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Feature Article – Winning Australian Nationals

I moved to Melbourne from Brisbane only three weeks ago for a new direction in life, and so that I could play with all my good magic friends that I’ve met through the travellings of magic. I was having a sweet time partying in a new city and speaking to Dan and Isaac I said that ‘If I pick up that girl and get this job, there’s no way I can’t win Nationals’. So for the one time in a thousand I actually get to say this: “Told ya so”. I’m running so good at the moment that I should be in a casino 24/7.

I started testing for Nationals about a week or so before the event. I spent a bunch of hours day and night testing with Dan and Isaac and after learning the format, I eventually decided to go with Dan’s RUG list. You see, Isaac is the owner of Melbourne’s MetaGames and Dan is the resident deck-building genius there. Whenever there is a PT or another big event that we’re playing in, Dan tends to build the deck that we all play. This time was no exception. I saw the potential the deck had when played correctly. I was getting really excited about the deck and the results I was getting when Isaac walks in and says ‘Wait until you play post-board games.’ This is when I knew we had the best deck for the event.

RUG Pod – Dan Unwin

[deck]4 Birds of Paradise
4 Overgrown Battlement
4 Deceiver Exarch
4 Splinter Twin
3 Birthing Pod
3 Preordain
3 Ponder
2 Solemn Simulacrum
2 Frost Titan
1 Tuktuk the Explorer
1 Molten-tail Masticore
1 Acidic Slime
1 Urabrask the Hidden
2 Spellskite
1 Phantasmal Image
4 Copperline Gorge
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Misty Rainforest
3 Raging Ravine
1 Halimar Depths
4 Island
2 Forest
2 Mountain
Sideboard
4 Pyroclasm
2 Nature’s Claim
3 Mana Leak
1 Spellskite
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Obstinate Baloth
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Sylvok Replica
1 Oxidda Scrapmelter[/deck]

The Tournament

So all of my friends left Melbourne a couple of days before Nats, but I had to work until 8pm the night before. I didn’t want to pay $500 for a flight, so instead I caught a bus that got into Canberra at 4am on day one. So I just went in with no sleep, a coffee and a solid deck.

Round 1: Suripat Mailhu – Valakut

So this round really shows how tired I was. I win the die roll and play [card]Halimar Depths[/card]. I put the cards back, draw a card and get a game loss for drawing extra cards. I was looking at the double [card]Ponder[/card] in my hand and just got distracted and ‘Pondered’. Anyway, all I saw was a mountain but I heard Suripat talking about Mono Red when I came over, so I put him on that and boarded in [card Thrun, the Last Troll]Thrun[/card], [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card], [card]Obstinate Baloth[/card], [card]Spellskite[/card] and a full set of [card]Pyroclasm[/card]s for 4 [card]Splinter Twin[/card], 1 [card]Molten-Tail Masticore[/card], 1 [card]Deceiver Exarch[/card], 1 [card]Phantasmal Image[/card] and a [card]Frost Titan[/card]. It turned out that Suripat was playing Valakut and so I now had a bunch of dead cards, not to mention that I took out the combo. This is not exactly optimal since you just want to race Valakut with the combo. So in game two I set up a Pod game and eventually killed him in a completely and unnecessarily complex way from being too tired to think of the easy play. For game three I boarded in my combo and turn-four him. After this round I really regretted not being able to sleep on the bus, so I went and got another coffee and just tried to focus.

1-0

Round 2: Brodie Martin- Valakut

In game one I played a turn three [card]Frost Titan[/card], turn four I [card]Splinter Twin[/card] it, turn five [card]Birthing Pod[/card] a [card Birds of Paradise]Birds[/card] into [card]Phantasmal Image[/card] and Martin scooped. I board in 3 [card]Mana Leak[/card] and a [card]Spellskite[/card] for 1 [card]Molten-tail Masticore[/card], 1 [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card], 1 [card]Tuktuk the Explorer[/card] and 1 [card]Urabrask the Hidden[/card]. In the next game Martin mulligans and keeps a no green hand, I counter a Solemn on turn four and he traps into a Titan. I kill him on the next turn with the combo.

2-0

Round 3: Jesse Nonneman – Tempered Steel

In game one Jesse nut drew me. I went for the combo on turn three anyway, but he had the [card]Dispatch[/card] and I lost. I boarded in 4 [card]Pyroclasm[/card], 2 [card]Nature’s Claim[/card], 1 [card]Sylvok Replica[/card] and an [card]Oxidda Scrapmelter[/card] for 2 [card]Birds of Paradise[/card], 1 [card]Deceiver Exarch[/card], 1 [card]Splinter Twin[/card], 1 Molten-Tail Masticore, 1 [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card], 1 [card]Frost Titan[/card] and 1 [card]Urabrask the Hidden[/card]. I feel like this match up is insane post-board and the only games I was losing in testing were due to mistakes and greedy keeps.

