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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was pretty amazed.

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

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

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


Sideboard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 – 0

Round 2: vs Chris (Black-Red Vampires)

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

Sideboarding: Vampires

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

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

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

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

2 – 0

Round 3: vs Chris (different guy; Valakut)

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

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

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

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

3 – 0

Round 4: vs Andrew (UW Cawblade)

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

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

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

4 – 0

Round 5: vs Michel (UW Venser Control)

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

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

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

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

4 – 1

Round 6: vs Mat (Aggro Valakut)

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

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

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

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

5 – 1

Round 7: vs Adrian (Valakut)

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

5 – 1 – 1

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Zak

Mirrodin Beseiged Prerelease Albuquerque Tournament Report

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

ThrunIwantyou

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

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

Artifacts

Colored

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Championship Chronicles – Part 1 (Standard)

Throughout the past 3 months, I (and several other Edmonton players) have been racking up points in an effort to qualify for the Wizards Comics Championship Series. Wizards Comics is my local came store of choice where I play and occasion judge and/or TO, and they also have a store in the neighbouring town of Sherwood Park. At the beginning of June, the staff announced the championship series which would gather the 8 best players from each store, and have them compete, for free, in a multitude of different formats.

The point structure worked as follows.

For each tournament at a given store that one attended, they would receive 1 point.
For each 3rd place won, a player received an additional point.
For each 2nd place won, a player received 3 extra points.
For each win of a tournament, a player received 5 more points.

Note that players couldn’t amalgamate points from both stores, so players would generally stick to whichever store was closest. Here are the final standings for my store.

56 Attila

53 Zak

46 Jim 

45 Brian Bo

36 Blaine

28 Blake 

26 Adam 

21 Aaron

Aaron didn’t show up, and Marcel, the 9th place seed was at GP Portland (where he won a PTQ for Paris), so Stephen, a player who’s returned to the game with a vengeance, took the last seed for our store.

For this day, we weren’t told much, except to bring a Standard deck, as well as sleeves for a draft. I sleeved up a variation on Gerry Thompson’s BantVine list, a blue-white-green take on the dredgevine concept where one uses Hedron Crab to mill themselves of their Vengevines, and uses cheap creatures to reanimate them. Gerry T’s list originally played 2 Lotus Cobra and 1 Meddling Mage mainboard, but I replaced them with 3 Renegade Doppelgangers. This change allowed me to, in effect, give my Fauna Shamans and Knight of the Reliquarys haste, weakening the effectiveness of my opponent’s removal spells. They’re also fine when a bunch of Vengevines come back.
Here’s the list I ended up playing.

Dredge-uh-Vine (Bant version)

And the sideboard:

I chose this deck for 2 reasons. First, I expected a lot of blue-white, and Dredgevine typically has a solid matchup against them. Between scouting people at FNM and lending out Jaces, Colonnades and Elspeths to at least 3 different people, I had a good idea of the field. With this in mind I debated for a while on whether to play this version or one with Extractor Demon. However, the allure of Ranger of Eos and huge Knight of the Reliquarys swayed me to the bant list.

The second reason I played this deck was because it was an archetype I knew relatively well. I’ve played Dredgevine in almost all of its incarnations since its debut, and even though this was a newer take on it, I was familiar enough with the archetype to know what I was doing.

After I filled out my decklist, they announced that the first round pairings would be cross-store based on standings. For example, the number 1 seed from my location would play the number one seed from Sherwood Park, etc.

Round 1

I sat down across from Andrew, a solid player who’s also a great guy to play with. I had a hunch he’d be playing Grixis control, as that seems to have been his deck of choice at the last few tournaments I’ve played in with him.

I win the die roll and elect to go first, hoping for an explosive start of either a Hedron Crab or a mana accelerant. I get the latter, and start off with a turn 1 Noble Hierarch. He plays a Dragonskull Summit, tapped, and I reply by playing a Hedron Crab and starting to mill myself. He quickly casts Lightning Bolt on my crab, but then I augment my forces with a Fauna Shaman. She starts doing her thing, pitching a Vengevine and getting another, while I drop a Knight of the Reliquary.

After playing his 5th enters-the-battlefield-tapped land in a row, Andrew casts Jace, the Mind Sculptor and bounces my knight. I’m more than happy to replay it, and kill the planeswalker with my Fauna Shaman. He made the same play next turn, and I replied in an identical fashion, also dropping 2 small creatures to rebut a Vengevine and start hacking away at his life total. I continued to attack him while he played a removal spell to kill my 7/7 knight (one of the lands that made him so big was my only Sejiri Steppe), and he eventually slammed down a Grave Titan. I immediately used my Path to Exile to dispatch it and continued to attack with my Vengevines, forcing him to chump with a token. By the time he resolved a Cruel Ultimatum, he was at a low enough life total that my vengevines overwhelmed him.

Game 2 was a short affair with him getting stuck on 2 lands and me playing a pair of Noble Hierarchs and a Vengevine, which eventually went the distance, swinging in for 6 a turn.

1 – 0

Round 2

In round 2 many of us had to play against players from our own stores. I sat across from Brian, one of the best players in the area and a very good friend. I knew he was one of the many players battling with blue-white control, so I thought I should have an alright time with it.

