Last weekend I made my way to the wonderful state of Iowa. For those of you who don’t know, I used to hate this state. It has caused me nothing but grief every time I passed through. It wasn’t until I actually made a stop there for a tournament that it was finally nice to me. I actually had a good stay in the state. Times may be a-changing!
The Midwest Master Series made its stop in Des Moines last week and it was going to be my first chance at the series. I missed out on the Minneapolis tournament because of weather issues and will only be able to hit the Madison one coming up in June, so it was very important for me to Top 8 this event. I put a lot of my time into testing.
I was prepared to play UW Tapout after testing for two weeks straight with the deck until I got a message from Michael Jacob himself proclaiming that he yet again broke a format.
MJ played in the Detroit Masters tournament the weekend before and I helped him with his brew the day before. Even though he extensively tested with the deck, it was still held together by a decent amount of theory. This was his list:
He ended up losing twice in the tournament: first in round one to the 75 card mirror (the only other person playing his deck) and his “win and in” against Jund in the last round. It wasn’t the finish he wanted, but his friend he lost to in the first round did end up in the Top 8.
After the tournament he helped me test this deck to find if it could be perfected enough before playing.
The shell of this deck is very similar to Spread ’em from last year. The reason this deck has a resurgence was the fact that Wall of Omens is a much better card then Convincing Mirage. This deck doesn’t mess with the manabase of Jund as much as the older version, but it does give you 7-8 two drops that replace themselves. This makes for some great games against Jund in the early turns and also lets you rip through your deck game one against more controlling decks in the field. Wall of Omens also helps fight against the aggressive decks that are trying to beat down in the early turns.
After testing the deck a bit more we found that Traumatic Visions was not cutting it. It was in the deck to smooth out bad mana draws, but that wasn’t a good justification for its inclusion. We worked on a new mana base and the Visions disappeared. Losing Visions did hurt our percentages against UW Tapout.
The problem is that UW’s first Spreading Seas wasn’t a big issue, but once the second hit the table it would cost us a few games. We didn’t think this deck should be losing to Seas so we had to find an answer. That is when MJ thought of the most amazing sideboard card ever. He brought up boarding in Trace of Abundance as an out to Spreading Seas and also a win condition when paired with Celestial Colonnade. Trace of Abundance changed the matchup around all by itself.
Going into the weekend I put away the Martial Coups and went to battle with this deck:
Before the tournament started, I was thinking of a two-two split on Oblivion Rings and Day of Judgments. I ended up keeping them the same since I heard there was an abundance of Mythic roaming the room. I don’t think this was true since I never played the deck and would have been much happier with the 2-2 split.
Sideboarding against Jund can be a bit tricky. You have to guess if your opponent is going to go for the big creature sideboard with Malakir Bloodwitch or not. This is very important to know if you should board your Day of Judgments out or not. There was talk about playing a Flame Slash in the board for this situation, but I always want to cascade into a Wall of Omens or Spreading Seas in this matchup. This is why I might have to keep my Days in. My opponent did not seem to be playing the card so I went without them for the game.
Game two was not very close since I started with two Spreading Seas on his lands and followed it up with a Rhox War Monk and Baneslayer Angel before he could dig himself out of the hole I put him in. The game went for a few turns before the tempo lose cost him the game. I didn’t bring the Day of Judgments back in since he had a very long cascade with Bloodbraid Elf revealing too many large drops. He also cast a Deathmark. This gave me enough of a card count to figure that he did not bring in the Bloodwitch.
Game three started off a bit scary when he played a turn two Putrid Leech and Deathmarked my Wall of Omens. He had black and green mana open and I thought he had a second Leech to follow it up with. Luckily he missed on red mana and I Spreading Seased it before it got online. I beat him down with a Rhox War Monk for a few turns before he conceded.
I felt bit lucky this round and didn’t know if my deck choice was right. If I was playing UW Tapout I would have had a much better match and would not have has so many close calls.
I won the die roll and stood a chance of winning the game. Game one of this matchup is very draw dependent as Spreading Seas and Ardent Pleas into Seas can cost you the game. Luckily on the play these spells can be the powerhouse that fuels the win. I cast Seas on his first two land drops and got a Baneslayer Angel online with the help of Ajani Vengeant and Rhox War Monk to seal the deal. I didn’t like this matchup and told my opponent and friend this before the tournament started. He was not feeling the same way after he saw what cards I was playing.
