With Pro Tour Honolulu coming up I wanted to devote most of my time to testing Block and, more importantly, Drafting. My Limited skills needed some sharpening, and sharpen them I did. Regionals kind of snuck up on me, and I was left scrambling for a deck on Thursday.
I knew I should have just played BW tokens, but Zaiem Beg was playing it, and he’s my source of cards. I didn’t try that hard to find another copy, and instead tested a few GW monstrosities. I got really exciting thinking about a deck that could Ranger of Eos for both Treefolk Harbinger and Flamekin Harbinger, but I was talked down from that cliff. I didn’t like where any of these creature decks were going, so I decided that drawing cards and playing spells was the way to go, settling on Five-Color.
From there I had to find a decklist. Gavin Verhey sent me two decent ones, but I didn’t like some of the card choices. I don’t think there is a lot you can do to a traditional Five-Color deck once you accept the core of the deck. These are the numbers I never changed:
The first debate was Broken Ambitions or no. I’ve never been a fan of that card, and was always looking for a way to get it out of the deck. After testing just a few games, I realized that I always wanted it in my opening hand. I toyed around with Remove Soul and Negate, but threats are so diversified these days that you could never quite counter what you wanted. Broken Ambitions is a necessary evil, and I probably needed at least three.
Next you need some amount of Wrath effects, and I thought I had the hot tech with Hallowed Burial. I didn’t care that much anymore about Wrath of God on turn four as opposed to turn five, and Hallowed Burial looked like it could spear the metagame. With BW tokens running more persist guys with Murderous Redcap in addition to Kitchen Finks, and GW decks leaning on Dauntless Escort for support, I thought Hallowed Burial could catch a lot of people unprepared. Generally I was right.
Gavin told me to run Firespout, but I’m still not sure if it was better than [card]Volcanic Fallout[/card] would have been. I liked that Firespout took out an entire [card]Cloudgoat Ranger[/card] or traded with a [card]Dauntless Escort[/card], and with Faeries on the downswing it didn’t seem like a terrible choice. I was happy with Firespout throughout the day because I played a lot of GW, but I’m still not sure what the right call is in the long run.
Sometimes I felt like I needed more Wraths, so maybe the numbers on these cards are too small. But where’s the room?
Runed Halo is 100% necessary if you want to be able to compete with Anathemancer, and I didn’t mind having them in my maindeck. They actually served a much more important role that day, which was answering Treetop Village.
The next slot is usually where Kitchen Finks or Plumeveil go, but I wasn’t digging them in my testing. I felt like I would cast a Plumeveil, they would cast their [card]Terror[/card] as planned, and I wasn’t getting anywhere that turn. Cutting creatures that weren’t Mulldrifter or Broodmate Dragon meant that my opponent’s Terrors or [card]Path to Exile[/card]s were stranded in their hand, instead of throwing off my tempo.
This plan generally worked, but I’m still not sure it was the best. I played against a lot of GW, and they have only a few answers to a [card]Plumeveil[/card], which could buy a lot of time. [card]Treetop Village[/card] was also a major problem for this version of the deck – probably its biggest weakness. Also, since they had nowhere to dump their removal spells, it meant my mid-game [card]Mulldrifter[/card] or [card]Broodmate Dragon[/card] had a hard time blocking the first time. It wasn’t a big deal by that point in the game, I just had to be careful.
The card I chose to take this slot was Maelstrom Pulse. I felt like it was really strong against BW Tokens, which was the deck to beat. It was also good at answering big threats like Doran or Wilt-Leaf Liege, and also picked off a Gaddok Teeg that was ruining your day. Overall Maelstrom Pulse was good, but that darned Treetop Village still gave me problems.
I still had a few slots left, and I was trying to do “spicy” things, like one Obelisk of Alara, a single Jace Beleren, or one Story Circle in the main. That’s when I stumbled upon Richard Feldmen’s article On Deckbuilding. In it he posed the question:
“Are you making a pet deck, or the best deck?”
The article inspired me to cut the cute stuff. It was now my goal to make the most boring, straightforward Five-Color deck I could think of, and ride the consistency through the tournament. I wasn’t going to care about getting into a Brian David-Marshall article (usually a secret goal of mine). I had my two “innovations”: Hallowed Burial instead of Wrath of God, and no Plumeveil or Kitchen Finks. I wasn’t sure if they were right, but I had my fingers crossed.
