Category Archives: zendikar

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

What We Should Expect from Scars of Mirrodin

We just recently had the last set in the Zendikar block come down the line and the Standard environment is starting to shift about to fit some of the epic Eldrazi and their associated mechanics and cards into winning and promising decks. So, I want to look at what the Scars of Mirrodin block will likely hold for us and what Zendikar block cards we should be excited about playing in the Zendikar-Scars Standard environment.

Some of you may feel that we are too far out from the Scars release to begin serious speculation as to what the block’s contents will be, but let me explain why I am taking on this task and the unprecedented support we have in this venture compared to other block speculations in the past.

Much like a couple of the people I follow over on Twitter, namely Kelly Reid of Quiet Specualation (@kellyreid) and John Medina of MTGMetagame Blog and the recent Pack-to-Power project at Mananation (@mtgmetagame), I believe in trading for value. It is partly due to necessity as our beloved Magic is not the cheapest pursuit to be enamored with, and because the trading is also like a game in itself, a place to practice salesmanship, bartering, and test your wits and savvy against others.

Part of the way I play the trading game is to get a slight edge in trades and get a huge edge in speculative growth. This is a strategy that I’ve read Kelly Reid talking about before, and many people participate in speculative purchasing when a new set is about to drop to ensure they get in on cards before a price spike, real or perceived. The biggest key to speculative trading or buying is to put together knowledge and make tentative conclusions about the future. Scars of Mirrodin gives us a special quantity and quality of fore-knowledge about what cards we can expect and what cards we should be making sure we acquire before any fluctuations in demand price them out of our grip.

Thanks to the below points of knowledge, I feel pretty secure talking about which cards to keep an eye on and what to look for as we get closer to the release of Scars of Mirrodin.

Rotation Situation

WotC likes to maintain certain staples in one form or another, as shown with the Onslaught fetches rotating out of Extended coinciding with the Zendikar fetches rotating into the format. We can expect similar rotational repeats to occur in this exchange. Certain staple cards of importance to the formats’ health will reoccur, possibly directly but more likely in an indirect approximation.

We can expect to see cards that will fill the roles of Engineered Explosives, Chalice of the Void, and Chrome Mox. Personally, I suspect that they will take yet another crack at the Lotus, attempting to create yet another variation of it that will be attractive but balanced, likely as the replacement for Chrome Mox.

Inter-block Synergies

Remember Vampire Nocturnus, the quirky mono-colored Vampire Lord who had barely any vampires to lord over at the time he dipped into the very multi-colored card pool? If you had the foresight to grab them for $2-$4 when they were first being cracked, just a couple months later you could have off-loaded them at the peak price of around $45 each. That’s quite a return. How about Knight of the Reliquary, which suddenly became super-relevant with the introduction of Zendikar Fetches and Spell-lands? I intend to feel out the next Nocturnus or Knight of the Reliquary while it is still in its larva ‘Junk Rare’ status.

Déjà vu

We’ve been to Mirrodin before, and we know what we saw the last time we were there. Last time we were visiting Mirrodin we had the following themes and these are my thoughts on their chances to return or matter, and which cards to grab or watch for with that in mind:

Modular

Modular isn’t likely to return in any meaningful way as the unintended consequences of moving +1/+1 counters around in mass with any artifact or creature sacrifice outlet can lead to much confusion, hilarity and terror. Cool concept, but abuse potential is too high.

Equipment

Equipment is going to be amazing, and there is plenty of support for this using the Inter-block Synergy premise. Look at Armament Master, Stoneforge Mystic, Kor Duelist, and Kitesail Apprentice. Mirrodin was the birthplace of the Equipment subtype in Magic history and would be a perfect place to explore new design space. Stoneforge Mystic and Armament Master might prove to be undervalued at current prices if juicy and innovative Equipment comes out of the Mirrodin Armories.

Artifacts matter/Affinity

Affinity is dead. There is too much danger in how easily it can and was abused to even touch it again. If something even looking like affinity drops. You can expect a massive chorus of people singing ‘The End is Nigh’ and also players just leaving due to having ‘been there, done that’ before. It should go without saying, but the Artifact lands will also be only a memory, just like affinity.

Other artifacts matter cards will of course be abundant and they should be. As such, I’d make sure I have some of the Zendikar Block Artifacts set aside just incase they should prove integral to one archetype or another. Khalni Gem, Eldrazi Monument, Eternity Vessel, and even Seer’s Sundial have use or abuse potential if made a little better by also adding to your ‘Artifacts Matter’ counts.

We also have a couple cards that already care about Artifacts in Thada Adel, Acquisitor, and Lodestone Golem. With Pilgrim’s Eye and Everflowing Chalice helping your mana develop and giant colorless game finishing creatures abounding, Scars may provide enough support for an Artifact/Colorless Control Deck to form and for an anti-artifact control deck to challenge it for superiority. With very strict counterspells being the norm lately, Annul might see print again, making a deck featuring Thada more attractive to battle the artifact hordes for diehard Blue players.

Charge Counters

There are five cards in Zendikar block that reference charge counters and three are considered junk Rares, Angelheart Vial, Sphinx-Bone Wand, and Surrakar Spellblade, one is a junk Mythic, Eternity Vessel, and the last one is Everflowing Chalice, a utility colorless mana acceleration card that could be broken in half if you can manipulate charge counters. Mirrodin had a few ways to play with charge counters on the various artifacts and this seemingly innocuously named class of counter could provide a subtle inter-block window to doing some very disturbing things in Standard. If you can somehow add counters to an established Eternity Vessel or Everflowing Chalice, you can begin an unexpected climb to recovery or victory where you would have otherwise been dead. Surrakar actually may have the most potential however as he generates charge counters that may be moved about and his own ability is pretty great as it is now with cards like Distortion Strike.

Sunburst

This one I’m on the fence about. Sunburst cared about how many different colors of mana you paid to cast something. After all of the multicolored pains of the past two years with Shadowmoor and Alara, this may be one thing they let fall aside to make room for something less colorful. There are also no cards at the moment that really would make this exciting to see, so put on the spot I’ll say this isn’t going to come back.

Imprint

This is dead. As much as Chrome Mox rocks, players want to cast their spells, not discard them from the game attached to something else. WotC has been particularly attentive to want players want to do lately rather than rewarding them for doing the counter-intuitive. I might expect something that seems reminiscent of Imprint in that you may reveal a card, use a card already removed, or use cards in your graveyard to apply some trait to the artifact in question, but they are going to let you keep the cards in your hand until you’ve used them or your opponent takes them away.

Indestructibility

This could become a theme that will make combat and various strategies more complex but also make playing the cards and killing them more rewarding. With the Edict effects on cards like Gatekeeper of Malakir and Consuming Vapors, the door is open to introduce indestructible permanents that can still be answered. Consequentially, Consuming Vapors may see a corresponding rise in price if playable indestructibles are spoiled. I’d also pay closer attention to ways to neutralize things without destroying them, such as Oblivion Ring and Path to Exile like cards that may show up in M11.

