“Why don’t you just play Faeries?”
“You are dumb.”
Oh, the irony.
I arrived in Atlanta on Friday morning, and was picked up from the train station by two very kind gentlemen, the genius Joseph Crosby and Nationals finalist Thomas Drake. Pro Tour champion Charles Gindy was asleep back at the house, I felt a little under the weather, so I decided to take a nap as well.
Once we were both awake, Gindy and I started discussing what we were going to play in the 5K the next day. I had narrowed it down to WG Tokens, some sort of Jund deck, maybe Chapin’s Blood deck, although I didn’t really like the mana base, and possibly Faeries as a backup deck. After some discussion, and the fact that Korey McDuffie needed some of my Blood cards that I brought with really helped cement my decision to play WG.
Korey obviously could have gotten the cards from someone else, but it helped me actually make a decision as to what I would play. If I didn’t have Blood cards, then I couldn’t play the Blood deck right? Well, yes and no. Korey and I were basically in the same boat, where we could probably get cards for anything if we really tried, but I’m not about to run around a room full of people I don’t know asking for filter lands or whatever. I’d much rather be able to relax before a tournament. So while I could get the cards, I didn’t want to have to stress over it.
I called up another Nationals superstar, Billy Postlethwait, and asked him when he was getting in so that I could try and bum some cards from him, but apparently some of his friends bailed and he couldn’t go.
Next up, I called the always reliable Nick Becvar and asked him for a couple of decks, although at this point it looked like we were only going to be able to get a GW deck and something else. After all, it’s much more likely someone is going to have 4 Noble Hierarch and 4 Bitterblossom than 8 Noble Hierarchs. Nick pulled through and provided me with exactly what I expected: A GW and Faerie deck.
Gindy obviously gets the midrange deck and I get Faeries, as we both have most experience with those archetypes than the alternatives. I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t be attacking with Treetop Village, but maybe it would work out for the best. Either one of our decks could be good vs. the prospective field and one of us could coast to the top eight, whereas if the field was heavily anti Faeries, which seemed likely considering the results from Seattle. I thought it was certainly possible that we would do better as a group by playing different decks.
Faeries wasn’t my first choice, but I would have to make due with what I had. I started like I normally do, writing down a list of cards I am for sure going to play. In this case, that list was:
Building the Deck
4 Spellstutter Sprite: I see LSV’s point, and I agree to some point. Spellstutter is a little loose sometimes, as when you are the on the draw, they have usually already played their one or two drop spells you can easily counter with it. When you pass on turn two or three (with a Mutavault), your opponent will often attempt to play around Spellstutter as well. Sometimes they’ll attempt to play around Broken Ambitions though, and run right into Spellstutter.
Either way, you probably want the maximum amount of those cards so that you are more likely to have the opposite when they decide to play around one or another. It’s very similar to the “Cryptic or Mistbind?” dilemma, albeit on a much smaller scale. If they charge into combat hoping you use some sort of trick so that they don’t get Dismissed, Mistbind ruins their day. If they simply decide to cast everything main phase (like Cedric does), they get to play around Mistbind, but run into Cryptic every time. That is usually the lesser of the two evils, and I would be fine with everyone else following that mantra as well.
The problem is (and I’ve written about this before), once you start cutting Spellstutter Sprites or Scion of Oonas, you start to take away from the overall effectiveness of Bitterblossom. As is, Bitterblossom is nearly an auto win if you play it on turn two. That is because Spellstutter Sprite and Mistbind Clique become absolutely insane, are huge tempo stealers, and thus game winners.
Say you draw a Sprite early and run it out there on turn two, as I often do if I know I won’t have any other Faeries to make it relevant, if I have a Mistbind or Scion, or if I think I just might end up racing and those points will matter. If I play a Bitterblossom later on, then I only have two copies of 1U Counterspell in my deck, and that just seems like a crime.
Long story short, Spellstutter isn’t the best card all the time, but it’s going to win you way more games than it will be bad. The times it’s insane far outweigh the times where it’s mediocre.
4 Scion of Oona: Once upon a time, I cut these. Since then, I’ve learned my lesson. Faeries plays better as a deck that can switch gears and put on the pressure and race if necessary. When you have a bunch of Bitterblossoms and probably some Thoughtseizes, you can’t just assume a control role and assume you have inevitability. You don’t.
