After moving to the East Coast from California I finally had a chance to participate in my first Standard + M10 PTQ. After taking Time Sieve to a 2-3 record, I was pretty convinced that it was time to play a real deck. So I went back to a version of 5cc that I had been playing around with at GP Boston and had leant to a friend for the PTQ there.
First the List:
My Philosophy on 5cc: The lands are basically able to cast any spells you want (though making Green repeatedly can be challenging), so you want to play the most powerful late game spells. Thus versus every deck in the field you want to try and have a plan for getting your big spells to resolve and stick. Your sideboard should further this plan. Against aggressive decks you want to simply survive until your threats take over the game. Against slower decks you want to grind at them (since there is really no good card draw) and have cheaper counters + more mana to win fights over important spells. This particular version is basically the result of my testing and theorizing about the East Coast metagame.
I expected the popular decks this week to be Red, 5cc, UW Baneslayer, UBr faeries. So I want to focus on a few defining characteristics of my build which may or may not be unique that combat those decks. Four Baneslayer has become industry standard today but it was only a really recent adoption in the last week. In fact only a few weeks ago Mike Flores sent out a Tweet soliciting peoples opinions on Broodmate versus Angel. Something like 70% liked the Broodmate. This is a telling sign that many people have simply not faced Baneslayer Angel. The one mana makes difference, but really it’s the body and lifelink which makes Angel the best finisher I have had the opportunity to play with in a long time. When she survives she is effectively two blockers. When you stick it against any aggro deck she is unraceable, and when you stabilize at low life it both finishes the game quickly and brings you out of lethal burn range. Broodmate actually gives some value to cards like Bituminous blast which are otherwise pretty much dead against my deck.
The spot removal (Lightning Bolt, Runed Halo, Doom Blade) is pretty varied because of the existence of Angel. Paths compete for spots versus Lightning Bolt as the primary kill spell in my mind. Lightning Bolt wins out for a few reasons. It can kill planeswalkers, you need the spot removal early, and Pathing their early drop can end up helping their development to much (especially in the case of Figure). Finally, I expected a lot of Stillmoons and wanted Red removal to get my Baneslayers through. You still need ways to deal with Mancers, Demigods and Angels so I have 2 Halos and Doom Blade.
The one Earthquake was an early change which I am not sure is correct, but I left in because it was what I had tested with. It was a board sweeper which I wanted two of in the deck. But it also killed planeswalkers which was really hard for early versions of my deck. It also could be cast on the cheap against Kithkin starts involving Cenn + Figure/Stalwart/Knight. Finally all my dudes fly, leading to sequences where I cast Baneslayer, attack and then one sided Wrath them. The massive amount of life gain also allowed this deck to stabilize at low life and then get to safe life total quickly.
Negate is worse then Broken in many matchups. However, against many decks you are planning to ride Baneslayer and you want to have cheap ways to protect it. Being able to protect a resolved Angel is basically as important as stunting opposing early plays. Thus the split. It also forces opponents to play around both, since they can never be sure of the quantities of either.
I only played two Mulldrifters because I have always hated the card in the archetype. You don’t need creatures to make Cruel better and doing nothing on turn 3 (unable to even bluff Plumeveil or removal or Broken Ambitions) is unacceptable in deck which often finds itself doing nothing anyways on turns 1 and 2. They are a necessary evil because you often find yourself flooding in the late game and want card advantage. In the early game they also help you hit critical land drops faster then Jace which is why he does not make an appearance.
The Vendilion Cliques started out as an experiment for the 5cc mirror. I have a very narrow view of what the mirror is about (which I’ll explain below) but Cliques figured in to my plan. They were also a good way kill planeswalkers and no one suspects them out of 5cc. So if they are sculpting a hand for a big turn (or series of them) the Clique can throw a big wrench in their plan. It also made me more comfortable with the three Cruels, knowing you could cycle them away. I definitely would consider cutting a third Drifter for another Clique.
The Matchups and Sideboard:
My strategy for the 5cc mirror determined my sideboard for the cards that came in against non-creature decks. In game 1 you both have a lot of dead cards. One implication of this is that it is not worth it to fight aggressively over draw 2s or to use Esper Charms aggressively (unless you are completely wiping out their hand). Instead you should be focusing on resolving a big spell. Post board things change a lot, since they will often have more answers for big threats like Baneslayer as well as having more dangerous threats. This makes falling behind (due to draw 2s or discards or Cryptics bouncing lands) much more costly. So it becomes higher EV to fight over these kinds of things.