Entwine

We like modality and this seems ripe for a review and expansion just like Kicker received. We saw  Entwine in Mirrodin the first time around and I hope to see it again with a new twist, but I’m cautiously optimistic here. The reason for caution is that kicker had been gone for a single Extended Rotation before it returned, leaving a year that the Extended format had no kicks. We may see a similar period for Entwine when Mirrodin rotates out, but I hope not because it seems like just the type of flexibility we would want upon losing all of the multicolored support and options.

In either case, there are very few cards that I can think of off hand that could benefit value-wise from such a comeback. In fact, the only one is Pyromancer Ascension, and then only if the right kind of options show up on the cards. Perhaps a few of the Rebound cards can get together with some Entwine cards and make Johnny happy with a little Pyromancer’s combo deck.

Colorlessness

Ok, so this wasn’t really a theme, but you have to admit that Mirrodin’s colorless Artifacts and the Eldrazi seem to be made for each other. WotC also seems to be dropping a hint to this extent and some possible reprints in the issuing of Cloudpost, the massively colorless mana producing Locus, as the May FNM promo. The price of the Eldrazi titans and all the colorless spells could see a significant bump up if Locus reappears in either Cloudpost or an associated form. Another thing that might have a similar effect is if a good colorless manabase can be formed up out of Quicksands, Tetonic Edges, Eldrazi lands, and colorless man lands like Dread Statuary or new iterations of Blinkmoth Nexus or a Mutavault-esque land.  Finally, also be on the look out for  a reappearance of Urza-tron in M11 either exactly or a series of role sharing similar lands. People want to cast Eldrazi titans and WotC wants people to want and do just that, so they’ll be sending enablers down the pipe.

So there you have it. By analyzing WotC’s trends and past, as well as player’s behaviors and desires, we can make some predictions on what cards that are currently floating about our environment that may become suddenly much more relevant once Scars starts getting spoiled. In five months you’ll be able to look back to this article and thank me for convincing you to grab a couple extra Lodestone Golems and Consuming Vapors now, while they were obtainable.

Agree? Disagree? Predictions I missed? Say so in the comments section below, or catch me on Twitter @RobJelf!

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

Opening the Vaults at the Superstars 5K *Top 16*

I generally do my best to keep up on deck tech. I don’t consider myself a rogue deck designer, most of my creations have been pretty straightforward or modifications of known strategies. I tend to look for interesting decks that I feel would be fun to play and tweak them. Sometimes this means I will play a straight tier 1 deck, and other days I’ll try something rogue. I tend to have this issue of not focusing as much on my own decks as much as playing the “bad guy” deck in our gauntlets and testing. I generally have 3 or 4 decks and offer to play whichever my opponent needs, and of course Jund was the matchup everyone wanted. While this makes me a fine a Jund player I really didn’t see myself playing infinite Jund on Jund matches so I’ve had my eye open.

What interested me about Open the Vaults was Niels Viaene’s performance at PT San Diego. Considering Boss Naya was the deck to beat leaving that tournament, I heard from folks on and off the team that Naya was not looking forward to playing against it at all. Yet there was no discussion on whether it was a valid deck or not. It seemed like a cool deck in the write ups, it just stumbled on mana in the finals. I asked around and no one had really played with it or against it. I had also played a lot of Turbo Fog and it seemed an auto-win over so many decks. However, Olivier Ruel did poorly with it at the PT and when we tested Boss Naya against it I just couldn’t beat its fast starts. I broke apart the shell and thought about playing U/W Chapin control but I knew testing would be even worse since it takes so long to resolve games. I finally just decided to put together Filigree, tested a few games, and took it to my FNM. I figured if it didn’t work I’d audible to Jund or just play Vampires at the 5K, which seemed decent in our testing.

Sideboard

Overall the strategy is pretty simple –

  • Cycle your men to get your combo and fill up the yard.
  • Use spreading seas as a psuedo-remand – it can definitely slow their mana down and gives you a card.
  • Use all your enchantment-based removal to shut down their men.
  • Stabilize your defense with Sphinx, or one of your artifact men if you have no choice.
  • Open the Vaults and win.

FNM Feb 26th

Round 1 vs. GWU Bant Ramp
Neither of these games was very close, with all my removal for his big guys going unanswered. We did have a nice O-ring battle over Baneslayer for a while but I pulled out a 117 life combo and Open the Vaulted a dead O-ring onto the angel.

Round 2 vs. Vampires
This was a closer match – I had multiple spreading seas in both games to make his Mind Sludges less valuable. In game two he had a Ravenous Trap for me when I open the vaulted, but I had enough time to hardcast an angel and gain enough life to survive, filled my yard, and Open the Vaulted again for the win. Sphinx of Lost Truths is such a power card with great toughness and a great way to refill your hand after getting hit by discard.

Round 3 vs. UW
I honestly don’t remember much about this matchup, but I did win it.

Round 4 vs. Eldrazi Green
In both games he curved out quickly into Eldrazi and I never drew wrath or an O-ring for his ultimate Garruk.

I walked away from the games feeling pretty confident in the deck overall, but felt I needed more answers to aggressive starts so I put in the 3 Journey to Nowhere main. I thought I would get Pithing Needles for the board as well but never got around to it.

I spent the remainder of the night practicing and making some extra decks to give out at the 5K so I arrived in San Jose at exactly 5 minutes til the tournament started and scribbled out my decklist quickly with the original sideboard.

5K Main Flight Feb. 27th

Round 1 vs. Chapin control: 1-1-1
I found myself staring down a string of PTQ top 8 pins attached to a rather old playmat. I was a little embarrassed of my worndown Windwright Mage mat, but after seeing his mat I brought it out.

Game 1 – He thought I was U/W as well at first (common mistake everyone made) – Then I Spreading Seas his early white sources and Tectonic Edges but this let him cast Jace. I eventually O-ringed Jace out, but he countered almost everything I cast, eventually drew Iona and called White, and that was basically game. This was about a 25 minute game mainly waiting for him to decide Jace effects and resolve draw spells

Game 2 – I sided in my negates, stopped his early Jaces, got the combo off going to 27, which he Martial couped, but I combo’d again to 91 life. We now had about 10 minutes left.

Game 3 – I get smashed down with Baneslayer to 6, but I had three negates in hand early and eventually got the combo through as we went to time. I dealt with Baneslayer, and swung for 24 on turn 4, but it wasn’t enough to finish the game out before time was up. So now I’m in the draw bracket…

Round 2 vs. Naya 2-0
Double Spreading Seas made short work of his mana, and I let him flail around with a Hierarch or two and saved my removal for his big finishers. Knight of the Reliquary and Ajani are the big threats out of this deck. My removal aced all his threats one by one. He did hit me a bit but I never got below 12 and ended both games well above 20 life.

