It feels good to be back home.
At least that’s what I imagine myself saying if I was indeed back home. Instead, like last week, I’ve got an article brought to you straight from a hotel room late at night. We leave in two hours for the airport, but because I love you all so much I’ve decided to tell you what I did this weekend.
As most of you probably know I was at Pro Tour: San Diego. It was my second Pro Tour, and I didn’t want it to be my last. I was hoping to play on every Pro Tour this year, and I had GP Oakland and PT San Diego to make that happen. Unfortunately, we didn’t get there. I was out of the running in Oakland at 5-1-2, and I didn’t make day two of the Pro Tour with my 4-4 record. I could go into why I think this happened to me, but I’ve been dwelling on that too much the best day or two. Instead, I’m just going to tell you about the deck I registered this time around and why.
I feel like the Pro Tours I’ve qualified for have come at the worst times. This time around I was slammed with midterms just before I left for the Pro Tour, and combined with Oakland the weekend before I didn’t have a lot of time to test. So, the week between Oakland and San Diego I find myself talking with Zac Hill about the format. Initially I asked him why they didn’t play Jund in Hawaii, and he said it was because they just had the best deck. He said there shouldn’t be anything stopping me from playing Jund this weekend, but that he wanted to be more aggressive in the format. I had been thinking about RG aggro, so I made up a list and he said he liked what he saw. That was all the encouragement I needed to register the following:
The night before the PT I’m working on my deck, and who of all people starts talking with me about my deck but Saito! He wanders over and starts commenting about my red cards. I think at one point I had Brian Kowal, Saito, Mat Marr, Michael Jacobs, and Brian Kibler helping me with my deck. Exciting!
The biggest change between the time Zac and I talked about the deck and when I settled on my final list was the lack of Goblin Ruinblaster. Originally that guy was a premier four-of in the deck, but eventually he lost out to Ball Lightning in order to make the deck faster against Jund and Vampires. I was enjoying Goblin Ruinblaster, but I felt like slowing my opponent down wasn’t what I needed to do to win. What I needed to do was hit them for 6, and fast.
People kept suggesting cards like Plated Geopede, but they were missing out on the gimmick of the deck. Everything has haste! Either that, or it’s a burn spell. That means that Bloodbraid Elf will always cascade into immediate damage. At least that’s true if you set up your turns correctly. The only awkward cards you can hit are Searing Blaze (which began as a four-of but I was worried about control and moved one to the SB) and Colossal Might (which can still work if you have a creature on the board to begin with). I was really happy with my reliable Bloodbraid Elves and am glad I played Rip-Clan Crasher over Geopede.
Raging Ravine is also a very good land. The deck ran 25 lands, which seemed like a lot for a red burn deck, but with unearth and Raging Ravine you always had a place to stick your mana. The deck is actually very mana hungry, and it’s hard to win when you’re only doing one thing a turn.
Colossal Might was my response to Calcite Snapper. I thought the control decks would be switching to the turtle over Wall of Denial, and the Might was a pretty neat way to push through. It also worked out very well against creatures, making your 2/2 a lot scarier to block. I was very happy with Colossal Might that day, especially in the match where I got to use it on my attacking 2/2 in response to a Lightning Bolt.
Kor Firewalker was my biggest fear, and that’s why Master of the Wild Hunt made it into the sideboard as a 4-of. I was rolling the dice a bit with my mana, but they are Pathing you anyway, which should help a little getting to 2GG. The other option was Unstable Footing, but it sounded too situational and I pretty much had to two-for-one myself there anyway. Master of the Wild Hunt was good in testing so I stuck with it.
Punishing Fire was another card that was good against Kor Firewalker, essentially shutting off their lifegain. It was also great against Vampires, making cards like Vampire Nighthawk much less threatening.
Chandra Nalaar was mostly in response to Baneslayer Angel, but it also can kill Vampire Nocturnus, which is the most important card in the Vampires matchup. I also found that killing Knight of the Reliquary was very important, and while Chandra is sometimes late to that party, sometimes she gets the job done.
Unfortunately, while I had created a sideboard to answer the cards I was worried about, it was still an uphill battle. I had two wins with the deck, one against Grixis control, and one against Jund with Ancient Ziggurat and Sedraxis Specter. I also lost against the Ziggurat Jund deck once (amazingly I played against the deck round 1 and 2) but I’m pretty sure it should be one of my good matchups. Otherwise why would I play the red deck?
My other two losses, however, were against white decks. One played Knight of the Reliquary and Baneslayer Angel, and it’s very hard for me to deal with either of those cards. I can have a plan that involves Chandra and Master of the Wild Hunt, but usually they can find a way around that. The other match was against White Weenie, and you can imagine how that goes. Almost every single card they play shuts you down, not to mention Kor Firewalker. All it takes is a Knight of the White Orchid, and suddenly all of your ground creatures are stopped in their tracks. A sideboarded Baneslayer Angel hits the table, and I’m done.
So after a disappointing 2-3 in constructed I had to 3-0 the Limited portion to make day 2. I opened Kazuul Warlord and decided to force allies, thinking that the nuts ally deck could be my ticket to 3-0. I only managed to pick up 6 other allies from that pick forward, which meant that I had a really terrible five color deck with only marginal ally synergies. Luckily I had something like seven Refuges and an Expedition Map, so my mana wasn’t actually that bad. I was also probably 60% red 25% white, so I was only splashing a few allies of other colors. I managed to beat David Williams and his UW deck in the first round, but fell in the next round to green creatures when my mana got the best of me. I couldn’t find my second red mana to kick Torch Slinger and kill his Timbermaw Larva in time.
So I didn’t make day two. My attempt to qualify for San Juan in the PTQ the next day started off well at 3-0, but then my next three rounds went draw, loss, loss. I drew in the Zoo mirror, which was very depressing. I was playing Brian Kowal’s version of Zoo that was running Punishing Fire. I lost game one when I drew a lot of lands, but managed to get Punishing Fire and Grove of the Burnwillows going into game two. Unfortunately while there’s very little chance you will lose that game, it takes a while to actually win. We had ten minutes going into game three, and I knew from the start of the game there was no way I was going to lose. Unfortunately I drew very few threats, and while I had him completely locked out with Punishing Fire, I couldn’t kill him in time. He topdecked a Path to Exile for my Baneslayer Angel to get the draw. It was my fault anyway; I should have played faster which is hard when you have never played the deck before.
From there I was pretty tilted and completely threw away a match against Dark Depths. In game three I had the game pretty well locked up, but I made three bad choices in the row and he nabbed me with a 20/20.
Next round a UB Tezzeret deck demolished my by assembling the combo early in game one. I had my sideboard hate in game two, but never drew a sacland, which meant I never found black mana to cast Extirpate or Thought Hemorrhage. Eh, maybe I should have mulliganed the hand.
I even managed to throw away games in any drafts I did that weekend, and overall the last two weeks have been a very disappointing series of events. There’s a PTQ next weekend in Portland I will probably attend, and I might end up playing Zoo again. It’s depressing to have to go back to the PTQ grind again, just like before, but that’s where I am. Hopefully I can brew something up in time that breaks the format and everything will be easy.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved being at the Pro Tour. It was every bit as exciting as my first one, and I desperately want to return again. I just don’t like being back right where I started.
We’re leaving for the airport in 1.5 hours, so I should try to sleep at least a little bit. I can’t wait to be back in my own bed.
Thanks for reading,
Loucksj at gmail
JonLoucks on twitter
Zygonn on Magic Online