions, but damned if I wasn’t sitting in that chair thinking about how it applies to my card career too. When you know you’re playing against vampires and you keep a hand with NO removal even though it’s a “good matchup” and you lose, it’s easy for someone to say “you can’t be mad, you decided to keep a bad hand.” SCREW that. You just did a stupid thing, and it’s infuriating. Most of my losses to vampires and allies are because I kept a hand without removal despite knowing my matchup and knowing I boarded in extra creature kill. And when I do this it only serves to piss me off, even if my mana was tight.

Aggression. Don’t reload:

I used to play a bunch of poker and when I was running bad I knew to just do something else. I have plenty of hobbies I can do something else with my time. I find it a lot harder to walk away from Magic because it’s such a proving ground for me. It’s the first card game I’ve played that I haven’t been able to excel at. So when I start losing it’s harder for me to not jump in an 8-man queue with 6 people in it or a Daily event that’s firing in 10 minutes.

I’ll harken back to the definition of Tilt I posted above and how it mentions aggressiveness. I most identify this with being too aggressive with your actual iterations of playing. If you’re angry and you are losing, just stop reloading beacuse even if you win a game or two, is it really going to pull you out of tilt, or is it going to make you reload again? It’s like false positive reinforcement, yeah that didn’t go so bad but when you find yourself still in your swoon you’re going to be up ranting and raving on facebook chat to your friends about how bullshit you are at yourself for keeping 6 lands and a bloodbraid elf.

That ranting and raving thing is a true story, only it happened on Gmail chat. I went through about 80 tickets in three days trying to qualify for the MOCS, and when I clicked open the Magic Online store to bust into my paypal account I had to draw the line and unplug my laptop. I like to pride myself on being a pretty cool customer, almost completely unflappable, but we all have weaknesses and as much of a gracious loser I think I am, I HATE losing; it bends me out of shape.

So I’m Magic Free for two weeks, even though I am a bit regretful that I cannot attend any Rise of Eldrazi pre-releases. I really enjoyed posting my pools from the Worldwake prereleases and writing about them for power9pro but I have an engagement with another card game that I must attend, and to be honest I don’t think I’m ready to strap back into a magic seat yet. I’m still pretty frustrated with myself for allowing my account to go nuclear instead of playing some xbox or reading, but I need to open myself up to the fact that playing for the sake of playing isn’t going to make me a better magic player. I’m going to sit back down when I really want to give it a stab… or on Sunday when the first standard PTQ online fires.

Mike Gemme

mike@power9pro.com

Bobbysapphire on MTGO

The New Rise of Eldrazi Mechanics

So, everybody wants to be a Figure of Destiny.

I just spent a week down in my favorite city in the world (New Orleans) and on my shaky flights home I took notes on an article I’ve been meaning to write since I landed this gig at p9p. However, when I got home and punched “Daily MTG” into google for the first time in eight days and found the Rise of Eldrazi visual spoiler and some crazy new mechanics, I knew that I’d once again have to shelve that other article and talk about power levelling.

So far we’ve got three Light Warriors who can level up at will (well, sorcery speed will):

Guul Draz Assasin Lighthouse ChronologistKnight of Cliffhaven

It’s pretty tough to analyze these guys after only seeing three of them, but their rarity speaks to me a bit. One mythic, one rare and one common; there will likely be a fair number of these guys in the set, maybe 2-3 per color.

I think the major thing to consider about this mechanic is how exactly to play it (even before we consider how good this mechanic really is or isn’t). For example, take a look at Guul Draz Assasin. When are we playing this guy? Play him on one, level him up maybe on 2, then on 3 you level him up again and make their 2 drop -2/-2. That’s obviously one streamlined option, but does this guy get worse if you can’t play him on turn 1? Maybe not. Turn 3 you can play him and pump him once, then on turn 4 you can pump him again and still have the option to make a guy -2/-2 which can make combat really tricky that turn if they can’t kill him. The main question we need to ask ourselves at this point is how does our board look? Is a casting cost of 2BBB worth it to have a 2/2 that can run shop on the board?

What this mechanic really is, is “slow-kicker.” The fact that the rare ones seem color-intensive could make things really problematic, but the common Knight of Cliffhaven (anybody else thinking of Cliff Claven?) levels for three colorless mana, making him a much better limited card even if his level up cost is pretty expensive. We’ve seen 2/2′s for 2cc go a long way in limited over the years, and we’ve seen 2/3 flyers do pretty well too. But a 2/3 flyer for 5 mana? Eh. If your curve falters it’s fine, and if you’re really struggling to stop a flyer he is obviously very handy, but really I think most times this guy is going to be a good limited staple (since we’re drafting triple ROE) for white but no real practical constructed application.

This mechanic gives us a new template which is cool if not fugly, and I think the power level of the rares will be the deciding factor on whether or not these guys can hang in constructed standard, because I’m sure some will be usable in block.

Dennis Rodman plays magic?!

Rebound is the only new mechanic with the potential to do really unfair things. This is what we have so far:

Prey's VengeanceVirulent Swipe

Right now we only have things that are pumps, which is fine because so far they’re both forms of removal that are really good when you play it on your opponent’s turn and rebound it on your turn.

I don’t think I really have to go too in depth into this, as it’s pretty obvious that if you can block, play Preys Vengeance to go +2/+2 to kill a creature and keep your guy alive, rebound into your guy being +2/+2 again and attack in bigger than anyone on the board you’re going to be looking pretty good. Same with Virulent Swipe, you can play it on defense to force a trade and then swing in the next turn with someone else and make them trade with you again or take some damage. It seems like a good way to make use of a guy who has become outclassed by the other creatures on the board.

It’ll be interesting to see what else they do with this mechanic. The two cards we have are uncommon so I wonder if there will be just one uncommon Rebound card in each color that’s some form of pump. It’s easy to assume that the white card will give us lifelink and the blue card will give us flying, but maybe R/D will be a little more inventive than that.

But it would be really cool if they gave us real board changing cards with rebound. Like a blue card that bounces a creature, a black that kills, a red that burns etc. It is a really cool, strong mechanic that doesn’t seem TOO powerful.

I’ve already said something on totem armor in the power9pro spoiler article two weeks ago, but this new card is exactly what I was looking for to think that this mechanic has potential:

Hyena Umbra

First strike is one of the most powerful of the most used keywords on creatures. It can absolutely rule combat, so casting Hyena Umbra to give a guy +1/+1 and first strike and “Regenerate for free” makes this a nifty little power package at a very, very low cost. Kindled Fury was one of my absolute favorite cards in M10 draft and won me many a pack on MTGO, this card reminds me of that. And, since it’s white I like it as a card that can make Knight of the Reliquary even better. I’m interested to see what the other colors with this mechanic have to offer, especially at such low costs.

The only other new mechanic is Annihilator and I think it’s pretty obvious that it’s one of the most powerful Mechanics magic has ever printed. Obviously it’s main hindrance is that none of the cards it’s printed on cost less than 8, nor do they have haste, so you’re not going to be Annihilating anything without great effort.

There’s also a little something going on with Defender, but that’s not exactly new or exciting, just that they’re getting really into defender for this set, which (with apologies) doesn’t excite me whatsoever. Though this card was spoiled today by WOTC:

Guard Duty

That’s it for me, I’m always excited about new cards even if I’m not excited about their constructed applications. I’m hoping we get a lot more out of rebound and some interesting Level Uppers in all the colors, until then I’ll be cascading.

Mike Gemme
BobbySapphire on MTGO
mike@power9pro.com

PS: here’s a link to the WOTC Visiual Spoiler, check it often.

Playing the Right Deck

If you’ve ready any of my artciles you know I’m not a casual magic player. I don’t have an EDH deck, I’ve never played type 4 and I attend FNM because the shop down the street from me gives away $90 in store credit to first place and $30 to second place (for $5 entry). There are two things I’ve learned recently that I think have made me a better magic player and I want to explore the first one today: playing the right deck, or how I learned to put down the Vampires and love Jund.

In any given tournament that I enter I play to win the entire tournament. Top 8’ing a PTQ or finishing inside of the prizes is always nice, but really I play because I want that top slot. I can only assume that this goal is the same for any other serious tournament player – why else would we spend endless hours playtesting and theorizing? Despite this, many players are guilty of handicapping themselves before a tournament even starts, defaulting them to a position of somewhere less than first, solely based on their deck choice.

Now, this doesn’t only apply to that kid who is here for his first PTQ with his 5 color ally deck he beats all of his friends with at lunch. No, this goes much further, extending into decks that many players consider viable and are even willing to enter tournaments with. While these decks may seem quite powerful in a vacuum, they simply are often not capable of winning a tournament because it simply cannot beat the best deck in the room.

A brief aside; despite the fact that people are complaining about Jund’s dominance, you simply have to realize that there is always a best deck. In Standard it’s Jund, replacing the dominance of Faeries from last season; in Extended, we see Dark Depths/Thopter Combo as far and away the best in place of the Riptide Laboratory-fueled Mono Blue Faeries of a year ago. While these decks are not necessarily the most popular (though Jund certainly is), they will be piloted by the best players and be at the top tables all day long. Thus, if you realistically want to win a tournament, you need to be able to fight these decks; if you cannot, you’re playing for 2nd at best.

Take Vampires for example. Inherently, this is an extremely strong deck – both [/card]Vampire Nocturnus[/card] and Mind Sludge are pretty unfair, you never get color-screwed, and most of your other spells pack a pretty powerful punch. Consensus says that you crush everything, that you’re the deck that everyone mentions to be “the deck I least want to see in the top 8”…except for Jund. And that, my friends, is a huge exception – the fact that you simply can’t beat the best deck.

Maybe you’ve beaten Jund 2 of the last 3 times at your local FNM, but I would need a lot more evidence than just that to overturn the popular consensus. And yes, I realize that Vampires won a 5K at some point this Standard season, but Affinity and Merfolk have also won Extended PTQs – I’d rather not focus on corner cases. The fact is, Jund is the best deck – you simply cannot ignore the results – and when it is occupying at least 3 spots in the top 8 of a tournament (up to a whopping 6 at GP: KL), you’re participating in a losing venture by bringing a copy of Twilight to the table.

Vampires is not the only deck of this sort. Playing some sort of GB Rock variation in Extended, chock full of Sakura Tribe Elders and Garruk Wildspeakers that have no hope of interacting with a flying, indestructible 20/20 or endless stream of Thopter tokens, has no realistic shot at ever winning. Steve Sadin, Limited Information author for the mothership and GP: Columbus winner, was once quoted in a Kyle Sanchez article stating that “During a lot of these PTQs, usually while IDing into the Top 8, I would realize that my deck was actually incapable of winning the tournament because it wasn’t capable of beating the best, most prepared player(s) in the room.” And that is the key, right there – if your deck is simply not capable of beating the best that there is (and I assure you, the best players will be playing the best decks), then you are doing yourself no favors but presenting yourself an unwinnable situation.

