Welcome to my first article for Channel Fireball. For the past couple years it seems like limited is where I have had the best results so my idea is to record a draft or do a draft walkthrough every week and write an article about twice a month. Unless there is a really sweet constructed deck that I’m going to enjoy playing (doesn’t happen very often) so much that I would be able to write about it, I’ll just stick to talking about 40 card decks. I would definitely like to talk about limited right now, but Mirrodin Besieged just came out and I’ve only played 2 releases so far. Give me another week or two.
Let me start with the end of the 2010 season. I was fortunate enough to keep my level 8 benefits for another year, but I could have easily finished the season at 49 points and it would have been entirely my fault.
Making Mistakes in Florence
Going into GP Florence I had 46 points for the season after winning 2 GPs and top 8ing another one in the last two months. It felt like I couldn’t lose no matter what card I first picked, what deck I drafted or who my opponents were. I was clearly running good and it took Gerry T’s block constructed deck in the top 8 of GP Nashville to finally beat me. That changed in Florence and it might have cost me a lot of money.
Round 4 of sealed deck, RW mirror.
I was stuck on lands for a long time and when I finally started casting some relevant spells I was at 12, facing Razor Hippogriff, Kembas Skyguard and some 1/1s. I had some irrelevant creatures and my hand was Darksteel Sentinel, Arrest,Turn to Slag and True Conviction for which I was missing white mana. The plan clearly is to survive long enough to draw the second and third Plains and then you start gaining at least 6 life a turn with Sentinel, which should be enough to beat whatever my opponent had. I decided to “kill” both of his flyers, thinking that would give me enough time to get there. What I should have done was to Turn the Slag the 3/3 and let his Skyguard keep attacking me for a few more turns and reevaluate later. This way I gave him a chance to draw a Dragon or something for which I had no answer anymore. He punished me by drawing Golem Artisan and killing me two turns later. I lost the match 1-2. Just because you aren’t very high on life and your opponent has a creature you can’t block doesn’t mean you have to get rid of it immediately. Sometimes when you have a plan to turn the game around, it’s just better to keep the last removal spell for something that could be on the top of your opponent’s deck, take the extra 6 or 8 damage and if he doesn’t draw anything relevant you just kill his guy later (before you get to Galvanic Blast range etc.).
There was also a pretty weird (in my opinion) judgment call where he clearly missed attacking with his guy but the HJ let him back up and explained how to do things right. So we backed up and he screwed up again. Now I don’t like rules-lawyering people, but if I make a mistake I’m not going to ask to take it back. There was a time where I was missing stuff like that too, but I just sucked it up and learned from my mistakes. For some reason, they let him back up again, but he still messed it up so for the third time they just basically did it for him. Nice. HJs explanation was that he wouldn’t be happy if this decided the outcome of the match. Well, it did because the turn I died there was the 3rd Plains on the top of my deck. But anyway, I could have prevented the whole situation by just playing better, so it was my fault.
One round later almost the exact same thing happens again. I’m at 1, my opponent has a bunch of guys, a Gold Myr and Glint Hawk Idol. He declares attackers, I say ok (and do not use my Rust Tick) and he tries to turn the Idol into a creature and attack with it. I explain that it’s no longer possible and we move on. After the match when discussing the previous round with the HJ, he informs me that he would have allowed the guy to still make his Idol and attack (I guess I wouldn’t have even been able to tap it with my Rust Tick and would have just died) because apparently there are a lot of inexperienced people on day 1 of GPs and they need some help. Seriously?
We are playing the finals of draft 1 on day 2. My deck is a very good RW metalcraft with 2 Myrsmith, 2 Embersmith, Precursor Golem, Arc Trail and other goodies. Speaking of Arc Trail, I got it second pick in pack 1 and a rare was missing, so I thought the guy to my right took some sweet rare. When I talked to him after the draft, he mentioned that the card he first picked was Nim Deathmantle. The only reason why I’m mentioning this is because it was pretty funny what kind of beating PV received in his draft video for NOT taking it p1p1. Seriously, this card is barely playable. Its just super slow and by the time it does something you are usually already dead or too far ahead. If Arc Trail wasn’t in the pack I would much rather take something like Fume Spitter instead. Alright, back to the game.
I’m playing against a GB deck with some big guys and a ton of removal. It’s game 3 and I mulligan to six. That wouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary (more like the opposite) but I’ve mulliganed basically every game in every round this draft and it’s getting pretty frustrating because my deck has a really low curve and such a good synergy and shouldn’t be having problems like that.
