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Careful Consideration – A Cruel PTQ, Part 2 *4th*

You can read part one of my PTQ report here.

For reference, my decklist again:

 

 

Current record, 4-1. Let’s get to round six!

 

Round 6: Mono-Green Elves

My plan for this matchup: Attrition them out, use Volcanic Fallout to sweep the board, and use spot removal on creatures that keep their other guys out of Fallout range, like Elvish Archdruid, Imperious Perfect, and Joraga Warcaller. The deck is pretty vulnerable to Fallout if you can keep them from getting double lord on the table, and once you get to the midgame, you should be able to stabilize pretty quickly. Their deck doesn’t have a lot of reach except for the Overrun ability by Ezuri.

This was the aggro version of the deck, not the more comboriffic Travis Woo-style.

Game 1
I won the die roll and kept the following:

 

No second red source for the Fallout, but having access to Esper Charm mana on the draw is fine, and I can Path to Exile something in a pinch if I need to. Not every hand is perfect, but this would do.

I played Vivid Meadow turn one, and he led off with a turn one Copperhorn Scout. Then I drew Mana Leak.

So on turn two, I had a decision. I could play Sunken Ruins and be able to Mana Leak his turn two play, or I could play Creeping Tar Pit and then be able to Esper Charm. This is a good example of sequencing your plays to fit your plan.

With my hand, my plan was to Volcanic Fallout his team, but I didn’t have a second red source. Also, which two-drop could he play that I would want to Mana Leak? His two-drop creatures are likely going to have two toughness or less (or he could play two one-casting-cost creatures, who would also have two toughness) with the exception of Wren’s Run Vanquisher.

I badly need a second red source, however – the way I lose this game with what’s in my hand is if I get stuck durdling around for too many turns hunting for a way to cast Volcanic Fallout. Because I have so many lands that come into play tapped, even if I do draw a second red source, unless it’s a Reflecting Pool or Cascade Bluffs, it’s entirely possible that I will have to wait a turn after I actually draw the red source to cast Fallout, at which point I could be blown out of the game with double lords or creatures that have fallen out of Fallout range due to counters from Bramblewood Paragon. I do have a Path to Exile in my hand to deal with one of them, but I can’t spend too many turns hurping and durping around.

If he plays Vanquisher on turn two, that’s a little annoying, but hardly backbreaking.

That’s what I did, and the plan was put to the test when he did indeed play a Vanquisher, revealing Bramblewood Paragon.

I didn’t draw an untapped red source (instead drawing a second Esper Charm), so I played the Sunken Ruins and passed. He added the Bramblewood Paragon and Copperhorn Scout to the board, and I let it resolve – Fallout would take care of all but Vanquisher, and I had a Path to Exile in hand to take care of that if necessary. I took my lumps, and drew two cards during my end step. Sure enough, I drew my second red source – but it was a Vivid Crag. I also drew a Plumeveil. I played the Crag and passed.

My opponent then played Elvish Archdruid. I let it resolve, since Fallout would kill all of his creatures except Vanquisher the next turn. Plumeveil ambushed his Vanquisher and took of that problem.

Since Mono-Green Elves doesn’t have any burn, it’s a lot easer to get punched in the face for the first few turns in order to set up a mass removal spell, since they can’t burn you out. Had this been against Jund, for example, I would have had a much harder time with this particular line of play.

OUT:
3 Wall of Reverence

IN:
3 Vendilion Clique

The thinking behind boarding like this is that I don’t care that much about my life total as long as it doesn’t dip too low – if he’s going to kill me, it’s going to be through a critical mass of creatures. So Vendilion Clique can trade with a creature, while also cycling through his hand to remove threats, or alternatively to get an expensive card out of my hand in order to get the land I need to cast [card]Volcanic Fallout[/card] or [card]Cryptic Command[/card].

Game 2
I saw this as my opener:

 

On the draw, this hand is not terrible if I draw a Vivid land, but if I don’t draw a land, or if I draw an Island, then this is just too slow. There are a lot of ways this hand develops in a way that I just don’t get to cast spells, and I lose the game. So I sent it back and saw:

 

That’s better.

His draw was nutty though, and he was attacking for 17 on turn three (Llanowar Elves, Wren’s Run Vanquisher, Heritage Druid, Elvish Archdruid, Joraga Warcaller), turning the flash creatures in my hand into useless chump blockers, and I was quickly dead.

