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Red Deck Wins (a 5K)

Hi! My name is Jake Tilk (@JakeTilk on Twitter), and last weekend I placed first in a 5K in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I’ve never done one of these before, but I want people to see why Mono-Red is a good choice for any event. Here is the list.

As you can see, my deck is a little different from what you saw at the Pro Tour. But, what can I say about mine? It is extremely consistent. At first, I was a little apprehensive about playing mono-red at a big tournament like this. Mono-red, in my experience, has the possibility of running red hot, and then sort of petering out.

What was the solution to this?I had to find a red list that bested the top decks in the format. That is exactly what it did. The deck’s game plan involves using my creatures for the first three or four turns to swing as fast as possible then burning the opponent out with the average of about two burn spells in my hand on turn five or six. So, let’s go into my deck choices. As you see, a lot of this is pretty stock. But, then you get to the four main deck [card]Searing Bloods[/card]. Over the course of the day, I had a lot of people asking me how many Searing Bloods I was playing. When I said four, I was met with varying amounts of responses. Whether it was, “What about the control matchup?” or “How does that get over [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card]?” I can honestly say that Searing Blood over-performed for me that weekend as the card was absolutely ridiculous when it killed something.

Oh, and Courser? She ain’t no thang. Sure, that card is an absolute pain in the ass. But I will gladly trade my Zurgo the Bellstriker and a Searing Blood for a big ass body and life gain any day of the week. Another card that I got some skepticism for was [card]Break through the Line[/card]. After not really drawing this card except for the finals, I do not really have a huge opinion on it other than as a one-of, it is probably fine but needs more testing.

Here was the situation:

In the finals, I played against a really nice dude playing Abzan Aggro. I had a Break through the Lines on board for two turns or so. He was at five life and tapped out for [card]Wingmate Roc[/card]. I was at only one after chumping all of the Snuggasquad NA. In my hand I had a [card]Lightning Berserker[/card], and a Mountain. Commence my turn: I played the Mountain (now I have 6), dash Berserker, break her through the lines, and then I pump her four times for exacties.

I admit, when I was on the draw, I sided out Break against creature decks for [card]Magmatic Chasm[/card]. I feel like nothing else in my deck is that weird besides maybe the one-of [card]Roast[/card]. That was personal preference, and it actually over-performed in game ones getting rid of so many big ass bodies.

Let’s Talk About Sideboarding

Against Abzan Aggro/Mid, and G/R. Play: -1 Mardu Scout -2 Hordeling -4 Wild Slash; +2 Harness By Force +3 Roast +2 Magmatic Chasm Draw: -1 Mardu Scout -2 Hordeling -3 Wild Slash -1 Break Through The Lines; +2 Harness by Force +3 Roast +2 Magmatic Chasm

Against Control: Play: -2 Hordeling -1 Break Through The Lines -1 Roast -4 Searing Blood; +3 Eidolon of The Great Revel +2 Outpost Siege +3 Arc Lightning Draw: Same thing.

Against the mirror: Play: -1 Mardu Scout -2 Heelcutter -1 Roast -1 Break Through; +3 Arc Lightning +2 Eidolon Draw: -1 Mardu Scout -2 Heelcutter -1 Break Through; +3 Arc Lightning +1 Roast

G/W Devotion: Play: -1 Mardu Scout -2 Hordeling  -4 Wild Slash +1 Magmatic Chasm +3 Roast +3 Eidolon of the Great Revel. Draw: -1 Mardu Scout -2 Hordeling Outburst -1 Wild Slash -1 Break Through The Line +2 Magmatic Chasm +3 Roast

Matchups

Round One: Abzan Midrange. I won the die roll and start slamming down little dudes. Game one is done in three minutes. People next to us were still resolving mulligans. Game two, I saw his deck was a little weird so I sideboarded like I normally do for Abzan and kept a bad hand. Still made it work though, through a Sorin, and Doomwake Giant.

Round Two: This round I played against my friend Travis Cullum. He was playing the Chris VanMeter Red Green deck, and I am not going to lie when I tell you guys I was a little worried. After a close match, with me closing the game out sub optimally Harnessing By Force his Thunderbreak instead of Searing Blooding his morph, I was put into top deck range with me at 11 and him at 1. I learned from this mistake and carried on. Thankfully he did not top deck what he needed to close this game out.

Round Three: G/W Devotion. This guy was extremely nice, and although I would like to say it was close, it was not a fun game of magic because I did Mono Red shenanigans game one, and game two he chose to mulligan to probably the best three card hand I have ever seen. It just was not quite enough.

Round Four: Also a nice guy. He made an awesome play in game two where he used Setessan Tactic’s to fight his Hornet’s Nest with my board and my Magmatic Chasm I was holding back became awful. Mostly because it does not get me past those flyers. However, in game three I pulled it out. My opponent was at 9. I had a Lightning Strike in hand, a Stoke the Flames, and 3 creatures on board. One of which was Eidolon of the Great Revel. He had a revealed Mastery of the Unseen off of his Courser. I also do not think that he expected me to have double burn spell in my hand. As most red decks do not play the amount of burn that I play. He slams the Mastery hoping to turn his dudes into some life. I respond by dumping my hand. That was a close one. If I was in his position with mana dorks I would probably do the same.

Round Five: Mono White Hate Bears?! This deck was insane. Also, the woman piloting it was very nice. All I can say is, I see how it ended up at table one. This is a deck I would love to test at FNM. It had main deck Banishing Lights, Silk Wraps, Valorous Stances, God’s Willings, Seeker of the Way’s, and wait for it. FABLED HERO. This guy was absolutely insane. God’s willing this guy and you push through a ton of double strike damage. A lot of the time he got through because I had to deal with his one and two drops. (Especially Seeker of the Way). The card that almost sealed the close game three with her was Secure the Wastes. In a trading one for one matchup, this card for six mana for her straight up almost blew me out. I definitely cannot stop something even that wide, even with Arc Lightning. I won the game three by burning her one blocker out, and swinging for game. She was racing me, which I admire.

Round Six: There were three undefeated players. I was in second, hoping to double draw in. Lucky me, I got the pair down. I offered him the draw in the hopes that he would win the last round. No dice. Jeskai Dragons wanted a piece of me. I sat down, and due to easy to Searing Blood Seeker of the Way’s,Soulfire Grandmasters, and tapped lands. I clutch stole the win.

Round Seven: I drew into first seed for top 8.

Round One Top 8: Played against my friend Travis Cullum again. He beat out two people in tie breakers finishing 5-1-1. This was an extremely close game three where I had two draws to end the game or else I lost. He had Courser of Kruphix, and four life. So basically my only real out was one turn. I had one card I could draw. With four left in the deck, that is exactly what I did. I slammed Stoke The Flames and praised the prophecy for drawing my one out.

Round Two Top 4: I played against Ryan Hovis, and his Esper Control deck. His list seemed much better placed against Red than many of the Esper decks that I was testing with. Although, that was not quite enough and the Outpost Siege pulled me through.

Round Three Top 2: Played against a new buddy of mine named Rick. He was playing Abzan Aggro. As I mentioned earlier, he got me really close and slammed Wingmate Roc. Break Through The Line definitely won me this match.

Now, what would I change about my deck for next time? Although, I really like my deck list. I think the only significant changes I would make would be the inclusion of Circle of Flame in my sideboard.  I would take out a Magmatic Chasm for it. In the main deck, I would consider taking out a Hordeling Outburst for a fourth Dragon Fodder to get lower to the ground.

Play tight, and long live Atarka! See you in Cleveland!

Dr. Brewlove: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Real Decks

By Logan White

So this is what it’s like playing a real deck?  –Logan

Transforming one’s mindset can be difficult. I love making my own decks, and I’ve always had that shared dream of deck brewers: to see your own creations make their way to the top—to post a solid result in a major tournament with a deck of your own creation. I’ve also had the dream of many Magic players: to perform well enough in major events to become a professional player. I’ve learned over the course of my years playing Magic that while this is not mutually exclusive, it’s extremely difficult to accomplish both simultaneously. A few weekends ago, I accepted that I had to change; I decided that I was no longer content with being “just a brewer” and that I wanted to move up in the world of Magic.

I was no longer content with being a second-rate Magic player. The best I had ever done was a top 32 at a Diamond Event nearly three years ago, and I wasn’t getting anywhere. I was tired of losing, tired of dropping from grands prix in the fourth or fifth round after accruing early losses to top-tier decks. I knew I had to change; I had seen the writing on the wall for the longest time. Either I had to be content with being a deck creator and not getting anywhere, or I had to expand my mental horizons. I opted for the latter—I opted to change.

How So?

I knew I wanted to play a good deck for the TCGplayer Max Point Championship and I knew that I was only making so much progress with my brew at the time (GW Chord). This story starts a little over two weeks before the Max Point Championship, when I was still considering things. My Chord deck just kept losing matches I expected to win. It lacked the power of some of the best cards in the format because I didn’t want to play anything that could be remotely connected to a “net deck.” I refused to consider the options of looking at those decks. The pro tour had just concluded, and Abzan had come out ahead over the Jeskai deck. The decks looked sweet, I liked a lot of the different options that they included, but I still wasn’t planning on playing anything remotely like them. I was being stubborn.

I had been discussing with my friend and fellow Magic player, Jon Bohn, what I was planning on doing for the Max Point Championship, and I recall the following conversation:

Me: “Is it worth putting black in my GW Chord deck for Siege Rhino and an Abzan Charm or two, right?”

Jon: “… Just play Abzan without the clunky Chords”

Me: “But Chord is great?”

Jon: “No, it’s really not. Just play a real deck

Usually, I would have just ignored those words, as I had many a time before, but this time it just hit me. The reason I wasn’t actually living up to my potential as a Magic player: I wasn’t playing a real deck. I hadn’t wanted to relinquish my creative side as a player, and because of that, I had never played a “real deck.” If I wanted to actually win, I needed to make my deck be a deck archetype that was fully tuned. I only had a week and a half before I would be heading to Indiana for the tournament, and I had to not time to keep messing around with my Chord build. I needed to play Abzan. It was “the best” deck in the format, after all.

siegerhino

At this point, I started looking at the top eight Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir decks, considering their benefits and flaws, with a specific focus on the Abzan lists. I found numerous versions of the deck in the top eight, and even more in the top 32. After reviewing all of the possibilities, I decided that I liked Thiago Saporito’s deck list from the top, but I also liked different pieces that were present in Ari Lax’s first-place list. I took the time to compare the lists before committing to anything specific and noticed the key trend between all of the lists I had reviewed—the crux of the deck. All of the decks included at least 16 creatures, in the form of a playset of Caryatids, a playset of [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card], a playset of [card]Siege Rhino[/card], and a mix of [card]Elvish Mystic[/card]s and [card]Wingmate Roc[/card]s. The also included at least two Sorins, three [card]Abzan Charm[/card]s, three [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card]s, two Elspeths (in the full 75), and four [card]Thoughtseize[/card]s (in the full 75).

I decided that I could still use my creativity that I had developed as a deck brewer and tweak these deck lists to come up with my own winning combination of Abzan. For all intents and purposes, it was both a brew and a net deck. It was the perfect median for me. I had to test the deck style to find my proper configuration, so I turned to the only real resource I could trust to get some representation of the metagame: Magic Online.

That’s Some Serious Commitment Right There

I dropped the necessary cash, sold one of my two stockpiled VMA Lotuses, and got the deck I wanted to try together. I immediately entered an eight-man and won it. Surprised at how efficient the deck was, I tried for a repeat, but lost in my second match to Mono-Red Aggro. I booted up the next eight-man, promptly went up against Mono-Red, again and lost.

“Well, that was unpleasant. I hate that stupid deck,” I remember stating. I made some more tweaks and played another eight-man. I lost in the finals, but still netted some packs. I was actually enjoying myself playing Standard. It was a new concept for me, since I hadn’t enjoyed playing Standard during the entirety of Theros block.

For the next week and a half, I continued to grind eight-mans and even a Daily Event or two when my schedule synced up with them. I got more proficient with the deck, and began to continue to tweak it. I finally arrived at the following 75:

[Deck Title=Abzan by Logan White]
[Creatures]
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Rakshasa Deathdealer
4 Courser of Kruphix
4 Siege Rhino
3 Wingmate Roc
[/Creatures]
[Planeswalkers]
3 Sorin, Solemn Visitor
1 Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
[/Planeswalkers]
[Spells]
4 Abzan Charm
3 Hero’s Downfall
1 Drown in Sorrow
2 Thoughtseize
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Sandsteppe Citadel
3 Temple of Malady
2 Temple of Silence
1 Temple of Plenty
4 Llanowar Wastes
1 Caves of Koilos
3 Windswept Heath
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Forest
1 Plains
1 Swamp
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
1 Erase
2 Thoughtseize
3 Bile Blight
2 Drown in Sorrow
1 Whip of Erebos
2 End Hostilities
1 Liliana Vess
2 Duneblast
1 Garruk, Apex Predator
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

I sleeved it up and took it to the tournament. I was a mix of confidence and nerves, lost somewhere between anticipation and fear. It was going to be the first time I was playing a “real deck” in a major tournament. If it didn’t pan out, would I keep playing real decks? I had attained a round-one bye and took the time to find some breakfast and get myself mentally prepared for the upcoming tournament.  I knew I had prepared for this event, but I was still uncertain as to my chances. After clearing my head, I went and sat down for my first actual match. My opponent was on a black-white brew, a controlling build. I took me three games, but I was able to out pressure him, winning my first match.

I experienced a rush of euphoria as I saw my first opponent fall to the power of a Real Deck. Trying to remain calm, I mentally tasked myself for the third round, and went to go sit down. My opponent this time was on a red-green deck with multiple [card]Crater’s Claw[/card]s. After barely eking out a win in game one, game two went swiftly in my favor.

So this is what it’s like playing a real deck? I thought to myself after round 3. You actually just win matches with these things. Sometimes it’s difficult, but other times everything just falls into place.

I then proceeded to go 5-0 before I came up against my first loss: Mardu Midrange. I had not actually played against this style of deck before this match, so it was learning experience watching a single Rabblemaster take over the entire game unassisted. Quite a sad moment for me, as I went into game two, boarding against an aggressive deck only to see him flip the tables and be the controlling deck. Crap… this isn’t going to end well.

goblinrabblemaster

The rest of the day went average after that, with my day one record ending at 6-2-1. I looked at the chart, found myself hanging around thirtieth place, and sighed with relief. I had made my first day two at a major event. My mind was all jumbled. Should I have taken the last round draw? How would it affect me in day two?  It’s hard to say how things might have gone differently—I might not have had the exact matches I had on day two if I hadn’t accepted the draw.

Tell Us About Those Matches

Day two didn’t start well, but I still wasn’t completely discouraged. I started off by picking up two losses, one to a Temur deck and another to the mirror, before finally getting a win to break my losing streak against a Jeskai deck. Starting day two off with a 1-2 record was disappointing, but I knew I had still done the right thing by bringing the real deck to the tournament.

I decided that this was going to be the beginning of a new phase in my career as a Magic player. I decided that I would focus on winning, playing tight, and being the best player I could be. No longer would I be held back by wayward thoughts against people who net deck. I would change my mindset to allow for that kind of thing. I would not look down on them as uncreative people. Instead, I would see them as my peers, or my superiors, since they knew far before me, what needed to be done to be successful.

In the end, I’m very glad that I decided to do this. I’m glad I was willing to be take a chance playing a net deck or real deck or whatever you want to call it. It helped me post my first real results that got me somewhere. Even if that somewhere was only fiftieth place, it was still something.

Being open to ideas and change is important in both Magic and life in general. If we are not open to this change, then it is impossible for us to grow as people.

–Logan White (You can reach me at a[email protected]. Please feel free to check out my YouTube Account, Atrum Gaming, for my MTG Videos. I usually produce content twice weekly.)

The Hypnotic Specter That Saved My Life

By Christopher B.

“It’s cancer in an advanced stage,” the doctor told me on a Friday afternoon in a hospital far away from home. “Be glad that we found it now—in a few weeks it might have been too late. On Monday morning, we will start with the chemotherapy. Please sign these papers…”

BAM, that hit hard.

Actually, 2010 should have been my year. I was finally living in a new apartment—even the garden was set out. I had just started my dream job and worked for the biggest employer in my hometown. In addition to my job, I had been attending university on Saturdays for the last few years and had just finished my studies. But in a matter of seconds, I fell into a deep black hole.

Today, three years after my treatment is over, I want to share my personal Magic: The Gathering story with you.

Flashback

I started playing Magic in 1995 at the age of 11. My first deck was a Fourth Edition Starter Set. The deck itself was pretty annoying and had bad cards in it, so I was looking forward to improving it. Back in the days without internet or earning money from a job, the only chance to get new cards was to trade with friends at school or check the crapbox at my LGS, where people threw in all the cards they didn’t need.

4theditionstarter

Buying booster packs was really expensive as a kid, but sometimes my friends and I would all throw in on a booster pack to split. We would roll a die to determine who got to choose a card first, then went around in a circle. I always chose the red cards, especially goblins. So it is no wonder that my first self-designed deck was a mono-red goblins list with some [card]Goblin Grenade[/card]s, [card]Lightning Bolt[/card]s, [card]Incinerate[/card]s, and [card]Blood Lust[/card]s.

