This is my GP Houston report.
Originally, I was not planning on going to Houston – not even close. The main reason for that was that I’ve started going to the university again, and I decided I was going to focus – I couldn’t simply miss infinite classes. I also didn’t have any deck I wanted to play, so it didn’t really bother me not to go. Then time passed, and things started changing”¦ One GP happened here, one GP there, some 5K tournaments in the meantime, and every time I read the coverage for one of them I wanted to play something myself. At some point I decided to brainstorm a little bit on extended decks, you know, just in case.
I read some coverage and talked to Luis a little bit, and we mentioned decks like Elves and Scapeshift, though we didn’t really go in depth because, you know, I wasn’t going to Houston anyway. I decided to try a few games with Elves, and I concluded that I would not have the time to play it optimally until the beginning of the tournament – as good as I think I am, I have to be aware of my own limitations, and playing Elves in a GP with no practice is one of them (I also hate the deck, though I think it is good).
Then I went to sleep, and I just couldn’t – I kept thinking about Scapeshift. I have this big problem that when I am thinking, I just get so excited that I cannot sleep – most of the time this happens when I have to wake up early the next day. I then start thinking “hey, I have to get up early next day, I’d better sleep soon”, but that is also thinking, and therefore prevents me from sleeping even more – then it snowballs in a way that I only get to sleep a few hours before most big events, for example. At that point, I did not have a big event, but I did have to wake up 6:30 AM for classes, and spending 3 hours in bed thinking about Muddle the MIxture in Scapeshift and Oona in the board did not help my cause.
Most of the time, when I keep thinking in bed, it is something very revolutionary. Most of the time, it is also pretty bad – as soon as I wake up next day, I build the deck and play some games and it turns out to be terrible. This time, I came back to class and played some games, and it was not terrible – I was beating Zoo more than I was losing to it. The spark was lit.
I spent the next couple of days in an internal conflict, pretty much knowing that I was going to go but trying to convince myself that I wasn’t. I checked plane ticket prices daily, and they were somewhat restrictive – to get a reasonable price, I would have to leave home on Friday, getting there on Saturday morning (!), and then go back on Tuesday, which meant one day of doing nothing (and paying for it all by myself). Still, at that point, I reeeally wanted to go”¦. so I booked my ticket. I talked to the head judge and explained that I would only be able to get there on Saturday, and he was nice enough to let someone else register me and turn in my decklist.
I called the airline on Tuesday and booked my plane ticket, scheduled to get there Saturday morning. I had a short connection in Miami, which I was afraid of, but I asked and the woman said it was OK, so it was ok!
Then, on Wednesday, I get a call from American Airlines. It was something like this:
“Mr Damo da Rosa, I would like to inform you that you do not have enough time to connect in Miami and you will miss your flight, but you don’t have to worry, because we’ve already scheduled you on the next flight, at 3:45 PM”
“But I need to be there at the original time, this is too late for me”
“That’s unfortunate.” (OK, she didn’t really say that – she basically spent 5 minutes telling me a lot of things, but this is exactly what she meant)
I then called the US and talked to some woman who managed to get me a flight that took about 8 hours longer in connections but got there in the right time. Wee! I then talked to Luis, and he agreed to register me. He said he had played some games with Scapeshift versus Depths and that he had won 16-3, and that though the match was obviously not this good, it couldn’t really be bad, and being “ok” was enough for me. He said he was 99% going to play Scapeshift, and we had a sketch list for him to register. I told him that if he played and figured something out, he could go and change it in my list too – I trusted him to do it – but no shenanigans!
I departed on Friday morning, not really sure of my exact deck or sideboard, and I cannot say I recommend this to anyone, but I was really happy to go, and I had great expectations, though I had not really played more than 10 games with the deck (which I also do not recommend). The real reason I went to this GP was that I had one thing that I had been missing for quite some time – a deck I wanted to play.
Throughout my tournament story, there have been two reasons for me to play something – either I actively wanted to play it, or I didn’t want to play anything else. There is a very high correlation to me wanting to play a deck and me winning with it, and since this situation very rarely happens, I just had to take the opportunity I’d found.