When boarding, I thought maybe three Jace, the Mind Sculptors were unnecessary. I liked the ability to bounce creatures back to their hand in order to time walk them, but did I really need three Jaces? So I cut one and put a Wall of Reverence back in. I hadn’t really tested this matchup at all, so a lot of this was just going on the fly.

On the play, I saw:

 

On the draw, I would snap mulligan this, but on the play? Wall of Reverence does a good job soaking up damage, and Cryptic Command can buy a turn and Fog if necessary. Any spell I draw here is going to be pretty good, and I can cast any spell I draw. As long as I don’t get too flooded, I think this hand is fine, and even if I do get somewhat flooded, Wall of Reverence does buy me time.

My next two cards were Cascade Bluffs and Volcanic Fallout. Turn three Fallout into turn four Wall of Reverence was really all I needed – the rest of the game involved me drawing some number of spells (all of which were ridiculous against him), and he was never in the game.

Potential mistakes: Again, mulligans are the decisions I question the most. I think my game three hand was fine because I could draw essentially any spell and would have been in the game, but others may disagree.

There might have been some line of play in game that involved Mana Leaking the Elvish Archdruid and saving Path for the Vanquisher and playing Plumeveil and something or something, but I doubt it. In going over the replays, though, all reasonable lines of play likely result in victory. This matchup is a good one, and one I’d be happy to see every round.

5-1

Round 7: Faeries

I won the die roll and my opening hand was:

 

I love it.

We played draw-go for the first nine turns. I did nothing but play lands (missing a few land drops in the process), while he Thoughtseized away a Cryptic Command and Inquisitioned away a Volcanic Fallout. He knew I had Esper Charm in my hand, but I didn’t want it to get countered, so I held it until an appropriate time to cast it. A Tectonic Edge killed a Sunken Ruins, and very little happened.

Then, on turn ten, I had to make a decision.

What would you do here? Click on the image to see it full-size.

Other things to note:
He had not missed a land drop (and had made his land drop for the turn), and he knew about the following cards in my hand when he played his turn six Inquisition of Kozilek:

 

If I play Cryptic Command, it’s almost certainly going to get Mana Leaked or Cryptic Commanded. It was turn ten and he had yet to play a non-discard spell, so his hand very likely had a counter. I also knew that he knew that I had a Lightning Bolt, so if Jace did resolve, he would have to +2 it, unless he was holding a Spellstutter Sprite for my Bolt, but then I could Fallout and kill the Sprite and his Jace, so I was perfectly happy with that.

I let Jace resolve, and he predictably +2ed it, giving me a second Lightning Bolt.

So now he had a Jace and no threats, and I thought he would value that Jace highly and might be willing to spend counterspells on protecting it. Further, my hand had two huge threats in my own Jace and Wurmcoil Engine.

With double Bolt and Volcanic Fallout in hand, that Jace was not long for this world regardless of what happened, and I really just wanted to bait him into tapping out over the next two turns or so in order for me to resolve my own Jace and/or Wurmcoil Engine (if he fully tapped out).

So during his end step with four cards in his hand, I played Esper Charm, targeting him (discard two cards). That resolved, and he pitched a Grasp of Darkness and a Disfigure. Jace ate a Lightning Bolt also during end step, and I opted to play around Mana Leak, so I didn’t use the second Bolt during his end step.

I drew a land, passed, and Bolted his Jace during his upkeep. He let that resolve, too, leading me to believe he didn’t have a Cryptic Command – just a Mana Leak, if he had any counters.

When I drew an Esper Charm on my turn, I stayed with the “attack his hand” plan and made him discard two cards. He responded with Cryptic Command, countering my Esper Charm and bouncing a Vivid Crag. I opted to use my own Cryptic Command to counter/draw this, and he played a second Cryptic Command, this time choosing counter/draw as his modes.

Perfect.

With all that drama at the end of his turn, he was tapped out, which let me resolve Jace. I Brainstormed because I wanted him to attack with both Mutavaults, since I had Volcanic Fallout in hand. Even if he Thoughtseized me before attacking, I still had Path to Exile to deal with one of them and Jace would live, so I definitely wanted to Brainstorm here.

Brainstorming into Cruel Ultimatum and Wall of Reverence was icing on the cake. Now, even if he had a Mistbind Clique to save a Mutavault in response to Fallout, I could just untap and Cruel him – making him discard all three of his cards – and still have Jace on the board.