In game two Jesse taps out and I turn-three him. In game three I have a Pod draw and upgrade my [card]Overgrown Battlement[/card] into a [card]Frost Titan[/card] (through an [card]Deceiver Exarch[/card], a [card]Oxidda Scrapmelter[/card] and a [card]Acidic Slime[/card]) by turn five. I get him with the [card]Frost Titan[/card].

3-0

I was feeling really good at 3-0 and my tiredness was replaced with pure adrenaline and excitement. Blisterguy covered my draft and I came out with a sweet UW deck. The draft was quite strange and I don’t really know how you can get [card]Angelic Destiny[/card] as a third pick, but I wasn’t complaining.

You can read about my draft here on the Mothership:

Round 4: Russell J. Phillips – UR Super Aggro (with lots of [card]Act of Treason[/card]s and [card]Fling[/card]s)

In game one Russell puts the pressure on hard and gets me to 4. He then decides to [card]Fling[/card] a guy at one of my guys instead of killing me. This leaves me on 4 with an [card]Aven Fleetwing[/card] and him on 16 with a bloodthirsted [card]Gorehorn Minotaurs[/card] and a [card]Merfolk Looter[/card]. I rip [card]Angelic Destiny[/card] and put it on my guy but can’t attack. He passes with three cards in hand and I put him on at least one [card]Act of Treason[/card]. I draw [card]Timely Reinforcements[/card] going up to 10, and from there I race him easily. For game two I boarded in a [card]Flashfreeze[/card]. He got me with [card]Act of Treason[/card] / [card]Fling[/card] a turn before I would kill him in the air. I curved out in game three and he was never really in it.

4-0

Round 5: Anthony Hallett – UB control (with a [card]Grave Titan[/card], [card]Frost Titan[/card] and [card]Diabolic Tutor[/card])

In game one I curved out and I was racing Anthony until he played a [card]Grave Titan[/card]. I [card]Mind Control[/card]led it, but he [card Aether Adept]Æther Adept[/card]ed it back. I played an [card]Auramancer[/card] to get back my [card]Mind Control[/card], taking the Titan once again. Anthony [card]Unsummon[/card]ed it, played it again and I died shortly after.

I boarded in [card]Harbor Serpent[/card], curved out perfectly, and killed him with his own [card]Harbor Serpent[/card]. In game three Anthony was stuck on five lands while I curved out and killed him very quickly [card]Mana Leak[/card]ing a [card]Frost Titan[/card] on the final turn.

5-0

Round 6: Luke Mulcahy – RG Aggro

In game one Luke came out of the gates aggressively. I stabilised with a few trades and then suited up a guy with [card]Angelic Destiny[/card], taking the first game. Game two was a fairly long affair as I didn’t have a threat, but my hand was [card]Mind Control[/card], [card]Cancel[/card] and [card]Flashfreeze[/card], so I wasn’t complaining. I let him resolve (and then [card]Mind Control[/card]led) his [card]Volcanic Dragon[/card]. [card]Flashfreeze[/card] countered his [card]Stingerfling Spider[/card], and then [card]Cancel[/card] countered the second. I took the match with his own Dragon.

6-0

At this point I was just cheering, but I had a massive headache and just wanted the day to end. I went into my next draft and after the first five picks I had a card of each colour. My first pick was [card]Archon of Justice[/card], but white just wasn’t open. I then picked a [card]Gravedigger[/card] out of a nothing pack, and an [card]Arachnus Web[/card] out of another nothing pack. I then saw a [card]Phantasmal Dragon[/card] and thought blue might be open. A [card]Warstorm Surge[/card] fifth suggested red might be open. I think it’s really important to actually read signals in this format, and so I was happy to not play two or three of these cards, as they were all clearly the most powerful cards in their respective packs.

Black and green turned out to be the only colours open at all, so I picked up about an even amount of each. In pack two I opened an [card]Inferno Titan[/card] and slammed it, figuring that red should be pretty open considering I didn’t pass anything fantastic, and I could decide between black and green. It turns out that red wasn’t open at all and I ended up with a really solid BG deck splashing the [card]Warstorm Surge[/card] and the [card]Inferno Titan[/card]. A little greedy, I’ll admit, but I had a few fixers and wanted the power level.

Round 7: Wilfy Horig – RB Bloodthirst Aggro

This round I play my mate Wilfy for 7-0. Wilfy starts really aggressively with a [card]Child of Night[/card] and a [card]Goblin Tunneler[/card]. I played out multiple [card]Blood Seeker[/card]s, but then ran out of gas and he got me quickly. Game two happened in a similar way, except that it was a lot closer. He killed me the turn before I was going to get there, handing me my first loss of the tournament.

