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Silvestri Says – GW Quest in the San Jose Open and For the Future

Well at least the wheels didn’t come off the deck until Spell Pierce daggered me. I didn’t have the best day in terms of tournament outings, but I got to give G/W Quest a nice final outing before Besieged hits. I also finally got another chance to see how it did in a real world setting against control instead of 100% relying on Magic Online for testing results. Essentially it confirmed what I suspected was the case: post-Worlds G/W Quest was a real deck again due to the shift back to control and anti-Valakut card flooding into maindecks.

Here’s my tournament report from the SCG Open: San Jose. Apologies if I don’t remember your name, most of the people I played against were locals so I didn’t bother with taking down names.

Round 1: BUR Control
G1: Both games started with my opponent mulliganing, which is always a nice assist for an aggro deck. Meanwhile I started with something a little better than Creeping Tar Pit – Go, “Draw, enter discard phase, discard Vengevine, G.” Always a good way to kick off the tournament. I killed on turn six with a variety of Hawks and Vengevines.

G2: Fauna Shaman lived for more than a turn. Vengevine and Squadron Hawk combo activate! Form of… ANGRY BIRDS! My opponent never got his mana straightened out and I quickly dominated the game.

While this opponent had red in his deck which could’ve allowed for Pyroclasm, in general the UB Control match is an easy one. The only true threat they have is Grave Titan, as the speed bumps they have are generally ineffective against Vengevine and Squadron Hawk, while the lack of a clock can allow for easy comebacks once equipment is involved.

Games 2-0
Matches: 1-0

Round 2: Valakut – Kenny Ellis
G1: Originally we both kept our openers, but had to submit to a deck check. I had a turn three Quest and Kenny also apparently had a sweet one. Instead we both enjoyed mulligans after receiving our decks back and I lost rather quickly. I kept a loose no-Quest hand, good against control and awful everywhere else. My start of Isamaru and Squadron Hawk was no match for a turn four Primeval Titan and I was quickly killed.

G2: I kept a solid aggressive hand with a Refraction Trap as backup. I created a horde of Hawks to beat him down with, while he continued to ramp to 5, but whiffed on his crucial land drops to get Titan online. A Kor Skyfisher, Glint Hawk and multiple Squadron Hawk bashed him down to three life before a pair of Pyroclasms cleared the board. Despite having Refraction Trap mana open, I chose not to use it as I wouldn’t be able to kill him with it, and I was unsure if he also had a Bolt to kill my Skyfisher with post-Trap. I figured the odds of him playing around Trap were low, and when he finally hit Titan mana, he targeted me with Valakut and I sent the damage straight back to him.

G3: I played aggressively, laying down a Glint Hawk and Memnite on turn one instead of holding back the Memnite for Fauna Shaman or Vengevine down the line. Pyroclasm wiped my board, but cleared the way for my follow-up Fauna Shaman to live without needing to wait to turn 3 for open Trap mana. This proved to be the key factor in the game as an active Fauna Shaman got my Vengevine online and fetches me up some Caw-Go action. With the increased pressure I killed Ellis off before he could sustain any real pressure against me.

4-1
2-0

Round 3: Elves – Wrapter
G1: While I knew Wrapter was on Elves, I had no idea how fast or resilient the deck actually is. I simply haven’t seen Elves in months, despite Canali’s performance at Worlds with the deck. I quickly found out how unreasonable the match is for me without an active Quest. I managed to equip [card]Sword of Body and Mind[/card] to Fauna Shaman on turn 3 and immediately began bashing for 4 a turn, hoping that I didn’t mill Vengevines. A Squadron Hawk on my side quickly provided a whole flock of birds to join my pair of Birds of Paradise and Rashad Wolf tokens. Despite only milling one Vengevine off a pair of Sword hits, I was in deep trouble when Wrapter used his own Fauna Shaman the legit way to fetch up multiple Elf lords to give him a scary looking army in short order.