Fallout drew out a Mistbind Clique, and everything went to plan. Cruel Ultimatum left him with no board and no cards, and how I won from that point is irrelevant (concession).

What a complicated game. We’ll discuss this one in the “potential mistakes” section.

I boarded differently for this Faeries matchup. I realized that Cruel Ultimatum is better against Faeries than I thought, and I wanted the second one. So I opted to board thusly:

IN:
4 Great Sable Stag

OUT:

 

This matchup can be pretty slow, and I had a much easier time resolving that card against Faeries all day than I had thought possible.

Game 2
On the draw, I kept:

 

This wasn’t too much of a game. My Plumeveil got Doom Bladed, my fourth and fifth lands got Tectonic Edged, and I ended the game with three lands as I was beaten to death by a Vampire Nighthawk.

Since he was playing Nighthawk and boarding in Tectonic Edges, I boarded out the second Cruel Ultimatum in favor of a Lightning Bolt for game three.

Game 3
On the play, I went with:

 

Looked like a keeper to me!

He played turn three Bitterblossom, then Spell Pierced my Mana Leak. What a jerk! Getting Spell Pierced is one of the worst feelings ever. It’s along the same lines as getting your Bogardan Hellkite Mana Tithed (that happened once to me – in Limited). It’s like getting punched in the groin.

On my turn, I decided to main-phase Esper Charm to draw two cards. I really wanted it to resolve, and since he had a Bitterblossom on the table, he could sit back and counter my things. However, this allowed him to resolve a Jace Beleren, which he +2ed, giving me a Volcanic Fallout. The Fallout was subsequently Thoughtseized away.

A few turns later, I was attacking with double Great Sable Stag, but he used Cryptic Command to bounce my Vivid Crag and tap my Stags two turns in a row; I had used the counters on my Vivid Creeks to cast my two Great Sable Stags, so he was just trying to keep me off Volcanic Fallout mana, as Vivid Crag was my only red source.

So he attacked me down to 10 on his turn, and I was faced with this decision during his end step. As before, you can click on the image to see a full-size version.

The question is: am I dead?

He had used two Cryptic Commands to tap my team and return Vivid Crag to my hand, which suggests to me that he wasn’t digging for a way to kill me. This strongly implies Mistbind Clique, since at the time I had double Stag on the board and he did not have a way to win the race on board.

So how do I get around the fact that he has Mistbind Clique?

I could Cryptic Command it if he does it during upkeep, but if he has a Mana Leak or another Cryptic Command, I’m dead; he can just activate both of his Mutavaults to chump Great Sable Stag, and then I die on his turn. Any Mutavault chump block + Mistbind Clique means that I die.

So can I get him to tap out or make a mistake somehow? I had Cryptic Command + Path for his two Mutavaults if he has nothing, but if he has nothing, I probably win anyway.

I could Esper Charm to draw two and hope to draw Reflecting Pool/Cascade Bluffs + Volcanic Fallout, but if he has Mistbind Clique, then that doesn’t even work, as I would be unable to play the Fallout during combat.

So during his end step, I Cryptic Commanded his Mutavault to return it to his hand and draw a card. He used Spellstutter Sprite to counter it.

During my upkeep, he played the Mistbind Clique I was pretty sure he had, leaving up a land and a Mutavault – but had the mana to activate only one Mutavault, since had used six mana to play Spellstutter Sprite, then Mistbind Clique. My only out at this point was to draw a Reflecting Pool and then Path his remaining activateable Mutavault before he could block Great Sable Stag. So I Esper Charmed to draw two cards with the Mistbind Clique champion trigger on the stack. If he countered it, then I would win, since that would tap him out and leave him dead to double Stag. He didn’t counter it.

Draw two…

 

Phew.

I attacked with both Stags, he activated Mutavault, I Pathed it, and we were on to the win-and-in round.

Potential mistakes: Where do I start? This matchup was so complicated and so intricate. I had a million different lines of play, and I am not good enough at this game to be able to identify for certain what the right line was.

In game one, should I have been attacking his hand with Esper Charm? If he had two cards left in hand, it would have been pretty easy, but he had four cards in his hand both times I did it. Esper Charm’s discard mode is much weaker in game one than it is in games two and three, since often in game one they have dead removal, and will be happy to pitch two useless cards to trade for your very useful card.