6-1

So on 6-1 at the end of day one I was pretty excited. I went and had a few drinks with some friends, jammed a bunch of games against some other draft decks and passed out. I woke up early pumped, but pretty nervous.

Round 8: Brodie Martin – RB Super Aggro Bloodthirst

For this round I am paired against Brodie, my Valakut opponent from round two. He has just come from a win in the first round of the draft. He started quite slowly and then played a [card]Sengir Vampire[/card]. I couldn’t find an answer for the Vampire, staring disappointedly at the [card]Doom Blade[/card] in my hand. I boarded out the red for [card]Plummet[/card] and another guy to trade with. I felt my deck being more consistent was really important against this kind of deck. In game two we traded guys for a while until I played [card]Drifting Shade[/card], sticking a [card]Trollhide[/card] on it, which raced him easily.

In game three Brodie was mana-screwed and I curved out with [card]Onyx Mage[/card], [card]Trollhide[/card] and [card]Vampire Outcasts[/card], then removal spell into removal spell.

7-1

Round 9: Matthew Anderson – UG Aggro with Jace and [card]Overrun[/card]

We traded guys for a while in game one. I was a bit behind but I had just played [card]Warstorm Surge[/card]. Matthew tried to [card]Overrun[/card], but I pointed out to him that he had only two forests in play. I then ripped the Mountain I needed to slap down [card]Inferno Titan[/card], killing him on the spot. I boarded in a [card]Plummet[/card] and take out the red out again, as I decided I really didn’t need to be that greedy. In game two we again traded guys for a while. On a really low life total I played out a flyer, he [card]Stingerfling Spider[/card]ed it and [card]Titanic Growth[/card]ed his [card]Birds of Paradise[/card] for lethal.

Game three saw us both mana-screwed: I was stuck on two lands while Matthew had only three. I played out [card]Blood Seeker[/card]s on turns two and three, which were met by an opposing [card]Sacred Wolf[/card] and a few other dorks. I managed to kill the other dorks and get him to 5 with my [card]Blood Seeker[/card]s, which Matthew refused to trade with. Eventually the board stalled out, he killed the [card]Blood Seeker[/card]s and then cast [card]Overrun[/card] with power equal to lethal. I was forced to chump to survive with only four power on the board. I [card]Plummet[/card]ed his [card]Birds of Paradise[/card] and then [card]Trollhide[/card]d my guy for lethal.

8-1

Round 10: Wilfy Horig – BR Vampires

Wilfy starts really aggro with multiple [card]Vampire Lacerator[/card]s. He killed my [card]Overgrown Battlement[/card] and I played out two [card]Spellskite[/card]s. He kept beating me up and adding to the board. I played [card]Birthing Pod[/card] and next turn with just a [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card] and a [card]Spellskite[/card], I upgrade my Battlement into a [card]Deceiver Exarch[/card], untapping the Pod. The Solemn turns into an [card Urabrask the Hidden]Urabrask[/card], I stick a [card]Splinter Twin[/card] on my Exarch and I win out of nowhere.

I boarded in 1 [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card], 1 [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card], 1 [card]Obstinate Baloth[/card], 1 [card]Spellskite[/card] and 4 [card]Pyroclasm[/card]s for 4 [card]Splinter Twin[/card], 1 [card]Molten-Tail Masticore[/card], 1 [card]Deceiver Exarch[/card], 1 [card]Phantasmal Image[/card] and a [card]Frost Titan[/card]. Game two was a Pod game, which ended with [card]Frost Titan[/card] doing what he does best.

9-1

So I was actually jumping out of my seat at this point. It was the nuts.

Round 11: Jiann Chin – Tempered Steel

Jiann had a fast and solid draw for game one, with [card]Dispatch[/card]es for both of my [card]Deceiver Exarch[/card]s. In game two I did a ‘Graham King special’, an accidental mulligan to seven. A judge was called and I am forced down to five, get mana screwed and then lose. I did something silly there, but I really didn’t care – I was locked for top eight anyway.

9-2

Round 12 – Matthew Anderson

Intentional Draw

9-2-1

The top eight was called and Dan Unwin, the deck’s designer, just missed out by 0.6% worth of resistance which was spewin’, but three of my friends had top eighted: Luke, Wilfy and Jiann.

Quarter Finals: Andrew Jacobs – RUG Pod

This was a mirror match, with Andrew playing a slightly different version. The most notable difference was that his acceleration was vulnerable to Pyroclasms.

