Category Archives: tournaments

Magpie Inventory Updates Just Got Faster

Happy New Year from everyone at Power 9 Pro.

We’ve been busy pushing forward on Magpie over the last few weeks, battling off our families through the holidays so we could keep making Magpie better.

In addition to an extensive set of updates, we wanted to make sure you were aware that we’re addressing smaller enhancements that can make life easier. If you did miss our update about Store Front and Pro account tools, here is the setup video, and here is the general update.

New This Week

Earlier this week, we released a set of “quick inventory” tools for single-click inventory management.

To add a card to your inventory, all you have to do now is click the plus sign. The cards will be added to that group at your current buy price. No need to open the inventory manager, click buy, enter a price, etc.

Quick Add and Remove Inventory
Single-click for adding and removing cards

If you would like to provide a custom buy/sell price, you can still do so by clicking the middle button. Note that this button still shows your current inventory for each card.

In the last two weeks, we’ve also addressed mobile formatting, so accessing Magpie on your phone or tablet will be as great of an experience as through a traditional browser.

New Team Member

Late last fall, we grew our team by one, welcoming Josh to the Magpie development team. Josh’s expertise is primarily in backend services — stuff you won’t typically encounter unless something breaks! Josh’s work is already helping to prevent that from happening, and we’re excited to have him on the team. :)

Coming Up Next

Smart Pricing: Through very popular demand, Smart Pricing is going to make it easy for you to normalize card prices (charge $4.95 instead of $4.81) while also setting minimum sell prices. Minimum prices will be really useful for bulk rares, uncommons, etc.

Smart Pricing will be available next week, so please keep an eye out for our update on this important enhancement.

Smart Pricing Preview
Smart Pricing settings will be on the group level

As a quick preview, Smart Pricing will be a group-based setting, allowing you to set different pricing strategies for different groups. For example, Smart Pricing will allow you to set prices for bulk rare and uncommon groups while also creating different settings for hot Standard and Modern rares. So useful!

Promos: Expect promo cards to be available next week. We’re finishing up a final audit before making the data public. The addition of promos to Magpie will complete our tracking of all English MTG cards. w00t!

Going to GP Sacramento?

Friday through Sunday, I will accompany a small army of friends and fellow players from San Francisco to GP Sacramento. If you’re attending, I’d love to meet you, hear your ideas for Magpie and just talk Magic. Look for the guy wearing a t-shirt with a big Magpie.

Magpie T-Shirt
The shirt I'll be wearing.

MTGO Videos – Innistrad Block Constructed Daily Event #1 – RW Aggro

Hey Guys,

So I’ve been tinkering around with Innistrad block constructed on MTGO, and I’ve grown more or less comfortable with the format.  I originally started out playing green-white humans, but came to two realizations about the format.  The first is that the mana in this format is horrible.  With no allied dual lands, it’s very hard to hit your curve (which is extremely important in such an aggro-heavy format) and thus cards like Champion of the Parish and Mayor of Avabruck become much less appealing as the game goes later.   The second realization I came to is that the GW deck didn’t have enough reach, especially against the once ever-prominent Burning Vengeance deck, as they would have infinite Blasphemous Acts and Rolling Temblors to kill everything, and would often kill you from a very low life total because you couldn’t push through damage to kill them.

The solution I found to both these problems was to switch out the green for red.  This was before more than a handful of lists went up, and I was originally a slightly more controlling deck with Angelic Overseers and Mentor of the Meeks, instead of Midnight Hauntings and Instigator Gangs.  However, the core of Brimstone Volley and Devils Play were there and provided a much needed amount of damage to finish off opponents.

Here’s my current list:

Sideboard:
2 Geist-Honored Monk
2 Divine Reckoning
1 Blasphemous Act
3 Geistflame
2 Silverchase Fox
4 Slayer of the Wicked

Both the main and the side have changed and continue to change almost daily as them meta evolves and I find new things to try out.   If  anyone wants to make a ton of money on magic online, find a surefire way to beat both RW aggro and Jund control consistently, as those make up the majority of the decks online that present any sort of sizeable challenge.

Without further ado, here are the videos!

Cheers,

Zak

@zturchan on twitter, zak-AT-power9pro.com, zturchan on MTGO

td60_cobraSplash

Tales From Nationals Qualifiers: Bant Caw Blade (Top 8)

This past week, myself and 4 other friends made the 3 hour drive from Edmonton to Calgary for one of the 4 8-slot nationals qualifiers. In the weeks beforehand, I was testing every variation of Caw Blade possible, and I knew I wanted to play the best deck for this event. However, I was quite wary of the fact that I would be paired up against the mirror several times, and wanted to have an edge in that matchup.

On the Wednesday beforehand, I played a variant of Gerry Thompson’s Darkblade, which I liked. However, I lost in the finals to blue/white because I didn’t have a good plan for sideboarding, that is, I had lots of cards to put in, but so few to take out. This is an example of how not to give yourself the best shot at winning. I really liked the black splash for Inquisition of Kozilek and Creeping Tar Pit, but it still felt like the edge I had wasn’t enough to make the matchup decisively in my favour.

Sometime about midweek, my good friend (and recent PTQ winner) Brian told me of a Bant Caw blade deck that splashed green for Lotus Cobra and Explore. Apparently normal cawblade was one of your best matchups, because a turn 2 Cobra is so much better than a turn 2 stoneforge.

I kept the idea in the back of my mind, knowing that I really didn’t want to audible at the last minute, as I had been practicing with Darkblade and felt more or less comfortable with it, once I had wrinkled out the sideboard plan against blue-white.

On Thursday, I netdecked Gerry’s list for straight blue-white and went to another tournament, which I 3-0ed. The competition was not exactly fierce, and so I took my results their with a grain of salt. I liked hwo the deck played, but I still was unsure.

The one thing I knew I had going for me was that whatever I had been practicing, it had been some form of Caw-Blade. I knew how the mechanics of the deck worked, and despite the differences in colours, I knew I was a competent pilot who could do well with it. However, I did have to make a decision.

Friday night was a draft at Wizard’s, my local store. We had about ~20 people in the smalls store, but the draft fired with 8. The rest of us were testing for the day after. Since I was spending the night with some friends before we drove down the night before, I had brought my 2 binders of standard rares and of tournament-quality commons/uncommons. These binders effectively let me build any deck I need to on the fly. I tested the various cawblade mirrors and got to understand them more, and then Brian asked me if I had done anything with the bant deck. I told him I hadn’t, and that I was probably going to play Darkblade. He said I should sleeve it up and give it a few games just to try, and so I built the deck.

I was pretty amazed.

We started out testing against RUG. I was on the play. I cast a turn 2 Lotus Cobra. He cast a turn 2 Lotus Cobra. I cast Explore into a fetchland and a normal land, cast Preordain, cast Stoneforge Mystic, fetched and cast Mortarpod and killed his cobra. The game was won shortly thereafter.

Now obviously this was an example of a nut draw, but that in and of itself speaks volumes. The one thing that normal caw blade doesn’t have is a ‘nut draw’. Rather, you have a very consistent deck that does powerful things, but not absurdly powerful things. The Cobra package changes that. At the heart, you’ve still got the same old cawblade shell, but you’ve added more speed and explosiveness to the deck.

So I was really happy with that game. Obviously I realized that I wouldn’t always draw like that, but that fact that it could happen was what attracted me to the deck. We played some more matches and drew up the sideboard and this is what we came up with.
Snakes on a Blade


Sideboard

Besides the green splash, there are a few things which make this deck stand out from your typical cawblade deck.

Frost Titan is a card which was in the original version of the list that Brian had found, and after trying it out I was happy to leave it in. Being able to tap down opposing titans, Creeping Tar Pits, or even Gideon Juras proved to be invaluable, and the demi-shroud certainly helped as well. Some lists run Sphinx of Jwar Isle, but I’d much rather have a guy which can do combat with titans, and tap stuff down than full-fledged shroud. As well, who doesn’t love a Titan wielding a sword?

Instead of a second Sword in the mainboard, we run a Bonehoard. Because we run 7 more creatures than normal (4 Cobras and 3 Titans), Bonehoard is more effective. It also helps a great deal in the mirror if I need to take down a Gideon Jura in the late game, or if I just really want another sizeable blocker against aggro decks.

