Today I’m going to try to go back to my old tournament report formula with a quick description of every round. I haven’t done that in a while and I think there were a couple of interesting scenarios, so I might as well just talk about it all.
PT Born of the Gods was unique in the sense that everyone knew that the ban list announcement was going to transform the format more than anything in the new set. We didn’t want to start testing even after the whole set had been spoiled, because we were pretty confident something major was going to change and didn’t want to waste time testing a format that would simply no longer exist by the time the PT came. When you change even a couple cards, you impact every deck, regardless of whether they actually play those cards.
In this regard, the timing of the ban list was poor—not only did it make it hard to prepare, but it diminished the excitement for the new set for all involved in the PT. The set is not super powerful and no card stands out as the flagship of a new strategy in Modern (a [ccProd]Valakut[/ccProd], [ccProd]Birthing Pod[/ccProd], [ccProd]Life from the Loam[/ccProd], and so on), so we have to look at how they are going to be inserted in the current format, but we didn’t know the “current format” so we couldn’t even do that.
Our plan this time consisted of some MTGO testing, and then we met in Valencia the Saturday before the PT—not as much time as we’re accustomed to having, but most people couldn’t make it earlier so we had to settle for that. Since I was on summer break, I could actually afford to go to Europe before that, so I decided to go to the Czech Republic for a week to draft with Martin, Shahar, Frank, and other Czech/Slovak players. Hopefully the 4-5 days we got would then be enough for Constructed.
I arrived in Prague on Friday morning, and Martin and Stan picked me up for our drive to the cabin. It turned out Martin’s family owned a property in the mountains, about two hours from Prague, that had previously been a small bed and breakfast, and this was where we were going to stay since it comfortably housed all of us (we were around 12 people total I think). The place was very cozy and the whole experience felt very surreal, since we were surrounded by a frozen forest with not another soul or piece of civilization for many miles around us. At some point, we crossed paths with a fox, and on another occasion we saw a group of deer running around, neither of which I had ever seen in the wild before in my life.
After going to the city and stocking up on frozen pizzas, sandwiches, chocolate, and Nutella, we went back and started drafting. It turned out that among the twelve of us, all self-proclaimed very intelligent people, we couldn’t manage to turn the oven on, so the pizzas (and in my case chicken nuggets) had to wait and we had to go back to the city for more food. Thankfully the Czech people knew of a very good Indian restaurant, so we just kept going back there and ordering more food to take home.
Drafting itself went very well—we jammed a bunch of them and, after an 0-3 start, I had a great overall record, probably the best in the house. The main issue for me was that I was very inconsistent. Since we were playing teams, we weren’t guaranteed a 3-0 or an 0-3 in each draft, so the number of those was small, and I accounted for, I think, more than half of the 0-3s. Every other draft I had went 3-0 or 2-1, which was good, but I couldn’t really tell the difference between my 3-0 and 0-3 decks and that greatly bothered me. Sometimes I’d look at a deck and think “this deck is fine” and it’d go 0-3 without a chance of winning a game, and sometimes I’d look at it, think “this deck is fine,” and not come close to losing.
After drafting more, I concluded that my favorite archetype was white aggressive. UW, GW and RW all seemed powerful while not needing much in terms of powerful cards. Sure, you really want to have a card like [ccProd]Fabled Hero[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Eidolon of Countless Battles[/ccProd], but you never
After spending some days in the cabin, we went back to Martin’s house in Plzen, this time just Martin, Frank, Shahar, and myself, which means we could play Modern.
The first order of business was, of course, to try [ccProd]Bitterblossom[/ccProd]!
When the banned list was finally updated, I received a ton of messages before I had even woken up—Bitterblossom had been unbanned, PV was finally going to be able to win again, hooray. Everyone knew [ccProd]Wild Nacatl[/ccProd] was going to be good—it had been good in this format already—but no one knew how good Bitterblossom, which had always been banned, would actually be. I didn’t have my hopes up, but I was excited to try it, since Faeries is possibly my favorite deck of all time and I’d love to be able to play it again.
Unfortunately, the results matched my expectations exactly. The deck just couldn’t compete with Zoo, [ccProd]Wild Nacatl[/ccProd] was too good and [ccProd]Voice of Resurgence[/ccProd] from both Zoo and Pod was very hard to beat.