So, why did I want to play Scapeshift this badly? I think the answer has to begin on why I did not want to play Dark Depths, which is the I suppose accepted best deck. The reason was that, as I wrote in the profile, I just didn’t feel confident in my ability to win the mirror match with it, especially in timed rounds (and I would like to defend my English skills and point out that I did write confidEnt in the sheet of paper, and then it was incorrectly corrected to confidAnt when the profiles got online; such foreigners Americans). In Oakland, I had pretty much drawn two of my matches (in one I actually killed myself, but I was playing for a draw that would knock me out, so I had little incentive – I am relatively sure I’d have drawn that match if I needed one point), and I didn’t really see what I could do to change that – it doesn’t matter that other people win mirror matches, I was not winning enough for my liking. I was also not very confidEnt in the Zoo match, and I didn’t like how everyone was packing a billion hate cards, and though I understand that most hate cards do not actually beat the deck, some do make your life a lot harder, like maindeck Ghost Quarter from some decks. Simply put, I could not really see myself finishing in a good place with the deck.
Scapeshift, on the other hand, was completely different. I would not have to play mirror matches (or at least not many), and it is very hard to hate – it is generally unaffected by almost of what hits Depths, and most people would load on those cards. I also thought most people would lean towards the generally superior Leyline of the Void (in my opinion at least), eschewing the use of Extirpate. A lot of people also have no real idea how Scapeshift plays – true enough, there isn’t a lot of room for them to missplay horribly against you – but they will underestimate your ability to kill them most of the time, and they are generally unable to identify what they have to counter or not. I also like “I win” decks a lot, and Scapeshift doesn’t ask for much – only seven lands and one card. It kind of reminded me of the Ideal deck I won Nationals with in 2006 – you get to seven mana and you win, how nice is that?
I also liked how the deck had real good matchups against all sorts of bad decks, like Living End, Hypergenesis, etc, and I really liked the sideboard (at least the cards I knew were in my sideboard at this point), because it contained a bunch of powerful cards, like Oona and Boseiju – Boseiju is a personal favorite of mine, because it is a land that just beats their entire deck depending on what they are playing. I mean, can you imagine playing against Wafo-Tapa and having Boseiju in play? I was also happy that I had three Chalices, as I really didn’t want to lose to the cascade decks and it doubled as Elf hate, which I expected to be slightly more popular than it was, given that it had won the previous GP.
So, as I was saying before I was interrupted, I departed on Friday morning and took a rather unusual route – generally I go to Sao Paulo, this time I went to Campinas and then Rio, and then after that I would do Miami and Houston. As I approached security, I took out my laptop, dropped my backpack, and went on to cross the thing when an agent stopped me.
“Whoa, whoa, hold on got any coins in your pockets?”
“No cell phones or keys?”
“Then, hm, take off your watch!”
I shrugged and took off my watch. You see, I don’t actually have a problem with taking my watch off – it took me about 5 seconds – it is just that, well, I have been traveling with this watch for about two years, to different continents, and not once have I ever been asked to remove it, and not once has it ever beeped in the machine, so I find it rather interesting that he just tried so hard to find something wrong in me, kind of like those teachers who look so meticulously in the hopes of finding something wrong in a paper, not because they want the student to learn but because they want to teach them their place
After that, I tried to look for a place to exchange some money – all I needed was a little bit, to make it to the event from the airport, since some people owed me money and I was supposed to be paid in the GP. I was informed, though, that there weren’t any exchange houses inside security, and I would have to go back through them, so I just figured I’d do that in my stop in Miami – It was just a small amount anyway, and even if the exchange rate was a little worse, it could not be *much* worse, right?
The plane took off and I started reading some of my school texts, for a change. You see, I am really a book fanatic, but I like a very specific kind of book – my love for fantasy is equally matched by my hatred for “literature”. Since teachers don’t often tell us to read fantasy books (or anything remotely fun for that matter), having to read anything for school has always been a big sacrifice. Now, being on a plane is already something I endure at a very big cost, so if I were to read a book that makes me miserable in a place that makes me miserable I would probably just jump out of the emergency exit in no time, so I’ve never read any textbooks while flying, trying to compensate the horror of being stuck in an airplane with at least books that are interesting to me. This time, though, things were different – since I changed my major to International Relations, my textbooks have grown on me, as I now get to read about some topics that I find interesting, such as “the impact of the Black Death in England’s economy” and the like, so I promised to myself that I would read a lot in this trip to make up for the classes I was going to miss .
