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FFfreaky Friday – Putting the Full Nelson on the MOCS, *1st*

The last few months were pretty gloomy. I was slowly playing worse and worse Magic and didn’t take the time to see my pitfalls, which I’ve written about before. Since I wasn’t traveling to any events, I decided to work on improving my game and getting back to an operational status, but I still had one large event before San Juan testing began: the Magic Online Championships.

I won the event, which was great, and led to this exchange with LSV:


FFfreak: it replaces itself quickly
LSV: you replace yourself quickly
FFfreak: that sucks
LSV: ill…replace you quickly?
FFfreak: DOES THAT MEAN I WIN THE MOCS AND STILL NO BEACH HOUSE!?!
LSV: lol
FFfreak: damnit
FFfreak: I can’t win here can I?
LSV: no no
LSV: that was a sick called shot though
FFfreak: yeah
LSV: high fives all around
FFfreak: lol
FFfreak: so I need a sick title this week
LSV: Obviously!

Winning guaranteed a roof over my head in San Juan, as well as being a huge morale boost. I have not been able to play in a competitive tournament in a while, having been stormed out of the Midwest Masters in Minneapolis and staying with family during Grand Prix Houston. Plus, I’ve been struggling to patch up the holes in my game.

About three weeks before the tournament Michael Jacob got me addicted to this deck in Block. I picked it up and made the top four of the first Premier Event I played with it. Here’s the original list I used:

This deck was a combination of every card Jacob wanted to play. Most of the cards in this deck are very powerful and work well together. Oracle of Mul Daya is the centerpiece that keeps everything operational. Most cards in the deck combo fairly well with Oracle. After that, the deck was just a run of the mill ramp-to-good-things list.

Since we thought Tectonic Edge was needed to beat the non-aggro decks in the format, Treasure Hunt found a good home in helping up smooth our mana draws a bit. It also worked well with Halimar Depths and Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

This archetype is proof that Wizards is doing something right with the cards they create. It has been a very long time since I have seen such a vast Block Constructed format, and it hasn’t been since Teachings was around that a deck had so many internal decisions to make. This deck is filled with multiple decisions per turn and multiple possible mistakes, which could cause an otherwise avoidable loss.

The one thing we found out, though, is that the games you win with this deck made you feel like you were not even playing in the same format as your opponent. You were doing some very powerful things while they were still tapping five mana for something like Malakir Bloodwitch. We knew we were on to something as long as we found the correct numbers.

From the beginning Tectonic Edge, Treasure Hunt, and Everflowing Chalice were giving me the hardest time together. We thought it was the high numbers of each that were causing for some of the random draws that didn’t accomplish anything. The deck is already running 28 lands and Hunting into Chalice was the worst feeling in the world. The deck had a hard time maintaining spell density in some matchups and the sideboard wasn’t helping.

We replaced the Hunts with Spreading Seas when we realized a simple cantrip was as good, generally, as Treasure Hunt. Spreading Seas isn’t a vital component to the deck, but on the play it can wreck Vampires if they don’t lead with a sacland. It also protects your Jaces from manlands.

After replacing the Treasure Hunts, we started to slowly replace Chalices with Searing Blaze. The removal helped in our hardest aggressive matchups and we were not missing the acceleration against UW.

This was the same time we got rid of Tectonic Edge. Tectonic Edge is vital for beating up on Valakut decks, but it doesn’t do a whole lot in the other matchups. We couldn’t find an answer that was effective against Kutz decks that didn’t involve Edges until I thought of the greatest solution: give up on the matchup all together. Michael Jacob and I had three byes going into the event, which meant we had a smaller chance of playing against Valakut, which we thought would not do to well in the tournament because Boros and Ally decks were becoming more popular.

While we were correct about Valakut not doing well in the tournament, MJ still had other ideas. He figured out how to make this deck absolutely unstoppable:

THE MASTERPIECE

This was the finalized list I played in the championship. MJ ran 73/75 of the list I played. He has never really liked Cunning Sparkmage, but I was happy with how much it improved my chances at beating cards like Bloodghast and Steppe Lynx. Roil Elemental was the only card that was still based on theory, but it seemed very good against the Ally decks running around. I never sided it in, but still won a tournament with Roil Elemental in my 75 so I am happy.

