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Feature Article – Sixteen Again

 

One of the best received pre-States articles I have ever written was the original Sixteen. That article told the story of a sixteen-deck single-elimination mock tournament undertaken in preparation for the two thousand and… um… six (?) State Championships. The eventual winner was a Japanese Boros deck that I didn’t have coming out of the first round. But hey… as you will read later in this article, I love a Boros.

So as with Attack of the Clones, The Matrix Reloaded, and Bring it On Again, if there is one thing America loves, it is a re-buy.

The format is sixteen decks, weighted for perceived popularity. Briefly, these are dem decks:

Jund – Four Copies

For simplicity’s sake, I selected David Reitbauer’s deck from the World Championships just past, and seeded four copies in the Sixteen. For proper archetype distribution, Jund probably warranted five copies, but that would have just resulted in a thoroughly uninteresting Jund-on-Jund match early on, which would have been about as compelling as it would have been useful; i.e. “Jund advances to Round Two.”

No offense to LSV with his no Putrid Leech, or Saito and his Siege-Gang Commanders, or Marijn and his sideboarded Crater Hellions, but I went with Reitbauer because he did the best; 6-0 combo with second place in the Top 8. In general I dislike changing any cards in the “control” (as in control v. experimental, rather than control v. beatdown) decks when I playtest. It is too easy to let your prejudices get ahold of you in general, but when you start editing card choices that aren’t even in your own sixty, you are asking to get red-headed and hidden under the stairs if you take my meaning.

Boros Bushwhacker – Two Copies

A very popular non-Jund deck from Worlds, Boros Bushwhacker is likely to be the most popular beatdown deck you see tomorrow. Again, no edits from Bram Snepvanger’s Top 8 deck from Worlds. I am writing this intro before actually setting up the Sixteen proper; but I promise ahead of time not to sideboard out the, you know, Bushwhackers.

Naya Lightsaber – Two Copies

Two copies might actually be under-representing Andre Coimbra’s Worlds-shattering threat deck. Though it does not play the actual card Blightning (probably the best overall card in Standard), Naya Lightsaber offers a similar set of incentives to players that Jund does. Basically it is a Green deck with powerful effects and Bloodbraid Elf. I know people think of Bloodbraid Elf as the strongest offensive card in Standard, but Naya Lightsaber plays the actual best threat (I probably don’t have to spell out her name, but it goes a little something like B-A-N-E-S-L-A-Y-E-R A-N-G-E-L), plus Ranger of Eos is actually about twice as good as Bloodbraid Elf, at least in this deck with its low curve and 3/3 or 5/5 drops for one mana.

Eldrazi Green – One Copy

I elected to go with Adam Yurchick’s deck from Day One of Worlds.

I decided a few weeks ago that I was going to make a concerted effort to choose a States deck without Baneslayer Angel, so I tested Adam’s deck fairly extensively. I like it. I know I just got done saying that I don’t make edits to controls, but if I did I would add the fourth Great Sable Stag to this deck. That card is just too insane against Jund, particularly in the context of a deck that attracts Lightning Bolts with its one drops.

Jacerator – One Copy

Jacerator was possibly the best Standard deck played at Worlds. In that tournament it enjoyed a halo of anonymity that isn’t really in place any longer going into this weekend. That said, I feel like Jacerator is still under the radar enough that it shouldn’t fall victim to 100 Disenchants per round. That is, it should be keeping a hold of its Howling Mines.

Bant – One Copy

 

Bant was already a popular color combination in the Worlds Swiss, and Bucher’s breakout performance in the Top 8 only serves to increase the strategy’s notoriety.

Mono-White Tokens – One Copy

It is beyond me why people always play these White Weenie decks, but one of them always shows up to break up my winning streaks with Red Decks. I still don’t get why there is no Baneslayer Angel in this deck, but maybe with its heavy Soul Warden action, it doesn’t need the best threat / finisher / gainer of life points in the format.

Vampires – One Copy

I went with the 6-0 version from ye olde Day One, apparently. Personally, I can never win a match with Vampires, but it is likely to be played at States due to the relatively low cost of its effective cards (including the truly terrible Malakir Bloodwitch); you can approximate this deck, in fact, with no Marsh Flats and Verdant Catacombs.