Now, much of what I’ve said so far may seem rather obvious, so hopefully I can explain out a few more pieces of advice. Beyond playing decks that, as described above, cannot feasibly win tournaments, you should avoid playing decks that are simply inferior versions of others and decks that fold to the same kind of hate.

For the former, let’s look at decks such as Boss Naya and Bant (not the Mythic deck, something more like the Junk decks that Bucher and Juza played at worlds). Now, at face value, these decks have very little in common – Jund wants to Cascade, Naya features sleek Ranger and Stoneforge Mystic packages, and Junk decks want to run out Baneslayer Angels. But boiled down, these are all simply aggressive mid-range decks featuring efficient creatures and some removal or disruption. I know, Naya can pack the Cunning Sparksmage combo postboard and Bant can do crazy things on a turn 3 start, but these decks are all essentially trying to accomplish the same thing by similar means. So why would you play something that’s proven to be a lesser form than the best, especially when it’s a bad matchup for you? Honestly, the best I can come up with here is that people are sick of playing with Jund, which means their sick of winning, which I simply can’t comprehend..but I digress.

As for the latter piece of advice, we should first consider the Dark Depths deck, easily considered to be the top dog in Extended. However, the deck is susceptible to a fair amount of sideboard hate, presented by Zoo decks in the form of cards like Bant Charm and Damping Matrix. So if people are packing hosers like these, why would you ever consider playing Affinity, a weaker deck that falls prey to the same hate? Similarly, if a card like Night of Soul’s Betrayal suddenly became a big hit to combat Thopter Foundry, your Bitterblossoms and Vendilion Cliques should probably stay in your trade binder.

What I’m trying to get at through all of this, is that at a given point in time there should probably only be a few decks that you should even consider playing. Card issues aside, if your aim is to win the tournament, you should be playing the best or playing what seeks to beat the best. Zac Hill once said that you should pose two questions when approaching a format, asking yourself what is the most powerful thing you can be doing and what is the best way to stop that. Consider these words next time you’re heading off to a tourney, hopefully leaving your Vampire Hexmages in the board in favor of some Putrid Leeches, Hellspark Elementals, or even Spreading Seas.

Drafting ZZW (in a 64-Man Premiere Event on MTGO)

When I applied to write for Power9pro.com I highlighted the fact that I attended drafts pretty often and would be glad to write about them. One of the local stores has draft FNMs as well as a draft every Tuesday night as well. But with LOST moving to Tuesdays and trying to factor in dating with PTQs every saturday, my draft nights have been few and far between.

One of the great things about Magic Online (MODO from here on out) is it’s super easy to get in a draft. UNLESS those drafts happen to be the 64 man release event drafts. Those you have to sign up for days in advance. I haven’t had a chance to do one of these since I top 4′d an M10 64-man. What a top 4 in these events does is qualify you for the set release championship. It’s a sealed tournament where first place is a foil playset of the new set. Not bad. So my ultimate goal was to qualify for this. And being on a hot run of limited lately, I thought my chances were pretty good.

I had monday off so I spent it running errands and cleaning my apartment and playing MODO. I kind of got sick of that so I started playing xbox. I did this thinking I had all afternoon free b/c I signed up for the 8pm 64-man draft. Only I didn’t, I signed up for the 4pm. So when I got up to check my email for a second and saw the MODO tab blinking I was pretty pissed. Luckily I only missed one pick. I didn’t have my draft recorder set at the time (reformatted my CPU recently) but I can only imagine what I passed someone for the very sweet autopick of Soaring *Bleeping* Seacliffs.

Already disenchanted, I did my best with what I could scrounge up and ended up Red/Black with 2 plated geopede, 2 corrupted zendikon and light black removal. I had to pass 2 searing blaze because I was extremely low on creatures. I did end up with chain reaction, which I figure would get me back into games I was behind, but I only drew it once and I never cast it.

I never had to. I went 2-0, 2-0, 2-0 winning my pod and top 8ing.

Here’s the deck I ended up with. It’s missing a card but 3 of my game replays from the first pod were missing and whatever the card is, I never ever drew it in those three games.

Notable sideboard cards were Mind Sludge, Mire Toll and Bog Tatters. I don’t pick mire toll early, but it can deal with a guy who is otherwise undealwithable.

Now a few words about my personal feelings on Zendikar Block Limited.

-I really, REALLY like blue. All it’s good creatures are excellent. They have a lot of tricks with bouncing and tapping down and paralyzing. Vapor Snare might be the best non-rare in limited right now.Everything they do is really strong but you have to stay aggressive with them. I think that UB or UR are exactly what I want to be seeing and while I’m not willing to force it, I feel like if I can get blue even if it’s UW I’m going to be happy with having the chance to play into the top 4.

-I think white is really strong, but I don’t ever know what to couple it with. I’ve never been able to pull off mono white but I think if one could pull that off it’d be pretty awesome. White has some great stuff and I’d e happy to open any white.

-Unless I’m mono green I don’t really want anything to do with it.

-Above all else, I want to open Ob Nixlis he is the card I pray for every time I queue a draft or sign up for a sealed.

The draft converter software online does not come out well on our webblog here so I’m pasting the good old MODO converter text below so you can check out my picks with commentary!

Pack 1 pick 1:
–> Ob Nixilis, the Fallen
Piranha Marsh
Sky Ruin Drake
Journey to Nowhere
Makindi Shieldmate
Caller of Gales
Mark of Mutiny
Bladetusk Boar
Needlebite Trap
Grazing Gladehart
Desecrated Earth
Cobra Trap
Forest
Cliff Threader
Turntimber Grove

1 – I barely looked at the rest of the pack and saw I was sending Journey and mostly junk. I don’t like BG so I didn’t care about the gladehart, but I do like Black with any other color and wanted to be cognizent of what was shipping. Ob Nixlis is my favorite first pick. He’s the guy I pray for every time I start a draft. I even joked to my friend Andy about likely passing him in the first draft when I missed my pick.

Pack 1 pick 2:
Ruinous Minotaur
Slaughter Cry
Blade of the Bloodchief
Joraga Bard
Stonework Puma
Feast of Blood
Scythe Tiger
Akoum Refuge
Mire Blight
Sunspring Expedition
Paralyzing Grasp
–> Mark of Mutiny
Pillarfield Ox
Mountain

2 – This pack blows. My options are paralyzing grasp, mark of mutiny, stonework puma, slaughter cry or blade of the bloodchief. Forcing vampires is hard, so blade and feast of blood are off the table. I narrow it to mark and grasp, I’d really like to be UB but I don’t want to force it and I take the mark.

Pack 1 pick 3:
Ior Ruin Expedition
Swamp
–> Disfigure
Pillarfield Ox
Explorer’s Scope
Punishing Fire
Trapmaker’s Snare
Vampire Lacerator
Kor Hookmaster
Bala Ged Thief
Brave the Elements
Sky Ruin Drake
Timbermaw Larva

3 – I don’t like lacerator much and it’s not nearly as much a signal as disfigure, as disfigure rules combat so well. For disfigure to get 2 packs to the left means I should have no problem getting enough black to justify my bomb.

Pack 1 pick 4:
Seascape Aerialist
Noble Vestige
Merfolk Wayfinder
Tempest Owl
Shatterskull Giant
Spell Pierce
Zektar Shrine Expedition
Hedron Scrabbler
Plains (FOIL)
–> Giant Scorpion
Bloodghast
Swamp

4 – I go back and forth on this pick quite a bit and I actually originalyl almost slam-clicked bloodghast. Bloodghast is fine but like lacerator gets outclassed quickly so I take the scorpion who is usually a great piece of removal.

Pack 1 pick 5:
Kabira Crossroads
Mold Shambler
–> Windrider Eel
Goblin Ruinblaster
Hagra Crocodile
Graypelt Refuge
Cliff Threader
Soaring Seacliff
Island
Oran-Rief Recluse
Teetering Peaks

5 – It could be wrong but I took the presence of EEL to be a signal. Eel is great if they don’t have removal and can end games on his own. I really would like to be blue over any other color so I slam this down figuring the croc will wheel if I really want it.

Pack 1 pick 6:
Swamp
Unstable Footing
Beast Hunt
Cancel
Quest for Ancient Secrets
–> Bog Tatters
Shieldmate’s Blessing
Crypt of Agadeem
Slaughter Cry
Kor Outfitter

6 – Even if I’m not playing black this guy blocks big guys well and is a force to be reckoned with when turned sideways.

Pack 1 pick 7:
Vampire Lacerator
Highland Berserker
Landbind Ritual
Vastwood Gorger
Harrow
Trailblazer’s Boots
Kor Cartographer
Island
–> Whiplash Trap

7 – Another tough one, again I don’t like lacerator and though my deck isn’t aggressive right now, I don’t expect it to stay that way and I windmill slam one of my favorite cards in the format.

Pack 1 pick 8:
–> Goblin Shortcutter
Plains
Desecrated Earth
Caller of Gales
Spidersilk Net
Caravan Hurda
Trailblazer’s Boots
Narrow Escape

Pack 1 pick 9:
Piranha Marsh
–> Sky Ruin Drake
Caller of Gales
Needlebite Trap
Cobra Trap
Forest
Turntimber Grove

9 – one of my favorite blue cards, should be called Stabilizer Drake.

Pack 1 pick 10:
Scythe Tiger
–> Akoum Refuge
Mire Blight
Sunspring Expedition
Pillarfield Ox
Mountain

Pack 1 pick 11:
Ior Ruin Expedition
Swamp
Explorer’s Scope
Trapmaker’s Snare
–> Bala Ged Thief

11 – She could make it if I end up with some Umara Raptors or other allies.

Pack 1 pick 12:
Noble Vestige
–> Tempest Owl
Plains (FOIL)
Swamp

I don’t hate tempest owl as a board card when I’m playing a deck that will just stall the board out.

Pack 1 pick 13:
Kabira Crossroads
–> Soaring Seacliff
Island

Pack 1 pick 14:
Swamp
–> Quest for Ancient Secrets

Pack 1 pick 15:
–> Island

—— ZEN ——

Pack 2 pick 1:
Bog Tatters
Archmage Ascension
Shoal Serpent
Khalni Gem
Grim Discovery
Kor Outfitter
River Boa
Spell Pierce
Runeflare Trap
Torch Slinger
–> Crypt Ripper
Forest
Demolish
Territorial Baloth
Soaring Seacliff

16 – Pretty bad pack, but I’m heavy black and would like to stay that way and Ripper is just fine for that. He also commands the board if I run 10+ swamps.

Pack 2 pick 2:
Heartstabber Mosquito
Beast Hunt
Gomazoa
Summoning Trap
–> Welkin Tern
Forest
Needlebite Trap
Spidersilk Net
Soul Stair Expedition
Shieldmate’s Blessing
Shoal Serpent
Plated Geopede
Molten Ravager
Sejiri Refuge

17 – Tough call here, but as I said before I’d like to be aggressive and welkin tern is the most aggressive 2 drop that blue has.