The deck’s mana base is a little awkward, if only because we have so many green sources and not a ton to use them for, but it works out reasonably well. Because of the mana acceleration provided by Lotus Cobra and Explore, this deck is less weak to Tectonic Edge than say Darkblade.

The sideboard is pretty straightforward, but one thing I like is the pair of Tectonic Edges. Note that we don’t ever board out lands for these; rather you treat them as spells so that our mana is still consistent. They’re obviously good against Valakut but also can be very helpful against control decks like Darkblade, espeilly if their game plan involves manlands.

So, after switch to the Bant version of cawblade, I was ready to go crush the tournament the next day.

Other than myself, the group that we brought down had a Valakut player, a blue-white caw blade player, a RUG player (who top 8ed) and a mono white eldrazi player. As soon as I heard about one person playing mono white, I tried to convince him to play Caw Blade but to no avail. Oh well, you can’t win ‘em all.

Round 1: vs Michael (Tezzeret Caw Blade)
In game 1, I never saw any extraneous artifacts so I assumed he was on plain old Darkblade. I get an early Stoneforge Mystic but he Inquisition of Kozileks away my Sword of Feast and Famine. However, I soon cast a Frost Titan and tap down his Tectonic Edge so that he can’t take me off double white for Gideon Jura. He then punts by casting a Squadron Hawk, which resolves, and then attempting to Go For the Throat my titan with no mana up. I cheerfully indicate that it’s countered and he succumbs to the combine power of Titan and my follow-up Gideon.

Sideboarding: Caw Blade
In this matchup, I board out Mortarpod, a Mana Leak, a Frost Titan and a Day of Judgment. Aside from Mana Leak, these cards don’t do nearly as much as some of the cards I have post-board, and in this style of deck I’d rather play more spells than leave leak mana open in this matchup.

I board in the second sword, because they’re most likely bringing in Divine Offerings or something like that, as well as Voltion Reins for either their sword or their planeswalkers, as well as Into the Roil and Condemn. Spot removal is very useful in this matchup if you can get them to spend their early turns on equipping someone with a Sword, and then you can prohibit them from untapping and get ahead.

On the draw, you can board out 1-2 more leaks for Tec-edges if you feel they’re warranted. In this match I brought 1 in.

In game 2, Michael leads off with a Stoneforge Mystic for Sword of Body and Mind. Because I can’t see him boarding in body and mind against me, I just assume he’s playing a 1/1 split and has Sword of Feast and Famine in his hand. I play a turn 2 Lotus Cobra, hoping to explode on turn 3, but to my surprise he plays a Contagion Clasp[. I didn’t know he was Caw-Tezz at that moment, so I concluded that he might have seem green mana game 1, and inferred that I would have Cobras and then have boarded in Clasps. Of course, he was not next-leveling me, and jut never drew them in game 1. He establishes a board of Squadron Hawks and starts pecking me to death, and when I finally land a Gideon he simply kills it with birds and a Celestial Colonnade. I can only survive being hit with sworded birds for so long and I fold without dealing him any damage.

In game 3, I keep a hand with double Lotus Cobra. My opponent, conveniently enough has double Go For the Throat to dispatch them. He tries to Memoricide me, and while I tank as to whether or not I should counter it he announces Frost Titan. Seeing as I have a titan in hand I snap counter. If any of you are playing with Memoricide, know that you don’t name a card until the spell has resolved, so as not to give away any extra information to your opponent. I stick the titan soon after and he resolves a Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas and starts using the +1 ability. He whiffs for several turns in a row while I add a gideon to my team, and tap down his Creeping Tar Pit. When Michael lands a Tumble Magnet and makes it a 5/5 with Tezzeret, I happily force the magnet to attack Gideon and ride my titan to victory.

1 – 0

Round 2: vs Chris (Black-Red Vampires)

Chris is one of the better players in Alberta, so I knew this game wasn’t going to be easy. In game 1, I have double Stoneforge Mystic, which fetch Mortarpod and Sword. The first mystic gets hit by a Lightning Bolt, while the second one sticks. I flash in the Sword and equip it to the germ token and bash in, untapping and forcing a discard. Searching for an answer, Chris activates Viscera Seer, saccing itself to scry. He scrys first, and then attempts to nug me for 2 with Kalastria Highborn. I call a judge and the judge tells him that he can’t do that. This is because you activate the seer’s ability by paying the cost (sacrificing a creature) and putting the ability onto the stack. Highborn triggers and its ability is put on to the stack above the scry ability, and must resolve first. Because it’s a may ability and Chris scryed first, it’s assumed that he didn’t pay for the highborn and by the time he’s already scryed, it’s too late as the ability has already resolved. With an active Sword, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference anyway and and I quickly take the game.

Sideboarding: Vampires

Against vampires, I board out Cobras, 2 leaks and a jace. They have so much removal that Cobra will die almost instantly, and it trades poorly in combat with things like Bloodghast and Viscera Seer. Leaks sometimes don’t do enough, but since I had seen Captivating Vampire in game 1, I reasoned that keeping one in would be better than the 4th Jace.

I boarded in the 2 Kor Firewalkers, the Sylvok Lifestaff, both Ousts, the Condemn, the Day of Judgment and the Into the Roil.

In game 2, I mulligan and keep a slow hand. Chris punishes me with a bunch of vampires, and I can’t stabilize. My notes show him going to 18 and then to 21, and me getting slaughtered, so it wasn’t very close.

Game 3 was where I determined I was running good enough to top 8. I’m on the play and I mulligan down to 5, and all those 5 cards are land. Begrudgingly, I keep 5 land, reasoning that I could hit an absolutely unplayable 4 and at least this way I can play most everything I draw. Chris starts off fast with a Viscera Seer, Kalastria Highborn and a Captivating Vampire. Luckily, I hit a Day of Judgment and reset the board. I then draw into a Jace, the Mind Sculptor, which brainstorms into a Kor Firewalker and Mortarpod. I suit up the firewalker, content to sit back and brainstorm for a few turns, and when Chris attacks me with a 2/2 vampire (I forget which one), I promptly block with my 2/3. To my chagrin, Chris casts a Crush. to force the trade. Eventually I hit a Squadron Hawk and Gideon, which gives me enough card advantage and firepower to win the game. If I could get there off of 5 land, there was nothing that could stop me on my way to nationals.

2 – 0

Round 3: vs Chris (different guy; Valakut)

In game one, Chris misses his 5th land drop with no Overgrown Battlement nor Lotus Cobra. This lets me get a Sword of Feast and Famine online pretty quickly, and force him to start discarding. He manages to eventually resolve an Avenger of Zendikar, but I force the attack with Gideon Jura, and since he doesn’t have a land immediately, I strat killing off plants with Squadron Hawks. I Assassinate the Avenger with gideon on the following turn and he has no gas to stop me.

Sideboarding: Valakut
Against Valakut, we want to be boarding out Squadron Hawks, because not only do they have Inferno Titan and perhaps Slagstorm, but they have enough pressure that you can’t just sit back on massive card advantage from Jace and Hawks and hope they run out of steam. We also want to board out the Bonehoard, as it really doesn’t do anything, along with a Frost Titan and a Gideon Jura. It might be correct to board out the second Gideon and keep in all the Frost Titans, but being able to soak up a hit from Avenger and friends is relevant enough that I don’t mind the 2/1 split postboard. The reason we board out some top-heavy cards is that the only way they really have to interact with our finishers is through their own finishers. If we focus more on ensuring that they don’t stick one of their bigger threats (or if they do, that they are delayed), we really only need 1 or 2 threats to finish the game. Finally, we board out Mortarpod if we don’t see Lotus Cobra, but if we do we leave it in.

From the board we want to add in all the copies of Flashfreeze, both Tectonic Edges, both Ousts, and the second Sword. The first two are pretty obvious, but Oust is really good against either their cobras or battlements, as it not only slows their mana production, but it gives them a semi-dead draw in the later turns. A turn 4 Overgrown Battlement is a lot worse than one on turn 2. The sword is good because they might bring in something along the lines of Natures Claim, and because we’re boarding out 2 equipment and we don’t want extra Stoneforge Mystics to not give us advantage.