Sometimes Bitterblossom does kill you, and you want to be able to kill them before that happens, especially now in a world with Volcanic Fallout. You can threaten them with the first faerie horde, force them to clear the board, and then use Scion to give them very few topdecks, while maybe using Vendilion Clique or Thoughtseize to make sure the coast is clear pre-Scion.
Scion is great against weaker players and adds to the already hefty list of tricks they have to play around. It’s often dependant on their deck and how they play whether I keep in Scions post board or not, so oftentimes they’ll even be playing around the wrong things. Learn to anticipate. Decide what level your opponent is on, whether or not they will think ahead, and let that be the deciding factor.
For example, if you think they have Cloudthresher, do they know that conventional wisdom says Faeries should side out Scions? If they do, do they think you are smart enough to side them out? If they know you’re smart enough to board them out, they can probably afford to stop playing around Scion, at which point you can utterly destroy them. They will probably call you terrible for leaving in Scions, but maybe they’ll figure out that you actually outplayed them in the sideboarding war.
4 Mistbind Clique: Obviously. I am not Shouta Yasooka or yaya3 on MODO, so I will play with four of these.
4 Cryptic Command: Sadly, there is no one I’ve seen playing less than four Cryptics (in Faeries at least), so I have nothing witty to say here.
4 Bitterblossom: …
4 Broken Ambitions: As long as there are varied threats in Standard like Planeswalkers, Bitterblossom, Spectral Procession, and Chameleon Colossus, I will always have four Ambitions in my deck. Obviously, of those, Procession is the most likely target for your Ambitions, but the others are still important, (usually) must counter cards. I would love to be able to play specific stuff like Remove Soul or Negate, but in this format, it’s not really possible.
4 Agony Warp: As discussed earlier, I wanted to be as tricksy as possible.
I watched Sam “I still had all THESE” Black play a match at Barcelona that was fairly interesting. His opponent was Elves and Sam was obviously Faeries, and the game had progressed to the point where they each had a few manlands in play and only a couple cards in hand, with plenty of mana. I could see the wheels turning in Sam’s opponent’s head. He didn’t want to just fire up his guys and get them all tapped by Cryptic, so he was going to test the waters. He activated two Mutavaults and Sam had no effect before attackers were declared. Well, maybe he didn’t have the Cryptic, maybe he just has nothing then? I guess we’ll attackintoohmygodwhathaveIdoneAgonyWarpALLMYGUYSAREDEADCRAP.
It’s these types of situations where Faeries can flourish, even though none of it was your own doing. Just by playing tricky cards, people get themselves into situations where they just can’t play around everything, can’t figure out what you have, or simply forget that a certain trick exists.
Honestly, Sam’s opponent probably should have just fired up all his manlands and got in there. I understand that he didn’t want to lose a turn of attacks to Cryptic, but if he doesn’t make Sam use the Cryptic that turn, Sam is just going to have it for the next turn. Also, by only attacking with two guys, he opened himself up to a world of pain if Sam just has Warp, Scion, Mistbind, or basically any other trick at that point.
Sure, Terror is pretty good, but Agony Warp does a ton of things that Terror doesn’t. First of all, it kills black guys like Putrid Leech (assuming they “walk into it,” which they usually have to), but most importantly, it can easily provide a quick two for one. Usually I just settle for the UB Lightning Helix against aggro, which I am more than fine with. Finally, Agony Warp is better in the token mirrors, whereas Terror is usually just awful.
I can certainly respect playing Terror if you’re overly worried about stuff like Wilt Leaf Liege, Cloudthresher, or Meddling Mage, or if you want to play a miser’s Terror in order to hopefully convince them they don’t have Agony Warp. However, I would still say that Warp is the better card.
That left me with:
Other cards I considered running included:
Sower of Temptation: A very good card, but almost everyone is prepared for it now with stuff like Jund Charm and Cloudthresher, so you can’t even play turn three Scion to protect it. Kind of sad really, as this used to be your best card against aggro.
Vendilion Clique: A little bit better now actually, and a card I consider integral to winning the Faerie mirror, which I will go into detail later.
Plumeveil: Another trick for them to play around, although somewhat hard to cast.
Jace Beleren: I think if I knew exactly how good Jace was in block, I easily would have won a PTQ, as a deck with 4 Peppersmoke and 4 Jace would almost certainly win the mirror. I wanted to keep that in mind when building my deck, but knew that I probably wouldn’t be able to fit in the full amount of mirror “hate” that I wanted. I was fine with that, as I didn’t think Faeries would be nearly the menace it was in block, as most people are sick of it by now.