Mostly, we played before and in between classes at school, or at home in the attic of my parent’s gardenhouse. Even today, you can see the name of every child that went into that attic, written down on the wooden beam. Up there, we sat cross-legged on the ground and played the game. We didn’t care much about the rules. We just played.

Sometimes we had problems with English cards (I’m German). On the one hand, our English skills improved by playing Magic (and also by playing computer games in English in general). On the other hand, there was always something we didn’t understand. I don’t know why, but our LGS didn’t have many German cards. So for example, among my group of friends, [card]Force of Will[/card] was a bad card. After all, it was a counterspell for five mana and you had to pay one life in addition—the problem was that we didn’t knew the word “instead.” The more words were written on a card, the more mistakes we could make. Maybe that’s one reason I liked goblins.

There was always one card that I wanted to have and never got: [card]Hypnotic Specter[/card]. Though I played mostly red, [card]Hypnotic Specter[/card] caught my attention at school. There was this one guy with a mono-black list I just couldn’t win against. I thought that deck, especially that particular card, was so unfair. For me, it was unreal.

hypnoticspecter

Coming back to the bad card availability in the old days: it was hard to get playable rares because everyone played them in their own decks. I can’t remember someone having more than two rares of the same card in one deck. So it was impossible for me to trade for a [card]Hypnotic Specter[/card].

So we played against each other with our bad decks and only went to the LGS to trade or buy new cards. With Urza’s Legacy in 1999, my interest in Magic drifted away. One reason was that I didn’t liked artifact cards and the Urza’s block was really artifact-heavy. Also, foil cards were introduced. For me, this gave a kind of childish touch to the game and I was quickly becoming a teenager. While the people at the LGS and some friends loved the new set, I lost my interest in Magic.

Maybe if I had seen [card]Unearth[/card] from Urza’s Legacy I would have stayed in the game, especially if I could have picked up a [card]Hypnotic Specter[/card] to combo with it. But besides other card and board games, there were different things that caught my interest at the age of 15—for example, my first girlfriend. After six months of not playing, I sold my shoebox of cards for very little money to some guy and quit Magic after playing it for four years.

urzaslegacybooster

Flashforward

But after my diagnosis, I had much more time to myself. The treatments always were on the first, third, and seventh days of a cycle, followed by four days rest. And again. And again. And again… On the treatment days, I felt so bad that I can’t find words to describe it. I lost much weight, all my hair fell out, and my immune system was actually not existent anymore—not to mention my self-esteem. My parents had to visit me with masks, because even a little infection could have been life-threatening for me. I really had to take care what I was about to eat, and how it was prepared. I wasn’t allowed to go into the sun.

As you can imagine, with all these things, I was really alone. So I had to find something to get the time to pass by. But then there were further problems: the sound of the TV, even on quietly, was breaking my head. Because of the medicine, I didn’t have a feeling of satiety and my sleeping rhythm changed. I slept during the day and had my waking hours during the late evening.

bloodmoon

Now that everything is over, I can’t really tell you where I got my power from to get all through this. I learned to be patient. I always knew that I would be healthy again. I never had a doubt. But I didn’t knew when, nor if I would suffer permanent damage. Of course, there were days where I was desperate and totally depressed—isolated from the world, sick to death, and weak. Even my best girl friend and my best friend turned their backs on me after 14 and eight years respectively. They just couldn’t handle the situation. Until today, I never hear anything from them, although they do both know that I survived. The only backing I had were my parents, my doctor and… Magic: The Gathering.

It all began with a [card]Hypnotic Specter[/card]. After enduring many sessions of chemotherapy, I wanted to do something good for myself. Something that I would be happy about. Something to enjoy and that would be personally meaningful. One thing I did was buy a Super Nintendo with Zelda, Mario Kart, and so on. On the internet, I was searching for that one Magic card—the one I couldn’t get when I was a kid. I ordered a [card]Hypnotic Specter[/card] and couldn’t stop smiling that day. Then I saw that Magic was still alive and so many new cards had been printed since I quit the game. And that changed everything.

So after all these years, Magic was back in my life. Imagine you quit the game in 1999 and came back in 2010. Can you even comprehend how many new cards were printed since then? I had magical Christmas land 24/7. Every day, I explored new cards that blew my mind.

How had the game changed? Black has a counterspell? What are planeswalkers? Hey this new card frame is…. pretty ugly. But hey, this cool card is only available in the new card frame, so let’s buy it. I bought every card that I was excited about. It was great to be able to buy inexpensive cards that were too pricey or hard to come by in the ’90s.

serraangel

 

Almost every day in the first weeks after buying my Specter, I bought new cards. I was happy to have a growing collection, thinking that my cards were so powerful. It was nice to see how the game had developed in all these years. But my gaming skills were 11 years old—exactly the age I started playing Magic for the first time. So I watched games on the internet and started to learn to play again. With every new card I was excited about, I was brewing new decks. Hours… Nights… Days…

I would stay awake for long periods thinking of new brews I could build. Magic was a way to busy myself and to push all the bad things in my head away. Plus, I really had concentration problems at the time. I was very forgetful. Even if my only plan for the day was to take my medicine, I forgot it sometimes. That’s a side effect of the chemo. But with all the reading about Magic and the brewing in my head, I trained myself to be better able to concentrate.

concentrategerman

When I finished my chemo and radiation, I went to rehab. After rehab, I finally wanted to play with my new cards. Over at the Mothership, I searched for where to play Magic in my hometown. The first deck I took to my LGS was a UB discard deck playing four [card]Hypnotic Specter[/card]s, four [card]Shadowage Infiltrator[/card]s, four [card]Hymn to Tourach[/card]s, four [card]Duress[/card]es, and so on.

Down in the cellar of the store, I finally had my first match. One random guy, now a friend of mine, immediately wanted to play against me. He noticed that I was kind of new to the game and helped me playing with game phases and steps for the first time.

“Why don’t you play some [card]Nyxathid[/card]s?” he asked. Then to the group: “Hey, does somebody have [card]Nyxathid[/card]s?”

“Yes, I have one. Here, you can keep it,” said a nice guy.

Wow, that was even faster then buying a card on the internet, I thought. 

It felt like the old times—it was just on another level. It wasn’t so easy to get fitting cards for your deck so quickly back in the ’90s. The next week, Scars of Mirrodin was spoiled. When Evan Erwin’s Magic Show #205 showed my future Standard Goblin deck, I decided to get into competitive Magic for the first time. I even got some deck tips from Patrick Chapin. He checked my decklist on Facebook and suggested adding some [card]Teetering Peak[/card]s.

In the next weeks, I attended my first FNM, and even though I didn’t made first place, I was happy for every match I was playing. Now that I was back on the Goblins deck from my childhood, I traded my draft cards into Legacy-playable goblins like [card]Goblin Lackey[/card] and [card]Goblin Ringleader[/card], intending to play Legacy someday.

goblinguide

I had some long-term goals in mind after my recovery: to travel to Mexico as often as possible, to learn Spanish and Salsa, to play the guitar, and to attend a Grand Prix.

As of today, I have attended GP Amsterdam in 2011, GP Strasbourg in 2013, and GP Paris in 2014. Of course, all three were Legacy GPs, and I brought with me my little red guys. I know that I’m not the best player and sometimes make disastrous mistakes, because now and then I still have those concentration problems. But for me, it’s all about having a good time.

I remember my third round at my first GP. There was this old man playing against me with a big hat on. On the front side of his hat there was a goblin token. I looked at it while shuffling for the first game and he said “spoiler alert” and made a crazy face. The whole table was laughing.

It’s for these moments that I go to GPs. You get to travel, speak other languages, and meet people from all over the world. I spoke to Rich Hagon, Nathan Holt, and Gerry Thompson. I watched Tomoharu Saito, Joel Larrsson, Jacob Wilson, Raphael Levy, Thomas Enevoldsen, and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa play—guys I normally watch playing on the screen at home. Looked through binders for hours to finally find a new-old card for my collection. At GP Paris, I didn’t want to play in day two and instead went to the opening of the Star Wars Museum. For me, it’s not about winning. It’s just spending some time with a thing that you love and bringing back good memories.

stichintime

For me, Magic is more than just a game. With this article I want to give the game something back to the game that has given so much to me. Thank you all for making this game what it is. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation to where I found myself, this article is for you. Besides your close friends and family, find something that you can hold onto—something that was there all the time but that maybe you forgot about. Something out there can be your own personal [card]Hypnotic Specter[/card].

Cube Drafting Storm — by Rowan Sheehan

Welcome to my Cube article! On a weekly basis, some people and I get together to shuffle up and play our paper version of the MTGO Holiday Cube, one of the most fun draft formats that there is. It follows normal draft style, but plays with high-powered cards, including [card]Black Lotus[/card]! There’s only about four or five changes from the MTGO list, none of which are notable. Everybody arranges themselves, we count out packs, and start playing!

[Deck title=p1p1]
Regrowth
Gruul Turf
Knight of the Reliquary
Vedalken Shackles
Devil’s Play
Garruk, Primal Hunter
Pernicious Deed
Venser, the Sojourner
Garruk Relentless
Phyrexian Arena
Mana Drain
Mirror Entity
Abrupt Decay
Ancient Grudge
Necromancy
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Mana Drain[/card]

P1P1s are difficult to really focus around, as picks are nearly exclusively up to personal taste. In general, the only snap-picks in a P1P1 of Holiday Cube would be [card]Sol Ring[/card], [card]Black Lotus[/card], Moxen, [card]Time Walk[/card], or [card]Ancestral Recall[/card]. I picked Mana Drain because it’s a pillar of Vintage for a reason, but it took awhile to decide.

[Deck title=p2p2]
All is Dust
Dark Confidant
Animate Dead
Phyrexian Obliterator
Demonic Tutor
Lotus Bloom
Nantuko Vigilante
Corpse Dance
Magus of the Moon
Wrath of God
Timetwister
Bloodgift Demon
Looter il-Kor
Golgari Rot Farm
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Demonic Tutor[/card]

Oh man, black is looking pretty solid. I could force mono-black and take the Obliterator, or go tempo with [card]Dark Confidant[/card]. [card]Timetwister[/card] is also vital for ramp or storm. However, I strongly value tutors, as they are as good as the best card in your deck, and [card]Demonic Tutor[/card] is pretty undeniably the best tutor.

[deck title=p1p3]
Vengevine
Oracle of Mul Daya
Obstinate Baloth
Searing Blaze
Dungeon Geists
Volrath’s Stronghold
Black Knight
Sacred Foundry
Agony Warp
Into the Roil
Blade Splicer
Miscalculation
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Oracle of Mul Daya[/card]

I could snag Miscalculation and go hard into UB Control. Given that Holiday Cube is a bomb-oriented format, I think it’s important to stay open in pack one, so I went for [card]Oracle of Mul Daya[/card]. Currently I’m looking at a UG rampy deck, so I hope that [card]Timetwister[/card] last pack wheels. Ravnica bounce lands interact well with Oracle, because you often run out of lands to play, but with karoo lands, you can play the lands from your hand more often. I’ve already seen two of them that will likely come back around.

[deck title=p1p4]
Wheel of Fortune
Land Tax
Fyndhorn Elves
Oblivion Ring
Gideon’s Lawkeeper
Reanimate
Time Spiral
Lodestone Golem
Unburial Rights
Restock
Sower of Temptations
Null Rod
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Wheel of Fortune[/card]

Land Tax and Oracle of Mul Daya are a non-bo, so no sense going for that. I’m feeling one of the two wheels right now and in retrospect I probably should have picked Time Spiral. However, I go for the Wheel of Fortune because it requires a lower storm count. The fact that it’s single red means that it’s fairly splashable and Time Spiral would probably dedicate me to going blue.

[deck title=p1p5]
Nether Void
Baneslayer Angel
Reveillark
Graveborn Muse
Firemane Angel
Bloodghast
Mizzium MOrtars
Gatekeeper
Armageddon
Wake Thrasher
Vesuvan Shapeshifter
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Wake Thrasher[/card]

I have a Wheel and a Tutor in the first four picks, so there’s a good chance I’m going to be playing combo. As such, I pick Wake Thrasher, as it combos with [card]Basalt Monolith[/card] in the cube to give an infinitely powerful dude. [card]Armageddon[/card] is powerful in the early picks, but is a non-bo with a ramp/combo strategy that I seem to be setting up. [card]Nether Void[/card] isn’t bad, but I don’t enjoy playing a stax deck until I’ve snagged a [card]Crucible of Worlds[/card].

[deck title=p1p6]
Polukranos, World Eater
Go for the Throat
Life from the Loam
Fauna Shaman
Frantic Search
Scavenging Ooze
Shriekmaw
Cryptic Command
Hellrider
Ancient Tomb
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Frantic Search[/card]

Cryptic Command is far too color intense for an already four-color deck. I’m not on the red aggro train, otherwise Hellrider is a good pick. The Fauna Shaman is rather pretty, especially with the consistent reanimator support I see in the previous packs. I have the Tutor and Wheel to play reanimator, but the Frantic Search also works for U/B reanimator and works well with Oracle, bounce lands, and wheels. I pick up Frantic Search because it allows me to go for reanimator, storm, or ramp.

[deck title=p1p7]
Frost TItan
Awakening Zone
Mind Stone
Falkenrath Aristocrat
Greater Gargadon
Slaughter Pact
Hypnotic Specter
Primal Command
Plow Under
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Mind Stone[/card]

I started playing cube consistently with a good unpowered cube, which proved the power of Mind Stone. It’s not an exciting pick, but it allows for ramp, is recurrable, and is a card draw later.

[deck title=p1p8]
Grand Arbiter Augustin IV
Dismember
Boon Satyr
Nekrataal
Prophetic Bolt
Torch Fiend
Honor of the Pure
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Prophetic Bolt[/card]

I’m not sure what to make of this pack. The three notables are Grand Arbiter to make cheaper spells, Dismember for an easy kill spell regardless of my mana colors, and Prophetic Bolt for damage and card draw. None of the three are too bad, but I picked Prophetic Bolt because I wanted to get some more testing in with that card.

[deck title=p1p9]
Lifebane Zombie
Thelonite Hermit
Flickerwisp
Call of the Herd
Stormblood Berserker
Arc Trail
Shivan Reef
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Shivan Reef[/card]

There isn’t much calling in this pack, so I pick up Shivan Reef as land drafting is vital.

[deck title=p1p10]
Gruul Turf
Mirror Entity
Pernicious Deed
Venser, the Sojourner
Knight of the Reliquary
Ancient Grudge
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Gruul Turf[/card]

Sweet, got that bounce land action going on. This is also vital because this is the first pack that I can read signals on. Both Garruks are gone, as are most green cards. I make a mental note that I’ll probably be moving out of green-based ramp. Also the Necromancy is gone and if I don’t see the reanimator cards in the next pack then I’ll probably move out of reanimator.

[deck title=p1p11]
All is Dust
Nantuko Vigilante
Corpse Dance
Wrath of God
Golgari Rot Farm
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Golgari Rot Farm[/card]

Oh, the Animate Dead is gone. I’m going to stay away from reanimator and just do an easy pick on the bounce land and dedicate myself further to this Oracle / Frantic Search strategy, wherever it leads me.

[deck title=p1p12]
Qasali Pridemeage
Vengevine
Blade Splicer
Agony Warp
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Agony Warp[/card]

None of the creatures seem to represent anything I want, so I pick up an Agony Warp for sideboard tech against creature decks.

[deck title=p1p13]
Gideon’s Lawkeeper
Oblivion Ring
Land Tax
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Land Tax[/card]

White, white everywhere! I pick up Land Tax as a method of early deck thinning and the ability to support my already insane mana base. Land Tax also works very well with karoos, but doesn’t work too well with Oracle.

[deck title=p1p14]
Reveillark
Vesuvan Shapeshifter
[/deck]

Don’t want either, take the Reveillark because somebody else might want it.

p1p15: Life from the Loam

Life from the Loam isn’t too bad of a last pick! My karoos are going to be prime targets for land destruction, so I am going to need a reliable way to get them back to my hand. However, the dredge is problematic because I haven’t seen any recursion yet or way to replay my graveyard, so I’ll try to value that higher in later picks.

[deck title=p2p1]
Sun Titan
Birds of Paradise
Stunted Growth
Metalworker
Vindicate
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Living Death
Spikeshot Elder
Mind’s Desire
Jushi Apprentice
Aetherling
Dreg Mangler
WickerboughElder
Sphinx’s Revelation
Chandra, Pyromaster
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Mind’s Desire[/card]

Oh boy, this pack is fun. There’s a lot of valuable things here, notably Sun Titan, Metalworker, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and Mind’s Desire. I’ve picked exactly one artifact so far, so I don’t pick up the Metalworker. I have the Mana Drain which complements Jace, the Mind Sculptor very well, but Minds Desire is one of the most bonkers storm cards ever in cube (and too bonkers for Legacy). I pick Mind’s Desire because I love playing storm and I think that it will contribute to an interesting article. Around now I decide that I will be forcing storm.

[deck title=p2p2]
Voice of Resurgence
Damnation
Golgari Signet
Path to Exile
Whipcorder
Nezumi Graverobber
Silverblade Paladin
Overgrown Tomb
Fireblast
Savannah Lions
Mystic Snake
Huntmaster of the Fells
Gaea’s Cradle
Consuming Vapors
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Overgrown Tomb[/card]

Lands are always a wonderful pick. I think in hindsight, I should have grabbed the Damnation because it’s difficult for me to deal with problematic creatures. Also, the Signet is good for fixing and basically costs one mana to create one storm count (after playing and tapping it).