Game one felt like it was going well. I had two [card]Frost Titan[/card]s, one of them an [card]Phantasmal Image[/card]. Andrew killed the Image and was racing me well, but on the last possible turn I ripped [card]Splinter Twin[/card] to get him. I boarded out 2 [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card]s, 2 [card]Frost Titan[/card]s, 4 [card]Birds of Paradise[/card] and 1 [card]Tuktuk the Explorer[/card] for 4 [card]Pyroclasm[/card], 1 [card]Sylvok Replica[/card], 1 [card]Oxidda Scrapmelter[/card], 1 [card]Spellskite[/card] and 2 [card]Nature’s Claim[/card]. In game two I two-for-one him, a [card]Pyroclasm[/card] on turn two getting his [card]Lotus Cobra[/card] and [card]Birds of Paradise[/card]. I followed this up with a [card]Spellskite[/card] and a [card]Ponder[/card]. I combo-killed him on the following turn.

I decided to trim a [card]Pyroclasm[/card] for a [card]Frost Titan[/card] for this game as Andrew had left in his Titans. Game three was a bit of a rude awakening, in that it showed me that I really should have done a lot more testing. I hadn’t played against the mirror at all, and I didn’t have my head around the match-up. We started off very draw-go with [card]Preordain[/card]s and [card]Ponder[/card]s. He played some accelerators which I [card]Pyroclasm[/card]ed away. When he played out a [card]Frost Titan[/card], I had enough mana to combo twice over with double of each in my hand. But instead of untapping my red source, I tapped down an irrelevant land of his and lost to his Twin on the next turn.

I woke up a bit for game four and again [card]Pyroclasm[/card]ed some of Andrew’s mana dorks. A [card]Birthing Pod[/card] upgraded an [card]Deceiver Exarch[/card] into a [card]Molten-Tail Masticore[/card], which over multiple turns took out three of his Exarchs and eventually him.

Semi Finals: Andrew Bennett – Tempered Steel

I started with a quick [card]Acidic Slime[/card] and put a [card]Splinter Twin[/card] on it, with another in hand. I dug for an [card]Deceiver Exarch[/card] with a [card]Ponder[/card], and this was enough for game one.

Andrew had a super aggressive draw in game two, with me ripping [card]Pyroclasm[/card] one turn after he had played [card]Tempered Steel[/card].

In game three Andrew dropped half of his hand on turn one. I [card]Pyroclasm[/card]ed his board and then played [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card] and then an [card]Phantasmal Image[/card] of it. I played another [card]Pyroclasm[/card] and then [card]Frost Titan[/card] sealed the deal. In game four, he kept a one lander and didn’t draw out of it – I turn five combo killed him. I felt really confident against Tempered Steel especially in a best of five games; the matchup is actually just ridiculous post-board.

Final: Jiann Chin – Tempered Steel

Jiann begins game one very aggressively, getting me down to 8 life and up to 4 poison. I then turn a [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card] into an [card]Acidic Slime[/card], into a [card]Frost Titan[/card]. I cast a [card]Deceiver Exarch[/card], untapping [card]Birthing Pod[/card], which turn a [card]Birds of Paradise[/card] into a [card]Phantasmal Image[/card]. [card]Splinter Twin[/card] seals the deal. In game two Jiann went all in. A [card]Pyroclasm[/card] wipes his board and from then on it becomes a Pod game, with me killing all of his guys and then him.

I mulligan to five in game three, I miss my second land drop for a few turns, and when I eventually find it, my [card]Pyroclasm[/card] gets [card]Refraction Trap[/card]ped. I keep a greedy one-lander in game four, but I still think it was reasonable given that it had: [card]Scalding Tarn[/card], [card]Ponder[/card], 2 [card]Pyroclasm[/card], [card]Nature’s Claim[/card], [card]Overgrown Battlement[/card] and [card]Oxidda Scrapmelter[/card]. I missed my second land drop and never got there.

In the deciding game, Jiann was mana-screwed, while I played out a [card]Sylvok Replica[/card] and then [card]Phantasmal Image[/card]d it. I [card]Pyroclasm[/card]ed twice, followed by [card]Tuktuk the Explorer[/card] stealing Jiann’s [card]Contested War Zone[/card]. [card]Acidic Slime[/card] into [card]Frost Titan[/card] got there.

I think this is easily the best deck in standard, but of course my opinion is a little biased. The deck is so powerful, and always presents you with so many options that it gives you a lot of room to outplay your opponents. But if you’re considering taking this to a PTQ or your own Nationals I recommend reading Dan Unwin’s comprehensive overview of the deck. I would also recommend that before even considering this deck, that you would want a decent amount of time to test it. I’ll admit that I certainly hadn’t tested enough to play it perfectly. There are just so many little interactions that you learn only through playing the deck over and over again.

And so I won Nationals. It was pretty sweet – we went out for some drinks and partied all night, and now I’m testing for the PTQ on this weekend. Hopefully I can continue my ridiculous run over the past few weeks because I’m loving it.

Anyhow, have fun crushing with RUG Pod. I will be.

Aaron Nicoll

Ssthetrain on Modo

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