In game 2, Chris misses his 5th and drop before drawing and casting a Cultivate. He then resolves a Primeval Titan, which is a lot less effective when his lands at the time were 5 forests and a mountain. He grabbed double Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, and I happily locked down his Primeval with a Frost Titan. Not to be outdone in the haymaker department, Chris threw down an Avenger and dropped a land. I Ousted the avenger and then Stoneforged for a Sword, and attached it to Frosty. Unable to deal with my 8/8 titan, he quickly packed it in.

3 – 0

Round 4: vs Andrew (UW Cawblade)

Andrew leads off with a turn 2 Stoneforge Mystic for Sword, while I have a turn 2 Lotus Cobra. He quickly Mortarpods away my snake and I have to play my own Stoneforge for sword. I resolve my first hawk and get in good with my sword after chumping his, and although he has an Elspeth Tirel and triple Gideon Jura, my collonades and titans manage to take it down.

I sideboarded in much the same way as in round 1.

Game 2 was an interesting affair, with me having turn 2 Lotus Cobra, although it got Ousted twice. Andrew then cast a Gideon Jura and double Tectonic Edge me. I played a Gideon of my own but then he bricked on land and I was able to stabilize of my lands and lotus cobras to eventually kill him. I’m sorry if my notes were a little sparse but the matches were more intense than the brief notes I’ve marked down. However, this game does showcase one awesome thing about this deck. The cobra plan is so different than the stoneforge/squadron hawk plan that you have opponents who bring in things like Oust which while fine against the cobra plan, isn’t nearly as good against stoneforge, hawks, or various planeswalkers. The only card that’s really good against the cobra plan while not being totally divergent from their normal plan is Mortarpod. However, if your opponent fetches Mortarpod to deal with cobra, it means they’re not gettinf a sword to put pressure on you, and when you drop your own stoneforge you get to be the aggressor.

4 – 0

Round 5: vs Michel (UW Venser Control)

I’m excited, because a win here means I can double-draw into top 8. I start off with a strong opener: Lotus Cobra into Stoneforge Mystic, which gets Mana Leaked. Unfortunately I don’t hit my 4th land drop until several turns and Preordains have elapsed, while Michel is more than content to accumulate card advantage through a Jace Beleren while sitting behind a Wall of Omens. Once I get a Squadron Hawk online and equipped, Michel has a Tumble Magnet to stop me form getting it in. He finally resolves a Venser, the Soujourner, and continues to Flicker out his magnet, ensuring I can’t get in an attack. When he finally ultimates venser and starts casting a bunch of spells, while his Celestial Colonnades get in for damage, I know it’s game over.

Sideboarding: Non-Caw based control
So for this matchup I board out pretty much all my creature removal, as the only creatures I saw were Wall of Omens and manlands. So I bring out Mortarpod, Day of Judgment, as well as Bonehoard and one Stoneforge Mystic in favour of Voltion Reins, the Into the Roil, and 2 Tectonic Edge.

In game 2 Michel keeps a land-light hand and has no outs to me swining with unsworded hawks. Not much of a match.

In game 3 we have a slow control match, where I manage to stick a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and start fatesealing. When Jace gets to 13 loyalty, I put a Preordain on the bottom and Michel rips the [card]Jace Beleren to stay alive. He eventually gets a Venser the Soujourner and goes ultimate. This game was about as “draw-go” as you can get, and in the end the deck with 7 Jaces won the Jace war, and by extension the game.

4 – 1

Round 6: vs Mat (Aggro Valakut)

We both have relatively slow starts, and Mat misses his 4th land drop. I try and get ahead with a jace but it quickly dies to a burn spell. Mat hits his 4th land drop, but he only has one forest, and I cast a Frost Titan to lock him out of his only green source and the game.

For sideboarding, I boarded the same way as round 3, except I took out Explores and 2 leaks for Kor Firewalkers, Condemn and the Sylvok Lifestaff. These cards are much better agains the aggro plan while shaving off some of the slower, less effective cards.

On the draw in game 2, I mullligan to 5 and get hit by Lotus Cobra into double Hero of Oxid Ridge. Again, not much of a match.

In game 3, I mulligan to 6 and keep possibly the ideal 6 card hand. I keep Seachrome Coast, Razorverge Thicket, double Oust[card], [card]Kor Firewalker and Stoneforge Mystic. I throw down an early firewalker, and hit my land and Oust his [/card]Lotus Cobra[/card] and fetch Sword of Feast and Famine. I put the sword on the Firewalker, and start swinging in for huge value. He eventually draws a Tumble Magnet to stall, but I eventually just wear down the counters and get through for my souped-up firewalker.

5 – 1

Round 7: vs Adrian (Valakut)

I’m in 6th, paired against the 5th place guy and we intentionally draw. I’m reasonably confident I’m in for top 8.

5 – 1 – 1

When everything is said and done, Jason Ness (the TO) informs everyone that one person at 5-1-1 did not make top 8. He reads them off in descending order and slowrolls us on the 8th seed, by thanking the judges and players and doing announcements just before he makes the announcement. Thankfully, he calls my name and I’m headed for nationals this summer in Toronto.

Because this was a large nationals qualifier, we didn’t play out the top 8. My good friend Attila also made top 8 with RUG, so we were happy that we’d have 4 people from our store headed to nationals this summer.

The deck played very well, and my only loss was to a great player with a great deck. I’m certainly looking forward to trying the Venser deck out once I can get some Vensers of my own. I felt noticeably ahead at almost all times in the mirror, and Frost Titan did more than his fair share of work. If I could change anything, I would probably cut a green source, most likely a Verdant Catacombs for another white source, perhaps a Stirring Wildwood or just another basic plains. Other than that, the deck performed extremely well and I highly recommend it to anyone playing in their local nationals qualifiers in the coming weeks.

I’d love to give a shout out to my testing group from Wizard’s Comics: Attila, for grinding MWS matches with me for hours on end in the preceding weeks; Brian, for convincing me to try the deck and helping me with the sideboard; Stephen, for driving all of us down to Calgary despite the horrid road conditions, and everyone else for helping me along the way – you guys are awesome.

If you have any questions about Bant cawblade, or anything else, feel free to post in the comments below, or email me at zak-AT-power9pro.com or via twitter at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

Cheers,

Zak

Magic Online Videos – Masters Edition 4 Draft 1 (64 Man)

Hello everyone.  I’ve really been enjoying drafting Masters Edition 4 online.  For those of you who haven’t tried it, I highly suggest you do, as it’s a blast to play.  Here’s a 64 man draft I did a few weeks ago, unfortunately schoolwork prevented me from getting it up until now.

I’ll hopefully be bringing you more content, both in video and text form soon.

As always, feel free to contact me with any suggestions, comments or questions in the comments below, via email (zakATpower9pro.com) or via twitter (twitter.com/zturchan).

Mirrodin Beseiged Prerelease Albuquerque Tournament Report

War!  Mirrodin is under attack and this past weekend was the first chance players had to finally pick a side in the war.  The Mirrodin Beseiged Prerelease was very different from any event Wizards has ever organized before.  Players were asked to pick a side in the Mirran v. Phyrexian war, and that side would determine what packs the players would have access to.

ThrunIwantyou

Chatting with other players around the hall it quickly seemed that the sides were evenly matched.  People went with Mirran because of better spot removal, better mythic rares, deeper card pool from Scars, and the more expensive prerelease foil.  People joined Phyrexia because of better sweepers and of course infect.  “It seems good when your opponent starts at 10 life,” one player told me, making the argument for infect.  The consensus was that If you picked Phyrexian you would be playing infect.  I decided to go Phyrexian because I want the third set in the block to be a dark evil place, entirely a flavor choice.  I loved the Phyrexian threat from the entire Weatherlight Saga and I was glad to see their return to Mirrodin.

For the sealed pool each player got three packs of Scars of Mirrodin and three faction packs based on their choice of allegiance.  No matter what faction a card belonged to you could play it if it was in your pool.  Here was my pool:

Artifacts

Colored

The first thing I looked at was how many creatures with infect I had; nine. Nine? Really?  I was sure that if I went Phyrexian I would end up with a solid amount of infect creatures.  Too bad.  Trying to keep my dream alive I looked at all of the the other cards that added poison or proliferated; seven more.  I realized that if I stuck with the infect game plan that I would force myself to play cards that were not good.  I usually do not try to force an archetype.  I decided to go back to square one and evaluate the cards the way I always do.