Even more important than that was the fact that the cards just didn’t feel powerful enough. I was playing [ccProd]Spellstutter Sprite[/ccProd]s and [ccProd]Snapcaster Mage[/ccProd]s in my deck, and Mages were better, but I couldn’t play four of them because I needed some Faeries for [ccProd]Mistbind Clique[/ccProd] and other Spellstutters. At that point, I was handicapping myself in the hopes that synergy would make up for less powerful cards, and it wasn’t looking like it would. We tried a version that splashed red for [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Firespout[/ccProd], but you ended up taking so much damage to cast those cards that they weren’t worth it. After a while, and after having received similar testing reports from our teammates on the other side of the Atlantic, we decided the deck just wasn’t good enough.
We also tried some other Bitterblossom decks—BW Tokens, which was incredibly bad and whose nut draw couldn’t beat anything, URb Twin with Bitterblossom and a Faeries sub-component, which was just worse than all the other Twin decks, and a tokens/[ccProd]Polymorph[/ccProd] hybrid that Frank had built and that at the time felt promising but upon further testing was just inconsistent. At that point, we also tested [ccProd]Tarmogoyf[/ccProd]-Twin, big and small Zoo, the [ccProd]Amulet of Vigor[/ccProd] deck, and a bunch of other decks that only needed one or two games to be discarded, like [ccProd]Enduring Ideal[/ccProd] and Mono-Black Vampires. I left the Czech Republic on Friday, with the impression that none of those decks were fantastic, but that Zoo (both versions) and Twin were the only playable ones.
Since I was going to the Czech Republic earlier, I felt like I could also afford to go to GP Paris. Most of the American players would get to Valencia on Saturday and would be jet lagged, so getting there on Sunday night didn’t seem that much worse and I could really use the points. No one else on my team was going, but that’s because most of them already had infinite points and had hit, or were almost hitting, the 5 GPs cap. For them, it made no sense to go, but I think for me it did.
GP Paris ended up being great, and due to some weird incident I ended up sneaking into the Top 8, which basically provided the bulk of the points I have this season, so I’m glad I decided to go. I’m going to write about it in a future article, so I’m not going to go into much detail here.
I left Paris Sunday night, and arrived in Barcelona around midnight. The plan was to wake up early, meet at breakfast (which was great, by the way), and then go straight to the conference room we had rented. We did that, and after people had done one draft we started focusing on Constructed.
For me, testing was a disaster. That’s not to say I think we did anything very wrong as a group necessarily, but I just couldn’t draw any conclusions from anything and the decks all seemed bad. Small Zoo seemed too vulnerable to [ccProd]Anger of the Gods[/ccProd], as did Melira Pod. Big Zoo seemed too slow and clunky in a combo format. UWR seemed like it could beat half the field but would lose to the other half, depending on how you built it—and then every other deck was combo, and it all lost if the opponent drew their sideboard hate.
This tournament was the epitome of all I hate, and have always hated, about Modern. It doesn’t matter how tuned your deck is or how much better you play, if you are playing Affinity and they draw turn two [ccProd]Stony Silence[/ccProd] you
One could argue that you could just not play Affinity (or any of the other combo decks), but then you are just put in the reverse position, because, while you can certainly decide what deck you’re going to play, you can’t decide what anyone else is going to play. If they are the ones playing Affinity, you will lose unless you draw your hate cards.
That’s not to say there is no edge to be gained from playing well and knowing your deck—of course there is, in some matchups more than others—but it is simply smaller than in any other Constructed format I have ever played, because certain specific cards are so powerful against certain specific archetypes that they make everything a moot point. And that’s not even mentioning how much goldfishing is going on when two combo decks play each other.
So, I didn’t know what to do. There was a deck I really liked (the [ccProd]Goryo’s Vengeance[/ccProd] build we had), but it seemed incredibly hard to beat any piece of disruption coupled with any reasonable clock. I didn’t expect people to play much graveyard hate, but they would play [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Swan Song[/ccProd]s and whatnot, and that was usually enough to beat you.
I thought Affinity was good, but it wasn’t easy to beat a dedicated hate sideboard, and on top of that the deck had so many super clunky draws that infuriated me, since most of your deck is about supporting a number of specific cards that become super broken when you have the shell for them. And, on top of that, it wasn’t easy to play. I knew that if I played Affinity, I’d play it competently but nowhere close to perfectly and Affinity is a deck with which you can lose a lot of percentage points if you don’t see a certain line.
Splinter Twin was a deck that, in theory, would be good against most things, but in practice just wasn’t. The “tempo” part of the deck didn’t feel enough to beat other stuff, and the combo was too easily disrupted and not at all reliable without any decent card selection. [ccProd]Electrolyze[/ccProd] getting much worse was also a hit to the archetype—when we started losing to decks we thought we should definitely beat (like Scapeshift), I discarded it. Sure, you’d win the games in which you had t3 guy t4 Splinter Twin, but you’d lose most others and you didn’t get that combination very often. Now give them a [ccProd]Path to Exile[/ccProd] and things were looking grim.