Loxodon Warhammer: This always seems good in theory, but almost every time I play it, I’m reminded why it’s only a one, and why it probably shouldn’t be in the deck. Regardless, Luis likes it a lot, so I decided to give it another go.
Snakeform: I was extremely worried about things like Colossus and Putrid Leech for this tournament, so Snakeform was on my short list of removal that I would consider playing. Being awesome against Reveillark was just icing on the cake.
Terror: See Agony Warp. Solid, but worse than the alternatives unless I wanted to get tricky.
Peppersmoke: Solid against the mirror, alright against tokens, but pretty miserable against everything else. If you don’t have Bitterblossom, it’s rare that you’re involved in that much combat, so you usually just end up casting this as Bandage. That isn’t good enough, in my opinion. We can do better.
I was really worried about GB Elves and Jund, so I drew up what I wanted my deck to look like post board and came up with:
With probably some more Ambitions/Thoughtseizes left in the deck if I couldn’t fit more hate cards into my sideboard. That deck seemed legit, and even if I were to lose game one, I could probably pull out the next two games.
I asked Gindy, the Elves master, if he thought he could take my post board Fae deck if it looked like that, and he said that he would definitely be worried, I knew I had to try and make that sideboard plan happen.
I decided to run:
I kind of wanted to spice things up, as I’ve been doing poorly as of late and figured that trend would continue, as I was neither well practiced, nor really feeling my deck choice. The maindeck one ofs were very janky (aside from the Hammer), and I probably wouldn’t recommend those again. Sadly, I never even really drew or cast them, so I didn’t get to have much fun beating people with “bad” cards.
I like casting my spells, but four Underground Rivers can be too many at times. Reflecting Pool can function as an Underground River if you already have a black source, and is awesome if that black source is actually a River, as instead of having two Rivers you have an Underground Sea. Playing some Reflecting Pools to help make your painlands less painful is a valuable tactic I learned from playing WB Tokens, and I think that Faeries can benefit from it quite nicely.
Anathemancer was somewhat of a concern, as were the dreaded Mutavault/Pool hands, so I only played one, basically just to test the waters and see how good it would be. As it turns out, Pool not being River was bad for me twice, and having it being Reflecting Pool was great for me twice. If I were going to run Fae in the future, I would probably just cut an Island for a Reflecting Pool, not an Underground River.
Sowers didn’t make my 75. I felt like they would just die and I could rely on stuff like Snakeform or Persuasion to deal with the stuff I wanted Sowers for. Turns out, I was right and wrong. After playing a few games vs. stuff like Kithkin and WB, I knew not playing Sowers was a mistake, but there wasn’t anything I could do at that point. In hindsight, I wish I had both Sower and Persuasion, but if I had to settle for one or the other, it would probably be Sower, as it is much better in the mirror.
I like running the Infests to further complicate the “try to play around all my tricks” game. While four Infests might seem good against a token deck, they are occasionally bad because WB has persisters, can easily just rebuild the next turn, and WG has some bigger dudes that don’t die to it. However, sometimes both decks just swarm you, and at least now you’re not drawing dead. Using Cryptic to Fog when you’re drawing dead to their army is about the most depressing thing ever.
Becvar hooked us both up with decks courtesy of Eli Aden and away we went.
Round one was interesting. My opponent sat down and immediately pointed out that he was Todd Anderson’s best man at his wedding. That meant he had to beat me. I wished him luck in his endeavors.
It turned out he was playing a 5cc variant featuring Bloodbraid Elf, which should be a fine matchup. I mulliganned to start and played Bitterblossom on two, but attacked with a Mutavault on turn three, with my only spell being a Scion of Oona. I was punished with an Esper Charm by attempting to play around [card]Volcanic Fallout[/card]. I’m pretty sure my play was bad, as I could have also been blown out by Maelstrom Pulse. At the time, I figured that because my hand was poor, I wanted to get as much damage in as possible, and then get in a bunch with a Scion that he wouldn’t be expecting. Obviously, that plan failed and I looked stupid.
Good way to start the day. I flooded out the rest of the game and he started playing his big spells like Primal Command and Enlisted Wurm. I brought in the Thoughtseizes and Flashfreezes for the removal and hoped for the best.