Spread’em – One Copy

This one I did to honor Gerry =)

Actually I felt like the gauntlet needed a Blue deck, and I am morally opposed to promoting one of these defensive [card]Double Negative[/card] types.

Standard Dredge – One Copy

This deck was extremely popular on MTGO about a week before the World Championships, and I still see it being played a fair amount. While it did not do particularly well at Worlds, I feel like this might be a deck you run up against, tomorrow. For a while I was toying with playing a bunch of copies of Relic of Progenitus in my sideboards to make sure I beat Dredge; most of the deck lists I like are pretty tight, so there would be room”¦ and the Dredge deck just ain’t good against a Relic.

Barely Boros – One Copy

Remember what I said about loving a Boros?

If you read fivewithflores.com, you probably know that I am probably playing a variation on Petr Brodzek’s “Barely” Boros deck at States myself, tomorrow. I think this deck is fantastic, and even if it is not as fundamentally popular as some of the other decks also assigned one representative It’s gotta be better than playing a fifth copy of Jund.

The pairings:

 

No, they weren’t quite random. With four copies of Jund and two each of Boros Bushwhacker and Naya Lightsaber, it just made sense to distribute those eight decks across the available match space. “Random” pairings might have made for slightly more “realism” But they would have also compromised the interesting-ness of this article.
The other eight decks were distributed more-or-less random-like, but given the popularity of Jund (and its likelihood of graduating more than one representative to the second round), I decided to give Jacerator and Spreading’em a show. I mean no one wants to see Spread’em, you know, spread’em for Vampires.

Round One:

Jund v. Jacerator

Pregame Prediction: Jacerator

For Jund to win, it has to pull the strategic Maelstrom Pulse and not draw too many Terminates. Anything but a multiple Maelstrom Pulse draw is going to hand Jacerator significant time and resources.

What Really Happened:

Jund had a Maelstrom Pulse in the opener, which was convenient for the first Howling Mine. Nevertheless, Jacerator started to come back thanks to multiple Time Warps and triple Wraths (or whatever they call it these days). Everything seemed rosy after Day of Judgment number two, which curved off a Time Warp turn next to Howling Mine number two.

Jund was faced with a Master of the Wild Hunt or Bloodbraid Elf number three dilemma, which was resolved quickly with the “which card offers a greater opportunity for lucksackery?” to which the answer was the Bloodbraid Elf, conveniently flipping the second Maelstrom Pulse of the game.

Uh.

Oh.

That’s right, two of the three in the top third of the Jund deck. That’s why people roll with the Savage Lands. Absolutely savage, this. And Jund takes the first.

The games that Jacerator wins will probably all sound about the same. Howling Mine. It doesn’t die. Eventually snag you with the [card]Path to Exile[/card] + Archive Trap two card combination. Get some counters on Jace. Maybe Wrath once or twice? Do nothing a bunch of turns in a row.

For the second (which Jacerator won handily), I elected to not sideboard at all. If I were playing with real cards and not digital ones, I would probably side in all my cards, go to 75, and pare back down to 60 no matter what I were going to do just to keep unpredictable in terms of configuration (for example here the Jund deck decided to cut every Terminate, Bituminous Blast, and Master of the Wild Hunt for things like Duress, the fourth Pulse, and so on.

For the third I added the Negates in exchange for two Fogs and one Expedition.

At the end of the deciding game, Jacerator drew a total of three extra cards off of one Font of Mythos and one Jace activation. Jund drew a second turn Leech and the motherlode of Blightnings and Maelstrom Pulses to win the so-called unwinnable match. Particularly masterful was pulling a [card]Blightning[/card] on the sixth sandbag turn, where Jacerator was waiting on Font until Flashfreeze mana made its way available, but that same Font provided the opposite number with the Blightning necessary to clear the Flashfreeze and resolve the Maelstrom Pulse. Perfectly clever.

Winner – Jund 2-1

Naya Lightsaber v. Dredge

Pregame Prediction: Naya Lightsaber

Basically as long as there are Naya Lightsaber decks in this mock tournament, I’m pickin’em.

What Really Happened:

Dredge won the flip and opened on an excellent Ponder, which set up Hedron Crabs and lands (from a one-lander). It didn’t really matter what Naya did this game, as Dredge milled and milled and never really saw a Crypt or a Get Crypt Out of Jail Free Card in any kind of a reasonable window. Meanwhile, even if it “didn’t matter” Naya’s draw was pretty good Hierarch into Woolly Thoctar + Oran-Rief, then Ranger of Eos for Scute Mob, with Lightning Bolt back. Again Dredge was bringing back like one guy a turn, and he wasn’t doing very much.