I made a mistake in my first game where I kept lands, Fauna Shaman, Renegade Doppelganger and Vengevine. As soon as the word “keep” left my lips, I knew it was a mistake, especially on the draw. The problem with this hand is that if he counters or removes my Shaman, I just straight-up lose. If it does resolve and I manage to untag with it, my game will probably go well, but that’s a fatal assumption to make against blue white. I didn’t have a blue-producing land (that’s what I get for changing the spell configuration and not the manabase) so I slammed down the shaman which predictably got Mana Leaked. After that it was pretty much Brian goldfishing as he resolved a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and ticked it to 13 loyalty, with me unable to mount any sort of offense. When I managed to get a couple guys on the board, he used Gideon Jura to make sure I couldn’t attack Jace, and he milled me out.

I resolved to keep a better hand in game 2, and I was happy to play a first-turn Hedron Crab. Brian retaliated with an Oust, and I cast a Noble Hierarch. On his turn 2 he has a Meddling Mage, naming the Hedron Crab that I was about to draw. The game state didn’t evolve beyond there, as I drew 2 un-castable Hedron Crabs in a row, and Brian made matters worse by casting a Relic of Progenitus. The game was over quickly from there.

1 – 1

Round 3

I was now back to facing a player from the other store, this time Travis playing a variation on Jund with Magma Phoenix and Inferno Titan. I had watch Brian beat him in the first round, so I knew that I should be able to out-aggro him.

I won the roll and game blazing out of the gates with a turn 1 Hedron Crab and consecutive fetchlands. My turn 2 Fauna Shaman got Terminated, but I backed it up with a Knight of the Reliquary, which also died, this time to a Maelstrom Pulse. Travis made an early attack with his Raging Ravine that signalled to me that he didn’t have much gas left, and on the next turn I was able to Ranger of Eos some more creatures to reanimate a pair of Vengevines. Although he tried to mount a defines with Putrid Leech and Sarkhan the Mad, I kept swinging in for lethal until he just died.

In game 2 I get off a first turn Noble Hierarch, and reply to his Putrid Leech with a Knight of the Reliquary and a Fauna Shaman on consecutive turns. I tutor up my Meddling Mage and name Maelstrom Pulse. He manages to Jund Charm most of my board, and then Pulse my knight. However, I manage to cast another Vengevine which is able to go the distance as he doesn’t hit enough mana to play his more expensive threats.

2 – 1

Round 4

For the final round of standard, I’m facing Sean, the number 1 seed from the rival store. He’s playing Soul Sisters, a deck which I have never had the chance to play against. The one thing I knew going into the matchup was that the only way I can win is to keep milling him, as the Vengevine route will not be able to break through. I get the first turn Hedron Crab, and enjoy the look of surprise on Sean’s face when I announce “mill you”. I quickly get a Knight of the Reliquary online and have to fetch up my Sejiri Steppe to protect my crab from a Path to Exile. The milling continues as he taps out for a Ranger of Eos, fetching a pair of Serra Ascendants. I punt the game here because I have a Path to Exile in my hand. I looked through his graveyard and see that he has only 1 copy of Brave the Elements after milling 3/4 of his deck. For some reason, I think that I might have to path one of my own dudes to mill 3, but don’t realize that I straight-up die to him if he does have the Brave and his ascendants go unchecked. Sean untags, attacks, I path, he braves, I lose. Simple enough.

While sideboarding I overhear my friends Blaine and Jim talking. Blaine has one win, and Jim has 2 draws (his deck went to time a lot), and they’ve agreed to draw. I realize that not only can I boost Jim’s tiebreakers by losing this match (he played Sean earlier), but I can reduce Andrew’s in the same vein, as he is also in contention for elimination. I decide that I’ll concede even if I win, but we play it out. The match goes pretty quickly, with me not getting a Hedron Crab until much too late, and I pretty much die.

2 – 2

After the final standings are posted, Jim beats out Andrew by 5 percent, so I’m happy I lost the final game and that my friends are advancing. Those who were eliminated receive consolation prizes of intro packs and theme decks, and we’re off to the next format.

Matt (The TO) arranges everyone around a set of tables and numbers us off. We’re wondering what he’s doing, as we can’t really have a 14 man draft. He then announces: “Players with an odd number look to your right, players with an even number look to your left. This will be your partner for Two-Headed Giant Draft.”

I’m paired with Buddy, a local player who I’ve played with in the past, and I’m ready to try a brand-new format.

Expect Part 2 within the next day or two.

Cheers,

Zak

PTQ San Juan: Merfolk in Extended *10th*

Hello everyone, and I hope the students among you are enjoying Spring break as much as I am. Friday and Saturday were a whirlwind of Magic-related challenges, and now that I’m caught up on some sleep, I’m ready to recount the story.

We start off in Edmonton (my hometown) at 10:30 pm. One of my buddies swings around my place so that we can meet our other two friends on the other side of town for supper. However, Dave, the guy who is driving only came to the city about a year ago, and progresses further out of town in the opposite direction we need to go. Thus, we end up taking a roundabout trip to the restaurant that takes us almost an hour. When we get to the restaurant, I don’t recognize my friends at their table because they are sitting with 10 others whom I don’t know, and are dressed up like Japanese school girls. Long story short, after a few cell phone calls and facepalms, we sit down and enjoy general merriment until about midnight. When we finally go over to my friend’s place where we’re spending the night, we test for about an hour before attempting to go to bed. Of course our host’s roommate has also invited some other friends to spend the night, so Dave, Matt, and myself end up sleeping on the floor.

