I’m sitting in a friends hotel room, typing this article the Sunday after US Nationals, so I’ve still got that fresh-off-the-tournament feeling. Whether this is a good or bad feeling, you’ll just have to read to find out!
This is the deck I registered for the tournament. I decided a long time ago that cascade was insane, so this is my attempt to keep breaking it. It started with a Mike Flores list (hence the name) but I feel like it evolved into a deck of its own.
I talked about this deck in my last article, and I had settled on playing it probably two weeks before Nationals. This is what the deck ended up looking like once I squeezed Volcanic Fallout into the maindeck. I used Zaiem’s spreadsheet strategy (which I should write an article about) to lay out this deck, matchup by matchup, and the Volcanic Fallouts were key in three of the big matchups: Elves, Kithkin, and Faeries. I didn’t want to run them, as they were really awkward and often killed my own creatures, but it was a necessity for the metagame. If mana and Faeries weren’t an issue, I would happily run Jund Charm instead.
I have a lot to say, so let’s dive right in to round one.
Round 1: AJ Sacher, GW Combo Elves
I know AJ a little bit from Honolulu, and we also played against each other at Grand Prix LA (where I almost threw the match away, but squeaked it out on turn five of time). I’m trying to figure out what I think he could be playing, and he answers it for me pretty well by playing a Mosswort Bridge on turn one. He protects his team with two maindeck Burrenton Forge-Tenders, and combos me out.
I would want to fix the maindeck/sideboard if I were going to play this deck again. Most of the sideboard is great, but I’m currently playing one more card against Elves than I need to, which feels inefficient. That fourth Bituminous Blast should really still be in the deck against Elves, especially after sideboard when it’s much more about attrition if a Thought Hemorrhage resolves, but that’s just the card that had to go. I’m not sure what the weak link is, and it may be in the maindeck, but I’m sure the list isn’t at maximum efficiency this way. I also had a Fetid Heath in the sideboard for this matchup for a long time, as siding out Borderland Ranger (which you absolutely have to do) makes your Hallowed Burials harder to cast. I ran the risk without the 27th land, and it may have hurt me in game three. I just didn’t have the space for any more cards just against Elves. Even though switching the Fetid Heath with an Exotic Orchard in other mach ups (like Faeries) is nice, I couldn’t justify it.
In game two, I get to Thought Hemorrhage him (always naming Regal Force), but I see two Ranger of Eos, which can be tough to fight through. Luckily, my deck is loaded with removal after sideboard, so I manage.
Game three is weird. I end up getting Thought Hemorrhage off on turn four or five, but am still in danger of losing to beatdown. I have two Hallowed Burial, but no fifth land, so I’ve just got to survive. I Maelstrom Pulse his Burrenton Forge-Tender on my next turn, setting up for a Volcanic Fallout to clear his board on the following turn in case I don’t draw a land. AJ plays a Burrenton Forge-Tender and a Primal Command, cards he must have drawn in the last turn or two because I just Thought Hemorrhaged him. This keeps me off my fifth land and stops my Volcanic Fallout, killing me. Not how I wanted round one to end, losing to Elf Combo beatdown with two Hallowed Burials in my hand.
Round 2: Andres, Kithkin
He has no one drop, so I get to Lightning Bolt, then Naya Charm, then Lightning Bolt his guys without taking any real damage. There’s no Spectral Procession, probably their scariest card, but a Cloudgoat Ranger comes down later. I have a pretty good board position by then, kill the 3/3 Giant, and keep swinging.
This was my most controversial sideboard strategy I had. Take out Bloodbraid Elf and Kitchen Finks? You crazy! I felt like those cards were nice, but I found myself actually losing the attrition war against Kithkin, not the early game. That meant Primal Command and Footbottom Feast (which is awesome with Shriekmaws) stayed in. Bloodbraid Elf rarely blocked profitably against their flying and first strike creatures, and Kitchen Finks had the same problem. They were good at stalling, but stalling wasn’t what I needed to do. If the Kithkin player goes all-out aggro, the situations where Kitchen Finks and Bloodbraid Elf are useful, they will lose to Hallowed Burial, straight up. If the Kithkin player just puts one threat on the table at a time, and protects their important threats with Burrenton Forge-Tender, then you need to be positioned to win the long game.