Second game Naya’s draw is kind of bad, actually. A mulligan opens it, and Dredge has multiple Rotting Rats.

What Naya does have is a turn four Baneslayer Angel.

Which goes all the way.

Did you know this card has protection from, among other things, Extractor Demons?

Winner – Naya Lightsaber 2-0

Jund v. Barely Boros

Pregame Prediction: Barely Boros

I am most likely playing Barely Boros tomorrow, so it had better freaking beat Jund!

What Really Happened:

Game One is a killer. Barely Boros wins the flip and hits with Goblin Guide, revealing Master of the Wild Hunt. Jund plays a Savage Lands and passes. Barely Boros runs out Hellspark Elemental and crashes for another five. Sprouting Thrinax shows up on top, then hits the battlefield.

Another Goblin Guide hits the battlefield, crashes along with the Hellspark Elemental, and dies (the two Guides finally revealing a Savage Lands and Rootbound Crag), but pulling the Jund deck five life closer to the end. Blighting hammers the good guys, but is answered with a Hell’s Thunder. The “haymaker” Magic continues as Master of the Wild Hunt throws Goblin Guide off the island, clearing the way for Thrinax, and then Bloodbraid Elf (sadly revealing Terminate), at which point all the Jund characters rumble into the Red Zone (minus the most recent Wolf, of course). Lightning Bolt goes facial, so now almost anything is lethal.

Naya Panorama is good enough; flashback on the Hell’s Thunder, and that’s game boys. Close, but game.

On the draw, I didn’t want Goblin Guide and Goblin Ruinblaster in the deck at the same time. I also swapped out three of the Geopedes for Quenchable Fire (which I have never played, but I wanted to see what would happen).

Jund swapped awful Maelstrom Pulse (almost no targets) for vitamin-like Duress.

A second turn Duress (off a Savage Lands) swipes Zektar Shrine Expedition (thank God).

A Ruinblaster hits the board, but it is not devastating due to the presence of Garruk Wildspeaker. Red gets some good licks in (especially with Ajani and some trickery with Earthquake) but multiple Garruks pull Jund out of a mana hole long enough to stick a Broodmate Dragon.

The final game is”¦ Odd. Barely Boros is never totally in control, but Jund is never really in it. A second turn Geopede gets in for a ton, somewhat alongside his buddy Hell’s Thunder. Putrid Leech on defense is ineffectual, especially against multiple copies of Burst Lightning.

Jund, as predicted turns it around in the middle turns, with multiple Blightnings, Master of the Wild Hunt, and Garruk.

Earthquake brings it all back to even.

Going long Jund has a lot of options, but none of them are very good. A Bituminous Blast on Goblin Ruinblaster reveals a pointless Terminate. Jund can try to go aggro and die to a burn spell in hand, or empty the good guy grip and die to the flashback on Hell’s Thunder. Six of one, ya grok?

Winner – Barely Boros 2-1

Boros Bushwhacker v. Eldrazi Green

Pregame Prediction: Eldrazi Green

I tested a lot of Eldrazi Green and was surprised at the deck’s non-performance against Red beatdown opponents. I expected Eldrazi to win a solid majority, but it was surprisingly fifty-fifty against decks with Goblin Guide.

Either deck can win. I picked Eldrazi Green this time around just on personal bias. You see, I just like that deck more and I feel like Boros Bushwhacker has a relatively unstable mana base given how active it is. The mana wouldn’t be that bad if the deck had a higher curve, but it needs R and/or W very specifically on the first turn (depending on which drop the deck has), and the deck’s fortunes sway heavily with hitting its colors in the first turns, and for a deck with such a low curve, many subsequent land drops.

What really happened:

Boros Bushwhaker won the all-important die roll and led off with Plains + Elite Vanguard (over Marsh Flats, for a possible re-investment), then played Teetering Peaks for an off-curve swing in for 4.

Eldrazi Green answered with Oran-Rief into Forest + Nissa’s Chosen; Boros answered at the end of turn with Path to Exile via the Vanguard’s stray Plains, untapped, re-bought the Peaks with Kor Skyfisher, and reduced the Green mage to 12.

