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Silvestri Says – A SCG Open Seattle Report

 

At first I was on the fence about even going to the SCG Open in Seattle, I didn’t really feel like playing Legacy, but I really wanted to play some Standard with my update on Adam Prosak’s UG Ramp deck. I had done the math and realized driving to Seattle for the tournament would be dirt cheap if split between four people (gas ended up being cheaper than a single plane ticket) and I was crashing at Max Mccall’s place for freesies. So what was the problem? My buddies Richard Kho and Duan decided that the Monday before would be an awesome time to bail on me. Needless to say the trip was cancelled and I’d just be playing a lot more Street Fighter this weekend… Oh, what’s this text?

Matt Nass to the Rescue

Matt Nass: Yo, can I get a ride with you guys to the 5k?

Ding! After getting Nass on board it took about an hour and we ended up getting Orie Guo and his buddy Le on board, both of them having recently won Standard PTQ’s this season. The trip took about 14 hours including stops for food and gas and was rather uneventful once we realized the parking brake was partially on after about 45 minutes of driving.

Normally this would be the part where I insert funny stuff, but a lot of it was us bashing on people and each other a lot and had a few too many swears to be reprintable. The few highlights I had are as follows:

Orie proceeding to 0-3 a team draft purely to sink Matt Nass after he 3-0’d.
Orie then buying infinite Avenger of Zendikar on MODO at 7-8 a pop and is rich now that they’ve hit 15.
Explaining to Le what Polack jokes are.
Matt Nass bitching about food and continually wanting to stop at Denny’s on the ride back home as we kept ‘No sir’ing him. He then proceeded to wait until we all fell asleep and pulled into a Denny’s at 5am. Daggered.
Revenge was ours when his single waffle and OJ cost him 9 bucks.

Good times were had on the whole, but I’m getting ahead of myself. With my ride secured, a couple of days before leaving I went to Superstars to test and figure out the optimal UG Turboland list. A few people on our discussion about the deck suggested [card]Lotus Cobra[/card] and posted lists with 2-3 in the maindeck. I took it a step further and just shoved all of them in there to see how the deck would perform with so many accelerants. Lotus Cobra ended up being the stone blade in the deck and actually justified [card]Time Warp[/card]; a card I was wholly unimpressed with and originally wanted to cut. It went from being the worst card in the deck to the third-best, just behind Cobra and Avenger. I shared the list with some of the other ringers I knew were going to the site and in the end everyone had their own little tweaks on it, with LSV playing the one most similar to my own copy.

This is the UG Turboland I brought to the table after some consultation with Matt Nass and reading the thoughts of other people who were planning on rocking it that weekend.

Please do not use any of my sideboard except for Negate, Flashfreeze and Terastodon as the rest of my sideboard was complete garbage. In an unexpected twist I was unable to get a single Narcolepsy to run in the deck, as no one I knew had any on them, nor did the dealers (a recurring theme) and I even cracked about 20 packs and hit bupkis. Roil Elemental was another card nobody actually had and the dealers brought zero of.

Ideally my board would’ve been:

 

My thoughts on specific card choices can be found below the tournament report, but the match-ups themselves have commentary so skip ahead if you aren’t interested in any of that nonsense and just want card analysis. I apologize for the lack of details in this quick report, I didn’t take notes and only a few games really stuck out in my mind.

The Tournament

Round 1: Mythic, Jed Dolbeer
Game one was lost in rather heartwrenching fashion where I kept a loose one lander on the draw where upon if I hit any green source in my next two draws I combo off and win by turn five. I whiff and don’t get my 2nd land until turn three at which point it’s far too late for me and I’m facing down many giant monsters who crush me.

The next game was essentially a turnaround of game one, he kept a slow hand which is a death sentence against my deck and I gleefully went to work playing a turn three Oracle of Mul-Daya against a turn three Knight of the Reliquary. This led to me taking the next four turns in a row as I generated infinite mana, drew 10 cards and kept hitting Time Warp off my Jace Brainstorms. Life is good.