Round 3 vs. UWR 2-1
Good games, but getting Open the Vaults was too strong- He had Jace but instead of drawing cards he kept fatesealing me. This is bad when you’re playing a slow control deck. I drew O-ring for Jace and eventually combo’d out. He got Ajani out really early on the second game and blew all my lands with Jace at one step away from ultimating me. In Game 3.Spreading seas kept him off red and Ajani and I combo’d pretty early and finished him out.

Round 4 vs. Aggro Red 2-1
My opponent was undefeated but freely admitted he didn’t play standard much. This was my worst match up and he quickly blew me out with Goblin Guides, Ball Lightnings, and direct damage.

Game 2 – Spreading seas kept him off Ball Lighting mana. He got down early goblin guides but I Journeyed them. He really didn’t draw much more gas and I instead of cycling my two Architects of Will, I played them and kept him from drawing any thing else while I set up my Vaults.

Game 3 – He kept a two fetch land hand but failed to draw anymore land. At end of turn he would discard Punishing Fire instead of casting it – I think didn’t want to fetch for fear of decreasing his potential land count and I got down double sphinx to finish him off. He showed me a hand of Hell’s Thunder and Ball lightning after I finished him.

Round 5 vs. Jund 2-1
This was a pretty long match as we both got deck checked, then when I got my deck back we noticed my sleeves (which I had just bought) had some color imperfections in them. I had to re-sleeve after the match but it was definitely a distraction.

Game 1 – My removal aced his early Putrid Leeches, but I didn’t do much while he got quickly to Bloodbraid into Thrinax, and I didn’t get much down to block or trade.

Game 2 Was almost the same scenario with the top end of him casting Malakir Bloodwitch multiple times and my wrathing at least Three times. He eventually got some men to stick and hit me down to 4, and I Opened the Vaults back up to a very healthy life total and took him out.

Game 3 was similar to game 2 except my end life total was even higher. Admittedly though I would have lost without a topdeck Open the Vaults.

Round 6 vs. Naya 2-0
This was covered on Channelfireball. Again it was spreading Seas basically keeping him out of the game.

Round 7 – We draw in to the money round.

Superstars 5k – Top 32

Round 1 vs. 5-Color Cascade
Game 1 – This was a crazy matchup since I had no idea what he was doing. I seas his Exotic Orchard and Rupture Spire which allows him to cast Jace. I o-ring the Jace, but I’m stuck on 4 mana. He casts two enlisted wurms which cascade into Bitumous blast (no targets). I journey and wrath his men, and down comes Jace #2, which I eventually draw into O-ring for. He hit me with Bloodbraid into a Blighting (discarding Angel),and lands Ajani but Sharuum comes down with his pal Filigree Angel and Ajani dies. We trade back and forth a bit with him running extreme cascades but I Open the Vaults and my force overwhelms him.

Game 2 I seas his stuff again and deal with planeswalkers and Open the Vaults a small army which he has no answer for.

Round 2 vs. 27 land Jund.

Game 1 I get down early Spreading Seas, he casts rampant growth, and gets out a turn 3 elf, which I kill, and thrinax, which I kill, and turn 4 siege gang, which I wrath.

He casts broodmate and I wrath.

He casts broodmate again and I get out a Sphinx drawing and discarding 3 cards. I had OTV in my hand but never drew a third removal spell or put Angel in the yard. Broodmate took me out.

Game 2 he’s smart enough not to blightning me and though I can kill all his men on the ground, it’s his man lands that eventually get past me.

Thoughts:

The new sideboard is still a work in progress. Courier’s capsule is “most likely to get sided out” in favor of what game you’re playing, and depending on how many and what type of men your opponent is playing you go up or down on the removal. Pithing Needle tends to hit all the cards you would O-ring (Ajani, Jace) but it mainly combats the man lands as well, which this deck has trouble with. Mind Control goes in against U/W against baneslayers and Iona.

61 card Open Filligree v.2

Sideboard

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

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

More Tales From the Worldwake Prerelease

I hope that everyone had a great prerelease weekend and enjoyed playing with the new Worldwake cards; I know I did. Unfortunately things like school and work have prevented me from posting this earlier, but I have, as promised, a second Worldwake prerelease report for you guys. I was thankful that I had gone to the tournament the day before, because now I had some semblance of an idea as to how all these new cards worked. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

Here’s what I opened on Sunday:

There were a few things I really liked about this pool. First we have a nice, foil Celestial Colonnade and a Nissa Revane, which are always exciting to open. We also have a higher number of playables than the previous day’s pool.

The two colours that jump out at me right away are black and white. Black has some serious removal from the Zendikar packs (2x Disfigure, a Hideous End and a Marsh Casualties), and white has 2 copies of one of my favourite cards: Brave the Elements. However, I realized that there were 2 bombs I really wanted to play that warranted a splash: Vapor Snare and Celestial Colonnade. Then of course I struggled with the dilemma of how deep to make my splash. Cards like Welkin Tern and Calcite Snapper were attractive, and I became faced with a decision. Do I play only a light splash and keep the mana in my deck more consistent, while at the same time perhaps playing some poorer-quality cards in my main colours? Or do I risk the bigger splash for an increased overall card quality with a shakier mana base?

I think I made the right call here and decided to play blue only for the Colonnade (which itseld taps for blue) and the pseudo-Mind Control. The lesser strain on my mana base also permitted me to more safely play some colourless lands, such as Quicksand and Dread Statuary. I figured that a single Island would be enough to satisfy my blue requirements, and with the Pilgrims Eye I opened, it could be searched out rather easily.

Here’s the list I ended up playing.

Round 1: vs Atilla

Atilla is a local player who is know for always playing Bant. Be it extended, standard, or legacy, the man plays Bant. For this sealed deck he neglected green and went with a white-blue control type of deck. He gets a turn 1 Hedron Crab and follows it up by playing lands for the next 5 turns, defending with an impressive 3/7 Makindi Shieldmate. However, I manage to get Celestial Colonnade online with enough blockers to stave off his attacks. This absolutely destroys him, as his only removal is a Surrakar Banisher which doesn’t do enough against my flying land.

In game 2 I get a turn 1 Vampire Lacerator and follow it up by equipping it with Hammer of Ruin on turn 3. By the time his Kor Sanctifiers is able to deal with the equipment, I have an Archon of Redemption which finishes the job.

1-0 (2-0)

Round 2: vs Blaine

Blaine is a guy who started playing years ago, quit, and came back a few months ago. He’s a great guy who is always trying to become a better player (aren’t we all) and is a fun guy to play with. He starts things off aggressively with an Umara Raptor and a Stonework Puma and starts pummeling me in the air. Luckily I draw a Hideous End and dispatch the flyer. He fights back with an Oracle of Mul Daya who probably drops him an additional 6 lands over the course of the game, and he combines her with Living Tsunami to keep increasing his land count. However, I’m able to keep up with Hedron Rover, Ruthless Cullblade and Archon of Redemption. Eventually, I trick him into blocking an un-pumped Rover, and I then blow him out with Marsh Casualties. My creatures then just get there.