During that same turn, I played around Mana Leak by not using the second Lightning Bolt on Jace, but if I was trying to draw the counters and cards out of his hand, is that really so bad, especially when I have a Fallout that I can use to finish Jace off with? That would leave him with just one card in hand.

I want to go back in time and try this game again, this time trying out different lines of play. It seems like this was not optimal.

In game three, I wanted Esper Charm to resolve, so I did it during his main phase, which allowed him to resolve a Jace Beleren. I had already played one Mana Leak, so it’s entirely possible he just runs Jace out there into a potential second Leak, knowing the odds of me having one aren’t great (and is not likely to be devastating to his plan even if it is Leaked). But then I could end step Esper Charm anyway. My thinking was that my hand didn’t have anything in it that I was setting up for – if I had a Jace, the Mind Sculptor or a Wall of Reverence in my hand, for example, I could have played Esper Charm during his end step, see if it got countered, and then untap and either play a land and do nothing if he didn’t counter it, or play Jace/Wall if he did.

This matchup is full of so many twists and turns and decision points that I’m never sure which plan is correct. Getting Wall of Reverence + Fallout is nice and all when you can get it, but as you can see, I didn’t draw Wall of Reverence in those games, which makes winning a little harder. Possible, of course – as you can see, but it’s difficult.

This game is hard.

6-1

Round 8: UG Scapeshift (60 cards)

My plan for this matchup: Let’s be clear here. Game one is ridiculously difficult. You can’t really afford to tap out on your turn past, say, turn 4, and playing the long game doesn’t benefit you, either. Even if I have ten mana and decide to play a Jace, leaving up Mana Leak/Cryptic Command, they have so much mana acceleration that the Mana Leaks aren’t reliable, and they don’t have to do anything until they bloody well feel like it. As Josh Utter-Leyton put it, Prismatic Omen is their Cruel Ultimatum, but it costs 2 instead of 7.

Game one is awful. What’s my plan game one? Hope they don’t draw anything ever at any point and try to run them out of counters and stick a Jace or a Cruel Ultimatum. Good luck with that.

Game two at least provides a fighting chance – Great Sable Stag and Vendilion Clique are threats that can come down and start attacking them (Stag on turn three, Clique whenever). With disruption and a clock, the plan is to keep them from killing you while hitting them in the face for 3 a turn.

Even so, this matchup is pretty bad. I wasn’t pleased to see that I had to get through this guy in order to get to the elimination rounds. Some number of 6-2s would make it and my tiebreakers weren’t awful, but they weren’t good, either. Well, gotta deal with what’s been dealt, so let’s go!

Game 1
The only way I win this is if my opponent doesn’t draw anything.

That didn’t happen. I was able to get my opponent to a point where I would win if he didn’t draw lands or spells, but he drew both lands and spells.

What a jerk.

OUT:

 

IN:

 

Chapin was boarding in the Obstinate Baloths during GP Atlanta, but I found that I never wanted to tap out after turn four unless I knew his hand was clear – he also was likely to leave in some number of Oracle of Mul Daya, so I liked Lightning Bolt. And my plan is to go to the face and be the beatdown deck, and by “beatdown deck” I mean “really crappy midrange deck.” Hey, when your matchup’s bad, you have to swing for the fences.

On the play, my hand was:

 

Nature’s Claim and Esper Charm are very reactive cards, and are there to blow up Prismatic Omen. If I had more proactive disruption like Thoughtseize, I would be more likely to keep the hand. But as is, I just didn’t see enough pressure by this hand in order to justify keeping it.

It looks like an okay hand, but I think in a bad matchup like this, you have to be more willing to mulligan to stick to your plan.

So I went to six and saw:

 

This is essentially a four-card hand, but it’s a strong one. Runed Halo is so so huge in this matchup, and Thoughtseize even allows me to set it up, assuming I draw a second white source at some point. Weirdly, I think this hand is better than the last – both of the spells are proactive.

I drew a Reflecting Pool and played the Runed Halo, then Thoughtseized away his Cryptic Command the following turn, leaving him with just lands, a Vendilion Clique, and an Explore. He Vendilion Cliqued on my turn, seeing my hand of very little, and I Bolted it. On my turn, I opted to play Esper Charm to draw two, rather than Vendilion Clique, as I felt like I needed the cards rather than the disruption. His hand was pretty awful based on what I saw from the earlier Thoughtseize, and he had to have a way to deal with Runed Halo before he could kill me.