The group, at this point, split between four decks—Pat and Kibler liked Zoo (albeit two different versions—I didn’t want to play either), Martin and Kenji liked UWR, Frank and Ben liked Affinity, and everyone else thought Scapeshift was extremely good.
I had a lot of doubts about the deck. To me, it felt like a combo deck that was slower than every other combo deck while at the same time having the least disruption of all of them, and it did that while also being very inconsistent. Sometimes you would just go 5 turns without drawing a business spell.
It also completely folded to one of the most common hate cards in the format, [ccProd]Blood Moon[/ccProd], though at the time we didn’t know it was going to be so common. It was, however, surprisingly resilient to hate that was not Blood Moon, since you can play around [ccProd]Sowing Salt[/ccProd] and you can usually deal with [ccProd]Aven Mindcensor[/ccProd], and land destruction is usually not enough to stop you.
In sum, I hated the deck and I didn’t want to play it. Yet I played it anyway, because I had nothing else to play. I had no opinion, no deck I liked at all, so I decided that I’d just go with someone else’s opinion. If everyone thought the deck was good, or at least good enough to play, then there was a chance I was wrong and it actually was good. Unfortunately, I don’t think I was wrong.
This is the list we played:
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Steam Vents
4 Stomping Ground
4 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
1 Verdant Catacombs
4 Primeval Titan
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
3 Anger of the Gods
2 Izzet Charm
4 Khalni Heart Expedition
3 rismatic Omen
3 Search for Tomorrow
1 Lightning Bolt
1 Anger of the Gods
2 Lightning Bolt
4 Nature’s Claim
2 Relic of Progenitus
4 Swan Song[/ccDeck]
The idea of the deck is very simple. The deck has three main plans:
1) Play [ccProd]Scapeshift[/ccProd] and kill them. You accomplish this by sacrificing seven lands and getting a [ccProd]Valakut[/ccProd] and six Mountains, which each see each other “entering the battlefield” for a total of 18 damage, which is usually enough in a format with fetchlands and dual lands. If they are at a higher life total, you need to wait for another land so you can get two Valakuts and deal 36 damage. The earliest you can do this is turn four.
2) Play [ccProd]Primeval Titan[/ccProd]. This usually gets two Valakuts (or however many Mountains you need to complete six). Most of the time, you can kill them the following turn even if they kill your Titan, because the deck has a lot of ways to put lands in play and each is going to deal 6 damage. It also helps that the most common way to kill a creature, [ccProd]Path to Exile[/ccProd], lets you deal an extra six damage, so you can usually at least get rid of any attackers. Unless you’re playing against a combo deck (which is admittedly half the format), it’s very hard to lose when you resolve a Titan. Assuming Titan or Scapeshift for 7 counts as a win, I think the deck goldfishes on turn four over half the games, but not much higher than that.
3) Kill them naturally with Valakut. The deck has a lot of lands, so it’s not hard to get six in play and start shooting things, and if you have [ccProd]Prismatic Omen[/ccProd] it’s actually very easy to do, since each fetchland counts for two Mountains. This is a common route to victory against decks like UWR, which can counter your spells but can’t do much against an active Valakut, and it’s also good against Splinter Twin if you have fetchlands because you can then stop their combo. This is the greatest advantage this deck has over the blue version—it’s not as reliant on the card Scapeshift, so it’s not dead to cards like [ccProd]Counterflux[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Slaughter Games[/ccProd], and it doesn’t lose games when it can’t find it.
The sideboard is also very straightforward: [ccProd]Nature’s Claim[/ccProd] against Affinity, Twin, and Blood Moon, [ccProd]Swan Song[/ccProd] against any other combo deck that is not Affinity or Pod, [ccProd]Combust[/ccProd] against UWR, Big Zoo, and Twin (kills Knight of the Reliquary, Smiter, Angel, Colonnade, and Mindcensor), Relic against graveyard decks (non-existent basically), and Anger/Bolt against Zoo and Affinity. You almost always take out a combination of Bolts, Anger of the Gods, [ccProd]Simic Charm[/ccProd]s and an acceleration—[ccProd]Search for Tomorrow[/ccProd] is usually the first to go, but taking out Tribe Elder (when you aren’t going to block) or [ccProd]Explore[/ccProd] (when you don’t need to search for Island) is also possible.
