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Rogue Report – Nayashifting Into *Top 8*

 

My last article didn’t quite have the reception I was anticipating, but I probably should have expected it. People seemed to support me in my journey to learn how to play the aggro deck, but they didn’t like that I was changing the sideboard without really knowing what I was up to. Well, I listened. Why only change the sideboard? Let’s revamp the entire deck! Here is my latest creation, Nayascape, piloted to a Top 8 of a PTQ last Saturday:

Can you see the theme? That’s right, it’s land! Every card except Lightning Bolt references land in some way. Even Tarmogoyf has land in the reminder text! Speaking of Tarmogoyf, how can playing only three of them possibly be correct? We’ll get there, but first I want to talk about how I came to this beauty.

Believe it or not, I had a deck very similar to this sometime in late January. The first decklist file in my computer was created January 20th. It’s not that hard of a deck to come across – a friend of mine and awesome deckbuilder Dan Hanson had something similar for one of the early MTGO PTQs. For me the deck came about after seeing Aggro Scapeshift in action. (That RG thing with Bloodbraid Elf and Scapeshift from Dave Yetka and Pat McGregor.) I loved the idea of a deck that could present threats and still have a combo kill in the back pocket, especially one so easy. Scapeshift is almost 2GG “If you control seven lands you win the game”. That’s an incredibly powerful spell!

What I didn’t like about the deck is how one-dimensional the Scapeshift was. You could gain marginal value by using it without seven lands just by setting up manlands or Grove of the Burnwillows or whatever, but it was only a backbreaking spell at seven lands or more. I wanted my Scapeshift to do more, so I looked to Steppe Lynx, Plated Geopede, and Flagstones of Trokair. A Gatherer Search later and I found Knight of the Reliquary (duh!) and Vinelasher Kudzu. Two years ago I tried out Scapeshift, and I even wrote an article about it on tcgplayer, and I was excited about the new possibilities. I actually completely forgot about that article until I did a Google search for “Loucks, Scapeshift” while searching for another one of my articles mentioning Scapeshift. This article still has a paragraph worth quoting:


“Unfortunately there aren’t really any white cards you want to run, but the synergy of Scapeshift and Flagstones of Trokair, along with Greater Gargadon and Devastating Dreams, is good anyway. I think there has to be a way to get this deck to work, I am just not familiar enough with Extended, or the Aggro Loam strategy in general, to get it to work.”

It all seems so familiar, looking back. Well, Extended certainly offered up white cards you want to run! But the quote I was looking for, however, was this:

“I’m still amazed at how good this card is. Being able to give yourself practically any combination of lands you want has to be insane. The lands in Standard aren’t very exciting right now, but give me something like Urza’s Tower and we’ll talk. It’s not a matter of if Scapeshift will be broken, but when.”

I’m not showing you these quotes to say, “Look how smart I am!” but instead to pull back the curtain a little bit and illuminate how I go about deckbuilding. It’s not like a deck just comes to me in a single flash of insight, but instead these things build over time. In Extended this could be a long time. I get a bunch of ideas that just rattle around for awhile, and sometimes something new will trigger a resurgence.

So what made me pull the trigger on Nayascape? Credit here goes to Petr Brozek and his Grand Prix Oakland deck. Seeing somebody have success with Steppe Lynx and Flagstones gave me the confidence to move forward. I don’t know why I didn’t do more with the deck before, I think I just got distracted by shiny 20/20s and a Gifts Ungiven pile.

The deck also solved a problem Brian Kowal and I were talking about, which is how to make Steppe Lynx good. It’s obviously a very good card, but it has the problem of fizzling out in the long game. With Scapeshifts in the deck a Steppe Lynx was lethal at any stage in the game.

Playing the Deck

The best place to start is with the lands. I had the spells I wanted down pretty quickly, but the lands were constantly worrying me. You needed enough saclands to make your creatures scary without Scapeshift, enough Plains for Flagstones of Trokair, enough Mountains for Valakut, enough basics for Ghost Quarter and Path to Exile (your own or the other guy’s), and enough sources of each color – not to mention all the fancy lands you could play.