Also while discussing sideboard strategies, Enlisted Wurm kept coming up. I had the same idea early on while playing the deck, and often sideboarded out one Enlisted Wurm in aggro matchups. Then I found myself losing, or at least having a very hard time killing my opponents. Sometimes it’s really hard to kill somebody with just Bloodbraid Elf and Kitchen Finks (which is another reason Shriekmaw is so awesome: it kills people). After playing the deck more, I’ve realized that Enlisted Wurm is the best card in it, and thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no matchup (yet) where I cut that guy. Your game plan is essentially to cast Enlisted Wurm as many times as possible and let it win the game for you.
Back to round two vs Kithkin. Early on I Lightning Bolt a Figure of Destiny, and he chooses not to save it with his Forge-Tender. An Ajani Goldmane comes down and puts a counter on Forge-Tender, but Ajani gets Bolted. The next turn, he attacks his 2/2 Forge-Tender into two of my Borderland Rangers, so I double block, mostly playing around Harm’s Way. He ends up using Rustic Clachan and a Harm’s Way to make his Forge Tender survive and kill my Borderland Rangers. I think this is pretty awesome, because all I’m trying to do is run him out of cards, and now he only has one. I untap, cast Enlisted Wurm, and he has no chance.
Normally, the Kithkin match, while in your favor, is much tighter than these games were. I guess that’s what happens when you have two Lightning Bolts early on and they never cast Spectral Procession.
Round 3: Brian, Five-Color Cascade
It looks like we are almost playing a direct mirror match for the longest time. I get way ahead in game one with three Kitchen Finks (all three!). He expends a lot of cards dealing with them, and is getting beat down pretty well. I don’t think he is playing Five-Color Bloodbraid because there is no sign of a Cryptic Command anywhere, but Brian gets right back in the game with a Cruel Ultimatum. Damn. I can’t beat that card.
In game two, I cast a Kitchen Finks, and he immediately Lightning Bolts it at the end of my turn. Great, I think, this is going to go very well for me. If he’s expending a full card just to downgrade my Finks, I’m ecstatic. This game isn’t even close once I Thought Hemorrhage the Cruel Ultimatums out of the deck. I take the three out of his deck, and note the pile of Primal Commands that aren’t in his hand, as well as the lack of Cryptic Command. We keep playing, but I’m certain I’m going to win at this point. I’ve seen his deck and his hand, and there’s no way he can stop the tech I’m holding. As the attrition war is grinding on I get to cast Footbottom Feast on my turn, creating this stack:
I draw the Enlisted Wurm, and then use the rest of my mana to cast Bituminous Blast, killing his creature, and cascading into Bloodbraid, cascading into Kitchen Finks. My opponent draws his card then scoops, knowing what’s coming. I was kind of annoyed at the end of this game because I realized that I messed up the stack order. I should have switched the order of the Borderland Ranger and second Bloodbraid Elf. This way I can draw the Borderland Ranger on my next turn, then cast Enlisted Wurm into Bloodbraid Elf into whatever. I don’t actually want to hit the Ranger at this point in the game. I’m sitting at six life, and don’t want to randomly lose to Lightning Bolts, so I just want to dig for (or kill my own) Kitchen Finks. I was still happy because I had met my Rogue quotient for the weekend. Go, go Footbottom Feast! Man that card is fun.