Bombs.  I was lucky to crack two bombs that can end the game on their own.  Carnifex Demon can wipe away the opposing board with ease.  This monster is also awkward for other infect decks to play against since any block he makes will reload him for more devastation.  Myr Battlesphere is a giant threat that will win you the game without too much effort.

Removal.  I was lucky here with plenty of good choices for spot removal and a Wrath-like effect in Creeping Corrosion (Foil).

Monsters.  I had a mixed bag of infect and non-infect guys that were all over the mana curve.  Flyers in white, but not much else.  Four mana myr would go nice with my Battlesphere.

Goodies.  Darksteel Axe was going in no matter what.  Livewire Lash too.  Other than that I was pretty flexible.

Colors.  Carnifex Demon ensured I would play Black.  I also had three Black removal spells.  Virulent wound is great at killing mana myr and opponents little infect guys.  I liked the game swing that Creeping Corrosion offers so I decided to go Green.  White was cut after that since the most important cards required WW and even though I had mana myr I did not want to loose out on black mana.  Blue was not deep enough, only Corrupted Conscience had game changing potential and I wanted to be as aggressive as possible with my curve.  I only had four Red cards  total and two Red mana myr, but those cards were all removal (one on a stick) so I decided to splash Red.  Deciding on Jund, here is what my deck looked like.

It seems like this build is not focused enough on one game plan but I just had to change my mindset.  My goal was not to poison out my opponent but rather to use my infect creatures as a from of removal.  I wanted to force my opponents into bad blocking situations to eliminate the threats from their guys and then break through with one of my bombs or equip a smaller guy to go to work.  I tried to maximize the value of each one of my cards with symmetry.

Virulent Wound can reload Carnifex Demon, can kill an Emissary to tutor up a missing land, and is removal.  Bloodshot Trainee, once equipped with the Axe or the Lash can deal with almost any threat.  Lash on any one of my infect creatures is extra awesome with Untamed Might.  Viridian Emissary was awesome for me since people would take the damage early thinking I was infect.

Took this build to a 4-0 finish at the tournament.  I won with poison counters twice and with good ol’ damage the rest of the time.  I only lost one game with it all morning.  The lesson here is to not be distracted by forcing an archetype.  Going into the tournament it was a given that if you were picking Phrexian you were picking infect.  In sealed format, it is more important to evaluate which cards have the most value through symmetry.  In draft it tends to be easier to force a specific build since you have control over what cards you will take.  I hope you all had fun at your prerelease tournaments over the weekend.  If you have any cool stories just leave a comment below.

Grand Prix Toronto – Tournament Report (Scars of Mirrodin Sealed)

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of traveling across Canada to Toronto, a city I had never visited save the airport. I left Edmonton shortly after my first class on Friday, and met up with my uncle who was my traveling partner for the weekend. He had an old friend in Mississauga (A city adjacent to Toronto where the event was actually held) and we decided to go together.

Our flight was rather uneventful, and rather than make the 30-minute walk down from our hotel to the International Center, we decided to spend the evening relaxing after the 4 hour flight. Unfortunately this meant I didn’t get one of the sick Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon playmats they were giving out, but I was thankful for the rest.

In the morning, we bussed down to see the center filled with people. Already I could see that this event would be the largest I had ever been to, making the 100 person PTQs back in Alberta seem like an FNM.

Slightly bigger than a 100-man PTQ.
Slightly bigger than a 100-man PTQ.

When the seatings were posted for deck construction, I was surprised to see that I only had 1 bye (from rating) when I should have had 3 (from winning a GPT). After a walk by the judges station, I found out that several other players had the same problem, and the judges assured me that everything would be sorted out after deck construction.

Before handing out product, we were informed that 1462 players had sat down to battle Scars of Mirrodin sealed deck. After registering and swapping sealed decks, this is what I was presented with:

“If I was in my local store and opened an Opal I would jump for joy, but I did not travel 1000 miles to open an Opal,” – Brad Nelson

While I can’t say I was as disappointed as Mr. Nelson who ended up losing in the finals of this event, I was much more excited at the prospect of winning games with Hoard-Smelter Dragon than I was at tapping my Mox Opal.

The first thing I (and many other players) do when looking at a sealed pool is to look at the rares. A powerful rare like the aforementioned Dragon can highly incentivize the playing of one colour over another. Unlike Magic Online, I can’t apply sorting filters to my sealed pool instantly, so I looked through my pool to find Copperline Gorge, Myr Propagator, Tempered Steel and Livewire Lash in addition to the dragon and mox. Of those, the only ones which really shone were the steel and the dragon, so I kept those red and white cards in mind as I persued the rest of my pool.

Looking at my white I only had a few spells that I would be happy to maindeck: Glimmerpoint Stag, Kembas Skyguard, Tempered Steel, and Arrest. While I’m sorely tempted by the Steel, I don’t think I’ll be able to play white unless I have a Gold Myr or some other fixing to consistently get double white on turn 3. In addition, I would need a sizable number of artifact creatures to boost up. While splashing the Arrest was a possibility, I moved white to the side.

In blue we have a few playable cards, the best of which is the Riddlesmith. Bonds of Quicksilver, Disperse, Sky-Eel School and Lumengrid Drake are all playable, but nothing spectacular.

Our black is pretty underwhelming as well. There are only a few poison cards and the non-poison cards don’t exactly get me excited. Flesh Allergy is fine, but it’s not splashable and there’s really nothing else I’d be able to back it up with. I had to start hoping that my red, green, and artifacts would be enough to carry this deck, as my pool wasn’t looking very promising.

Red looked like it could provide the makings of a base colour. We have some good removal in the form of double Shatter and a Galvanic Blast. We also have Bloodshot Trainee, a card which I think is being vastly underrated. If you get the guy online, he will win you the game. Simple. There are so many ways to get him going, most obviously equipment, but less obviously so Vulshok Heartstoker, Untamed Might and Trigon of Rage, two of which our pool has. I’m a fan of the Heartstoker, as it allows you to push through some extra damage in the early game, in addition to turning on the trainee. Barrage Ogre is a card that I haven’t had a ton of experience with, but the few results I have have been relatively positive. Finally, Blade-Tribe Berserkers is a card that’s been really good for me, as sometimes a Hill Giant just gets there, and the metalcraft bonus is extremely relevant when it triggers. Red definitely looked like it had the potential to be a main colour, and I moved on to green.

Green had some solid cards, namely Untamed Might,Slice in Twain, and Acid Web Spider, along with pseudo-green card Sylvok Replica. There is also the Alpha Tyrranax a card I personally underrated until very recently, as the only real answers to it are Turn to Slag and Arrest. Again our green doesn’t have enough depth to support an infect deck, so it looks like red, followed by green and white are our best colours.

Looking at the artifacts, we a fair bit of decent equipment in the form of Livewire Lash, Grafted Exoskeleton, Strider Harness, Barbed Battlegear and Bladed Pinions. I’m especially a huge fan of the battlegear, as it turns any creature into a fighting force. Unfortunately, you have to ensure that your deck had enough creatures with 2 or more toughness to make sure that you can equip it with any regularity. We have a couple of Myr, one of which is on-colour, as well as a Contagion Clasp. This was the first Clasp I had opened in a limited event, and I was suitably happy about it.

Here’s the list I ended up registering:

A few notes about this deck.

1. It is built incorrectly. I realized after that I probably should have splashed the Arrest, as I didn’t have any answers to large, non-artifact bombs. As well, I might’ve liked Alpha Tyrannax mainboard, although that might have made my deck to top-heavy. I probably could’ve cut the Saberclaw Golem and/or a Blade-Tribe Berserkers for either of these options. Wall of Tanglecord was also a consideration.

2. Liquimetal Coating plays a role as an aggressive card here. This lets us turn all the artifact removal we have into Vindicate, and it also lets us get a great deal more value out of our Barrage Ogre. Although we can use it to turn on our 3 metalcraft spells, that wasn’t its intended primary function.

3. Barbed Battlegear only kills our 2 mana myr, and nothing else. Therefore it’s operating at pretty much max efficiency.

4. Bloodshot Trainee has 4 ways to get online including 2 equipment and 2 one-shot effects. I’ve found as long as you have 2 equipment for him, everything else is just gravy.