The one Vesuva is the key. It’s the land most people wanted to cut at first glance, but that’s because it’s hard to notice everything it can do right away. It started off as a second Valakut if you’re at eight lands or a fifth Flagstones to naturally draw (as the list started with four Flagstones). Then somebody pointed out that it could be a Mountain for Valakut as you go off, and I was sold. When we realized that it can become a second Sejiri Steppe I was ecstatic.

(Editor’s Note: To clarify, Scapeshift and Vesuva don’t interact quite as favorably as it may appear. For Vesuva to count as a Valakut, Mountain, or even Sejiri Steppe, the land you want to copy has to be in play before the Scapeshift, since Vesuva evaluates the board before it enters play, and therefore cannot copy another land that you are getting via Scapeshift. Note that you also cannot copy a land you sacrificed to Scapeshift.)

Speaking of Sejiri Steppe, it has become the most powerful part of the combo. It essentially makes one (or sometimes two) of your creatures unblockable in combination with Vesuva. What deck is going to have three different colors of blockers? (Affinity, what a jerk!) Scapeshift is almost always lethal with Steppe Lynx against a tapped out opponent, especially when they can’t even block. You also get a lot of extra value out of your Knight of the Reliquarys when you can fetch up protection. It’s nice being able to go in on a Scapeshift and Plated Geopede with an untapped Knight of the Reliquary and know you have Path to Exile protection.

The Valakut kill is rare, but it provides long-game inevitability in matchups like Zoo or often against Bant. With only eight Mountains in the deck (counting Vesuva) you can’t deal the full 20 very easily, but with such an aggressive deck it’s rare that you’ll need to deal so much. I didn’t get a Valakut kill in my tournament, but there was a game where I should have except I fetched wrong on like the third turn. I’ve found the deck difficult to play because it’s very important to manage your 25 lands. I fetched a basic Forest on the third turn to avoid some damage, and when I didn’t have a basic land to fetch off of my opponent’s second Path to Exile I was a land short on a Valakut kill on the pivotal turn.

The hardest cut to make in the deck was the fourth Flagstones of Trokair. That’s a card you always run four of, right? Especially when it’s got synergy with both Scapeshift and most of your creatures. In testing though, it never came up that you needed to fetch the full set of Flagstones, especially with Vesuva in the deck. In fact, managing your post-Scapeshift lands in case things go wrong is very important, and it’s hard to leave yourself in a good position by grabbing four Flagstones. The most common Scapeshift I made was three Flagstones, Sejiri Steppes, and a Vesuva to copy the Steppe.

By cutting a Flagstones I felt safe cutting the basic Plains count down to one. Four basic lands made managing your lands for Paths and Ghost Quarters a lot easier, but it turned out to be unnecessary. It’s one of those crutches you fall back on during testing but you rarely need if you just play optimally. I can’t stress how important proper fetching is. I’ve screwed up games by grabbing a Forest which didn’t let me Path into a second green source later, or by fetching a Temple Garden and then leaving myself greenless after a Scapeshift into Flagstones later.

I wanted more Ghost Quarters just to have added defense against Dark Depths, and because it combos well with your Flagstones. Ghost Quartering yourself is probably just as common as getting the other guy. There just wasn’t any room left, especially when counting the number of sources for each color, but I was happy with the one maindeck Ghost Quarter throughout the day. Vesuva also acts as a way to disrupt Dark Depths, especially when you snipe an early Urborg.

Stirring Wildwood was the last addition. I wasn’t sure a manland was necessary, but it gives your Knight of the Reliquary a lot of extra value as well as making your Scapeshifts for value (instead of the straight-up win) just better.

The Spells

The four pillars of the deck are Steppe Lynx, Plated Geopede, Vinelasher Kudzu, and Knight of the Reliquary. I hate to pick a favorite child, but Knight of the Reliquary is probably the best card in the deck. Not only does it combo with Scapeshift, but it makes your other landfall creatures still relevant in the long game without your namesake spell. He even grabs silver bullets like Ghost Quarter or Bojuka Bog.

The two Zendikar creatures are your hard kill. A Scapeshift here is worth at least +16/+16 if you have four Flagstones left in your deck. -2 for each missing Flagstones, Plains, or for each Sejiri Steppe you want to grab. +2 for each additional land you have in play. +2 if you played a land that turn, and +2 more if it was a sacland. Usually 10 unblockable damage is enough.