What a sweet hand (justice!). Ok lets get this over with and finish this game asap. T2 Myrsmith – Fume Spitter, T3 no land, Myrsmith – Instill Infection. Oh well. The game is really close and goes on for maybe 15 more turns and eventually I lose and I totally deserve it. What I should have done was to just play Culling Dais on turn 2 and basically turn my every dead guy into an extra card. There was no need to go for the 1 extra token and 2 extra damage by playing Myrsmith first. Basically what happened was that I let the frustration from mulliganing get the best of me and I refused to believe that he “could have it again” and kill both my turn 2 and 3 Myrsmiths with 2 removal spells. He did, I lost and I guess a lesson was learned. No matter how seemingly some things go wrong for you, don’t let emotions change the way you play.
This time we are playing the finals of draft 2 and again I have a very good UB control deck with lots of mana Myrs and some sweet cards to ramp into like Quicksilver Gargantuan (ideally copying Darksteel Sentinel) or Tower of Calamities. Winner of our match makes top 32, which gives you 2 pro points, which is exactly enough to lock up level 8 just by showing up at Worlds. We can’t make top 16 so we are pretty much only playing for 1 extra pro point. The stakes are pretty high for me and I figure it wouldn’t hurt to ask my opponent if he would consider scooping, considering there is nothing to gain for him. He thinks for a while and informs me that he has a good rating and would like to play. Alright, fair, let’s get to business. I draw a hand of 5 lands, Disperse and Darkslick Drake. Everyone who is a little familiar with how I play knows that this is an obvious mulligan for me, yet I keep staring at the hand thinking that I already took so many mulligans today that this just can’t be real. I certainly can’t mulligan every game, right? There are so many good cards I can draw! All the while thinking that I haven’t just won 2 GPs and my rating probably isn’t 2200, which means he would only lose very few points. But don’t get me wrong, its obviously his decision and I have to respect it. The only reason I asked was that it absolutely wouldn’t hurt anyone and if I was in this position I would scoop in a heartbeat. But let’s get back to the game. So 5 lands, Disperse and Darkslick Drake, you say. You know what, let’s keep this. I can probably use Disperse to get some advantage and Darkslick Drake is basically 2 cards in one, right? Right? So what happens is that I draw something like 2 Myrs and 5 lands and lose in 5 minutes. Game 2 is exactly the same, I draw a similar hand, start thinking that there’s no way this is happening to me twice in 5 minutes and keep again. I literally play 3 spells this game and soon I’m signing the result slip, leaving the table disgusted. Disgusted at myself. I know I have already said this some time ago, but I’m gonna use my favorite line here – Don’t think it can’t happen again, don’t think that this time you are due. The universe doesn’t owe you anything. It was here first!
The result of this was that I was left with 47 points and instead of being a lock for level 8 and focusing on doing well at Worlds and possibly getting ahead or tying with Brad in the POY race (but what are the chances of that, right?) I was constantly thinking “alright, so I need 9-9 to get the extra point, so only 8 more wins to get to top200!”. That’s obviously wrong and this attitude isn’t gonna get you anywhere. Fortunately I managed to go 5-1 in draft and somehow got more than enough wins in constructed to make it anyway while still being able to scoop to Mat Marr in the last round to help him level up. But I could have easily finished 201st for 49 points total and there would be no one to blame but myself.
After a little break from Magic I went to Atlanta for an extended GP. I even managed to convince Lukas Blohon to come with me because the ticket was only $530, which is a pretty good deal for an overseas flight. The fact that he is level 7 this season and gets paid to play in GPs probably helped his decision, too. First of all I’d like to say that this event was very, very well run. I don’t know who the TO was but he did an awesome job. There were no delays, day one ended at something like 9pm and day two around 5 or 6 which easily gave you enough time to go hang out with your friends and still get some sleep. Day two started at 10am, there was a food section with reasonably priced food, enough dealers to buy cards from and enough space for the place not to be crowded. Basically everything was perfect. Another reason why I like the US GPs more than the European ones is that they are usually held in a big hotel which is sweet because it’s both super convenient and it saves you a lot of time and money for cabs and getting to the venue.
I spent most of my time preparing on MTGO playing Naya and Faeries.
If you wanna play Knight of the Reliquary you have to completely change the mana base to have more Forests and Plains and even then you can’t really get too more than 6 because if you have Knight you also want Tectonic Edge and so on. Wooly Thoctar seemed too slow and so did the Sparkmage + Mystic + Collar toolbox. Ram-Gang swings for 4 on turn two and is actually a fine card to Bloodbraid into even later in the game. Plus it overall makes your deck pretty aggressive with 12 haste creatures.
Path and Bolt are kinda awkward to cascade into when you are trying to rebuy your Vengevines but I feel like you have to play some removal for Mistbind Cliques and other Fauna Shamans. Figure of Destiny is randomly good in the mirrors. Pridemages were pretty underwhelming, but with all the Bitterblossoms and Prismatic Omens around you can’t really cut them, especially because you don’t have any other way to interact with the UGr Valakut deck. This deck was ok and I had some fine results with it but it didn’t really feel like anything special and it was still just a bunch of creatures, so after playing this for a week I decided to switch to Faeries.