5. Although many players have advocated running 16 land in a for what with a bunch of myr to serve as acceleration, my testing group and I found out that you almost always still want 17 land, as an early Embersmith or Contagion Clasp can crush your dreams of making your 4th land drop. Patrick Chapin recently wrote an article about people cheating on their land bases by playing too few, and complaining about mana screws afterwords. With our slightly higher curve we want to make land drops consistently, so 17 land is definitely warranted.

Let’s get to the action, shall we?

Rounds 1-3

Chippy (front) and Steve Argyle (back) sign cards for players.  Chippy's line was easily an hour long.
Chippy (front) and Steve Argyle (back) sign cards for players. Chippy's line was easily an hour long.

The problem with the byes was fixed, but the tournament organizers messed up everyone’s country. I was playing for the states and many other players were also playing for countries in which they did not reside. This never did end up getting fixed, and I can only hope that for events like worlds they get this straightened out. Anyway, I used my byes to get a ton of cards signed by artists Chippy (famous pieces include Lotus Cobra, Abyssal Persecutor and Doom Blade) and Steve Argyle (famous pieces include Slave of Bolas, Admonition Angel, and Chandra Ablaze). It was really great being able to meet and talk with them face-to-face, and I look forward to meeting more artists in the future.

3 – 0

Round 4: vs James

I came into this round relatively happy with my deck. Action starts early in the game with me Galvanic Blasting his myr after he missed a land drop to put him on 2 mountains for mana. I followed that up with a Liquimetal Coating and attempted to further exacerbate his mana screw by Shattering a land. Naturally, he drew runner-runner land and was back in it. I was beating in with a 5/5 Acid Web Spider thanks to Livewire Lash. He brings the beatdown with a metal army boosting up Ezuris Brigade to an 8/8. When he attacks I cast[ Untamed Might on my tapped spider to trigger the lash and Shock his Snapsail Glider, taking him off metalcraft. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as shortly afterwards my opponent aimed a metalcrafted Galvanic Blast at me to finish me off.

In game 2 I bring in a couple plains and the Arrest, and we battle back and forth for a bit. I cast Contagion Clasp for the first time in my life to take out an Embersmith and keep augmenting my board presence. In the end, there’s a situation where he’s at 6 and I’m at 15. He has a Vulshok Replica and I had some relevant creature, I forgot to note down which. I debate my various lines of attack (I had some other relevant spell in my hand i could use to ensure the win next turn[/card], but I could run the option of attacking and winning with Untamed Might if he didn’t block. He fell for it and we were shuffling up for game 3.

A note on Untamed Might: everyone knows this card is insnae in the infect deck. However, some people claim that it’s not good in any other archetype. Those people are mistaken, as Untamed Might is a solid combat trick that can serve as removal for some of the bigger threats in the set. A combat trick that scales makes it also very possible to simply steal games from nowhere as I have done on multiple occasions. Seriously, the card is really good.

In game 3 I’m the beatdown as I one again equip Livewire Lash on a guy and start beating in. When he taps out for Turn to Slag to kill my lashed beater, I realize that I’ve got the game won. I cast Galvanic Blast at his face in response before my metalcraft goes offline, and use the Lash trigger to Shock him. I then untap and use Untamed Might on a myr to finish the game.

4 – 0

Round 5: vs Matt Nass

This was my first match against a pro so to speak, and I was a little nervous when facing down the Channel Fireball writer. We made some nice conversation before the round started and then we were off to the races.

Matt took the draw and came out strong by Contagion Clasping my turn 2 myr. His Golem Artisan was quickly dispatched by my Bloodshot Trainee (powered by Vulshok Heartstoker). He dropped double Darksteel Axe with no creatures to but them on, until the next turn where he dropped Myr Battlesphere. However, it wasn’t enough to stop a Golem Artisan from flying over and taking out the rest of his life.

In game 2, Matt leads with a Darksteel Axe, and follows up with a Glint Hawk Idol. I have a Sylvok Replica which I crack to kill the idol. Maty misses his third land drop for a few turns and I’m forced to run out an Acid-Web Spider without killing anything to keep up the beats. I resolve my Hoard-Smelter Dragon which starts to dominate the game from there. Matt showed me his hand afterwards which was full of goodies like Myr Battlesphere that very well might have beat me had he hit his land drops. However, I’m not one to turn down a win, and I thanked Matt for the games.

5 – 0

Round 6: vs Thomas

In the 6th round, I start off with a myr on turn 2, although I miss my 4th land drop. I Slice in Twain his Chrome Steed only for him to buy it back with a Razor Hippogriff. In order to deal with the flier, I used my Liquimetal Coating and Sylvok Replica in combination. However, he gets double Chrome Steed to resolve with metalcraft, and his 4/4s overwhelm me.

In game 3 we trade pretty evenly for a while and I stabilize behind a sideboarded Wall of Tanglecord equipped with both a Bladed Pinions and a [/card]Livewire Lash[/card]. However, my defense is decimated upon his casting a Carnifex Demon, which pretty much beats me out from there.

5 – 1

Round 7: vs Mitchell

Mitchell and I talk before our match and it turns out that he used to live in Edmonton too before moving to eastern Canada. Early on he Trinket Mages for Darksteel Axe, but I reply with my Bloodshot Trainee and equip it with my Livewire Lash. My machine-gun quickly decimates his board and pretty much carries the game.

Games 2 and 3 were very similar, but for him. Both games he got his Darksteel Axe via Trinket Mage and pumped up his own Bloodshot Trainee. Again, the 4 damage per turn just destroys every threat I can play, and I’m quickly scooping up my cards. As well, I mulliganned to 4 in game 3, which made it slightly harder to pull out a win.

5 – 2

Round 8: vs Samuel

In round 8, both my opponent and I need to win 2 more rounds to make day 2. I keep a slower hand than I would like (I should’ve mulliganned, I just hated the prospect of mulling in such a crucial match). While I’ve become better at taking mulligans in the past year or so, I think I still need to take more when I get hands that in all likelihood won’t win me the game.

Samuel leads off with a Riddlesmith and a Trinket Mage for Sylvok Lifestaff, while I try and mount a defense with with an equipped Blade-Tribe Berserkers. He has the Turn to Slag, and punishes my slow draw to the point where I can’t recover.

In game 3 I don’t have many notes, but what I do remember is going slightly on tilt after he cast a Darksteel Myr. Normally this isn’t a card I’m terribly afraid of but I was racking my brain to see what my deck had to deal with it and I came up with nothing. Was I going to lose this match because I couldn’t get through a Darksteel Myr? Of course, in hindsight I had Contagion Clasp, Golem Artisan and Hoard-Smelter Dragon as outs, as well as my sideboarded Arrest. However, he had enough removal to deal with my team and then cast a few relevant spells that shot me down.

Final Record: 5 – 3.

So there it is. I was out of the running for day 2, and my final standing was 273rd out of 1426. I chatted with a few friends and then headed back to my hotel room, ready for a day of drafting and legacy. I also took in the judge booth, which is an experimental feature where you get asked 3 rules questions, and get awarded prizes based on the number you got correct. Seeing as I’m set to take my level 1 Judge test this Sunday (wish me luck), I knew I had to ace the questions. Of course I did and walked away with a couple of foils and a pack for my troubles.

For those of you that haven’t attended a GP yet, I highly encourage you to do so. It was a fantastic experience except for the fact that our plane heading back got hit by lightning, causing us to return to the Toronto airport. What would’ve had me home at 11PM local time had me home at 4AM instead, with a class the next morning – yay.

This was my first major event and it really only whetted my appetite for more. The 2011 GP Schedule has been announced and I’d love to make it to Montreal for the GP there. I’m PTQing this weekend in Calgary, so I’ll have another report sometime up next week.

Major thanks go to my testing team at Wizard’s Comics who helped me prepare: Matt, Brian, Blaine, Stephen, Jim, and everyone else. Thanks so much. Thanks also to Skyfox Games who put on a great tournament considering the attendance, and for quickly fixing the hiccough with the byes. Thanks to the judges who did anadmirable job, who worked nonstop for most of the weekend. In talking to my friend Matt who judged, I discovered that they worked full days on both days, and I really appreciate all the work judges do.

As always, you can feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or article suggestions via email (zak-AT-power9pro.com), via twitter (www.twitter.com/zturchan), or in Magic Online (zturchan).