Accelerated to four mana, Nissa Revane into Nissa’s Chosen set up kind of a bad turn for Boros Bushwhacker, a “mere” Lightning Bolt to the Chosen, and both 2/x creatures plowing into Ms. Revane. No real forward momentum on damage or board position here But the real problem being Bushwacker’s three-card hand containing only one spell.

Green goes for a 4/4 Master of the Wild Hunt, and elects not to block Elite Vanguard when the 2/x’s rumble in again (for fear of a Burst Lightning that is actually waiting). Down comes another Kor Skyfisher, this time setting up a kind of weak re-buy on Elite Vanguard (so Boros can actually ramp to the mana required to kick Burst Lightning).

And a fine strategy that is”¦ as Eldrazi Monument and a now-3/3 Wolf token threaten to hold both land and sky. It looks like if Boros is going to win, it ain’t going to be in the Red Zone. No attack”¦ Green picks off one of the Skyfishers.

As is often the case, the last two turns are the most interesting. Neither deck makes any forward momentum main; Boros Bursts Green to 4, Green picks off the last Skyfisher but wisely leaves all men (and Elves, and Wolves) back for fear of a Goblin Bushwhacker that in fact actually shows up. Then in one fell swoop, all the flying Little Green Men rumble in, backed by Vines of Vastwood and a Monument boost for the kill.

Like I said originally, could have gone either way.

Game Two it’s all Guides, all the time.

Goblin Guide comes out on the first turn, relentlessly backed up by Teetering Peaks, then Steppe Lynx and Goblin Bushwhacker. Over the course of this lightning quick game, the Guide flips over a mere one basic Forest along the way to a splatter of Little Green Men. And by “men” I mean one Elvish Visionary, as that was the only interaction the Green deck got to put up, sadly (a rare trade against Steppe Lynx). Bushwhacker went Elspeth for flying Guide action, and then just played more Guides, while Green basically just took it.

Which makes Game Three sideboarding all the more ironic. On the draw, Boros plays no Goblin Guides, instead maxing out on removal (up to and including Oblivion Ring, potentially for the Monument), and making efficiency swaps against Path to Exile (probably not the root cause of the Game One loss, but certainly less efficient than Burst Lightning and Journey to Nowhere in most spots, in this matchup).

Green stays pat: Two Grey Ogres aka Archdruids down for an additional Vines and a 3/3 Stag (you know, Gnarled Mass). No Fog: no comment.

Turns go by.

Then, in an embarrassing display given her pedigree, Baneslayer Angel gets chopped up by a flying Ant Queen, but this big swing allows for a tremendous torrent of Bushwhacker-enabled damage coming off a Ranger, incuding two gigantic landfallers, a Plated Geopede and the Bushwhacker’s pair, a Steppe Lynx.

None of the other blocks are profitable (bounce “chumps” thanks to the Monument) but the Green deck is reduced to 3 life. The attack was profitable in that it pulled Bushwhacker to 16 thanks to the Baneslayer, right out of Alpha Strike range.

Or is it?

I actually wish I filmed this. The ending was awesome.

One of the things that you have to learn to do in order to improve game play is to break patterns. Untapping with Ant Queen in play alongside an Eldrazi Monument is a signal for a very automatic play: tapping two mana during upkeep to produce a token to sacrifice to the Monument. In this case, that would have been disaster had the Bushwhacker deck had a Lightning Bolt on top. The right move was to sacrifice a Llanowar Elves on upkeep and use all five lands to tap for a second Eldrazi Monument.

And that’s sixteen.

Winner – Eldrazi Green, 2-1

Jund v. Bant

Pregame Prediction: Jund

What Really Happened:

Jund wins the die roll, but then promptly ships to Paris, keeping Sprouting Thrinax, Terminate, and a perfect spread of four lands (Mountain, Swamp, and a pair of Verdant Catacombs). The lead-off is Catacombs.

Jund rolls three basics into Sprouting Thrinax. Meanwhile Bant has quite the draw itself: Kabira Crossroads, Forest + Honor of the Pure, Misty Rainforest for Island + Rhox War Monk.

Terminate is obvious, then in comes Sprouting Thrinax”¦ Which is quickly met with a 4/4 Steward of Valeron off a second [card]Honor of the Pure[/card]. Bad guys look to stall with a second Sprouting Thrinax; but no dice: Baneslayer Angel!