Thankfully, my deck did what it does to control decks the next two games. Thoughtseize took his cascade spells the majority of the time, and due to a couple of my opponent’s mistakes, I was able to capitalize. For example, I just Broken Ambitioned one of his threats, and spent the next turn playing Thoughtseize and something else, tapping down to two mana, and leaving him with Broodmate and Wrath of God, among other things. My opponent confidently slammed down the Broodmate, and ran right into Broken for one, which was pretty obvious that I had.
After that tempo loss, it was easy to clean up.
Game three was kind of close since I was short on lands, but once I got to six, I was able to start playing two spells a turn, and that was.
1-0, 2-1 in games
Round two was kind of unfortunate. I started with a mulligan to five, but was still battling hard against my opponent’s Bant deck. His Shorecrasher Mimic got me down to one life, while I busy dealing with his other threats like Rafiq, Jhessian Infiltrator, and Rhox War Monk. I still needed to draw something to get rid of his Dauntless Escort and Treetop Village, and got there with a Vendilion Clique. If I could Clique into an Agony Warp, I would probably go onto win, but drew an Island instead.
I was pretty happy with how that game went, as Bant should be a difficult matchup, and despite being down two cards, I was putting up a decent fight. After bringing in a bunch of Deathmarks and such, I should be favored. However, my first hand was Island, Mutavault, and uncastables, my second hand was six spells, and my five card hand was four lands and [card]Scion of Oona[/card]. I literally cannot win with that, but could easily win with Bitterblossom, a removal spell, and two lands, so I shot for that.
Sadly, I drew an Island and spells, and was quickly defeated.
My round three opponent started with Treetop Village, Sulfurous Springs, and then Forest, attack. When I Vendilion Cliqued him during his fourth turn draw step, I let him keep his hand as it was all a bunch of double white junk like Wrath of Gods and Runed Halos, none of which he could cast. It was easy to win from there.
Second game, I just did the Faeries vs. control thing again. Overall, an easy victory.
A Fae mirror awaited me round four. After playing with my deck for a while, I was a little worried about having to play the mirror. I had no Sowers, no Peppersmokes, and basically nothing to really give myself an advantage. With how my deck was constructed, I was going to have to keep in a bunch of Mistbind Cliques, which I would rather not have to do. Either you have Bitterblossom and are probably winning already, at which point Clique probably doesn’t matter. Also, if you have Blossom, you want to react to whatever they are doing, not just run Cliques into their Cryptic Commands.
In game one, neither of us has a Bitterblossom, but the deciding factor is me being able to use my mana more efficiently than him. While he isn’t able to use his mana every turn, I took every opportunity to tap out, presenting end of turn threats and attacking with Mutavaults on my turn. All the while, I was cautious enough to not get wrecked by a Sower or Mistbind.
My opponent started game two by mulliganing. My hand was a little sketchy. I had lands and spells, but honestly couldn’t feel good about keeping it on the draw, especially if my opponent was happy with his six. It had Ambitions, Scion, Mistbind, and Spellstutter, but was absolutely awful if he had a Bitterblossom.
In block, everyone was dead set on mulliganing into Thoughtseize, Bitterblossom, or an Ambitions if they were on the play. I’m not sure if that mindset still applies, or if people even remember it. I believe that is probably correct, but also, if you’re on the draw, and they are unhappy with their six or five card hand, or simply stopped mulliganing because they had a Thoughtseize or Broken Ambitions, then I could easily keep a mediocre hand on the draw, since getting Thoughtseized isn’t even a big deal. I would much rather just have the extra cards, no matter what they are.
It’s this exact type of situation where the new mulligan rule sucks, but I believe it’s for the best. Under the new rules, I would just ship this hand, end of story. However, my opponent mulliganed to five, begrudgingly kept, and I kept as well. On turn three, he drew a Sunken Ruins and cast Thoughtseize, which I Stuttered, and then a Bitterblossom. I drew a Blossom a few turns later to maintain parity, but due to his being stalled on three lands, I was able to start playing two spells a turn where he could only play one.
3-1, 6-3, and feeling good about my deck choice!
Round five was over quickly. My opponent mulliganed and had some awkward mana, which can happen, even though he was playing a conservative three color Jund deck. Meanwhile, I had won my fifth die roll in a row, and had the nuts: Bitterblossom on turn two with Scion and counterspells available if I needed them. On my turn six, I drew, immediately played a land, and attacked with all my guys. He cast a Jund Charm, which would otherwise be a wrecking ball, but the second and third Scion kept my team alive, and was more than enough to kill him.