Vinelasher Kudzu and Knight of the Reliquary make for a soft kill. It’s similar math as the above paragraph, but with ones instead of twos. They are often still lethal, but they usually won’t be killing an opponent at 20. However, they are much more resilient going long in the game. Kudzu was a bit of a leap of faith when I put him in the deck, and he far out-performed my expectations. Against Zoo he was getting much bigger than Tarmogoyf and gives the deck another monster that has to be answered.

Countryside Crusher was cut from the deck early on because of how he negatively interacted with the rest of your cards. Steppe Lynx looks pretty feeble when you know no lands are coming anytime soon. He would also occasionally mill lands that you wanted in your library. Still, he was fun while he lasted.

Realizing that Wild Nacatl should be in the deck was my biggest revelation. By playing Nacatl the deck gained arguably the best one-drop ever printed along with tremendous and consistent speed. This deck’s Nacatls aren’t as good as Zoo’s, as they are sometimes a 2/2 due to fancy lands like Flagstones, but they are still great.

This deck uses Path to Exile better than any other deck I’ve seen. Like Ghost Quarter, I feel I’m using it on my own creatures as much as my opponents’. It’s already one of the best cards in the format since Zoo and Dark Depths are top dogs. This deck goes a step further and Paths its own creature as a combat trick, or most often to find a seventh land and Valakut them.

Lightning Bolt fluctuated in number, but it’s just such a good spell that no other card could top it in efficiency.

Speaking of efficiency, how about those three Tarmogoyfs? The $100 bill was actually the last spell added to the deck. For a while I was toying around with Zektar Shrine Expedition, and I was actually very impressed. The Expedition was part of your most brutal draws, but it wasn’t what the deck needed. The deck has a good late game plan in Valakut, so you don’t need to kill them as fast as possible. Against any deck running Tarmogoyf playing your own was much better. However, in testing he still proved to be the worst card in the deck, so he was what gave for the 25th land. I’m still not sure it was correct, but that’s the conclusion I came to while trying to be as un-biased towards pre-conceived notions of ridiculousness as possible. When he’s consistently “just” a 3/4 for 1G and doesn’t kill them with Scapeshift he doesn’t impress me.

Another suggestion that people have made when seeing the deck is to cut a Scapeshift. After playing the deck, though, most games you lose would have been won if you drew a Scapeshift. It’s the exact spell that would have won my match in the Top 8 even through Thopter/Sword combo, but alas the spell did not surface. (Well, a second copy of it, as I had to use the first copy to kill a Dark Depths.)

One Scapeshift is usually easy enough to play, but it’s when you have two Scapeshifts that things get difficult. I constantly lost games in testing by screwing up my manabase beyond repair with my first Scapeshift. The key is that you don’t have to go overboard with the first Scapeshift, you just need enough to kill them. Then, if they have a removal spell, you’ve still got enough lands in your deck to kill them with a second Scapeshift, along with the correct colors of lands to cast your spells.

Sideboard

For reference:

 

The numbers are a bit wacky, but I’m pretty sure those are the spells that should be in your sideboard. The only other card I was considering was Volcanic Fallout if I expected Elves or Faeries. I would suggest taking theses spells and then tweaking them based on your expected metagame. There are still a few numbers worth explaining:

The one Temporal Isolation was a result of having an extra slot I could board against Zoo. I want to take out 2 Steppe Lynx (as they can still be useful and you want to Ranger of Eos for them if you have a Scapeshift lined up) and Plated Geopede. Your plan is to go long and just out-monster them. You’ve got more threats that need an answer than they’ve got removal spells. They do beat you in the removal spell department, though, so having an extra answer to Tarmogoyf is worth it. Temporal Isolation also serves double duty against 20/20s, but you don’t want more Isolations because there are better cards you can play for that cause, like Ghost Quarter.