Most people played that exact same list with one card different—either one Bolt main, or a fourth Omen, or a fourth Search for Tomorrow. I favored Bolt because I didn’t think our goldfish speed was enough to beat Zoo and Affinity without disruption.
Before I had to play Modern, though, we had to draft. I felt like I was prepared enough for it and was hoping to improve on my 3-3 performance in Dublin.
The first draft went reasonably well. I first-picked a [ccProd]Vanguard of Brimaaz[/ccProd] over a [ccProd]Bolt of Keranos[/ccProd], second-picked a [ccProd]Sudden Storm[/ccProd] over another Bolt of Keranos (I think it’s better and blue is a better color), and then third-picked [ccProd]Scourge of Skola Vale[/ccProd]. My fourth pick was another Sudden Storm, and then I followed that up with an [ccProd]Acolyte’s Reward[/ccProd]. The Reward was the only white card I had seen, but I felt like I should be ready in case white started coming.
It didn’t. I got another Sudden Storm and then some green cards, culminating with a last-pick [ccProd]Skyreaping[/ccProd], which made me think that Simon, the person passing to me, wasn’t green. Skyreaping obviously isn’t a great card, but it’s usually better than any 13th card if you can play it in your sideboard.
When I opened the next pack and saw [ccProd]Phalanx Leader[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Thassa’s Emissary[/ccProd], I knew that was the decision point in the draft. I could risk committing to white, or play it safe with the Emissary. I suspected I’d see white in pack two, but didn’t think I’d see any white in pack three. The only blue cards I had were three Sudden Storms, but I was relatively sure I’d end up playing them. I decided I was more likely to be UG than UW, and even less likely to be GW, so I picked the Thassa’s Emissary.
I saw some white in pack two, but, while there was plenty, it wasn’t necessarily great. Every pack had like an [ccProd]Observant Alseid[/ccProd] and a [ccProd]Gods Willing[/ccProd], which are both good, but it wasn’t like I was passing fifth-pick [ccProd]Heliod’s Emissary[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Wingsteed Rider[/ccProd]. I ended up playing UG and thought it looked pretty nice, even having received a very late [ccProd]Prophet of Kruphix[/ccProd] for my troubles, though I was definitely lacking in the two-drops department.
I started match one on a fake feature match against Simon Goertzen, who, to my surprise, was playing RG. Game one I mulliganed to five and thought “this is going to be one of those days,” but I had turn two [ccProd]Swordwise Centaur[/ccProd] into turn four [ccProd]Staunch-Hearted Warrior[/ccProd]. He was stuck on three lands and passed, so I just drew and passed back. He drew his fourth land and tapped out for a spell, so I played [ccProd]Feral Invocation[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Nimbus Naiad[/ccProd] to make my Warrior a 10/10 flier.
Game two I mulliganed into a somewhat slow hand, though it seemed capable of racing him with a Nimbus Naiad enchanted 3/7 and two Sudden Storms. He played the 4G +4/+4 to both creatures, though, and I couldn’t race that.
Game three felt like it was very much in my favor. I played a turn three Nimbus Naiad, a turn four Feral Invocation, and a turn five Prophet of Kruphix. At the end of his fifth turn, I bestowed a second Nimbus Naiad on the Prophet, and attacked for 8 flying damage, putting him to 7 life. At that point, he had a [ccProd]Vulpine Goliath[/ccProd] and a bunch of small guys (a 3/3 that gains life, if I recall, plus some other 1-power guys). I was at a comfortable 18 or so, and my hand was a Sudden Storm, so I did not think I could possibly lose.
Then he played Skyreaping, killing both my guys and winning the game three turns later. I was in shock; my deck was very heavy green, and the only blue card he had seen in both games one and two was one Nimbus Naiad—he didn’t even know I had two. In fact, the two Nimbus Naiad were the only two fliers
Next round I played against a guy on UR. I again mulliganed to five game one, but this time I died without playing a second land. Game two I again mulliganed into a somewhat bad hand, and ended up dying to basically his turn two [ccProd]Vaporkin[/ccProd] which I had no way to stop.
My round three opponent had the best deck I had faced so far—a RW heroic deck that I think was better than mine (I think my deck was better than Simon’s and it was definitely better than my round 2 opponent’s). He seemed to lack removal, but he had a bunch of solid guys and good ways to target them.