I drew the third Scion that turn, which is why I played my land so quickly. If he Charmed on my upkeep, it would have resolved, and probably given him a few more turns, but I still would have had double Scion for him to deal with.
He had a more reasonable draw in the second game, but I had Bitterblossom into Mistbind Clique, backed up with other spells, and he couldn’t really deal.
I was excited for round six, as my name was called for a feature match against Swans. I don’t think the matchup is as good for Fae as everyone else thinks it is, so I wasn’t about to get overconfident. Game one, I Vendilioned away a threat while he started to attack me with manlands, as he was quite flooded. I drew a Scion the turn after I played Bitterblossom and made a miscalculation, which resulted in a bad attack from me. I had to trade away the Scion and a token for his Treetop, but then could only get him to one. Thankfully, he had nothing and I was able to block his guys, and then finish him with my next attack.
I sided in the Thoughtseizes and Flashfreezes for Snakeform, Persuasion, Warhammer, the Jaces, and something random, probably a Spellstutter, although thinking about it now seems terrible. His Deny Reality and Primal Command in game on tipped me off that he was probably playing what LSV and I played in Barcelona, so I could expect him to bring in a plethora of three drops, which Stutter would probably be awesome against. I didn’t want to cut a Scion, since being able to race the combo deck seemed important.
I kept a great hand for game two, but it was all Underground River action, all the time. Thoughtseize, Bitterblossom, and then another Thoughtseize took chunks out of my life total, but thankfully I was able to dispatch a Crusher with Agony Warp and counter some other threats while beating down. A second Crusher put me in chump block mode, and I had to plan ahead to ensure that the Deny Realities he was holding wouldn’t kill me.
He tried to Deny a token (which found him a Seismic Assault, although with no lands in hand) and attack for the win, but a flashed in Spellstutter saved me (could this Spellstutter not have countered the Assault here? – LSV, probably missing something like an already resolved Assault). When I went to three on upkeep and drew a non-counterspell, I knew I was dead, although maybe I could trick him. I played the Island I drew, cast a Scion, and cut his life total in half.
He revealed an irrelevant spell to his Crusher and went deep in the tank. My heart was pounding. Would this actually work? Did he not see his on the board kill? I tried to hurry things along, showing him another Scion, which would make my attack very lethal, no matter what he did that turn. He nodded, seemingly resigned to his fate, but then did a double take.
He announced Deny Reality, and when he pointed at his land, I scooped em up. Apparently it wouldn’t work after all. For a moment there, I thought I had him though.
Neither Rain of Tears nor Fulminator Mage were cast that game, and granted I scooped before he resolved the cascade from his lethal Deny Reality, so I didn’t give myself a chance to see as much of his deck as possible, but I didn’t see any reason to change my sideboard plan.
I had a turn two Bitterblossom again, and he “matched” me with a Crusher, but I was able to Agony Warp that. After that, I had a rather easy time dispatching his threats. It was somewhat anti climactic after our extremely close first couple games, but I’ll take whatever I can get.
Cedric was my neighbor for round seven, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I got to watch part of his match as my opponent failed to show up for the first few minutes. Star City decided that if you weren’t in your seat by the time the round started, you would get a game loss, and my opponent didn’t seem to really pay attention to that part of the announcement. At the 43 minute mark, I figured I was almost certainly getting a free match win. After all, if someone is seven minutes late for a match, I don’t expect them to show up at all. Sadly, an opponent appeared and I had to battle.
I was pretty glad that the match my opponent decided to not show up was against a Merfolk opponent. Fish is typically a hard matchup for Faeries, but the later iterations of the Fish deck have been more control oriented, giving Faeries back the advantage. Meddling Mage does help their cause though, especially against my version that is less loose than other *cough*LSV*cough* Faerie lists (Look, nothing wrong with some “strategic” one-ofs – LSV).
Stonybrook Banneret was the only play from either of us in the first few turns. I ran out a Spellstutter Sprite to start racing, and then probably made a mistake when I played a turn five Vendilion Clique. It obviously got Sage’s Dousing-ed, and I had nothing on my turn to take advantage of him being tapped low. Even if I did have a Mistbind or something, I ran the risk of walking right into Sower.