Before the tournament started he told me he played Manabarbs against control decks. Knowing that ‘Barbs can be a devastating card when played properly, I decided to play one extra answer while on the draw.
He started game two with Goblin Guide. It got two strikes before I played a Wall of Omens. He attacked and burned off the wall while I drew an extra card. I cast a second wall and the exact scenario happened again. This left with a fistful of cards before I dropped a Bloodbraid Elf cascading into Ardent Plea and Kor Firewalker. I untapped and cast running Baneslayer Angels. He picked up his cards and was a bit mad that I told him the matchup was in his favor.
This is actually a touch matchup. They have a very aggressive curve when on the play. Most of my spells are too slow to deal with the super aggressive starts and can quickly get run over. The good thing about this matchup is that most Mono-Red players forget how good Day of Judgment is against them now. Before Rise the deck used Spark Elemental-like effects that left sorcery-speed removal useless. Mono Red loses more games to Day of Judgment because they have to be aggressive, but the control player has an opportunity to reset the board.
I wish this was a good round because at this point I was very confident and thought I was destined for gold. I won the die roll and started the game off with back-to-back Spreading Seas followed by two Wall of Omens. The problem was that I got flooded hard and was out of gas at this point. Even with six cards in hand I didn’t have anything relevant to cast. He dug himself out of the Seas and swiftly beat me down.
The way my opponent sideboarded told me that he was bringing in Malakir Bloodwitches. I didn’t have proof but my Magic sense was tingling. I started game two with a very powerful double Spreading Seas draw with two Baneslayer Angels to back them up. The problem was he dropped two Bloodwitches and the game was over. The deck really needs a good answer to this card.
Game one was not close. Again I won the die roll and again my Jund opponent has UU on turn two. I drew enough gas this game to have multiple planeswalkers going before he had any board presence. Before his spells could deal with the walkers I got an unanswered Baneslayer Angel to take it home. The card is good.
Same as Round 1
In game two he mulliganed to 4 and obviously crushed me.
Game 3 went the same way game one went and I swiftly gave him UUU to cast all of his lovely Sprouting Thrinaxes and Bloodbraid Elves. Spreading Seas, Seas, Elf into Seas is as close to the dream as you will get against Jund.
Game one was a beating. He won the die roll and had triple Goblin Guide to finish me off swiftly. I was a bit tilted when this happened.
I don’t remember game two to well because our game three was a bit epic. He didn’t have the Goblin Guide but did have double Kargan Dragonlord to start dealing some damage. I threw a few Walls in the way and soon got the Denial online. Oblivion Ring took care of his first Dragonlord, but I was stuck on one white source for the six double white cards in my hand.
He leveled up the Dragon to get through my Wall of Denial and I was forced to chump since I needed a white source to survive anyways. I thought losing 8 life was pointless if I ended up drawing the land to Day of Judgment anyway. I didn’t draw the white, but I did rip Bant Charm. He decided to pump all six mana he had to deal 14 damage – lethal at that point. I showed him the Bant Charm and was excited about the pseudo-Time Warp.
I still missed on white and passed the turn after casting a Wall of Omens. He put two Plated Geopedes on the table and passed. Ding! I ripped the white and put a Gideon on the table. I was at a very high life total but it wasn’t high enough to survive a Summons + Goblin Bushwhacker if he had it. He was holding too many cards but not enough to be able to burn me out. Gideon seemed like the best play. He missed on the land and put Gideon down to seven and added a Dragonlord to the table.
I ticked the Gideon up to nine and Day of Judgment. I still had the third in hand and was not scared of the devastating combo. I cast a few Baneslayer Angels that ate up the burn in his hand and left him without any way to deal with a Rhox War Monk.
I won the die roll and started with an irrelevant Spreading Seas into a turn three Rhox War Monk. He played a few Wall of Omens that got in the way of the Monk. Even though I was not able to deal him damage in the first couple turns I was padding my life total to allow myself the ability to come back from any control he might have in the late game. This is an important part of this matchup. Even though UW can gain control of the game, this deck gains so much life over the course of the game that it can easily top deck out of bad situations because your spell density is so much greater then your opponents.