7/7 Baneslayer Angel backed up by 4/4 Steward and 8/8 Knight of the Reliquary (if you knock those eights on their sides, that is) Baneslayer would have been enough by itself.

In Game Two, Bant development couldn’t have been awkward-er CIPTapped Seaside Citadel, CIPTapped Seaside Citadel, CIPTapped Sunpetal Grove (+Honor of the Pure).

Jund pounces, if unspectacularly. Blightning, Garruk, some dorks Bant never makes a relevant play but to plow some Dragons and Thaw for the bad peoples.

The third is another Jund stomp. Burst Lightning chops up Steward of Valeron, Blightning takes two, Bloodbraid Elf into Blightning takes two more. Jund is just too far ahead with Maelstrom Pulses and actually hitting land drops as Bant once again stalls. In a real tournament it would have been one of those games where the Bant player refused to shake afterwards =)

Winner – Jund 2-1

Naya Lightsaber v. Vampires

Pregame Prediction: Naya Lightsaber (obviously).

What Really Happened:

Game One was perhaps the greatest display of life gain in, well, this article.

Lightsaber started off slowly, with its first play a turn four Bloodbraid Elf; luckily the aforementioned Elf flipped over the optimal Woolly Thoctar. Vampires, which had come out with a turn two Vampire Hexmage, played the first of what would be several Tendrils of Corruption to gain four and get in.

Baneslayer Angel.

Ouch. Guys.

Baneslayer Angel.

Tendrils of Corruption!

Ranger of Eos for Wild Nacatl and Scute Mob (man that Hexmage is annoying).

Tendrils of Corruption AGAIN. Random Vampires. Vampire Nocturnus.

The game goes strange, with Naya alive thanks to those few Baneslayer swings (and one shot on a Nighthawk from Ajani Vengeant, now long binned), but the Nocturnus seems inexorable, especially with another Tendrils of Corruption coming off the top. All motherloving four. What can stop the Vampire onslaught? Swamp on top, it seems.

Naya has been amassing 3/x creatures, and Scute Mob has drafted off a Hexmage and the last of the Corruption. Still, the good guys are one non-Swamp on top from doom. Is there anything that can”¦

Oh, a third Baneslayer Angel. That’s fine.

Still, even with the Baneslayer Angel, the game is, as I said, quite strange. Besides one big swing from Naya (with Vampires still quite healthy thanks to four huge Tendrils and the work of two Nighthawks), neither deck has good attacks. Vampires, on it’s flying turns, can attack but lose the Nocturnus to a first striking Baneslayer Angel (grounding and shrinking the rest of the squad before would-be lethal damage), exposing the Black for another huge Alpha Strike on the ground. Baneslayer Angel can’t attack because the counter-strike would be lethal.

Nothing.

Nothing.

Nothing.

Well, not nothing nothing; Vampires can snipe a 3/2 with a Gatekeeper of Malakir or so, but the stars are not aligning for victory.

Eventually Path to Exile shows up and the Vampires house of cards collapses. Naya wins so big it is hard to remember the stretch of turns where lethal seemed imminent.

Deathmarks and the fourth Malakir Bloodwitch come in for Eldrazi Monument, two Mind Sludges, and two Vampire Hexmages.

Naya opts for efficiency swaps: Celestial Purge over Path to Exile, Great Sable Stag for Wild Nacatl, and two Burst Lightnings for two now disempowered Rangers (Malakir Bloodwitch).

Bloodbraid Elf flips over one of the only two Burst Lightnings to take out a Vampire Hexmage on turn four. It looks fine and dandy for Naya – with two Baneslayer Angels in hand – but that Burst Lightning looked and felt pretty bad.

And with good reason.

No number of Ajani Vengeants (or two, in this case) can match the two Malakir Bloodwitches that Vampires presented. Naya puts up a good fight, taking out almost everything else and slapping down Baneslayer Angels like a champ But Vampires can play the “still got these” game, winning with a Tendrils of Corruption, Disfigure, and Deathmark all back. Wow.

Strategically, Game Three was quite interesting. After an early exchange of Noble Hierarch and Disfigure, Naya stuck a 4/4 Great Sable Stag and refrained from playing anything else. This was just like Coimbra’s real-life match against Reitbauer in the finals where Great Sable Stag blanked Bituminous Blast.