In the next few turns, we each played out some guys, him a Meddling Mage and an attempted Sygg, and me with another Stutter and my Scion. I came out ahead in combat a couple times, but I was significantly flooded and my Scion was Pathed. His Sower on my final guy was enough to convince me to scoop, although I did make him mana burn for one first. Moral victory!
A turn one Thoughtseize revealed a fairly solid hand from him, but I took his Sygg and cast Bitterblossom. I don’t make the same mistake this game by running stuff into Dousing, and eventually he has to tap out for something, which in this case is a Glen Elendra Archmage, which resolves. I have the trump Razormane Masticore and silently pray for no Sower.
Masticore makes the Archmage a more manageable 1/1 and my Faerie army continues it’s assault. I have the Mistbind Clique for the Time Walk, and that’s game.
I was excited for my second feature match, this time in round eight, and I think I recognized my opponent’s name, but couldn’t place where. When we sat down, I asked my opponent if we’ve played before, and he replied that yes, we have, and that I wasn’t very pleased with him.
Flash back to the Kentucky Open (which is coming up again very soon, and I hope I can attend) a couple years ago. I was playing my UGW Blink deck that I wrote about a few weeks ago, and needed to win round eight in order to have a shot at drawing into top eight, but it’s unlikely with my low tiebreakers. My opponent and I had a fun, amicable match with a little bit of friendly banter mixed in.
However, with the clock running low, my opponent dramatically slows down his play when he senses he’s in a losing position. With a judge watching, he is allowed to continue with his slow pace,despite having close to zero options. He’s got a Troll with a Warhammer vs. my high life total, full grip, and heavy board presence. The judge seems to think that my opponent deserves two minutes to think about whether to attack or not, and naturally, I end up needing one more turn to kill my opponent.
I tell my opponent that with our 40% tiebreakers, we are not likely to make the top eight with a draw to compliment our loss, and that one of us should concede so that at least one of us has a shot, instead of neither of us. I decide that considering my board position, I should get the chance to advance, as if I were in a losing position, I would concede to him.
He says that he has a shot to make top eight. I inform my opponent that isn’t the case. Neither of us can realistically make it with a draw, so this just knocks us both out. He finally decides that he agrees with me, but isn’t willing to concede anyway. Now, I am completely fine with this. However, I will likely reward my opponent’s good faith with portion of my winnings, should I get any, as show of my thanks for allowing me to continue on playing in the tournament. My opponent is smart enough to understand this, as outright offering him stuff for a concession isn’t legal, but it’s implied that if you concede to someone, they should be grateful.
I would just like to know why he wasn’t willing to concede, as anything other than stubbornness can be refuted with logic. Turns out he was just stubborn I guess. I won my next round and finished ninth, further proving my point, while Gabe Walls went on to win the Open, playing the same deck as me.
My opponent knew that I wasn’t happy with him, and he didn’t seem to be thrilled at the idea of playing against me here either. He thought that I thought he was stupid for not conceding, but my problem was actually that I thought he was smart enough to know better. He was definitely out of the tournament at that point, had a the chance to let me go on, and he would probably get a chunk of my winnings, so why not concede? Seems fairly obvious to me.
To top it all off, I would have legitimately won had he not cheated by purposely stalling me out. Apparently I shouldn’t have been as nice as I was in that match, and just focused on beating him instead of chatting, as that would have saved the precious few minutes I needed to win.
Anyway, back in the present, I was matched up against the same character, and this time he was armed with WB Tokens, another matchup that I feared. If they win the die roll or resolve a Spectral Procession, Faeries is in a world of hurt. I knew I could win, but that didn’t mean I wanted to play against WB every round, especially against this guy, who I especially wanted to crush.
I forget what happened in game one exactly, as I was focusing entirely on defeating my opponent, and not what I needed to remember in order to write this report. As always, the game was close, or at least looked that way, but I do remember countering a bunch of early threats and some late Mistbind Cliques.
Second game I mulliganed to five and get Thoughtseized. I peeled Bitterblossom like a champ and my opponent obviously complained, despite his awesome draw that was pretty clearly crushing me. He sent his Goat and company in and I blocked a dude with a Mutavault. Before damage, he tried to play Zealous Persecution, and I played Spellstutter.
He said, “In response,” and put another Persecution on the table. He then tried to correct himself, and said, “I mean in response to the trigger.” I’m not about to let this crap fly, especially for someone I want to beat so badly. I call a judge, basically knowing full well that it won’t work out in my favor, but at least it will rattle my opponent a bit.