Thus, I try to bring low costing threats (Thought Hemorrhage and Glen Elendra Archmage) to be able to punish people for fighting over early spells on their own turn. Even with Baneslayers, most 5cc decks aren’t running good threats which cost less then 5 mana (most bring in Identity Crisis and Negate). The worst they can do is Ajani Vengeant (which is good but not game breaking like a Cruel or Crisis). So post board your goal should be to try and force a fight over an EOT Spell around turn 3-4 and then untap and stick an Archmage.
Clearly there is also the mini combo of Clique + Thought Hemorrhage also. Vendilion Clique serves as another spell that can set up your threats by stripping answers as well as forcing fights on their turn. Against 5cc, Glen Elendra is better but Hemorrhage has applications such as taking out Anathemancers. I really dislike Great Sable Stag and Anathemancer as a sideboard plan. The reason basically is because I don’t want to play like an aggro control deck. The first Anathemancer doesn’t actually do anything. Sure it represents 5-10 damage or even more late, but that doesn’t kill your opponent by itself. I want my deck to be countermagic, threats and card advantage. A really efficient Lava Axe doesn’t count as a threat unless its doing the last 5. You wouldn’t mull to 6 to have your opponent start at 14 in this match up so why play these types of cards. I also think that Great Sable Stag is overrated in the mirror with so many people playing Glen Elendra, Ajani Vengeant and Lightning Bolts.
Plumeveils replaced Wall of Reverence once I didn’t have them in the main. Wall has been repeatedly disappointing me and I had been encouraging everyone I knew to play Shriekmaw (and Master of the Wild Hunt, but that’s another story), so I figured that they might be all over the place. Plumeveils get a lot more value in an environment full of Shriekmaws and Deathmarks.
Puppeteer Clique is a great card against UW Lark because it works well against the two cards they lean hardest on against you (Reveillark and Glen Elendra Archmage). I wanted to overwhelm the deck post board with creatures who needed to be Pathed (Baneslayers, GLAs, Great Sable Stag etc.). Unlike almost any other matchup, I wanted to play the role of beatdown in this matchup. My aggressiveness would to encourage them to tap low early for things like Glen Elendras and their Baneslayers, and then hopefully I would be able to punish them for this. This match up was mostly theory (though I had played it a few times from both sides). In the end this plan worked well (I beat UW twice) but I think large part of it was the UW players inability to identify their position quickly or correctly. Against RB variants I also wanted another win condition in case they cast Hemorrhage on my Baneslayers.
On to the tournament:
I won the die roll in 6 out of my first 7 matches but lost it in every one of the top 8 matches.
Round 1: Elementals
I mulligan to 6 on the play and after turn 2 I have seen Vivid Crag and Vivid Grove, so I play Runed Halo naming Anathemancer. He plays a Fulminator and sets me back to 2 lands. I rip one off the top but my Esper Charm fails to find the 4th before he sticks his turn 5 Horde of Notions.
Games 2 and 3 he is basically stuck on lands while I use crowd control on his various mana producers. I let him stick multiple Fulminators in one game because my draw is land heavy and he ends up without much gas. One small mistake that I made was in game 2. He was at 5 and I had drawn Cruel Ultimatum off of my Cruel Ultimatum (does this count as 21 for 1?). Since we had plenty of time I didn’t just show him it and instead waited to see if I could draw a Thought Hemorrhage on my next turn to see his sideboard plans. Being the lucksack that I am of course I draw Thought Hemorrhage. In my delight I play it and when he lets it resolve I name Reveillark which I am sure is the one card he would sandbag when he is stuck on mana. He conceded after I named Lark. My mistake was naming something in his hand – if you are way ahead, the focus should be on information not winning more. Often your opponent won’t know whether you have 4 lands or 4 Cryptics in hand and that hope can induce him to let you learn more then you should.
Round 2: Jund
Game 1 he is mana screwed and I dismantle him pretty quickly.
Game 2 I mulligan then keep 2 lands and 2 Cryptics and never draw a 4th land.