I felt relatively safe against Dredge with my hyper-combo kill, giving me a slightly better chance than regular zoo. (I feel the same way about most combo matchups, especially Living End. Zoo hates to get Wrathed, but this deck can present lethal after a Wrath with a single Steppe Lynx.) Bojuka Bog also helped, but I had a little extra room in my sideboard so I added a Ravenous Trap. It looks like I’m just sideboarding one card and crossing my fingers, but it’s really upping the number of impacting cards I can draw against Dredge from something like eight to nine, depending on how much weight you give Scapeshift and Knight.

Rule of Law and Damping Matrix are one-ofs that are pretty good in their relevant matchups, but I don’t like how bad they are in multiples. I hate when I play an aggro deck and I lose to some random creature because my hand is full of specific hate cards that don’t do anything. Still, they are often the best cards you can have in those matchups, but you never want two of them, so I feel like one is the perfect number. It’s not like I’m not sideboarding anything else against Thopter Foundry but I just spread my numbers out by playing one of the best answer that sucks in multiples along with more of the other hate (Ancient Grudge) that works in multiples. Rule of Law also acts like Ravenous Trap by upping the number of relevant cards I can draw.

Elspeth, Knight-Errant was the card I most felt might be unnecessary, and I wouldn’t fault anybody for cutting it.

I don’t actually like Umezawa’s Jitte in the current metagame as Zoo decks are full of Bant Charms and Qasali Pridemage, so you’re just playing into giant wastes of mana. However, it’s also the best card you can sideboard against Umezawa’s Jitte, so it still made the cut.

Ancient Grudge was my best sideboard card all weekend and I might play a third one if I had to do it over, especially if Dark Depths is using Culling Scales.

I only drew Aven Mindcensor once all weekend despite siding it in a lot against Dark Depths, and the jerk still found the card he was looking for in the top four cards! (I say jerk in the nicest possible way; my opponent was a complete gentleman.) I might be tainted by the fact that my opponent still found a card, but I just don’t feel like the Mindcensor is impacting enough to justify sideboard slots. I just like the double duty it serves against Dark Depths and Scapeshift (a matchup you don’t generally have a lot against) so until I find something better I’m stuck with the Mindcensor.

Speaking of Dark Depths, for the curious, I was sideboarding out Lightning Bolt, Stirring Wildwood, and two of either Knight, Tarmogoyf, or one of each. I couldn’t make up my mind on what was more relevant, though I eventually settled on just taking out Tarmogoyf. (Mindcensor, Grudge, Matrix, and Ghost Quarter came in.) I thought about sideboarding in Bojuka Bog to nab a lazy player’s Sword of the Meek, but I didn’t imagine that happening very often. More testing might reveal Stirring Wildwood to actually be useful to fetch in the matchup, especially after sideboard when they are loaded on removal, but it was a late addition so I just sideboarded how I knew.

The Tournament

In my last two PTQs I played Zoo and started off 3-0, only to be dead by round five or six. I was scared of that happening here, but I felt much more comfortable with my deck. I wasn’t always sure how to sideboard with somebody else’s Zoo deck, but when I know more about what my deck is doing sideboarding is much easier.

I also found that somehow I was much better at playing this deck than normal Zoo. I think it has to do with being able to see the end of the game from turn one. With normal Zoo I was just going through the motions hoping to stumble onto a win by incidentally reducing my opponent to 0. As soon as Scapeshift was added I had the ability to see many turns ahead. I could look at my hand and see the different branches – I win here if they tap out, I win here if they have one removal spell, I lose here if they have two removal spells, but I likely win if I draw X lands in Y draws – stuff like that. Not to say that I played perfectly, but I certainly played much better than when I normally play Zoo.

Round 1 – UW Thopter

Before the match even started he told me that he wished he was playing a deck that was less random. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but it was probably a good thing. I got an awesome Steppe Lynx into Plated Geopede draw to win game one, a great way to start the tournament.

In game two he got Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek far too quickly, and I didn’t draw any of my hate. I was starting to worry that I didn’t have enough Ancient Grudges in my sideboard. Still, if I had drawn a Scapeshift I would have been able to punch through his blue Thopter tokens for the win.

In game three I drew an Ancient Grudge and it didn’t look like he had any way to stop it from dismantling his deck. I killed a Thopter Foundry and just kept attacking for the win.