In game 2 I keep a sketchy hand of 2 land and a Pilgrims Eye. Turns out that Blaine also had a hand that was light on mana, and he had no blue mana on top of that. I drew into a land quickly and got my Eye down. Equipping it with Hammer of Ruin did so much damage to Blaine that by the time he drew another land, it wasn’t enough to block my army of the thopter, Vampire Lacerator and Ruthless Cullblade.

2-0 (4-0)

Round 3: vs Brian

Brian is one of the best players in the province of Alberta, and I was hoping that my deck would be able to take whatever brew had got him to the 2-0 bracket. In game 1, his tempo was hindered by the fact that nearly all his lands came into play tapped, and I was able to bring in Hedron Rover, Ondu Cleric and a host of other allies to capitalize on his deck’s lack of speed. A timely Vapor Snare was all it took to bring his Umara Raptor over to my side, and a Marsh Casualties cleared the way to victory.

In game 2, I noticed Brian sideboarding a single card, but I didn’t now what. All I knew was that his deck was blue-black, and I was clueless as to what he had against me. At the end of Brian’s turn 4, I cast Join the Ranks in an effort to swing in big next turn. It resolved, and on my turn I tapped out for a kicked Marsh Casualties to wipe his board. It turned out that he had sided in a lone Spell Pierce and used it to counter my board sweeper. After he cast a kicked Heartstabber Mosquito to kill my last flyer while I was at 4, I foolishly animated my Celestial Colonnade and swung with my team for the win, forgetting that his mosquito could block my land. I regretted it as soon as I did it, but I after joking with Brian about what a terrible play it was, I scooped up and we were off to game 3.

In the final game, Brian got mana screwed out of black, and my removal was more than enough to destroy what little attempt at an offense he could muster. I resolved a Hammer of Ruin and just kept swinging with my guys for the win.

3-0 (6-1)

Round 4: vs Gabriel

This is the last round, and the winner of this round gets a full box of Worldwake. We agree to split the finals, and then play out our game with only 2 packs at stake. I win in 2 games (although game 1 took half an hour due to an Eternity Vessel set at 13), and I went home with 20 packs.

So all in all the day was a success. I got a nice foil rare, and a bunch of packs, and some DCI rating points (my limited play was very poor during the summer and now it’s finally back to where it was).

As always, feel free to post in the comments or email me at zak -AT- power9pro.com with any questions or article suggestions. You can also find me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

Cheers, and have a great Worldwake Launch Party.

-Zak-

PS: I also got this for coming in first (Gabriel said he didn’t want it).

IMG_0167

Zendikar and Worldwake: A Combined Limited Format

Well it’s that time of year, where Magic players from all around the world gather together to play in the prerelease for the latest set, in this case, Worldwake. This set brings with it some of the most powerful cards to hit standard in recent memory such as Jace, the Mindsculptor and Abyssal Persecutor. However, standard isn’t currently in season, and I’m still getting a feel for extended, so I decided to write about limited, and how to best succeed at your local prerelease.

Unlike Zendikar before it, Worldwake is a second expansion, which means that we’ll still be using three packs of Zendikar for our sealed pool. Thus, we cannot simply consider cards in the context of the Worldwake set, we must consider them in the context of the entire Zendikar block thus far.

For example, take the new one-drop ally, Hada Freeblade. In Worldwake, there are 11 allies, 4 of which are rare. We can discount the rare ones because they will seldom show up in a limited card pool. Of the other 6 non-rare allies, none of them share a colour with the Freeblade, and although we will often play multiple colours in a limited format, the benefit of any ally is greatly reduced when you have a low density of allies. Of course you could remedy this by increasing the number of colours you play, but then you run the risks associated with an unstable mana base. Thus, we can say that in a format that only includes worldwake, the Freeblade is most often going to be a white Norwood Ranger.

However, when your sealed pool is a 3-3 split of product, the power of freeblade goes up because of the number and quality of allies in the Zendikar expansion. Freeblade is best when you can follow it up with a turn 2 ally, ideally Kazandu Blademaster, but something like Oran-Reif Survivalist also works. Compare the survivalist to something like Bojuka Brigand, and you see the difference in card quality.

Another card I think has huge potential in Limited is Marsh Threader, the companion to Zendikar’s Cliff Threader. We saw in 6x Zendikar sealed that the most popular colour combination was without a doubt red/black. This card is a tool that will hopefully be good enough to see mainboard play because of the sheer number of players that choose to play black for cards like Hideous End, Urge to Feed and Disfigure. The allure of the removal spell is a strong one, and many players will choose these colours for that reason. Therefore, I think that this card is an extremely viable candidate for any deck playing white. In Zendikar limited, having efficient creatures is of the utmost importance, and so when we have a creature that will be unblockable against the majority of the field, we might wish to overvalue it a little bit more. In the same vein, Quag Vampires might be a bit more playable in this format than it normally would, but the colour commitment for that card is slightly higher and thus makes the vampires slightly less attractive.

Oftentimes in Zendikar limited, I would notice that some creatures were amazing in a vacuum, but never stayed alive long enough to be absurdly powerful. I’m talking about cards like Territorial Baloth, Merfolk Seastalkers and Baloth Woodcrasher. All these cards were powerful, but they were only a Hideous End or Inferno Trap away from being destroyed. Even some bombs out of Zendikar packs could be quickly invalidated by removal, making them a lot less spectacular. For this reason, I believe that Canopy Cover is a Worldwake spell that should not be overlooked. Of course it can be responded to, but it adds so much resiliency to your creatures that are otherwise so vulnerable that I would run the risk of the 2-for-1 that accompanies all aura to better enhance my long-term game plan.

These are the 3 cards that I believe should not be undervalued now that Worldwake has been added into the mix. While most players will be able to identify the likes of Bestial Menace and Apex Hawks as powerful in limited, the best players will look beyond those for the cards that are best suited to the environment.

If you have any ideas as to what cards might be great in limited out of Worldwake, sound off in the comments. Any questions/comments/suggestions can also be aired there, by emailing me at zak -AT- power9pro.com or via my twitter feed at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

I wish you all luck in your prereleases, and may open many copies of Jace, the Mindsculptor.

Cheers,

Zak

Worldwake’s affect on Standard decks

Worldwake is an interesting set with a few tricks up its sleeve when it looks onto the Standard scene. We have some powerful cards that are sure to make it into every archetype available. Lets look at Jund first.

Jund became the most powerful deck when Zendikar first pushed Lorwyn and company out of the way. Jund only had to use a single card, Verdant Catacombs, from the Zendikar block. It was easy to build, and had so much raw power from cascade that decks could not compete with the card advantage. At Worlds, players were replacing Putrid Leech with Rampant Growth to help fix their mana, and ramp up to their more powerful cards such as Broodmate Dragon and Siege-Gang Commander. Now, Jund gets to look at the new face of mana ramping: Explore.

exploreImagine your turn 4 Bloodbraid Elf cascading into Explore. I like that it allows me to draw a card before I play my land, so I get a chance to draw a land that I might prefer to put into play. Explore will be a go-to mana ramp spell for decks that run off Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, or are trying to just play Warp World. It is a fantastic choice for many different decks other than Jund.