After he sent with a 4/4 Elf and two 5/4 Vengevines putting me down to 11, I quickly realize that playing defense and letting the Sword do all the work is unfeasible, especially due to active Shaman and a pair of Oran-Riefs on the field. I got aggressive with my Hawks to knock him to six and gave him a one-turn window to kill me. I screwed this turn up though by tapping out to play a Vengevine and Squadron Hawk on the field. Since all I needed to do was live through the next turn, the proper play was just to play one of these creatures and leaves both birds open to block, giving me 3 potential blockers instead of 2. In total I had 5 blockers and 10 extra life in which to get through the attack, and it was barely enough as he fetched up another Joraga Warcaller and gets 3 counters on it, making all of his elves as big or bigger than the Vengevines. I have just enough resources to block all the Elves and take 10 from the two unblocked Vengevines, giving me the win on the crackback.

G2: I mulliganed to six and kept a bad hand instead of trying to get lucky with my 5-carder. I was quickly overwhelmed by a turn 2 Fauna Shaman on Josh’s side of the field, giving him so many Elf-lords.

G3: I mulliganed to five and had a hand that’s feasible if I draw Quest in 2 draws. I didn’t and by the time I see the Quest, it was pointless as Wrapter was so far ahead on board I’d need 3 Vindicate just to make a significant difference on the field.

All and all a horrible match-up, Quest is the only reliable way to win if they have a reasonable hand that’ll accelerate them into Vengevines, multiple Elvish Archdruid/Joraga Warcaller or even an Eldrazi Monument. Worse still is they can counteract the Quest draws with Nature’s Claim or Naturalize post-board, meaning there’s no real way to get through the match without being lucky.

5-3
2-1

Round 4: UB Control – Jordan
G1: An early Quest allowed me to power out an Argentum Armor on turn four, but the equipped Hawk quickly ate a Doom Blade. Despite this setback, I hit 6 mana before my opponent did and I re-equipped the Armor. My opponent had Jace, the Mind Sculptor on the table but nothing else. I’m wasn’t lured by the seduction of extra damage by Vindicating the Jace, instead sending my Vengevine to take care of it and knocking him off 5 mana. He conceded and shows me a hand with Frost and Grave Titan in it.

We had a mid-round deck check, my second in 4 rounds, and my opponent had mis-registered a card in his sideboard. Game loss.

7-3
3-1

Round 5: Valakut – John Chen
G1: Early Quest means I won the game in a rout.

G2: I kept a slower hand that wouldn’t beat a turn 4 Titan draw, but had great odds against anything slower with Pyroclasm. He had the latter of the two and my combo of Squadron Hawk, Refraction Trap and Sword of Body and Mind allowed me to force through plenty of early damage. Chen correctly waited until almost all the Hawks hit the table before casting Pyroclasm, but the equivalent of White Lightning Bolt and follow-up Sword quickly dropped him to 6 life. An Acidic Slime came down, but blew up my 2nd green source instead of SOBAM and while he did have the Harrow to take down my equipped Hawk and Skyfisher, the Sword proved to be too much. Eventually one guy I stuck actually got through and I got him.

I find post-board games tend to get easier depending on the opponent, as people’s standards for openers quickly drop once they are ensured the warm embrace of a Pyroclasm. I’ve seen a good many no-green Pyroclasm hands kept and the similar hands that don’t actually do anything (ramp up to 6-8 lands with no threat in sight). The match is around 50-50 when you take into account Quest draws and the number of hands Valakut has that don’t do anything against a horde of flyers, barring Pyroclasm.

9-3
4-1

Round 6: UB Control
G1: I mulliganed to five and my opponent expressed the empathy you might expect, hey it happens to everyone, at least you have another game to win after. My five was about as good as I can ask for short of a god Quest draw, I threw down turn one Memnite and Glint Hawk and followed it up with a Kor Skyfisher on the second turn. His hand was a slow starter and dishing out five a turn put me in the driver’s seat. On turn five I topdecked Squadron Hawk while he was tapped out for Jace, the Mind Sculptor; soon after I had an entire army on the field. Down to five life and with few options without Consume the Meek, he only survived for one more turn until the Birds had him.

G2: Mana difficulties were the name of the game as my opponent continued to play Creeping Tar Pit on three of his first five turns, consistently knocking him off crucial mana points. One early Quest and Fauna Shaman put him on his back foot to begin with and once Vengevine hit the field, things got bad. He did have the Doom Blade to take care of my Armored menace, but by that point in the game I had finished my own mana flood issue and simply reequipped the armor over and over until I won.