The most important addition to the deck was adding Lotus Cobras to the sideboard. Most decks have too much removal in their main to make Cobra a reliable source of mana. It’s the most powerful accelerant in the deck, but in the first game they get killed too easily. After people sideboard and take out some of their removal, Lotus Cobra gets much better. He also makes Rampaging Baloths insane, so we had an automatic six-card sideboard strategy for every matchup.

Bye Bye Bye

Before I get into the tournament itself, I want to talk about the tournament’s structure. There is something I personally think is very wrong with how this specific tournament is run. Luis touched on this in his article early this week and I want to further explain the problem.

Almost every Magic tournament is run with these Swiss numbers.

Players Rounds
8 3
9-16 4
17-32 5
33-64 6
65-128 7
129-226 8
227-409 9
410+ 10

Magic Online Champs used the same formula. There were just over 300 players so it was scheduled as a nine-round event. The problem is that players can earn up to three byes. Grand Prixs give away one-, two-, and three-round byes as well, but Grand Prixs are scheduled with at least five additional rounds compared to the normal players/rounds ratio.

The problem was that at least forty players had a three round bye in the Championships.

Below is how a smooth eight person Swiss tournament would look. This is the only way it could play out on Magic Online since there are no draws possible, so every round will reward three and zero points.

Round 1:
#1 plays #5, #1 wins
#2 plays #6, #2 wins
#3 plays #7, #3 wins
#4 plays #8, #4 wins

Round 2:
#1 plays #3, #1 wins
#2 plays #4, #2 wins
#5 plays #7, #5 wins
#6 plays #8, #6 wins

Round 3:
#1 plays #2, #1 wins
#3 plays #4, #3 wins
#5 plays #6, #5 wins
#7 plays #8, #7 wins

This leaves the standing after three rounds looking like this.

#1 3-0
#2 2-1
#3 2-1
#5 2-1
#4 1-2
#6 1-2
#7 1-2
#8 0-3

This eight-person tournament is a good example of the Swiss system, in that every player who finishes the Swiss rounds with only one loss should make the cut to top 8 (or in this case top 4).

Let’s go over this example one more time but with two players getting a one round bye.

Round 1:
#1-bye
#2-bye
#3 plays #4, #3 wins
#5 plays #6, #5 wins
#7 plays #8, #7 wins

Round 2:
#1 plays #2, #1 wins
#3 plays #5, #5 wins
#7 plays #6, # 7 wins
#4 plays #8, #4 wins

Round 3:
#1 plays #5, #1 wins
#3 plays #7, #3 wins
#2 plays #4, #2 wins
#6 plays #8, #6 wins

This leaves standing after three rounds looking like this.

#1 3-0
#2 2-1
#3 2-1
#7 2-1
#5 2-1
#4 1-2
#6 1-2
#8 0-3

So in this scenario, just two people getting a one round bye has forced a player with only one loss out of single elimination play. Having a one round bye in this scenario is the same ratio of byes given away in the Championships as well (a three round bye in a nine round tournament = 3/9 or 1/3 of the rounds).

This is a small scale compared to the Magic Online Championships, but you can tell how byes can cause problems if the number of Swiss rounds is not adjusted accordingly. Three players in the MOCS at 8-1 did not make the cut to top eight (including LSV).

An easy solution for this problem: if a tournament organizer is giving away a fair amount of byes in a single event, the event should automatically be bumped up to Swiss+1 before cutting to the single elimination rounds.

Release the Kra… Tournament Report

Let’s move on to the tournament itself.

Round 1 – Bye
Round 2 – Bye
Round 3 – Bye (hehehe)

Round 4
ricklongo
UW Control

I won the die roll and had to mulligan my first hand. My next six had a few Spreading Seas, Pilgrim’s Eye, Oracle of Mul Daya, and two lands. I spent turns 2 and 3 playing Seas and fetching a land with Eye. My fourth turn Mul Daya resolved and I quickly accelerated out of any problem. The top of my library kept giving me lands and setting up spells. The best part is that he did not play anything relevant all game. After a few Cancels he died to a bombardment of burn spells.