With my resolution for simplicity I smoothed out my numbers and created this list:
Five Color Boddy
The problem with a list as boring as this is that you don’t have anything to sideboard out. I’m not that familiar with Standard, so I didn’t know the matchups very well. I couldn’t tell what was important for each matchup, so my sideboarding was really random.
I knew I wanted good cards against the red deck out of the sideboard. The fourth Runed Halo was a must, and Story Circle and Celestial Purge were the next best. Story Circle also doubled against the Bant decks, shutting off each of their threats by naming Green, so I felt comfortable with three copies.
Turbo Fog was rumored to be everywhere, or at least somewhere, so my plan was to protect the one Platinum Angel. It was an answer that couldn’t be Negated, so as long as I kept track of their Cryptic Commands everything would be OK. The three Negate would help this problem, and also came in control matchups or against Turbo Fog’s twin, Sanity Grinding.
I felt like I had an extra slot in my sideboard for the BW Tokens matchup after putting the four Maelstrom Pulse there, and Volcanic Fallout was the next best card I could think of. It also had the bonus of being good against Faeries, which is also why the Cloudthresher is there. Cloudthresher also does double duty as another win condition in control matchups or other matches where I want another way to win.
I really like the cards that ended up in my sideboard, but I know I never sideboarded correctly. I kept taking Mulldrifter out, and I’m pretty sure that is rarely correct. I need somebody to tell me how my Five-Color deck should look for game two before I play this deck again.
I show up, register my deck, and am thankful as the Seattle community rallies to find my fourth [card]Maelstrom Pulse[/card]. I wasn’t extremely hopeful, but I knew my deck wasn’t the worst pile in the room. I know they say you need to want it, and I did want it, I just knew I didn’t have the experience with my deck to be cocky.
I didn’t take meticulous notes, but here’s what I remember out of the 8-round tournament.
Round 1: Dustin, BW Tokens
I recognize my opponent as a kid that plays at Monster Games, a place I went for City Champs a year or two ago. It was then that I realized I knew, or at least recognized, a very large portion of the people in the room. The community suddenly felt a lot smaller.
I beat Dustin in two easy games, never going below 15 life in each. He never cast a Bitterblossom on turn two, which makes the game a lot harder for him, if not impossible. Since there was no early Bitterblossom, my card draw backed up with Maelstrom Pulses had time to go crazy.
Round 2: Patric, BW Manland
As he was shuffling, he dropped a Figure of Destiny onto the table. I didn’t feel good about what could happen to me if he was playing the red deck. Luckily, he played a Windbrisk Heights on turn one, and not a Bitterblossom on turn two. This made round two go a lot like round one, though Patric was sporting both Forbidding Watchtower and Spawning Pool. Coupled with Glorious Anthem, those lands could hit me for a lot of damage, but without Bitterblossom on his side of the table giving him free momentum, I was able to keep the lands contained.
Round 3: Andy, Five Color Control
I did not want to play against Andy in this tournament. I knew him from my brief stint in the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game, where he was a formidable foe. I knew Andy was playing Five-Color Control, but Andy liked to do weird things with his decks. He also tends to test a lot, so I was certain he had a plan for this matchup. I certainly didn’t.
I don’t remember a lot about game one because I didn’t have a lot of action going. Andy played a Vendillion Clique, but I was already losing by that point.
On the play in game two, I now had the upper hand. I cast a Cryptic Command on the end of his turn, bouncing a land and drawing a card. Andy used a Cryptic Command of his own, countering my Command and bouncing my land instead. This let me start resolving card draw spells, while Andy didn’t have a lot going on. Eventually, he cast a Cruel Ultimatum when I had only two mana open, but I Cryptic Commanded it. [With two mana open? –Riki, suspects a different counter, but doesn’t know if it is Broken or Negate] I figured this meant he had another Cruel Ultimatum, which he did, but my Negate took care of it. After that, the mass of cards in my hand took care of him.
Game three was a sad conclusion to a close match. I mulligained to six on the draw, and missed my third land drop. There isn’t a whole lot you can do after that. Andy played two Scepter of Fugue, which I shut down with Runed Halo, but he was making land drops where I wasn’t. He cast spells and I lost.
I was scared for my byes at the upcoming Grand Prix Seattle, everybody assured me that 2-2 should be fine from where I started.
Round 4: Sebastian, Red
I didn’t like my chances when Sebastian played a Tattermunge Maniac on turn one, followed up by another one on turn two. Luckily, he never played a second land until way later in the game, and I was able to answer the two Maniacs and two Mogg Fanatics.