Game 3 I have on lockdown pretty much the whole game. Runed Halos are protecting me from Colossus and Anathemancer and my hand is all gas because I am stuck on 6 lands. Eventually I hit number 7 and 2 Utimatums later it’s over.
Round 3: 4 Color Cascade
Game 1 he has some of the worst cascades possible (Enlisted Wurm into Blast with no targets and Bloodbraid into Jund Charm with no creature targets). This forces his deck to fight fair against Cruel Ultimatums. Turns out Cruel Ultimatum is pretty unfair against Cavern Thoctars and Gruul Scrappers.
Game 2 I keep 4 lands, Puppeteer Clique, Path and Negate (I left them in because I saw Primal Command and Ajani Vengeant game 1). My first 6 draws are lands and a [card]Cruel Ultimatum[/card]. I have already burned all my spells and on turn 6 I am facing his Mancer when I’m at 4 and he has 4 cards in hand. When he attacks for two I tell him to hold on and start removing a counter off my vivid meadow, and then telling him to forget it. His exact words are “Its so easy to tell when they have Cryptic”. He debates whether to even play another threat since he has the read. He decides to just run out another dude which I can do nothing about but doesn’t threaten lethal. I then get to resolve Cruel (returning my PClique) and when he doesn’t draw the land to immediately unearth I lock it up pretty quickly. He also had 2 Jund Charms post board; if they were burn spells they would have killed me.
Round 4: UW Baneslayer
Game 1 still doesn’t make sense to me. I drew something like literally 20 lands and 8 spells. But by turn 16 he still hasn’t really done anything. I eventually draw a bunch of gas and due to mana advantage I force things through (he had 4x Negate main over GLA).
We only have 17 minutes for game 2 so he is playing kind of rushed. He doesn’t fight over an Esper Charm that makes him discard. And I have Stag as a follow up. When he finally taps out for something (I think Lark) I have Puppeteer to take his Mulldrifter and then I eventually take his Reveillark and get back my own drifter.
Round 5: Kithkin (Who I have been sitting beside and seems like a very solid player)
The nice thing about solid players is they play around sweepers and Plumeveils, which I don’t actually have maindeck.
Game 1 he keeps a super shady hand.(his first play is Spectral and then a turn 4 bear). I am stuck on land 3 lands but have a ton of plays. I Vendilion Clique after mainphasing the Fallout (I had another one and didn’t want to lose to Harm’s Way). I am assuming he kept multiple Cloudgoats (which is the only thing that makes sense) so I target him even though I need mana. Turns out he just kept garbage. I Cruel him eventually but get greedy when I trade a Baneslayer, a Fallout and a Lightning Bolt for his Figure (Im holding 4 lands, Cryptic and a Hallowed Burial at this point) since I have another angel out. He ends up drawing double path and getting my second Baneslayer. We both had no cards in hand (in my case no relevant cards) after I Burial. He draws Ranger and it looks like I might be in a bit of trouble since I am holding 3 lands. Fortunately he doesn’t play any of the guys he gets (he can safely assume I don’t have Cruel). I do have [card]Earthquake[/card] and a Drifter, which buy me a turn, and I draw Cruel.
Game 2 is much less dramatic, since I just play some Plumeveils, some counters and a few Cruels (Nice Deck).
An important note about playing against Kithkin or aggressive decks in general:
Keeping 4 or 5 land hands can be acceptable if you have early plays like Lightning Bolt or Doom Blade. 5 lands Cryptic, Mulldrifter will not cut it, especially on the draw. The reason is simple. Your big plays will win you the game. You don’t need find those plays so much as survive until you can make them. Your deck is full of powerful plays post board. I saw 5cc players mull 5 lands Fallout and a Lightning Bolt against Kithkin. 5cc Players tend to have a fear of slow hands without really understanding what a hand being slow means.
Round 6: Paired down Against Kithkin
My opponent looks inexperienced and her body language is nervous. We have been sitting beside each other, but she seems genuine when she asks what I am playing. Unfortunately for her, I draw very well and she errs on the side of not overextending at exactly the wrong times. This round was one of the shortest I played.