He also had a Tectonic Edge in play, so I chose not to play the fourth land in my hand in case I drew a Jace. At the end of his turn I Vendilion Cliqued him, saw his hand was Scalding Tarn, Tectonic Edge, Dispel. Keep it, sir.

I drew the Jace I needed the next turn and stuck my Jace. He triple Tectonic Edged me, but Jace was enough to fateseal him to death. I chose to bottom only the cards that could answer Runed Halo (Cryptic Command, Back to Nature). I went ultimate with Jace, and my opponent did not concede with his ability on the stack, allowing me to see his whole deck and take a screenshot.

He only had one Scapeshift in his deck postboard, so tapping out for a threat after turn four didn’t necessarily mean suicide. If I could Thoughtseize or Vendilion Clique away his singleton Scapeshift, then I could conceivably set up a Cruel Ultimatum, and now I wasn’t going to die on the spot if it got countered. So I boarded in one Ultimatum over a Lightning Bolt.

I kept:

 

Great Sable Stag came down on turn three, and we did a whole lot of nothing – he played a million Ponders and Preordains, I missed some land drops, he helped my land situation with a Tectonic Edge, but Stag was chipping away at his life total, 3 points at a time, so he was at 8.

Then, the fateful turn.

He had 6 lands in play, two of which were Valakut. He played Prismatic Omen, then played a land, putting both Valakut triggers on the stack targeting the Great Sable Stag instead of me (I was at 14 due to a now-dead and largely irrelevant Vendilion Clique from earlier in the game).

One of his lands on the board was a fetchland, which means that he didn’t have enough to kill me if he was targeting the Great Sable Stag; that is, he probably didn’t have a Scapeshift + countermagic backup (even a Mana Leak would have done; I was on four lands).

With the Valakut triggers on the stack, I Nature’s Claimed his Prismatic Omen (the triggers don’t resolve if the Omen’s not in play when they try to resolve – it’s an “intervening if clause” – I’ll get into this next week with my “tricky Extended rules interactions article” why that’s the case). He then responded with Cryptic Command. Modes?

Return Prismatic Omen to its owner’s hand and draw a card.

Let’s stop for a second and think this through.

Why would he choose those modes? If he had another Omen in his hand, he would have just countered it with Cryptic Command, then tried the next turn. If he countered the Nature’s Claim and left the Omen on the table, then I could untap and maybe play Esper Charm or a second Nature’s Claim (I did not have the colors to do so on my turn, as my lands were Island, a Vivid Creek with no counters, Mystic Gate, and Reflecting Pool). He had just one land untapped, so he could conceivably have Mana Leak.

I attacked him down to 5 (Nature’s Claim with the beatdown plan is a little bit of a nombo, for whatever that’s worth), played a Vivid Crag I had just drawn, and passed.

He replayed Prismatic Omen and then a land, again choosing to target the Great Sable Stag. I played Nature’s Claim with three mana up, and he Mana Leaked it. I paid for Mana Leak. With that on the stack, he used two fetchlands to kill Great Sable Stag, then let the Nature’s Claim resolve, despite him having four mana and two cards in hand.

This means he did not have a counterspell. Woohoo, I got to resolve what I wanted! I cast Jace, Brainstormed into a Thoughtseize, Thoughtseized his hand, saw two lands, and he had one turn to topdeck something before I got to untap with Jace + Cryptic Command in hand. He did not, and the game was essentially over.

Potential mistakes: I’m not sure if keeping the Obstinate Baloths in the board was right – he is a threat to beat down. I was so afraid of Scapeshift, though, that I didn’t want to risk it. The hand I kept in game two was pretty bad, but I had a plan, and that hand fit in with that plan. Is that better than an average five? Maybe. Maybe it is.

7-1, and headed into top 8.

Quarterfinals: Mono-Red

I lost the die roll and saw:

 

Although I love Lightning Bolt against Mono-Red, this hand is soooooo slow on the draw. I get to Bolt his early play, and then I could just be dead, plus Jace is pretty poor against Red.

I mulliganed into:

 

Not exactly great, but Fallout can be surprisingly good against them, and I think it’s better than an average five-card hand.