Cheers,

Zak

The Championship Chronicles – Part 5 (EDH)

For those of you that haven’t been keeping up, the following links might prove useful.

Part 1 – Standard
Part 2 – 2HG Draft
Part 3 – Team Trios (Legacy)
Part 4 – M11 Draft

So here we are. The final game. The final event. We’ve been competing with and against each other for almost 3 months, and we are now down to 5 players. The format? Star Eternities Map EDH. That’s pretty convoluted for players who aren’t familiar with all the great variant formats magic has to offer, so I’ll run down the rules.

Star
Star is a multiplayer format which is inspired by something we’re all very familiar with – the back of a magic card. Simply put, you play a free-for-all multiplayer game, but you don’t have to defeat very single other player. You need only defeat the players directly opposite from you to win. This does mean that 2 players can win at the same time (such as if they eliminate 1 enemy each and then their common enemy loses), and Matt (The TO) was kind enough to create different prize scenarios depending on how the game ended (i.e. how many winners and losers).

Eternities Map
A variant on Planechase, the Eternities map gives you a bit more control over what planes you walk to. I can’t really give a better explanation than this.

EDH
Since its inception by a group of judges many years ago, Elder Dragon Highlander has become one of the most popular magic variant formats. Players pick a legendary creature to be their “general” and can only play cards which contain mana symbols of their general’s colours. More information can be found here.

Without further ado, let me introduce you to the players of the finals of the 2010 Wizard’s Comics Championship.

Zak
That’s me! I came in as the second seed from the Edmonton store, and I’ve been running pretty well in this tournament. For the EDH portion I played Zur, the Enchanter, one of the most-powerful generals in the format.

Buddy
Buddy was the 5th place seed from the Sherwood Park store and has teamed up with me twice in this event (2HG and trios). He was really miffed at the final format being such a wacky format, but he brought Progenitus to the table.

Matt
Matt was actually the 10th place Sherwood Park seed but because of scheduling conflicts with the top 8 he got a berth into the championship passed down to him. He’d never played EDH before today, and chose to use Sen Triplets as his general.

Jim
Another EDH novice, Jim is my normal 2HG partner and has got through this event by the skin of his teeth, being on the cusp of elimination in pretty much every event, although he came in as the third-place seed from the Edmonton store. He didn’t think he would be advancing to the finals, and thus didn’t have an EDH deck prepared. I knew something like this would happen, so I was happy to lend him Doran, the Siege Tower for the finals.

Adam
Adam is a player whose strength lies in limited, but he is trying to break into constructed. He’s a fine player who chose to bring Jenara, Asura of War to the table. He was the 7th place seed from the Edmonton store.

We started out on the Pools of Becoming plane, where I rolled chaos, excited to get some huge advantage from the top 3 planes. Of course I whiffed and hit Stronghold Furnace, Fields of Summer, and Sanctum of Serra. I was all the more upset when Buddy also got a chaos roll on that same plane, and all the more relieved when he whiffed as well.

Jim resolved a Skullclamp and then tried to roll a planeswalk symbol to get over to Goldmeadow so he could harvest his goats for cards. Luckily he didn’t get it and Adam quickly walked in the other direction to Horizon Boughs. I rolled a chaos and got to triple-Rampant Growth.

Buddy cast a Diabolic Tutor to get something mysterious on his turn, and Adam resolved an Ant Queen, which had insane synergy with Horizon Boughs, letting him make multiple ants on each player’s turn.

I cast my Zur, the Enchanter and pass the turn, while Matt casts Mystical Teachings for Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. On his turn he cast Enlightened Tutor for Wound Reflection and brought out an Erayo, Soratami Ascendant. This was the starts of Matt’s offence, and we knew that we would need to find away to other break the potential lockdown from Erayo, and the massive life loss induced by the Reflection.

When play passed back to Adam, he started bashing in with his army of ants. I attacked with Zur, and fetched Vanishing, to make the number of ways he could be dealt with extremely small. Buddy gets rid of the potential troublesome Erayo with a Comet Storm, and Jim planeswalks to Celestine Reef. Matt plays a morph face down, and then flips it up to reveal Vesuvan Shapeshifter, which is pretty much one of the few ways that could possibly kill my Zur. Adam proceeds to roll chaos 3 times in a row, eliciting laughter from the rest of us, until he finally planewalks to Undercity Reaches and draws 13 cards from his ants.

On my turn, I draw an Eldrazi Conscription, which I could have played by fetching Arcanum Wings, had my Zur survived.

The game takes an interesting turn when play passes back to Buddy, who’s done nothing but tutor a few times and play a few removal spells. He casts a Hive Mind and it resolves, as the blue mages at the table are either tapped out or don’t have countermagic in hand.

I’m ready to scoop it up to a Pact when something even worse happens. Buddy casts Shahrazad. I’ve never seen the card in person before, and quickly understood the implications of what was about to happen. 5 Shahrazads meant 5 subgames, each of which could take an hour or more. Not to mention that in the regular game buddy had ways to rebuy the game-creating sorcery, and he could even do it from inside the subgame with a Burning Wish.

This cause a great ruckus and we all stood up and took a break while we decided what to do. Those of us that take public transit couldn’t really afford to stay at the store for 5 hours, and when Matt (The TO) called the store owner, he impressed upon us that we would not be able to stay very late, as the store was already closed for the day.

With the Shahrazads on the stack, Adam declared his concession, as he had school the next day and had to get home sooner rather than later. Here I realized my opportunity, as I also declared my concession. Both of us conceding meant that Jim would get the win, and it was a win we could share in. Him winning would be like me winning, as we’ve helped each other out in order to make sure we both got this far: lending cards, talking strategies, brewing decks, and if I had to surrender that last game, I was glad Jim would get the win.

When this fact was realized, Matt also scooped, meaning that both Buddy and Jim would win. However, there was a tiebreaker that needed to be made, and so Jim and Buddy sat down to play 1 game of MiniMaster to decide the Wizard’s Comics Championship.

So before I continue, time for another rules segment!

MiniMaster a.k.a. Pack Wars
MiniMaster is a format where each player uses one sealed pack of Magic. The players open the packs without looking at the pack and take out the token/tip card. They then shuffle in 3 of each basic land to comprise a 30 card deck, and play 1 game with 15 life apiece. Some player like to use this as a way of gambling packs, where the winner takes the contents of both packs.

This MiniMaster game was rather unexciting, as Jim had never played it before and to say he mulliganed aggressively would be an understatement. He went to 3 or 4 looking for an early creature drop, whereas most players never mulligan in MiniMaster, and keep any hand with a mix of lands and spells, regardless of colour.

Jim’s mulligans did him in, as Buddy cast 2 creatures early on and that was enough to take him all the way. For his troubles, Buddy received a large amount of store credit, as well as a year’s VIP membership to Wizard’s Comics, meaning that for any large tournaments (Prerelease, Launch Party, GPT, etc.), he would receive free entry. I got a fair bit of store credit and an intro pack for my troubles, and a fair bit of enjoyment out of the day.

To end this series, I feel like I must address Buddy’s last play that preemptively ended the game. Buddy was so dead-set against the format of EDH that he built his deck to prove a point – that we shouldn’t have played EDH for the finals. However, he did it in a way that left a sour taste in pretty much everyone’s mouth.

From Dragonhighlander.net, the official EDH Source:
[EDH] is founded (and dependant) on a social contract, otherwise known as a gentleman’s agreement. Unsporting conduct (whether extreme or simply “being a jerk”) should not be tolerated by players.

Now the question here is whether or not the Shahrazad-Hive Mind constitutes unsporting conduct. Now neither card is banned in EDH and is such a legal play, and I have to admit that Buddy played a deck designed to fulfill a very particular purpose. Had Buddy cast something like a Pact of the Titan, causing everyone else to lose the game, I would have been a great deal less upset. That is a combo which remains entirely within the dimensions of the game, and is a legitimate (although abrupt) way to win that is very decisive.