[deck title=p2p3]
Erebos, God of the Dead
Wolfir SIlverheart
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
Gilded Lotus
Bonfire of the Damned
Underground River
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Vendilion Clique
Selesnya Sanctuary
Dust Bowl
Frenzied Goblin
Hallowed Fountain
Daze
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Lion’s Eye Diamond[/card]

LED is one of the classic storm cards, I have to go for it. I’ll be happy on the wheel to get any dual lands or Erebos, though.

[deck title=p2p4]
Mox Ruby
Tendrils of Agony
Hymn to Tourach
Maelstorm Pulse
Rakdos Cackler
Jackal Pup
Chandra’s Phoenix
Counterspell
Basalt Monolith
Leonin Relic-Warder
Spectral Possession
Impulse
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Mox Ruby[/card]

Oh boy! This pack is absolutely beautiful. Mox Ruby, Tendrils, and Basalt Monolith stand out. The first is a piece of power, and the second and third are win conditions (remember that I mentioned the infinite combo with Wake Thrasher and Basalt Monolith?). I’m okay with letting the Basalt Monolith go—the people I’m playing with are experienced enough to know the combo so I won’t get as many free wins. Tendrils is my least favorite storm win-con because it’s the only one that requires you to hit the full count to win. [card]Brain Freeze[/card] can be fired off early and cheaply and they will naturally continue to draw and after a Wheel or two they will meet their death. A small army of goblins is never not scary. However, a player can sit at two life comfortably for the rest of the game. Therefore, I pick the piece of power (which is still a fantastic pick!)

[deck title=p2p5]
Noble Hierarch
Stomping Grounds
Ravages of War
Koth of the Hammer
Isamaru, Hound of Konda
Zealous Conscripts
Old Man of the Sea
Llanowar Elves
Electrolyze
Mogg War Marshal
Faith’s Fetters
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Electrolyze[/card]

Electrolyze is important for taking down the early aggro decks and providing card draw. Ravages of War is also in this pack: the mono-white aggro or stax player will be very pleased by the second mass-LD card.

[deck title=p2p6]
Ultimate Price
Terastadon
Putrid Imp
Everflowing Chalice
Nezumi Shortfang
Rout
Masticore
Hellspark Elemental
Ohran Viper
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Everflowing Chalice[/card]

Yesss, I love Everflowing Chalice in a storm deck. It can be used as ramp early and mid-game, while being able to be played for free to get one storm count when you’re going off.

[deck title=p2p7]
Smokestack
Lightning Helix
Paladin en-Vec
Firedrinker Satyr
Necropotence
Price of Progress
Flametongue Kavu
Archangel of Thune
Temple Garden
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Necropotence[/card]

Necropotence is another iconic storm card beside LED. However, my mana base currently obviously doesn’t support it. I pick it up in hopes that I’ll get a Dark Ritual later.

[deck title=p2p8]
Yavimaya Coast
Bonesplitter
Diregraf Ghoul
Teetering Peaks
Breeding Pool
Elite Vanguard
Shadowmage Infiltrator
Wall of Omens
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Breeding Pool[/card]

I think about snagging the Wall of Omens because at the least it cantrips, but fixing is over cantrips, even in storm.

[deck title=p2p9]
Kird Ape
Chandra, the Firebrand
Tangle Wire
Boggart Ram-Gang
Mishra’s Factory
Pristine Talisman
Tin-Street hooligan
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Chandra, the Firebrand[/card]

If I got a Crucible in pack one, I would be going for that stax action so much. However, Chandra can copy instants and sorceries and is an alternate win-con, so she goes in!

[deck title=p2p10]
Jushi Apprentice
Spikeshot Elder
Sphinx’s Revelation
Wickerbough Elder
Vindicate
Stunted Growth
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card]

Sphinx’s Revelation is good for card draw and works well with a land-based storm strategy. I really love this card in storm when you start getting the land-doubles, notably Mirari’s Wake and Heartbeat of Spring.

[deck title=p2p11]
Voice of Resurgence
Path to Exile
Huntmasterof the Fells
Whipcorder
Nezumi Graverobber
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Path to Exile[/card]

I pick up Path to Exile because it’s a cheap spell that interacts with my opponents’ problematic creatures and gives storm count. I can also path my own creatures after they’ve outlived their usefulness to get a much-needed land.

[deck title=p2p12]
Hallowed Fountain
Frenzied Goblin
Daze
Underground River
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Hallowed Fountain[/card]

Laaaands! I pick Hallowed Fountain because it’s fetchable and pain lands aren’t as good in Cube Storm, because you so often tap and untap your lands.

[deck title=p2p13]
Impulse
Leonin Relic-Warder
Jackal Pup
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Impulse[/card]

An almost last-picked cantrip? Yes, please!

[deck title=p2p14]
Ravages of War
Isamaru, Hound of Konda
[/deck]

Hate draft the Ravages.

p2p15: Savannah Lions

White weenies is clearly reading open, as I’ve now seen good low-drop white creatures at the end of both packs one and two.

[deck title=p3p1]
Char
Baleful Strix
Avacyn’s Pilgrim
Channel
Gifts Ungiven
Brimstone Volley
Karplusan Forest
Genesis Wave
Orzhov Signet
Taurean Mauler
Glen Elendra Archmage
Xenagos, the Reveler
Taiga
Angel of Serenity
Firebolt
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Channel[/card]

Oh, my! I have to pick the Channel—I already have a Sphinx’s Revelation. The double green is a bit restrictive, but I should be able to get there. I hope to get some of those lands on the wheel or the Signet. I thought about Gifts Ungiven, but I don’t have any recursion so it loses its effectiveness.

[deck title=p3p2]
Upheaval
Snapcaster Mage
Venser, Shaper Servant
Thornscape Battlemage
Braids, Cabal Minion
Sensei’s DIvining Top
Bitterblossom
Beast Within
Chrome Mox
Palinchron
Razormane Masticore
Toxic Deluge
Goblin Guide
Misty Rainforest
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Upheaval[/card]

P3P1 Channel into a P3P2 Upheaval makes me so happy. Although it’s not a hard-combo such as Wake Thrasher / Basalt Monolith, these two cards work very well together. I’ll be happy with a lot of these things wheeling, such as Snappy or Misty or SDT.

[deck title=p3p3]
Windswept Heath
Balance
Indrik Stomper
Dreadbore
Garruk Wildspeaker
Rude Awakening
Sword of Fire and Ice
Underground Sea
Epochrasite
Pentad Prism
Spear of Heliod
Riftwing Cloudskate
Cloudgoat Ranger
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Windswept Heath[/card]

The Windswept Heath is very appealing because it fetches three dual lands I currently have. Rude Awakening is obviously indispensable, but I can easily expect that to wheel. It’s not  commonly highly picked, especially in my meta.

[deck title=p3p4]
Edric, Spymaster of Trest
Exalted Angel
Ranger of Eos
Izzet Charm
Heartbeat of Spring
Gideon Jura
Molten-Tail Masticore
Recurring Nightmare
Emeria Angel
Rakdos Carnarium
Pyroclasm
Thoughtseize
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Heartbeat of Spring[/card]

I went for the Thoughtseize and did a double-take—there’s Heartbeat of Spring in this pack. There was a Palinchron two packs ago. I could get infinite mana and storm count that way. Also Heartbeat of Spring works wonderfully with Sphinx’s Revelation. I pick it. I have a few comments on the card in Cube: don’t forget it’s two-sided. There have been so many situations where I drop it on turn three and my opponent untaps then quickly wins on turn four through an insane play. Due to that, I strongly advise that you only drop Heartbeat of Spring on the same turn that you are planning to go off, while they are tapped out (if they are playing permission).

[deck title=p3p5]
Dimir Aqueduct
Empty the Warrens
Orcish Lumberjack
Serendib Efreet
Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
Polluted Delta
Mana Leak
Ajani, Caller of the Pride
Bribery
Hero’s Downfall
Goblin Welder
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Empty the Warrens[/card]

I let out a sigh and snap-pick Empty the Warrens. It’s my second card with “storm” printed on it, and the first one that will kill an opponent. This is the exact card I wanted and needed.

[deck title=p3p6]
Orzhov Basilica
Trygon Predator
Thalia
Thragtusk
Treetop Village
Porcelain Legionnaire
Karakas
Wasteland
Windbrisk Heights
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Orzhov Basilica[/card]

I’m going full in on the bounce lands here. I could have hate-drafted the Thalia or the Wasteland, but either is an acceptable route.

[deck title=p3p7]
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Gruul Signet
Ember Hauler
Sarcomancy
Wrath of God
Guul-Draz Assassin
Smash to Smithereens
Soldier of Warfare
Mirari’s Wake
[/deck]

I go for Mirari’s Wake which will serve as another mana-doubler. It’s funny that I get both doublers that are in the cube and within four picks. I quickly think about picking the Gruul Signet, but I think mana doublers with an already picked Sphinx’s Revelation, Frantic Search, and bounce lands is too strong.

[deck title=p3p8]
Wall of Blossoms
Mana Tithe
Savannah
Precursor Golem
Meloku, the Clouded Mirror
Ancestral Vision
Goblin Ruinblaster
Master of the Wild Hunt
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Ancestral Vision[/card]

I think that I’m doing pretty good on the fixing so I don’t take the Savannah and instead focus on almost-free card draw. It’s also interesting to note that Ancestral is basically only good in your opening hand, moreso with storm. Suspending a card doesn’t contribute to storm count, but when it pops, you do get spell for your count. I often suspend this on turn one and plan to go off on turn five when I get a free storm count and three free cards.

[deck title=p3p9]
Soltari Champion
Avalanche Riders
Unexpectedly Absent
Simic Sky-Swallower
Oona’s Prowler
Skinrender
Stormbreath Dragon
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Unexpectedly Absent[/card]

I frequently play Legacy Storm, where the majority of hate that you will interact with will be through counterspells. In Cube, people don’t play Force of Will or Daze unless they’re a dedicated control/tempo deck, as opposed to 60-percent of top Legacy decks running Force of Will. Therefore, most of the hate on storm in Cube is going to be through permanents. Unexpectedly Absent does well against that. However, it’s bad with our five colors so it will probably go straight to the sideboard.

[deck title=p3p10]
Avacyn’s Pilgrim
Karplusan Forest
Orzhov Signet
Taurean Mauler
Brimstone Volley
Char
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Karplusan Forest[/card]

Lands are always good. I pick up the land, although the signet would have also been a good pick.

[deck title=p3p11]
Toxic Deluge
Goblin Guide
Thornscape Battlemage
Beast Within
Razormane Masticore
[/deck]

Toxic Deluge is important to allow me to interact with fast creature decks, which is even more important because the mana elves have been picked up very quickly from this pool. Palinchron does not wheel.

[deck title=p3p12]
Indrik Stomphowler
Balance
Rude Awakening
Cloudgoat Ranger
[/deck]

Wow, that’s a late Balance. However, I hoped that Rude Awakening would wheel and it did (and it’s now better for my deck than the first time around!)

[deck title=p3p13]
Exalted Angel
Ranger of Eos
Emmara Angel
[/deck]

Pick: [card]Exalted Angel[/card]

SB tech against burn.

I didn’t document p3p14 or p3p15, but in one of these packs I picked up a [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card].

[Deck title=Cube Storm]
[Creatures]
Solemn Simulcrum
Oracle of Mul Daya
[/creatures]
[Disruption]
Path to Exile
Toxic Deluge
Electrolyze
Chandra, the Firebrand
[/Disruption]
[Filtering/Draw]
Ancestral Vision
Demonic Tutor
Impulse
Frantic Search
Wheel of Fortune
Sphinx’s Revelation
[/Filtering/Draw]
[Win Conditions]
Empty the Warrens
Mind’s Desire
Upheaval
Rude Awakening
[/win conditions]
[Fast/Extra Mana]
Mox Ruby
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Everflowing Chalice
Mind Stone
Channel
Heartbeat of Spring
Mirari’s Wake
[/fast/extra mana]
[Lands]
Overgrown Tomb
Golgari Rot Farm
Dimir Aqueduct
Orzhov Basilica
Karplusan Forest
Breeding Pool
Gruul Turf
Shivan Reef
Hallowed Fountain
Windswept Heath
2 Island
3 Forest
Swamp
Plains
[/lands]
[Sideboard]
Mana Drain
Wake Thrasher
Prophetic Bolt
Agony Warp
Land Tax
Reveillark
Life from the Loam
Necropotence
Ravages of War
Unexpectedly Absent
Exalted Angel
[/sideboard]
[/deck]

I hemmed and hawed a bit about the Mana Drain being in the main deck or sideboard, but decided to put in a Path to Exile over it. With five colors, it’s nearly impossible to hit the double blue on a regular basis, even if it allows me to storm off early.

Prophetic Bolt is another good card for a combo/storm deck, but my curve was already fairly high and I wanted to decrease it. I would side this in against midrange decks. It also becomes marginally better when you’re playing Tendrils of Agony because it can decrease the amount of copies needed.

Exalted Angel will come in versus burn and Ravages of War will come in against permanent hate.

Round One

Due to an odd number of players, I got a bye! How unfortunate. I do some goldfishing and watch some matches. I notice that there’s another storm player in our pod of nine, which was not expected. However, in hindsight, I should have realized the Tendrils and [card]Time Spiral[/card] didn’t wheel. He’s playing with more artifacts, notably the Signets that I passed, while I’m playing with land ramp, so we didn’t cut each other too hard on the fillers cards. However, he picked up some of the important cards I could have used, such as [card]Brain Freeze[/card].

Round Two

In game one, I play against a guy named Ian, who’s a nice fellow. He’s playing mono-black, which is a matchup that I’d prefer to not see. He sets up a commanding board state and hits me down to 10 life, keeping cards out of my hand with [card]Nezumi Shortfang[/card]. I topdeck an [card]Upheaval[/card] and float enough mana to play it and replay [card]Oracle of Mul Daya[/card]. We restart the game, but with me being able to play two lands per turn (including bounce lands, meaning I didn’t have to discard after the Upheaval due to my hand size) is too strong. I fire off a cantrip, an LED, Wheel (crack LED with Wheel on the stack), Chalice for 0, then make 10 goblins. Next turn I untap and entwine [card]Rude Awakening[/card] for lethal.

Sideboarding:
-1 Heartbeat of Spring
-1 Solemn Simulacrum
+1 Mana Drain
+1 Land Tax

I side out Heartbeat of Spring because I check his graveyard after the Wheel and notice that he has a [card]Griselbrand[/card]. Well, let’s try to make sure that he doesn’t get to that mana. Solemn is just too slow and most of his creatures have evasion. I put in the [card]Mana Drain[/card] because he played a lot of high curve-toppers (like Griselbrand!), so I’ll have time to hit the double blue and be able to counter. I put in [card]Land Tax[/card] because I know he has random discard, so I want to try to improve my ratios and thin my deck. Also, I’ll be on the draw, so I’ll probably always be one land behind. Land Tax does help make topdecks better, which is great against black!

In game two, he plays a turn-two [card]Hymn to Tourach[/card] into a turn-three [card]Hypnotic Specter[/card]. Even though I’m improving my odds with Land Tax, all his hits take out important things. Over a few turns, he hits the [card]Upheaval[/card], [card]Empty the Warrens[/card], and [card]Rude Awakening[/card]. I realize that he’s hit all my win-cons, so I Revelation out my deck for value and we go to game three.

Game three is fantastic. He pressures hard with creatures and I have to [card]Toxic Deluge[/card] and [card]Path to Exile[/card] to stay alive. He untaps and drops a Griselbrand. Oh my. I do some quick math and realize that because he has 10 life, I can kill him in two turns and be fine. I’m at 12 life and he’s at 10, with a [card]Griselbrand[/card], [card]Guul Draz Assassin[/card], and [card]Hypnotic Specter[/card]. If I swing out with 15 tokens and keep one back as a blocker, then I’ll be fine. He blocks and goes to four life, then untaps and swings. I block his Guul Draz Assassin, confident that I did my math right. He ninjitsu’s in an [card]Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni[/card] on the Hypnotic Specter. Ouch. Exactly lethal. But it was a good, close game.

Round Three

In game one, I learn I am facing David, who is playing GB Rock. Nooooo, another black discard deck. That’s alright—David is a wonderful opponent and it’s always a pleasure to play him. In game one he plays a turn-three [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] followed up with some solid creatures. I [card]Toxic Deluge[/card] away the creatures and play a [card]Chandra, the Firebrand[/card] to keep keeping Liliana one away from her ultimate. The repeated discard never allows me to stabilize. He gets down a [card]Thrun, the Lats Troll[/card], kills Chandra, and ultimates Liliana. I end up with three lands, one of which he continuously taps down with [card]Rishadan Port[/card]. I scoop.

Sideboarding:
-1 Solemn Simulacrum
+1 Land Tax

I bring in [card]Land Tax[/card] to combat that pesky Liliana and side out sad robot again. I feel like he’s often not making the cut in this deck.

Game two is a hideous beating. He lands a turn-three Liliana followed by a turn-four [card]Dust Bowl[/card], which destroys my double karoo land draw. If I had seen Dust Bowl, I would have sided in [card]Life from the Loam[/card]. I hang on, but never get anywhere and scoop to stop the abuse. Not a good start to this draft!