Speaking of lands, Jund gets the option of a couple new ones.

ragingravineRaging Ravine plays nicely with Explore, where it wouldn’t with Rampant Growth as it is a non-basic land and can’t be tutored up. Raging Ravine is the perfect example of how these new manlands are so powerful. They fix your mana and can be a threat at any moment. My friend Seneca pointed out a trick with this land as you can pay the 2RG multiple times to stack the “Whenever this creature attacks, put a +1/+1 counter on it” ability, so when it does end up attacking it will be granted multiple +1/+1 counters. This land can surely get out hand pretty quickly. The other beautiful thing about these lands other than being able to help your land and being almost no investment in a reusable creature resource, is that it will be living through Day of Judgment and will be unaffected by things like Sleep and Oblivion Ring. These lands will almost be invaluable in every deck they rest in.

Vampires is the pet tribe of Wizard’s right now. They want it to succeed, and they want it to be a powerful deck. With Worldwake they got their wishes. Vampires get access to a plethora of different spells one of them being Urge to Feed.

urgetofeedThis will be competing with the already powerful removal spells Disfigure and Tendrils of Corruption, but I see this replacing Disfigure in nearly all Vampire main decks. There is another removal spell that is returning from a hiatus nearly as long as I have been playing this game, its name is Smother. Both Urge to Feed and Smother are powerful cards, but Urge to Feed can do more relevant things such as kill Bloodbraid Elf, Ranger of Eos and even bring Baneslayer Angel down to size so that Vampire Nighthawk is able to tango with the big flier in town. The side to Urge to Feed that also interests me is its ability to pump an entire flock of Vampires. I can foresee turns where the Vampire player cracks a Marsh Flats and bring back their two Bloodghast from their graveyard, plays Urge to Feed on your Emeria Angel and pumps their entire crew of creatures getting ready for an alpha strike of their newly resurrected, now 3/2 Bloodghasts and a 3/4 Vampire Nighthawk. Its potential to turn combat so one-sided is what I love about this card. Smother on the other hand has fewer targets, but can hit things Urge to Feed can’t kill. For instance Smother can kill any token, be it a Broodmate Dragon token or a 5/5 Quest for the Gravelord zombie token. Smother can also hit the new manlands, which is pretty awesome. They both have their shining moments, but I foresee Urge to Feed being the crowd favorite by a long shot.

Another spell Vampires have in their clutches is Mires Toll. It is more of a controlling card but sure to be a hit among a lot of players.

mirestollIt reminds me of a middle ground between Ravens Crime and Blackmail, with a bit of Mind Sludge in there. I am still kind of up in the air about if it will beat out Duress, I’ll have to play with it a bit and see. What I do like about it is as long as they have cards in their hand, it will always hit, unlike Duress. It can also hit land, which might or might not be relevant. I do like the card though, it has a lot of power.

Vampire players get another gem in Worldwake, one that I think will be popular at first, but end up as a two-of in Vampires lists. Her name is Kalastria Highborn.

kalastriahighborn

Kalastira Highborn is obviously very synergistic with Bloodghast with perhaps even an Eldrazi Monument mixed in there. She gives the Vampire players a bit of reach, but she with be battling with Vampire Hexmage as the ‘other’ two drop to Bloodghast and you obviously don’t cut any of him for Kalastra Highborn as they are nearly meant to work together. Vampire Hexmage having first strike is sometime invaluable, but in some matchups it might not even be relevant. I see Vampire Hexmage getting the full boat maindeck slot while Kalastria Highborn perhaps comes out of the board. Her “put into a graveyard” clause sometimes does not as trigger as much as the Vampire player would like due to Celestial Purge and Path to Exile picking off Bloodghasts and Vampire Nocturnus‘ left and right. That all being said, Kalastria Highborn is a powerful card in matchups like red deck wins, where cards like Bloodghast are nearly useless. She also has a cool synergy with Bloodchief Ascension that almost cannot be ignored.

White decks of all shapes and sizes get some creatures that, for the most part, are highly efficient. Lets look at Hada Freeblade first.

hadafreeblade

This is the friend Kazandu Blademaster has been looking for. These two guys will work together with Honor of the Pure to create a serious army within the first few turns. Also, they are both Soldiers allowing Veteran Swordsmith to perhaps pump them into the red zone. Not to mention Ranger of Eos can pickup Hada Freeblade and bring him into the battle, along with Elite Vanguard and Akrasan Squire. There is another card that allies are going to enjoy, and coming in at instant speed is Join the Ranks.

jointheranksJoin the Ranks is a card that will usually be a blowout in Limited, but in constructed it can be a house too. Getting multiple triggers on allies at instant speed very powerful. Imagine having a Turntimber Ranger on the battlefield and then playing Join the Ranks as your opponent attacks you. Turntimber Ranger will get two +1/+1 counters, he will put two 2/2 wolf tokens into play and then you will get your two 1/1 allies. That is an army at instant speed. Lets look at Hada Freeblade and Kazandu Blademaster both getting two +1/+1 counters, probably becoming a 4/5 and a 4/4 respectively, and you are getting two 1/1 allies. That is without an Honor of the Pure on the field. It is a powerful card, but the only problem with it is that it competes with Ranger of Eos at the four casting cost space, and we already Conquerors Pledge. It has its work cut out for it, that is for sure.

White also gets Admonition Angel.

8bjdgc5ifh_EN

She is able to Oblivion Ring targets just from a landfall trigger, and has a steady 6/6 body for six mana to boot. If you are facing down an Admonition Angel and you can’t find removal, I feel sorry for you. There are going to be games where she comes down, you either Tendrils of Corruption her or perhaps you Terminate her. Then as you pass your turn, during their upkeep their Emeria, the Sky Ruin just brings her back. The mono white control decks are going to be cutting their Felidar Sovereigns and playing with yet another angel.

White decks get Silver Knight 2.0 in the form of Kor Firewalker.

korfirewalkerKor Firewalker is a creature that not only shuts down an entire archetype in Standard, but will be reaching his way across the formats. He makes Hellspark Elemental utterly useless, Ball Lightning just hit for a mere 3, and makes Earthquake cry. With his built in Dragons Claw, which is already in a few sideboards, you get the body of a soldier, and a seriously powerful sideboard card. Jund decks can kill it with Maelstrom Pulse and maybe block it with Putrid Leech. I see Smothers sliding into the Jund sideboard to kill this guy. The Boros mirror is going to be a fight to see who gets him out first. He isn’t exactly metagame warping, but his presence is sure to create a lot of waves.

Red also get some good cards. It might be all for not because of Kor Firewalker, but we shall see. The first card is Chain Reaction.

6mvou0qxyd_ENI nearly see this as a red Day of Judgment in some circumstances. Against Boros, obviously Pyroclasm is almost as useful, but it can kill Kor Skyfisher most of the time. Against Elf decks where they are all pumped up over 3 toughness, Chain Reaction can do some serious damage. I like because it can very easily do 3-4 damage to everything, which isn’t that common.