4 hours later, we get up and fill ourselves with coffee and hit the road for the 3-0hour drive to Calgary. While Dave drives and Matt sleeps in the shotgun, Brian and I test extended for a good hour and a half on top of spare binders on our laps. This is of course until the truck sputters to a stop in the middle of the highway. The three more academically inclined of us (Matt, Brian, and I) resign ourselves to the fact that we will miss the PTQ, while Dave points out that there is an abnormally strong smell of gas on the side of the highway. Looking down, we see an enormous pool of gas dripping from the bottom of the truck, and Dave is able to reconnect the dislodged gas line and set us back on our way, with enough time to spare.

On arrival at the tournament site, we find that WotC has donated a ton of product to the event, and that everyone will get six free boosters just for showing up. Seems awesome.

The time for handing in decklists comes, and this is what I submit.

Here Fishy Fishy

And here is the sideboard:

So as I said in my previous article, I didn’t think that Faerie Depths was a good decision for a metagame filled with Zoo. I came across Marshall Arthurs’ winning list about a week prior to the tournament, and I knew immediately that I would be playing merfolk. They’re a deck that I played in standard, and I’m very familiar with the archetype. Unlike Faerie Depths, I’m almost always playing ahead of my opponent, whereas Faeries needs to play catch up for most of the game.

I only made a few changes to Marshall’s list. The first, and most notable, is the removal of 2 Cursecatcher and a Mana Leak for 3 Sejiri Merfolk. I think that this was absolutely the right call, as I boarded out Cursecatchers a fair bit, and the Sejiri was able to totally turn games around. Seriously, this card is extremely good.

The other change is the inclusion of more basic lands. I knew there would be a fair few players piloting Kyle Bogemmes’ Blood Moon Zoo, as well as Gavin Verhey’s Ultimecia. I believe that the 10 basics and 3 fetches render that plan of attack effectively useless, except for that it shuts off Mutavault. Again we see that this deck is superior to Faerie Depths in its ability to deal with moon effects, whereas faeries would many times just scoop to the 3 mana enchantment or its magus.

The board is almost completely different from Marshall’s. I added Threads of Disloyalty to assist me in the Zoo matchup, and Damping Matrix to hurt Thopter Depths. Wrath of God is a way for me to deal with Elves, fast Zoo, and maybe a resolved Hypergenesis or Living End. Finally, Leyline of Singularity was my ace in the hole against Thopter Foundry decks, as well as Elves and Dredge.
Round 1: vs Arvin (Uw Merfolk)

Arvin is last year’s regional champion from Calgary, and I greet him as such when we sit down. He seems a little flattered that someone who he doesn’t know knows his name, and we make small talk while shuffling our decks. Imagine my surprise when he plays a turn one Island followed by Cursecatcher. My mindset immediately changes into how I can beat the mirror, and I identify Lord of Atlantis as a game changer immediately. I realize that I must use it as an Overrun style finisher, rather than as a source of continual damage. He casts Silvergill Adept on turn 2, and than I respond with Sejiri Merfolk. This is where he becomes aware of the situation as I have known it for 2 turns, and we both have a little chuckle at the unexpected mirror match.

He casts an Umezawas Jitte on turn 3, which I kill with a Jitte of my own. The first strike on my Sejiri Merfolk is holding the fort, but I become worried when he resolves another Jitte on the next turn. After equipping it to his 3/2 Silvergill Adept he pauses and asks me: “Does [Sejiri Merfolk] have first strike?” I reply in the affirmative, and then he does something which defies rational explanation. He attacks with his Jitte-wielding adept while he’s tapped out. I block, and I stop him when he tries to put counters on the Jitte, informing him that his guy died before it dealt combat damage. He realizes the extent of his misplay, and then I play a Jitte to kill his, and overwhelm him in the next few turns.

I board out 3 Lord of Atlantis and 2 Cursecatcher In favour of 2 Threads of Disloyalty and 3 Temporal Isolation. In game 2, I make a mistake early on when I cast Threads on his Wake Thrasher. Shortly after, I realize my mistake and explain to the judge the situation. He gives us both a warning, and our game goes on. It turns out that Arvin didn’t board out Lord of Atlantis, and my Wake Thrasher in able to go all the way with islandwalk.

1 – 0

Round 2: vs Mike (Hypergenesis)

We’re chatting while we shuffle and we discuss which, if any, decks would actually want to draw in this format. I say that the Hypergenesis builds which run Gemstone Caverns might want to and he replies that his deck might also draw sometimes. When he plays a turn 1 Gemstone Mines, I’m not surprised, and I drop a Sejiri Merfolk on turn 2. However, this is where all hell breaks loose, as he exiles a Simian Spirit Guide and casts Violent Outburst during my end step. He brings out Bogardan Hellkite and Progenitus, and I bring in 4 Merfolk Lords and a Wake Thrasher. Then my opponent misplays, choosing to kill off one of my lords with the hellkite damage, rather than hit me and swing for game next turn. He doesn’t realize this until I’ve drawn a Path to Exile for his Hellkite and my team swings in for the win.

I board in Ethersworn Canonist and Wrath of God. I have a turn 2 Sejiri Merfolk again, and he combos off on turn two…again. He brings down Angel of Despair, killing a lord I bring down, and a Progenitus. I have the Path to Exile for his angel, and so it’s a battle of merfolk vs Progenitus. I go to 2 after two successive hydra swings thanks to my lifegaining merfolk, and I try and stabilize on the back of a Lord of Atlantis, Mutavault and the aforementioned Sejiri Merfolk. I draw a Cryptic Command to tap his 10/10 and draw a card, giving me one more swing. On my draw step, a draw another Cryptic, which clinches the game for me while a 10/10 hydra was staring me down.