I lost game three on turn five. A double Lotus Cobra and Knight of the Reliquary hitting early for Jed gave him a billion mana when he hit a land for Sovereigns of Lost Alara, and left me in the unenviable position of my Avenger and blockers being rendered useless. Worse still it means a Sejiri Steppe or 2nd Conscription in his deck meant I was dead no matter what. I whiffed on finding lands or Time Warp on the top of my deck, so that ended any chance of a comeback. Pshaw. Oh, and I missed a trigger at the end of the game which, despite not having much relevance on the gamestate, annoyed me. It always sucks to play a deck a bunch, only to forget something stupid like an obvious trigger at the end of round one. With this deck it’s very important to keep careful track of everything your doing in terms of mana, cards, lands played and triggers. This was a nice little reminder of that fact.

I still feel bad about the mistake in the 3rd game, because catching every single trigger is something I had been trying to work on for decks like this one. The mistake ended up being irrelevant as I had no actual outs when Oracle of Mul Daya failed to reveal a land off the top and even then I was practically drawing dead.

G: 1-2
M: 0-1

In general the Mythic match is slightly unfavorable and heavily draw dependent. Hands they draw that can kill on turn five or sooner are the bane of your existence, while you can generally beat all of their hands when the first relevant play is on turn 3 or turn 2 if Turboland is on the play and you have Jace, the Mind Sculptor. As game two illustrated, Jed got off to a slow start and got punished severely for it. Game three illustrates the difference a turn can make in this match, had I been on the play, I win that game easily and it isn’t remotely close. Since it’s the other way around though, I don’t have time to pump my plants up multiple times to force Mythic to waste his men blocking and I don’t have an extra turn to take advantage of Jace or Garruk.

Round 2: Naya w/ Black
He gets a game loss for tardiness and we have a short game two as he hits an awkward mana draw and can’t do much when I finally start dropping Avengers on the table.

G: 3-2
M: 1-1

Naya is an easy match since they can’t interact with you, nor put you on a fast enough clock to big a concern. Much like the Next Level Bant match-up, the only draws that can race you typically involve a T2 Knight or T3 Vengevine and an Elspeth giving them Jump powers. Even then, it’s contingent on you not going off with Time Warps or using an early Jace to knock their early plays out of the way,

Round 3: UG Turboland
So it turned out a bunch of the Seattle guys also had various builds of this floating around. Go figure.

Game one is a non-game as he keeps what I figure is a loose one that never materializes as he only plays a Halimar Depths and a few lands before dying. He later told me it was essentially Halimar Depths, Island, Lotus Cobra, Time Warp, Mind Spring and a few other good ones. Basically banking on Halimar netting his one of the 16 green sources in the deck and winning, since he knew I was on Turboland and I had no idea.

I cut two cards for a pair of Negate since I figured he was Polymorph and an outside shot of being Turboland.

Game two I kept a solid one with Lotus Cobra, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Mind Spring and a Negate. I land my turn two Lotus Cobra and turn three Jace and bounce a Khalni Garden token as I think he’s on Polymorph based on his Halimar Depths G1 and his subsequent plant. It was actually stone awful, but I was really worried about my Jace dying and then next turn watching a Polymorph crush me. I overreacted even worse since the last two matches I had played against Polymorph on Magic Online, I lost to Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre. He lays an Oracle and I find out rudely that more people are on Turboland than I thought, thankfully Oracle gave me a heads up that he had All is Dust in his deck.

Since I have the Negate safely in hand I ‘go off’ with Oracle of Mul Daya and a 2nd Lotus Cobra, getting 7 lands into play and setting up my next turn. I end up holding open an Island and Tectonic Edge which I figure gives away the Negate in my hand, but I wanted the option to knock him off 7 mana if he didn’t cast All is Dust or Mind Spring that turn. He doesn’t think I run counters though and swings with his Oracle which I quickly trade off with my 2nd Lotus Cobra. All is Dust runs into the Negate and I quickly end the game two turns later.

G: 5-2
M: 2-1

Round 4: Jund
I don’t remember much about games one and two which leads me to believe we sat around durdling until one person woke up and killed the other guy.

Sideboarding for game three was taking out a Time Warp, Oracle and Garruk Wildspeaker for the 3 Flashfreeze. I figured I could either snag Putrid Leech on the play with a slower hand or just have some Maelstrom Pulse / Siege-Gang Commander insurance late.

Game three was pretty epic though, I got off to a fast start and my turn three Jace actually lived for multiple turns putting me way ahead on board. It looked like the game would just be over on turn six as I already had 2x Lotus Cobra, Oracle of Mul Daya and Jace in play against an empty board so I couldn’t see what could possibly go wrong…

Thought Hemorrhage naming Avenger of Zendikar?”