In game three, he Lightning Bolts my Kitchen Finks again, and I get to Thought Hemorrhage his Cruel Ultimatums, again. His hand is two [card]Maelstrom Pulse[/card]s and an Enlisted Wurm, while mine is two Enlisted Wurms and a Primal Command (which is really just an Enlisted Wurm in disguise). I get to Primal Command a land, which puts me pretty far ahead. I really blast ahead, however, when my second Enlisted Wurm cascades into a Primal Command. Nice play. My opponent laments his lack of Primal Command, which I can understand, and signs the slip.
This is when something weird happens. I extends my hand, say good game, and wait. He is picking up his stuff, packing his bags waiting with my hand in the air waiting, and then it hits me. He’s ignoring my hand. Oh, he sees it, but he just walks away. I have no idea how to react, because that’s never happened to me.
I brought this up with various people throughout the weekend to get their opinion on it. A few players were saying how in the Midwest it is rude to say ‘good game’ after a match if you had just won, and Tom had a hard time adjusting to this standard in the Northwest. In Seattle, as far as I can tell, everybody says good game. I say good game and extend my hand at the end of every match, win or lose, but apparently this is rude to some people. It never struck me that I would come across as rude, so now I’m wondering if I should stop offering the hand shake and good game when I win. I just feel rude not offering it, so I’m not sure what to do. [Tim Aten may have an opinion on this. [Riki, feeling nostalgic]
Round 4: John, Faeries
I played John in Honolulu, and asked him how many Soul Manipulations were in his deck this time. He then harasses me for taking my time shuffling, saying ‘come on’ and asking me to present. I absolutely hate when somebody does this. If I’m taking too long to sideboard, that’s another thing, but I’d still rather you just call a judge over if you really think I’m taking to long. In this case, the round hasn’t even started, so what’s the point?
Once we get playing, John leads off with Bitterblossom. Yikes. I’m happy he’s not playing Five-Color, but a turn-two Bitterblossom is always scary. He then plays a second copy of the pesky Tribal Enchantment: Faerie, and that strikes me as very weird. John seemed like a good player to me, but it is rare that you play the second Bitterblossom, though I suppose turn three is the turn you would do it. I cast Bloodbraid Elf into a Maelstrom Pulse, eliciting a deserved groan from John, but he follows it up with a third Bitterblossom. This makes me think maybe he wanted me to use a Maelstrom Pulse, but I’m not sure. He gets stuck on Swamp, Swamp, Island, Gargoyle Castle, giving me time to get a little aggressive. I get John to two life before he stabilizes. I’m hoping for a Volcanic Fallout, which I hadn’t seen yet this game. The turn before I would die, I cast an Enlisted Wurm, which hits the exact spell I need, and I win the game.
After I cascade into the game-winning spell John makes some sarcastic remark about how good at Magic I am, another thing that bothers me. To tell you the truth, it actually hurts. I feel like I try hard, and even though I make some mistakes, I’d like to think I’m getting better. Sarcastic “you’re so good”comments really bring me down. I just respond with looks like I run Volcanic Fallout in my deck, which I think got my point across, but more on that later.
I’m still not sure if one Maelstrom Pulse, Naya Charm, or Bituminous Blast should come out. Blast is so key for killing Mistbind Clique, but a Pulse kills Bitterblossom, and a Naya Charm is useful in tapping their team to win a race with your Stag. I think cutting the Naya Charm is right, but I could see cutting the Maelstrom Pulse on the draw, as hitting a Bitterblossom with it is much less likely. I can’t remember what I actually cut in this match.