Pack 2 pick 3:
Turntimber Basilisk
Highland Berserker
Reckless Scholar
Magma Rift
Savage Silhouette
Zendikar Farguide
Shieldmate’s Blessing
–> Mind Sludge
Bog Tatters
Mountain
Slaughter Cry
Kabira Crossroads
Cancel

18 – Awful pack. I don’t much like reckless scholar, and in the off chance I am nearly mono black I take the sludge.

Pack 2 pick 4:
–> Guul Draz Vampire
Tuktuk Grunts
Narrow Escape
Expedition Map
Blood Seeker
Kazandu Refuge
Spreading Seas
Harrow
Island
Seismic Shudder
Hagra Diabolist
Goblin Shortcutter

19 – I’m not a huge fan of guul draz but I don’t love blood seeker either. Guul draz has a lot more upside so I snag it.

Pack 2 pick 5:
Ior Ruin Expedition
Scythe Tiger
Nimbus Wings
Harrow
Relic Crush
–> Summoner’s Bane
Frontier Guide
Trapfinder’s Trick
Vampire’s Bite
Mountain
Spire Barrage

20 – I don’t love this pick but it is a great sideboard card and a tempo swing. Vampire’s bite is possible but I didn’t see myself running it as most of my guys have some form of evasion so far.

Pack 2 pick 6:
Magma Rift
Baloth Cage Trap
Mountain
Mire Blight
Zendikar Farguide
Soul Stair Expedition
Khalni Heart Expedition
–> Jwar Isle Refuge
Quest for Pure Flame
Molten Ravager

21 – this pack sucks but I’ll take the fixing.

Pack 2 pick 7:
Plains
Goblin Shortcutter
Lethargy Trap
Tanglesap
Hellfire Mongrel
Goblin Bushwhacker
–> Crypt Ripper
Blood Seeker
Spidersilk Net

22 – Was really excited to see this guy, at pick 7 in this pack I’m likely the only heavy black drafter.

Pack 2 pick 8:
Savage Silhouette
Ravenous Trap (FOIL)
Hagra Crocodile
Island
–> Windrider Eel
Stonework Puma
Quest for Pure Flame
Kor Cartographer

23 – Though I now have a lot of high drops, they’re all top notch.

Pack 2 pick 9:
Archmage Ascension
Shoal Serpent
–> Spell Pierce
Runeflare Trap
Forest
Demolish
Soaring Seacliff

Pack 2 pick 10:
Beast Hunt
Forest
–> Needlebite Trap
Spidersilk Net
Shoal Serpent
Sejiri Refuge

Pack 2 pick 11:
Savage Silhouette
Shieldmate’s Blessing
Bog Tatters
Mountain
–> Cancel

Pack 2 pick 12:
Expedition Map
–> Blood Seeker
Island
Seismic Shudder

Pack 2 pick 13:
Scythe Tiger
–> Trapfinder’s Trick
Mountain

Pack 2 pick 14:
Mountain
–> Mire Blight

Pack 2 pick 15:
–> Plains

—— WWK ——

Pack 3 pick 1:
Surrakar Banisher
Jagwasp Swarm
Nature’s Claim
Kitesail Apprentice
Eye of Ugin
Corrupted Zendikon
Swamp
Kitesail
Smoldering Spires
Crusher Zendikon
–> Bloodhusk Ritualist
Join the Ranks
Refraction Trap
Cosi’s Ravager
Ricochet Trap

31 – This pack is brutal. I love corrupted Zendikon and I really want it, and it would go along with my “be aggressive” aim here, but Bloodhusk ritualist is a blowout, look for it to win me a game down the road.

Pack 3 pick 2:
–> Horizon Drake
Claws of Valakut
Mordant Dragon
Groundswell
Veteran’s Reflexes
Quest for Renewal
Surrakar Banisher
Fledgling Griffin
Grotag Thrasher
Snapping Creeper
Plains
Halimar Excavator
Shoreline Salvager
Khalni Garden

32 – Shoreline salvager is awesome and obviously with UB he’s so premium, but is a 3/3 four drop really going to compare with 2 rippers and 2 eels? probably not. Though horizon drake is tougher on my mana, he makes the three best Zendikons look so stupid, and he gets in for 3 in the air.

Pack 3 pick 3:
Mire’s Toll
Battle Hurda
Island
Halimar Depths
Quag Vampires (FOIL)
Twitch
–> Dead Reckoning
Leatherback Baloth
Permafrost Trap
Refraction Trap
Akoum Battlesinger
Explore
Agadeem Occultist

33 – I hate to see a second refraction trap get passed as it’s probably the biggest blow out instant in the format, but I love dead reckoning, especially with Ob Nixlis considering I couldn’t snag any grim discoveries.

Pack 3 pick 4:
Swamp
Kitesail
Enclave Elite
Nemesis Trap
Dread Statuary
Bojuka Bog
Ruthless Cullblade
Grappler Spider
Hedron Rover
Bull Rush
–> Caustic Crawler
Iona’s Judgment

34 – Another high drop, but he has so much value in this format. there are hundres if not thousands of creatures in Zendikar and Worldwake with just 1 toughness. But it was tough to pass a two drop.

Pack 3 pick 5:
Walking Atlas
Ruthless Cullblade
Hedron Rover
Roiling Terrain
Sejiri Steppe
Battle Hurda
–> Urge to Feed
Dispel
Forest
Calcite Snapper
Sejiri Merfolk

35 – Here I pass another ruthless cullblade for urge to feed because I’m really removal light. Calcite snapper was another option but I would rather not double blue.

Pack 3 pick 6:
Grotag Thrasher
Surrakar Banisher
Forest
Veteran’s Reflexes
Vastwood Animist
Selective Memory (FOIL)
Snapping Creeper
Perimeter Captain
Khalni Garden
–> Halimar Excavator

36 – Halimar Excavator is fine, he blocks a ton of guys. I don’t end up maindeckiing him but I board him in every match.

Pack 3 pick 7:
Bull Rush
Iona’s Judgment
Island
Grappler Spider
Scrib Nibblers
Bojuka Bog
–> Ruthless Cullblade
Enclave Elite
Spell Contortion

37 – Finally I take a ruthless Cullblade.

Pack 3 pick 8:
Perimeter Captain
Forest
Cosi’s Ravager
Kitesail Apprentice
Grappler Spider
Mysteries of the Deep
–> Æther Tradewinds
Halimar Depths

38 – I’m not going to run mysteries and I really like tradewinds, bounce in general is good when you’re trying to be aggressive.

Pack 3 pick 9:
Surrakar Banisher
Nature’s Claim
–> Corrupted Zendikon
Swamp
Smoldering Spires
Cosi’s Ravager
Ricochet Trap

39 – Never have I been so happy to see a card wheel.

Pack 3 pick 10:
Veteran’s Reflexes
Quest for Renewal
–> Surrakar Banisher
Snapping Creeper
Plains
Khalni Garden

40 – He won’t make the cut.

Pack 3 pick 11:
Mire’s Toll
Island
Halimar Depths
–> Quag Vampires (FOIL)
Twitch

41 – This guy is an all-star and I got him 11th pick, makes my curve so much better with his presence.

Pack 3 pick 12:
Swamp
–> Enclave Elite
Bojuka Bog
Bull Rush

42 – Same potential as the vampires but not as good and could come in out of the board.

Pack 3 pick 13:
Roiling Terrain
–> Dispel
Forest

43 – Awesome. In case of refraction trap!!!

Pack 3 pick 14:
Forest
–> Veteran’s Reflexes

Pack 3 pick 15:
–> Island

Here’s the 40 I end up with:

I ran the maindeck cancel over mind sludge b/c if I drop Ob Nixlis with Cancel backup they only have one turn to kill him before he’s going to end the game. Also it’s just good for dealing with bombs that my deck is not built to handle very well. Also cancel is just a huge tempo swing when you have crypt rippers beating in next turn.

I ended up boarding out Guul Draz Vampire almost every match for Halimar Excavator. the 1/3 is just too good of a statline to ignore and I never drew GDV.

Top 8 Round 1 vs. LAB103

Game 1 I kept 2 swamp, 2 island, Jwar Isle Refuge, Urge to Feed, Windrider Eel on the draw.

He starts with Bojuka Brigand on turns 2 and 3 but he never sees a third land. I drop a topdecked Welkin Tern on 2, urge to feed his 3/3 on 3, drop my eel on four, then on 5 drop a land with corrupted Zendkon and crush.

Game 2 I brought in Bog Tatters for Guul Draz Vampire and kept this on the draw: 2 Island, Jwar Isle Refuge, Windrider Eel, Bloodhusk Ritualist, Cancel, Bog Tatters.

He gets stuck on land again after leading with a Bojuka Brigand and Corrupted Zendkon. I trade Death Scorption with his 3/3, then Curve into Eel then Bog Tatters. He has hideous end for the Eel, so I drop a cullblade leaving cancel mana up. He taps out for Nimana Sell-Sword and I cancel it, then drop ripper and strike him down to 4. He has gatekeeper to pare down my board but he has nothing for Bog Tatters who swing in ftw.

So I’m qualified for the Worldwake championship, which was my goal. I missed the 64 man drafts for Zendikar, but I got to the top 4 in an m10 64-man. That time I bounced out due to bad keeps in the top 4 when I had an extremely strong deck. I didn’t want that to happen this time.

Round 2 vs. Ace of Drafts

Game 1 is missing from my recaps but I know I got there with Ob Nixlis despite his Felidar Sovereign. I know I was really low so I had to triple block the Sovereign to kill it even though I feared refraction trap, luckily he didn’t have it and Ob Nix went the distance.

Game 2 I decided not to bring in dispel b/c I didn’t see refraction trap but I did bring in the excavator. I kept: 2 Swamp, 1 Island, Eel, Drake, Crawler, Whiplash trap.

Definitely a slow hand, but he had a slow w/r deck game 1. This game he comes out swinging with Kazaandu Blademaster followed by cliff treader. He swings on 3 and tries to Join the Ranks to pump his blademaster but I cancel it.I drop my eel and trade with his treader, which may have been a mistake b/c when he dropped Grotag Thrasher next turn I really was behind in combat for the rest of the game. I stabilized a bit until he dropped Bladetusk Boar who went the distance.

Game 3 I keep 3 swamp, ripper, crawler, bloodhusk ritualist, halimar excavator on the play.