Round Four

Cameron, playing Counter-Burn, is another nice regular that I often play with. In game one, he keeps throwing burn at me, taking me down to eight life. I use an [card]Electrolyze[/card] to take out  his early attackers and I cast a [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] for a life buffer. I draw my cards and realize that I can win. I untap, cast [card]Heartbeat of Spring[/card], then [card]Channel[/card], [card]Upheaval[/card], replay the Mox and [card]Mind Stone[/card], and produce 12 goblins. I swing twice with my goblins and win easily, as he is now back to no lands in play.

Sideboarding:
-1 Toxic Deluge
-1 Solemn Simulacrum
+1 Exalted Angel
+1 Mana Drain

He doesn’t have enough creatures to justify keeping in [card]Toxic Deluge[/card] or [card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card]. [card]Mana Drain[/card] is important against his X-damage burn spells and [card]Exalted Angel[/card] is important to stabilize against burn. A single hit is influential, and oftentimes hitting twice with Angel is game-changing.

On turn five, I’m put in an odd predicament with my mana, so I unfortunately have to play a [card]Heartbeat of Spring[/card] and pass the turn. I’ve seen two fireball effects from him in game one, so I could easily just lose the game right here. Cameron takes this opportunity to [card]Devil’s Play[/card] me from 19 down to nine. On my turn I cast [card]Channel[/card], [card]Rude Awakening[/card], [card]Wheel of Fortune[/card], and a few cantrips to produce 16 tokens. I pass the turn, fearful for my life total. He plays a creature and casts firestorm, hitting me and four of my tokens for five damage. I untap, play [card]Mirari’s Wake[/card], and hit for exactly lethal. GG.

Total Record: 2-2

Thoughts on Cube Storm and this Draft

I only saw Mind’s Desire in my hand once and I only got to cast it for four, but it was still a fantastic card. It allowed me to cast free spells that contributed to storm count, easily allowing for a large amount of goblins.

In terms of Cube, I think storm cards should be picked in this order (from best to worst): [card]Mind’s Desire[/card], [card]Brain Freeze[/card], [card]Empty the Warrens[/card], [card]Tendrils of Agony[/card]. [card]Brain Freeze[/card] is the only one that can be played at instant speed, and you should always pay attention to the storm count of your opponent: I have lost by playing an Upheaval deck versus a storm player, and after replaying all my permanents, getting Brain Frozen for lethal with floating mana.

I am a huge fan of bouncelands in storm. However, land destruction wrecked me in one game. ThEse are definitely high-risk, high reward-cards. When they start being untapped through [card]Frantic Search[/card], [card]Time Spiral[/card], etc., they can net some good profit. However, there are quite a few specific land destruction effects and those are easy targets to functionally set you back on two land drops with a single target.

There was another storm player at the table, which is exceptionally rare in a draft pod of nine people. He cut me hard on the [card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card], [card]Yawgmoth’s Will[/card], [card]Brain Freeze[/card], [card]Dream Halls[/card], and some other important normal storm cards. Therefore, I had to get a bit janky with this odd five-color storm deck without any recursion. However, it was a fun and skill-intensive deck to pilot and most of my games were enjoyable, so I left very pleased.

I hope you enjoyed my write-up! I’d like to hear comments on criticism on picks and MD/SB choices! Should I have done something differently?

Philly Zoo 2 – Electric Zoogaloo

Our r/Spikes series is still going strong. Max is back with a second effort. He’s still plugging away with his deck he’s dubbed “Philadelphia Zoo” and a Primer on the deck may be coming soon. Enjoy! – J

Hey, everybody, I’m back with another entry and updated version of the Philadelphia Zoo!

I headed into GP Worcester a couple weeks ago, itching for a large Magic tournament after doing pretty well in local tournaments this summer. I felt like I could make a good run and possibly make a day two push. Unfortunately, all I have to report there is that the Mexican food across from the DCU Center is phenomenal, Iron Man Drafting (where you rip up your cards) with friends is exciting, and random Magic players are really fun to play The Resistance with. I made a push to win a grinder running the list featured here, except with the [card]Spellskite[/card]s swapped out for [card]Eidolon of Rhetoric[/card]. Unfortunately, I got Boggled to death after beating a field of UWR and Twin to get to the finals. I went 2-3 on day one of the GP, beating Jund and Merfolk in rounds one and four while losing to Melira Pod, Jund, and Boggles in rounds two, three, and five.

TCGPlayer Modern State Championships aka “The Most Underwhelming Tournament”

The deck I played:

[deck title= Philadelphia Zoo]
[Creatures]
*4 Knight of the Reliquary
*4 Noble Hierarch
*4 Qasali Pridemage
*4 Scavenging Ooze
*4 Tarmogoyf
*1 Thrun, the Last Troll
*1 Thundermaw Hellkite
*4 Wild Nacatl
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
*2 Chandra, Pyromaster
*4 Lightning Bolt
*2 Lightning Helix
*4 Path to Exile
[/Spells]
[Land]
*4 Arid Mesa
*2 Forest
*1 Horizon Canopy
*1 Kessig Wolf Run
*1 Marsh Flats
*4 Misty Rainforest
*2 Plains
*1 Sacred Foundry
*2 Stomping Ground
*1 Temple Garden
*3 Verdant Catacombs
[/Land]
[Sideboard]
*2 Batterskull
*2 Blood Moon
*2 Choke
*2 Eidolon of Rhetoric
*2 Engineered Explosives
*2 Grafdigger’s Cage
*3 Stony Silence
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

I made the trip to States the weekend after GP Worcester at Top Deck Games in Westmont, New Jersey, with my constant travel companion, Barrett Goss. He was fresh off on an 11-3-1 showing at GP Worcester and really should write a report. Going in, I expected a large turnout and was surprised to see 19 people. I cringed at the thought that I might actually end up state champion of New Jersey; a truly horrific honor for anyone born and raised in Philadelphia.

I started off 3-0 before double drawing into Top 8 as the second seed. I played against Living End, UW Fish, and Melira Pod in the Swiss. In round one of the Top 8, I encountered my Living End opponent and basically played a repeat 2-0 of our round one match. In the semifinals, I played against fellow Pennsylvanian Greg Chen, who was on Blue Tron and clobbered me on his way to eventually taking down the whole thing, claiming the state championship of New Jersey for Pennsylvania.

By the way, the Sideboard I played was because I saw the small meta I was in and wanted to make sure I could blow out every opponent in the field. I do not recommend that sideboard plan. At all.

A Tournament That People Actually Attended

Now, on to the main event: the SCG 5k Premier IQ at Tales of Adventure Comics and Games located in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania. I had made some changes to my deck and I was really excited to test them out.

[deck title= Philadelphia Zoo Two]
[Creatures]
*4 Knight of the Reliquary
*4 Noble Hierarch
*4 Qasali Pridemage
*4 Scavenging Ooze
*4 Tarmogoyf
*1 Thrun, the Last Troll
*1 Thundermaw Hellkite
*4 Wild Nacatl
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
*2 Chandra, Pyromaster
*4 Lightning Bolt
*2 Lightning Helix
*4 Path to Exile
[/Spells]
[Land]
*3 Verdant Catacombs
*4 Arid Mesa
*2 Forest
*1 Horizon Canopy
*1 Kessig Wolf Run
*1 Marsh Flats
*4 Misty Rainforest
*2 Plains
*1 Sacred Foundry
*2 Stomping Ground
*1 Temple Garden
[/Land]
[Sideboard]
*2 Batterskull
*2 Blood Moon
*3 Choke
*2 Engineered Explosives
*2 Grafdigger’s Cage
*2 Stony Silence
*1 Creeping Corrosion
*1 Bow of Nylea
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

I felt really solid with my removal and I decided one less kill spell main deck in exchange for the most resilient threat in the modern format was a good exchange. This was emphasized when another local player in round four exclaimed, “Really? Main deck Thrun?” when I dropped him on turn three against Jund in game one.

My sideboard changes were the addition of [card]Engineered Explosives[/card], [card]Creeping Corrosion[/card], and [card]Bow of Nylea[/card], which are all rock star cards in their own right and could help me shore up some of my weaker matchups. [card]Ancient Grudge[/card] is still the strongest card against Affinity in the format, save for turn-two Stony Silence. I felt that I would be fine without it, though, by adding a copy of Creeping Corrosion and playing my Engineered Explosives wisely.

Round 1: Matthew Bunko, UWR Kiki Control

Game 1: I got blown away by the combo even after I answered his turn five [card]Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker[/card] with a [card]Lightning Bolt[/card]. He was just able to play another one on turn six and jam the combo for the win.

Game 2: I was greeted by my favorite sideboard card and played the turn-two [card]Choke[/card]. After it resolved, I was able to kill him when he didn’t realize he had me dead with a [card]Celestial Colonnade[/card] swing and instead left his mana up to block, allowing [card]Path to Exile[/card] and [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card] to wombo-combo him to death game two.

Game 3: I slow-rolled a [card]Blood Moon[/card] from my opener and waited until the coast was clear and jammed it. A player in the match next to us quipped, “What if he has Choke the next turn?” Guess what I top decked? A [card]Choke[/card]-[card]Blood Moon[/card] lock and a [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card] ended the game soundly and I was proudly off to a 1-0 start.

Round 2: Adam Bruce, Affinity

Adam began our match by lamenting that he was only 1-0 because his round one opponent had shown up late and gotten a game loss. I tried to assure him that probably wasn’t the case as we shuffled up and presented our decks.

Game 1: I was able to see an absurd amount of removal and blank every threat he could commit before I rode a [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card] to victory.

Game 2: I think I made my favorite play of the tournament this game. At the end of his turn, he had a tapped [card]Ornithopter[/card] and an untapped [card]Spellskite[/card], [card]Arcbound Ravager[/card], and [card]Vault Skirge[/card] with his lands and [card]Springleaf Drum[/card] tapped. I cracked a fetch and made red to bolt his Ornithopter, which he sacrificed to Ravager. I untapped, dropped a land, and played [card]Engineered Explosives[/card] on two. I cracked it and went to town with my two [card]Wild Nacatl[/card]s. Game over. 2-0.

Round 3: Zach Dobbin, BG Rock

Collision course/grudge match time!

I had been looking at my Planeswalker Points a few days prior and realized Zach had beaten me in a Limited PTQ before we had gotten to know each other. I was livid that my all-time record against him was 1-2 instead of 1-1. I knew I needed to even the score.

After a few collision course jokes, we shuffled up and began our match.

Game 1: I don’t remember much except being amused when he led off with a [card]Treetop Village[/card] when I was expecting the BW Midrange deck he was on the last time we played. I was able to pull away from him with more creatures and live draws to take game one.

Game 2: Zach was able to put me on my back foot and soundly defeat me.

Game 3: I dropped a [card]Batterskull[/card] and was able to quickly pull away from him and take the match. 3-0.

Round 4: Kyle Brock, Jund

Kyle is a player I have known for a good while and is a far better player than I am, as well as an incredibly nice person.

Game 1: I resolved [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card] on turn three and was able to bash in a few times to steal game one.

Game 2: Kyle was able to land [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] and keep my Goyfs in check to even the score.

Game 3: I started with a large flurry of creatures and removal, but when the dust cleared, I had the last [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] in play. What I have found with most BGx matchups is that the last Scooze standing wins. 4-0.

At this point I ran into my favorite judge in the area, Erik Mulvaney, who greeted me by asking me how I was at the top tables. I responded by telling him I had no clue, but I semi-jokingly promised I would make the Top 8.

Round 5: Eddie Slimak, Junk

Game 1: I was able to play [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card]s and Knights with little opposition, allowing me to beat down to take the game.

Game 2: I was greeted with turn-four [card]Garruk Wildspeaker[/card] into [card]Abrupt Decay[/card], followed by [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] the following turn. I scooped at 19 life after he resolved [card]Lingering Souls[/card].

Game 3: I was able to commit an early Knight plus [card]Batterskull[/card] and used them in tandem with [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card] to Wolf-Run away with the match. 5-0.

Round 6: Ben Green, Junk

Game 1: The board was flooded with [card]Lingering Souls[/card] and I limped off into sideboards.

Game 2: I was able to combine [card]Batterskull[/card] and [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card] to blast through the wall of spirit tokens he had built for himself, soundly taking this game.

Game 3: This was more of the same from game two. I wished him luck in the rest of the tournament, but I got the vibe that he didn’t want to hear any words coming from the mouth of the kid playing Zoo that just demolished him. 6-0

After the match I went and joked around with all of my friends, who are far better players than I am, noting that whenever I run well they do horribly. Erik Mulvaney told me I better be playing at table one in round seven. I told him I truly hoped not and wanted to just draw into Top 8.

Round 7: Connor Rice, Kiki Pod

Going into round seven, I was the second seed and Connor was the third. I asked Connor if he would like to draw in and he told me he was confident in his ability and wanted to play it out.

Game 1: Connor was able to run out the combo after depleting my removal and quickly took a firm grasp of the match.

Game 2: I mulliganed low and just didn’t have the resources to play the value game with him. I took my first match loss of the tournament.

I was a little bummed that my undefeated run had ended, but I knew a draw or a win would lock me for Top 8 of my first large event. 6-1.

Round 8: Mario Diliberto, Boggles

I encountered Mario at the pairings board and offered him the draw, noting that he would be a higher seed than I was going in. Mario declined the draw and said he wanted to play it out, but would revisit this decision it if I beat him in game one.

Game 1: I went turn-one [card]Noble Hierarch[/card] into turn-two [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card], followed by a second Knight and a [card]Qasali Pridemage[/card]. I started trampling with [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card] and beat him game one. He seemed to be visibly shaken and when I offered him the draw for the match he took it and ran.

6-1-1. Locked for Top 8.

I was elated to have made Top 8, but a few seats down, my friend Ryan was battling for his tournament life. I was intrigued because the winner of that match would claim the third seed and be paired against me for the quarterfinals. Unfortunately, Ryan’s TarmoTwin fell short and, even worse, his breakers landed him in the godforsaken 17th place.

Top 8, Quarterfinals: Joshua Taylor, Merfolk

Game 1: I knew he was on Merfolk going in, so I kept a hand full of removal with [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] to clean up the mess my [card]Lightning Bolt[/card]s left. I stole game one and felt confident after sideboarding—[card]Choke is pretty good against all those [card]Island[/card]s.

Game 2: Josh got a [card]Spreading Seas[/card] on my [card]Stomping Ground[/card] before I played [card]Choke[/card] on turn two. He was able to follow it with [card]Cavern of Souls[/card] and [card]Mutavault[/card] after I mana screwed myself and didn’t draw out of it.

Game 3: Josh again is able to [card]Spreading Seas[/card] a turn before I [card]Choke[/card]d, but I am able to deploy more lands and threats and march off into the semifinals. 7-1-1.

Top 8, Semifinals: Connor Rice, Kiki Pod

Game 1: I misplayed against his [card]Zealous Conscripts[/card] and didn’t eat his [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card] from the graveyard with [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card]. He stole my Ooze, podded it for [card]Eternal Witness[/card], and broke me on his immense pile of value.

Game 2: He kept a risky one-land, three-[card]Birds of Paradise[/card] hand and I started slowly with just a turn-three [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card]. He cast [card]Path to Exile[/card] on my Knight, letting me play my turn-four [card]Thundermaw Hellkite[/card] and stranding him with only a land and [card]Spellskite[/card] in play.

Game 3: I kept a risky six cards with five lands and a [card]Grafdigger’s Cage[/card] and unfortunately didn’t draw the gas I needed to battle back. 7-2-1

Not a Bad Day

I feel pretty good about how I played, losing to just one player the entire day, and he just so happened to take down the whole tournament. I got to walk away with $400 (which I owed to my dad for helping me with car troubles), so it was a great takeaway for the weekend. I really like this new build of the sideboard and the main deck change. I want to find room for a second Thrun in the 75, and I want to see [card]Bow of Nylea[/card] in action, but overall it felt like a very solid list and a strong metagame call for the day.

Thank you all for reading, and thanks to Brainstorm Brewery for giving me a venue to share my experiences and love for the game. See you next time!

-Max Perlmutter

Old-Man Magic: SCG Standard Open, Pretty Awesome for Old Guys by Quillian Rutherford

It’s been a long time,
Since I’ve seen a su-u-u-u-u-u-unny day.
– Cake, Long Time

I’ve been playing Magic a long time: since Fifth Edition/Weatherlight. For a while, I was grinding PTQs, but there was no MTGO, no local Magic scene in my college town, and basically nothing but rolling up to the tournament after a cross-Texas drive with an untested deck and sleep deprivation. It was great. The good thing is that if you show up to PTQ-type events most weekends, you will get better over time. It’s slow-going, but taking a beating week after week from people that regularly qualify for the PT will rub off on you. I was actually at a point where I was getting into top eight contention in later rounds and even made a couple top eights. That was over a decade ago as chronicled by yours truly here, back when the editor was a lovable rodent. This is semi-important, because many of you are probably in the same or a similar boat. Kids, job, school: it all eats into Magic time, and at some point you wake up and realize you haven’t played sanctioned Magic in months, then years. One day, though, one of your friends says they are drafting online, or you read the latest spoiler—something. The fire is only banked, it just needs a little kindling and it’ll burn again. For me, since about 2003 (my last memorable Magic tournament from that era I can recall), it’s play a bit, drift away, play a bit, drift away. A year or so ago, my son came home from school and asked if we could go draft. I figured sure, one hit won’t hurt…

It turns out that after un-rusting and devouring all the internet magic news fit to read over the course of a few months, I felt pretty good about going to FNM, at least. I even flew out to GP Dallas back in December to try and see some friends, and played UW. Sadly it was an icy mess; most of my old friends from Texas didn’t want to risk the ice storm and I managed a miserable 0-3 record (0-4 according to Wizards—I couldn’t even check the drop box right that weekend). To rub salt in these wounds, I booked a hotel room once in town and it was obvious I wouldn’t be staying with said friends, only to meet a fellow wizard about five minutes later who had a spare bed. To top it all off, the room I ended up with at the hotel looked out on part of the roof, which contained a giant evaporator or something that kept firing up and thrumming like a jet engine every few minutes. So, now I have what I refer to as an “$800 play mat.” I’ve never used one before, but this one’s special, always there, reminding me of that traumatic weekend.