Bollocks.

The sweet follow-up Mind Spring for a million was a lot less sweet when I realized the only way I was winning the game was getting Jace up to ultimate level or chaining Time Warp and killing by 2/2 dorks. After drawing about 15 cards and playing every single creature I could draw and using them on defense, I got Jace around 11 counters and then the real grind began. He resolved a Siege-Gang Commander which couldn’t kill Jace, but could keep him off my ultimate for at least an additional four turns.

Thankfully he spent two of his Goblins taking out Oracles, which meant Jace had a bit more time than I anticipated. It also let me throw down my third Mind Spring and drew 10 of the remaining 20 from my deck. Armed with Flashfreezes I stopped a 2nd SGC and Pulse aimed at Jace and finally got him up to the 12 counters necessary about a dozen grueling turns after I had first leveled up Jace. In the end my opponent was on a 9-outer to remove my final blocker (I had exhausted all my creatures, save a single Plant as a blocker) or burn / kill Jace. He whiffed, I chumped Thrinax and I exiled his library, winning a hard fought game. The two remaining Time Warps I was so desperately looking for were in the bottom five cards. Standard.

G: 7-3
M: 3-1

Jund is a really difficult match if they land turn two Putrid Leech or have a good creature opener backed by multiple Maelstrom Pulse / Terminate. If they can turn Avenger of Zendikar into a non-factor for a few turns, often they can steal the game before you crush them. Lotus Cobra is surprisingly good in the match since a lot of Jund builds cut out Lightning Bolt and as long as you don’t rush out Cobra on turn two, you always get your mana back from it. If they have the usual Jund nonsense of turn three play, turn four Bloodbraid that’s slow enough that you’ll usually take it down. Anything else like a removal heavy SGC hand or relying on dubs Bloodbraid Elf to get out of a tempo sinkhole in the first few turns and you can’t lose those.

You have two options with your boarding, you can either become a turbo Mind Spring deck, throw it out as soon as you hit six mana and hope to win the game from there. Or you can be a Pokemon Master, play the Toxic Avenger on turn five and pray they don’t have anything better than your seven-drop. Basically the game one play, but now you have ways to not be at 5 life when you do it. Neither involves taking out your ramp cards, though you can make a case for some number of Oracle, because they’re pretty slow and cause less blowouts than Lotus Cobra.

Round 5: Mythic
I got turn 5 killed both games. Did I mention quick Mythic hands are rough?

G: 7-5
M: 3-2

Round 6: Next Level Bant
I get deck-checked this round and get a game loss for accidentally swapping the Scalding Tarn and Tectonic Edge in my maindeck and sideboard. Whoops.

The game loss turns out to be irrelevant as my opponent is playing Next Level Bant and I crush him easily. Neither game is remotely close and we comment on just how poor the match is and how lucky he needs to be to actually score a game off me.

G: 9-6
M: 4-2

For those who have never seen the matchup, remember how I said Mythic needs to win by turn five or it’s in huge trouble? Well the earliest this deck is killing you is turn seven typically and it’s entire army is rendered impotent by Avenger of Zendikar. If you’re a NLB player, your best shot in this match is to mulligan until you get a hand with either turn three Vengevine or Elspeth, Knight-Errant. Otherwise you have no shot of winning even if you bring in a full set of Negate after boarding.

Round 7: Mythic
He keeps hands that just don’t do all that much and attacks Jace where his only real option was to try and kill me in two swings. His game one hand was so slow I actually thought he was a variant of Next Level Bant rather than Mythic.

G: 11-6
M: 5-2

Round 8: Mythic, Rashad Miller
We trade off the first two games and nothing particularly noteworthy happens. He crushes me with a good draw in one game and in another he has a turn three play and I have a turn three Jace, so I win easily. I really enjoyed talking and playing against Rashad this weekend, as he’s a pretty hilarious guy and takes the game with a collected stride I wish everyone would.