Not the best hand but it’s fine and I almost never mulligan in limited. He has a turn 2 steppe lynx, I play a turn 3 Corrupted Zendikon and a turn 4 blood seeker without a fourth land and swing with the Zendikon. He swings with his lynx and on my turn I rip blue and drop the excavator after swinging with Zendikon, seeker. He join the ranks and trades a token with my seeker. He swings in with his lynx and a hellfire mongrel he played the previous turn. I block the lynx with the excavator and disfigure the mongrel. He has no play so I drop ripper and swing him down to four, still fearing a refraction trap that never comes. Then he drops Felidar Sovereign. Great. So he has 2 card in hand, I have 5 lands out but one is the Zendikon. I can Bloodhusk Ritualist him out of a hand, but he’ll definitely be able to swing in with his Sovereign, I decide on this and he discards Land, Brave the Elements which would’ve had me calling my mama if he had the chance to play it.
On his turn he swings and goes up to 8 and I’m at 8. I go in with just the ripper with 4 swamps up, he chumps with the ally token. I pass b/c I just ripped urge to feed. He comes in with sovereign after Passing Ionas Judgement on my Zendikon. I block with Ritualist and Excavator, Urge to Feed pumping my Ritualist and he scoops to his dead Sovereign despite being at 9 life.

Finals vs. DutchMojo – This guy was cool, one of the cool few people I’ve come across on modo. He wasn’t spiteful about my bombs and even pointed out when I handed im game 2. He said he doesnt modo a lot but I threw him on my buddylist b/c I like to see when ppl are in certain rooms playing events. I’m a total stalker.

Game 1 on the draw I keep – 1 island, soaring seacliffs, jwar isle refuge, disfigure, ob nixlis, ritualist, ripper.

His first two turns he spits out Adventuring gear and Trusty machete, with no guys, and only mountains.

He plays a goblin shortcutter on 3 and equips the gear, figuring he’s short on guys I disfigure it. I rip cullblade and drop that. He pays three for a goblin torchslinger. I attack and he doesnt block, so I drop ritualist kicking once, he discards grazing gladeheart. He double equips the slinger and beats me down to 15. I swing him down to 14 and drop ripper in main 2 with a swamp up so I can trade if he doesn’t hit a land. He hits a forest and swings me down to 9 and drops summit apes. I’ve got ob nixlis and 2 islands in hand. I drop my ob nix and make him a 6/6. he double equips the apes, plays a land making him a 9/5 and swings. I trade my cullblade, my ripper and my ritualist for the apes. My turn comes I rip whiplash trap, make Ob nix a 9/9 and drop a welkin tern that I drew the turn before. He drops oren-rief recluse and passes. In his endstep I whiplash his 2 blockers and alpha ftw.

Game 2 on the draw I keep 2 swamp, Island, Jwar Isle Refuge, 2 rippers and Aether Tradewinds.

He leads with a shortcutter and I rip bloodseeker and drop it. He plays claws hitting me for 5. I swing for 1. He drops goblin guide and swings in. He gives me a swamp and I tradewinds the bloodseeker and his shortcutter getting rid of his claws. He redrops shortcutter in main 2. I rip horizon drake and drop it hoping to block and trade b/c I don’t want to trade either of my rippers who will totally outclass his 2 power guys on turn 5 becuase I can pump and control the board. I trade with his goblin guide after it reveals Quag Vampires. I decide instead of ripper to drop the Quag as a 2/2 and drop bloodseeker, hoping to trade across the board and then let my crypt rippers reign supreme. In his main 2 he drops a slinger for 3 and passes. I do my aforementioned play but he has a second shortcutter to mess up my blocks. I play a ripper next turn and swing pumping once and drop my second ripper with just 2 islands in my hand. He drops adventuring gear, equips and passes. I swing with a ripper for 3 and drop a windrider eel keeping my 2 lands in play. He plays a land and swings with his equipped shortcutter which I chump with bloodseeker. Then he drops summit apes.

Here’s where my opponent says I screwed the pooch and after rewatching I totally did. He’s at 11 with a summit apes and a goblin shortcutter. I have eel, and 2 crypt ripper with 7 black mana sources. I dropped an island making my Eel 4/4 and decided not to swing with just the eel. But If I had done the math I would’ve realize that he had to block both my guys or he dies. As a result he ended up dropping two more guys and being able to get me to 4 and spire barrage me out. so I lose game 2.

Game 3 on the play I keep 2 swamp, 1 Island, death scorpion, crypt ripper, urge to feed, whiplash trap.

He has a turn 1 goblin guide (for the record has anyone ever won with a turn 1 goblin guide in limited? I know I haven’t) revealing halimar excavator which I play on turn 2. His turn 2 is Basilisk Collar. SERIOUSLY?!. I swing w/ my 1/3 and drop another 1/3 in Death Scorpion. Instead of equipping he plays claws of valakut putting me to 14 since I can’t block it. His GG gives me a swamp and I rip another swamp on my turn. I attack him to 17 with my army of 1/3s and urge to feed his goblin guide. He has no play on turn 4 so I drop the ripper with one swamp up but I choose not to pump for fear of punishing fire or burst lightning or something. (while I haven’t seen these cards, I almost never tap out with ripper on the board if I can help it, he’s too important to let die).

On his turn he drops highland bezerker and equips the basilisk collar. I rip jwar isle refuge, drop it and then aether tradewinds it and his bezerker so I can beat in for 5 and catch him down to 8. He plays Spire Barrage on my ripper then passes and I swing him to 6. I topdeck dead reckoning which I use to get back my ripper and shoot his bezerker for 2 but he has groundswell to keep it alive! Haymakers are going left and right right now and I’m out of answers to his basilisk collar for the moment.

He goes, equip gear, plays a land and drops shortcutter and goes up to 10. My hand is whiplash trap and swamp with Crypt Ripper on top of my deck. I drop my ripper but he moved his collar to the shortcutter to hold me off. This turn he swings in and trades with my scoprion but goes up to 14. Then he equips his bezerker and passes. My draw is ritualist, so if I wait on attacks and whiplash trapping, I can let him gain more life but will be able to bounce in his end step, then make him discard his whole hand, basically taking him out of the game. So I wait again and he swings again and I don’t block so it’s 18-8 in favor of him and I’m pretty sure he thinks he has the game. He drops Crusher Zendikon in main 2 and passes. In his end step I bounce his enchanted land and his bezerker, then in my main2 I discard his hand with ritualist after swinging for 10. On his turn he rips a shortcutter and equips but I drew disfigure so I kill it and swing in for the win before he can try and re-stabilize with life gain.

So I win my first ever premiere event, pocketing 20 packs and 6 QPs. I’ve come up short on QPs the last two seasons with 7 each, but this season I’m already at 9 and it hasn’t even been a week, so at this point I’ll be just trying not to choke. But with a trip to New Orleans slated for next week I’m going to be hard pressed to fit in MODO. I’m also going to be missing one of almost a dozen PTQs online and in New England over the next two weeks, which is kind of a bummer, but I already let magic affect my every day life well… every day, I really don’t want to let it affect the special plans I make to take trips and do things with friends and/or babes.

Thanks for reading,

Mike Gemme
mike@power9pro.com
Bobbysapphire on MTGO

Trying to Grind at Pro Tour San Diego and the New Standard

Attending my first Pro Tour last weekend was a hip-check to my Super Ego. I’ve been to dozens of card conventions and large tournaments, but this is the first time I attended when I wasn’t even invited to the big dance. There was never a VS System Pro Circuit Championship that I wasn’t qualified for. Since 2002 there’s only been one year where I participated in Star Wars CCG Worlds that I didn’t have a bye to the second day. And when Decipher had a Fantasy Lord of the Rings TCG contest for Worlds on their official website I was worth 15 points!

Joking aside, the transition to magic has been oft-fruitless and never had that been so abundantly clear than when I was on the side of the convention hall near the dealers, looking accross at the “pros” duking it out for zeros.

I will say that if you love Magic you should definitely attend a pro tour. 8 man events fire from 9am to 3am. You can play a MTGO Draft for free. Some of the tournaments have insane prizes (xbox, flights to San Juan, Foil uncut sheets of Worldwake), and there’s plenty of room to battle EDH style, trade, or loaf around dishing about the game.

I fancy myself a competitive Magic Player so I didn’t do anything *fun* last weekend other than a 2HG sealed event. I had never played 2HG and my brother and I built our deck pretty suboptimally since we didn’t understand that Pulse Tracker was an inherent powerhouse. We had some fair bombs for regular sealed decks, but 2HG is a much different breed.

My first event was the LCQ. My pool was pretty fair and I thought it would allow me to do some work. It was a RG ally deck with a light black splash for Bojuka Brigand and Nimana Sell-Sword to up the ally count to double digits. Its bread and butter was the Kazuul Warlord and the double Graypelt Hunter. My first heartbreak came in game 3 of round 2 when I passed the turn to my opponent while tapped out with a 2/3 a 2/1 and the warlord untapped. I was at 11 life and he was at 4. My only card in hand was a burst lightning that I could kick next turn. My opponent had 2 counters on Quest for the Grave Lord and a Hagra Crocodile and a Ruthless Cullblade on board. My opponent draws, putting two cards in his hand. He says “Well, he can’t block” and swings in with the croc. I go into the tank: I’ve already drawn out his Groundswell so I’m not super worried about the swing. I’m a little bit concerned about Vampire’s bite, which I haven’t seen but some people board in vs. red. I also know he hasn’t played either of the Bloodhusk Ritualists that he had. I felt that if I blocked and let him put a 5/5 zombie on the field, I’d be hard pressed to get my four damage in if he just drew the ritualist. I decided not to block and the two cards in my opponent’s hand were Harrow and a second Groundswell dealing me exactly 11 damage. I stayed in but I was pretty broken after that. I think I ended up 2-2 or 2-3.

I was however, geared up for Extended and sleeved up Combo Elves the night before I left for San Diego while I caught up on my favorite USA shows White Collar and Psych. I’m big into television so if anyone ever wants to talk tv, comment away; I watch a lot.

I didn’t have the opportunity to test the elves much because of all the standard testing for my friends and roomates on the PT, so when I went into the PTQs with it I ended up 1-3, 2-3; but I learned a lot about the deck and had the chance to chat up Matt Nass during some heated games of Guillotine over the course of the weekend about sideboard plans and I feel a lot better slinging it tomorrow at the local PTQ.

What I really want to get to though, is standard. Since worlds, about everyone on my team other than my brother (turbofog) has been rocking Marijn “I hate the world” Lybaert’s Jund list. After the event he posted up the deck with updates and it looked a little something like this:

We call this list STUND (stock Jund); it’s about the least spicy Jund list ever made. I top 8′d states with it in New Hampshire and it has fared well for my friend and top 100 constructed player on planet Earth Jason Ford; the dude who x-1′d the first day of the Pro Tour with the above list (swap out 2 Rootbound Crag for 2 Raging Ravine) and dealt talk of the town Tom Ross his only constructed loss all weekend.