1-0

Round 2 – Affinity

I felt like we each had relatively standard draws in game one, though maybe his was a bit slow. I Bolted his turn two Arcbound Ravager, and over his next two turns he played Blinkmoth Nexus, Frogmite, Cranial Plating, and Arcbound Worker, if I remember correctly. There was a turn where he could have put Plating on a Blinkmoth Nexus and brought me to 2, chump blocked, then killed me the next turn. However, he would lose that game handily if I had a removal spell, so he didn’t go for it. Then I played a second Flagstones of Trokair, so he had to chump block with his two creatures and died the next turn. Incidentally I didn’t have the removal spell and would have lost if he went for it.

In game two I played Path to Exile on his Arcbound Worker in response to Springleaf Drum. He didn’t find a land, played a Frogmite, and passed the turn. I looked at my hand of Ancient Grudge and Ghost Quarter and knew things were going to be alright. I played more creatures, then Grudged an Arcbound Ravager, a land, and then Ghost Quartered a land, prompting the concession.

2-0

Round 3 – UB Faeries a la Thopter Foundry

Great, a car-buddy pairing. Too bad he knew my list and I didn’t really know what he was up to. In game one I finished him off with a Vinelasher Kudzu and a Scapeshift into Sejiri Steppes after a decent draw to begin with. Game two turned south when he did indeed have Damnation. He eventually killed me with a Vendilion Clique. I readjusted my sideboard after seeing Umezawa’s Jitte and Thopter Foundry, bringing in my Ancient Grudges.

Game three existed only in the early turns it seemed. I had a Steppe Lynx, Plated Geopede, Plated Geopede, Wild Nacatl draw. He cast Vendilion Clique on my turn, so I Lightning Bolted it, leaving him with just a Spellstutter Sprite. I played a sacland and attacked, and he didn’t block which meant he had Umezawa’s Jitte. I could have saved a sacland, taking him to 8 and soaking a Umezawa’s Jitte counter on his next turn. Unfortunately I would only have six coming back at him unless I drew a sacland. That’s still the plan I should have gone with, but I chose to crack my land and get him to 4 instead. Either way he goes to one, but the way I chose doesn’t give me a sacland as an out. Sure enough Umezawa’s Jitte came down, murdered my Geopedes, and like a champ I drew Lightning Bolt to finish him off after a Nacatl attack.

3-0

Round 4 – Doran

His deck didn’t cooperate in the first game. I could have used Lightning Bolt on my second turn to kill a [card]Noble Hierarch[/card], but I chose to play a Plated Geopede instead. I was a little worried he might be Bant, but I needed to get pressure on the board. Instead he just played [card]Treetop Village[/card] and said go. Creatures attacked, Noble Hierarch was killed, and his next turn was just another Treetop Village and a go ahead. Looks like his mono-green draw wasn’t going to get there.

In game two he revealed himself to actually be GWB. He used a Punishment for 2 to kill my two Tarmogoyfs after having a Umezawa’s Jitte active for a few turns. His two Kitchen Finks were able to kill me. I could have won this game except I fetched wrong on something like turn three. I grabbed a basic when I didn’t need to, then couldn’t find my 7th land off of his second Path to Exile later to Valakut him. Oops. Time to bring in Ancient Grudge.

He began game three very strongly with Noble Hierarch into Doran into Umezawa’s Jitte, equip, attack. I led with Wild Nacatl and Tarmogoyf. I had Ancient Grudge, however, so I ended up double blocking and trading my Tarmogoyf for his Doran. He never really recovered from that. I used Ranger of Eos to grab two creatures and he was forced to use Crime on my Tarmogoyf to give himself a blocker. I sacrificed a guy in an attack to bring him down to three, leaving me with Wild Nacatl and Tarmogoyf to his Tarmogoyf and Noble Hierarch. Two turns later I drew a Path to Exile for the win, and he showed me a hand with a land and a second Umezawa’s Jitte that was useless due to Ancient Grudge.