I made it to a PTQ in Portland after staying out too late, played UW again, started off in the draw bracket and conceded to my friend Wade when it became obvious I was in no shape to battle and just needed to find some lunch. I played a Sealed Win-a-Box tournament, lost in the first round, and headed home. A week later, I grabbed my backpack and sifted through it to look at my deck for something, only to find out I had managed to lose it at the PTQ. This was the turning point. Lacking the will to replace the cards I needed for UW, I gave in to the darkness, borrowed what I needed to complete Black Devotion from my buddy Wade, and finished ninth in a TCG Platinum event. I played it a couple more times in small tournaments and settled in with it for Standard. I managed a couple more efforts at PTQ’ing, going to a Modern and a Sealed event with no results to show. Finally, I saw in my inbox an email from Star City Games reminding me there was an Open here in Portland. I’ve never managed to attend any of the SCG events before and felt it might be a good experience. Maybe I’d even make some new Magic friends.

Preparing for the Open

I began preparing for the Open in earnest…by playing Skyrim every night instead of MTGO. For some reason, I haven’t beaten Skyrim yet and I have an urge to finish it. I did manage to go to an FNM and went 3-0-1, splitting the finals with a nice kid named Ben, who wasn’t even aware of the Open until I asked him if he was going. After actually looking over things, I saw Yutu Takahashi’s deck from GP Chicago and instantly re-kindled my love affair with main-deck [card]Duress[/card]. Upping the number of ways to protect your [card]Pack Rat[/card]s just seemed pretty solid. The version of Black Devotion I had been playing was one that had made the top eight of a South American GP a few months ago. It splashed blue for a copy of [card]Notion Thief[/card], which is a really great card if you get it off at the right time even once in the matchups where [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] makes an appearance. I decided to copy Yutu’s main deck with two differences: I kept six blue sources (four Temples and two [card]Watery Grave[/card]s) and I didn’t manage to find a fourth [card]Devour Flesh[/card], so I ended up with a copy of [card]Ultimate Price[/card] instead. I also don’t happen to have any [card]Drown In Sorrow[/card], but I’m not sure that’s necessary unless lots of white starts showing up.

I managed to play and win a match on MTGO in a two-man queue and decided I was ready to battle. I see a lot of complaints about Standard being stale, which may be true, but for me it’s been nice to be able to get comfortable with a list and not have to scramble at the last minute to play a deck I’m not familiar with. Friday night came and I managed to not stay out too late or drink too many cocktails. I was in bed and trying to sleep by 11:30 p.m. after making sure my deck was re-sleeved. I didn’t have a complete sideboard, but figured I’d have time on the train to figure it out. I had printed out a deck registration sheet, at least. Saturday morning I woke up right on time, about 7:40 AM, remembered to actually eat some breakfast, made myself some coffee, and managed to find a mug to take it with me on the train. My lovely wife was nice enough to drop me off at the train station and I started scribbling down my deck list as the train rolled across downtown. I was particularly worried about red, so I made sure I had [card]Pharika’s Cure[/card] in the sideboard and then randomly decided [card]Master of Waves[/card] could have slot 15. I only played one red deck and didn’t cast Master, but I’m pretty sure it would have been better as something else, for the curious. [card]Notion Thief[/card], while awesome when it works, is probably overkill. [card]Cyclonic Rift[/card], on the other hand, is great. I sideboard it in very often. It didn’t get cast too much, but it got me a match win when I needed it.

The Tournament Site

The tournament site was the Oregon Convention Center, which is pretty nice. From the train, it’s only about a five-minute walk with only a few hobos to navigate around. I had a very short line to stand in to hand over my $40, and then I was ready. I made a seriously next-level move by filling my coffee mug with water, a winning move I proceeded to make every single round. I’d say continuously hydrating was my strongest play all day. My weakest play was concentrating so hard on the number column on my deck list I was already starting the day with a game loss, but didn’t know it. In the end, my luck was running too high and it didn’t end up mattering, but giving away games before you start the tourney is not normally a winning move; embarrassing. I have not played regularly enough to really develop the requisite magic friendships, so I said hello to a few of the locals I do know a little and just milled around until the player meeting.

Despite my having scheduled this day for Magic a couple of weeks ago, my wife had scheduled us to go to a dinner party at a friend’s house. I sized up my odds and said, “Don’t worry honey, I’ll probably be done by round three or four anyway, I should be ready to go on time. No problem.” In reality, I wasn’t looking forward to having to go through 10 rounds of Magic, but I had packed a couple granola bars and knew there was food on site. I’ve noticed I tend to do the best when I don’t care about winning too much. I mean, I like to win, but if I just concentrate on playing and enjoying the game, I tend to do much better. Rather than stress out about how hard it would be to get to the end, I made the decision to just try and enjoy myself and play friendly Magic. For the most part, I succeeded.

The Deck

[deck title= B/u Devotion. Mostly Black—SCG Open Portland] [Creatures] *4 Desecration Demon *4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel *4 Nightveil Specter *4 Pack Rat [/Creatures] [Spells] *4 Underworld Connections *2 Bile Blight *3 Devour Flesh *3 Hero’s Downfall *1 Ultimate Price *2 Duress *4 Thoughtseize [/Spells] [Land] *15 Swamp *4 Mutavault *4 Temple of Deceit *2 Watery Grave [/Land] [Sideboard] *3 Lifebane Zombie *1 Master of Waves *1 Notion Thief *1 Cyclonic Rift *1 Dark Betrayal *2 Doom Blade *2 Pharika’s Cure *2 Erebos, God of the Dead *2 Duress [/Sideboard] [/deck]

The Tournament

There are a bunch of primers for this archetype out there, so I’ll just hit the highlights of the rounds.

Round 1 – Matt Griffen with Monoblue

Matt was a younger kid, maybe my son’s age or a little older. I bantered a bit about where he lives (my part of PDX metro it turns out) and he was surprised he hasn’t seen me at the local shop, but since they don’t do store credit for prizes, I don’t play there too often. He started off well and took game one and I figured this is it, but I pulled out game two. Game three, Nightveil Specter stole a [card]Hall of Triumph[/card], which made all my creatures too large for him to handle. I got in lethal despite a Jace activation. I realized later I had sideboarded wrong, as [card]Pharika’s Cure[/card] is a lot worse against [card]Temple of Triumph[/card]. Matt played his deck well and I wished him luck (when I saw him later he was 5-2).

Round 2 – Peter Sundholm with Blue Devotion splashing White

Peter was a nice older guy not unlike myself. I [card]Thoughtseize[/card]d turn two into his double [card]Judge’s Familar[/card]; he tanked for a moment and then sacrificed both Familiars. Next turn he played out the Thassa he was protecting, which I’m not sure was the right play. Losing Thassa hurts, but I feel the explosive attack from blue is the biggest threat, so I’m not sure I would have done the same. Game two was interesting, as I had a Nightveil with his Nightveil under it. I opted to Thoughtseize him and saw double Thassa, [card]Banishing Light[/card], [card]Rapid Hybridization[/card], and [card]Detention Sphere[/card]. I pondered for a moment and took Detention Sphere, since it dealt with my rats. I’m not sure that was the right play, as he only had two land in play and none in hand, but I thought I’d rather have the 3/3 than risk a Sphere blowout later. Peter forgot to play [card]Rapid Hybridization[/card] during my upkeep, so I played the Nightveil I stole from him with my own. I ended up using his own [card]Domestication[/card] against him to take a [card]Frostburn Weird[/card], which sealed the deal. He felt he had a good matchup against Black Devotion, so maybe my luck was with me. Regardless, it’s nice to start out 2-0 instead of 0-2-drop.

Round 3 – Daniel Waldholz with Esper

I won game one with an assortment of creatures and [card]Mutavault[/card]s and sideboarded in [card]Notion Thief[/card] and [card]Cyclonic Rift[/card] for game two. He never really got going and couldn’t keep his planeswalkers on the table.

Round 4 – Daniel Joyax with Boss Sligh

This round I was maybe a little too competitive. Game one I managed to snag his only enchantment in his opening hand with [card]Duress[/card], but he just made an army and commenced beats. It turns out that [card]Pack Rat[/card] tokens don’t help much versus [card]Legion Loyalist[/card]. When I killed his [card]Akroan Crusader[/card] in response to him using a [card]Rubblebelt Maaka[/card] bloodrush, he tried to put a token into play. A judge was called and we resolved he gets no token—not a big deal. However, the next attack, he came in with [card]Rakdos Cackler[/card], which had no counter on it. I moved to take damage as if Cackler was a 1/1, but he said it had +1/+1—he just didn’t have a counter but did announce it. I was pondering my hand or something, so hadn’t really been paying attention to it when he cast it, assuming he was casting it with the counter. But since he didn’t place one on it, I wasn’t sure how it went down, so I called the judge again. It didn’t make sense that he wouldn’t have put the counter, so it wasn’t a big deal, but I wanted clarification that if you announced something like this, but failed to actually keep track of the game state with a counter, if that was fine. It turns out it was.

It’s stuff like this I’m a little hazy on—drawing cards is no longer a game loss, and Magic is just a lot nicer in general these days. So he took game one, I sideboarded in my removal and [card]Master of Waves[/card], but it was Desecration Demon that did the trick. Although many players suggest it’s correct, I almost never sideboard out [card]Desecration Demon[/card] or [card]Pack Rat[/card].

I think it was at this point I managed to go grab food. Two well-dressed ladies in front of me were contemplating what to get—one really wanted the hamburger, but resolved to get the chicken wrap as all that bread on the burger made her sleepy. I decided that was great advice and opted for the chicken wrap myself, plus a banana. Between walking around in between rounds and this move, I was a veritable health nut all day. I even ate only half the wrap!

Round 5 – Greg Galloway with Jund Reanimator

I’m not sure if Reanimator is the right deck name, but he had [card]Underworld Cerberus[/card]. Game one he ran me over with creatures and I thought, “Well, at least I started 4-0.” [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card] tagged in from the board, but really I didn’t have a big game plan versus this deck. However, his Domri whiffed and he never drew much after that, so I managed to get there. I have no idea how good this deck is against Black Devotion, but I didn’t think it was something I wanted to play every round.

Round 6 – Justin Miller with Bant Walkers

So far, getting to 5-0, I felt pretty lucky. However, it was pretty obvious I had hit the stage of the day where you start encountering Mini Bosses. Justin seemed to have a pretty good handle on how this goes down and absolutely destroyed me game one with a triple planeswalker board state that resembled the army of a small country. In from the board came the extra [card]Duress[/card]es, Rift, and Thief.

In game two, he kept answering my cast threats, but couldn’t overcome triple [card]Mutavault[/card]. In game three, he kept and I looked down at a hand containing Swamp, Thoughtseize, two Pack Rats, and three business spells. Normally I don’t keep one-land hands, and I don’t recommend it most of the time. This game, I was on the play, and I just needed a second land to get my engine started. If I was going to win, I probably needed to get a little lucky anyways, so I kept. It was greedy, but a Swamp came right off the top. I [card]Thoughtseize[/card]d and Justin had kept a six-lander himself, hating to mulligan against my discard. On turn two, I resolved [card]Pack Rat[/card] and almost licked my lips in anticipation of the savage rat tokens I was imagining, only to have Justin draw [card]Pithing Needle[/card] off the top and play it naming Pack Rat. Luckily, my hand was still full of business and I managed to snag something with a Lifebane, drop an Erebos (and draw twice off it before it was exiled), play out Desecration Demon, and replace my Lifebane after the first went into exile with Erebos. Justin manage to [card]Detention Sphere[/card] the Demon, but I was getting in for four a turn with the Lifebane and the 1/1 rat, while he was tapping out for Jace and using the -2 to pick up a [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card]. With no other business in his hand, the coast was clear, and on his end step I Rifted his Detention Sphere off Desecration Demon, allowing me to attack for lethal the next turn before he could recover. I’d done it: somehow I defeated a Mini Boss to get to the next level.

Round 7 – Gabe Carleton-Barnes with Black Aggro

We shook hands and introduced ourselves. I noted to Gabe that he’s a bit of a local Magic celebrity; he chuckled and took it in stride. This is another Mini Boss level. I’m pretty sure I’m 0-X lifetime versus several of the PT regulars from back in Texas, so winning here would be a new thing for me: two Mini Bosses defeated? Gabe won the flip, but mulled to five with a wince. I had an okay hand, so I thought this was going to work out. Then I died to his triple [card]Tormented Hero[/card] draw in short order. It wasn’t even close.

In game two, I [card]Pharika’s Cure[/card]d something and hung on until I took over the game, trying to play around taking any extra damage, just in case. I wasn’t sure if there was a haymaker I’d forgotten in the format, muttering, “There isn’t a Hatred in this set, is there?” at some point. Luckily, there didn’t seem to be. Game three, Gabe drew no removal and Specter held off his troops long enough for [card]Desecration Demon[/card] to make short work of his life total. I was actually stunned to have won. By this point, I had long missed my dinner party, and my wife was texting me about it. I told her about the lack of losses and that I would likely make top eight if I win either of my next two rounds. When I tell her about the prize support numbers, she just says, “That better not be store credit!” Sigh.

Round 8 – Michael Felps with Black Devotion

As we shuffled up, we heard a Conspiracy draft announcement and Michael asked me if I had ever drafted it. I hadn’t, and he told me he’d like to, but it would end up everyone versus him at his local shop. I mentally noted I was pretty much in continuous Mini-Boss land at that point.

Game one came down to a turn where Michael had down two [card]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/card]s, two [card]Underworld Connections[/card]es, and most likely a Gray Merchant in hand, to my three [card]Pack Rat[/card]s, my own Gray Merchant, and [card]Underworld Connections[/card]. I had another Connections, Gray Merchant, and [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card] in hand and was at six life, while Michael was at 13 or 14. I noted out loud that if he had a Merchant, I would die the next turn, then tanked for a moment. I could have played a Connections and a Merchant with Downfall backup. I decided for some reason that trying to live another turn by draining wasn’t the right way out and attacked with the Rats, killing one Merchant in combat and Downfalling the other. I passed and, of course, he had another Merchant. In retrospect, I should have probably just played out Connections and Merchant, putting me barely out of Merchant range for another turn.

Game two was interesting, as I managed to misplay into the win. After a [card]Thoughtseize[/card], I drew [card]Mutavault[/card] and a Gray Merchant. Michael started getting in with a Nightveil, so I shrugged and dropped my Merchant. He had flipped [card]Bile Blight[/card] with the Nightveil and I couldn’t attack with the [card]Mutavault[/card]s. Next, he flipped an Erebos off my deck and put it into play. I commenced Gray Merchant beats and sent for eight. The next turn, he tapped four again for the [card]Desecration Demon[/card] I’d seen in his hand, but I was ready with [card]Ultimate Price[/card] in hand, Michael ended up at three life. He held up mana the next turn and passed. I couldn”t attack with Mutavault, but I drew another Gray Merchant. I pondered. I decided if he had removal I was just going to have to walk into it and cast the Merchant. He scooped up his cards. Wow. After that game, I realized I had held back my own Nightveil for a couple of turns thinking it would get [card]Bile Blight[/card]ed, forgetting it would kill both of our Specters. Better lucky than good, sometimes.

Our last game was uneventful, as he mulliganed into a one-lander and didn’t draw mana before I had an army going. That was it. 8-0! I was starting to get a little bit giddy, as I’ve never been 8-0 before that I can recall. Maybe 6-0, but not 8-0. I tried to remain calm, telling myself I might get paired down, be forced to play, and not make top eight.

Round 9 – Ben Warschauer with Black Devotion

Here is where my focus on just playing one round at a time and not thinking about the bigger picture wasn’t optimal. My last name starts with R, and the board with my pairings was in the farthest corner of the room from table one. I wear glasses and I followed the judge who was posting the pairings, but had to wait a few seconds behind others until I could get close enough to read the sheet. There were also standings, but I was just focused on the pairings and didn’t look at the standings. At that point, having read other SCG event coverage, I was thinking I should be able to draw twice into the top eight, but I wasn’t sure. I should have checked the standings then, but I didn’t.

I walked up to table one and my opponent was none other than Ben “That Nice Kid from the Store, Who I Drew with Last Week” Warschauer. I knew his record was 7-1 and I thought I must have been paired down, but I wasn’t sure. There was a judge standing at table one watching as I sat down. I think you only have three minutes after pairings were posted or something. I inquired with the judge if we could see a standings sheet, but he said he thought we should begin playing. However, I was confused as to why I was playing someone with a loss and realized the pairings board for the low alphabet was a few feet away. I walked over, found Ben in 12th and me in first, and walked back, realizing there were no other undefeated people. I got a warning for slow play, which wasn’t too big of a deal, but it irked me a little that I had followed the person posting the papers and I didn’t have enough time to read all the information.