Vampires, though, had consecutive Malakir Bloodwitches to stay just out of dead. Quickly reduced to pointing a Tendrils at one of the Bloodwitches, Vampires won despite a masterful Ranger of Eos picking up two Noble Hierarchs, which reduced Vampires to only one.

Bloodwitch put Naya to one right back and finished it with the alternate ability on Sign in Blood. Four Malakir Bloodwitches in two games (versus only one misdirected Burst Lightning) are just too much.

Winner – Vampires 2-1

Jund v. Spread’em

Pregame Prediction: Spread’em. Spread’em is meant to be an anti-Jund deck with its mana base-rocking Convincing Mirages, after all. Part of the reason I set up this round of sixteen matchup was to give Spread’em a matchup it could win Ideally to the detriment of hated Jund =)

What Really Happened:

Spread’em just couldn’t keep Jund’s mana locked down. This was a very back and forth game where Ardent Plea actually looked pretty exciting. The main thing I was worried about from the Spread’em side was whether or not to play a non-kicked Sphinx of Lost Truths. I ultimately decided that would be the right play (facing a Sprouting Thrinax) in order to preserve an Ajani Vengeant.

The next game wasn’t particularly close.

Jund ships to six, and Spread’em keeps a two lander with Spreading Seas as the cantrip.

Duress? Oh no!

Oh no problem that is topdeck another Spreading Seas!

Like clockwork, Plains jumps off the Spreading Seas, followed by Ardent Plea. Consider those Swamps and Mountains officially Islands.

Jund plays a total of one additional Lightning Bolt (from the Duress) before succumbing to a pair of Sphinxes and seven point Ajani, six shiny Islands (and one topdecked Forest) staring back.

Going first seems really important in this matchup. The one game Spread’em went first was a blowout, the other two Jund won easily. In the deciding game, Jund played a Blightning through the first Spreading Seas and Duressed as a follow up to slow down the Island production. Via the Blightning it was actually Spread’em that was mana screwed, and a flurry of Maelstrom Pulses (one from a Bloodbraid Elf) did away with some pesky Spreading Seas anyway. All the damage Jund sustained came off its own dual lands.

Winner – Jund 2-1

Boros Bushwhacker v. Mono-White Tokens

Pregame Prediction: Mono-White.

What Really Happened:

Game One was a blowout. White did almost nothing whereas Bushwhacker swung for ten on turn three.

Game Two looks like it is going to go to Boros Bushwhacker (again) but the White deck holds on long enough to get off a Conqueror’s Pledge with a Soul Warden and two copies of Honor of the Pure in play. If there was any doubt after that big life boost, the second Pledge ends them.

This time Soul Warden + Conqueror’s Pledge falls short to Elspeth, Knight-Errant + a kicked Burst Lightning. Does anyone else remember when we thought Planeswalkers weren’t that big a deal?

Surprisingly (to this writer anyway), Boros Bushwhacker repeats over Mono-White to advance.

Winner – Boros Bushwhacker 2-1

Round Two:

 

Jund v. Naya Lightsaber

Pregame Prediction: In a 150-card re-buy of the Worlds finals, I am controversially going to pick the deck that effortlessly 3-0’d the other deck to win the title.

What Really Happened:

Game One:

Jund wins the flip. Naya makes the first play with second turn Wild Nacatl. Jund plays consecutive Blightnings, which rip away Path to Exile, Baneslayer Angel, Rootbound Crag, and Bloodbraid Elf. Naya responds with consecutive Bloodbraid Elves (Wild Nacatl is at full bore thanks to two Arid Mesas), the first of which flips Woolly Thoctar. Master of the Wild Hunt jumps onto the battlefield for the sole purpose of chump blocking Woolly Thoctar. The “I still had these” club can point to a topdecked Baneslayer Angel. Despite two Blightnings going first It wasn’t close.

Game Two:

Jund is a little slow on mana. Not completely screwed, but susceptible to Ajani. The first Ajani gets up to seven counters and Jund makes a miracle pull of Verdant Catacombs to send Maelstrom Pulse its way. A second Ajani starts to do its gruesome work to the same Savage Lands.