Round 7: Doran
Game 1 I am on the play and he mulligans (how lucky!). I stick Vendilion turn 3 after he has a Harbinger. I snag his Doran and his hand doesn’t have enough gas to keep up.
Game 2: He almost blows me out with Identity Crisis (my hand is permission light and threat/answer heavy), but he cannot really get through my wall of answers and my read on Lapse is correct so I am able to play around it and resolve a cruel.
Round 8/9 Intentional Draws with the Mothership.
GW Little Kid versus Me-5cc
Kithkin v Kithkin
Kithkin v UW
RB v Doran
So if I am really lucky I get to play Kithkin/GW at basically every stage.
Game 1 he plays a bunch of dudes which are being held off by Angel. I am pretty sure he has Wilt-Leaf Liege so I am avoiding using Cruel or Esper Charm to wipe his hand. When he goes for Liege, I have the Fallout and he even played his Noble Hierarch before the Liege.
Game 2 is not close, since my deck is nothing but answers and Cruel Ultimatums (I actually just started announcing Baneslayer Ultimatum when I play angel).
Semifinals vs Kithkin
Corey has something like 5 top 8s with kithkin across 3 formats. I have Cruel Ultimatums. I win 2-0.
Game 2 was kind of interesting since I am sandbagging Austere and low on gas. I am hoping he will run Reveillark into my Angel and then try to swarm me with Figures, Stillmoons, and his Burrenton Forge-Tender. I keep pretend lining up blocks where I put my Angel in front of his Burrenton (hoping to bluff a Lightning Bolt or Fallout) and eventually he goes for it, bringing me to 4 after damage. I put my Angel in front of Lark then austere for like 5 creatures. I am not sure if I am overacting these bluffs, but since they almost all seem to work out, perhaps in spite of me, I was inclined to keep overselling my position.
Finals vs UW
In Brad Nelson’s last article Jacob Van Lunen made a comment about the deck and hes also been showing off a yellow sheet of paper with words “SIDEBOARDING PLANS” scrawled on it. So I assume he is running basically an exact stock list (which AFAIK he was). Van Lunen is a bit of showman when he plays, and he calls me a bye repeatedly and is cheering for me the whole Top 8. This ends up drawing me into his pace which is definitely costly for me. It takes me a little while to settle down and focus completely on the match. While I think the matchup isn’t great, most UW players lean on their Archmages completely and cannot often adjust without access to them.
Game 1. I keep a shaky hand with mostly mana and flood pretty badly.
Game 2. He basically has this game locked up due to an extremely awkward draw on my part. But he doesn’t have much mana, and he decides to fight over Esper Charm (which I go for with persist on the stack). Afterwards he only has 1 mana left. I untap, Path his Archmage, and then resolve Cruel. After that it isn’t very close.
Game 3: I keep a suspect hand mana wise (2 Pools and a filter) since it has all the key cards for the matchup. Van Lunen’s draw is very awkward (3 Gates and Glacial Fortress). Turn 4 he goes for Vendilion at the end of my turn, and I Cryptic it and his Fortress. If he did it in my upkeep he probably is in a much better place, and he knew my hand from a previous Clique so I guess he was hoping I would run Hemorrhage out into his own Cryptic (thus helping him find a land). He replays the Fortress and passes. I stick an Angel.
He untaps and casts Glen Elendra Archmage, while missing his 5th land drop. My hand at this point is lands, Cruel, Cryptic, and Thought Hemorrhage. I have 6 lands in play. I go for the bounce on his Archmage, hoping to end it if he doesn’t draw a Plains or Island (which about 70%). Unfortunately he gets there, and the game gets dragged out. He is still mostly stuck on mana but since his hand is all gas he manages to Path my first angel. I have drawn a second one and an Archmage, and am trying to maneuver so that I can stick the Archmage (then I can work on finishing his Archmage). At one point I mainphase Vendilion because if he can’t Cryptic it and counter a second creature spell. He lets it resolve and I see his hand is a billion counters, but the Clique trades for one Archmage life and Thought Hemorrhage the other. I then manage to stick the Archmage and that allows me to finally Cruel him, ending one of the hardest games I have played recently.
Overall I feel I was pretty blessed with pairings and my draws (only lost to mana screw twice), but the deck definitely has a ton of play and my version had some improvements which I fully recommend to anyone who has PTQs left.