The judge arrived and I allowed my opponent to explain the situation. I then explained my point of view, and how my opponent specifying what he was doing the second time led me to believe that he knew he made a mistake, and was trying to rectify it. My opponent agreed with my version of the story, and how he said what he was doing twice, and how both things he said had different meanings.
The judge then ruled that there was a miscommunication, which I disagree with, but I wasn’t about to waste any time appealing to the head judge, especially after this guy had stalled me out in a tournament already. Thankfully, we received a lengthy four minute time extension.
I got wrecked, drew my card, then conceded.
My opener for the final game was the nuts, but I tried to play it off like I was considering mulliganing. I played a land and passed, and thankfully, didn’t get Thoughtseized. Bitterblossom arrived, and my opponent played his own Blossom. On turn three, he tried to play a second Blossom, and if I had anything else, I probably would have allowed it to resolve, as the double Blossom gambit almost never works out.
Instead, I Ambitioned it, and he kept a Sculler on top while I shipped a land to the bottom. He then Thoughtseized my only other card, a [card]Cryptic Command[/card], and things weren’t looking so good anymore. Thankfully, the miser’s Hammer came off the top, and we had a real game. My opponent added to his board with a [card]Kitchen Finks[/card], and the Sculler that he embarrassingly kept on top which allowed him to take a look at the lands I’d been drawing.
We traded guys, although mine guys always got through for some trample damage and padded my life total. Eventually, he used his Persecution to buy some time, and then played a Cloudgoat vs. my empty hand, but I wasn’t done yet. I equipped a token and swung in, and then used Mistbind on his upkeep. He made an awkward attack that basically hoped I would foolishly block his Finks, but instead his Sculler suicided and I took some damage.
I drew my card, gave the Clique the Hammer, and traded it with the Goat and a couple tokens, as he didn’t want to take very much trample damage. It was all irrelevant, as I had drawn running Mistbind Cliques, he didn’t rip Path (by floating mana into his draw step), and the Hammer was enough to win game three.
I didn’t really care about anything else anymore, as I think I had locked up top sixteen and only had to win one more to top eight, as again, x-1-1 isn’t always good enough in a 400 man tournament. I had defeated the enemy!
During our match, a few topics came up, including our past match, but also how he hoped that I would make top eight so that other people would play the “bad” cards I was playing. I told him there was probably a reason that some people listen to me, but he didn’t agree.
The way I got better at Magic was by just taking in huge amounts of Magic related information, whether it was good or bad, and learning how to process it and decide for myself. Sure, there are some people who you can listen to, and they will almost always be right *cough*LSV*cough*, but the majority of information on the internet is either bad or outdated quickly, especially in this day and age. Regardless of whether or not I’m wrong some, all, or none of the time, people are better off if they read what I have to say, if only to keep up on current trends and to know what your opponent’s know.
“It doesn’t seem fair when the good people get lucky.”
Standings went up, and if we were to play top down in the last round, like I believe you are supposed to (at least that’s how MODO and several other tournaments I’ve been to have done it), then I was supposed to play Cedric. However, pairings go up, and I’m playing against AJ Sacher with UW Lark and Cedric is paired up against a person who can scoop him in. Basically, we both got the dream pairings. It was kind of sad for AJ, who scooped to Becvar the round before, as he was 7-0 and believed he would be able to get the draw he needed in the next round, as he should be paired against one of the two 7-0s drew.
A few minutes pass and they announced a repair, in which I get paired down to the mirror and Cedric has to play Nick Becvar, the man he drove down with. I asked my opponent what his tiebreakers are like, and when he replied, “Mediocre,” I told him that it was unlikely that a 7-1-1 would make top eight, as evident by the fact that almost everyone at the top tables was playing it out. My opponent told me he would keep it in mind and we started battling.
My opponent won the roll and passed on turn two, much to my relief. He passed on turn three, and I played a Spellstutter Sprite to start the beats, and then another to counter his Spellstutter at the end of my turn. It was pretty obvious that he didn’t have Bitterblossom, so I wanted to kill him before he found it, and there was nothing I was scared about him playing on his turn.
Neither of us have Blossoms the entire game, but he starts to outland me, eventually showing me Mistbind Clique to a pair of Secluded Glens. His turns were often spent playing a three or four casting cost threat, which I dealt with, and then he kept open his remaining mana on my turn, never exposing his Mistbind Clique to potential permission or removal.
