I am finally back from all my adventures at the Grand Prix and the Pro Tour. Every trip I take for Magic is a new experience with new life lessons that can only be learned through experience. I may not have finished too well in the tournaments, but what I learned makes up for that.
The trip started when I went to San Jose early to test with the Channelfireball crew. I know I have been writing for the site for a while now, but I have not met many of the people who do the behind the scenes work. They are the friendliest and coolest guys I have met who run a store. Everyone was very nice and accommodating when I got there.
We spent most of our time testing for the Pro Tour the week before the Grand Prix. I was all set on playing the Zoo deck I wrote about and was doing pretty good with it. That changed the day before the tournament. Luis came up to me and said, “You should just play Dark Depths.” I usually wouldn’t take that advice, but the way he said it just made sense.
I was involved with the best test group for the tournament. Everyone in the group had worked on a very good list. Because Dark Depths was the deck that did the best before the tournament, I decided to switch.
There is a very important mistake I made with this. I had over 200 matches under my belt with Zoo and barely a dozen with Dark Depths. As you can tell in the video I made playing Depths, I wasn’t too crisp with my plays. I didn’t know the plays and, because of that, I made a lot of mistakes. At least with Zoo I knew all my plays and understood how to play against every deck in the format. I went 2-3 in the Grand Prix and regret not playing Zoo.
This is a very important lesson and something that happens week in and week out for a lot of players. Switching to a different deck at the last minute usually causes a lot of problems for players. Not understanding how to sideboard correctly or what to imprint on a Chrome Mox will cause you to lose more games then you’ll win based solely on the deck’s power.
Of course, a last-minute switch might be the right play if your deck is terrible in the current environment or very bad for the metagame, but more often then not it is a mistake. Playing inside your comfort zone will help you win games you wouldn’t win otherwise. Just being confident in your decisions helps you avoid second guessing yourself.
After that I decided to do a lot of testing for Standard and watch “The Boss” finish out his day two. Tom has become a great friend of mine in the last few months and I am so glad he decided to stay with me for the testing week. As you know, the breakout deck we played at the Pro Tour was Tom’s creation. Getting his list in the hands of such greats as Gabe Walls, PVDDR, and Luis made that deck truly great.
I didn’t do too well at the Pro Tour, but was happy with the deck I played. Because Luis and Tom both did exceptionally well at the tournament, I understand a lot more things about Magic from being in their test group. The most important thing I learned is that I am not as good as I thought I was at this game. Based on how good I did last year and how I was on the up and up with Magic, I felt really good about my game. Once I was in a test group where Paulo was correcting every other play I made, I felt differently. This is a good thing, though, because now I know what I need to work on and how to achieve it.
After two weeks of testing, playing, and simply enjoying California, it was time to get back to the one place I call home: Magic Online. The problem is that my computer is in Fargo, North Dakota. Getting on a plane in 60 degree weather and getting off in10 degree weather is something I hope to never experience again.
That’s all I want to talk about from the last weekend. I want to look ahead at the future and, like always, what this Pro Tour will do to Magic Online. So far I have logged about 25 matches with Boss Naya online and played quite a few mirror matches.
This is the list I have been playing:
I have been very happy with this list. The first thing everyone says is wrong with this list is that I do not have Sejeri Steppe. I don’t want to make it sound like this card isn’t absolutely insane in some Knight of the Reliquary decks, but I don’t think it fits this one.
There isn’t a creature I want to protect with it except for itself, and the land has caused many problems when I draw it off the top. The mana base is already stretched out and I don’t want to have a more inconsistent land count. The other benefit of not having it is that they will still play around it even if you don’t have it.
Keeping an active Knight untapped at all times will make them “know” it is in your list and will play around it the best they can. This is a powerful strategy without having to sacrifice anything.
With how many people have been talking about this deck, I decided to not go over every matchup. I decided to talk about the most important one only: the mirror match.
Game 1 can be a very big grind or a quick blow out depending on the draws. This deck has slow enter-the-battlefield-tapped draws and very explosive turn 2 Knight of the Reliquary draws. If the fast one meets the slow draw it can be over very fast. If both players are in parity regarding speed, it comes down to Equipment to determine the winner.
Behemoth Sledge is a very important tool at winning the first game. It is very hard to race an opponent that Ranger of Eosed for two Noble Hierarchs and starts bashing with one creature a turn. This is why holding your Oblivion Rings for the most important threat is very important. Making sure your opponent doesn’t get an active Sledge or Knight of the Reliquary is the key to not losing this matchup. After that there are Rangers and Bloodbraids that can also do a lot of damage very quickly. Wasting an Oblivion Ring on something early to try to deal more damage can cause a bad chain of events, which could mean you lose a game you thought you had no business losing.
Once you reach the midgame, things will slow down. You want to be the control player in this situation, which means you can’t waste your Rangers for Nacatls to do damage instead of grabbing your Noble Hierarchs, Birds of Paradise, and Scute Mob to take a late game approach. If you can be the more powerful late-game player, your chances of winning will go up.
If a player gets an active Knight of Reliquary, however, they will probably win without much difficulty. It is important to never play your Knights while they are in the three damage range unless you have to. Do not get greedy and throw it out there on the second or third turn because it will make the rest of your hand even better. If you have to wait to draw another sac land to make it a 4/4, do so. Only three or four removal spells kill 4/4 Knights, but five removal spells kill a 3/3.
The interesting thing about this mirror match is that you are forced to bring in the Sparkmage plan even though it isn’t the best strategy for such an aggressive GW matchup, because your opponent is bringing theirs in. This makes the sideboarded games much more combo orientated than in other aggro-on-aggro matchups.
Taking out the Ranger/Nacatl package makes the deck much less aggressive. These also are the weakest cards when your opponent has the more powerful spells in the matchup. Most players have been doing this so the 60 post-board cards are always close to the same. This also means that your Pridemages are just that much better to have when you have five insane targets to kill with them
The most important thing to know when playing this mirror is to never use your Sparkmage to kill a Noble Hierarch the turn you play it. I know the Hierarch might look very juicy to devour, but your opponent will be thinking the same thing about your tapped Sparkmage when they cast their own. Make sure you are able to trade Sparkmages if they play theirs on their turn.
Some people do not board this way in the mirror. They’ll leave in a mix of Rangers and Nacatls. Watch for the signs that they are trying to get aggressive against you so that you can make your blocks and attacks accordingly.
I have decided to go for the more consistent approach to win these mirror matches. Some people in our test group said to take out the Birds of Paradise and leave in the Mob for late game power, but I wanted a more streamlined early- to mid-game. Leaving in Birds of Paradise means you have a higher chance to getting the second turn Knight of the Reliquary or Sparkmage to leave your opponent in the dust.
Here is a very important rule to live by when it comes to mirror matches: If it isn’t going to kill you, don’t worry about killing it. Any top deck can swing the game and if you wasted removal to kill too many creatures that didn’t pose a game-ending threat, you might be in trouble.
FFfreaK on MTGO