Meanwhile Lightsaber has been playing a bunch of Woolly Thoctars and Baneslayer Angels. Jund of course is nothing but Terminates and Maelstrom Pulses and Blightnings; these are taken care of. Until they aren’t. One Thoctar gets in for five, then a Bloodbraid Elf comes off the top, flipping over a Noble Hierarch. Oh well. Still, the duo knock Jund to six.

The Hierarch was actually a boon in that it made a second Green to produce a Great Sable Stag. With a flourish Jund sends Bituminous Blast at the Thoctar (finally free of Ajani Vengeant) and flips over the Lightning Bolt for Great Sable Stag! Sadly it was too late for poor Jund. The next three cards on top of the Lightsaber deck being Lightning Bolt, Bloodbraid Elf, and Lightning Bolt.

Winner – Naya Lightsaber 2-0

Barely Boros v. Eldrazi Green

Pregame Prediction: Barely Boros

This matchup is substantially different from the one the Green deck managed to win the first time around. Four Earthquakes versus a bunch of guys that make Nissa’s Chosen look good makes for a gigantic shift in incentives over Boros Bushwhacker. And as I said the first time Green fought, the deck is surprisingly not great against Goblin Guide decks.

What Really Happened:

Game One:

Clockwork for Barely Boros. Goblin Guide is in twice with no down side, the second turn play being Zektar Shrine Expedition. Green plays Nissa’s Chosen to staunch the bleeding, followed by Elvish Visionary into Llanowar Elves.

It gets pretty embarrassing once Goblin Guide chumps Nissa’s Chosen. The Barely Boros follow up is Earthquake for three, smashing any and all, followed the next turn by Hell’s Thunder + Burst Lightning for lethal.

Game Two:

Haymakers again. Green leads off with Oran-Rief, which poses a constant threat throughout the game, starting with a 3/4 Nissa’s Chosen. Barely Boros comes in with a Hellspark Elemental, which is one of only two attacks that get in the entire game. Green is chipping away back as Zektar Shrine comes down. The following turn is a Burst Lightning on the 3/4, followed by an Earthquake for 2. Kicked Vines of Vastwood can save a 1/1, a 1/2, or the Chosen; the Chosen, though tapped, seems best. Zektar Shrine connects for the second of two successful attacks.

The Eldrazi follow up with Ant Queen and another attack for three.

It’s nearly academic at this point (which does not mean I didn’t try for five minutes to figure out whether to try to burn a creature or keep one tapped or whatever). Ajani Vengeant comes down as a four mana Lightning Helix to put the Boros one or two points out of the Green deck alpha, simultaneously pulling the Eldrazi to six; only Vines of Vastwood or the Monument can win it. Neither shows up, and it’s Lightning Bolt + (dare I say it?) Quenchable Fire for the finish.

Winner – Barely Boros 2-0

Jund v. Vampires

Pregame Prediction: Jund

I don’t know if you noticed, but Jund won three of its four preliminary round matches. Maybe we should be taking it more seriously as potential deck that people might play.

What Really Happened:

Game One was an interesting study in two decks with a million creature removals. Vampires in particular did nothing but play Swamps and accumulate Tendrils of Corruption. Sadly, of the four Tendrils played this game, two were directed at Sprouting Thrinax tokens (albeit after a little help from Garruk Wildspeaker). Jund eventually won a super long game upon finally finding a Broodmate Dragon.

Game Two Jund stumbles on mana and does very little. Vampires is able to hit a huge Mind Sludge for six with beaters already in play.

Game Three is an ugly affair; Vampires looked to be stumbling, but drew out of it (and Blightning) with Sign in Blood. Nevertheless the Jund Red cards, including Bituminous Blast, Burst Lightning, and Blightning were able to finish off the Black side.

Winner – Jund 2-1

Jund v. Boros Bushwhacker

Pregame Prediction: Boros Bushwhacker

This one can go either way, obviously. I actually think the victor will likely be the deck that wins the flip (at this stage, I don’t know the identity of that deck).

What Really Happened:

The games were all quick. In the first, Jund, having won the flip, started putting on pressure and never let up. Boros Bushwhaker got kind of a poor draw in the second, but drawing all Lightning Bolts can make up for a lot of ill luck; in this case, the last 11 points took a total of four Red mana taps.

In the rubber match Boros Bushwhacker assembles the sacred trust. After trading one and two drops with Jund’s removal, Ranger of Eos went and got himself a Steppe Lynx and Goblin Bushwhacker. The subsequent strike was for about 22, with Lightning Bolt in reserve.