Next up, red gets Dragonmaster Outcast.

dragonmasteroutcastA new, and more powerful variant of Scute Mob, this gal can give you a board dominating presence in no time. Unfortunately, she has to live long enough for that to happen. Seeing as how every removal spell in the format can kill it, it isn’t going to be living long. It suffers the same problem as Elvish Piper, powerful effect, but too vulnerable. Obviously Dragonmaster Outcast has an advantage of only costing one mana, and she can be tutored up with Ranger of Eos, but at the same time, I just don’t see her being beyond a one-of card that you might get late game. She is good at what she does, but isn’t good at surviving.

Red got very few good cards, but the last one I think that will make some Red control deck happy is Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs.

kazuultyrantKazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs is the type of card that is costed just right. At five mana you can justify him almost all day long. Red doesn’t really get any good five mana spells other than Chandra Nalaar. The Tyrant and her seem like you could pair it with aforementioned Chain Reaction and you might just have a red control deck under your belt. Perhaps even some Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and some burn spells. I think Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs has just enough board presence and power to see play. I’m sure whoever builds this deck isn’t going to enjoy seeing Kor Firewalker though.

Eldrazi Elves got a few powerful cards, the big one is Joraga Warcaller.

joragawarcallerThis is what Eldrazi Elves have been waiting for. He has lots of synergy with Oran-rief, the vastwood, he is an Elf, and he makes their army of Elves really large, really quickly. The problem with cards like Elvish Archdruid is you usually just don’t have something to dump all that mana into. Joraga Warcaller is the guy who can take all that extra mana and make it worth your while. There are going to be those games where you just go Llanowar Elves into Elvish Archdruid and from there you can just play out your hand. Perhaps you just play Nissa Revane, summon up a Nissas Chosen, and then tap your Elvish Archdruid for GGG and get your Joraga Warcaller like another Elvish Champion on the table. There is also the ability to not play Nissa Revane and just dump it all into Joraga Warcaller. He is the type of card where he is sometimes ‘just’ an Elvish Champion but there are also times where is like an Elvish God, giving all your other Elves +5/+5. A cool trick I see is where you play Joraga Warcaller, as he comes into play he pumps your army, then after you attack some guys and your opponent blocks, you can tap your Oran-rief, the vastwood to put a +1/+1 counter on your Joraga Warcaller to pump them all a little more. Seems like something you can only really pull off a couple times against one person, but throughout a tournament could catch lots of people off guard. Once you do it though, be sure get back to me on how surprised they were.

Another card that has some serious board presence, and works well with Oran-rief, the vastwood is Bestial Menace.

bestialmenaceFor five mana you can get six power worth of guys, and they are all green. Also, the three different named tokens are Maelstrom Pulse proof, so it isn’t shut down like a Conquerers Pledge would be. I remember Cloudgoat Ranger seeing a lot play back in his day, although that is a bit different as they put Kithkin soldiers into play and they were all pumped by Wizened Cenn, but nowadays we have Oran-rief, the vastwood to pump them all. Although, we don’t have Windbrisk Heights to put this spell underneath. Either way, times have changed, but Bestial Menace is still a powerful card either way you look at it. There isn’t much else Green would rather spend five mana on. You could argue Ant Queen but Bestial Menace is harder to handle with removal, and if next turn you are looking to play Eldrazi Monument then Bestial Menace is going to deal more damage, faster, unless you have a bunch of mana to spill into Ant Queen, but at that point, you are probably winning anyway.

Control decks have mustered some power in Worldwake, too. First off is their go-to draw spell Treasure Hunt.

treasurehuntThis is one of the cards I am really excited to play with alongside Ponder. Going first turn Ponder and then setting up a beneficial Treasure Hunt turn is going to almost be backbreaking for your opponent. Control decks are notorious for running 25-27 land as it is, so they are the ones who will be getting the most bang for their buck with Treasure Hunt. The library manipulation will go a long way for these hunters. This spell would be great with Brainstorm.

In comes, Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

jacemindsculptorHis ability to Brainstorm every turn without losing loyalty is incredibly powerful. Then, when things get rough, he can start Unsummoning to create an easier board for you to find your Day of Judgment or Essence Scatter to deal with that nasty Baneslayer Angel or Knight of the Reliquary. Perhaps, you are in a stalemate so you begin building up loyalty, deciding what your opponent will draw with his +2 ability. Also, like most Planeswlakers, his ultimate ability is usually game winning, and Jace’s is no different. Exiling their library and replacing it with their hand will almost certainly win you the game. This is an incredibly powerful Planeswalker, and deserves to see a lot of play in anything running blue. If people are talking about how the old Jace Beleren came down a turn earlier, just show them Everflowing Chalice.

chaliceThis can come down on turn two for the control deck and push out a turn three Jace, the Mind Sculptor kind of like old times. Everflowing Chalice doesn’t stop there though, it can get you to Martial Coup mana on turn five if you play it on turn four. Unfortunately it isn’t Mind Stone with the ability to draw you a card, but it can help cast some really powerful spells much sooner than certain decks would have ever seen. I see Everflowing Chalice finding its way into many decks that are more top heavy. Also, it is important to note that how it produces mana is by having charge counters on it. You can remove those with Vampire Hexmage. Also, if you want to stop your opponent from removing those counters you can set a Pithing Needle on “Vampire Hexmage” and it won’t be able to activate. I also see Jund and Naya decks perhaps packing Vithian Renegades in their sideboard to destroy their opponent’s Everflowing Chalices. It will be an important card for the control player.

I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on Worldwake. Have fun at the Prerelease this weekend.

-Dillon

PTQ San Diego Tournament Report (Zendikar Sealed)

Saturday was my first PTQ in a year (school, work, and a girlfriend will do that), and 5 of my friends and I left early in the morning to make the 3.5 hour drive down to Calgary. The event was hosted in the banquet room of a local arena, and we had 129 players, a record for Alberta. The format was Zendikar Sealed deck, and everything went relatively smoothly. We were in the banquet room of a local arena, which while not an amazing venue, still worked well. After swapping our sealed pools, I got to look at the following pool.

This pool looked quite playable, and so I looked through a number of potential builds. The white had some solid removal in Journey To Nowhere, Arrow Volley Trap and Pitfall Trap. However, the only mana fixing that would help me was the Greypelt Refuge, which only made white attractive if I was playing green.

The blue was solid. However, I wanted something more for a main colour, and while there were some excellent playables in blue, there simply weren’t enough of them. Unfortunately the best blue card in the pool (Seastalkers) only shines when you can get multiple activations out of him. Not to say he’s not one of the best blue cards in the set (He is), but it didn’t make me want to play blue as a main colour.

When we get to black, we finally see something of substance. We have our first big bomb (Kalitas) and some removal and solid creatures. I’m a huge fan of Nimana Sell-Sword, and the pair of them makes them even more appealing. Top it all off with Surrakar Marauder and some Giant Scorpions and we’ve got our main colour.