Things did not start off well. A turn one Goblin Guide did undo my mulligan when it gave me a land, but then it got Teetering Peaked on turn two, then Hell’s Thunder met me on turn three, by the time I could Esper Charm, I was at 6 – and he had four cards in hand. He put me to 4 during my end step, and I had to use Cryptic Command to tap his team/draw a card when he unearthed a Hellspark Elemental. I drew Wall of Reverence to go back up to 5, leaving up mana to Lightning Bolt (which he knew I had from an earlier Goblin Guide reveal).

A second Hell’s Thunder and a second Goblin Guide showed up. I Bolted one of the Guides, and went to 3 – he had two cards in hand, but was thankfully tapped out. 3 is a scary life total to be at against red, obviously.

However, I had a Creeping Tar Pit in hand. I played it, activated it (even though it was tapped), and gained 3 life off it from Wall of Reverence, this time having Mana Leak mana up for anything horrible he might do. He played a third Hell’s Thunder (from hand), which I did not Leak. I was at 6, and Wall of Reverence was going to block the Hell’s Thunder, so Goblin Guide could only get in for 4 and put me to 2. Even if he went land, Bolt, Bolt, I could Leak the second Bolt and not die, then activate Creeping Tar Pit on my turn and gain 3 again. So I let the Hell’s Thunder resolve.

So I took 2, went to 4, played a land to inch towards the Cruel Ultimatum in my hand, and activated Creeping Tar Pit, leaving up Creeping Tar Pit, Vivid Creek, and Mystic Gate. I did not attack with the Tar Pit, because I wanted to Esper Charm his hand away if I had to on his turn, or simply draw two cards if it came to that.

So for the second turn in a row, I activated Creeping Tar Pit, then intentionally did not attack with it. He Bolted my Tar Pit with the gain life trigger on the stack, I Leaked his Bolt (essentially gain 6!), and he couldn’t kill me before I played [card]Cruel Ultimatum[/card], which essentially put the game out of reach.

I boarded:
IN:

 

OUT:

 

I saw from the replays that he was playing Figure of Destiny, Hellspark Elemental, and Ball Lightning, so Volcanic Fallout can be quite good here. I didn’t want to leave in all three, but two is enough. Jace is a little slow, but can bounce a Figure of Destiny that’s going to do bad things – I don’t know if leaving one Jace in is correct or not, though.

Game 2
My seven cards of:

 

Was very slow on the draw, so I mulliganed to:

 

Going to five…

 

Can’t say I was thrilled, but it’s better than an average four.

Goblin Guide, Stigma Lasher, Goblin Guide, Hell’s Thunder, Figure of Destiny – I was dead before I could blink.

Game 3
My hand of:

 

Was just fine. He mulliganed to six cards, to boot.

He had no turn one play, and he played a turn two Figure of Destiny, and I didn’t Bolt it before he played his third land, which was a mistake, as he spent one mana making it a 2/2. So when he attacked, I tried to trade it with Plumeveil, but he Flame Javelined it before blockers. This let me untap and Bolt his Figure of Destiny before he could level it up to a 4/4.

I got stuck on three lands, but when he played Ball Lightning and Hellspark Elemental on the same turn, I used Volcanic Fallout to save me 7 life, and that left him with only one card in hand. I drew a fourth land, passed. He passed back.

I end step Esper Charmed to draw two, and he dumped his hand while I was tapped out – Flame Javelin, Lightning Bolt. I was at 3. I played a land and passed, holding up Cryptic Command. He drew a card and passed the turn without doing anything.

I drew Reflecting Pool, which I played. So this was my hand:

 

I was at 3, he was at 16 with one unknown card in his hand. He had no unearth cards in his graveyard.

If he’d had a creature, he would have played it. So that just left a burn spell. The problem is that the longer this game went on, the better chance there would be of him just amassing a bunch of burn spells and being able to kill me in one turn. Mana Leak is a pretty bad card when a Lightning Bolt kills you, so I could really only counter one spell with the Cryptic Command in my hand.

This game had to end soon, or I was going to lose. I think the best choice here is to play Wurmcoil Engine and hope he doesn’t draw anything or have anything. That’s the most likely scenario I have for winning this game, as much as it kind of sucks.

I slammed it down and held my breath.

He played a land, and I got to untap.

I got to untap with Wurmcoil Engine!

Pow! Right in the face! Gain 6! Still had all these Cryptic Commands!