It was that unused mana of his that led to his demise, as I repeatedly struck him with Sprites and Mutavaults, while he did nothing of consequence. When he finally went for the Mistbind, I had an Agony Warp for his Mutavault, and another for his last ditch Sower of Temptation.
After I won game one, I again brought up the fact that he probably couldn’t make top eight, and now would be a good time to concede if he wanted to since I was up a game. If he allows the match to continue and I end up winning, I am no longer obligated to give him anything, whereas if he concedes now, he would at least get a piece of my prize. He again told me he would keep it under consideration.
I decided to spice it up while sideboarding, and bring in the pair of Infests sitting in my board. I figured that I didn’t really want to aggressively mulligan for Bitterblossom or Thoughtseize, as I could easily just reset the board with an Infest, which would give me plenty of time to find a Blossom of my own.
That is precisely what happened in game two. He landed a Blossom on turn two, whereas I had to wait until turn four for mine, prompting Casey Steward behind me to comment, “Yes! Now you guys can actually play Magic.” His token advantage and then a Scion put me on the backfoot. I played a Vendilion at the end of his turn, baiting out a counterspell, and that is exactly what happened. I untapped and Infested, but was flooded while he was on four lands with a grip full of spells, one of which was another Scion.
Before the third game, my opponent offered me a deal: If we played out the third game, he would concede. It was a deal I was more than happy to make. I think he just wanted to lose and then not feel bad about conceding, which I totally understand. I tried to do that for him, but failed. I got flooded and basically just lost to some Mistbind Cliques. I revealed my hand with lands and he graciously upheld his part of the bargain.
As it turns out, my opponent may have had a chance to make top eight after all, as one of the people who were on 7-1 drew with a person who was 7-0-1, as the 7-1 decided that after eight rounds, he was just happy to make top sixteen, and wouldn’t even bother trying to lock up his top eight spot. He just wanted to let fate decide I suppose, despite being a mortal lock for top sixteen even with a loss.
If the 7-1 played it out against the 7-0-1 and won, there was no way a 7-1-1 would make it other than the guy who started 7-0, as his breakers were obviously insane. My opponent understood this, but the kid drawing when he shouldn’t have messed up the calculations and apparently my opponent’s breakers could have maybe jumped the kid who ended up eighth and Jamie Duguid’s, who ended up ninth.
However, him beating me instead of losing to me would have caused a huge fluctuation in his breakers, so maybe that isn’t the case. I didn’t look at the standings close enough to tell whether or not he would have made top eight, as I had the top eight to worry about for myself.
If he would have made top eight by beating me, then I am truly sorry for coercing him into conceding, but at the time neither of us thought he had a chance.
I knew I was playing my friend Julian De Los Santos in top eight, a very competent player with WB Tokens. I decided to negotiate a split since I didn’t think I was favored, and he agreed. We haggled with numbers for a while, and eventually settled on $100 to the loser.
Julian won the die roll, but thankfully didn’t have anything on turn two. It was a trick to get my hopes up though, as he played a Bitterblossom turn three which I couldn’t profitably Broken Ambitions. He followed that up with a Spectral Procession and a Glorious Anthem. While I could keep his Heights inactive for a turn with Cryptic, ultimately I was drawing dead.
Second game I Thoughtseized him on turn one and couldn’t believe my luck. He kept two Paths, Glorious Anthem, and lands! WB definitely has to be the aggressor in the matchup, so keeping a hand like that is beyond sketchy. I played Jace on turn three and while the game lasted a while longer, it wasn’t really close at all, thanks to the hand he kept that basically had no spells in it.
Game three, I mulliganed and stopped at three lands, while Julian did what his deck was designed to do.
8-2, 15-10, and $300 richer I suppose.
The next day I woke up early, refined my decklist, and signed up for the Magic Online 4x premier event. I started off a bit rocky, as I lost round one to a bad red deck and was down a game to a real red deck in round two. Just as I was thinking, “Don’t let it end like this”¦” the screen popped up: GerryT has won the match! My opponent decided to concede for no reason.
I made the best of my free win, and rattled off six straight victories, landing in top eight. My dream ended there, as GB Elves ran me over, but it further cemented my faith in Faeries. What will I be playing in the Boston 5K? I would still like to try out a Jund deck, but don’t be surprised if you see me casting Bitterblossoms either.