Like I said, this list isn’t spicy. It doesnt put Siege-Gang in, which is what a lot of Jund decks are doing right now. It doesn’t even consider Rampant Growth or Explore, but instead opts for the board developing Borderland Ranger in the MD (with two more in the board!). Most people who look at Jason’s list and ask me about it question these Borderlands and the Chandra Nalaar most often. A lot of times Chandra just gets there, we even bring her in for the mirror (cutting 4 leeches and 3 Pulse, always – no matter what). Against control decks, she gets there in the face of Wall of Denial, in matchups with creatures she’s recurring removal. Borderland Ranger is a little bit harder to defend, so I’ve asked JFord to give me 100 words on why the borderlander. He gave me doulbe that.

“Borderland Ranger is probably the card that gets the most funny looks, besides maybe the Chandra in the sideboard. Borderland Ranger, despite only being a 1 of, is largely the foundation of the deck. It lets you essentially play 25.5 lands, fixes your mana, fetches a basic against pesky Ruinblaster shenanigans, and even acts as a body – a 2/2 should not be ignored. Some ask why I wouldn’t just play another Ravine in its spot, as manlands largely do much of the same – they let me play a higher land count with much of the same utility of a spell, and they even tap for 2 colors to boot. However, the manlands don’t let you develop as well. Ravine never actually wants to block a Bloodbraid Elf, as it will cost you both a land drop and an entire turn (to keep the mana untapped), on top of doing nothing for your Ruinblaster situation. Furthemore, Borderland lets me cast Garruk, Bloodwitch, and Chandra post board – not something that just one land outside of Savage Lands is helping.

Don’t find yourself falling into the trap of automatically shaving the one Borderland, either when initially building or when sideboarding. It is as much of a core to this build as the 4 Bloodbraids are. ”

That’s all pretty well said without even considering it’s red zone implications. It trades with bloodbraid and is great to block a leech when you’ve got mana up with a bolt backup. He also lets you keep a lot of unkeepable hands as well. Even though I do sometimes get burned by them (more on this later), I’ll keep a two lander with borderland and gas no problem.

Jason ended up 8-2 in the constructed portion and 46th overall at the PT, his second straight top 50 finish and he’ll be riding the train into San Juan later on in the year.

So after my PTQing was done, they had a WPN event on Sunday with a first place prize of a flight and hotel to the next PT in San Juan. I decided to sleeve up STUND (though when I sat down for round 1 I totally forgot that I put my fetches in my elves deck and had to run and snag Jason’s deckbox to avoid DQ). I ended up in the top 8 with a sole loss to white weenie where in G1 I had to mull to 4 with no land and game 2 he just had more threats than I had removal though I likely incorrectly terminated a Conquerer’s Pledge token when my life was starting to get low. I beat Bant Twice, B/R burn, and UW Control.

Some Highlights:

R1 vs. UW Control, dropped game 1 but got there on game 2 with a double bloodwitch hand and game 3 with Chandra’s Ultimate against 3 Wall of Denial.

R3 vs. Bant my opponent could’ve had the draw but decided not to kill my garruk w/ 4 counters and let my lone bloodwitch beat past his two Baneslayers for 7 when I topdecked burn while he was at 8 life.

R5 vs. B/R aggro my opponent. In game 1 my opponent stuck on two lands and all I saw was Goblin Guide and Hellspark Elemental so I think I kept a slower hand in game 2. He went t3 Ball Lightning, T4 Ball Lightning, t5 Elemental Appeal (soaking two of the damage with a borderland!) dropping me to 2 life. He has a lavaclaw reaches out and 1 card in hand so I’m forced to play Bloodbraid Elf and luckily I hit Blightning stripping him of his own Blightning. He activated reaches and traded with the Elf. I cast a Broodmate Dragon on 6 and he played Hell’s Thunder and traded with one. I cast BLightning leaving terminate mana up and stripped him of his searing blaze, swung in to put him to 8 life. He whiffs the next turn and I drop him to 4. He rips elemental appeal but I had the terminate (and a bit blast if he found burn, to try and cascade into my own burn) and I win while playing all but one of my spells with just 2 life against BURN.

In the top 8 I lost to a pro named Ari Lax in the mirror. I kept a 2 land w/ borderland Ranger hand on the play with a bloodbraid and a goblin ruinblaster with Thrinax and Blightning to boot. I didn’t get there and even though first place was flight and a hotel, second place was an uncut foil sheet of worldwake, third and fourth place got a foil set of worldwake. What’d 5-8 get? THREE PACKS. awesome. I ripped my 4th Quest for the Nihil Stone of the weekend in the WWK pack and burned the other two for warmth.

I have a lot more to say about standard, especially the “Boss” Naya that everyone seems to really like. By now everyone knows that Scott-Vargas whent 17-0 and Tom Ross got the Whammy hitting ninth by two % points. Knight of the Reliquary is not a must have card in the standard environment and dealears at the PT were actually sold out of them accross the board. I’m glad I picked some up when Zendikar first hit because now they’re up to $12. I will say that Knight is now an absolute must kill and you really cannot let Bant and Naya untap with a Knight in play or it’s curtains for you and your spells.

The Naya deck is interesting and I hope I get to take it to some FNMs soon. There is certainly concerns about the mana, as I heard all weekend how those of the CFB guys who ran it and didn’t do well were losing to their mana all day. I decided to chat up Jason about it since all we do is dink around on Gmail all day:

Mike: so you dealt tom ross his only loss.. what are your thoughts on his naya and how is that gonna hold up?

JFord: I mean..its kinda tough to say because it was just one match where both games were basically blowouts. It’s funny…the naya decks mana is worse than jund. I almost think it costs you too much to be playing wild nacatl, but if you cut those then ranger does much much less and so on. It’s another intrinsically powerful deck, but im slantted towards jund just cuz im a fanboy. You also gotta kinda question if the sparksmage/collar thing is too cute or whether it is that sick.

Mike: well it seems sick against these decks that are almost all creatures, the bant that sam black played or even in the mirror where you will exhaust their sejeri steppes right quick.

JFord: this is definitely true. But, then you gotta ask where the metagame stands. He did take down 3 other jund players..so maybe im just a sack haha.

Mike: haha, do they bring in the sparkmages against jund?

JFord: no I dont believe so

Mike: the buzz around the convention center was that the guys on that squad that did bad with the naya lost primarily to mana issues so that does say something.

JFord: yea i mean..the mana is pretty poor
like i said…the deck works pretty hard to make nacatl happen
and its like..is it worht it? Maybe.
But if you cut nacatls for better mana then what is your deck doing?
not a whole lot probably.
also not sure why they’re playing scute mob over dragonmaster outcast, but im sure they know.

Mike: i agree on the nacatl thing, but my big question is why not wooly thoctar. like, I dont see the point of the one drop because you’re mana is so iffy, why not take the approach of the bant decks which is to spit out a big monster on t3? Like knight is fine obviously, but when are you playing your ncatl?

JFord: Well… first, the Ranger of Eos engine.
Secondly, which piggybacks on it, is stoneforge mystic.
Basically, more threat density for your equipment.
Your guys dont have to be THAT good if you can play more/ get them down quicker
because the equipment should trump.

Mike: I guess ranger tutoring up two 3/3s dying to be equipped is good.

JFord: Right. And it lets you do cutesy things like scutes and gives more value to your 1 drops
so i guess its kinda cute..it’s also pretty good

Mike: looking at this naya list its actually pretty good, I hadnt broken it down.
its got some weak cascades though.

JFord: Its got a lot of em, but it isn’t like jund where you’re depending on them either.

Mike: no

JFord: but yea..bloodbraid in jund =/= bloodbraid in naya
not even close

Mike: I just imagine all those times you hit mana birds or a t4 scute mob youre like, “suck”

JFord: Yea, but if you have a hierarch or two down..hasty wooly thoctar?

Mike: I mean yeah that’s an upside……….

Then we started delving into Chapin’s UW List. Something that has a bunch of us here at Power9Pro.com kind of fired up. I think a few of us are going to explore that list quite a bit in the upcoming weeks. I know I already have my Jaces, including a German one, which is pretty sweet.

That’s it for this week. Not sure how I feel about throwing a chat into the article but we’ll keep it spicy. Editing that bear took longer than it would’ve taken to summarize the whole sh’bang. Standard definitely seems a lot of fun right now, and I’m looking forward to playing the standard queues on MTGO as well as some FNMs.

But for now, back to the grind of extended and sleeving up combo elves tomorrow morning in Beantown.

Til next time,

Mike Gemme
mike@power9pro.com
bobbysapphire on MTGO

Hype, and testing Grixis in Standard

When it comes to Magic: The Gathering, hype is a strange beast. With the universal language of the internet greasing the wheels, a magic meta can spin out of control in a mere 24 hours. I fell into this trap last night playing in the latest online ptq. Today I’m going to take a look at what transpired over the 24 hours leading up to the PTQ and how I bought into the hype and got burned, and then address some of the same issues I’m dealing with in preparing my friend on the Pro Tour for PT San Diego.

Two weeks ago when I top 8′d my first PTQ, the meta was pretty much one deck: Dark Depths / Thopter (DDT). In the two weeks leading up to that tournament, DDT was absolutely dominant and top 8′s were littered with the list all over MTGO. I was more than happy to sleeve up a very fast zoo deck to beat them to the punch; it was such a good meta-call that I could play sloppy whilst drunk and on no sleep and still go 7-1 losing only to running turn 1 blood moons- but I digress.

The last two weeks have seen the online, Extended meta get mixed up a little bit more. There was a bit more dredge, some faeries, and a little zoo but most of the good players online were still playing DDT. I had tested some different zoo builds in that time and mainly not done great, but I finally settled on one with maindeck meddling mages with damping matrix in the sideboard and 3-1′d a daily event the night before the ptq.

When I looked at the decklists from the event the next day, there were a LOT of zoo decks that 3-1′d or better. And then I caught the lists fromt he Premiere event that started at midnight on Thursday morning and six of the top eight decks were zoo with Knight of the Reliquary, most with maindeck Jitte and one with main deck Blood Moon!

Well my friends and I went into crisis mode: we needed Deathmark in the sideboard; I needed Jittes, probably in the maindeck; my Goblin Guide had to be Knight now that it was going to be outclassed. My Gmail inbox was overloaded during my Thursday workday and the two hours after work leading up to the PTQ was crafting the perfect deck to beat Zoo and probably still be good against DDT.

Guess how many Zoo decks I faced: ZERO.
I even dropped a match to DDT, something I’d only done once and mainly do to mulligans.

Would three maindeck Meddling Mage gotten me past my gauntlet last night? Perhaps, I did face Hive Mind, Pox Rock and Thopter Foundry three times. Did Jitte win me any games? Nope. Did I attack once with Knight of the Reliquary last night? Septuple Nope.

I bought into the hype, and I got burned.

A card that has received a ton of Standard buzz lately is Jace, The Mind Sculptor. I’m expecting to have to face this guy tonight at Friday Night Magic as I battle for 90 in store credit so that I can buy my own 1.5 Jaces.