Secure in the knowledge Ben could not draw into the top eight, we started playing and I won game one. Before game two, they stopped us and we were deck checked. Despite staring at my deck registration sheet for a fair amount of time before handing it in, I had managed to leave a line blank, although it had the number two next to it. Turns out I had not written down the [card]Watery Grave[/card]s, only their quantity. While it’s never fun to get a game loss, it was a lot better to get a game loss here, in a round that didn’t matter that much, than later on in the top eight. Ben and I shuffled up and went to game three, where he managed to [card]Pack Rat[/card] me out. I might have just scooped to him if I’d understood exactly how the standings were, but in the end it worked out fine anyways.

Round 10 – Mitchell Gross with Mono-Blue

I was still in first place and actually checked the standings this time, and determined I was able to intentionally draw the last round.

People had already been congratulating me for a couple rounds, but I had kept my focus on just playing games of Magic, trying not to drift off with dreams of taking it all down. It was getting late by that time, so my mind wasn’t nearly as sharp anymore. I talked a bit with Justin out in the hall about how my luck had been pretty strong this day, and we both agreed we probably should have mulliganed in our match.I found the banana I bought earlier and ate it, hoping to get a little extra energy. Ben had to play again and won, making him the first seed going into the top eight, meaning I was going to be matched up against the Junk deck in the quarterfinals. People were saying it seemed like a bad matchup for Black Devotion, and I certainly wasn’t prepared for it, but after having time to think about it, I don’t think it was as bad as it seemed at the time. We all had our pictures taken and milled around waiting for the quarters to start.

The Top Eight

Quarterfinals – Jesse Harper with Junk Midrange

I had a sinking feeling as I sat down, with the comments about the matchup and [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card] echoing around my brain. Game one started fine. I got out a Demon and handled his Voice tokens, but he found a [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card] and [card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/card], which won before I could find an answer. In game two, Erebos shut down his Blood Baron lifelink shenanigans and he succumbed to an army of rats despite his two Blood Barons as blockers.

In game three, my opening hand consisted of a [card]Thoughtseize[/card], five lands, and a [card]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/card]. Two of the lands were Temples, so I ended up keeping, which was a mistake in retrospect. I cast the [card]Thoughtseize[/card] on turn one, revealing Jesse’s hand of four lands, [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card], [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card], and [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card]. I opted to take the Voice, although now I believe I should have taken the Courser. I proceeded to draw lands and put non-business cards on bottom (although I missed one scry from a Temple), but I couldn’t find an answer for the turn-four Obzedat Jesse drew. If we played again, I think I would mulligan for a more aggressive draw, as my removal wasn’t going to match up correctly every time, and he had only a few answers to [card]Pack Rat[/card].

After packing up, I confirmed my prize would be mailed to me. Riki Hayashi shook my hand and congratulated me on making top eight and getting to go to an invitational. That’s when it hit me: I now have to play Legacy. The last time I played, it was still Type 1.5 and the competition level was…lower. Perhaps I can borrow a deck.

The Takeaway

I think the deck choice I made was pretty good, mono-black or black with a splash has a small amount of variance, and if you are better than me, you’ve probably already decided whether you want a splash or not. The amount of variance from scry lands and a splash is low enough that I don’t think most people will notice, especially if you are FNM’ing or the like. I think [card]Duress[/card] in the main deck is the way to go, especially if you want to go down to 25 lands. I would probably run another [card]Pharika’s Cure[/card] or [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card] in the sideboard over [card]Master of Waves[/card], but the rest I’d probably let ride. A lot of people are playing more [card]Bile Blight[/card] or [card]Ultimate Price[/card] over some number of [card]Devour Flesh[/card], so I don’t think I’d actually change the main deck at all if you want the blue splash.

The two “unusual” decks that made top eight are going to be fun to play, but they look to me like they have a lot more variance. The next couple of weeks of Standard might be stale, but the silky-smooth reliability of the black deck is a lot more to my taste. M15 might shake things up a little, but so far, I still predict a lot of [card]Pack Rat[/card]s and [card]Desecration Demon[/card]s until September. I do want to play some M15 Limited, though. However, I might just be grinding online with Legacy. I only have about five months to prepare…

I’d like to thank all my opponents for being outstandingly nice the whole day, and SCG for running a really smooth tournament.

–Quillian Rutherford

P.S. Also, I’m fairly certain half the top eight was over 30 (*cough* 29? *cough*): take that, youngsters!

UB Faeries Tournament Report – Barrett Goss

Welcome to another installment in the r/spikes tournament report series. Barrett Goss comes at you with a two-fer; a report about how his deck of choice fared at a GPT in Philadelphia and then at a PTQ in Delaware the next day. Hang on a second—didn’t Max Perlmutter play those same two events? Wonder if they know each other… it’s a small world in r/spikes! Enjoy the report!

Hi, all. My name’s Barrett Goss and I’ve played various competitive card games for the past decade. I got back into Magic with Zendikar and have played Modern since its inception. However, for a long while, this great format had a distinct lack of my favorite deck, thanks to the banning of one particular card: [card]Bitterblossom[/card]. The DCI Banned & Restricted List announcement in February 2014 solidified the Modern format as my favorite, allowing me to quit playing with the pretenders and play the best deck in the metagame (no bias).

I spent this weekend doing what any self-respecting Modern player with a three-day holiday weekend would do: I grinded 18+ hours of Magic between two events and 16 rounds! As a Philadelphia resident, I’m lucky enough to be within driving distance of a good amount of events, so between myself and the rest of the Modern crowd in the area, we decided to make both the hour-long drive to Six Feet Under Games in New Holland on Saturday for a GPT/IQ event, then turn around and do a PTQ in Wilmington, Delaware, the next day. For this article, I’ll do a general overview of my matches on Saturday, and a more detailed breakdown for the PTQ.

While I have the option of what are considered tier one decks in the format, I’m a firm believer that you’ll do better with a deck you know inside and out. For the GPT, I knew exactly what I wanted to sleeve up in a field that I expected to be primarily mid-range and control strategies:

[deck title= Faeries – Barrett Goss]
[Creatures]
*4 Spellstutter Sprite
*2 Snapcaster Mage
*2 Vendilion Clique
*3 Mistbind Clique
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
*2 Liliana of the Veil
*4 Bitterblossom
*2 Swords of Feast and Famine
*3 Inquisition of Kozilek
*3 Dismember
*1 Doom Blade
*1 Tragic Slip
*2 Spell Snare
*3 Mana Leak
*3 Cryptic Command
[/Spells]
[Land]
*4 Darkslick Shores
*4 Secluded Glen
*4 River of Tears
*4 Mutavault
*3 Creeping Tar Pit
*1 Tectonic Edge
*5 Island
[/Land]
[Sideboard]
*2 Spreading Seas
*2 Hurkyl’s Recall
*2 Sower of Temptation
*2 Negate
*1 Spell Snare
*2 Grafdigger’s Cage
*2 Ratchet Bomb
*2 Deathmark
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

As an archetype, Faeries rides a fine line between aggro, tempo, and control, and one of the things that I enjoy the most about it is that a skilled pilot can both tune and play it to suit any metagame. With an inherently unfair matchup for the control decks in the format, you can tune the deck against what you need help with. This GPT marked a change from my normal routine of “rip all the things from your hand on turn one.” At both GP Richmond and GP Minneapolis, I was an advocate of five main-decked one-mana discard spells split between [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and [/card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/card], but I’ve been wanting to test [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card]. As a powerhouse in Modern with both Jund and Rock decks, she theoretically has always seemed to answer the problems that Faeries struggled with. Given the local meta, it seemed like a perfect time to test her out!

A pairing in round one against a local Tron player went south immediately with a quick 0-2 loss, and while mana problems were the name of the game, I immediately saw a different problem. Both games I saw Inquisitions, and while they were able to pull a card, without Thoughtseize I was unable to rip any of his action and died under a pile of wurms and flying spaghetti monsters.

Over the next three rounds, I saw a U/G Infect deck, a Martyr Proc deck, and a copy of Craig Wescoe’s recent W/B Midrange deck. All three of these matches highlighted the power of Faeries in the format. The tools the deck works with attack your opponents from multiple angles. While many decks in the format are fine working around counterspells or discard or tempo, very few are equipped with the tools to deal with all three at once. A large reason why Faeries can do this is due to both [card]Spellstutter Sprite[/card] and [card]Mistbind Clique[/card], both of which are borderline unplayable without Bitterblossom, but become two of the best tempo spells in the format with it.

Unlike with Tron, these three matches didn’t mind not having Thoughtseize, as these decks have much lower curves and Inquisition can hit whatever I want. Traditionally, I’ve always felt that Faeries doesn’t like decks that can profitably run [card]Lingering Souls[/card]; it’s not fun to counter since it is negative card advantage, and it costs you four creatures and four life to deal with. However, the addition of [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] was actually a huge boon in all three of these matches, and is the reason why I won all three. In the Infect matchup, she forced a sac on the last infect creature my opponent had. Against Martyr Proc, she whittled down their hand while Mistbinds and Creeping Tar Pits swung through his defenses. And against B/W midrange, she lets you have a consistent way to keep them on no resources—something Thoughtseize can never do.

Entering the top eight, I got paired against a local UW Control player who had ended my run at a GPT the week before in the top four. I was still a bit mad about that, as UWx Control variants are widely considered a bye for Faeries. You do everything they want to do, but do it better. You run more counters than they do, play the end step better than they do, and if you get to resolve a turn-two Bitterblossom, they may as well concede. The prior week I had been lax and had kept soft hands, not having the lands or counters I needed to beat the deck. This week, I played it correctly and cruised to an easy 2-0.

The semifinals saw a rematch with the B/W midrange player, and the same story played out as in our Swiss matchup: Liliana of the Veil backed up by Bitterblossom is just something the grindy decks of the format don’t like. A quick 2-0 there sent me to the finals.

The finals match was against the same Tron player I had met for my round one loss. While I was on the draw, I managed to get down excellent early game pressure off the back of multiple counterspells, and a combination of [card]Cryptic Command[/card] and [card]Mistbind Clique[/card] ended the game. Game two saw him mulligan to five and I led off with a turn-one Inquisition into a turn-two Bitterblossom into a turn-three Liliana. Not something a five-card hand from Tron can deal with well.

Emerging Victorious

The day ended well, and I felt that the addition of Liliana was important: she filled a space I had been missing in the deck and did it all in one convenient package. I felt comfortable with sleeving the deck up again for the PTQ the next day, but overall, there were four changes among the 75. The first, and most important in my mind, was the swap of [card]Thoughtseize[/card] back into the deck over the [card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/card]s. While not losing life from my discard spells is nice, Thoughtseize is a much better card against Tron, Pod, and Control matchups. It would mean I would be slightly softer to Affinity and Zoo, but I felt that it was worth it.

The second change came as we sat into the event room at the PTQ, when a friend who had been roaming the venue remarked on how many Pod players he had seen around the hall. In response, I dropped one [card]Negate[/card] from the board and added in a third [card]Sower of Temptation[/card]. It’s just a very strong card in the matchup, only being removed by [card]Slaughter Pact[/card], [card]Path to Exile[/card], and [card]Murderous Redcap[/card]. When you can force your opponent’s resources to work for you, the fight becomes much easier. With those changes, I felt confident going into the tournament.

[deck title= Faeries 2.0 – Barrett Goss]
[Creatures]
*4 Spellstutter Sprite
*2 Snapcaster Mage
*2 Vendilion Clique
*3 Mistbind Clique
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
*2 Liliana of the Veil
*4 Bitterblossom
*2 Swords of Feast and Famine
*3 Thoughtseize
*3 Dismember
*1 Doom Blade
*1 Tragic Slip
*2 Spell Snare
*3 Mana Leak
*3 Cryptic Command
[/Spells]
[Land]
*4 Darkslick Shores
*4 Secluded Glen
*4 River of Tears
*4 Mutavault
*3 Creeping Tar Pit
*1 Tectonic Edge
*5 Island
[/Land]
[Sideboard]
*2 Spreading Seas
*2 Hurkyl’s Recall
*3 Sower of Temptation
*1 Negate
*1 Spell Snare
*2 Grafdigger’s Cage
*2 Ratchet Bomb
*2 Deathmark
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

Now for the Play-by-Play

Round 1 – Jund

I consider Rock and Jund variants to be a very good measuring stick for Modern: they’re both incredibly consistent decks that require you to have multiple angles of attack and to be able to win through both hand disruption and efficient removal—things all the best decks can either ignore or fight through. I lead off the game with an early Thoughtseize, staring down a pair of Bobs ([card]Dark Confidant[/card]), [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], an [card]Abrupt Decay[/card], and a [card]Maelstrom Pulse[/card]. I pulled a Bob, then followed up his turn-two Goyf with an immediate [card]Doom Blade[/card]. His Bob the following turn resolved, but I managed to get out a [card]Mistbind Clique[/card] and start beating. He chose to develop his board with a [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card] instead of fight over the Mistbind, and then added a [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] to his field presence. Over the next few turns, he added two more Tarmogoyfs while Mistbind and [card]Creeping Tar Pit[/card] pinged at him and [card]Cryptic Command[/card] kept his removal in check. Finally, he tried to slam down the [card]Maelstrom Pulse[/card], and a prompt Cryptic to tap his team and counter it allowed me to attack for exactly lethal.

Game two was much less eventful, seeing a turn-two Bitterblossom meet no resistance. While he eventually cleared it with an [card]Engineered Explosives[/card], he was unable to deal with the tokens already on the field coupled with not being able to kill Creeping Tar Pit.

1-0

Round 2 – UWR Control

I sat down to this match not knowing what my opponent was on, and keeping a hand with lands, [card]Bitterblossom[/card], [card]Vendilion Clique[/card], and [card]Spellstutter Sprite[/card]. I led with an Island and when he led with a tapped [card]Celestial Colonnade[/card], the game was basically over. Unfortunately for UWR Control, in game one, they really have no way to deal with either Bitterblossom or the tokens efficiently outside of [card]Electrolyze[/card], and landing it turn two is almost assuredly a victory.

Post board, I was able to add in both a pair of counterspells as well as [card]Spreading Seas[/card], which is a very useful catch-all in the matchup. It can keep a control player off of white or red mana in a pinch, but more often than not it is a two-mana cantrip that will negate a Colonnade, which can’t be overestimated. Swords in general are bad in the matchup, as are Mistbind Cliques due to UWR’s wealth of removal.

Game two saw my opponent mulligan to six, and a turn-one Thoughtseize revealed a hand of three lands, [card]Dispel[/card], and [card]Celestial Purge[/card]. I looked at the Bitterblossom in my hand and felt momentarily guilty, but pulled the Purge anyway. He really had no way back into the game and was resigned to firing off [card]Path to Exile[/card]s on my tokens.

2-0

Round 3 – RG Tron

Game one saw my opponent do what makes every Modern player rage on the inside: assembled Tron by turn 4, with plenty of gas in hand. Unfortunately, a hand full of [card]Spellstutter Sprite[/card]s and [card]Dismember[/card]s doesn’t do much against a [card]Karn Liberated[/card] or a [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]. Whoops. Into the board we go, adding in a pair of [card]Spreading Sea[/card]s, three [card]Sower of Temptation[/card]s, and [card]Negate[/card]. Sower is a really nice piece of tech in this matchup, letting you take not only Wurmcoil Engines, but also [card]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/card]!

A mulligan to five by my opponent didn’t help him, and it was met by a turn-three sword into a turn-four swing on a Mutavault. I showed him the pair of hard counters in hand and he quickly conceded, knowing that he wouldn’t get to play anything else before the manland got there.

Game three saw a mull to six on my side, but this match was (once again) ruled by [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card]. An early [card]Spell Snare[/card] on his [card]Sylvan Scrying[/card] allowed enough time for Liliana to come down and wreck his hand. I actually made a misplay at one point, ultimating Liliana with four lands and a Sower in hand with my opponent having a field of three non-assembled Tron lands, two [card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card], a [card]Cavern of Souls[/card], and a Wurmcoil out. Greedily, I thought I could split the piles for my opponent so that he would keep the two Urza lands and the Wurmcoil, hoping to topdeck the third piece. Instead ,he sacked that pile, getting two Wurm tokens. Luckily, Sower took the lifelink token and proceeded to start swinging, while Tectonic Edge took out the Cavern. My opponent lost with a grip full of Wurms and Karns, unable to get enough mana out thanks to the half-[card]Armageddon[/card].

3-0

Round 4 – Scapeshift

Game one started off well with a hand of three lands, two removal spells, [card]Bitterblossom[/card], and [card]Mistbind Clique[/card]. Unfortunately, my opponent went turn-one [card]Stomping Ground[/card] into [card]Search for Tomorrow[/card]. In game one, there is next to nothing my removal spells hit against Scapeshift, so I essentially had a mulligan to five. Oops. The board state quickly moved in my favor, thanks to Bitterblossom and a decent run of manlands. [card]Spellstutter Sprite[/card] was the only counter I drew in the entire game, and it was used to stop the first [card]Scapeshift[/card]. A [card]Vendilion Clique[/card] got rid of a second one, but we both knew I was dead if he saw a third one, so I poured on the gas. Unfortunately, we got into a board state where he made a very nice play with a [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] and a pair of [card]Remand[/card]s in hand to keep from dying to my manlands, and at two life, he pulled a Scapeshift off the top to win the game.