2 – 0

Round 3: vs Jared (Tribal Zoo)

I lose the roll and find him to have a very fast start consisting of Noble Hierarch, Qasali Pridemage, Wild Nacatl and Knight of the Reliquary. I assume he’s playing some GW aggro deck, and I attempt to stabilize with a 3/2 Sejiri merfolk wearing an Umezawas Jitte. However, he eventually beats me down with sheer numbers and I move to game 2.

I mulligan in the second game, after seeing a hand with double Mutavault and little else[/card]. I only saw Naya colours in the first game, so imagine my surprise when he cracks a fetchland for Watery Grave. In addition to his faster start, which I fend off for the most part, he has double Tribal Flames for 5, which just burn me out.

2 – 1

Round 4: vs Lorenzo (Blood Moon Zoo)

Normally, I’d be apprehensive about facing Lorenzo, as he’s one of the best players in the province. However, I know what he’s playing, and I spent a good hour testing this exact matchup on the ride home with Brian, so I know I’m favoured to win. I play 3 lords on turns 3, 4 and 5, and he resolves Bloodbraid Elf into a Blood Moon. This screws him out of green, while the high number of basics in my deck pay off, and double Merrow Reejerey takes him down.

Game 2 is all about the Wake Thrashers. I play 3 over the course of the game, and he can’t remove them all. This forces him to make a ton of chump blocks, and he draws a fair bit of land near the end of the game which seals the match.

3 – 1

Round 5: vs Shaun (Thopter Depths)

Finally, the match which matters the most. Testing has indicated that its 50/50 pre-board, and a slight edge to me post-board, and Shaun is one of the best players around, having been on the pro tour in the past. In game 1 he has a Vampire Hexmage to stop my Cursecatcher and Silvergill Adept, and a turn 3 Dark Depths wins it for him, as I don’t draw a Path to Exile

In game 2, He gets the Thopter Foundry combo online, but it’s too late, as I have the deadly duo of Wake Thrasher and Merfolk Sovereign, which crash in for upwards of 10 damage a turn.

Game 3 I have no chance. He has a turn 1 Thopter Foundry off a Chrome Mox, a turn 2 Sword of the Meek and a turn 3 Marit Lage which dies to path. However, I get overrun by thopters and the lifegain makes it impossible for me to race him.

Round 6: vs Lowell (Red Deck Wins)

This matchup is actually much harder than I had envisioned, but the plethora of lord effects I have become the deciding factor. He can’t afford to leave a Wake Thrasher unburnt, so I have enough firepower (and life) to stay alive and decimate him. My notes have me winning this game at a precarious one life.

In game 2, I resolve an early Sejiri Merfolk, which renders all his Hellspark Elementals useless. I gain 8 life off the one merfolk, and 3 lords end up being the deciding factor in this very one-sided game.

4 – 2

Round 7: vs Colin (Thopter Depths)

Within the first 2 turns, he casts triple Thoughtseize, nabbing a Lord of Atlantis and 2 Wake Thrashers. He attempts to make a Dark Depths token which is me by a Path to Exile. Eventually, my islandwalking army of merfolk overwhelm him, aided by the 6 damage he dealt to himself of the bat.

Game 2 is the perfect draw for me. I play a turn zero Leyline of Singularity, which causes everyone in the top tables around me to look. Colin is dumbfounded by the fact that one of his combos is severely neutered, and when he struggles to get a Marit Lage, I casually cast Path to Exile. I bring in an army consisting of Silvergill Adept, Lord of Atlantis, Merrow Reejerey, and Merfolk Sovereign. His ability to only make a single thopter does him in, and I find myself with a potential spot in top 8.

5 – 2

Unfortunately, I miss the top 8 on breakers and get 10th overall. This is my best finish at a PTQ yet, and come May, I have every intention of winning the ticket to Amsterdam on home soil in Edmonton.

I think that this deck was an excellent meta choice, and not enough people give this deck the respect it deserves. The Sejiri Merfolks were an amazing addition, as was the increased number of basic lands.

The only thing I would change about the above decklist would be to cut a single Temporal Isolation from the sideboard, and add in a Spell Snare, because most of the time I didn’t want to dilute my merfolk count too much, and with 4 path maindeck, it seemed excessive to have 3.

It’s now time to focus on Rise of the Eldrazi, and its impact on standard. Join me and the rest of the Power 9 Pro team with a set review, tales from prerelease and launch parties, and more in the coming weeks.

As always, feel free to sound off in the comments, or contact me via email at zak -AT- power9pro.com, or through my twitter feed at www.twitter.com/zturchan. Until next time,

Cheers,

Zak

Patrick Chapin’s “Punishing Gifts”-Extended Tournament Report

Over the weekend I had a chance to go play an extended tournament at my local game store.  It ended up being a small (9 people) affair, but I still had a great time.  Earlier in the week, I asked Power 9 Pro’s very own Joe Klesert for some advice on what to play.  He told me about a great deck from Patrick “the Innovator” Chapin that looked to take advantage of the current Dark Depths/Thopter Foundry (DDT) dominated meta-game.  DDT is arguably the best deck in the format right now, punishing other decks based on the Depth’s Vampire Hexmage combo and the Thopter Sword of the Meek combo.  The list that Joe gave me was this:

I did not have access to all of the cards I needed so I had to replace 1 Hallowed Fountain with Adarkar Wastes and the Cranial Extraction with another copy of Extirpate.