Again the nice interplay of all the cards in the Quest deck allows me to get there even when the main Quest plan falls apart. Bashing for five a turn early on isn’t the most impressive thing, but bashing for five while basically ignoring Sea Gate Oracle and other blockers is something most aggro decks cannot accomplish. The lack of a real Wrath effect also severely hurts B/U players, as last week I pointed out the weaknesses in Ratchet Bomb and Consume the Meek is one mana too much to be an effective deterrent when combined with an inability to kill Vengevine.

11-3
5-1

Round 7: W/U Control – Steve Edelson
G1: Long story short, Condemn wrecked my Vengevine and I couldn’t get past the team of Jace and Gideon with Birds alone.

G2: This was a weird game as I ended up playing all four Vengevine over time. I had two in my opening hand and I drew another one around turn six. However instead of just rolling over to die Steve decided to ruin my fun with a Condemn and Journey to Nowhere. Still with all the extra Vengevines, I was able to continually kill off Jace and Gideon, keeping Steve from gaining too big of an edge. Eventually I hardcast an Argentum Armor and started equipping it to my remaining minions. Once I got my Vengevine back from Journey, there ended up being too many Vines to handle and I finally won.

G3: Being on the draw cost me as a turn one Quest ate a Spell Pierce. This ended up costing me the game, as my hand was built around it under the assumption that he wouldn’t be able to stop the Quest and the remaining hand would’ve almost certainly equaled a turn three Armor or Sword of Body and Mind. Instead I had some 0cc drops and Glint Hawk, while I drew a Sword to keep me in the game, a Gideon and Elspeth locked down the board and once joined by comrade Jace; I was quickly overwhelmed by card advantage.

In what amounts to a 30 creature deck, Spell Pierce cost me a shot at top eighting. Well played. In general W/U Control is a far more difficult match than RUG or B/U, both of which could be considered virtual byes. Instead there’s a major issue trying to corral the card advantage from Day of Judgment backed by any of the major Planeswalkers, Gideon in particular is a tool nobody else has that makes life miserable. It’s very difficult for this deck to deal 8 damage to him if the opponent has done anything and only gets worse if they play Squadron Hawk.

Spreading Seas still counts as a joke card in the match-up, but Condemn and Journey to Nowhere remove the ease of victory that early Vengevines provide. In fact this is the one match is where having multiple Vengevine isn’t an auto-win, since they won’t necessarily be headed to the graveyard to return later. Baneslayer Angel also can be a huge deterrent, since without equipment, the card is effectively Moat and since for this tournament I didn’t have Journey, it was going to be close to unbeatable. The key to the matchup is that it will go long and you’ll have to grind as much as possible, you need to be able to kill planeswalkers as they hit the field and eventually use Armor or SOBAM to force through damage.

12-5
5-2

Round 8: RUG Control – Zach Smith
G1: I don’t remember much, other than he whiffed on hitting Inferno Titan in time to matter and was overrun by Vengevines. .

G2: Essentially an extended version of game one as I kept a slow hand with Refraction Trap and my first real play was a Fauna Shaman backed by Trap. After some redirected damage and searching up Ca-Caws, Vengevine comes out to play and we were off to the races. A Tumble Magnet slowed down the Vines, but I slowly built up a board of all flyers with every variation of Bird in my deck on the field at one point. Running Inferno Titans reduced their numbers significantly, but a Sword of Body and Mind made my Vengevine a must-block and I was allowed to freely trade off with the Titans before they could do serious damage and eventually Vengevine recursion ends the game.

RUG is a match-up that I wanted to play the entire tournament and sadly only had one chance to play against. The match has been nothing but a joke for me ever since I switched to GW Quest, I have a total of one loss against the deck in tournament and only a handful of losses on MODO. The deck is well-suited to play an attrition war against Pyroclasm and normal spot removal and the actual card Vengevine is a huge issue for a deck that needs to keep Jace alive to sustain its resource hog nature. Sure an early Inferno Titan or Avenger can take out the Quest deck before it mounts a significant offense, but the lack of G1 answers to Quest and the massive trouble the deck has against Vengevine, Squadron Hawk and SOBAM makes this an easy match.