I won game 1 somewhat easily, stalling the board at a comfortable life total. Game 2 was tough, and could have gone either way, but in the end I failed to produce enough blockers and he overran me. Game three we both started slowly, with me playing a sideboarded [ccProd]Stymied Hopes[/ccProd] on his first play (a Wingsteed Rider). At some point he had a board of [ccProd]Phalanx Leader[/ccProd] (with a bestow on it) and two other guys, and I had the 2/2 Hydra and a 3/7 Centaur (combo!). I also had a Sudden Storm and a Nimbus Naiad, and I knew I could kill him next turn by making a 9/9 and then giving it flying, as long as he tapped out enough so that he wouldn’t be able to [ccProd]Divine Verdict[/ccProd] me. He played a 1/1 flier that has to attack, and then I Sudden Stormed one of his guys and the Phalanx Leader, which was a horrible play because it let him Gods Willing it. If I Sudden Storm any other guy, he has to choose between adding a counter on everything or leaving his guy untapped, but the way I played he got to do both—and to add a counter on his new Goblin to boot. I still lived and killed him next turn, but it was a horrible play that made no sense and could have cost me the game if he had two more tricks.
Constructed, Day 1
My Constructed rounds went much better than my Limited rounds. My opponent was playing [ccProd]Splinter Twin[/ccProd], but I had a good hand game one and managed to kill him on turn five with [ccProd]Izzet Charm[/ccProd] backup, even through a [ccProd]Vendilion Clique[/ccProd]. Game two I had Omen, Valakut, Combust, and two Swan Songs, so I was able to stop him from killing me and eventually found a second Valakut and killed him with it.
Round 5 I played against Zoo. Game one I played Anger the Gods on two Wild Nacatls, and he followed it up with two 2/3 [ccProd]Tarmogoyf[/ccProd]s (only sorcery and land in the graveyard). I played a Primeval Titan that got two Valakuts and he untapped and attacked with both ‘Goyfs, having two cards in hand. I’m at 15 life. If I untap with Titan, I surely win. If I block and he kills my Titan, then I have a land in my hand to kill a ‘Goyf next turn, and another land for next turn which still puts me in a pretty decent position. If his card is [ccProd]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/ccProd], though, then he has two ‘Goyfs and I go to 11 life—I can kill one and take a hit, but if I draw any acceleration I can just kill him since he is at 12-ish.
I consider not blocking, but the problem with that is that if he has Ghor-Clan Rampager and a Lightning Bolt then I take exactly 15, as both ‘Goyfs grow by 2. Assuming his card is a Ghor-Clan Rampager, there is a very high chance his last card is a Bolt, because it’s one of the cards it made sense for him to have—he had no opportunity to play any burn yet but could have played his card if it was something else. If he doesn’t have Ghor-Clan, then I don’t actually mind if he Bolts my Titan because I think I’m still in a good position.
I decide that I’m in a good enough spot if he Bolts it that I can afford to just block, which I do. He plays Rampager and Lightning Helix, which would have killed me if I had just taken it. My Titan dies and he goes to above 12, so I need more than just acceleration to kill him.
On my turn I draw Explore. I play it and draw Prismatic Omen, and with a fetchland in my hand that’s 18 damage.
For game two, he is not fast enough and I just Scapeshift him out on turn four.
In round 5, I play against Zoo again, this time 5-color. He wins the die roll and, on his fourth turn, plays a second [ccProd]Noble Hierarch[/ccProd] to hit me down to 6 life. He then casts [ccProd]Tribal Flames[/ccProd] and a Lightning Bolt, leaving a mana up, and I Izzet Charm the Bolt and kill him on my turn, stealing a game that I should not have won.
For game two, he had a slow start and I killed him pretty quickly.
Round six I played against one of the Czech guys that had drafted with us in the cabin. He turned out to be playing Merfolk, and died to a Scapeshift game one very quickly. Game two my hand was kind of bad and I died to a combination of guys, [ccProd]Remand[/ccProd], [ccProd]Spreading Seas[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Tectonic Edge[/ccProd].
Game three was interesting. I had a hand of [ccProd]Khalni Heart Expedition[/ccProd], Explore, and Sakura Tribe-Elder, and I played the Elder on turn two because I knew he ran Spreading Seas and I only had one Forest. Sure enough he plays the Spreading Seas, and I am forced to sacrifice the Elder. That puts my Expedition at only two counters, but I feel like I win the game if it ever gets a third one. Unfortunately that never happens, and after battling through two Anger of the Gods he ends up killing me.
Round seven I got paired against Willy Edel—it seems we play in every single tournament. He’s playing Jund, and game one mulligans to five and doesn’t do much. We had an interesting development when, in the middle of the game, he played a [ccProd]Dark Confidant[/ccProd] and on my turn I shot him twice with a Valakut, which resulted in him having to Bolt his own Bob right after playing it without ever getting an activation, but he wasn’t winning that game anyway.