However, the Shahrazad way to win is different. This combo breaks the bounds of the game. Real-life commitments now become a factor into how a game of Magic is played out. Obviously this is sometimes unavoidable if a player has to leave due to other obligations, health problems, etc. However, playing the Shahrazad combo is this scenario has fairly large implications. The store owner gets an angry call from the security company if anyone is still in the store past a certain hour, and those players who have school and jobs to attend to need to be able to go to bed at a decent hour to perform at their best. If this was a Saturday night and we were planning on playing Magic until all hours of the morning with relatively little at stake, that would be different. Unfortunately, this was 5pm on a Sunday, and anyone who has played 5 player EDH knows that those games aren’t exactly quick.

The end result of this combination of real-life time constraints and obligations and in-game effects results in players involuntarily conceding the game. Did I want to play this game to completion? Of course, it was a championship that I (and many others) had spent 3 months qualifying for and 2 days playing, and we had to concede in the finals. When I came home that night and my family asked me how I had done I couldn’t say “I lost fair and square to a player who outplayed me”. No, I said “I conceded in the finals so that I would get home before midnight”.

So now, we return to the original question. Was this unsportsmanlike play on Buddy’s part? I have to say yes, as instead of outright winning the game (which he could have done with a Pact), he chose to put everyone else in an uncomfortable position and get people to concede to him. There is a difference between being competitive and “being a jerk”, although many players treat the two as being synonymous. It is my belief that opting for a game plan with the sole intention of inconveniencing the rest of the table falls under the “unsportsmanlike” label, and that last game was one of the few negative experiences I’ve had in a game of Magic.

If you’re reading this Buddy, don’t take this as an attack against your person. You’re a fine player whom I respect, but I do think that you could have been more considerate when choosing the Shahrazad kill instead of a Pact.

That pretty much wraps this article series up. I’m going to have some videos posted soon, and I’ve already made my travel arrangements for GP Toronto. If any of you guys are going to be there, find me (I’ll be in the bright orange Power 9 Pro T-Shirt) and say hi.

Cheers,

Zak

The Championship Chronicles – Part 3 (Team Trios {Legacy})

Parts 1 and 2 of this article can be found here and here.

The second day of the Wizard’s Championships took place at the Edmonton location, where I play, as well as occasionally judge/TO. It felt good not to have to get up an extra half hour early and carpool outside the city limits, so I was well rested for the day.

The first format of the day was Team Trios constructed, with formats to include Standard, Extended, and Legacy. For those of you unfamiliar with the rules for this format, I’ll give you a rundown.

1. Players form a team will face one other member from another team in a best 2/3 match. Whichever team wins 2 out of the 3 matches across the different formats wins the round.
2. There is no combined decklist for multi-format trios. Simply put, if the extended player has 4 Lord of Atlantis in their deck, the legacy p\layer can also have 4 copies. This is different from trios where the format is the same for all 3 members, where each team may only use 4 copies of a card combined in all decks and sideboards.
3. The Extended match takes place in the middle of the table.
4. Players are allowed to talk and assist each other in the middle of a game, including asking for assistance from your team.

As I said in my previous article, I was playing Legacy, and my teammates Buddy and Matt were playing Standard and Extended, respectively. I really only have 2 decks for legacy, mostly because of the fact I only started magic around 4 years ago (although it’s hard to believe it’s actually been that long), and don’t have an extensive collection of older cards, although I do have a fair few.

For the last 4 months I’ve been working on building Fish in Legacy (Hint: I love Merfolk in pretty much every format), and I’ve got almost all the cards I need. So after arranging to borrow a Force of Will and a couple Standstills from Matt, I came up with the following decklist, although I wasn’t able to procure an Underground Sea, so I made do with Watery Graves.

Here Fishy, Fishy (Legacy)

Sideboard

There were 4 teams, and because of card availability I figured that I would be able to put a decent read on what the other players were playing.

Blaine was the only one on his team with a legacy deck, so I knew he would be playing Natural Order Aggro Elves. Hence the maindeck Jittes and sideboard Submerges instead of something more traditional like Spell Pierce. The Perishes and Engineered Plagues would obviously be amazing.

Brian was the “captain” of his team, and had Legacy Goblins built. The Plagues, Jittes, and Blue Elemental Blasts were a nod to this.

The third team (comprised entirely of players from Sherwood Park), was a mystery. That shop doesn’t run monthly Legacy like the Edmonton location does, so I didn’t know if they had the card pool, let alone a deck they were likely to play. However, I thought I had a decnet chance at winning at least one of my rounds needed to advance.

For the rest of my team, Buddy elected to play Jund. It’s a deck he’s comfortable with and has played a fair bit, and often experience with a deck can make up for it not being “the best deck”. Matt played a variation of Paul Reitzl’s white weenie, with maindeck Knight of Meadowgrains instead of Ethersworn Canonists, which were relegated to the sideboard.

Round 1

In round one we’re paired against the team of Blaine, Jim and Adam. Blaine (as expected) was playing NO Elves, Jim was playing extended Pyromancer Ascension and Adam was rocking Valakut Titan Ramp.

I draw my opening 7 and see double Aether Vial, double Standstill, Daze, Wasteland and a fetchland. I show my hand to Matt as his opponent was still shuffling. His remark was something along the lines of “You’re missing that one thing, but otherwise it’s good”, ‘that something’ obviously being creatures. I’m on the draw, keep and get a turn 1 Aether Vial while Blaine had a turn 1 Quirion Ranger and started beating in. He has no turn 2 or 3 play while I resolve a Standstill which he breaks next turn with an Elvish Archdruid, drawing me into some gas, and then I Daze it. I’m content to play another and Standstill and pass, Vialing in a Silvergill Adpet at the end of his turn. Blaine Wastelands my Mutavault and I’m happy to Vial in a Merrow Reejerey next turn. Blaine casts a Living Wish for Gaea’s Herald (no doubt trying to protect something like a huge Joraga Warcaller, but I draw a Force of Will of the Standstill and Blaine has no more action and my menfolk overwhelm him.

I board in 4 Engineered Plague, 3 Perish, and 2 Submerge on the draw, boarding out Cursecatcher, Kira, Great Glass Spinner[card], and [card]Daze. While some could argue that I should keep Daze in to counter an early Natural Order, I expect him to board the combo out, and with the all the powerful spells I’m bringing in, I should be able to overwhelm him pretty easily.

Blaine starts off much faster in the second game, with a first turn Llanowar Elves, and a turn 2 Quirion Ranger. When he tries to resolve a Priest of Titania, I Force of Will it, and he then casts a Thorn of Amethyst, while Wastelanding a Watery Grave. Although I play another land next turn, I can’t Perish because of the thorn. However, I can cast a Coralhelm Commander and a Merrow Reejerey, while he further stifles my chance at resolving Perish with another Thorn. I Wasteland his Gaeas Cradle, and then cast another Reejerey and Commander, each time tapping some potential blockers. I pay 2 mana for a “free” Submerge and
force him to draw dead to my huge team.

Buddy won his standard match, while Jim came back after getting horrendously mana screwed and defeating Matt in a third game.

1 – 0 (Team) 1 – 0 (Individual)

Because only 1 team would be eliminated, we drew in the next round so we could all get breakfast. I know this makes for an uninteresting article, but it was the most practical thing to do.

1 – 0 – 1 (Team) 1 – 0 – 1 (Individual)

Record on the Tournament: 4 – 3 – 2

After all the trios matches were finished, the team of 3 Sherwood Park players were eliminated, and of the 9 contestants remaining, only 2 were from Sherwood Park (Matt and Buddy). We’re informed that the next round will be normal M11 draft, no gimmicks. This is the format that I was most worried about, as I haven’t had a very good track record for this format, although I’ve drafted a fair bit.

So I was apprehensive, but ready to draft as best as I could. You’ll have to wait for the next update to learn how the draft went.

As always, you can contact me via email at zak-AT-power9pro.com, or through twitter at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

Cheers,

Zak

The Championship Chronicles – Part 2 (Two-Headed Giant M11 Draft)

For those of you who missed part 1 of this article, you can read about the standard portion here.

The second event of the championship was a Two-Headed Giant Draft. For those of you unfamiliar with the 2HG format, I’ll give you a quick rundown of the rules.