In game two, I resolved a Story Circle on turn three. I held my breath, he hit me to six, and then I never took another point of damage. Good card! He had chances to overload me at end of turn with instants, untap, then unload on me again. I always tried to keep enough mana open, but six life wasn’t a whole lot to work with if he forced an Anathemancer through. Luckily it looked like his hand was full of awkward sideboard cards like Thought Hemorrhage, so he had no answer to the circle. He did have one Banefire hiding in his deck, but it never showed up to the party.
Round 5: Colin, Bant
He was playing the Bant deck with Shorecrasher Mimic that I was looking at for myself. Luckily, I got a Runed Halo down on Treetop Village, and continued to neutralize his threats from that point on. Finest Hour looks pretty lame when you have nothing to attack with.
In game three I kept a sketchy hand that had a Story Circle. Luckily that was all I needed, and I locked him out naming green. He never drew an answer, if he even had one, and that was that.
Round 6: Jay, GW Tokens
I hadn’t played against GW Tokens yet, and the matchup scared me. Luckily, I had the god hand, and everything went according to plan. Broken Ambitions, Broken Ambitions, Cryptic Command. When they aren’t capable of sneaking a Bitterblossom down early, you have a lot more time. Treetop Village is their best threat, and he didn’t see any in game one.
Treetop Village did happen in game two, however. I never found an answer, and they ate me alive.
Round 7: Marshal, Bant
I didn’t expect to see Shorecrasher Mimic twice in this tournament, but I couldn’t say I was unhappy about it. They can get away from you sometimes, but generally I think I’ve got good answers.
As this matchup usually goes, I answer all of his threats, and his Finest Hour is useless. That’s how I win game one easily. Also, he had a Treetop Village from turn one, but never activated it. He used all his mana each turn to play a threat, I answered all his threats, and he scooped when he had no cards in hand and I was at 17. I’m not sure if activating Treetop Village in lieu playing threats is the right call, but it certainly made the game easier for me.
Game two is a lot closer, but I never felt out of control. He got loose for a little bit of the game, getting in with something, often a Noble Hierarch, most turns of the game. I stabilized at 8 against a Noble Hierach, and he dropped a Finest Hour to take me to two. Two! Six damage from a Noble Hierarch, who knew? I couldn’t help but laugh. Luckily I didn’t care what my life total was as long as it wasn’t 0, and I untapped and locked him out for good.
I didn’t expect to be in this position, but here I was. I couldn’t draw because my tiebreakers were pretty bad, and the three matches above me were drawing. Win and in!
Round 8: Josh, GW Tokens
My other GW Tokens matches seemed so easy, but Josh made my life miserable. I never found a Hallowed Burial in game one, which made things very difficult. Josh used Garruk to present a lethal overrun each turn, which also made Beast tokens whenever it had the chance. I never had a chance to answer the Garruk, so he killed me.
Game two was very close. Again, I never drew a Hallowed Burial, but I locked out Josh’s Treetop Villages and Kitchen Finks with Runed Halo this time. I was almost dead, but Josh’s threats eventually stopped and Broodmate Dragon was allowed to stabilize then swing in for the win.
Josh played an Eyes of the Wisent on his second turn, which made my double Cryptic Command and Broken Ambitions hand look pretty awkward. I knew that I needed to keep in mind that my Cryptic Commands could still be played, I just had to follow them up with a wrath. I dug through my deck with Esper Charm, eventually having to use Cryptic Command to tap his team, give him a 4/4, and draw a card. Unfortunately I never drew a Hallowed Burial until his Treetop Village was lethal, and that was that.
I was happy with my performance. I really wanted to qualify, but I hadn’t put a lot of time into this format, and I made a Five-Color Control off of hunches and speculation. There were definitely things wrong with the deck, but the biggest problem was that my sideboard strategies were all over the board. If that problem was solved I would definitely play Five-Color again.
I’m also still not sure on the lack of Plumeveil or Kitchen Finks. Looking back they would have been nice in certain situations, but I liked killing my opponents removal spells before the game even started.
A problem I detected as I was playing against GW tokens is that I often had enough answers in my hands, but Maelstrom Pulse was a three-casting-cost sorcery. Getting all of my answers out in time was often difficult. I’m not sure what cheaper answers I could run, but now I’m starting to understand the place of Agony Warp in a deck like this.
I hope your Regionals went well. I can’t wait to see what new decks people qualified with.
Mustache you later,
Loucksj at gmail