I have had the opportunity to play with and against the Mind Sculptor on Magic Workstation and so far I’m not buying into the hype.

My friend Jason Ford is Qualified for San Diego after his top 50 finish in Austin and we’ve been testing the balls off of Grixis and the new blue cards in Worldwake and here is some of the things we’ve found.

Treasure Hunt is doing just what you want it to. It’s smoothing out your draws and getting you a spell. Sometimes it flips another treasure hunt and it’s kind of lame and sometimes it gets you through three land and hits Earthquake after your opponent cast Martial Coup and has you dead on board.

Calcite Snapper is better than advertised. I’ve been loving this card. It locks down a board that can’t swarm, and when you’re packing 4 Lightning Bolt and 4 Terminate you can probably keep the swarm down. Then, when your opponent over-extends to push through, you can earthquake his team or drop a land and beat in for four.

Then there’s the aforementioned Jace. We’ve played a bunch of games with Jace and I think a blue deck won when he hit the table once, maybe twice. He’s not easy to protect as a Jund player can simply hold his Blightning or Maelstrom Pulse for when a Planeswalker hits the table. And unless you’re scrying for one right when he hits the table (which isn’t very gamebreaking) and Lightning Bolt will do.

Grixis, mainly, has not been cutting it. The deck is no Jund. It can do some fun stuff and has some strong cards but it has struggled to get the win. After some games there are always times where an Earthquake here would’ve won it, or if this Cruel ultimatum was a Sphinx of Jwar Isle the Blue deck likely would’ve won, but Jund doesn’t normally have those games where it couldn’t draw enough to win. What Jund does is unfair, what Grixis does isn’t.

One thing We’ve taken to doing with some of our standard builds is make a list with a bunch of singletons in it, so that we’re constantly hitting different “game plans” and generally get a taste for things that are working and arent. I would say that counters are not working right now, and spot removal is. I think if you’re playing blue and red, then you should pack Double Negative in your 75 because it’s at worst a cancel.

A couple more things about Grixis: you can leave Mysteries of the deep on the bench, you’ve only got 4 fetches in the deck and while instant speed is good, you’re better off just playing divination if you want to draw two cards.

Cruel Ultimatum isn’t that good. When your only 7 creatures have shroud, there’s a damn good chance you’re not getting a guy back from your graveyard. And playing things like Architects of Will is not even remotely the same as packing Mulldrifter like in the days of yore. A number of times the Grixis player has cast Cruel Ultimatum and still lost because it’s not that hard to play around discarding three cards, and in Jund when almost every creature you play is actaully two creatures, sacrificing one doesnt matter.

The thing that is ending games for Grixis is Sphinx of Jwar Isle. No he does not beat Baneslayer Angel but you have answers for that guy in Terminate and Jace. The only thing Jund has for this guy is double blocking with Broodmate Dragon (unless you’re dead on board already), which is pretty darn narrow.

There is some Buzz about using Everflowing Chalice to get you to Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker but that just further turns on your opponent’s maelstrom pulses. I know I’m focusing a lot on Jund right now, but if you’re not beating Vampires with this deck you need to see if you can beat Jund and UWR and we started with Jund. Grixis couldn’t beat it so we mostly moved on.

This is the list I would run if I was going to sleeve up Grixis, using Cruel Ultimatum Only in the Board. This might get you through Jund, but vamps and other control decks are still a major issue.

My opinion is that the blue decks are going to have trouble finishing games no matter what. Sphinx of Jwar Isle is clearly the answer in my eyes, it’s just a matter of getting to him.

For the record, I would just play Jund. Jund may have some issues with Ajani Vengeant and UWR (though I did get a 9/9 Raging Ravine to take out some Wall of Denials), but for the most part Jund isn’t losing much. I’ve been using Jund and beating the control decks at a steady clip, doing it without Great Sable Stag to boot. A lot of your removal is dead against these control decks obviously, but savvy Jund players are terminating their Sprouting Thrinax with Oren Rief out to make a little army in their opponent’s end step to push through damage and kill planeswalkers.

Thanks for reading,

Mike Gemme
Bobbysapphire on MTGO
mike@power9pro.com

San Juan PTQ Top 8 Report – Tribal Zoo

When I found out that I was going to be able to write about cards for a real website on commission after ten years of playing cards, I swore I wasn’t going to allow myself to be one of those writers who drums up his personal life with exuberant stories of booze, broads and ballyhoo. However, my first PTQ top 8 happened to be occur when I was completely wasted, built my deck wrong, and stayed up 32 hours straight: From .08 to top 8.

My Magic weekend started at FNM, which was a draft event. We had three full pods and I split in the finals of mine with the guy I had beaten to get into the top 8 of New Hampshire States last month snagging $35 in credit. I didn’t do anything that night because I had to get up at 630 to make it to Boston for the first flight of the Pre Release so that I could do two and win as many Worldwake packs for team drafting in San Diego as I could. (I have a bad, bad habit of opening packs too often. So far I’ve only opened two Worldwake packs and I have 12 left so, if you see me in SD scrounging for packs, you know that I’m back off the wagon).

I get home around 10:30 (you can read about my escapades here) and immediately crack Lienenkugel Fireside Nut Brown (my favorite seasonal beer) and make some calls to see what’s what. My friend Steviegets is heading out to some bars with his babe, my brother is partying at college and my friend Justin is going to bed early so he can play in the 4am PTQ [/foreshadowing].

I decide to meet up with Steve at the bar and get there first grabbing a Guinness and wandering around for a few until he gets there. Though I’m Italian, I’m currently addicted to Guinness and my liquor or choice is Jameson’s Irish Whiskey; my grandmother would not approve.

Once Steve showed up with his gal and her friends things got a little saucier, apparently some girls were there for a bachelorette party at a random townie bar in central Massachusetts with a limo… so making fun of them was an immediate ice-breaker. Though it was my birthday in a couple days steve refused to do any shots with me, but one of his babe’s friends was into it and we ended up racing jagerbombs. I wish I could remember a lot after that, but the next thing I knew it was 2am in the morning, Steve was gone, the Jagerbomb girl was gone, I was in no shape to drive and I somehow remembered to close my tab that just happened to have all the jagerbombs on it (even when girls say they’re gonna split, they often don’t and I got burned).

I end up getting a ride home from a girl who does not like me and makes no qualms about bitching me out the entire ride home for what happened the last time we saw each other (censored) but let’s just say I took her out for Lobster dinner and never called her again.

So it’s about 3am and Justin is already up for the ptq and he’s amped up to play dark depths/foundry (DDT from here on out). I’m drunk talking to him online and also talking to my buddy and Pro Tour dream crusher Jason Ford who is at college in Minnesota and also wasted. He’s telling me about how he just spent about 70 tix putting Faeries together to play in the ptq. Well I’m jealous and I’m awake (and have been since 6:30) so now I’m playing in the ptq. I steal a bunch of zoo stuff from my friend andy’s account and sent him a pretty simple email: “I stole the zoo deck to play in this _____ ptq.”

So I’m building the deck and I realize that I need a hallowed fountain, so I go back on and take the hallowed fountain because I want [card]meddling mage [/card in my sideboard. here’s the list I ended up with:

Notice the omission of the hallowed fountain. Meaning that I had only one blue source for my 4x meddling mage in the sideboard. Notice that there are only 20 land in a 4x steppe lynx deck.

Here’s the Sideboard

Everyone and Everyone have been playing DDT online lately and I had been talking about extended at the PreRe and how I thought fast zoo would be a great answer to that as I felt it could really get in there if it could survive the first few rounds. This sideboard is pretty standard and every card did work for me during the tournament at some point.

Well it’s 4am and I’m already dead tired, dreaming about things that I can do in between rounds to stay awake but really hoping that I don’t do mediocre and stay up all day for no reason.

Round 1 vs. Failtego – Scapeshift w/ blue

Game 1 I keep Goyf, Path, Lynx and 4 land.

I lead with lynx and he casts condescend my goyf on 2. Next turn I drop Kird ape and Goblin Guide and hit in, pathing his tribe elder to get more damage in, seeing as it’s going to fetch him a land anyway. He refeals firespout and repeals my guide. On his turn he casts firespout, I beat in with goblin guide on mine. He gets to 7 land and casts scapeshift and I win.

I board in meddling mages for paths and some ghost quarters in the off chance I can catch him without a basic mountain when he goes off.

Game 2 I keep a 1 lander with lynx, 2 lightning bolt, goyf, goblin guide and tribal flames

I lead with the guide. I draw a land on 2 and lay the goyf. I get him down to 8 and he firespouts and I rip my second tribal flames, playing both in consecutive turns to finish him out.

Game 3 I mull to 5 and keep Nactl, Teeg, Helix, Meddling Mage, which is a pretty bad 5 but if I draw 1 land I can get everything going. Unless that land is Ghost Quarter which was my first draw. My second draw is a verdant catacombs and I run gaddock teeg into remand two turns in a row. I finally land teeg after playing a goblin guide and beating in with it revealing scapeshift on the top. So in my end step I ghost quarters him to take him off mana or take shift off the top. Luckily he searches up the land buying me time and I’m able to get in for the win with gaddock teeg/meddling mage beats.

1-0

Round 2 vs. Backstreet playing hive mind.

I keept 3 land, flames, goblin guide and gaddock teeg x2.

I rip goyf with my first draw and decide to play it on turn 2 thinking that hive mind cannot possibly combo off on turn 2. Obviously the guy has rite of flame, seething song x2, hive mind, pact of the titan and I lose with 2 teegs in my hand.

Game 2 I keep 3 land, guide, goyf, helix, lynx.

That’s a pretty gassy hand and I beat up on him pretty fast. He can’t go off on turn 3 and I kill him on turn 4 as a result. No interactions.

Game 3 I keep 3 land, 2 goblin guide, steppe lynx, medding mage

He leads with telling time on turns 1 and 2. I go goblin guide and reveal a firespout so I drop meddling mage naming firespout. On my turn 3 I rip a kird ape and drop lynx, ape, guide and he’s got one turn to combo off and doesnt and I win on turn 4.

2-0

Round 3 vs. Nullname playing smallpox.

I keep 2 land, teeg, path, lynx, might of alara in game 1.

He wins the roll and thoughtseizes gaddock teeg away. I drop my links and he casts cry of contrition on it and then putrify to strip my hand. I draw another teeg and play it, next turn I beat in with might of alara to do some damage. He drops Kitchen Finks to recoup a bit then duresses me. I double bolt him in response to get him to 1 but he putrifies teeg and drops a goyf and I cannot catch up to two swings in a row with Goyf/Finks/Treetop Village.

I board in ancient grudges for the rack but that’s about it.