First round I played Mark who was running a R/G deck that i liked to think of as 2-color zoo.  It ran the Punishing Fire/Grove of the Burnwillows engine that first appeared in the Ben Rubin Zoo deck now known as Rubin Zoo (great name).  One neat piece of synergy that Mark had was the use of Kavu Predator to go along with his Burnwillows.  Game 1 Mark stomped on my head pretty quickly even after having to mulligan.  Game 2 went a little better, as I had answered all of his threats and he was in top deck mode.  I had the Punishing Fire engine going, but was trying to find either Teferi or my Thopter/Sword combo as I was still in burn range from early beats.  Unfortunately, he top decked Bloodbraid Elf into Punishing Fire and backed them up with Lightning Bolt to finish me off.

Second Round I played against Joseph playing a version of Elves!.  I was really surprised to see this list, when I was doing research on extended there was very little mention of Elves!.  In Game 1, Firespout was the superstar allowing me to blow-up 2 Heritage Druids and buy myself enough time to set up my Thopter/Sword combo to win.  Game 2 was a blowout thanks to Engineered Explosives holding the fort until I could go ultimate with Jace.

Trying to gain some momentum I headed to Round  3 where I was playing against Johnny running U/B Teachings.  His deck is similar to mine but it relies more on setting up Mystical Teachings to find Teferi.  In Game 1, Johnny gets Teferi online quickly and I need to spend a lot of resources to get past the counter wall in order to get rid of him.  It was all for naught as once Path to Exile finally got rid of Teferi, Crovax, Ascendant Hero came down to finish me off.  Crovax is great tech against Thopter tokens, even if the opposing side has an army built up Crovax can still turn that combo “off”.  Game 2 was the most fun I had in the tournament.  Johnny and I were in an all out counter war.  I had my Gargoyle Castle/Crucible of Worlds engine going, attacking with 3/4 tokens, trying to get past his team of Teferi and Sphinx of Jwar Isle.  In the end, I forgot to activate and swing  with my Celestial Colonade which would have put him low enough to burn out with Punishing Fire (in hand).  He got off Pulse of the Fields and my opportunity was gone.

Sitting on my 1-2 record I drew the bye for the fourth and final round and decided to head home early (much to the delight of my wife).  This deck was a blast to play.  There are plenty of amazing interactions in the deck.  I will definitely practice with it and try to bring it out again.  One thing I noticed was that I wanted a way to put more pressure on my opponent, but only through more testing will I figure out what that should be (more Jace perhaps?).If you are looking for a deck to play, I would recommend this one, just make sure you have enough time to practice.

Power 9 Pro Seeks Team Member, Evangelist, MTG Lover

Power 9 Pro seeks MtG players to join our team.

Ultimately, the role that any player who joins Power 9 Pro will be is an evangelist. In addition to being a part of a team of players that discusses decks, strategy, and card evaluation, you’ll represent Power 9 Pro to the MtG community at large.

What’s an evangelist?

An evangelist is someone who looks to develop recognition of Power 9 Pro as a player-centric company among the MtG player-base. With 14 million active players worldwide (and a LOT more closet-and-used-to-be-players), there are a lot of people that Power 9 Pro needs to touch. Our goal is simple: make life easier and better for players.

While we’re currently looking for three to five more players to join the team, the tasks will vary from player to player.

If you’d like to be considered, you must first meet all these criteria:

  1. Good Attitude: smiles more than frowns. Says, “Good game” or “Thank you” EVEN IF YOU LOSE. Poor sportsmanship is a major turn off. In addition to building Power 9 Pro, we want every player that wears a p9p shirt to encourage players.
  2. Must love MTG — please note that this comes second to a good attitude but that it’s just a smidgen less important. If you’re not a MTG player…well, you should be. ;-)
  3. Interested in developing a brand: this means a certain degree of entrepreneurial, self-starter attitude. There’s no monetary risk for our evangelists but the attitude of “making something happen” is certainly needed.
  4. Well spoken, capable writer: Power 9 Pro needs players who can play well and also communicate their ideas effectively and clearly.
  5. Play in tournaments. While you may not be looking to get on the Pro Tour or travel your state for every possible PTQ, you must be a tournament player. Why? Simple: you cannot evangelize very well alone from inside your bedroom.
  6. Active in MtG community: Whether you host tournaments at your home or are active on the forums, we need players who are already aware of the “broader MTG community.”
  7. There is a small stipend that comes to being a member of the Power 9 Pro Team. You cannot live off this job but we expect only a small fraction of full time work. This will not be a major time commitment and will not conflict with school or other jobs. Basically, we want the evangelist role to simply be a subsidized position for activities that MtG players already do: play and discuss MtG.

    If this is interesting so far, please email me at James[at]Power9Pro[no-Spam-seriously][dot]com. I’ll follow up with a small test-task to start the evaluation process.

    ~james.

Kyle Sanchez’s Ranger of Crabs Deck – Very Small Tournament Report

A few weeks back, I read about Kyle Sanchez’ latest creation over at Star City Games, and was immediately smitten.  As I don’t normally keep up with Standard in the post-children era of my life, I slowly acquired the missing cards, and finally got to take it out for a spin at a local tuesday night $2.50 tournament with mixed but generally positive results.  Below is the decklist I ran, which was an earlier incarnation of the deck which Sanchez pseudo-advocated after trying a different list at his States tournament.  He didn’t post this list exactly, but it seemed to me the point he was advising people to begin from, so I tried to coat-tail his work and heed his advice.  The list:

I spent a lot of time goldfishing this deck, but it’s trickier than it looks. On the surface there’s the benefits that come from the 8-pack of Birds of Paradise / Noble Hierarch, which means the deck often plays 3′s on 2 and 4′s on 3. So it can be speedier than it looks.