I read through the first chapter of my textbook rather effortlessly (though obviously taking like five times as much as it would take me to read the same number of pages in Harry Potter). After that I got tired of the topic, and I decided to indulge in some light reading for a while, you know, just to give my mind some rest. I then started with a book called “Poison Study” (enemies, beware, mwahahaha), which I had read some good reviews on. The book was so catchy that I just kept reading, and reading, and reading, and then some sleep, and reading, and when I realized, I had read the entire book and was landing in Miami – so much for school reading
Landing in Miami, the first thing I did was to look for my gate. I scroll down with my eyes until I see
AA 1554* – IAH – 08:05 —- CANCELED
*flight number changed to preserve the integrity of those involved (and because I don’t remember the correct number)
Houston, we have a problem!
(I wanted to use this sentence in the report somewhere, and I don’t suppose I’ll get a better chance, so there it is)
I rush to the AA desk to see what the hell is going on, and the woman explains to me that the flight had some mechanical problems, but not to worry that I had already been transferred”¦ to the 3:45 PM flight. Yeah, that same one. I tell her that this is just not going to work, and to put me on a another company’s flight. She says she can’t, because my ticket is a flying miles ticket. At this point it starts to sound kind of ironic to me that the only time in my life that I have a flight canceled is also the only one in which I absolutely cannot wait some hours, and then on top of that it is the one that I bought with flying miles. I tell her I want to talk to the supervisor, and after some time I convinced her to help me and she put me on a Continental flight, yay.
After getting that out of the way, I still had to exchange money, and there was only one place open. The exchange rate was terrible and the fees were beyond ridiculous, but I really needed some Dollars to pay the taxi, and they were happy to exchange my 50 Euro bill (leftovers from Madrid) for exactly U$ 50,25. Really, I’d better win this tournament if I make it in time.
I take my flight and finally get to Houston. I take my 50 euro taxi to the event, and see that I have made it with plenty of time. I go find Luis and he hands in my deck, saying he hadn’t changed anything other than removing the Ravenous Trap for a Negate. And that he was playing Elves. And that everyone else is playing Dark Depths. And that I am the only person playing Scapeshift.
I have to say it is quite depressing to know that you’re going to play a deck, and that after playtesting for some time, everyone else just jumps out of it while you are gone. Please don’t misunderstand, I am not saying they did anything wrong – I was the person who chose to put myself in this situation anyway – but it doesn’t really do wonders to your confidence to know that suddenly everyone decided your deck is not good enough. Oh well, I couldn’t really do much about that, and to be honest I don’t think I would have if I had been given more time, I just really wanted to play Scapeshift. This is the list I was signed up with:
The lands: I liked my land base a lot. I did lose a game because I didn’t have enough Red in my deck, but I would probably have lost a lot more if I had played another Mountain over a colored source, since it was really always bad when I drew it. I liked the maindeck Boseiju – the deck does draw a lot of cards, and the matches where you want it are probably going to go long, so you have a decent chance of seeing it though you only have one. It is obviously not good against a deck without counters, but even then it is a land, and Scapeshift only cares that you have 7; you don’t need to even be able to tap them for mana.
The accelerations: Sakura-Tribe Elder and Search are the best ones, because they are the quickest/most efficient. I was then left with the choice between Wood Elves and Rampant Growth. Originally I had Growths, but Luis said Elves was better, and as I didn’t have much time to test anyway, I just went with what he said, and I did not regret it, as Wood Elves was pretty good for me. I tried Explore for a couple of games too, but it wasn’t really good. I am not a fan of Coiling Oracle – I want the speed, and he has less than 50% chance to do that for me (and also cannot be played off t1 Valakut or Boseiju).
Muddles: Muddle is basically the only thing I changed from the stock lists, and I am not sure why they were never tried before. Muddle in this deck just does so much for you – it helps against decks like Hypergenesis, it protects your combo against counters, it looks for Into the Roil if you need to deal with something, it looks for Peer if you need Scapeshift (and this deck has a lot of games where it has a lot of mana and just doesn’t find Scapeshift, and in those situations it is useful to have 6 Peers, even if 2 cost a little bit more) and it also accelerates you from land 5 to 7 by getting Tribe Elder, which was never relevant in this tournament but could be, considering 7 is the magical number.