Game two saw a mulligan to six where I again got to keep a hand with lands, [card]Bitterblossom[/card], and a [card]Mistbind Clique[/card]. You really can’t get much better on a mulligan, and my opponent was also on six (that he seemed a bit begrudging in keeping), so I slammed the turn-two Bitterblossom. Unfortunately, it turned out my opponent kept a hand of four lands and double [card]Obstinate Baloth[/card], then drew into another Baloth. Meanwhile, I became stuck on three lands with a hand that became double [card]Mistbind Clique[/card] and triple [card]Cryptic Command[/card]. I eventually drew the fourth lands, but by that point my opponent had around 10 lands out and a hand full of spells, and it was too late to come back.

3-1

Round 5 – RG Tron

After winning game one, in game two we both saw good openers, with him assembling turn-four Tron and myself getting to drop a [card]Bitterblossom[/card] early. While I countered his early Karn and Wurmcoil Engine, I didn’t get much pressure throughout the game and my opponent played exceedingly well with the order he sequenced his plays. He wound up getting an [card]Oblivion Stone[/card] to wipe my board, then several turns later had [card]Eye of Ugin[/card] with 13 mana, so I scooped ’em up and went to game three. This loss kind of stung since I had a [card]Sower of Temptation[/card] in hand, but unfortunately, I was one permanent short of being able to survive the Emrakul and steal it the following turn. The next card also happened to be a Cryptic, which would have won me the game.

In game three, both my seven- and six-card hands had only one land, so the game started with five cards for me. I had a [card]Bitterblossom[/card] and a Liliana, but no black mana. I threw out a [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card] since my opponent had an exceedingly slow start (double [card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card]) with the backup plan of [card]Mutavault[/card] beatdowns. I drew a [card]River of Tears[/card] and played [card]Bitterblossom[/card], which he promptly [card]Nature’s Claim[/card]ed. Next turn, I drew, ran out the Mutavault, and in response to the sword equip he showed the one-of [card]Dismember[/card] from the board. At this point he had six lands out, and when he played the Wurmcoil next turn I just conceded, as I can’t fight back through that.

3-2

Round 6 – UR Vial Faeries

Game one, I led off with a [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and saw a hand of three lands, an [card]Aether Vial[/card], a [card]Spellstutter Sprite[/card], and a [card]Mistbind Clique[/card]. I took the Vial immediately. While I had never played the matchup before this, I knew that his deck was basically just a mashup of UR Faeries and Splinter Twin, removing [card]Delver of Secrets[/card] and tempo cards from traditional UR Faerie lists to add in [card]Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker[/card], Vial, and [card]Pestermite[/card]. Unfortunately for him, Bitterblossom is a much better card than most of his deck, and he didn’t have a way to deal with the flood of faerie tokens. He had to be proactive with his mana while I could play draw-go and counter or kill everything he played. He eventually conceded when he was topdecking and I showed two Cryptics in hand.

Game two, he got the early Vial out, but unfortunately for him, he had a slow hand. He attempted to drop a [card]Pestermite[/card] early, which was promptly killed. Mistbind Clique got flashed in on both sides, but I knew his last remaining card in hand was a Kiki-Jiki, so I promptly killed his Mistbind and controled the board state for the rest of the game, using Spellstutters and Dismembers.

This matchup isn’t one I would expect to see often, but I can see it getting a lot of free wins from decks that aren’t equipped to deal with the angles it plays from. At heart it’s another Twin deck, but it has some pretty neat synergies once you add more Faeries to it.

4-2

Round 7 – UWR Control

Game one wasn’t much of a game for my opponent, unfortunately. I had the dream opener of [card]Thoughtseize[/card] into [card]Bitterblossom[/card] into [card]Liliana[/card]. He recognized on turn one what my deck was and immediately started to throw burn at my face, but he could never drop me below eight life. Eventually Liliana ultimated and we moved on.

Game two was nearly an exact reversal of game one in terms of pressure. I stumbled early on lands and he ramped up, and after I tapped out to [card]Mana Leak[/card] a [card]Restoration Angel[/card], he slammed a Keranos. At this point I knew I couldn’t win, as I had no real outs to him and was too far behind to race it.

Game three played out slower than the previous two, but I eventually landed a Liliana and started ticking up. I kept a [card]Dismember[/card] in hand for the [card]Celestial Colonnade[/card] he had, and killed the manland in response to activation, protecting Liliana. From there on out, Liliana and [card]Creeping Tar Pit[/card] kept his options limited, and it was a slow but sure grind to a win.

5-2

Round 8 – Melira Pod

If I remember correctly, my opponent and I each knew what the other was on, as we had a mutual friend who we had both spoken to throughout the day. We knew top eight was basically locked out barring some absurd draws, but we played it out for prizes and standing.

Game one was a decent keep, but I didn’t have a discard spell or a [card]Bitterblossom[/card]. He got an early start with turn-one Birds (that I Dismembered), followed by turn-two Wall of Roots into turn-three [card]Kitchen Finks[/card]. I went on the backup plan of [card]Vendilion Clique[/card] plus Sword, and we each started grinding one another out. Eventually I got him down to three life with a live Pod, but he had no creatures and [card]Creeping Tar Pit[/card] sealed the deal.

Game two was, unfortunately for him, a slaughter. I ripped his hand early and saw double [card]Kitchen Finks[/card] as the only threats, in addition to a [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] on the board. He dropped both Finks and I dropped a [card]Vendilion Clique[/card] and a [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]. After eating some damage from the Ooze, I was at 10 life against his board of persisted Finks and an Ooze. Luckily, [card]Sower of Temptation[/card] is a house in this matchup. I proceeded to draw back-to-back [card]Mistbind Clique[/card]s with the Sower still out, and the free advantage quickly sealed the deal.

6-2

At the End of the Day

The end of the day saw me finish eleventh, about a half-percentage point out of top eight on breakers. Overall, the day felt like it went well. [card]Scapeshift[/card] is a matchup that Faeries should generally beat, but variance happens and the odds of drawing five of your six four-mana spells when you are stuck on three lands is exceedingly low. Tron once again felt like an annoying matchup that is heavily draw-dependent for each side. Otherwise, every matchup for the day was one where I felt firmly in control.

The addition of Liliana gave me much longer reach than I traditionally would’ve had, and I can safely say I wouldn’t have done nearly as well on the weekend if I didn’t have copies in the deck. As of now, I don’t think it is correct to increase the number of Lilianas, but it is a possibility moving forward. The sideboard performed well throughout the weekend, with the only card not seeing play being the pair of [card]Hurkyl’s Recall[/card]. It would have been nice to have known I wouldn’t need them, but it’s a card that pads the Affinity matchup so hard that I wouldn’t enter a major tournament without it. If you pick up the deck in your local meta, be sure to tune for what is around you. Anything from a fourth Spell Snare to [card]Hibernation[/card]s to [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] can be viable, depending on the field.

Moving forward, I’m going to look into more ways to put the Tron matchup away earlier, since it is growing in popularity again. Other than that, I feel confident against every deck in the meta, and if you have the time to put in with this deck, you can expect great results with it. The maindeck is incredibly strong against the field right now, and while you are missing tools to deal with enchantments or artifacts easily, your board can give you a good matchup against any deck if you are properly prepared. GP Boston is only two weeks away, and I look forward to showing what Faeries can do in Modern there.

Have comments? Please share below!

Taking Down a PTQ with Black-White Midrange, by Jonathan Marsh

A few weeks ago, I won a PTQ in Dothan, Alabama, playing B/W Midrange. I owe a huge thanks to the tournament organizer and store owner of Fanatix, Phillip Chalker, for hosting one of the best-run PTQs I’ve ever participated in. Also, thanks to Brainstorm Brewery and Danny Brown for giving me the opportunity to share this experience with you guys!

Choosing a Deck

I knew going into this PTQ that I wanted to play a deck that gave me the opportunity to win any game of Magic. Most people who know me notice that I usually pilot U/W/x control decks. But I knew that playing Esper or U/W would give me a huge disadvantage versus R/G Monsters. A week prior to this PTQ, SCG St. Louis saw not four, but five Monster lists make top eight (if you include the Jund Monsters deck piloted by Kent Ketter). Knowing that this was a deck I would have to face multiple times in the tournament, I became extremely disillusioned with U/Wx Control and I immediately began exploring other options. To be completely honest, I was originally disgusted by the idea of choosing another deck, as I love [card]Jace, Architect of Thought[/card], and [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card]. Every day for the week prior to the event, I almost switched back to Azorious Control. Then the nightmares came, and these bad boys were the culprits!

domri                                     xenagos

Leading up to the event, I kept having the worst mental images of someone windmill slamming turn-two [card]Domri Rade[/card] into turn-three [card]Xenagos, the Reveler[/card] into turn-four [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card]! I thought, “Yep! I’m not playing blue…”

Playing a deck and losing a game just because someone cast a certain hard-to-answer card is one of most difficult and frustrating places to be in the world of Magic: The Gathering. It wasn’t until the night before the PTQ that my friend and I decided to switch to B/W Midrange. We hammered out plenty of games versus Monsters. We worked on sideboarding a lot and determined how we wanted our decks to look post-board versus a lot of the major decks in the format.  Below is the list we both decided to sleeve up for the Dothan PTQ.

[Deck title=B/W Midrange by Jonathan Marsh and Jesus Buenrosto]
[Creatures]
*3 Pack Rat
*3 Lifebane Zombie
*4 Desecration Demon
*3 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
*2 Obzedat, Ghost Council
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
*4 Devour Flesh
*4 Hero’s Downfall
*2 Ultimate Price
*4 Thoughtseize
*3 Underworld Connections
*2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
[/Spells]
[Lands]
*4 Godless Shrine
*4 Mutavault
*2 Orzhov Guildgate
*2 Plains
*10 Swamp
*4 Temple of Silence
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
*2 Bile Blight
*2 Dark Betrayal
*2 Doom Blade
*1 Drown in Sorrow
*2 Duress
*2 Glare of Heresy
*1 Revoke Existence
*2 Sin Collector
*1 Underworld Connections
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

I really liked the above list going into the PTQ. The wonky two-drop removal may seem a little weird because of the zero copies of [card]Bile Blight[/card] in the main deck, but if you are expecting a lot of R/G Monsters, Blight isn’t a removal spell I would recommend. If you are expecting some Mono-Black Devotion, then maybe play two copies, tops. It doesn’t kill any creatures except for [card]Elvish Mystic[/card] versus R/G Monsters. I knew [card]Devour Flesh[/card] would always trade with a card in any matchup and that [card]Ultimate Price[/card] would hit a large percentage of the creatures I would want dead. Our combined record with the deck was 13-3-1, which is pretty good. We moved [card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/card] to the main from the sideboard because we wanted to have a chance versus control decks in game one. An empty board with Obzedat is usually GG for most matchups if you have decent follow-up.

Onward to the PTQ!

Round One – David Mathis – U/W Devotion

I’d actually met David previously through a really good friend at a New Year’s party. It turns out we know a lot of the same people. At this time, we were only acquaintances, but after hanging out a few times afterward, I now consider him a friend.

Game One: I opened up with [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and I was able to win game one with a lot of rats. There was a key turn I attacked all out, knowing he couldn’t crack back and lethal me. I knew I would lose if he drew [card]Detention Sphere[/card], so I had to force the issue by attacking and hoping he wouldn’t draw it. He didn’t, so I won.

Sideboarding:  I like bringing in 2x [card]Bile Blight[/card], 1x [card]Revoke Existence[/card], 2x [card]Doom Blade[/card]. Out—3x [card]Underworld Connections[/card], 2x [card]Ultimate Price[/card].

Game Two: We both mulliganed and David started out slow after I [card]Thoughtseize[/card]d his [card]Thassa, God of the Sea[/card]. I played [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card] knowing he would have to [card]Detention Sphere[/card] it. He did, and I jammed [card]Desecration Demon[/card] on an empty board and followed up with Obzedat.

1-0

Round Two – U/B control

This was the most bizarre deck that you could ever hope to face playing a [card]Thoughtseize[/card] deck. His deck was [card]Jace, Architect of Thought[/card] and [card]Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver[/card] followed up with removal and counters…

Game One: After he played a Jace, I Downfalled it during his end step, then untapped and played a Connections. This pretty much won the game as he had no way of removing it once it resolved.

Sideboarding: I like—2x [card]Duress[/card], 2x [card]Sin Collector[/card], 1x [card]Underworld Connections[/card]. Out—1x [card]Bile Blight[/card], 4x [card]Desecration Demon[/card], 1x [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card], 1x [card]Ultimate Price[/card].

Game Two: Game two was a tragedy for me. I mulliganed to six with a very threat-light hand and was quickly dispatched by a few counters and Jaces. The biggest dagger was when I kept a [card]Pack Rat[/card] on top off a scry land. He untapped and Ashioked it.

Game Three: I managed to resolve a [card]Pack Rat[/card] after I [card]Duress[/card]ed him. The rat was able to outpace his one-for-one removal spells and it eventually won me the game.

2-0

Round Three – U/w Control

Game One: Whew! I got blown out. I drew almost no pressure versus him and he started chaining multiple Revelations.  I immediately conceded and went to sideboard.

Sideboarding: I like 2x [card]Duress[/card], 2x [card]Sin Collector[/card], 1x [card]Underworld Connections[/card], 2x [card]Glare of Heresy[/card], 1x [card]Revoke Existence[/card]. Out—2x [card]Ultimate Price[/card], 4x [card]Devour Flesh[/card], 1x [card]Pack Rat[/card], 1x [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card].

Game Two: I managed to deal 15 points of damage between [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card] and [card]Mutavault[/card]! He eventually [card]Supreme Verdict[/card]ed the Zombie and I then used a [card]Duress[/card] I saved to protect the Obzedat I gripped forever to win the game.

Game Three: Turn four, I managed to bait out a counter with a Connections when he had a [card]Detention Sphere[/card] and multiple [card]Revoke Existence[/card]s that I saw off [card]Duress[/card]. I played [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card] on turn five. The next turn, I untapped, [card]Thoughtseize[/card]d his Elspeth, and won quickly when he couldn’t [card]Celestial Flare[/card] my Blood Baron (because I kept sending my [card]Mutavault[/card] in as well).

NOTE: I feel like a lot of players use [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and [card]Duress[/card] wrong. From playing both control decks and black discard decks, I’ve noticed the negative repercussions a misused discard spell can have on a game. Game one on the blind, it’s almost always correct to open up with [card]Thoughtseize[/card] on your unknown opponent, especially when you know you’re going to be tapping out over the next few turns. Against control, though, I almost always save my [card]Duress[/card]es and [card]Thoughtseize[/card]s for key spells I want to resolve. If I didn’t wait on my [card]Thoughtseize[/card] in this match, I would have never stripped the Elspeth he drew the turn after I played my Baron.

3-0

Round Four – Ryeland Barnard– R/G Monsters

This entire match was an example of how our decks weren’t supposed to run. We both got significantly mana flooded, with me drawing a few more spells to dictate the match at two games to zero.

I’ll talk about sideboarding since there really wasn’t much to discuss about our match.  I sideboard differently in this matchup depending whether I’m on the play or the draw. On the play, I’ll leave in one Connections and side out a Blood Baron for two [card]Doom Blade[/card]s and a [card]Duress[/card]. On the draw, I board out all three Connections and one [card]Pack Rat[/card] for two [card]Duress[/card] and two [card]Doom Blade[/card].

4-0

Round Five – Michael Malone  – R/w Devotion

Overall, the games I lost here were very close. Mike played extremely well and I was still happy for him even in defeat. We’re great friends and we often joke about matches like this. We contemplated drawing but we both agreed that it was best to lock one of us in for sure.

Game One:  This was very close, like I said. I had a turn to do an extra few points of damage with my [card]Pack Rat[/card] but opted to play conservatively because I had drawn a second [card]Pack Rat[/card] and I knew he had mortars in his hand because of an earlier [card]Thoughtseize[/card]. In my mind, I wanted something to follow up with, since at the time my rats could only reach 3/3 with discarding. I was punished for holding back when he played [card]Fanatic of Mogis[/card] the following turn. After he cast Mortars the turn after that, he attacked with exactly lethal.

Sideboarding: I like 2x [card]Glare of Heresy[/card], 2x [card]Bile Blights[/card], 2x [card]Doom Blade[/card], and the one-of [card]Revoke Existence[/card].

Game Two: This game played out exactly how I wanted it to. I played multiple demons backed up with removal. Off for a game three, boys!

Game Three: The final game would decide who could just double draw into the top eight. This was a tough one for me because I was on the draw and he had a pretty quick hand with [card]Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx[/card]. I [card]Thoughtseize[/card]d him on turn one to take a [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card], leaving him with an [card]Assemble the Legion[/card], for which I had [card]Glare of Heresy[/card]. But nope, he played a [card]Boros Reckoner[/card] which I had to kill with Heresy so I wouldn’t fall too far behind. I managed to play an Elspeth after he cast the Assemble with me at four life. We were both making tokens and eventually I built my Elspeth up to seven loyalty. Just when I was looking comfortably ahead, he ripped [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card]. Say what? He ripped the Mortars to blow me out!

After the match I immediately congratulated him with the biggest bro hug ever!  I was extremely happy for him and I didn’t mind losing at all because he’s my friend. To me, life is more than what you can do for yourself—sometimes it’s about what you can do for others. Playing this game means nothing if you don’t have the friends to share your experiences with.