The truth is, Bloodbraid Elf is a really good and Fauna Shaman getting Vengevines is pretty sweet, but Cryptic Command is still better than any card in this deck. Faeries is the most powerful deck and in my opinion is the only deck in the format that gets you closest to doing things that don’t seem fair. The addition of Creeping Tar Pit only made it better because it gives you an extra finisher that you don’t have to cut any cards for and should definitely be a 4 of in every list. It also provides one of the very few ways that you can win the mirror when the other player has Bitterblossom and you don’t. I don’t like Sunken Ruins because I don’t like keeping Mutavault + Ruins hands and it doesn’t cast turn 1 discard or Disfigure. It definitely is a little harder to cast Cryptic on turn 4 with this mana base, but most of the time you will be using it to turn the race in your favor later in the game anyway.
This is the list I played last week in Atlanta
After playing a bunch of games it always felt like I would rather play some kind of a UB control deck with Jaces, multiple counterspells and finish the games with manlands without actually having to play stupid creatures that are bad without Bitterblossom. I think Owens top 8 version is on the way to what I had in mind (- Scions, + Jaces), but I’m not really a deck builder and I didn’t want to bother trying to break a format that I’m not gonna play for another 6 months so I just stuck with this, even though I wasn’t very happy about it. I’ll skip all the talk about the deck and sideboard and everything because you have probably read it all at least ten times by now from PV or Luis.
I lost some close games and went 2-3 drop, but I think my main problem was that I didn’t even expect to do well. I wasn’t even complaining about not making day two, which is pretty unusual for me. I’m not sure if I can describe the feeling, but it was probably close to indifference. If the GP was limited I would have been mad for missing a chance to do really well in a new format. If it was a PT I would complain all the time for having to wait another three months for the next one. I guess I hate constructed so much that I just took this GP as a necessary evil. Seriously what fun is it to play a deck over and over and over with still the same cards? Maybe its because I’m just too lazy to constantly brew like Gerry T, maybe it’s because if I can stretch my attention span long enough I’d rather do something else. Maybe it’s because I didn’t like the format and I hated playing against Faeries or Bloodbraid into Blightning.
Maybe it’s because it’s really hard to say no to 7 in the queue. Maybe I’m just looking for excuses.
What I don’t like is how powerful the cards are. One resolved Jace and the game is over. In limited most of the time you know that basically anything they play you can somehow deal with. Of course there are some powerful rares but you usually don’t have more than 1 or 2 and a 5/5 dragon isn’t nearly as unbeatable as a planeswalker on an empty board.
The reason why I love limited is because every time you draft your deck consists of different cards, all the games are different, they usually go long and are not decided in the first two turns by Thoughtseize into Bitterblossom. But back to the GP. During day 2 I got to do some commentary for GGs Live, which was a lot of fun and I’m definitely looking forward to possibly doing it again. The games were pretty interesting and I’m especially happy for Ben Stark, who is mostly known for his sick limited skills, but lately started taking constructed pretty seriously too and as a result casually made the finals in this GP. I was also pretty impressed by Craig Wescoe who got 9th with basically a standard legal deck with 4 Cryptic Commands. Normally 37 points would easily put him in the top 8, but this time things were different.
Look at the pairings for the last round of swiss
1 Turtenwald, Owen [USA] 39 vs. Runyon, John [USA] 37
2 Lax, Ari M [USA] 39 vs. Miggels, Stephen J [USA] 37
3 Wescoe, Craig D [USA] 37 vs. Stark, Ben S [USA] 36
4 Gindy, Charles P [USA] 36 vs. Spiess, Kurt [USA] 36
5 Ford, Jason [USA] 36 vs. Hickerson, Jonathan W [USA] 36
6 Keith, Jody M [USA] 36 vs. Greer, Joseph C [USA] 36
7 Valenti, Christian J [USA] 36 vs. Ram, Navin [USA] 34
Usually 13 wins, 2 losses and a draw is enough for top 8, but here we have a situation where no one can draw because there are simply too many people still in contention. If both Owen and Ari, who are locked for top 8, decide to scoop to their opponents (or they just both lose this round) then even if Christian Valenti wins he only gets 9th. Ninth. With 13 Ws and 2 Ls. After going 6-0 on day 2 (!!). When this happened some time ago at PT Kyoto to Adam Koska and GP Yokohama to Alex West (and I’m sure more people that I don’t know about) WotC promised that it wont happen again. Well, here we go.
Fortunately for him Owen lost, so he made it in 8th as the last person with 39 points. If anyone from WotC is reading this, please do something about the GP structure.