The main plan of attack (especially against anyone not suspected of packing discard) seems to be to stock up on crabs, hitting for occasional archive traps when possible, snaring up extra traps along the way, and generally stalling. Ideally, you’ll have at least one active knight of the reliquary and 2+ crabs the turn you seek to go off. I found it hard to resist the temptation to run out an early crab, but when I did run one out early, it always felt like a mistake.

Once you have some crabs and a knight, you can drop some crabs and go absolutely nuts on knight-sacrificing forests / plains into some manner of fetchland, and back into another basic. This is usually enough to do the trick, especially if you’ve already managed to land a trap or two.

The nice thing is that having HUGE knights is trivial, so there’s always the fallback plan of swinging with knights, and I won one game on something like turn 5 with this route, punishing his missed land drop.

Anyway, the tournament went awry, and I finished the four rounds at 1-3. But my spirits are high. I am very unfamiliar with the metagame (played my first EVER game against Jund) as well as with my deck. ALL of my matches went to three games, and most of the three losses seemed like they were marginal… easily converted into wins with more practice and knowledge.

So round 1 I faced planeswalker control, which was my one win, and seemed by far to be the easiest matchup. Game 1 was solidly in my favor, but in game two he brought in Quest for Ancient Secrets, which seems to be the nemesis of this deck. I had no out, as I stupidly did NOT side in the wargate / needle package in game 2… again, unfamiliarity was the culprit. Game 3 I wised up and brought in needle, dropping it with wargate on turn 4 and naming Quest, which he already had on board. Winning was academic from this point, as he never drew an answer to the 1-drop artifact.

Round 2 I faced an unorthodox vampires deck with sanguine bond and tainted sigil. This was the match in which I learned how important it is to save crabs for one big turn, not run them out incrementally, as I lost the deciding game on the turn he drew his LAST (fucking) card! Epic “d’oh” on that one. One more crab activation at any point would have done it, and two incremental crabs ate it to his doom blade and what not. So I chalk this one up to unfamiliarity as well.

Round 3 was Jund, and it wasn’t as scary as I thought! I was playing Glen Goddard of States and recent Mark Rosewater article fame. He’s a longstanding pillar of the Albuquerque Magic scene, having owned the main Magic shop in town for a decade or more before selling it a few years back to work on his events company SunMesaEvents. Anyway, he wasn’t running Putrid Leech, which was great. I had lots of time to set up, and nuked him good in the first game. He came back with deadly blightning disruption and timely bolts in response to fetch lands in the second, and in the third, I died to his beats without ever finding a single trap or snare… either would have done the trick as he had < 13 cards in the library when we finished. So another very close match, and against the format bugaboo to boot!

Round 4 I lost to pure random weirdness… my opponent had a jacked up hodge-podge of a deck, the main line of attack of which seemed to be Jhessian Infiltrator + Vines of Vastwood. This really threw me for a (stupid) loop when he killed me in game 2 because I didn't path his Lord of Extinction (which against my deck was basically lethal at all times!) on my own turn, instead auto-piloting to his turn, then path-ing it during combat, only to take roughly ten billion damage when he vines'ed in response. Tsk tsk… … auto-pilot will getcha every time. Anyway, he went on to win game 3 because… get this… his main deck has 68 cards in it. He had 7 cards in his library when he won. So again… this is not expected to be common.

I love the deck. I love the multiple angles of attack. I love how some draws just deck fools seemingly effortlessly. But then again, it’s a nail-biter. Lots of matches went to time. All of them 3 gamers. Tons of shuffling. Tons of decisions. Lots of math, albeit mainly just easy counting.

I would definitely recommend giving it a try. Fun and challenging and not at all mainstream from what I could tell. Nobody seemed to have heard of the deck, and many of my games drew a 4-6 man crowd in a tournament with something like 14 people or so. Lots of “cool deck” comments and the like.

So anyway, I was VERY happy to be back in a standard tournament, even if the competition included only about 50% canonical decklists. I also like the deck as a choice for folks like me who play eternal formats, but can’t quite keep up with the Joneses in Standard… you don’t need the super-money stuff, and most of the cards are ones you’ll want in Legacy or Extended anyway (fetches, ranger, hierarch, knights) or they’re dirt cheap (all the other rares). This was a large part of my deck choice process, as my p9p teammates know. I didn’t want to spend a lot on cards that I would seldom play with, not being a Standard regular.

I like the way the deck is put together as is. Negate is huge against control. Angelsong was helpful against aggro, as was war monk. I think I’d like another needle in the side, as sometimes I was wishing I had the option to grab a second when there was a Quest as well as a planeswalker, but it didn’t seem to make a win/loss level of difference.

My only real innovation here is suspect… I’m not sure it’s a good idea, but I plan to try it: throwing one Arid Mesa in the mix somehow, either in place of one expanse or one catacombs / tarn. Not sure which. The reasoning here is that every once in a while, it would have been SUPER helpful to be able to use a knight to search up a fetchland that could result in an untapped plains, as when you want to drop a ranger or a knight or leave path mana open. I think the danger, of course, is that forests are key early, so you don’t want to dilute the ability to open with (fetch-into-) forest -> BoP / Hierarch and go from there… the optimal opening. So we’ll see what some testing shows on this issue.

