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Recurring Nightmares – Aligning Stars

This weekend, I decided to take a break from Survival of the Fittest, and all things Legacy, and head to Rochester NY for a Scars of Mirrodin Limited PTQ. Millennium Games has a new store location out there, and I hadn’t seen it yet, so I wanted to check it out, and I’ve been pretty successful in Scars Sealed so far, so I figured why not test myself and see about a trip to Paris?

After arriving at the venue, which was possibly the nicest store I’ve ever played in, we sat down to register pools, and I managed to snag a seat across from Alex Bertoncini, who regaled me with stories of his recent fame and lack of fortune. He made me promise to give him a name drop this week, because “any publicity is good publicity.” The pool I registered had 1-2 drop written all over it, featuring such hits as zero mana Myr, Inexorable Tide, Shape Anew, and triple Golden Urn, so I was relieved when we put them into the bags and passed them along to anyone but ourselves.

The pool I received did have a bit better quality, although the Tide was still there, along with a couple dual lands in color combinations that didn’t work for me.

White

 

Blue

 

Black

 

Red

 

Green

 

Land

 

Artifacts

 

After picking out the cards that I knew were going to make the deck regardless of what color choices I played, I was left with one of the more difficult decisions in Sealed that I’ve had with this format. The obvious two archetypes for Scars Sealed are R/W metalcraft and B/G infect. I had about the right number of cards for either of these decks, although neither of them seemed so overwhelmingly better than the other to let me decide on which.

White had good removal, good creatures, etc, and the red had the double Turn to Slag and Scrapmelter and Galvanic Blast. Aside from those, however, there wasn’t a lot of meat. Even in the artifacts, the metalcraft deck really wants to see some specific creatures to work correctly, and I was lacking in the Chrome Steed department. I couldn’t even buy a Vulshok Replica, so it was looking a little slim when I laid the possibilities out in front of me.

On the other hand, Putrefax is insane, and double Corpse Cur means that I’ll either have a constant stream of 2/2 infecters, or get to use the Putrefax three times. This seemed pretty good to me, so I laid out the infect deck. It was a bit short on tricks and a bit shy of the infect count I really wanted, but it still seemed better than the R/W deck.

Ultimately, I decided that running infect splashing red was the best deck I could come up with, and I registered the following:

I felt like between the Putrefax and Corpse Curs, I could have enough gas to push through the infect even on a stalled board, and even without infect, Myr Battlesphere can just win the game on its own, so it was an obvious inclusion. I really, really like Wall of Tanglecord in this format, especially with the lategame bombs, but I wasn’t sure if it was too defensive for this deck so it stayed in the board. I’m still not 100% certain that this is the optimal build, and I’m willing to hear your thoughts in the comments.

I won’t regale you with a massive tournament report since Limited games are all pretty similar, but I’ll hit the high points of each round.

R1 – John Wdowiasz (yes that is spelled correctly)

John steamrolled me in two straight games by combining a turn 3 Cystbearer, turn 4 Painsmith, turn 5 Play/equip Sword of Body and Mind, turn 6 Contagion Engine. In game two, the same pattern showed up, this time a few turns later, and I died to it just as well. Not the way I intended to start off my day.
Contagion Engine is too good.
0-1
Just like that, it’s time to win out.

R2 – Steve Kommer

Steve was on R/w, and it seemed that his deck had some gas, but ultimately I poisoned him twice to win in three games. Game two was a pretty pathetic one on my part, where I could point to a few play mistakes that easily lost me the game. However, Putrefax is incredibly difficult to deal with when its recurred, so I pulled out the match.
1-1

R3 – Brandon Carter

Brandon was B/G infect as well, although game one saw him drawing only green sources of mana, and game two saw him only playing six spells, along with 12 land. This kind of thing hurts badly when it happens to me, so I can imagine his frustration.
2-1

R4 – Joe Angelo

Joe is a local grinder who I recognized from a bunch of events, so I knew this would be a tight match. I was not disappointed as our games were intricate and complex – this was a really excellent match. It went to game three, where I played an unanswered Mimic Vat, which was soon followed up with by a Battlesphere. He couldn’t deal with the Vat without dying to the Sphere, and couldn’t kill the Sphere without it going on the Vat, so he found himself in a no-win situation. Nice rares.
3-1

At this point, I checked with my round one opponent, and he had dropped after round 3. Great.

