Well, last weekend was another Bath Type II tourney. We hadn’t done much testing for the tourney in the previous weeks due to other commitments, but I was looking forward to getting some in on the day before the tourney. Our long-absent member Andy was coming over from London on Thursday night, so I got Friday off work to get some testing in.
Friday morning we all got together and started looking at the decks we had built up. I had Good Spells, CounterRebel and Jay Schneider’s Zombie deck built up and the remains of some Blue Skies and Fires decks. Andy had bought his old Gold Fish deck (mainly to give me some cards back). Andy started looking through the Zombie deck, as he’d asked me to build it so that he could play it in the tourney whilst I rebuilt the Blue Skies and Fires decks, and added some cards I wanted to test out into Good Spells.
The Fires deck I put together was as follows:
4x Birds of Paradise
4x Llanowar Elves
2x Two-Headed Dragon
3x Thornscape Battlemage
3x Ancient Hydra
Other Spells (16):
4x Chimeric Idol
4x Fires of Yavimaya
4x Saproling Burst
4x Karplusan Forest
4x Rishadan Ports
Before you stop reading because this isn’t optimal, or not good, or just plain bad in your view, I’ll just explain: This deck is full of cards I want to try out against the Zombie deck, Good Spells, and some new cards I want to play with.
The Idols and Bursts aren’t optimal any more because of Hull Breach and the increased amount of artifact and enchantment removal people are playing. The Battlemages were a new card I wanted to try out (specifically because they kill Thermal Glider), and I thought the combination of Hydras and Assault/Batteries would hurt Andy’s deck. I added the four Ports to slow Good Spells and the Zombie deck down a little – I’d normally play more coloured land and a Kjeldoran Necropolis instead.
The Counter Rebel deck we had was a copy of one built by Richard Edbury that won the last Bath tourney, whilst Blue Skies was a woefully out of date deck from Chicago. No Parallax Tides or Ankhs for me; I prefer having creatures and counter spells. I even put three Rising Waters main deck. I know that it’s not fashionable to maindeck them any more (with the reduction in pure Rebel decks out there), but they make the matchup worse for Good Spells.
Finally I made a few changes to Good Spells to try out some suggestions from Mike Mason – thanks, Mike. I added one Rappelling Scouts and one Cho-Manno, Revolutionary to see how they’d perform against my nemesis, Fires.
One point to note is that only the Zombie deck and Fires had ANY Planeshift cards in at all. I think that Planeshift, as with Nemesis and Prophecy, will take a little while to infiltrate all the deck archetypes out there.
With these decks and couple of pots of counters in tow, we headed off to my favourite pub, The Hobgoblin, Bath. I’ve been frequenting the Hob for about 6 years now and I find it a very friendly atmosphere with good beer and good food. We sat down and ordered lunch and a few drinks and started playing.
Five hours and a number of drinks later we’d tested a lot. CounterRebel vs. Zombie, Fires vs. Zombie, Zombie vs. Blue Skies, Good Spells vs. Zombie and Good Spells vs. Fires. We tested Good Spells vs. Fires A LOT. Cho-Manno is AMAZING vs. Fires. They can’t do ANYTHING about it at all. It blocks Blastoderms all day and can’t be burned out of the way. If he wasn’t legendary I’d play at least two, maybe more in the sideboard. The Rappelling Scouts proved a little too expensive for Good Spells. I just didn’t have the three mana to spare often enough – I needed it to search out Defiant Vanguards or Lin Sivvi far too much to keep the Scouts alive. I think in a deck with more land (24-26) and seven or eight mana producers, it would probably work VERY well, though… Something to try in the future, perhaps.