Game two I keep a really bad hand that I shouldn’t have kept. The reason I did it was that we were discussing opening hands against Jund previously, and people who had a lot more experience with the deck made it sound like you had to keep loose hands against Jund specifically, because of all the discard. It didn’t work, and I died quickly. Later on I found out that they didn’t mean it to be taken that radically.
For game three, I see a hand of Scapeshift, Scapeshift, Titan, and four lands (a Valakut and three others). I keep it. Most people on the team berated me for that after I told them, but I stand by my decision and I would make it again. I think that, against Jund, you lose because you don’t have enough business, and not because you aren’t fast enough or anything like that. This hand is good against discard because it has redundant things, so all I need to do is draw mana, and the deck is almost all mana. Another valid approach is just keeping a hand with all mana and hoping to topdeck a threat, since if you have a one-of Titan or Scapeshift they might just discard it anyway.
My hand worked perfectly when he played a turn one Inquisition and missed (hah). I drew an Explore and then eventually more mana, and played a Titan through his [ccProd]Fulminator Mage[/ccProd]. I got two more Valakuts and he Fulminated them both as well, but then I Scapeshifted, showed him a fourth, and he scooped.
I start my second draft with a [ccProd]Gild[/ccProd], but black quickly dried up after that. I second pick a [ccProd]Kiora’s Follower[/ccProd] and then a Sudden Storm, followed by a [ccProd]Graverobber Spider[/ccProd] and then a white card that’s the only playable in the pack. By pick seven I get an [ccProd]Ephara’s Enlightenment[/ccProd], one of the best cards in the set in my opinion. By the end of pack 1, I’m firmly in Bant splashing Gild.
I first-pick a Wingsteed Rider and follow it up with a Thassa’s Emissary, but see no more white cards and a lot of green, so I’m again UG by the end of pack two. I open a Daxos which I can’t take (and end up wheeling), and then get an eigth-pick [ccProd]Prophet of Kruphix[/ccProd] again. By the time I’m done, my deck looks a little like the previous one, albeit with more colors and less Sudden Storms.
I then have a choice of splashing Gild, Daxos + Ephara’s Enlightenment, or both. I have one [ccProd]Traveler’s Amulet[/ccProd] and one [ccProd]Nylea’s Presence[/ccProd]. Though I think Gild is a better splash card, at this point I just don’t have enough playables, and if I play Gild I’ll have to play something very bad as a 22nd card. The white cards fit my deck very well and make sure I don’t need to run an unplayable, so I decide to go with them. I briefly consider splashing both (Gild even fixes your mana!) but that seemed too greedy so I leave it in the sideboard.
I got paired against a BG deck in round 9 that seemed pretty good. He cast [ccProd]Reaper of the Wild[/ccProd], [ccProd]Whip of Erebos[/ccProd], [ccProd]Nessian Asp[/ccProd], [ccProd]Erebos’s Emissary[/ccProd], and a bunch of overall solid creatures and combat tricks. Game one he has the fast-ish start of [ccProd]Tormented Hero[/ccProd] into turn three Swordwise Centaur, and I stumble a bit on lands, having to go Amulet into crack it turn two into Kiora’s Follower turn three into finally a three-drop on turn four. I manage to stabilize a little, but he plays Whip of Erebos and goes to about 40 life. I finally exhaust my resources, but they culminate with a Daxos + Thassa’s Emissary attack, plus another two attacks from a Daxos with Nimbus Naiad. Daxos reveals three lands from his deck, though, and out of spells and out of life I can’t do anything about it.
Game two I am again stuck on lands and can’t cast a four-drop, and again he starts with Tormented Hero into Swordwise Centaur. I eventually find my fourth mana source and cast a Spider, but he has a combat trick for it and I die.
Round 10 I get paired against Brian Braun-Duin, who is playing BR. Game one he gets stuck on two lands and I kill him quickly with a suited-up Thassa’s Emissary. Game two I keep a hand of five lands, [ccProd]Nylea’s Disciple[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Time to Feed[/ccProd]. By the time I cast the Disciple, he has two 2/2s for 2 and two [ccProd]Felhide Minotaurs[/ccProd] in play. He kills my Centaur and I can’t recover, despite having other cards to cast.
Game three he has a slow start, and my deck full of 3/3s (two Disciples, Emissary, Courser…) overpowers his 2/2s and 2/3s, with Ephara’s Enlightment to seal the deal.