Potential mistakes: I should have killed his Figure of Destiny when he didn’t have the mana to make it a 4/4 – I should have done so during his upkeep before he played his third land, probably. It worked out in that Plumeveil traded with Flame Javelin, but it was just a case of me playing a little too quickly (and maybe reaching a little bit of fatigue, as this was round 9 of the PTQ and it was something like 2 in the morning).

Semifinals: Faeries

I kept on the play:

 

He got stuck on one colored mana source (a Darkslick Shores), so when he Thoughtseized me, taking a Mana Leak (and leaving Jace, the Mind Sculptor in hand), I drew a Reflecting Pool to make my fourth land, and I resolved Jace. This let him resolve Bitterblossom, but I didn’t care.

Through Plumeveil and Fallouts, I protected Jace long enough to get eight Brainstorm activations off him. Eight. I’ll let you figure out how that game went for me when I drew eight extra cards over the course of the game.

I boarded the same way I did for game 2 of round 7, leaving in the second Cruel Ultimatum.

Game 2:
On the draw:

 

I played turn 3 Great Sable Stag into turn 4 Wall of Reverence, both of which resolved. This game couldn’t have been going any better. He played Jace Beleren (and +2ed it so I couldn’t kill it with Stag) and Bitterblossom.

Peachy. At this point, he was nearly drawing dead, right? He used some hand disruption (Vendilion Clique, Thoughtseize) to get any sort of Cryptic Commandy shenanigans out of my hand, then end step Mistbind Cliqued me, championing Vendilion Clique. Fine, whatever. I don’t care about your stupid Mistbind Clique. I was at 33, he was at 5, and I had double Plumeveil and Wall of Reverence in play, plus a Great Sable Stag on the field. How could I possibly lose?

With me tapped out thanks to Mistbind Clique, he played this dirtbag:

Wurmcoil Engine

Huh. That’s a problem.

I drew a second Great Sable Stag, played it, and passed. Now I was back on track. He could gain 6 life a turn off Wurmcoil Engine, but with the Bitterblossom in play and two Great Sable Stags hitting him, he was still losing one life per turn. And Wall of Reverence + Plumeveil were keeping me from dying to Wurmcoil beatdown. Still got this one.

Then he end step Mistbind Cliqued me and played a second Wurmcoil Engine.

Ugggggghgghgg.

I did not recover from that overwhelming board position.

Game 3
I kept on the play:

 Inquisition of Kozilek took my Volcanic Fallout. I drew Mana Leak to Leak his Thoughtseize, but I just had no gas.

When he played a turn 5 Jace Beleren, I misclicked instead of Mana Leaking it. He played a Wall of Tanglecord, which I did Mana Leak, thinking that the way I was winning this game was through Great Sable Stag attacks before I could get Wurmcoiled to death. Not that I had a Great Sable Stag in my hand, although my play strongly suggested to my opponent that I did. Why else would I let Jace Beleren resolve, and not Wall of Tanglecord? Stupid misclick…sigh.

I drew Esper Charm, main-phased it with him tapped out, and drew Great Sable Stag and played it. See? My misclick wasn’t so bad. That’s what I wanted to do! Clearly I had Great Sable Stag in my hand, why else would I not Leak Jace and Leak Wall of Tanglecord? Ha ha, silly opponent! Obviously I had Great Sable Stag.

Great Sable Stag killed Jace, but he played Vendilion Clique into Thoughtseize, taking away all of my spells. I drew lands for the rest of the game, while he played Mistbind Clique into Mistbind Clique into dead.

And that’s where it ended.

Potential mistakes: The turn before he played the first Wurmcoil Engine in game two, I could have killed Jace, but I really didn’t expect him to bring in Wurmcoil Engine. I had him dead in two turns (or the next turn, if I drew Volcanic Fallout or Lightning Bolt), and I didn’t think he had any outs – but even if he did, I wanted to reduce the number of outs by giving him one fewer turn. This is a game that looked like there was no way I was going to lose, then I lost – and it’s tempting to second-guess, but I really don’t know what I could have done to win that game otherwise. I’ve certainly thought about it a lot.

The misclick in game 3 probably didn’t matter. Not having a Jace would have been nice, but Great Sable Stag would not have been able to attack through his Wall, and Wurmcoil Engine gave him the inevitability that I’d been taking advantage of all tournament against Faeries players. He also drew excessively well that game, and I was very very flooded. Wurmcoil is pretty expensive as a sorcery speed answer to 5cc, so it may not be the ideal plan against that deck, but kudos to my opponent – he realized that playing the grind-it-out game with Bitterblossom and Mistbind Cliques was probably not going to work against Fallouts and Stags and Plumeveils and Wall of Reverence (or however much he saw in the replays), and had to develop a new plan.