First thing Saturday morning, Alan turned up. By first thing, I mean that I was still in bed and contemplated letting him keep ringing the bell. Then again, I’d get no sleep that way either, so I let him in. Alan was after about ten cards for his Fires deck. He’s been playing nothing but Fires for the past few months now, and it’s beginning to show. He’s remembering to take tokens off his Burst in his opponent’s end step if Fires is not on the table, he’s keeping cards back in his hand against Counter Rebel, and he has started looking into sideboarding more seriously. Here’s the Fires deck he’s playing at the moment:
4x Birds of Paradise
4x Llanowar Elves
2x Flametongue Kavu
2x Shivan Wurm
2x Horned Kavu
2x Thornscape Battlemage
Other Spells (17):
4x Fires Of Yavimaya
2x Chimeric Idol
3x Saproling Burst
1x Urza’s Rage
1x Rhystic Lightning
2x Ghitu Fire
2x Rishadan Port
4x Karplusan Forests
1x Kjeldoran Necropolis
4x Kavu Chameleon
2x Flametongue Kavu
2x Hull Breach
The deck seems to offer the standard beatdown that we’ve all come to accept from Fires, but also offers a number of ways of reusing Blastoderm, Flametongue Kavu, and the Battlemages. Alan said that in one game he recast one Battlemage with kicker THREE times, killing three different small creatures. Not bad card advantage at all.
Alan, Andy and I wandered along to the tourney and had time to sit and chat before round one was announced. All the usual culprits were there along with a whole bunch of new players.
While waiting Mike Hampton, a Bath regular, popped over to tall me that he’d really liked my article "Split Cards Make Things Harder." Nice to know some of the guys in my hometown read what I write. He wanted to know what I thought about Battlemages and whether they offered the same problem.
…was the only answer I could give on the spot. After putting more thought into it, I can see that although Battlemages allow you to play both of their special abilities, you will find people casting a Thornscape to kill a creature – only to have an Idol be cast the very next turn. Whilst the usefulness of the cards in your deck has gone up on average, you might effectively decrease the number of cards in your deck that can deal with certain situations. The gating abilities of some creatures help with this a lot and may overcome this drawback completely. Only testing will show for sure.
So, the pairings were posted and I sat down opposite a fresh face: Luciano. He was one of the newcomers I mentioned and was playing Fires. Game one, he didn’t come out of the blocks quite fast enough, as my burn took down his mana producers. In the second game I cast Simoon when he didn’t lay a third-turn land, and started Dust Bowling his non-basics. It gave me the time to put out a few searchers and gain control before beating him in with a 3/3 flier. I didn’t see Luciano playing with any Planeshift cards at all. I was expecting a Flametongue or two, but I think he’d picked the decklist off the net and done his best to build it.
My second match was against a more regular player, Tim Veal. Tim has a higher standard ranking than me so I know that he’s quite good. He was playing Blue Skies with Parallax Tide and Ankh of Mishras in. I won the first game, but it took a long time. The second game took a while before I stabilised on only a few life. We both had a number of fliers out, so it was a stalemate apart from Tim’s Rath’s Edge. He had plenty of land, but hadn’t noticed that it could target players. Tim played an Ankh of Mishra, which locked the amount of land I had. I drew a Parallax Wave and waved out some of his stuff. He laid a land, taking himself down to ten, and then I came in for seven. Next turn I searched out a few more guys until I had enough creatures on the board to kill him by just attacking with everything – and I did just that.
He announced that he was, in fact, at six life and wouldn’t die.
I was dumbfounded. I make notes of life totals very carefully and had notes of exactly what damage I’d done. I argued a little with him, but eventually let him go back up to six. A few turns later, in the final five turns of the game, he killed enough of my fliers to win a game, forcing a draw.
I pointed out that he could have killed me with the Rath’s Edge a while ago and he said he’d just noticed himself… Hmm, not sure I believe that one. Once again, he wasn’t playing any Planeshift cards – I guess there aren’t many that could fit in Blue Skies with Ankh-Tide.
A 1-1 draw – not awful but not great either. After the game, Andy said I should have argued about the life total and got a judge over, seeing as we wouldn’t have agreed, the game would have then been void, we’d both have got a warning… And I would have won 1-0. This isn’t a strategy I’m happy with, or knew about. My knowledge of the floor rules is obviously sadly lacking. I made sure that Alan was aware of what had happened just in case he played Tim later in the day. I’m not sure he did it on purpose or not, but it’s best to let others know just in case.