My hand looks pretty good with lands, a Bloodbraid Elf, Lightning Bolt, and a Great Sable Stag. Unfortunately the Stag gets Thoughtsiezed, making my hand look suddenly much worse. My Bloodbraid Elf cascades into a Naya Charm, which I use to get back the Stag. This resolves (surprisingly) and Stag comes down a turn later. I beat for a while, while John is again a little mana-stunted. Enlisted Wurm comes down, hitting a Bituminous Blast on an empty board, so I don’t get any real advantage, and then a Mistbind Clique comes down. On my next turn, Kitchen Finks gets countered, and Enlisted Wurm is bounced. I think this is weird, but it makes sense later. I get attacked down to 16, and then Duressed, a card I actually forgot was legal. My hand is Enlisted Wurm and Vivid Grove, so it’s a whiff. In my draw step, I get Vendillion Cliqued, and wouldn’t you know it, I draw Bituminous Blast! The Bituminous Blast hits Vendillion Clique and cascades into none other than Bloodbraid Elf, which cascades into the perfect Maelstrom Pulse to kill a Mistbind Clique. Is. This lets me attack him to one. He casts Time Warp next turn, but it just cycles. I laugh when he casts Time Warp, because it is the last card I expect him to cast there, and he just stares at me. If you’re going to play Time Warp, you’ve got to have fun with it! His extra turn doesn’t result in anything, so he scoops.
This ends yet another round where my opponent was less than happy, and I’m pretty sure it’s cascade’s fault. (I mean, maybe I’m a jerk when I play and donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even know it, but nobody has mentioned it yet. [You did laugh at his Time Warp, which taken out of context can seem pretty baggish. Riki]) I think people need to re-evaluate their position on cascade and luck. I played eight rounds with this deck, cascading many times each match. Sometimes you hit Kitchen Finks, and it’s good. Sometimes you hit Maelstrom Pulse, and it’s a blank. Other times you hit Volcanic Fallout for the win. When playing against cascade you’ve got to accept the good with the bad. For every blank cascade there is a nuts cascade. I’ll admit that my topdeck of Bituminous Blast after getting Durressed, and cascading into those exact spells, was pretty lucky, and my opponent let me know how lucky I was. It doesn’t matter to my opponent, however, that the Enlisted Wurm I cast two turns before hit a blank, which was ‘unlucky.’
Even the reaction to my Enlisted Wurm hitting a Volcanic Fallout was a little uncalled for, I feel. We’ve all gotten used to an opponent topdecking a good card, yet somehow cascading into that spell instead feels even luckier than drawing it from your library. In fact, it’s the exact opposite, as you’re much more likely to cascade into the spell you need (assuming its casting cost is in the right range) than you are to draw it. In the same way that you play for topdecks, you need to play for good cascades. Minimizing the blanks when you cascade, and maximizing the upside, is a big part of looking lucky, especially in a matchup like Elves, where hitting a removal spell isn’t just lucky, but it’s guaranteed! (At least after sideboard.) So I’m tired of the obligatory ‘must be nice’ every time I cascade into a Bloodbraid Elf; it’s bound to happen! That’s the exact reason I chose to play this deck, because of how powerful cascade is, and if you’re going to complain you might as well play it too. It’s like complaining as you die to Tarmogoyf while you’ve got a
Grizzly Bears Runeclaw Bear in play.
Ultimately, this is where I think Wizards messed up with cascade. It’s true that the mechanic is just a little too good. There’s not much tuning that you can do with cascade; either it exists or it doesn’t, and Wizards decided that it would, probably because of how fun it is to play. I’m ok with it from a power level perspective, as a little bit of power is ok every once in a while. Unfortunately, as fun as it is to play with, it really isn’t fun to play against. Really not fun, at all. Mechanics that are too powerful and not fun to play against are the worst, and that’s why I think cascade should have gotten the axe.
Oh man, where was I? Was I just playing in a tournament or something? Oh yeah, it’s time to Draft! I listened to some Superchick* to clear the bad thoughts and pump myself up for Limited. This is the deck I created, complete with the relevant sideboard cards and things that almost made the maindeck:
Draft Deck One BRug
I really like how my mana turned out. I got to run basically BR and splash two colors off of only a single basic land each. This makes your draws a lot smoother, as you don’t have much getting in the way of your two main colors. Unfortunately, I was about one BR spell short, and I had to run a Violent Outburst that stretched my mana a bit more than I wanted, as that’s a really weird spell to splash. I almost played Drastic Revelations instead, but I couldn’t feel comfortable without adding another Island, a move I really didn’t want to make. Violent Outburst worked out all right, and had some small synergy with Necrogenesis. My mana was pretty awesome most of the time, as hitting my splashes wasn’t hard even though I never drew Rupture Spire.