4-0

Round 5 – UB Thopter/Depths

Our first game was one of the weirdest I played all weekend. I kept a bit of an awkward hand with Stomping Ground, Vesuva, Wild Nacatl, Lightning Bolt, Plated Geopede, Vinelasher Kudzu, and another random spell. He then made me feel better by mulliganing to five. He did have turn one Dark Confidant, but that got hit with Lightning Bolt. I was then looking at his Chrome Mox, Urborg, and one card in hand, and decided to use my second land to blow up his Urborg. I didn’t get to another land for a while, so a 2/2 Wild Nacatl beat down while we played draw-go. I had to discard once, then found a sacland just in time to let me start unloading my hand. It was just in time, because he eventually assembled a 20/20 but died when I had the Path to Exile.

Game two was very exciting. He killed my first two guys and cast Thoughtseize, taking a Path to Exile. I played Plated Geopede on my third turn. He used his fourth turn to cast a Culling Scales while he sat at a pretty 18 life. I doubted that he had a one-mana answer to my [card]Plated Geopede[/card], but he could have Slaughter Pact. He knew I had a Scapeshift, but I just don’t think he did the math correctly. I [card]Scapeshift[/card]ed, found three Flagstones and a random land, and hit him for 19. Nice Thoughtseize.

Unfortunately a bunch of people were watching this match and now everybody knows what my deck is up to, especially since I won in such a showy fashion. Still, it won’t matter until Top 8.

5-0

Round 6 and 7: ID

It’s nice to slide into Top 8 undefeated. You get to enter after two rounds of rest, and without the stress of having to win the previous round to make it in, or not knowing if your tiebreakers are good enough.

It also helps when you don’t mulligan once the entire day. I wouldn’t even say I got that lucky, as I rarely mulliganed in testing either. I’m actually starting to look at the game a different way just by building and playing this deck because by the twentieth test game and still no mulligans I was thinking maybe it wasn’t just luck, maybe it was the deck. Then I looked at the deck and tried to build a bad hand, and it was hard. If you’re land light, it’s ok because you’re Zoo and can cast most of your spells because they are cheap. If you’re land heavy you can put your lands to use. If you’re creature heavy you can beat down quickly. If you’re spell heavy you can control the game and win with a late Scapeshift. The deck is so good at playing whatever role its hand is dealt that you can make almost any hand work.

The Top Eight, from what I can remember, was me, my round 5 Dark Depths opponent, UGR Scapeshift, GR aggro Scapeshift, 2 Mono Red Burn, Tribal Zoo, and another deck I can’t remember. I wasn’t sure what to expect out of blue Scapeshift, and I knew I probably didn’t want to face GR Scapeshift. With the right draw I imagine Mono-Red would be ok, since they have to point their burn at my creatures or just die to a Scapeshift.

Quarterfinals – UB Thopter/Depths

I was also paired against the same Dark Depths opponent I had in the Swiss, though this time he will be more savvy to what I’m doing. He gave me a window in our Swiss match, and I didn’t imagine he’d let me do it again. I still felt good about the matchup, the only thing I was worried about was an early 20/20 when I just don’t draw Path to Exile.

Sure enough, that’s what happened in game one. My hand was the closest I had to a mulligan all day, five lands, Wild Nacatl, and Plated Geopede, but I still kept it because I was on the draw. I couldn’t hope for much better against Dark Depths than a one and a two-drop, and having excess lands isn’t really a bad thing. There wasn’t really a bad spell I could draw, I just couldn’t afford to draw too many lands. I took my chances because the hand wasn’t actually that bad, it was just one spell short. You can’t expect a great hand every time, so I settled for mediocre. It didn’t end up mattering as I was dead by my third turn.

In game two he didn’t have a 20/20, so the games began. He played some removal, even transmuting a Tolaria West for a Slaughter Pact. I drew more threats than he drew removal, and Ancient Grudged a Thopter Foundry. He drew a few too many lands, and two random animals brought it home.

Game three was long and intricate, the universe’s way of making things exciting. My hand was a bit awkward but it had exactly the spells I wanted: Wild Nacatl, Plated Geopede, Path to Exile, Ancient Grudge, and Scapeshift. Unfortunately my lands were Valakut and Stomping Ground, just a little awkward.