So there you have it. Sanchez Ranger Crabs. Fun as hell. Holla back in the comments, and if anyone knows KS, send him this way, I’d love to see a comment from the deck’s originator. Peace.

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

Grand Prix Seattle 2009 – Black/White Tokens Tournament Report

GP Seattle went off big. With over 1100 participants at the main event alone, Tacoma, WA definitely experienced a ground swell of competitive Magic players from all over the world.

I arrived in Tacoma–about 30 min outside of Seattle–at 5:30 pm Friday, to find that already the GP event had over 700 registrants. Moreover, by the time I registered at 6pm for the GP, playmat inventories were already depleted. Bummer. That’s two GP’s in a row where I missed my chance to snag an unique playmat. There’s always next time.

Grinders were firing off every few minutes, filled by players fresh off planes to already grinder-primed from a few 3rd or 4th round defeats earlier in the day. Not to miss out for a coveted set of 3-round byes, I quickly registered for a GPT piloting B/W tokens. That list was fairly similar to the list I played at Regionals, with the addition of two pithing needles main board, removing two kitchen finks. It’s an amazing card making me very reluctant to do so. However, my suspicion that I would run into a number of cascade-related decks (5cc or ‘Swans’) left me little confidence I could reliably change the board state with finks–whereas murderous redcap can take out a recently cast bloodbraid elf or force the opponent to pay to life to save his putrid leech (but in cases of a surprise zealous persecution, forcing the life-loss and the death of putrid leech. A very profitable exchange. I also felt that having two pithing needles would increase my first game odds against those decks. I also reasoned that there were no decks immune to the pithing needle since many, many decks are running cards like treetop village, figure of destiny and ajani. In addition to three path to exile and keeping the runed halo at two of as well as 3x celestial purgein the sideboard allowed me to access potentially 11 ways of shutting down cascade decks. In the end, I lost in the semi-final match (round 3), losing to–dun, dun, dun…–5 color cascade! doh.

At that point in the evening, more friends from SF arrived. Lucky for me a few of these friends have many more years of competitive experience than myself and having caught most of my round 3 games, were able to discuss alternatives as well as teaks to my deck.

So, returning to the original B/W tokens list I ran at Regionals, I made the following changes: add more hand disruption main deck. Specifically, two times thoughtseize, dropping the pithing needle back to sideboard. Deciding that generally finks is a very, very useful card close to on-par with murderous redcaps, we decided that I should run at least three finks and three murderous redcaps.

Here’s the full list:

SB:

Round One:
Versus Bant-Agro. Should be aka Shorecrasher’s Finest Hour or Rafiq’s a B.

Anyway, this matchup has been consistently poor for me. The speed with which this deck is able to not only catapult to 40+ life and reduce me to zero is ridiculous. Game one his team consisted of Rafiq, the Warmonk and Wiltleaf Leige. His life total ends at 49 meanwhile mine goes from 3 to 5 to 7 to zero. Finks to the rescue but he didn’t buy enough time.
Game two was significantly faster than the first. I removed his first 5/3 shorecrasher mimic with a path to exile but had no answers for the one he dropped on turn 3 to activate his turn 2 drop. Before attacking he also dropped a noble heirarch to provide even more exalted-powered pain. (Luckily I path’d the 6/4). My notes have my life total jumping from 18 to 5. How? finest hour turn 4. To round it off the punishment, he drops a jhessian infiltrator turn 5 along with another Finest Hour. With no answers in hand, the rounded ended on match two. The only note about this matchup is that game two I mulligan to 5, looking to have an opening hand with answers to what I suspected would be a fast matchup. The one mistake is probably playing the path to exile early in the match. I probably should have waited for when either the shorecrasher was attacking in for lethal rather than an early “6″. Afterall, it is only 6, not 13.
0-1-0

Round Two:
Versus Blightening Beatdown
Game one goes to me where an early tidehollow sculler reveals an auntie’s hovel, blightening, boggart ram-gang,flame javelin and incinerate. My notes indicate the game wasn’t going well for my opponent, seeing as though he felt compelled to banefire a spirit token to buy time.
Game two went in his favor, powered by two ram-gangs, two hellsparks and plenty of burn.
Game three I did pull out ahead but my notes indicate a fairly serious play mistake where I should have played a finks over an ajani because a fallout to reduce finks in size could next turn be negated with the +1/+1 ability of ajani. Moreover, by having no blockers for ajani, he was quickly taken down by a fallout and hellspark (5, which is what the gaining 2 life ability gets after a fresh cast). Nonetheless, I pulled out the win.
1-1-0

Round Three:
Versus B/G Elves aka, I only run a couple, non-game-winning elves but round my changelings off to elves since they count too. ;-)