Red also looks very promising, with one of the best bombs in the set (Hellkite Charger), and some nice removal and creatures. We also have a couple more Allies to pump our Sell-Swords if we play black, which is always useful. Again, the red had good potential for a main colour.

I was sorely tempted to play green, and it was extremely difficult to leave the green cards in the sideboard when I filled out my decklist. It had good creatures and a nice little bomb, but I wasn’t able to settle on a list I was happy with that included green.

The artifacts were quite nice to me, providing a Blazing Torch and a pair of Adventuring Gears. I didn’t play Stonework Puma, but I just don’t like a Grey Ogre variant that only has a relevant effect if another Ally is out. However, I wouldn’t fault anyone for playing it, as Allies can be quite good.

Here’s the list I ended up running.

This build aims to be aggressive enough to get the jump on the slower decks, yet have enough late game to win outright in a standstill. There are 5 Allies that were all terrific during the day, with Nimana Sell-Sword topping the list. There are 18 land to ensure that I both hit my bombs and got the most effect out of double Adventuring Gear. Other than that, the game plan of the deck is pretty simple” play guys, play bigger guys, play bombs, win. I submitted the decklist with 30 seconds to go, and was on my way to round 1.

Round 1 vs Jesse (UR Allies)
In the first game I mulligan and Jesse gets a Umara Reaptor and a Windrider Eel and a couple of allies, including Highland Berserker and Tuktuk Grunts. Unfortunately, I can’t deal with his fliers and we’re off to game 2.

I get a double Giant Scorpion and start bashing face with one that’s suited up with Adventuring Gear. Unfortunately Jesse resolves a Gomazoa and is able to Magma Rift one of my insects. He then resolves the Umara Raptor and a Stonework Puma which flies over me and knocks me eventually to 0, although he was at 2 when the final blow was struck.

0-1

Round 2 vs Connor (RB Aggro)
Connor and a few of his friends had traveled all the way from Victoria for the PTQ, so it made my 3.5 hour drive look ridiculous (although thery flew). He started off with an Akoum Refuge, and made a turn 2 Bloodghast. Luckily my Giant Scorpion blocked it all day long and prevented the little vampire from ever hitting my life total. Although his forces of Geyser Glider, Gatekeeper of Malakir and Torch Slinger was able to put me at 5, but Hellkite Charger changes the game state to an unbelievable degree. A single swing from the dragon is enough to win game 1.

In the second game, Connro gets stuck on 3 lands, and is using Goblin Guide and an unkicked Torch Slinger to try and beat me down. However, I have a Highland Berserker and Adventuring Gear which get in for some great beats, and my draws eventually outclass him so much that I can finish him off with a Needlebite Trap.

1-1

Round 3 vs Nick (GW)
I watched Nick play in the feature match of last round against teammate Sean, so I know he’s packing multiple Steppe Lynx and Cobra Trap, as well as mutiple landfall boosters. Nick gets a turn 1 Trusty Machete, and a turn 2 River Boa, which makes for a discouraging board position. Or, it would have if I didn’t have a turn 3 Gatekeeper of Malakir. Nick gets stuckon 3 land, and I just overrun him.

In games 2 and 3, River Boa and Trusty Machete both make repeat appearances, to which I have no answer. This gets even more awkward when a Quest for the Gemblades gives him a 6/5 regenerator. I can’t deal with it, and my hopes of top 8 are dashed. However, if I win from here on out I can still make prizes. I think my deck is good enough, so I do not drop.

1-2

Round 4 vs Ryan (RB control-ish)
In game 1 I go the full allies route, with double Sell-sword and berserker paving the way. His creature’s die to my removal, and a timely Goblin Shortcutter clears the way for my allies to take him to 0. My life sheet for Ryan goes 20, 16, 7, 0. Just shows how great multiple allies are.

In game 2 Ryan goes all out, and starts with Plated Geopede and backs it up with Quest for the Gravelord and Shatterskull Giant. I have no answers, and don’t deal a single point of damage.

Game 3 has Ryan lamenting the inclusion of Grappling Hook and Chandra Ablaze in his deck, due to their prohibitevely high costs (a 4 mana equip and discarding a red card respectively). I have a Sell-Sword and a pair of Giant Scorpions, which work great. I eventually cast Grim Discovery to get back Tuktuk Grunts and swing for the win.

2-2

Round 5 vs Christophe (RB)
It seems like everyone and their best friend is playing Red-Black today, and Christophe starts the game off with a Vampire Hexmage. He misses about 5 Quest for the Gravelord triggers, and my allied eventually overrun him.

In game 2, he resolves a Vampire Nighthawk, but I have the timely Inferno Trap. I when it looks like he might win (I’m at 10), I draw Hellite Charger and just win in an obsene fashion, bringing him from 19 to 0 in a few swings. Seriously, that card is so awesome.

3-2

Round 6 vs Blair (UB control)
Blair has a very nice deck, packing both Sphinx of Lost Truths and Sphinx of Jwar Isle. However, neither see play, as he struggles to play threast and remove my guys while I just keep augmenting my forces. He doesn’t have enough Hideous Ends (he had 2), and my allies just take him to the cleaners. In game 2 I resolve my Kalitas, which slaughters any chance my opponent had of defending himself.

4-2

Round 7 vs James (BWR Control)
James lets it slip that he has an Ob Nixilis. the Fallen, He casts double Kor Hookmaster and taps down my blockers, and I go all the way down to 0 without having dropped him below 20.

Game 2 is slightly better off for me, with my Bog Tatters taking put the largest chunks of his life total[/card], and we head off to game three with half an hour left in the round.

It gets to the point where I’m at 1, and he’s at 10. I have a Bog Tatters equipped with an Adventuring gear. I’m sitting on 4 Swamps and a Mountain, and see my great Hellikite Charger staring at me from my hand. I’m thrilled when I pass my turn, hoping to rip the mountain that will win me the game. However, James says he has effects on my upkeep, and casts Disfigure on my swampwalker. Of course. The card on the top of my library? Of course it was the mountain that would’ve won me the game.

4-3

While the best card of the day was undoubtedly Hellkite Charger, and unexpected gem was the double Nimana Sell-Sword They arte just so good with other allies that it’s unbelievable. They also don’t die to Hideous End!

I think that the key to Zendikar Sealed is to be agressive, and play your bombs. I can’t stress that enough, because they won me at least half my games. I also think that black is the most played colour in the format, so main-decking Bog Tatters isn’t a bad idea.

My only colour preference coming into this event was that I really didn’t want to play blue, and that sentiment hasn’t changed (Although give me the cards Blair had in Round 6 and we’ll talk). Obviously if you have enough cards to support it, go for it, but I’ve found that the most consistent push is given by green, red and black, and I’m always happy to be in one or two of those colours.