If you are playing extended PTQs, I suggest you play either Faeries or Valakut. I don’t really like the Blue version of it now though, because you can’t win without Prismatic Omen and people are definitely gonna start boarding in more hate like Natures Claim or even Back to Nature. So basically either play 4 Cryptic Commands or RG Scapeshift, all the other decks are either bad or just a worse version of these.
RG Scapeshift is probably the easiest of those because its very straightforward, you just ramp and kill them with your 4 mana sorcery, which only really gets countered by Cryptic. Adjust the deck to your local metagame (more Fallouts if you expect Faeries, Burst Lightning could easily be better than Lightning Bolt because it kills Mistbind Clique, Reverberate for mirror matches in the sideboard..) and keep in mind that they can bounce your lands with the Valakut triggers on the stack and if there are not 5 other Mountains on resolution it doesn’t deal any damage. Also in my opinion a combination of Vexing Shushers and Guttural Responses in the sideboard is much better than Great Sable Stags. If you are playing Faeries, definitely put some Spreading Seas in your sideboard and play 2 Tectonic Edges main because its easily the best card against Valakut. If you are playing UGr, Id suggest some Vendillion Cliques instead of sorcery speed cards like Jace. That is if all you are trying to do is win the PTQ. If you just wanna have fun and enjoy playing a FNM then I would definitely play 5 color control. With Nicol Bolas!
If you are looking for decklists, here (http://www.thestarkingtonpost.com/articles/-/*EXCLUSIVE*_GP_Atlanta_Top_32_Decks) is the whole top32 from Atlanta, courtesy of Bill Stark.
I don’t think the new set is going to change much, the most obvious card is probably Go for the Throat which is what Faeries has been looking for as it kills basically everything, Green Zenith is going to fit nicely into Elves and the Japanese are going to build some sweet Tezzeret deck. Speaking of which, one card which I’m pretty excited about is Thopter Assembly which in combination with Time Sieve gives you an infinite turn. You can basically just take the old type 2 Open the Vaults deck, add Thopther Assembly, new Tezzeret and substitute some Elsewhere Flask with Ichor Wellspring and work from there. You can also find the Thopter (and much more, like Wurmcoil Engine or Mindslaver) with Treasure Mage.
Mirrodin Besieged brought some interesting cards. Luis is doing a set review and most of the writers already covered the most obvious cards. In my opinion, the three most important things are battle cry, Zeniths and Thrun.
I’m not going tell you what to play at the PT, because I don’t know yet. I definitely want to be either casting Jace the Mind Sculptor or playing a deck that does some crazy things. You definitely won’t see me casting Kuldotha Rebirth or Wall of Omens. I don’t care how good UB control is, I just don’t want to play something where my opponent knows my entire 75 the second I put my first land into play.
What I can tell you though, is what NOT to play. There has been a lot of excitement about the new Shape Anew deck that ideally gets Blightsteel Colossus into play on turn 4. The two most popular versions are UB and UW.
UB Shape Anew by mr_thompsom from magic-league
Here you are trying to get Everflowing Chalice with Trinket Mage and then turn it, or one of your Inkmoth Nexus into Blightsteel Colossus. The biggest downside of this is that when you go for it with Nexus and you still have Chalice in your deck, then there is a 50% chance that you completely fizzle. The other version uses [card]Masters Call[/card] which conveniently gives you two artifact tokens and doesn’t force you to play another artifact in your deck.
UW Shape Anew by maps from magic-league
Well, basically the only thing I like about this is that it only takes a few cards to implement this combo in the deck and you still have a very solid UB/UW shell. But for the actual combo – all the most played decks already have maindeck answers for it – in the control mirror they are just going to bounce your Colossus with Jace next turn, white has Journey to Nowhere, red and Vampires can kill your token in response with Lightning Bolt or Burst Lightning. There is also Gatekeeper of Malakir, Ratchet Bomb gives you protection from [card]Masters Call[/card]. You don’t even beat a Frost Titan. Not to mention that they can just block so you don’t even necessarily kill them next turn.
So if you wanna play something cool at FNM this week, then this is the deck for you, but I wouldn’t play this deck at the PT. One interesting card to mention is Not of this World, which makes sure they cant do anything to your Colossus as it even gives it protection from Jace’s bounce ability.
One last thing I want to mention is a card that is definitely gonna gain the most value with the new set and that is Spell Pierce. Standard is already more or less about getting Jace into play and protecting it, but now there is so much more (especially the new Zeniths). All the green decks are going to play the Green Zenith, even Valakut, there’s Summoning Trap, Harrow, Planeswalkers, Genesis Wave, not to mention countering Kuldotha Rebirth on turn 1. And you still have the surprise factor, because no one is playing around Spell Pierce yet.
Alright, that’s enough talking about 60 card decks, I already wish I was drafting right now. I’ll be back soon with some thoughts on how MBS will affect draft and sealed. Thanks for reading!