Game one goes to me, definitly related to his mulligan to 5 and my first turn thoughtseize –revealed two profane command[card] and one [card]rhen’s vanquisher–and two lands. I took the vanquisher. Despite a top-decked thoughtseize nabbing my bitter blossom, I quickly dropped him from 20 to zero.
Game two, he’s able to defeat me handily without me doing much damage at all. I did thoughtseize, which revealed two maelstrom pulse, redcap, and chameleon colossus. One pulse to my bitter blossom, a redcap to a token and a super-size changling were too much.
Game three was extremely tight with me taking the early game by skyrocketing to a whopping 27 life before he began stabilizing with cloudthresher. This game went to time. We entered turns with the full 50 minutes elapsing. Despite efforts on both our parts to balance the 5 turn clock and our precarious positions (he wasn’t able to attack in with thresher nor I positioned to resist his two colossus and attack in with enough force to win, we were poised to tie. Luckily for me, my opponent conceded on turn four telling me that regardless of whether he won or drew, he was going to have to leave early so he’d rather I get the win since it was so close anyway. Very considerate and appreciated.
2-1-0 (vs. 1-1-1 which it was shaping out to be)

Round Four:
Versus 5 color cascade, featuring bloodbraid elves, bituminous blast, and anathemancer.
Game one goes to him. Turn one thoughtseize revealed cryptic command, anathemancer, bituminous blast, and mulldrifter (in addition to his lands). A bit disappointing but I knew it could be a tough matchup considering immense array of two-for-one/card-replenishment naturally built into this deck.
Game two, I had consistently played around his strengths developing a fairly strong board position. I was poised to win, primarily because of an early game bitterblossom that remained in play the entire match. This it turns out was my ultimate downfall. Toward the end of the match, my opponent drops two anathemancers on the same turn, reducing my lifetotal from 11 to six. Next turn I could swing in putting me in the tempo-lead. Right? Wrong. Forgot to add in the life loss from my bitter blossom. He swings for 4, I leave them unblocked since blocking one with my anthem-beefed faerie token would kill his anathemancer, allowing him to unearth it same turn for the kill (that card doesn’t need to ever attack. It just needs to be put in play).
2-2-0

Not feeling too great about my chances, I tried to maintain a positive, confident outlook, knowing that though extremely difficult, I could duke-out the next 5 rounds for a day-two spot.
It was going to come down to my matchups.

Round Five:
R/G. No black. No figure of destiny.

This was looking good.

Game one goes to me. He revealed his hand at the end of game one to show three lands in hand. My life total never dropped below 11, often climbing back toward 15 with the aid of finks.
Game two I dropped a sculler on turn three to see he had a fairly weak hand consisting of a hellspark elemental and ramgang with two lands to boot.
For this matchup, I had sided out my 3 paths to exile as well as the two thoughseizes to side in 3 celestial purges and one pithing needle. it’s because at the end of the match I told him that I had put in the one pithing needle in case he was running figures of destiny and I had just not seen it game one, he told me he wans’t running them! Crazy. Because he was running tattermunge maniac in addition to his hellspark elementals, I was still happy with zealous persecutions as an effective sweeper (and fallout insurance policy).
3-2-0

Round Six:
Versus Elfball.
An extremely long-winded match abbreviated to prevent over analysis, I wasn’t able to shut down his combo in game one where he quickly filled the board with elves and drew 75% of his deck with regal force we moved to game two.
Game two was significantly closer for me. I sidded in an additional zealous persecution since I can quickly eliminate 80% of his board (lanowar elves and heritage druid being good examples). I was able to pull off a board sweep using zealous persecution only to find him top-deck another heritage druid the next turn. He promptly cast a Mycolth devouring his 2 sentinels and freshly cast heritage druid. That left a 10/10 mycoloth spitting out 6 tokens per turn. Luckily I was able to build up a small token team, swing in for six (glorious anthem on board + 3x spectral tokens) and then wrath of god from under a heights. The board looked to be swinging in my direction. In fact, with his combo-based shenanigans–namely the mycoloth and the upteen tokens he’d made–he brought my life total down to 3 (I had gotten as high as 24 w/ a finks). I had indeed gained board control but it was to be short-lived. He plays a primal command to gain 7 life and search his library for a Cloudthresher, he passed the turn. I swung in with the team, figuring I would have time to re-build the army after he brought the thresher into play next turn.
Next turn comes and he passes back to me without playing the thresher. “Okay, he’s just going to do it after I declare attackers. Makes sense.” He plays thresher, I take two, lose my board. During his upkeep, he plays another thresher taking me from 1 to zero in one flash-powered spell. Very flashy.
3-3-0
Rather than spin my wheels all day, I dropped from Grand Prix Seattle so I could watch other matches in the GP and potentially sign up for another tournament. I ended up watching a number of other great matchups, including LSV, Saito, Nassif and more. By the time the 9pm Sealed event (everyone vying for an ipod touch), I was exhausted and hungry. After only a few hours of sleep the last few days including one night on the floor of a hotel room after trying to find a place still serving food in Tacoma after midnight, I was ready to call it a night. I also decided at that point to not play in the PTQ–which ultimately had over 300 players–so I could play in the extended tournament hte next day.

The prize pool for the Extended tournament changed from an xBox 360 to an ipod nano due to registration numbers, but featured heavy weights Gerry Thompson and Bill Starks.
There turned out to be a few bumps along the way, but by the fourth round I was still undefeated. As were Starks and Thompson who were (luckily for me) plaired against eachother. Unfortunately, I punted the last match with poor sideboard choice and ended in 4th place with a 3-1 record.

I’m also happy to report that I’m the new owner of a mint richard garfield phd signed and “marked” by richard garfield himself. I also thanked him for creating such an amazing game.

I do want to thank Tim and the rest of his team with Cascade Events for hosting the tournament and a special thanks to the judges who did an amazing job at keeping the tournaments running smoothly.

Hope to see everyone out there next time. Let’s make it 3000 players at Boston! :)