1. Players are seated in teams of 2, each team consisting of an ‘A’ and a ‘B’ player. The A player makes all final decisions and can veto the actions of his partner. Who gets which role is usually decided before the event starts, and usually is the more experienced player.
2. Players share turns, as well as a combined life total of 30. The only other thing players share is information. Permanents, mana, and other objects are treated as normal.
3. Combat is performed as a team, and you attack the other team, not a player, unless an effect requires you to make that distinction (such as Ulamogs Crusher or Hypnotic Specter). The defending team blocks as a team, and can combine blocks as they wish.
4. Each player may take a free mulligan, but both players on a team must decide on their mulligans at the same time.
5. If one player loses the game, the team loses the game.

Two-Headed Giant is a great format in that it allows for several awesome interactions that simply don’t happen in normal Magic. For example, the card Breath of Malfegor in Alara block 2HG was insane, dealing 10 damage at instant speed for 5 mana. Not quite as bomby is the M11 superstar Blood Tithe which generates a 12 point life swing for 4 mana, and do I need to mention how broken Serra Ascendant is in this format?

I’m actually going to take a bit of time and address this 1 mana monstrosity, because it shows how a design that’s fine in most formats can be downright degenerate in others, which I believe is an example of poor design. Simply put, a team with Serra Ascendant in their pool will mulligan aggressively to it, with the help of the free mulligan. The other deck will play countermagic, and with Negate, Mana Leak and Cancel at common, it’s not exactly hard to come by out of 6 or 8 packs (draft/sealed respectively) . This means that the only way to defeat this card without fear is to aggressively mulligan into your Deathmark. What if you didn’t open one? That’s too bad. If you’re on the play you can get off a turn 2 Doom Blade, but on the draw you’re going to get wrecked if the blue mage has countermagic.

Having played against the card myself, I can vouch that it makes magic just plain not fun. I know that for some people, magic isn’t fun, but that’s not the type of player I am. I’ve said repeatedly that while I’m a competitive player, I’ll quit Magic as soon as I can’t enjoy myself playing it in any way. I’ve been on the receiving end of a turn 1 Serra, and have taken 18 points of damage (a 36 life point swing) before I could get a removal spell. By that time, the game was too far out of reach that our team just died. While Jacob van Lunen and Chris Lachmann may have stormed a Pro Tour by winning their matches in 5 minutes, they did so with a strategy that nobody respected, and I give the props for that. In a modern-day Time Spiral block 2HG draft, everyone would try and go slivers, or at least hate them higher than normal. When you can have a 5 minute game jut my opening one rare, I don’t enjoy it as much.

My 2HG partner contacted Wizards customer service and was informed that Serra Ascendant was never tested in 2HG limited. It was tested in EDH (a non-sanctioned format) and 2HG constructed (another format that sees almost zero play), but never in 2HG limited. There are only 5 formats available for TOs to run at FNM (Standard, Draft, Sealed, 2HG Standard and 2HG Sealed), and that you would test a card in an unsanctioned (albeit popular and fun) format like EDH and not in a format played at FNMs (where many players are introduced to the game) seems lazy. Serra Ascendant has dominated every M11 2HG tournament I’ve played in (3-4) and it not only makes the players who play against it feel bad, but the players who open it often feel a hint of remorse because of the fact that the card is just so powerful. What would have been the solution to this card? Making it mythic would’ve been a good start, as the card certainly feels mythic to me, although with 2 cycles of mythic in M11 there isn’t a ton of room for any more. I don’t know how I would reword the text of it to make it still good in standard but not broken in 2HG, but that’s why I’m not a developer. Anyway, that’s my mid-article rant. I’m sorry if I come across as whiny, but the fact of the matter is this card is absurdly powerful in one of my favourite formats.

Onto the tournament report! I was paired with Buddy, a player form the Sherwood Park store who’s quite good. Going into the draft portion we were informed that only nonverbal signals would be allowed, i.e. you can’t talk to your teammates. Because I’m unfamiliar with Buddy’s drafting style, I didn’t know what colours he favoured, etc. For those of you who don’t know, you draft 6 packs and pick 2 cards at a time from each pack. The only real disagreement we had was in the last pack with 4 cards left in it, one of which was a Time Reversal. Having played Time Reversal in 2HG limited before (a format with which Buddy was not as experienced), I wanted to take it, because it’s a solid card. Not great, but if you can play it at the right time it can be very solid. Buddy was having none of it, and since we couldn’t talk we passed it.

Our decks turned out pretty solid. Buddy got a white-black deck with double Serra Angel, double Doom Blade, and the all-important Blood Tithe. I had a blue-green deck with Stormtide Leviathan (another card that’s sick in 2HG) and Overwhelming Stampede (a card that’s slightly worse in 2HG). I also had double Scroll Thief and double Dryads Favor. now I know you’re all going to say I’m crazy for playing this last-pick enchantment, but hear me out. Landwalk abilities are extremely important in 2HG, because if either of your opponents has the right type of land, your creature is unblockable. Your opponents will almost always play at least 4 out of the 5 basic land types, and usually one will splash for something else. Nighthaze was a card I always wanted one of in my Rise of the Eldrazi 2HG decks, and River Boa was undeniably powerful in Zendikar-Worldwake. While not quite as awesome as Volcanic Strength, Dryad’s favour is a card I’m not ashamed to sleeve up in 2HG limited, one of the few formats where that card will see any play.

Round 1

In round 1 we faced off against Attila and Blaine, two of my friends from the Edmonton Wizard’s location. They start out quickly with a turn 2 Augury Owl and Garruks Companion. Buddy is able to play one of our 2 War Priest of Thunes, hoping to trade with the Companion, but a Volcanic Strength from the other team makes trading impossible, and we take 6 damage on turn 3. Luckily, I try to Aether Adept the enchanted companion, which meets a Cancel and Buddy is forced to lay his second War Priest to destroy the enchantment. While this was one of the few times that a landwalk ability in 2HG was actually irrelevant, it’s always nice to get some value out of a card like the priest. The next turn results in us successfully trading the priest for the companion, and Attila casts a Duress, only able to take my Dryads Favor.

On the next turn Buddy casts a Lilianas Specter, another card which is much that much better in 2HG. We happily trade it with their Augury Owl, only to cast Rise from the Grave next turn forcing them to discard again, while I add to our flying force with an Air Servant. They bring out a Scared Pegasus which holds our specter back, but we keep bringing the Air Servant beats. The eventually draw into a Fireball for my elemental, and I get my Stormtide Leviathan Cancelled, putting everyone more or less in topdeck mode.

My next draw is a much-needed Jaces Ingenuity, which nets me a Cancel for their Giant Spider, and we manage to kill them with fliers and card advantage in a few more turns.

1 – 0

Round 2
Round 2 has us facing Matt and Brian, a team (like ours) made of 2 people from different stores. Unfortunately, I must’ve gotten distracted and/or depressed by how badly we lost as my notes are very sparse. I have them playing a turn 2 Garruks Companion and a number of Infantery Veterans which broke through our sparse defences, as our team suffered from mana screw pretty hard. My life sheet from this game has us getting hit 7 times before dying, while we dealt a total 1 damage to them. Fun stuff.

1 – 1

In round 3, we take an intentional draw to ensure our continuation into day 2.

Final Record: 1 – 1 – 1
Final Record on the day: 3 – 3 – 1

After the elimination of the last place team, Matt (the TO, not my second-round opponent) calls up the top 2 teams from the 2HG rounds. With 12 players left, the next day will start with team Trios constructed, with the formats being Legacy, Extended, and Standard. The top 4 players are to draft their teammates form the remaining players, and Matt (my second-round opponent) uses his first pick to take me on his team. I was surprised by this, as Matt doesn’t know me extremely well, as we only see each other from time to time, but I was definitely happy to be on a team with him, as I have a lot of respect for him as a player. Our third teammate is my 2HG partner Buddy, and we decide that Buddy will play Standard (pretty much the only constructed format he plays regularly), Matt will play Extended, and I’ll play Legacy, as not only do I have a tier 1 deck pretty much built, but I have a relatively solid knowledge of the metagame and interactions, although I am by no means an expert. It’s also a format that I enjoy immensely, and I wish that the barrier to entry was lower so that our monthly Legacy tournaments would have more entrants.

That’s it for part 2, part 3 should be up soon, provided that school doesn’t throw a curveball at me. I’m in my first year of Computing Science at the University of Alberta, and I’m still getting used to university life.

Remember you can always email me at zak-AT-power9pro.com with any comments, questions, or article suggestions, or you can find me on twitter at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

Cheers,

Zak