Everything else in the deck is pretty standard, and, as Luis put it, everything in it either draws a card or searches for land. The way to play this deck is pretty simple – this is a combo deck. As soon as you remember that, and do not play it as a control deck, you will do fine.
When I say this is a combo deck, I mean that your goal is to get to 7 (8) lands, resolve Scapeshift and win. You do not care about anything else. Imagine, for example, that you are on the play and your opponent goes turn two Dark Confidant, or even Tarmogoyf. You play your third land and you have Repeal and Command in hand. With a control deck, you might be tempted to pass the turn, take a hit and bounce it at the end of the turn, so you can counter it on the way back. With this deck, you just bounce it on your turn – you don’t care that they are going to replay it, and you absolutely do not need to keep mana open to counter anything. Next turn, when they replay it, you bounce it with Command – again you don’t care that it sticks at some point, because ideally they are going to be dead before it matters. Your goal is to stall the game and kill them – if they are dead, none of their cards matter, remember that.
Round 4 : Cedric Phillips, Dredge
We get called to the feature match, but then I’m shooed away because Cedric is not feeling well and doesn’t want to play there.
Game one starts well – he is kind of slow and I have a good draw. The important point of the game happens when I have six lands in play, Scapeshift and a seventh in hand (so he is dead if I untap), and he plays a fourth land and hardcasts Dread Return on Iona (he has like Rusalka, 3 more guys, and I am dead next turn if I take a hit from everything). My hand is Muddle, Peer, Peer, Scapeshift. I could Muddle it, but then he just sacrifices three guys and flashbacks, so I figure that my best shot is to Peer to find either Command or Remand, both of which win me the game, and if that fails I get to Peer again for Remand. I do that and find a Ponder, and my second Peer also finds a Ponder – now I have 9 cards to find my Into the Roil, as I don’t have time to transmute for it, or double Cryptic (which would give me time to get to 9 lands to play Transmute + Into the Roil + Scapeshift). I Ponder twice and do not find Into the Roil, but a Cryptic. On his turn I tap his team and draw a card. That doesn’t produce anything, and neither does my draw step, so I am dead. This game was somewhat frustrating, as I had a bunch of cards I could have drawn, and I was pretty sure I was going to win when I passed with those cards in my hand – basically the only thing that had to happen for me to lose happened, which was for him to have a fourth land and a Dread Return in hand.
I must warn you beforehand that I had no idea how to sideboard with this deck at all; this is merely how I sideboarded (at least that’s what I think I did), which does say that I thought at the time it was correct, but take it all with a grain of salt as I did not test much and I could easily be wrong. And, when in doubt, take out Wood Elves.
I did not really have any specific hate, but the Red spells are pretty decent to stop his early guys like Rusalka and Crab.
Game two he again started pretty slow, and I had a turn where I went EOT Peer and got a [card]Search for Tomorrow[/card]. Then I put the four cards on the bottom, and started shuffling – I suppose I just kept looking at that Search in front of me. I stop midshuffling and we call a judge, and I explain that I have not actually shuffled the two clumps of cards in my hand, so the bottom four cards should still be the bottom four. At this point I am hoping not to get a game loss, but I would kind of understand if I did, from their point of view. The judge says that we just leave the cards as they are, and Cedric appeals, because he thinks I should at least shuffle the non bottom 4 cards. I didn’t really get to see anything as I was “shuffling”, but I agree with him, because he has no way of knowing that. Regardless, the HJ upholds the ruling, and I don’t shuffle. Instead I draw and just play my Search, and jokingly say “see, I’m shuffling!”, as in, don’“t worry it’s shuffled now anyway. Then he starts taking his turn, and I tap the Forest I got to suspend another Search, and he says “sorry, no way you’re playing that”. I’m kinda puzzled at his statement, and he said I had said “it’s your turn”. I said no, that I had said “see, I’m shuffling”. He gives me a weird look but I assure him that I did not pass the turn, and he accepts it. Some turns later I get to kill him for exactly 18.