Aftermath

Obviously I was disappointed I didn’t win, especially when I thought I was going to win the semifinals and just have to face, beat one more deck to win the tournament. But such is tournament Magic; it’s hard to win a PTQ, and all I can do is look at my mistakes, find where I made them, and focus on getting better. I just don’t have the energy to get super tilty or angsty about it. Losing sucks, there’s no doubt about that, but everyone loses – spending a bunch of negative energy on losing in non-productive ways is a great way to burn out. I try to turn my intense hatred of losing into a strong work ethic, forcing myself to go over what I did wrong in order to improve, so I can decrease my chances of losing in the future.

It’s a (sometimes painful) process, but it seems to be working.

The Faeries matchup was supposed to be bad for 5cc, but between the Grand Prix and this PTQ, I went (essentially) 5-1 against the deck. (I did time out against Faeries in round 3, but I had the win in hand – I think when talking about the matchup and who’s favored, I’m comfortable calling that a “win.”) Add in Chapin’s performance from the GP, and that pushes the record to 9-2 with this particular build. That’s obviously very solid. The Jund matchup has been a coin flip in my experience, and the UG Scapeshift matchup is still pretty poor, so if those decks are popular, then this isn’t the best-positioned deck.

If you’ve played a lot of this deck before, I think it’s a fine choice for this Sunday’s Magic Online PTQ (which does not have Mirrodin Besieged). I won’t be playing in said PTQ unfortunately, as I will be on the Magic Cruise. Okay, so maybe not so unfortunately.

Once Faeries gets Go for the Throat, the matchup does get harder, but I don’t think it gets ridiculously harder. Wall of Reverence is not the only card that makes this matchup winnable; it just happens to be the best card. Even so, will they have four of that card between maindeck and side? Another approach is to be more aggressive and play an extra Creeping Tar Pit (or board in more – which also offsets their Tectonic Edge plan a bit by boarding in lands – a nice suggestion by future PT Paris competitor Joe Bono). Overload their Throat-going. I don’t really understand how you can go for a wall’s throat, but apparently you can, somehow. Wizards, explain this one to me! (And we’re at it, why doesn’t Captured Sunlight destroy all vampires in play? Or at least make them foil?)

The thing about 5cc is that you have so much flexibility in what you can do and how you want to board, and more importantly, what plan you want to take. This deck is all about finding the correct plan, and then making the plays to fit your plan. There are a lot of ways to do this, and I love the dynamic nature of the deck; you can drastically change how a matchup plays out with just a few subtle changes.

I would consider going up to 4 Wall of Reverence. The card is that good. If half my matches are going to be against Faeries, I’d also want to think about going back up to 4 Fallouts. The manabase isn’t great when you’re trying to cast Great Sable Stag and Obstinate Baloth postboard, but it’s good enough for now. If they play Spreading Seas and such, it can be highly irritating. 5cc is a little under the radar right now (and not many are playing it), so Faeries is not likely to have too many cards in the board for this matchup.

(An aside: I know some people think I’m absolutely crazy about this, but I think this deck is easier to play than Mono-Red. I certainly find it less mentally tiring. With Red, I feel like I have to calculate every last stinking point of damage every turn, and I’m constantly doing math, forced to sequence things flawlessly – since Red’s cards are inherently less powerful, you have less room for error. With 5cc, I just have to have a plan, then adapt my plan as it goes along. I’m not counting potential life totals three times a turn every turn of the tournament. That deck is certainly not mindless, and although I prefer playing 5cc to Red, I’ve been known to sleeve up a Ball Lightning or two if I have to.)

A huge thanks to Martin Goldman-Kirst for a ton of advice on playing the deck, as well as getting me turned back onto 5cc in the first place, and thanks to Wrapter/LSV/Patrick Chapin, who ultimately provided a build that ended up being pretty good against the field.

Practice, practice, practice this deck if you want to play it. I’ve played a fair bit of it, and as you can see, I was still making mistakes virtually every round. Then again, that’s Magic – if you think you aren’t making mistakes, you’re almost certainly wrong.

Unmistakenly yours,
-Zaiem

zaiemb at gmail dot com
zbeg on Twitter

Bonus: Decklists from the event.

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