Game 2 I keep a one lander, which wasn’t smart but since he hadn’t cast smallpox in game 1 I kind of forgot about it. I kept: 1 Land, kird ape, tarmogoyf, goblin guide, lightning bolt, path, ancient grudge which is a pretty sweet one.

So i lead with kird ape and turn 2 I put the goblin guide out there. He smallpoxes and I lose the guide and my only land. So my board is just one GIANT kird ape. I don’t know if you’ve ever had just one creature on table, but they expand it to your whole board on MTGO and it’s pretty funny. He’s got no hand at this point so it’s draw, beat for 1, go. Eventually, I draw a bloodcrypt before I have to discard and he topdecks a goyf and starts beating in. I draw a second land, fetch up white and path it. I drop my own goyf which gets answered with a kitchen finks, which I path. He casts cry of contrition leaving me with just helix in my hand. I beat in with goyf before he can come up with a removal and end it next turn.

3-0

Round 4 vs. Gmomemo playing All in Red

This guy ended up with the Whammy (9th).

I didn’t rewatch these games, they were too painful.

Game 1 he hit an early deus, I pathed it and beat in before he could do anything other than cast a late blood moon.

it’s about this time I realized I just ran Juza’s list which runs a basic mountain and not a basic forest, which pretty much bones this deck. It was my friend Justin’s idea to start running basic forest in this over the mountain and I wish I thought of it when I was drunk 4 hours ago.

Game 2 he casts a turn 1 blood moon on the play and I can’t do anything but lose.

Game 3 I have meddling mage in my opener, I lay a land but have no play. He gets another turn 1 blood moon and I never play a spell. Lame.

3-1.

Here’s where my fast zoo vs. DDT theory will burn or bust (spoiler warning: it burns) out as I face 3 copies of the deck in a row.

Round 5 vs. BadDrafter playing DDT

The first game of this match is missing but I remember not playing around EE very well and still winning off of a topdecked path to exile to kill his token when I was otherwise (obviously) dead.

for all three of these games my boarding plan was as follows:

-2 might of alara
-4 steppe lynx
-1 mountain
-1 scalding tarn
-3 Gaddock Teeg

+3 Ghost Quarters
+4 Meddling mage
+3 Ancient Grudge
+1 Yixlid Jailer

Game 2 was a shitshow. I kept Nacatl, Flames, Meddling Mage, Goyf, Helix and 2 lands. He opens with double bob. I have no drop but I name meddling mage on thopter on turn 2. He EEs killing both his bobs and my meddling mage and goyf, leaving me with just Nacatl. He drops hexmage and depths but doesnt crack the token… which a lot of ppl don’t do (I used to not do it, but I learned that there’s usually not a reason to hold it in a lot of cases). Short story: I topdeck ghost quarter, play it, and beat him down with the nacatl and burn before he can find another way to beat me.

4-1

It’s about this time that I realize that my car is in the middle of downtown Worcester, MA and I need a ride. I call steve to come get me to bring me to my car and we get back to my place with seconds to spare. he goes home to shower and get coffee and will come back later on.

Round 6 vs. SipitHolla w/ DDT

Again game 1 is missing, but I know I won the game, I’m just not sure how.

Game 2 I have to mull to 4 and never get anything going. he gets the thopter combo when he’s still at 14 and I really just lose. (this is the only game in the swiss portion of the tournament that I lose to DDT)

Game 3 I keept Land, Land, Goyf, Ape, Flames, Ancient Grudge.

I lead with ape and follow it up with goyf. These guys beat in uncontested for a bit and then I cast tribal flames to put the nail in the coffin.

5-1

Round 7 vs. Fabian playing DDT

Game 1 I keep land x2, Kird ape x2, Bolt x2, Lightning Helix

I drop my apes and start beating in, eventually I get him to 11 with 3 lands in play and he drops hexmage and depths and pops the token. Luckily I’m still holding my two bolts and my helix, and I topdeck tribal flames for the overkill.

Unfortunately game 2 was missing from my replays =(. I do remember that I almost ran out of time and got disconnected, and reconnected with less than a minute left. I had Meddling mage on Engineered Explosives with a nacatl and then a second meddling mage, steve and I couldn’t really decide what to name. I thought thopter but he said it didnt matter (thought I can’t remember why), turns out he did have a thopter and it slowed me down a bit, but I was able to drop Yixlid Jailer beats to finish the game with less than 30 seconds left.

So now I’m in round 8 and kind of freaking out. I’ve been close to a top 8 before, but then I’d been well rested, I’d eaten and hydrated during the day. At this point it’s about 11:30 am and I’ve been up for 29 hours. In between rounds I’ve done stupid shit like dishes, trying to sleep (which didn’t happen once) and talking on the phone to justin and jason. I even played some standard games in the casual room but that just made me more tired.

Round 8 vs. Sergio_Dominaria playing Mystical Teachings

I keep 7 with Kird ape, Land x2, Teeg, Goblin Guide, Steppe Lynx and Might of alara.

I lead with ape which he paths. Then I drop lynx and beat in with it plus might. he drops engineered explosives so I attack and he pops it, then I play tribal flames to get him to 2 and drop a kird ape that I was holding back from when he dropped Engineered Explosives. I swing in with the ape but he plays teaching for Path to Exile tapping out. I drop Gaddock Teeg and he has nothing and Teeg does the last two.

I keep in the Teegs for this game but bring in Meddling mages, Tormod’s crypt and ancient grudges.

In game 2 I keept Kird ape x2, goyf, lightning bolt, flames and 2 land.

my first draw is tormod’s crypt, so I lay it and kird ape, then I pop a fetch hoping to play my goyf but he plays shadow of doubt to stop me so I just lay the second ape. Next turn I swing and he paths one (kind of counter intuitive to his shadow of doubt play) and I fetch up a plains and bolt him and pass. I draw a second goyf so I run the other one out there to get mana leaked in my second main phase. I keep pounding away at him with my kird ape which he decides to repeal. I then drop Teeg and Kird ape holding Flames, Helix and Goyf.

Teeg and Kird ape beat him down to 7 and he drops finks to go to 9. So I helix it in my end step and pop tormod’s crypt with the trigger on the stop so it can’t persist. I rip Goblin guide and swing to drop him to 3 then Drop my goyf hoping to draw out a counter but the goyf sticks and I have 10 attack on table with a tribal flames that can do 4 damage, but he still has 2 mana up so I pass. He taps 5 for baneslayer angel which now puts him out of range of my attacks. I rip meddling mage and drop it, he thinks for a bit and lets it stick. I have a decision to make: he has two mana up. I have seen one counter all game and that’s mana leak, so the odds would say to name spell snare. The odds always end up screwing me, but I name spell snare anyway and go for it with the flames and I win and I’m in the top 8.

I decide to take a shower but keep all the same clothes on, but I feel I might’ve washed most of my luck off of me. I won round 8 very quickly and it was a long wait to top 8. We went over the decks and in the top 8 were five DDT decks, my zoo, the mystical teachings I beat in round 8 and the UB control deck that went 8-0.

I finish in third after swiss and get paired against Tezzerator, the guy that beat my friend in round 4. He’s playing DDT.

I keep Lynx, Lynx Goyf and lands on the draw and rip a goyf so my luck is obviously still around. I lead with lynx and decide to go for the blitz after I rip might of alara and swing for 8, but he has the repeal, so I just redrop Lynx and pass. I swing and drop Lynx and a goyf on 3 with him at 18. He taps out his four lands to play thopter and sword. I play a fetch, cast tribal flames and swing for 12 to put him on 2 and finish him off with a bolt, dealing 18 damage in one turn. Suck on that Loam Lion.

So obviously my luck is still with me and I’m feeling really good after that total asskicking…….

Game 2 I Keep goblin guide, keeping 3 land, bolt, meddling mage, goyf

my first draw is helix. and I lead with the guide. He reveals depths. Turn 2 I swing in and he reveals hexmage, so I cast meddling mage naming Hexmage, which he deathmarks. I goyf then lay a freshly ripped ghost quarters. He deathmarks the goyf and I swing in with goblin guide which he repeals. He drops the thopter combo while at about 14 life and I can’t touch him from there.

I’m pretty bummed that my hot hand got stomped so quickly, but I have high hopes as that’s the only game I’ve lost where I haven’t had to mull to 4 vs. this deck…………………………………

Game 3 I mull to 5 and probably should’ve kept but boy my brother and steve convinced me that I couldn’t win with it, so I kept going to 4 and didnt hit a land. I never got to play a spell that game despite the game going for like 10 turns and my ptq run was over.

After losing, my focus and adrenaline went away and I felt really sick, like hungover. I was up for 32 hours straight, I got wasted and sobered up in an 8 hour span of wakedness (something I think your body usually recovers from when you sleep) and I crashed hard.

Some thoughts about zoo. I’ve ran with it a little bit since then and while it has been good vs. DDT, other things are still out there that give it problems.

One strategy I’ve seen work is to put damping matrix (some people have them in the main, this might be a stretch) and Bloodbraids to try and give yourself more chances to get it out. Damping matrix does blow out DDT a bit, but it’s not that hard to play around because DDT runs Echoing Truth and Into the Roil which bounce it and can be searched out by muddle.

If I were to continue running this list, I’d stick with Steppe Lynx over Loam Lion because of it’s explosiveness. I know I also errantly ran 20 lands, but I’ve run 21 lands since then and have been wholly disappointed as to how much flooding I’ve faced. I know I ran really hot in this ptq and had some really lucky topdecks and got past opponents who I played poorly against, but I felt the deck gave me a lot of chances to do that. I also wouldn’t run might of alara anymore, because of repeal and echoing truth being really popular right now.

That’s it for me.

Mike Gemme
Bobbysapphire on MODO
mike@power9pro.com

Deckbuilding at the Worldwake Pre Release

Everyone is writing about Worldwake right now and we probably have at least another week or two of reading about the impact of the set in Standard, Extended, Sealed, Draft, Legacy, EDH, Type 4, Mental Magic… the list goes on.

This article is more focused on deckbuilding in the new sealed format. Any type of Magic player has the opportunity to run in this format over the next couple weeks whether it be release events this weekend, release events online two weeks from now, or maybe most importantly (at least for me) the Last Chance Qualifier for Pro Tour San Diego on February 18th in sunny Southern California.

I ran in two flights on Saturday and went 3-0-1, 3-1 with a sole loss to a pretty oustanding black deck featuring Sorin Markov and Butcher of Malakir among other fun things. My decks had some pretty slick cards as well; but I’m not 100% sure if I built my decks correctly, and that’s what this piece is going to try and figure out. I welcome and encourage any type of suggestion or criticism in the comments section. Like I said I’m looking to grind into the Pro Tour in two weeks so any help is appreciated.