4-1

Round Six – Jimmy Smith  R/G Monsters

This was yet another match versus a very good friend. I would have preferred to play someone else, regardless of how comfortable I was with this matchup, but I didn’t. Such is life.

Game One: This was a very close game. I should have mulliganed my opener, given that I knew what I was up against. I kept a hand of Connections, Elspeth, Downfall, and four lands, including one scry land. I had an extremely slow start and I dislike Connections in the matchup. However, we both drew pretty poorly and Connections is fine when your opponent isn’t pressuring you. Elspeth landed, which eventually won me the game at three life.

Game Two: Game two was very close as well. I managed to stabilize at three life again, but this time with Obzedat in play. I backed  it up with a Blood Baron and removal managed to seal the deal.

5-1

Round Seven – Christopher Brickey- Ww spashing black

Before the match, it was questionable whether or not we would both make it with an intentional draw, as we were in seventh and eighth place. I made an offer to Chris: even if I was up a game, if a way opened up so we both could make top eight with a draw, I would do it. He agreed to do the same for me.

Game One: I kept a pretty good three-land hand with Blood Baron and removal. The tricky part was that I needed to eventually draw into my fourth and fifth lands. I eventually got to five lands, but by that point I was pretty far behind on board and life. He cast [card]Brave the Elements[/card] until I was dead.

Opportunity opened up so Chris and I could draw. We went for it since we were both locked in. We congratulated and wished one another good luck in the top eight.

5-1-1

This put me at eighth seed going into the top eight, meaning I would be on the draw for the rest of the tournament.

The Top Eight 

Quarterfinals – (1st seed) –Black Devotion Splashing Green

Overall, I consider this to be a very bad matchup for me. It’s especially bad if the deck is playing more [card]Devour Flesh[/card]es than other lists, which is good practice against Monsters. The fact that I cut a Blood Baron and an [card]Underworld Connections[/card] for [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card]s makes this an extremely miserable matchup.

Game One: My opponent double [card]Thoughtseize[/card]d me and took a [card]Pack Rat[/card] and a [card]Devour Flesh[/card]. He left me with a [card]Desecration Demon[/card] that eventually won me the game because he didn’t draw an answer for it.

Game Two: He kept a two-lander on the play and didn’t get there. Not much more to it than that.

Semifinals – R/G monsters

The main things I remember about this match is me shaking my opponent’s hand with a “good luck” and shaking it again with a “good match.” This round took maybe a little over 15 minutes and the games played out exactly the way I wanted them to. I turn one [card]Thoughtseize[/card]d him and killed any threats he played until I landed a Demon. This took it home in both games. Demons and Lifebanes were so amazing!

Finals – Christopher Brickey  – Ww Spalshing Black

We both congratulated each other on making it to the finals and we struck up a conversation. He had mentioned that he was just getting back into competitive Magic, whereas I really just wanted to go to the pro tour. I offered all of the prize money in exchange for the invite. Chris understood how much I wanted to go and he accepted my offer.

Lessons

There are a few things that this PTQ taught me and a few things it reinforced. Playing this tournament opened me up to playing decks other than just control. For those of you who think you can’t win with something else: you’re wrong. Sometimes you get lucky and meet a great person like Chris and sometimes you don’t. Regardless, it’s important that you have good sportsmanship. Magic is an experience for both players—not just you. Some of my best friends in life were once my opponents and I wouldn’t have the same type of friendship with them if I had been a bad sport. They’re worth more to me than any trophy or amount of money. Honestly, my life would be completely different if it weren’t for the friends I’ve met through Magic. I owe them and Chris a huge thanks!

If you guys have any questions, shoot me an email at jlm12[email protected] or leave a comment below. Thanks again for reading!

Winning a PTQ with Mono-Black Devotion

So this past weekend, I won a PTQ in Tallahassee, Florida. I’d like to give a big shoutout to the tournament organizer, Gamescape, and its owner, Benjamin Bloodworth, for consistently putting on the best tournaments and running the best local shop I’ve ever been to in my twenty years of playing Magic.

I played Mono-Black Devotion this entire PTQ season in a total of five PTQs. This resulted in four top eights and a total record of 34-6-6. All draws were intentional. This is the most recent list I played.

[deck title=Mono-Black Devotion by Dustin Flora]
[Creatures]
4 Pack Rat
4 Nightveil Specter
4 Desecration Demon
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Thoughtseize
4 Underworld Connections
4 Hero’s Downfall
3 Bile Blight
2 Devour Flesh
1 Ultimate Price
[/Spells]
[Land]
19 Swamp
3 Temple of Deceit
4 Mutavault
[/Land]
[Sideboard]
4 Duress
3 Lifebane Zombie
2 Drown in Sorrow
2 Erebos, God of the Dead
1 Ultimate Price
1 Dark Betrayal
1 Devour Flesh
1 Bile Blight
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

Deck Discussion

Stock slots:

4 [card]Desecration Demon[/card]
4 [card]Pack Rat[/card]
4 [card]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/card]
4 [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card]
4 [card]Thoughtseize[/card]
4 [card]Underworld Connections[/card]

I don’t think any discussion really needs to be had regarding these cards.

4 [card]Nightveil Specter[/card]

Many lists are now running [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card] in the main deck over [card]Nightveil Specter[/card]. I believe this is wrong. [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card] slightly improves matchups against decks that aren’t worth hedging against game one (ie. R/G Monsters). Specter improves our game ones against decks that we’re more even with, such as the mirror match and control variants. In addition to the impact this choice makes on game one, many lists aren’t running Specters in the sideboard to replace Zombies with in post-board games. This is a problem, especially in the mirror match, where you end up stuck with awful Zombies or light on threats after boarding them out.

3 [card]Bile Blight[/card]
2 [card]Devour Flesh[/card]
1 [card]Ultimate Price[/card]

The non-Downfall main deck removal suite is pretty versatile and based mainly on metagame calls. [card]Devour Flesh[/card] is obviously a concession to the constant threat of [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card]. [card]Bile Blight[/card]’s weakness against G/R Monsters should not scare you away from playing at least two in the main deck and I would recommend having access to all four post-board. [card]Ultimate Price[/card] is better than [card]Doom Blade[/card]. Please stop playing [card]Doom Blade[/card].

19 [card]Swamp[/card]
4 [card]Mutavault[/card]
3 [card]Temple of Deceit[/card]

I did not play four Temples because I wanted to avoid drawing two or more of them within the first several turns of the game. Mono-Black Devotion is played as a tempo deck. Being forced to hold off a turn because a crucial land had to come into play tapped can be catastrophic. As for which Temples you should play, that is a call you’re going to have to make for whatever tournament you will be playing in.

Sideboard

  • 4 [card]Duress[/card]
  • 3 [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card]
  • 2 [card]Drown in Sorrow[/card]: Out of 40+ matches this PTQ season, I boarded this card in a grand total of five times. I likely should have cut it, but it is very high-impact in matches where you really need it, like W/B aggro.
  • 2 [card]Erebos, God of the Dead[/card]
  • 1 [card]Ultimate Price[/card]: I ran three [card]Bile Blight[/card] main, which lessens the need for more [card]Dark Betrayal[/card]. [card]Ultimate Price[/card] is also good versus other decks and hits everything [card]Dark Betrayal[/card] does except [card]Nightveil Specter[/card], which is why we have [card]Bile Blight[/card].
  • 1 [card]Dark Betrayal[/card]: See [card]Ultimate Price[/card].
  • 1 [card]Devour Flesh[/card]: This likely should have been another [card]Ultimate Price[/card].
  • 1 [card]Bile Blight[/card]: This card is so high impact in so many matchups that I wanted access to the fourth.

Brad Nelson wrote a sideboarding article for Mono-Black Devotion on Star City Games that is much better than anything I could have written. My only disagreement is boarding in Dark Betrayal’s vs. Mono Blue for Nightveil Specter. That is crazy talk.

The PTQ

Round One – Chris Brown – G/B

Game One: I won’t be going into much detail regarding the first games of each match because it doesn’t really help you very much. I was able to win game one with a lot of rats.

Game Two: In—3x [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card], 1x [card]Dark Betrayal[/card], 1x [card]Bile Blight[/card], 1x [card]Devour Flesh[/card]. Out—4x [card]Underworld Connections[/card], 1x [card]Ultimate Price[/card], 1x [card]Nightveil Specter[/card].

Chris was playing a G/B deck featuring [card]Lotleth Troll[/card], [card]Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord[/card], and [card]Whip of Erebos[/card]. It seemed capable of aggressive draws and I knew he would definitely have [card]Abrupt Decay[/card]s. [card]Underworld Connections[/card] is poor versus aggressive decks and [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card] would be capable of hitting almost every creature I saw game one. I lost game two to a large [card]Lotleth Troll[/card] that was flung at my face by [card]Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord[/card].

Game Three: There was a lot of removal back and forth, but he eventually ran out of non-land resources and I was able to seal the win before he was able to come back with a late [card]Whip of Erebos[/card].

1-0

Round Two – Kevin Stoiber – B/W Midrange

Game One: I lost to a [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card].

Game Two: In—3x [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card], 2x [card]Erebos, God of the Dead[/card], 1x [card]Devour Flesh[/card], 1x [card]Duress[/card]. Out—1x [card]Bile Blight[/card], 4x [card]Desecration Demon[/card], 1x [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card], 1x [card]Ultimate Price[/card].

Unfortunately, I do not remember much about this match other than that several large Gray Merchants were resolved.

Game Three: This was a repeat of game two.

2-0

Round Three – Stephen Mann – R/w Devotion

Game One: [card]Hammer of Purphoros[/card] ground me out.

Game Two: In—3x [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card],  2x [card]Duress[/card], 1x [card]Bile Blight[/card]. Out—4x [card]Underworld Connections[/card], 2x [card]Devour Flesh[/card].

Game two was a race, and he drew a few too many lands. A couple of timely [card]Bile Blight[/card]s kept me pretty far ahead with a Gray Merchant padding my life total.

Game Three: I don’t remember much of game three, but our life totals were both at five and I believe I won with [card]Pack Rat[/card]s.

3-0

Round Four – Aqueel Majied – B/W/R Midrange

Game One: A turn-one [card]Thoughtseize[/card] revealed [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card], [card]Magma Jet[/card], [card]Boros Reckoner[/card], [card]Godless Shrine[/card], [card]Sacred Foundry[/card], and [card]Temple of Triumph[/card] after he had played a turn one Temple of Silence. I had a [card]Bile Blight[/card] for the Reckoner and both [card]Magma Jet[/card] and [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card] would kill the [card]Pack Rat[/card] in my hand, so I took his options away by forcing him to discard the Magma Jet. He didn’t draw much action after that.

Game Two: In—3x [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card], 2x [card]Erebos, God of the Dead[/card]. Out—1x [card]Ultimate Price[/card], 2x [card]Pack Rat[/card], 1x [card]Bile Blight[/card], 1x [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card].

I assumed he was probably playing [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card] in his list. He ended up mulliganing to four cards and keeping a no lander.

4-0

Round Five – Zack Duke – Esper Humans/Midrange/Aggro/Control

Game One: I saw [card]Lyev Skyknight[/card], [card]Soldier of the Pantheon[/card], [card]Daring Skyjek[/card], [card]Detention Sphere[/card], [card]Xanthrid Necromancer[/card], and [card]Whip of Erebos[/card]. I promptly died without drawing any removal for his 3/1 flyers.

Game Two: In—3x [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card], 2x [card]Drown in Sorrow[/card], 1x [card]Ultimate Price[/card], 1x [card]Bile Blight[/card]. Out—4x [card]Underworld Connections[/card], 2x [card]Devour Flesh[/card], 1x [card]Desecration Demon[/card].

I saw [card]Supreme Verdict[/card]s, [card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/card], [card]Mutavault[/card], and [card]Dark Betrayal[/card]. I was able to win this game without taking a point of damage.

Game Three: There was a lot of back and forth this game. My opponent resolved three [card]Detention Sphere[/card]s and a [card]Whip of Erebos[/card]. Fortunately, all of his creatures were very small and similarly-named, so the multiple [card]Bile Blight[/card]s I drew were able to keep him from gaining too much life while [card]Pack Rat[/card]s did the work.

5-0

Round Six – Logan Rodgers

Intentional Draw

5-0-1

Round Seven – Gerald Orrison

Intentional Draw

5-0-2

This put me at third seed going into the top eight.

Top Eight Matches

Quarterfinals – Hayden Bedsole (sixth seed) – Mono-Blue Devotion

This match is on Twitch at www.twitch.tv/gamescape because Gamescape streams its feature matches.

Game One: A timely [card]Bile Blight[/card] locked this game up.

Game Two: In—3x [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card], 2x [card]Drown in Sorrow[/card], 1x [card]Ultimate Price[/card], 1x [card]Bile Blight[/card]. Out—4x [card]Underworld Connections[/card], 2x [card]Devour Flesh[/card], 1x [card]Nightveil Specter[/card].

Hayden’s draw seemed very good until he ran out of steam. Several turns of drawing [card]Judge’s Familiar[/card] and lands, later he had nothing left to compete with Pack Rats.

Semifinals – Logan Rodgers (second seed) – UWb Control

This match is also on Twitch. www.twitch.tv/gamescape

Game One: I had no idea what Logan was playing. Obviously, I figured out early on that it was a variation of UW control, but I didn’t know what specific cards he was playing. My opening hand was rather weak and when it became evident that I wasn’t going to be able to win the game, my goal became to drag it out as long as possible and get as much information as I could. With the round being untimed, this gave me an opportunity to see nearly every card in Logan’s deck.

Game Two: In—4x [card]Duress[/card], 3x [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card], 2x [card]Erebos, God of the Dead[/card]. Out—2x [card]Devour Flesh[/card], 1x [card]Ultimate Price[/card], 3x [card]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/card], 2x [card]Bile Blight[/card], 1x [card]Desecration Demon[/card].

Chances were pretty good that he had [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card] in his sideboard, but I couldn’t justify leaving in the copies of [card]Devour Flesh[/card], as they would be completely dead if he resolved [card]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/card] before a Blood Baron, kept [card]Mutavault[/card] mana open, or didn’t even board them. I had to rely on my [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card]s, [card]Thoughtseize[/card]s, and Erebos being good enough.

I do not like [card]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/card] versus control decks. You rarely have enough permanents to get more than two to four life off of the drain effect, he dies to every removal spell they typically play (often with the trigger on the stack), and he is awful at attacking. Aggressively attacking with [card]Pack Rat[/card]s allowed Erebos to carry the team.

Game Three: This game went about as well as I could ask for a game to go. We both drew a lot of lands, but his inability to find a [card]Detention Sphere[/card] to remove my Erebos allowed me to play aggressively and grind down his life total even through a [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card].

Finals – Gerald Orrison (fourth seed) – Mono-Black Devotion

This match is also on Twitch. www.twitch.tv/gamescape

Game One: [card]Desecration Demon[/card] presented a threat that Gerald couldn’t answer. Followed up with two [card]Grey Merchant of Asphodel[/card], the second of which he saw with a [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card], he conceded.

Game Two: In—2x [card]Erebos, God of the Dead[/card], 1x [card]Ultimate Price[/card], 1x [card]Dark Betrayal[/card]. Out—2x [card]Devour Flesh[/card], 2x [card]Desecration Demon[/card].

[card]Hero’s Downfall[/card] is normally worse on the draw due to not being able to kill [card]Pack Rat[/card] on turn two, but I assumed that because he did not have [card]Nightveil Specter[/card]s, he would likely keep in all of his [card]Desecration Demon[/card]s, making my own [card]Desecration Demon[/card]s and [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card]s better than they normally would be in the mirror match. This also makes [card]Bile Blight[/card] worse, as my only killable targets would be [card]Pack Rat[/card] and [card]Mutavault[/card].

As far as my keep in game two: it was 2x [card]Underworld Connections[/card], 1x [card]Dark Betrayal[/card], 1x [card]Pack Rat[/card], 1x [card]Bile Blight[/card], 1x [card]Swamp[/card], and 1x [card]Nightveil Specter[/card]. Several people have told me that they would have mulliganed this hand (including the commentators). With 25 lands remaining of the 53 cards remaining in my library, being on the draw put me at a 47% chance to draw a land within two draw steps (with the percentage of drawing a land going up, marginally, each time) before I missed a land drop. I had a castable removal spell to deal with a turn-two [card]Pack Rat[/card], a threat when I drew my second land, and another removal spell. If I drew a third land, I would easily be far ahead. Keeping six cards and one land also mitigates my vulnerability to [card]Thoughtseize[/card]/[card]Duress[/card]. In my opinion, I would keep that hand on the draw 100% of the time. It worked out.

On the last turn of the game, he played a [card]Mutavault[/card] then used it to activate a [card]Mutavault[/card] and attack for two. He [card]Thoughtseize[/card]d, putting himself at four life with one card remaining in hand, which I knew was an [card]Ultimate Price[/card] from earlier in the game. This left him dead on board to Mutavault and Nightveil Specter.

Thanks for reading, and may your statistically-based decisions be always in your favor.

If you’d like to contact me, my email address is [email protected]

Dustin Flora has been playing Magic for over 20 years (with a 12-year break between 2000 and 2012). Since coming back to to the game, he’s qualified for the Pro Tour three times, and made top eight of three SCG Opens and an Invitational.