Round 5: Brad (FFfreak), Grixis
I recognized Brad from Honolulu, but couldn’t quite remember why. We were called up for a feature match, and that’s when it hit me: he’s FFfreak! Turns out he got 9th in Hawaii, so this could be a little difficult. I also heard another player mutter as we made our way up: ‘I haven’t even heard of those two.’ Thanks, guy. Turns out the other feature match involving LSV got the actual coverage, but at least we got to sit in the feature match area and play on the cool mats.
Brad wins the roll and hits a turn-three Shambling Remains. This makes me laugh because I have two of them. I then cast Blightning, which then makes him laugh and comment I’ve got a couple of those, too? couple? Uh oh. He makes true on his Blightning promise by cascading Kathari Remnant into one. I have three cards in hand, so I keep [card]Violent Outburst[/card], which I cast and hit the Necrogenesis I want. Unfortunately, he has an Agony Warp to kill the one token I can make in time, and the Shambling Remains kills me after attacking every turn of the game it could.
I (accidentally) tried to cheat in game one by casting a Violent Outburst off of Firewild Borderpost and some Swamps, and I was starting to cascade when Brad stopped me. Luckily, he got me to stop before I saw any cards, so I thank him for that.
Now it’s my turn. I start off game two with a Shambling Remains of my own, hoping things will go my way this time. Unfortunately, he starts the game with Esper Stormblade into Parasitic Strix into double Blightning, and that is definitely that. Good games.
Round 6: Jonathan, Esper
Game one is very weird. He plays a turn-one Court Homunculus into a turn-two Tidehollow Sculler, taking a Sangrite Backlash. I get beat down for quite a while through my first play, a Shambling Remains. I start attacking back, and eventually kill the Tidehollow Sculler, which kills another random creature. He casts Stormcaller’s Boon into Wall of Denial, slowing my beats immensely, and follows that up with a scary Brackwater Elemental. I’m at six, but luckily the Court Homunculus isn’t being pumped. I get to attack a lot, and have him one turn away from death, when what artifact does he topdeck? Sphinx of the Steel Wind. Yikes! I am upset because I make a small mistake involving attacking with a 1/1 instead of leaving it back, which essentially gives my opponent three extra mana to use to topdeck his artifact. It ends up not mattering, but it is still frustrating.
I sideboarded in both Molten Frames, taking out Violent Outburst and something else.
I lose this game to Wall of Denial and lots of flyers. I was missing black mana for a while, which was frustrating when I couldn’t Fleshbag Marauders his Wall of Denial on turn three. Otherwise I was pretty behind this game anyway, but I think I should have mulligan a hand without both red and black mana. I’m not sure why I didn’t.
Round 7: Nathaniel, five color
Each game goes very much the same. He is playing at least two Exploding Borders and an Armillary Sphere, so it takes his deck a long time to get going. In game one, I have a turn-two Goblin Deathraiders, and in game two I have a Shambling Remains, which each get to deal some good damage. Bituminous Blast into Brackwater Elemental really accelerates my aggression, and I even get to use Unscythe! I don’t see much of his deck, so there isn’t much to say.
End of Day One
This isn’t where I wanted to be, but at least I was still in contention. The Limited rounds scared me, so I was hoping I could at least escape with a 2-1 and be in contention for the money. I would feel much more comfortable once I made it to the Constructed rounds. Tune in next time to see what became of my dreams.
Thanks for reading,
Loucksj at gmail
*Superchick is some band that sounds like it was made to make middleschoolers feel better about themselves. Personally, I just like the music, and the positive messaging is just a bonus.