Game two involved him casting a turn two Spreading Seas on my Halimar Depths. My second turn Lotus Cobra went all the way, and helped me cast two Explores and a Jace with Dispel backup on the third turn. There wasn’t much a game left at that point.

Match 2-0
Tournament 4-0

Round 5
GALL
Vampires

I don’t understand why my opponent kept his seven on the draw this game. I Explored on turn two to his Vampire Hexmage. On the third turn I cast a Cunning Sparkmage, expecting him to cast Gatekeeper of Malakir the following turn. When he simply passed the turn back, I got Jace online and went to work. He did have a few Bloodhusk Ritualists to knock a few out of my hand, but without an answer to my Jace I easily took the game.

Game two was yet another game he could not deal with Sparkmage and Oracle. Both creatures kept me way ahead on board. He kept playing irrelevant creatures like Vampire Nighthawks while my Sparkmage kept his Bloodghast at bay. Sparkmage gave me enough time to Comet Storm his team away and reload with a Sphinx of Lost Truths. Not close at all.

Match 2-0
Tournament 5-0

Round 6
Muellermilch2go
GW Summoning Trap

Game one was a bit unfortunate for my opponent. He has a good game one against me, but a mulligan to five killed his chances, especially since he was land-light and my turn three Jace didn’t make matters easier. While I was slowly setting up a Sphinx, I used Jace’s +2 ability to keep him off lands as much as possible.

Game two was much more interesting because he had the nut draw: two Khalni Heart Expedition followed by a turn three Harrow. He played a couple Oracles and made a bunch of lands. The problem was he didn’t have anything relevant to cast. This gave me enough time to set up my own board with Rampaging Baloths. When his Oracle revealed an Avenger of Zendikar on the top of his deck, I played the Jace I had been holding to get rid of it. Oracle can be your worst enemy in times like this. I had perfect information for two more turns which left him chump blocking until he died.

Match 2-0
Tournament 6-0

Round 7
BenitoUK1
Vampires

My opponent’s first turn Swamp quickly became an Island. This helped me slow him down long enough to bounce his third turn Vampire Nighthawk back to his hand with Jace. He played Vampire Hexmage to kill my Jace, then cast Grim Discovery to return a sacland and the Hexmage. My only play was to Jace again and try to set up a Sphinx of Lost Truths. At this point he kept both of his Vampire Nighthawks back on defense. This had to mean one thing only: he had double Urge to Feed in his hand.

Once I figured that out, I simply played a second Sphinx and passed. He did double Urge and swung with both Hawks. I took six and he dealt three more with a Malakir Bloodwitch. I spent the next turn Comet Storming both Hawks to slow the bleeding. He sent the Bloodwitch in and I simply thought he was tempting me to swing back. I blocked and he showed me Urge for my Sphinx and Mire’s Toll for my Avenger. I untapped and Comet Stormed his Malakir Bloodwitch.

He topdecked Bloodghast and beat me down to five. I then untapped and cast Jace and Oracle to get ahead on board. Next turn he played Kalastria Highborn. I killed it with fire (Burst Lightning) and took the damage from the Bloodghast. This put me at one. Luckily, he didn’t draw anything relevant for the next several turns and my man-lands were able to bring him down from a very high life total.

Game two was much easier. His first plays were turn three and four Nighthawks that got swallowed up by a big Comet Storm thanks to Explore on turns two and three. I followed that up with a Jace and protected a Sphinx by putting it on the top of my library. He Hexmaged the Jace and Mires Tolled an Oracle of Mul Daya out of my hand. I untapped and kicked the Sphinx. The game was over shortly after.

Match 2-0
Tournament 7-0

Round 8
Darkest Mage
Mirror

I was reminded why Michael Jacob was the stone blade.

0-2
7-1

Round 9
folcojp
UW Control

Game one was a back and forth battle for board position and card advantage. He was gradually winning this while I was stuck in topdeck mode. He eventually had lethal on me until I topdecked the game-winning Comet Storm. This was the first time in the tournament that my deck didn’t just crush my opponent, but still gave me the card I needed.