Round 11 I get paired against Alex Majlaton, playing GW. I have a nice start game one and put some pressure on him early on. By turn three, his board is three Plains and [ccProd]Akroan Crusader[/ccProd]. He then plays [ccProd]Battlewise Valor[/ccProd] and attacks me for 4.
This is a very weird play, and it makes me pause. The first implication is that he desperately wants to scry—he is probably missing a Forest and needs to find one. The second implication is that he wants to race me; he could have tried to block, but he doesn’t care about that. He is very far behind regarding cards in play now, so he has to have something swingy—something that likely gains him life. Two cards come to my mind—[ccProd]Hopeful Eidolon[/ccProd] and Time to Feed. I don’t think the play makes much sense if he has neither of those.
He ends up having Time to Feed, and then an Observant Aisled to give his guy vigilance. I’m ready with [ccProd]Stratus Walk[/ccProd] though, and I target his guy so that it can’t block any of mine. I play a Prophet of Kruphix, and after some juggling with Ephara’s Enlightenment (I can’t play it pre-combat because then he can block my guys, but I need to cast it after that to be able to block his lethal attacker) I’m able to take game one. I board in Gild and board out Daxos and Enlightenment.
Game two I get blown out by [ccProd]Last Breath[/ccProd] on my Spider in response to bestowing Nylea’s Emissary, and then have no answer to his 10/10 [ccProd]Nemesis of Mortals[/ccProd].
Game three, I start with Kiora’s Follower into 3/3; his first play is a 3/3 inspired guy (that gets +1/+1 when it untaps) on turn four, but I Stratus Walk that (this card really is much better on their guys sometimes) and he can’t do anything. Next turn he plays another guy, and I have a Feral Invocation at the end of his turn plus a Gild to clear away the blockers and take the game.
Constructed, Day 2
Round 12 I get paired against Melira Pod, which is a good matchup. Game one I kill him very quickly, and game two he comboes me with [ccProd]Spike Feeder[/ccProd] + [ccProd]Archangel of Thune[/ccProd] very quickly.
Game three I start with an Expedition and him with a Mindcensor, but by the time it comes into play I’m already sitting comfortably with six mana in play and some more in my hand, so all I need is some business. At this point I have two Scapeshifts, so any way to kill the Mindcensor (Bolt, Anger, Charm, Valakut) is instant game over, and Titan is likely to win me the game as well. I keep getting attacked by a Hierarch-boosted Mindcensor, though, and fail to draw anything that is going to help. I eventually cast a Scapeshift to try and find Valakut, but I don’t. I then cast another, and on this one not only do I not find Valakut but I also fizzle completely. Six Mindcensor attacks later, I’m dead without ever having drawn a way to remove it.
Round 13 I get paired against Luis in what is basically a goldfishing match. In game 1, I win the die roll and kill him a turn before he can kill me.
Game two is a little more interesting, since both players have access to Swan Song. I try for an early Scapeshift, which he counters, I counter and he counters again. Next turn I have a Titan, which resolves, grabbing two Valakuts and leaving me with three of those and four Mountains. He has his own Titan, but I have [ccProd]Nature’s Claim[/ccProd] for his Prismatic Omen, and he ends up doing no damage. On my turn I draw a land and, after some quick math, confirm that he’s dead, so I play Scalding Tarn, throw it in my graveyard and tap my Titan, signaling that I have access to three Valakuts and that he is just dead.
The problem with that is that, by the time I threw the Tarn in the graveyard, I did not actually have five Mountains. I was supposed to tap the Titan first, of course. He says it’s fine and scoops anyway, and though I honestly think that, were I not playing against him in a somewhat casual match (and trying to make sure I don’t slow-roll him when I have him dead), I would have done the motions in a proper way, it was a very nice thing to do and I would have completely understood if he had held me accountable for the sloppy way I demonstrated it (in which case I’d end up killing his Titan instead and putting him in a position to maybe draw Scapeshift to kill me).
The following round I get paired against Burn. Game one I make sure I never expose my Tribe-Elders to his [ccProd]Searing Blaze[/ccProd] by always sacrificing them immediately, and I manage to survive to a point where I get enough lands to kill him with Scapeshift. I don’t find a Scapeshift, however, and end up dying to a [ccProd]Lavamancer[/ccProd] (though to be honest I didn’t have much time to try and find it as he killed me a turn or two after that).