Winner – Boros Bushwhacker 2-1

Round Three:

 

Naya Lightsaber v. Barely Boros

Pregame Prediction: Naya Lightsaber

If Barely Boros has an Achilles heel, it’s Baneslayer Angel.

What Really Happened:

Barely Boros was behind against the 5/x creatures from a relatively early stage of both Game One and Game Two. Some clever Earthquake work made Game One look competitive, but Baneslayer Angel required two burn spells, and it just got worse when Naya started laying down Rangers.

The second game wasn’t really much of a game; Barely Boros stalled on three and drew a bunch of Burst Lightnings. Wild Nacatl was more-or-less out of reach, let alone the parade of Rangers and finally the Baneslayer Angel that came down from on high.

Winner – Naya Lightsaber 2-0

Jund v. Boros Bushwhacker

Pregame Prediction: Boros Bushwhacker

I don’t see any reason to vary predictions at this point, do you?

What Really Happened:

In Game One, Jund was caught without a Red for a moment”¦ And in this game, you could blink and miss all the action. Jund had an Oran-Rief and a pair of Putrid Leeches, but Boros Bushwhacker had a first turn Goblin Guide, a pair of Kor Skyfishers that went to Teetering Peaks town at least three times unmolested, and set up the big Bushwhacker turn (Burst Lightning in reserve).

In the second it was Boros, slow on the draw. Turn one Elite Vanguard got in, but was forced to reset via Kor Skyfisher (Boros was setting up for a subsequent Ranger of Eos). That made Jund’s Pulse on the Skyfisher (with Putrid Leech already in play) all the more satisfying. Boros just never caught up.

All three games ended as a result of one deck stumbling. In the third, it was not surprisingly the three-color deck with more difficult mana requirements. Boros opened up once again with an unmolested Gobin Guide that got in, then got in again with Teetering Peaks. Jund dealt with the Guide after the second attack but had no Green mana for Sprouting Thrinax (to block on the ground). It was quickly a Ranger of Eos turn, which set up a lethal multi-character swing with Goblin Bushwhacker providing that little extra oomph.

Winner – Boros Bushwhacker 2-1

Finals:

 

Naya Lightsaber v. Boros Bushwhacker

Pregame Prediction: Naya Lightsaber, just like in the Pro Tour

What Really Happened:

In the first Boros won the all-important flip and got in with Goblin Guide. The draw was precarious for Naya, which had multiple copies of Path to Exile but no good proactive plays; worse yet, Naya was stuck on Red, locking out Bloodbraid Elf and Ajani Vengeant. The plan was to Path and hope Boros would run out. It didn’t.

Baneslayer Angel came down on the last turn, but at that point the Bushwhacker squad had pulled consecutive Lightning Bolts. A 3/3 Wild Nacatl (courtesy of Oran-Rief) was toast; Ranger of Eos dug up a Steppe Lynx duo for use with Goblin Bushwhacker, and all the pieces fell into place for the bad guys.

For Game Two, Boros approached with the “on the draw no Red creatures” plan, Baneslayers and anti-Baneslayer creature removal in, Geopedes and Guides out (though both Bushwhackers were left in the deck, for obvious reasons, unlike what happened in Rome).

Both decks started on six, which was obviously a greater concern for Naya, which has five drops and more mana dependencies, not to mention the deck on the play. Naya stumbled a bit; Boros didn’t. Steppe Lynx got in for a ferocious amount of damage before being shut down by [card]Ajani Vengeant[/card] around turn five. A succession of Kor Skyfishers kept bouncing the same Teetering Peaks.

Then came the first Baneslayer Angel.

Before she could either Red Zone or block, she met Path to Exile.

Over came that pair of Skyfishers.

Down came the second Baneslayer.

Again Path to Exile.

Naya at this point had a ton of mana from the Paths and could play two Bloodbraid Elves, One nuked a Skyfisher, the other flipped a Woolly Thoctar.

But it wasn’t meant to be; the sole remaining Skyfisher poked for two, finishing the mock tournament with Lightning Bolt.
Boros Bushwhacker wins 2-0!

Winner (and winner of the Sixteen) – Boros Bushwhacker
And this is how it looked in the end:

 

Well, at least a deck with Plated Geopede won =)

I hope you enjoyed this article!

LOVE
MIKE

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