Here’s a look at my first pool (a * denotes Foil):

BLACK – 14

Bloodhusk Ritualist
Dead Reckoning x2
Giant Scoprion
Guul Draz Vampire
Nemesis Trap
Mindless Null
Pulse Tracker
Ruthless Cullblade
Ruthless Cullblade *
Scrib Nibblers
Surrakar Marauder
Tomb Hex
Vampire Lacerator

BLUE – 13

Calcite Snapper
Dispel
Living Tsunami
Mysteries of the Deep
Paralyzing Grasp
Rite of Replication
Spell Pierce
Tideforce Elemental
Treasure Hunt
Umara Raptor
vapor Snare
Whiplash Trap
Welkin Tern

GREEN – 11

Arbor Elf
Cobra Trap
Explore
Feral Contest
Greenweaver Druid
Nissa’s Chosen
Nature’s Claim
River Boa
Relic Crush
Vastwood Zendikon
Vines of Vastwood

RED – 15

Bladetusk Boar
Deathforge Shaman
Goblin Roughrider
Goblin Shortcutter x2
Grotag Thrasher
Hellfire Mongrel
Plated Geopede
Quest for the Pure Flame
Ricochet Trap
Rotting Terrain x2
Searing Blaze
Stone Idol Trap
Torch Slinger

WHITE -17

Apex Hawks x2
Arrow Volley Trap
Battle Hurda
Caravan Hurda
Devout Lightcaster
Guardian Zendikon
Kabira Evangel
Lightkeeper of Emeria
Loam Lion
Join the Ranks
Kor Skyfisher
Journey to Nowhere
Narrow Escape
Nimbus Wings
Noble Vestige
Rest for the Weary

ARTIFACT – 8

Explorer’s Scope *
Hedron Rover
Khalni Gem
Lodestone Golem
Spidersilk Net
Stonework Puma
Trailblazer’s Boots
Walking Atlas

LAND – 6

Halimar Depths
Jwar Isle Refuge
Lavaclaw Reaches
Sejiri Steppe
Teetering Peaks
Turntimber Grove

I got to build across from my good friend Andy Roman in Flight 1 which is a great advantage in a Pre Release since you can talk about building and card choices and what not; since you really haven’t had any time to truly evaluate the cards before this point. Right away I knew that Black and Green were out (there were no black cards in my first pack at all), and that I would definitely be playing Blue or Red. The only decision I had to make was whether or not to run one of those with White. White was really lacking creatures even though it had some good ones with Evasion. All Five creatures I would run with White had either first strike or flying. There wasn’t a good chance of me playing Kabira Evangel or Devout Lightcaster since I had such little allies nor enough White to warrant a WWW casting cost. The only thing white gave me that I loved was Journey to Nowhere.

After a second glance at everything I decided that I was definitely playing Blue as my best cards were clearly Living Tsunami and Rite of Replication. 11 of my 13 Blue cards were striaght up good, and I ended up playing that many. I then do what I normally do when building a sealed deck, which is put my Blue cards in the middle by curve and the Red and White cards above and below to see how the decks would look. It became pretty clear when I had nine solid Red creatures as well as Searing Blaze and Stone Idol Trap which I felt was a pretty strong bomb even though Andy sorta disagreed. Turns out it was, especially when I got to say “I’ll Rite of Replication my Stone Idol token.” Leaving me with a permanent 6/12 trampler on the board (since the instant says “exile it at the beginning of your next end step” instead of the instant indicating the token has that text.

I went 3-0-1 with the following deck, choosing to Intentionally Draw in the final round so my opponent and I would each get six packs instead of eight and four.

Normally I run 18 land but I only curve to 5 (considering I’ll never cast Stone Idol Trap for 6), I had nearly no landfall and I have Living Tsunami, so I went with 17.

Some limited analysis of the new cards.

Treasure Hunt – I am pretty underwhelmed by this card, especially on turn 2. If you cast it on turn 2 on the draw you’re automatically discarding if you had no one drop. A couple of times I hit 3-4 cards off of it and most of the time I ended up discarding a land or two. One time it was huge though when I had 5 lands in hand and 2 spells I ran it just to discard and I drew 3 more lands and could dump 5 lands to my graveyard. That seems pretty rare.

Mysteries of the Deep – this card was great, even if I was wasting a turn playing it to draw 3.

Searing Blaze – Might as well just say sorcery in this format, but it’s a pretty good sorcery.

Stone Idol Trap – a total bomb. won me several games including a gunsling vs. Darwin Castle.

Hedron Rover – Was really good, a 4/4 attacker for 4 was really solid all day.

Halimar Depths – was always really, really good for me. Bouncing it every turn with tsunami was even better.

Grotag Thrasher – not great stats but he can really open up a clogged board for him and some friends.

Deathforge Shaman – Another game winner. This cycle of guys who multikick for their color are all really strong, this guy is good; the black version is great.

Vapor Snare – Unfortunately I never cast this card but it seems quite outstanding with a limited drawback, especially in a deck with a lower curve like the one I ran. Does not combo well with Tsunami.

Here’s my second card pool (again, foils have a *):

BLACK – 17

Agadeem Occultist *
Bojuka Brigand x2
Dead Reckoning
Death’s Shadow
Grim Discovery
Guul Draz Spectre
Guul Draz Vampire
Heartstabber Mosquito
Kalitas, Blood Chief of Ghet
Mire’s Toll
Nimana Sell Sword
Scrib Nibblers x2
Soul Stair Expedition
Vampire Hexmage
Vampire’s Bite

BLUE – 13

Aether Tradewinds
Enclave Elite x2
Halimar Excavator
Hedron Crab
Merfolk Seastalkers
Shoal Serpent
Sky Ruin Drake x2
Sphinx of Jwar Isle
Tideforce Elemental
Trapfinder’s Trick
Treasure Hunt
Twitch

GREEN – 17

Arbor Elf
Beast Hunt
Beastial Menace
Cobra Trap
Explore
Grazing Gladehart
Grappler Spider
Graypelt Hunter
Nissa’s Chosen
Oren-Rief Survivalist
Relic Crush
Scythe Tiger
Savage Sliouette
Slingbow Trap
Snapping Creeper
Turntimber Basilisk
Vines of Vastwood

RED – 12

Akoum Battleslinger
Bazaar Trader =(
Burst Lightning
Deathforge Shaman
Magma Rift
Quest for the Goblin Lore
Searing Blaze
Skitter of Lizards
Slavering Nulls
Tuktuk Grunts

WHITE – 13

Apex Hawks
Battle Hurda
Brave the Elements
Iona’s Judgment x2
Kor Hookmaster
Kor Outfitter
Kor Sanctifiers
Marshal’s Anthem
Shieldmate’s Blessing
Veteran Reflexes x2
Windborne Charge

ARTIFACT – 5

Adventuring Gear
Hedron Rover
Spidersilk Net
Trusty Machete
Walking Atlas

LAND – 6

Bojuka Bog
Dread Statuary
Graypelt Refuge
Halimar Depths
Khalni Garden
Piranha Marsh

I’m definitely interested in analyzing this pool because I most hastily built it. I kid you not, that the kid I was stuck sitting next to spelled so bad that I thought I was going to vomit all over my packs while waiting to open them. That and, interestingly enough, I opened both Sphinx of Jwar Isle and The Bloodchief of Ghet in my FNM draft the night before, played U/B and split in the finals of my pod. Now I have them both again not 24 hours later. Weird.

I had enough playables in Blue that because of the Sphinx I should run that color. Depending on how much you devalue the Bloodchief, you could consider going green here, but there just aren’t enough playables. I just put a list together and I struggled to get to 20 and I don’t want to run two Enclave Elite. Black just had way too much power with Heartstabber Mosquito, Guul Draz Spectre, plus it gave me a really strong ally subtheme due to the synergy with Agadeem Occultist, Halimar Excavator and Hedron Crab.

A quick aside about milling in limited: normally I think milling with just a crab that’s going to maybe hit for a few isn’t that great, but with the excavators you’re not milling 3-6 cards anymore. With six allies and the crab I had the potential to mill 20 or so cards per game, meaning that I’m no longer just changing my opponent’s next draw, I’m actively stripping their deck. That coupled with the Occultist’s ability to steal creatures and Guul Draz Specter stripping their hand, I was actively attacking their deck; so I went for it.

I end up with a pretty decent curve but very light on creature removal. My goal was to hopefully mill enough good cards to let my bombs do the talking. That went pretty well as I went 3-1 losing only to an absolutely ridiculous deck aforementioned.

Some takes on the cards here:

Agadeem Occultist: Sadly I never got to use his ability because he was a lightning rod for removal due to all my milling/allies, but if I ever tapped him it was going to be GG.

Tideforce Elemental: I love tappers, even bad ones (sup Vectis Dominator). This is going to be one of my favorite cards in limited in the near future. He was always oustanding be it on offense or defense.

Dead Reckoning: This card was extremely impressive. At one point an opponent of mine Heartstabbered my Kalitas and his friend said “that’s how they do it on the pro tour!” It was pretty embarassing when I Dead Reckoning’d his Machete equipped Flyer next turn and my board was soon Kalitas, Sphinx and vampire tokens.

Aether Tradewinds: Not very exciting but it gets things done.

Halimar Excavator: I’ll take a 1/3 for 2 in Blue, especially if I can swing more allies. I liked him all day.

Bojuka Brigand: These guys were great when I kept hitting allies but when a 3/3 comes down and they can’t even chump it kind of sucks.

Dread Statuary: I loved this guy, especially with grim discovery. He got into the red zone, he defended intimidators, and he killed guys the rest of my team couldnt. I’d run him anytime I have him.

Enclave Elite: Pretty dumpy, I sided the second one in against Blue for the Hedron Crab a bit. My friend Andy really liked multikicker but I didn’t use it much and found it pretty underwhelming when used to add +1/+1 tokens against me, and only really good with the guys who multikick for one color to make you discard or burn or gain life.

My initial thoughts on Worldwake was that it was going to be mainly inconsequential, and I think mainly that was right. I hadn’t considered the fact that it would be super fun, and I walk away from these events with the realization that it is. I’m sure winning certainly helped that feeling, but I enjoyed playing almost every card I laid on the table on Saturday.

I really feel like I want to be blue at the LCQ in San Diego. It is really easy to clog up the ground with white and blue but I think blue has a little bit more trickery with cards like Into the Roil and Whiplash Trap to get you through it. It’s already tough getting through Kraken Hatching, and Calcite Snapper one-ups it. I’m also in love with Tideforce Elemental. But really, I would follow your bombs because there are so many of them in this new set.

I will say this about draft: I think the draft format is going to be defined by allies. There are so many allies now it frightens me to the point that I don’t know if I want to draft much if I’m going to be fighting over allies for three packs; but we shall see.

I’ll leave you with my recommendation of the top three Worldwake cards I’m picking up right now, aside from the obvious mythic rares: Chain Reaction, Lavaclaw Reaches and Celestial Colonnade.

Later,

Mike Gemme
BobbySapphire on MTGO
mike@power9pro.com