G3: We both get off to quick starts and I translate my turn three Jace into a big tempo gain by continually bouncing Knight of the Reliquary. Unfortunately for me the board starts to get out of hand with multiple three-drops hitting the board thanks to Lotus Cobra and it becomes necessary to throw down an early Avenger instead of comboing out. A hardcast Eldrazi Conscription on Rhox War Monk puts me in the following position:

Rashad has 2x Rhox War Monk, Knight of the Reliquary, Noble Hierarch and Lotus Cobra on the table. He’s just hardcast Eldrazi Conscription and hit me to 4 life and gone up to 38, leaving three blockers up.

I’m at 4 life and have a Lotus Cobra, 2 Oracle of Mul Daya and an Avenger of Zendikar on the board with 8 Plant tokens at 2/3 and another at 1/2. Through the use of Lotus Cobra + Oracle of Mul Daya, I play a fetchland off the top of my deck, pumping my tokens to 4/5; followed by another Avenger of Zendikar which means the 2nd fetchland I have in my hand pumps them into 8/9’s. Rashad scoops before I swing in for 82 points of damage.

G: 13-7
M: 6-2

Round 9: RDW, Audrey Johnson
G1: I win
G2: I lose
G3: We play back and forth for a while and I had to chump block with practically every single creature I draw. This includes my first Avenger of Zendikar whose tokens die to Earthquake @ 1 and is forced to chump a 5/5 Plated Geopede. I set up a position where I land a 2nd Avenger of Zendikar against a Plated Geopede and graveyard Hellspark Elemental. Now that I’ve seen her decklist, I see she was on an 11-12 outer for a burn spell or Hell’s Thunder depending on her sideboarding, since with any other creature (even a Ball Lightning) I can set up my blocks in such a way that I can live through the turn with at least a token and Avenger intact. Since I had a Flashfreeze in hand and a Jace on top of my deck, if I untapped I had an excellent chance of winning the game.

She drew Burst Lightning and I died. Sadness.

G: 14-9
M: 6-3

Red Deck Wins is a nearly impossible match and I was lucky to take a game and come so close to winning game three. I may have made a mistake with what I discarded to Sphinx of Lost Truths and could’ve had a different line of play the turn before I played Avenger, but I don’t think it actually would’ve made a difference due to the Earthquake. A turn one Goblin Guide is the blade against you and there’s really nothing you can do to make a difference in the match. Flashfreeze is cute and helps a bit, but you just need to get really lucky to get anywhere against Red.

It was disappointing to come some close to salvaging the day and making top 16, but considering the matches I got along with the mistakes I made and card availability issues I wasn’t too displeased with my performance. In the end I played my worst matches 5 times and went a combined 2-3 with a number of games being decided by a single turn difference. In all of my other matches with the exception of the game in the Jund match where I got hit by Thought Hemorrhage, every other game was easy and heavily in my favor.

Thoughts on Turboland

Turboland is a great deck that gets a bit worse now that it’s a known quantity. Once people know that you’re playing this deck, all of their mulligan habits will be to net the quickest hand they possibly can since many 7-carders are just worse than a fiver with Leech or Elspeth. My deck definitely wanted one fewer fetchland and a pair of Ponder in there somewhere, but I was very happy with the rest of the main board. I already gave my thoughts on the sideboard so there’s not much to add on that point.

A note to anyone trying to make this deck better, right now the deck is very tight on space and almost every part in it is in there for a specific reason. You don’t want to cut Lotus Cobra or Rampant Growth without trying the deck, shaving Time Warp and Oracle because you don’t like seeing multiples of them early, etc. Almost all the issues I had with the early version of this deck was because I wasn’t skilled enough with it yet.

For anyone who wants to play the deck, there are only a few basic tips I can hand out to help immediately. You almost always want to play Rampant Growth over Lotus Cobra or Explore when given the choice, since it can’t be countered via removal, doesn’t take away future land drops (important when Oracle of Mul Daya, Lotus Cobra and Avenger are involved) and is generally the worst of the three later in the game. Explore usually is the T2 play if you have a ETBT land you need to hit on turn two to set-up your turn three play and Lotus Cobra is best played on turn two only if you have a very high likelihood of it living.

Mind Spring is usually cast for 3-5 and often it’s best just to tap out for it, even if you could potentially play another spell on that same turn such as Explore. Unless you really need a 7th land to set-up Avenger that same turn, the extra cards you net are well worth it. You also have to figure out which matches you don’t have time to muck around with Mind Spring and those where you effectively race out casting it, sometimes over Avenger, to stay in the game. Speaking of Avenger, I see a lot of people holding it until they can play it and pump on the same turn. Don’t bother doing this if it means playing Avenger a turn sooner, since the amount of damage you can save with your 5/5 and chump blocking with a few of the Plants is well worth the inability to trade creatures on that same turn.