After topdecking for the win in the first game, I got even more brutal with multiple early Goblin Ruinblasters. Justice!

Match 2-0
Tournament 8-1

Quarterfinals
BenitoUK1
Vampires

My opponent led with Bloodghast while I Pilgrimed a land. He forced me to sacrifice the 1/1 before I played 2 Oracles. This set me up for a sixth-turn Avenger of Zendikar and 6 3/4 tokens. GAME OVER!

Game 2 was probably the hardest game I played all day. I mulliganed to six while my opponent played a turn 2 Bloodghast. I played turn 2 Lotus Cobra and he came back with a Kalastria Highborn. I played Explore and Oracle and played Halimar Depths as my third land for the turn. The top 3 revealed Sphinx and Comet Storm. Since I already had a Sphinx in hand and would probably have to sacrifice my Scalding Tarns next turn for mana, I put the Storm on top.

At this point, I can say my opponent didn’t have a piece of removal in his hand. He would have cast Gatekeeper of Malakir if he did. That’s why when he attacked with both guys, I decided to block with Oracle. Highborn was a powerful creature and I didn’t want to let it got out of hand. He followed the attack up with Bloodghast # 2. I was able to cast Sphinx (thanks to Cobra), and bash for two.

Next turn he attacked with both Bloodghasts and I blocked one. He then returned a sacland with Grim Discovery and stole my Storm with Mire’s Toll. It was then that I decided the race was on. I was at 14 while he was sitting on 15. I played a Raging Ravine and another Cobra. Beats for 5 put him at 10.

He attacked for 4 and put me at 10. I untapped and figured out that I could attack with everything to put him at three if he blocks a Cobra and then I can play Oracle in the second phase. I did this and he was at three. He attacked all-in and I figured his only out was Bloodwitch if I didn’t block. I put Oracle of Mul Daya in front of a Bloodghast and he finished the turn with a kicked Keeper. I untapped and Jaced it back to his hand for the victory.

Match 2-0

Semifinals
Darkest Mage
Mirror

To be honest neither of these games where that close or interesting. I had a third turn Jace on the play to his nothing in game one and Balothed him out very quickly in game two. It was a very one-sided match, but it could have gone either way

Match 2-0

Finals
rextongmacau
UW Control

Game one was very strange. He didn’t do much the whole game and once he had Sphinx, Cancel, and Jace mana, he never cast any of them. This meant he did not have any of these spells and it was my job to not let him got them. I used Jace’s fateseal ability to keep him off good spells. This went long enough for me to get to about ten lands. He was holding one card with a ton of mana. I knew he was playing Rite or Replication in his maindeck from a friend who played him earlier.

I decided to kicker my Sphinx and bounce it back to my hand. Two turns later I burned him out of the game.

Game 2 was very disappointing since I drew zero lands after keeping three in my opener. He easily beat me while I was stuck on 3 lands for most of the game.

I was a bit nervous going into the last game. This was the biggest round of Magic I have played since Worlds and the prize difference was insane. My opening seven was horrible and I had to go back for a new hand. He did the same, but I had the nuts. Turn two Cobra into a turn three fetch land to played Jace with Dispel backup. I Brainstormed into more lands.

He played his third tap-land in a row and passed. I drew a Forest and sacrificed a land to get a shuffle effect before Brainstorming. I wanted to draw something relevant this turn to keep some pressure on him when the greatest thing in the world happened: the top three cards of my deck were [card]Goblin Ruinblaster[/card]s. As soon as they popped up I knew I was the winner. I simply cast a Goblin every turn until he conceded and I became the winner of the Magic Online Championships Season Three.

It was an amazing road to get this far. Now I get to participate in the 12-person Pro Tour at Worlds. Local friends are telling me I have to make the National Team this year so I can play in all three tournaments. I will just take a step back and enjoy what just happened.

This weekend is going to be an exciting one. Rise of the Eldrazi comes out and is sure the make waves. I will be gunslinging in Minneapolis this weekend so if you are in the area come say hello and challenge me for a prize. Stay safe and open sick Eldrazi creatures!

Brad Nelson
FFfreaK on MTGO
[email protected]

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