While the final results have yet to be displayed on the DCI webpage, I believe my final place to be around 29th out of more than 120 competitors. Considering that my last PTQ a year ago had me going 1-3 drop, I’ll happily take this result. The next PTQ is in 3 weeks in my home town of Edmonton, and feel free to stop by and say hi. I’ll be wearing a bright orange Power 9 Pro shirt, so I’ll be easy to spot.

Props to Jason Ness and West Can Events for hosting the PTQ, they do an admirable job at this sort of thing.

Any thoughts on this particular deck or the Zendikar sealed format in general can always go in the comments section, or through my email (zak-AT-power9pro.com) or via my twitter feed at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

Cheers,

Zak

Tales From the Zendikar Launch Party

So Zendikar is finally available for purchase, and players have been casting traps, triggering landfall and summoning allies for this last weekend at the Zendikar launch party, where participants were awarded a promotional Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle just for attending. I went off to my Launch party only having done one draft before, and keeping in mind that black, green, and red seemed to be the colours to pick, but to watch for blue in case it was underdrafted as pointed out by James in the comment section of my previous article.

We went into 3 pods of 6, and I was happy to be plopped between to very experienced drafters, so I knew that my signaling would pay off. My first pack showed me a Bloodchief Ascension, which I happily took. I think that the Ascension is solid in limited, and I think that it will definitely have a home in a couple of Standard decks. I took a second pick Pitfall Trap in a pack that was rather lacking, and I took another black card for my third pick. In pick 4 I was sorely tempted to switch to black-green because I knew that green had the overall stronger colours, and with a lack of playable white cards I opted for a fourth pick Territorial Baloth. However, that pack proved to be something of an anomaly, when I got fed almost all black cards with a smattering of white for the rest of the draft. I knew I would need to play a very aggressive deck again, which seems to be key in this format. Here’s the final list I decided on.

One thing I immediately noticed was the fact that I had no Vampire Nighthawks, Hideous Ends nor any Journey to Nowheres or Shepherd of the Losts. There I was without any of the best commons or uncommons for my colours, not that I had seen any. However, I realized that with my playset of Surrakar Marauders and other early, evasive creatures, that I just might be able to get in a couple aggressive wins.

Round 1: vs Chris (W/B)

It was Chris’s first tournament, but he had played Magic for a fair bit before coming, so there were no rules disputes like there are when playing against newer players, which was nice. Nothing against newer players, it’s just that this is a complex game whose rules take some time and effort to fully understand, and Chris knew the rules to a tee. When he cast a turn one Steppe Lynx, I was unsure of how to proceed. I had a Disfigure in my hand, but I waited to see if he was hurting on land. He wasn’t, and I cast the black spell in response to the Landfall trigger to ensure it didn’t get out of hand. He then followed it up with a variety of Kor, while I played 3 Surrakar Marauders back to back, and I hit my land drops every turn to swing for 6 unblockable, and he couldn’t muster a black creature.

In game 2 I boarded in a Bog Tatters, because I had seen swamps from him, and a lack of removal. I saw the swampwalker in my opening hand, and after playing little evasive guys in the early game, he was my best out against an unkicked Conquerors Pledge, while Giant Scorpion and a 5/5 Zombie token held the fort. Sure enough, he didn’t draw removal for my guy and lost.

1 – 0

Round 2: vs Umir (RGBu Allies)

Umir had been in my draft pod, and he had joked afterward about how terrible his deck was. He had 4 refuges, and splashed black off them to support double Hideous End, which was relatively ineffective against most of my guys. His only blue card was a Sea Gate Loremaster, and I didn’t expect a whole lot. He cast a turn 2 2/1 FS ALLY which was promptly Disfigured, and I cast Surrakar Marauder, which went unanswered. Soon joined by a Bloodchief Ascension, Umir couldn’t let any of his cards go to the graveyard, and he promptly died. In the second game I just overwhelmed him with my Surrakars, and was undefeated going into round 3.

2 – 0

Round 3: vs Atilla

Atilla is a relatively new player who’s become quite good in the months that he’s been playing. He had a really good blue-green deck that took advantage of Windrider Eel and Living Tsunami to bring tons of power in the air. However, I was able to get a quick win in game 1 thanks to a turn 1 Lacerator, turn 2 Surrakar and turn 3 kicked Gatekeeper of Malakir, which dispatched his Umara Raptor. He quickly got below 10 life, and Guul Daz Vampire just got there thanks to the evasion provided by intimidate. In game 2 I hit a bit of a mana flood, and we shuffled up for game 3. Here, Atilla made 3 critical misplays. The first was not responding to my Pitfall Trap with his Caller of Gales, the second was not responding to my final Bloodchief Ascension trigger, and playing an instant after it resolved, and the final misplay was not attacking with a Living Tsunami because he forgot about my guys having intimidate. I don’t think I deserved to win, but being able to capitalize on misplays is a necessary skill in the tournament scene.

3 – 0

Round 4: vs Matt

We decided to intentionally draw the final round to give us both 7 packs in prizes. When we actually played it out, I was able to win easily in 2 games, because my deck was just faster (although his mana screw in game 1 helped) and the ceremony match was quickly decided.

3 – 0 – 1

So the deck I drafted told me a fair bit about the tempo and style of Zendikar limited matches. The first thing is that intimidate is simply awesome, and Surrakar Marauder should not be underestimated. Even Guul Daaz Vampire is a great inclusion if you’ve got a fast enough deck, and you’ll often just consider them unblockable.

A few days ago the team and I had a discussion about limited, and when to play Kor Skyfisher was a topic of discussion. I’m an advocate of playing it on turn two, because it doesn’t die to Burst Lightning (unkicked) or Disfigure. I also find that Zendikar limited is slow enough that bouncing a land is a weatherable loss, and if you bounce something like a 1 drop equipment or quest is always an option. It’s a great choice for when your opponent drops a Paralyzing Grasp or something like that. The interaction with Landfall is also noteworthy, as well as bouncing any ally that would be advantageous. All in all, I think that the skyfisher should be picked around 3-4th in draft, much higher than what I’ve seen it going.

I also believe that Bold Defense is worth a second look. It will often resolve kicked, and the first strike ability is almost always relevant. At it’s worst, it will help your guys punch through for a few additional points of damage, much like Warriors Honor, and at best it can be a one sided Day of Judgment. I think that it’s a solid card that should not be going later than 7th or 8th.

The key to being successful in Zendikar limited is (in my opinion) to be very agressive. Many decks will be quite slow, and an agressive deck will likely be able to keep the opponent off balance. Conversely, it’s not a bad thing if a slower deck packs a Kraken Hatchling, because it does an excellent job of slowing your opponent down. Nobody wants to waste removal on a 0/4, and while I wouldn’t pick it early, you should definitely consider it. Obviously River Boa is even more awesome in that situation, but you already knew that it was good.

Next week I’ll probably discuss my first standard deck in the new environment, free from faeries and five colour control and all the other cards from Lorwyn Block. Until then, send any questions or suggestions to zak-AT-power9pro.com, or via my twitter feed at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

Cheers,

Zak