14-5
6-2

Round 9: B/R Vampires

G1: This was a long grindy game that I’m pretty sure I punted along the way, though I can’t quite point out where. Essentially I got a pair of Vengevine going by turn five along with a few flyers, but was unable to effectively bash due to a Kalastria Highborn, Bloodghast, and Viscera Seer setup taking chunks of my life away. He kept drawing guys to throw away as blockers and although I scarified a number of chump blockers to absorb Highborn drains, eventually I reached a situation where Highborn + any burn would finish me. He had the Bolt.

G2: Somehow I resolved a Refraction Trap for full value on Arc Trail and I resolved a pair of Devout Lightcasters and still lost. Still not quite sure what happened other than misclicking with a Lightcaster, eating a Skinrender over a Bloodghast. Instead I end up losing all my guys to removal spells and a pair of Bloodghasts took me out since I could never take them out of action for more than a turn.

Normally I like the B/R Vampires matchup, but overall it definitely is a grind match where drawing your most useful tools (Vengevine and Squadron Hawk G1, Lightcaster G2) is of the utmost importance. You can’t just get lucky with an early beatdown plan like you can against the various control and ramp decks in the format. Vampires can’t beat an early Quest, but you can’t beat a Highborn game one and if they have Gatekeeper, Arc Trail and Skinrender (my opponent also had Staggershock) then you could find yourself on the wrong end of an FTK army.

14-7
6-3

So ended my tournament, I missed the money by four slots on tiebreakers and was genuinely disappointed in my last round loss. I still made a bit of money from a split I had with Steve Edelson from earlier, but it was still a ball buster to lose to a Spell Pierce of all things.

The big excitement I have for the future of the deck is from Mirrodin Besieged though, where other decks are likely close to peaking in terms of efficiency and power, Quest remains open. If you go through the report, the number of times I won with Quest is dwarfed by just beating opponents down with Squadron Hawk and Vengevines. Having additional good creatures can take some of the pressure off getting Quest draws and any good Living Weapon equipment is going to make Stoneforge Mystic a far more attractive option than it currently is. In fact taking a look at the latest batch of spoilers, I already see two cards I want to try out.

SPOILERS AHEAD…

Thrun, the Last Troll has done the unthinkable, it’s a [card]Troll Ascetic[/card] that’s actually really good, not just borderline playable. For the additional cost of a single mana, they took out almost all the flaws in the old Troll and made it far stronger. While this won’t be a maindeck card in Quest, the absolute terror this’ll be against Jace decks means that it could very well be a major sideboard contributor. I know I love it against W/U already and that’s a major issue for the deck. Other decks like RUG and anything packing Lotus Cobra are also likely to be licking their chops for this card, allowing them to power out a sizeable threat on turn three that’s practically indestructible.

Enough about Thrun though, the big news for Quest decks is this puppy:

Bonehoard is the card I had in mind when I first saw Living Weapon, an equipment with a reasonable casting cost that was a threat on it’s own, but still a fine equipment afterwards. This exceeded my expectations and I imagine Stoneforge Mystic will see an increase in play now that it can be an actual 2 for 1 threat machine. In a deck like G/W Quest, even against a creature-light control deck, you’re looking at a 3/3 or 4/4 for 4 on average. Better still is the fact that the card scales up as the game progresses, meaning that if you slow-roll the Mystic after your initial waves have been dealt with, you could quickly proceed with a 7/7. Attaching Bonehoard to a Squadron Hawk to turn it into a 5/5 flyer is nothing to scoff at either.

Bonehoard is effectively a colorless Mortivore which exchanges regeneration for its Equipment prowess. I think that trade-off is all upside in this kind of card and between this and cards like Thrun I can see G/W/X aggro strategies emerging without the Quest attachment.

Finally there’s Green Sun Zenith:

While this doesn’t excite me as much as the other two in Quest, the power level is definitely up there. A more common usage of the card will likely be to fetch up Lotus Cobra, Thrun or Primeval Titan. Still in G/W decks, the card fetches Fauna Shaman early and makes other early drops more attractive since we have 8 tutors to nab them out of the deck. Just like Bonehoard, the fact that it scales up in power as the game progresses is a large boon for the deck and gives it a big edge over former situational cards. Heck even Chord of Calling was severely handicapped due to its initial GGG cost, despite the convoke ability. Green over the last couple of sets has really had some strong contenders come out and this is no exception.

That’s it for this week. Next week we’ll be back on the Extended grind and recapping the Grand Prix Atlanta results.

Josh Silvestri
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom

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