Luckily I drew a Ghost Quarter on my second turn, but I think I might have lost the match by not playing Plated Geopede. Instead I played Ghost Quarter and said go. I was afraid of him playing Dark Depths and Vampire Hexmage, especially when I didn’t have white mana for my Path. However, he didn’t have the mana to cast Muddle the Mixture and make a 20/20 on that turn, and I could always Ghost Quarter myself for a Plains. This wouldn’t work if he had a Chrome Mox and a Muddle or a Thoughtseize, (which he hadn’t had an opportunity to play yet) but that’s a very specific hand I don’t think I should be playing around. I was also scared of blowing up one of my lands when I was stuck on three, but I don’t think I should have been. I would only have to do that if he had the combo, and playing the Geopede on turn two would have probably done the extra damage I needed to win. I didn’t see it after the match, but looking back I’m sure that’s the play I should have made.

I didn’t see white as soon as I wanted, but I found a sacland before things got too awkward. My opponent’s draw was slow, so we just traded a few creatures for removal. Eventually he played a Dark Depths and transmuted a Muddle the Mixture. I cast Aven Mindcensor, but he found a Vampire Hexmage anyway. I was then forced to use Scapeshift to find a Vesuva and trade with his Dark Depths because I couldn’t afford him having another Muddle the Mixture for my Path to Exile. He might have had it, as he Muddled a Path to Exile on a Dark Confidant a few turns later. I was also able to use my Scapeshift to find a Ghost Quarter to protect me from another Dark Depths once I untapped, but I also made the only mistake I was able to find this game by not trading a Stomping Ground I had in play for another Stomping Ground out of my deck just to thin and to make future Knights bigger. I was sacrificing Valakut anyway as that plan didn’t seem feasible, especially when I was likely going to be using Ghost Quarter anyway.

Eventually my opponent stuck a Dark Confidant, something I thought most Dark Depths players were sideboarding out against Zoo. Maybe I should have left some Lightning Bolts in, but I wanted my deck to be threat dense because he was surely siding in Deathmarks and Smothers. Ancient Grudge eventually took out a Thopter Foundry after my opponent was able to make a token, and I made the call to use the second half of my Grudge to take out the token. That made my opponent chump block my Knight of the Reliquary with a Vampire Hexmage instead of with the token and removed Dark Depths as an out of his. (I used a Ghost Quarter earlier on a Dimir Aqueduct to cut my opponent’s mana down incase he drew a Muddle, which is only bad if he consecutively draws Dark Depths and Hexmage.) The situation was then my Knight of the Reliquary against his Dark Confidant, empty hand, and four life. Unfortunately his Dark Confidant kept drawing him into blockers (like another Dark Confidant) and eventually found him a Muddle the Mixture for a Thopter Foundry when he had Sword of the Meek.

I only had a Wild Nacatl and a Knight at that point, and he was at 3 life. He had a Dark Confidant and a Thopter Foundry token, so I couldn’t Knight up a Sejiri Steppe to get my Nacatl through. I forced him to chump block with his two creatures, and then he spend his turn making six tokens and going up to nine life. At this point I could draw Sejiri Steppe to get my lethal Knight through, Ancient Grudge, Damping Matrix, or Scapeshift. I didn’t, so he spent his next turn making six more tokens and attacking me a bit. I then had one draw step to hit Scapeshift to pump my Knight through, but I only drew land. The four turns after it was Knight against Bob I drew land, Nacatl, land, land. If Nacatl was one draw step sooner I could win with Sejiri Steppe, but it was not to be. I’m not saying I got that unlucky or anything, I’m just telling you the way it was.

Better Luck Next Time

I’m not at the point where I’m happy just to top eight anymore. I’m really glad my deck performed well, but I wanted the invite! Luckily good buddy Peter Beckfield avenged me in the finals with Tribal Zoo, so I may be testing for San Juan anyway just to help him out. (Grats P.Becks!) I’ve got my final PTQ here in Seattle in a month, and unless something significant changes by then I’ll probably be playing the same deck. I’ll be honest, I think this deck is really good, and if I can find a MTGO PTQ and some cards online I will probably play this there as well. Wish me luck!

Thanks for reading,

Jonathon Loucks
Loucksj at gmail
JonLoucks on Twitter
Zygonn on Magic Online

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