My final note is not to oversideboard, anything more than 5-6 cards in any given match (Save RDW) is pointless and severely damaging the deck. There are a ton of moving parts and shaving random amounts is a great way to make the deck a lot worse while not gaining much from your sideboard. This deck might not actually have a reasonable sideboard plan in a number of matches, but that’s fine because it doesn’t really need one in the first place. This is the first legitimate combo deck that I think can be more than a one-shot like Time Sieve or Open the Vaults, don’t muck it up!

The rest

I ended up so tired after the nine rounds of Standard I really didn’t feel like playing Legacy so I swapped decks with my buddy Le who actually wanted to win and I took his Dredge deck to fool around with for a bit. I haven’t played Dredge in months so it was boggling to have so many decisions again after sideboarding. Long story short, I get convinced to waste 30 bucks playing Legacy with Dredge and get paired against Le round one. Nice life, standard, awkward, insert meme phrase here. I went a quick 0-2 drop from a tourney I shouldn’t have been playing in with a deck I was messing around with. Good use of thirty bucks I say.

That said after watching the Legacy tournament I think I see why it’s universally accepted as such an uber popular format and one a notable number of people claim is the best. If you want to have fun, Legacy is great because you can play semi-competitive to competitive archetypes that cover nearly the full range of strategies throughout Magic history. Maybe not the exact deck, but you could likely find a similar build. They also enjoy it because the caliber of player in general at Legacy tournaments is low and the format is skill intensive so many times you always feel like you’re ‘in it’ and that you have plenty of decisions to make.

While I realize it’s popular to bash on Legacy tournaments for being soft and it seems like a cop-out, because there are plenty of awful Standard / Draft / Eskimo players as well. There are certainly a number of good players playing Legacy right now, but they are simply overshadowed by the vast horde. Some highlights of this behavior I either witnessed or was told about later in the day.

Goblin Guide has no drawback.
Chalice of the Void on 0 means you can’t even play spells.
People lousing up combat in any situation where more than a Tarmogoyf was involved.
Forgetting to put a Leyline of the Void into play.
Drawing a card immediately after putting a dredger into the yard on upkeep (told you I was rusty).
A number of people casting Exhume after seeing the opponent with a Entomb in hand from a previous Thoughtseize.
More than one person casting Exhume while Coffin Purge was chilling in the opponent’s graveyard.
Zoo vs. Stax, Stax casting Ravages of War with no board presence and no artifacts other than Mox Diamond in play while facing down 4 creatures.

I was lucky and got to do some coverage with the Ggslive crew, who did amazing work as usual, and unfortunately for everyone involved the match I covered was one of the sloppiest I’ve ever seen. I’m sure in the future it’ll end up on Youtube, but if it doesn’t I’ll do a recap on it in the future. Even super nice guy Evan Erwin was having a hard time believing what he was watching. Once again highlighting one of my main points of contention, people like having decisions, but don’t seem to realize this means they will likely screw them up.

So for skilled players this is nice because play skill can be a factor in a number of relevant matches. Other players like it because they have something they can go ‘IT WAS A JUDGMENT CALL!’ to their buddies about after getting ‘sacked out’. Card availability is always a big factor, but honestly Goblins and Zoo are a lot more playable than some of the decks people were dropping 1k+ on for Legacy. Although I think if everyone got to play what they wanted Merfolk would be stone unplayable as people learned how not to walk into on the board tricks or an obvious Daze every other game.

Hopefully Legacy continues to thrive and WotC makes strides to help with the card availability issues.

That’s it from me, I hope you enjoyed the report and notes on Turboland and best of luck to those playing it in the future. I’d like to thank all my friends who rode up with me, Bill Stark, Rashad Miller, the rest of the Ggslive guys and Evan Erwin for being hilarious and great to talk with. Same with all of my opponents who were courteous and generally enjoyable to play against and a few other people I chatted with over the weekend. Thanks also to the TO and Judges for having a smoothly run tournament both days, though the dealer was severely lacking.

Josh Silvestri
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom

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