Game three my hand was decent, but I never really got much time to play my cards. He started with a Thoughtseize, and next turn I have a Lightning Bolt, and I play Steam Vents untapped, taking two. I think this is a good play, because the two life are likely not to matter, and it might be that he plays a one drop that I’ll want to kill and then I draw into a 2 drop, which I currently don’t have, and can play it anyway. Not likely to happen, I suppose, but if it does, it gives me a huge plus, and if it does not, then I just took two damage, and everyone knows no one has won a game of Magic because of two damage.
He plays a Hedron Crab and a fetchland, so I respond by Bolting it – first step for my plan worked, now all I have to do is draw a two drop! – this way, he has three less cards to flip a Bloodghast or a Bridge, and he does not get to see what he dredges before he has to fetch something, which could be relevant. He has a Rusalka this turn also, and I don’t draw a two drop (sometimes there is just no justice). Two or three turns later, I’m just dead.
Playing against Cedric was very pleasant (other than the fact that I lost), because he does everything in the correct order, states all the triggers, etc. Not that I want all my opponents to do everything perfectly, but you can only play against so many Elf players that have no clue when they’re supposed to draw for Glimpse, untap, gain life, return something, draw for Visionary, etc, before you get a little bit tired of it. To be honest, it was kind of annoying to have Cedric say things like “two Bridge tokens on the stack” when he is playing Dread Return for the kill, but I’d much rather have that than someone who has no clue what he is doing, which might even lead to complications when they’re playing a deck like Dredge. I could also from that point on blame Luis if I didn’t do well, since he cut my Ravenous Trap, which was a huge plus.
Round 5: Faeries
My opponent had a turn two [card]Bitterblossom[/card], and I Repealed it. He replayed it, I Repealed it again, and when he replayed it yet again I bounced it with Cryptic. Then it resolved, and when he had five mana and I had 7, he played Mistbind Clique on my upkeep, so I just Remanded it and killed him.
The bounce spells don’t reeeally do much against him, and when in doubt just take out Wood Elves!
Game two he thinks for a long time, and then keeps his hand. He then leads with Mutavault + Pendelhaven, and I resist the temptation to say “should have read my article!”. Some three Mutavault attacks later he finally finds a colored land, but by then I already have like 8, and I Gigadrowse it to kill him, though honestly I didn’t really need to since I had Command, Remand, etc.
Speaking of mulligans, one thing you should probably know is that this deck does not mulligan well – every card in it draws a card, but only one, and you need a lot of cards to win. Since most of your cards replace themselves, it doesn’t make much difference which ones you have, because they will draw into the others, and so they are pretty interchangeable. Of course I do not say you should keep any hands, merely that you should consider that mulliganing with this deck takes a heavy toll, and sometimes you should keep hands that are not very good on the surface (and for me to say that it must really be so, since I am very pro mulligan). If you need to draw something, you probably will, because half the cards in the deck are that “something”.
Instead of finishing day 1, I am going to stop here, because some people have been asking me what to do in their PTQs and I know some happen this weekend, so I’ll give the little bit of relevant information I have. Should you play Scapeshift? I don’t know. Is it good? I think so, I would play it. Is it the best? Again, I don’t know.
I liked my list a lot, and I would not change the maindeck. The sideboarded Gigadrowse was pretty lousy though, so you probably want to change that to something like a Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
Sideboard guide for Zoo: (again, grain of salt, etc)
-1 Into the Roil
-1 Remand (on the draw)
-1 Wood Elves (on the play)
This obviously depends on what they are playing exactly; Against Zaiem, for Example, I boarded completely differently, because I knew he had Negates, Tribal Flames, etc, so I actually left in my Muddles and even boarded in my own Negate.
-2 Wood Elves
-2 Search for Tomorrow
GL in your PTQ, and see you next week with a continuation of this!
PS. Before I finish, I would like to advertise that now, after four or five years, we (Brazil) are finally going to have a Prerelease! I was asked to advertise this, since it has already became second nature to Brazilians to assume we do not have one, so they are afraid people are simply not going to show up out of ignorance. So, if you are Brazilian, show up! (And if you, non-BR, by any chance were planning on visiting Brazil during Prerelease time, know that you can play in one too!)