Tarik joined us for lunch in The New Inn just across the street and agreed with Andy. I should have argued the game out, got the warning and got the win. I’m still not sure. My own feelings are that I could have lost the game at any moment had Tim just read Rath’s Edge. On the other hand he didn’t and if I had win it would have because of carelessness on his part. I’ve gone over the life totals I have written down again and again and I can’t see where I made a mistake. Next time I’ll stand by my guns.
After lunch I went back to play Phil Brett, another good Welsh player. He was playing Nether-Go, but a much better version than I’d previously seen, and he beat me 2-0. I’d increased the number of sideboard cards I had against control decks in general (upping three Armageddons to four) but I only saw one, and that was countered. Again, no Planeshift cards that I remember.
So, 1-1-1 after three rounds. To have a chance of top8, I’d now pretty much have to win everything. At the same time, Tarik had shown up and was trying to get eight people together for a draft. I put my name down and said I’d play one more match before dropping out.
At the start of the fourth round, I once more sat across the table from Kurt Bath.
"Do you think we’re ever going to play a tourney and not play each other?" I asked.
"Nope – I just hope I can beat you sometime soon."
Kurt and I have now played in the last four or five tourneys we’ve both attended, and I’ve beaten him every time. Kurt won the die roll and started off with a land, whilst I played out a land and a BoP. My mana developed, as did my creature base, and I eventually killed him with a 3/3 flier. I thought that he was playing a R/G deck that was more controlling than Fires but had some similar aspects, so I sideboarded in my anti-Fires cards and a few more just in case he had any surprises.
Another short game later I won 2-0. I asked Kurt what he was playing and he said "Fires". I was surprised. I saw no Bursts, no Fires, no Dragons and only one Blastoderm all match. Kurt was playing Flametongues and Battlemages but these were the ONLY Planeshift cards that had been played against me all day so far.
I told the TO, Chris Bagnall, that I was going to drop and Kurt was a bit upset. As far as I was concerned I’d got two wins, a draw, and a loss, and was going to play a draft. As far as Kurt was concerned, I’d beaten him and dropped out. If I had dropped out before playing, he would have played someone else and might have won. I can see his point of view, but if you take it too far you can’t drop out at all or you don’t play the tourney…. And I really wanted to draft.
Five minutes later, eight of us were sitting randomly around a table. I ended up sitting next to Tarik (on my right), to the right of him was Matt Bailie (qualified for PT: Tokyo) and to the right of him was another good drafter. So for two full lots of packs, I have the three best drafters to my right. Never mind.
I decided to try my best anyway and opened my first Invasion booster. Nightscape Master looked out at me and I just had to take him. I had a fair idea that one or two of the lads to my right would be picking black, but I didn’t know whom, so I took the chance. A few picks later black and blue had dried up and red was very sketchy. I started picking green and white to try and give myself some of a chance – but occasionally a good card would come my way in blue and I’d take that.
At the end of the draft, I looked at my cards and I had a real pile. I hadn’t stuck to green/white as much as I should have and I hadn’t drafted enough Harrows or Elves to make a reasonable 4- or 5-colour deck. I build a five colour anyway and put all the best cards in it. Surprisingly, I lost the first game 2-1. Boy, do I need practice.
The tourney was won, once again, by Richard Edbury. He’s been playing CounterRebel for three months now, and the last match he lost was in January. The only match he drew was against Alan, playing Fires. In the last round Alan and Richard met up and, as they were both tired, they IDed. That put Richard first and Alan in third place! That’s the highest finish Alan has ever had and he was over the moon. Congratulations. Alan – learning and practicing with a deck really works.
At the end of the day, I had a great time. I dropped out of the main event ahead of the game, even beating two Fires decks – my nemesis up until today – and had fun drafting, even if I was knocked out straight away. Since then we’ve got some more testing in and are looking at moving our play testing night so that a few more people can turn up. We may be back up to six (a big improvement on the three of us at the moment).
All in all I was expecting to see more inventive uses of Planeshift cards than I did – where are they all? I’ve seen a Turbo-Chant deck and a zombie deck so far. Hopefully there’ll be a few more sometime soon, and I’ll try to help by coming up with a few for next week.