For game two, I have a great hand that includes some removal and three Tribe-Elders. He has a [ccProd]Goblin Guide[/ccProd] and I’m sure he sided out his Searing Blazes (especially since he saw that I’d just sacrifice Elder immediately game one), so I see no problem in just passing and trying to block. My plan is foiled when he plays [ccProd]Sudden Shock[/ccProd] pre-combat, and suddenly I’m a mana short. I play my other two Tribe Elders, but I end up dying with two Titans in hand and five lands.
In the penultimate round, I get paired against UWR. Game one I play an Omen and two Valakuts and just kill him with that.
Game two was very interesting. I Anger away his Geist, Swan Song his Sowing Salt, and we get to the following scenario: My opponent is at 20 life, I’m at 8. He has a Bird token (from Swan Song) and six lands, three of which are blue and one of which is a Colonnade.
My board is Stomping Grounds, Stomping Grounds, Valakut, Valakut, and 3 Mountains. My hand is Anger of the Gods, Scapeshift, Scapeshift, Mountain, Valakut. It’s my turn; what’s the play here?
I asked Ben and he said he would have just cast Anger and Valakut, and then passed the turn, which seems reasonable and is probably the best play, all things considered—would likely have won me the game. I, however, decided to play Mountain first and tried to shoot him for 3 and the token for 3, rather than casting the Anger, which I was trying to save for a future Geist. Then things got interesting—he played [ccProd]Cryptic Command[/ccProd], bouncing my Stomping Grounds (to stop the damage). What now?
The first order of business is to figure out why he did that. This play is, in the abstract, not good. I can’t Scapeshift him out (I only have seven lands in play now, and he is at 20), but I can certainly Titan him and it’s weird that he chose to tap out to protect his Bird token. Why would he do that? The only thing that came to mind was that he has Lightning Bolt and is going to kill me the very next turn (with a Colonnade attack). I can still kill the Bird with Anger of the Gods, but if I do that I can’t even cast Scapeshift next turn unless I draw specifically Forest—Stomping Grounds can’t come into play untapped and I won’t be able to use a fetchland if I draw it, since I’d be at 1 life if he had Bolt + Colonnade. I decide that he must have Bolt, so I can’t do this—I need to get a green source into play. Therefore, I Scapeshift for four, sacrificing a Valakut and some Mountains and grabbing some more Mountains and, crucially, Stomping Grounds, killing the Bird token and dealing some damage to him, putting him at lethal the following turn to another Scapeshift.
Then he went [ccProd]Snapcaster Mage[/ccProd] into Sowing Salt, removing my one Valakut and the one from my hand. I had to sacrifice the other one in play for Scapeshift. At that point, I could no longer win (or I could if I drew exactly Titan into [ccProd]Combust[/ccProd] and he had nothing, but that didn’t happen). I had not foreseen this development because I imagined that, if he had Snapcaster, he’d just let the damage resolve and then bounce my Valakut at the end of the turn, making sure Sowing Salt would hit all the remaining copies, but it’s possible that he either didn’t think of that or drew the Snapcaster that turn.
So, is there a way to prevent that? Yes. The first one is Ben’s play, which plays around all of this and is only weak to Geist + a counterspell (it doesn’t auto-lose to Cryptic + Sowing Salt since I’d have a third Valakut in play). The second way is to do what I did, but then when he plays Cryptic, play Anger of the Gods and cast Scapeshift for only one, to make sure I have enough green next turn. That way I preserve both my Valakuts. Had I thought of a second Sowing Salt, this would have been the play I’d make, though I was too focused on trying to figure out if he necessarily had a Bolt for the way he played that the possibility escaped me at the tournament.
Game three wasn’t nearly as interesting and he had Spell Snare for my first two plays, followed by turn three Geist and turn four Tectonic Edge.
At this point I found out I was playing for exactly nothing. I tried to drop after standings, but pairings were already going up, so I played and ended up losing to Yuuta Takahashi’s Jund deck in three close games to finish 8-8.
I was sad about going 8-8, of course, but I wasn’t devastated. I guess finally having a good result in Paris meant I could do badly in a tournament without feeling like I was the worst player in the world. I made a couple of very bad mistakes, but I also played some matches extremely well and I liked my train of thought throughout the tournament – trying to analyze your opponent’s decisions to make sense of what is happening is not the easiest thing in the world to do and I felt like I did it well in this tournament for the most part.
As for the deck, I think it was very bad and I certainly do not recommend it for a future event if you expect the field to be anything remotely similar to the PT. I still don’t know what I’d rather have played—if I could go back in time, I’d likely just play Splinter Twin, but I wouldn’t have been ecstatic about it either.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this, see you next week!