On turn four I resolved an Ajani Vengeant and got to work on his mana base. I had Jace, the Mind Sculptor as well for turn four but thought he might be playing Negate. Since the Ajani went uncontested my Jace did as well. A few turns latter he legend-ruled the Jace but lost all of his lands to Ajani’s ultimate and the game was over.
Jace Beleren plays a very important role in this matchup by speeding up your curve if you are on the draw. Not having too many four-drops is important when trying to cascade into powerful spells and having five turn-three outs to their turn-three Jace, the Mind Sculptor is really good. Qasali Pridemage is also a great card in this matchup because it lets your Monks and Bloodbraids attack through Walls early in the game while giving you enough early game pressure to keep them from playing for the long control game. The more spells you make UW play the better the game will go for you.
Game two went for a long time but I was unable to beat his finishers since my draw was below average. The only interesting thing that happened this game was he tried to Tectonic Edge my Celestial Colonnade when I had Qasali Pridemage in play and a Trace under his Oblivion Ring. Oops!
Game three was picture perfect. I cast a turn two Trace of Abundance on Celestial Colonnade and started playing planeswalkers before he got countermagic online. I think my opponent made a big mistake this game by playing Oblivion Ring the turn after I cast Ajani Vengeant. We danced with two Oblivion Rings and I ended up using Ajani’s ultimate ability again. He could have waited with the Ring until the Ajani was closer to seven instead of fighting for it in the early game.
The thought here is that the land I was keeping tapped was not as important as the idea of his ultimate ability. If he chose better times to fight the Ajani I would not be able to get his Ultimate online until late into the teen turns. Since he spent turns three and four fighting I was able to get there much faster. He may have been able to see five to eight more cards if he played it different.
This was my final round to get into top 8. My tiebreaks were too low to draw in so I had to fight it out. I knew my opponent was playing UW and was excited about this matchup. Game one went for a long time because of random life gain but I didn’t draw very well. He had a good curve and even let me eat a Jace, the Mind Sculptor with Ajani on the fourth turn, but it still wasn’t enough to get the job done.
Same as round 6
Game two was disappointing as well. I started strong with second turn Trace of Abundance into third turn Bloodbraid Elf into Oblivion Ring, which took out his second turn Wall of Omens. I followed this up with Ardent Plea that hit Pridemage and I bashed for five.
This is when I made my biggest mistake of the tournament. He played a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Brainstormed. This told me that his hand is not as strong as it should be and that he does not have Day of Judgment at this time.
I decided to go all in at this point and play my second Bloodbraid Elf. I flip into Jace Beleren and wanted to kill myself. The reason is I should have just waited on the Elf and killed the Jace with damage. If he draws into anything it would be a Gideon Jura or Day of Judgment. If he misses my board is still good enough to keep lethal pressure on him. This also means my Bloodbraid Elf cannot miss and I can resolve my own card engine that can draw me out of the weak hand I currently have.
I attack him for eight and he double Path to Exiles on the next turn. This leaves me with no action for the rest of the game and allows him to take complete control. He did give me a chance to get back into the game while he was at three life since he cast Martial Coup on the last turn when his board was a Soldier token and Sphinx and mine was Bloodbraid Elf. He didn’t use Sphinx’s peek ability to know what was coming up and simply wanted to eliminate any removal I had for the one token.
I think the better play here is to either not cast the Martial Coup or play it for four. Now that he gave up his Sphinx to eliminate removal on top he gave me the chance to draw any lifelinker in my deck to gain parity on the board. If I draw Monk I can start attacking and if I draw Angel he has to have the answer on top. I obviously rip another land and leave the table to pick up my Top 16 box.
I finished the tournament with a 5-2 record and a long trip home. I was happy with the deck, but was depressed with not finishing in the Top 8. I really just wanted an excuse to go to Gen Con this year!
The deck does need some changes before playing it again since Ben Stark himself changed the format. The All American Walker Control deck will gain popularity in the following weeks. This is the decklist I would play for the National Qualifiers:
Oblivion Ring seems to be more important in the current format and Ajani Vengeant was impressive enough to deserve a third slot. I didn’t think Ajani Vengeant was going to be so important in this format, but he did his job well last weekend. I am still not sold on the manabase but it is as close as I can get it at the moment. If you want to make changes to it I would highly recommend it.
Good luck to anyone testing for the National Qualifiers for next weekend and I hope to see you all at Nationals.
FffreaK on MTGO