R5 – Jorge Azpura

In our first game I played a turn two Plague Stinger, and Jorge simply could not find a way to deal with it. Every time he played a blocker, I managed to kill it. He found a Clasp, and I played Corpse Cur to get the Stinger back. I attacked nine times, and used Throne of Geth for the tenth counter. The little Stinger that could went the distance. Game two, Jorge asked me not to poison him out to knock him out of the event, and I obliged, using a combination of Mimic Vat imprinting a Fume Spitter and Acid Web Spider to get there. Jorge was a really positive opponent, and we both enjoyed our match a lot. It’s great when your opponent is cordial even when things aren’t going their way. It makes the day much better for everyone.
4-1

R6 – Matt Gustarson
This match was another real grind. The details of the specifics are a bit hazy, but I do know that I never killed him with poison – in fact I only dealt three poison damage to him in the entire match. Most of the damage in this match had to do with small margins, as removal was very prevalent. We both had Trigons of Corruption and Tumble Magnets, and we both had Proliferate engines online, although his were better in the form of Contagion Clasp, while I was left sacrificing artifacts for value. In this match I boarded in my pair of Walls, and they were critical in setting up a defense against his much better army. In the end, I managed to deal with all of his threats and win.
5-1

R7 – Shaun G (did not get the whole last name)

I asked Shaun as we sat down if he planned to go to Paris if he won. He laughed and said no way. I asked what his gain was for winning the event. He said money. Since the top 8 each got a box, and the only other prize was a plane ticket, I didn’t really see the incentive there, and asked “would you be interested in conceding?” He said no, and we started the match. I understand wanting to play – the winner gets to draw into the top 8, so winning is basically a lock. The issue I have with the situation is that he was condescending and rude throughout the whole match. Ultimately our match was disheartening, as two tight games left us even going into game three. I came out of the gates quickly in the third game using Painsmith and Scrapmelter along with a string of artifacts to get Shaun to three life by turn six. That’s the point where I drew six straight lands, and watched my top 8 slip away. After the match, he snarked, “Good job drawing six lands,” and signed the slip.

I’m a little bummed that I lost. I’m a little bummed that he dream-crushed for basically no reason. I’m extremely disappointed that my day effectively ended on such a negative note, since his attitude and arrogance were completely uncalled for, and since up to that point (and after) all of my opponents were positive, friendly, and personable. It’s not that difficult to be agreeable – especially when you win.
At this point, I’m left playing for top 16, but figure I might as well get some value out of the day, so play the last round.
5-2

R8 – Pat (apologies for missing out on last names at the end here. If you read this, comment, and I’ll gladly credit you)

Game one was a pretty bad game, as he stumbled on plays, and I played a Contagious Nim on turn 3 and a Putrefax on turn 5. When I followed it up with a hasted poisonous Goblin, the game was over. Our second game was just as much a blowout, as he stalled me, and ran out a Wurmcoil Engine, which completely dominated the game when he paired it with Golem Artisan. Our third game was a combination of the first two, as I managed to loop Corpse Curs to the late game, when his board was clear save his Wurmcoil. On my turn I played my second Cur to return the Putrefax I had previously used as removal, and then when he played nothing relevant on his turn I cast Blackcleave and Putrefax and swung in for lethal poison.
6-2

Overall I was happy with the way the deck performed, and with how I performed. My friend Bret made his first PTQ top 8, and threw it away. I made a mediocre top 16. Another grinder friend of mine, Carl Dillahay, put it well when consoling me on the way home:

“What else can you do? The stars were aligned for someone else today. You can only hope to have them aligned for you the next time. The smallest misstep can set the pace to end the entire day. One small decision to keep or attack or anything can mean the whole tourney. It’s a tough game we play.”

While I’m certain there’s always something more you can do, I can’t help but agree – it’s a tough game (maybe the toughest) that we play.

Until next time, line up your stars, and remember – keep your stick on the ice.

Adam

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