Saturday, April 16th, 8 am
I wake up and start preparing for New York Regionals. It’s an eight-slot tournament capped at 275, so it should be a long day.
I bring the following gun to the gun fight:
General Thoughts on the Deck
Caw-Blade is by far the best deck in Standard right now. It’s flexible, inherently powerful, and can be adapted to answer most of the things that are
thrown its way. That being said, it’s also incredibly complex and needs many hours to become familiar with the way it and various matchups play
out. Lines of play in Caw-Blade span multiple turns with fairly important inflection points.
The mirror is particularly difficult because it’s a fine line between winning board position and winning card advantage. There are a number of
plays that aren’t immediately apparent, since they place a heavy focus on board position. The few that changed my outlook on the deck when I
learned about them are:
(1) Letting Jace get killed: If you play a Jace against a Tar Pit or a Colonnade, it’s sometimes right just to brainstorm. Sure, they can kill
your Jace “for free,” but they had to spend most of their turn to do so, giving you a huge leg up.
(2) Unsummoning when you could brainstorm.
(3) Assassinating with Gideon instead of +2ing. Having an active Gideon is huge but can be easily negated if they draw their own. Provided Gideon can
survive a turn at four loyalty, killing a sworded guy can keep you from getting too far behind if they can legend rule yours.
Various Card Notes
The decklist above is heavily influenced by the results in Grand Prix Dallas—namely, putting the second sword in the side as well as the
inclusion of Sylvok Lifestaff. Previously, I’d been wary of Lifestaff once Mortarpod was found, hoping that Ousts and Condemns would shore up my aggro
matchups. I was still having trouble with aggro notwithstanding, and the consensus of the Top 8 was that Lifestaff was actually necessary, so I was
happy to include it.
I was also okay with stashing the second sword in the sideboard. With the waning of Inquisition of Kozilek decks, having a backup sword in the main
became less important.
Inkmoth Nexus is an amazing inclusion, and I’m not sure why it took this long to find. The mirror is all about board control, and Inkmoth is
basically the closest thing to a free creature.
No Tumble Magnets. Magnet might be great, but I’m not great with them. I’m just not that familiar with the lines of play to be comfortable with
Gerry’s article published a couple days earlier
gave me the impetus to cut them from my list.
My list here is a little skewed to answer aggro, as the conventional wisdom was that Regionals is heavier on aggro. Of course, I sided in Lifestaff
exactly once over seven rounds, but hey, it is what it is.
I meet Luis Neiman and Reid Duke at the site looking to fill out my list. I sifted 80% of the deck out of the corners of Brian David-Marshall’s
fishbowl office a few days earlier but am still missing some key cards (a fourth Jace, a couple Stoneforges, some lands… the Scars commons). Luis
offered most of it, but since Reid’s brother Ian didn’t feel like waking up at 4 am to make the trip, I’m able to scavenge the rest from
his abandoned deck.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone again for the card borrows. The niceness of the paper Magic community is astounding, and the fact
that I can put together a deck approaching a used car in value is likewise astounding. I’d also like to mention Max, Jon (Watchwolf92 from my
homeland), and Matt, who I was also pleased to meet for the first time.
Final attendance ends up at 194, shaving a round off the max and adding significant elbow room between players. With eight slots, we’ll be playing
eight rounds of Swiss without a Top 8.
I enter round three 2-0. Round one I beat U/B Poison, which looked like the old Kibler build. It actually can be a tough matchup with his Crusaders and
Magnets. Luckily, he has Vatmothers, which are pretty badly positioned in a world of Caw-Blades. Round two, I play a quick two-game set against the
Round three is against a game individual who leads with turn 1 Memnite, Inkmoth Nexus, Signal Pest, turn 2 Quicksand, and activates Inkmoth, swinging
for two poison, two damage. At this point, I’m scouring my databanks for possible deck matches. I settle on some rogue poison strategy and trade a
Squadron Hawk for 2/1 Nexus at the opportunity cost of four life. When he follows it up with Mountain, Etched Champion, I get a horrifying vision of
losing the game over six turns in two point chunks. He floods and never gets metalcraft, so I get to answer the Champion, and then Jace takes over,
favoring fateseals over brainstorms, so that I can see as much of his deck as possible. Game two goes much better with knowledge of his game plan and
the ample anti-aggro package.
Round four is against Jamaal in a tough mirror match. My inexperience with live play rears its head once again. Early on, he searches up a second Sword
with a Mystic, shuffles his deck a couple times, then picks up the sword to put back in his deck. I call a judge, who confirms that he can’t
search out another equipment instead (likely, the Mortarpod which would have sunk me). My insistence on the judge call makes me a little more skittish
about asking him to speed up his play, and I’m terrified about getting a draw. I know I should ask him to play faster and that I’m entitled to
do so, but I haven’t gotten used to actually doing it or know how to go into “no mercy” mode without feeling like a jerk.
I lose a game despite having an active Gideon and Jace and catching a glimpse of his barely relevant Day of Judgment in hand. I fateseal him and see
another Jace, shipping it to the bottom. He untaps, casts Into the Roil on my Gideon, and attacks with his double sworded Hawk, netting him a Wolf
token, then uses his extra mana to make it Jace-proof. I wonder if I should’ve let him keep the Jace, since I had another Jace in hand.
Near the end of game three, I’m jamming my plays to avoid going to time, knowing that a draw is as good as a loss. He has a dominating board position
with a Sun Titan and Gideon and all the goodies that Sun Titan has found and multiple Wolf tokens. I’m missing plays here and there in my rush to avoid
a draw, but I find a Gideon to kill his, then a Day to kill the Titan and stabilize on two life just as we enter extra turns. I’m still agitated, not
knowing how to slow down despite time not mattering anymore, but once I assess the situation, I realize I actually have a shot. I’ve previously
connected a couple of times with a Sworded dude just to get him to discard, leaving him on an eminently beatable twelve life, otherwise known as two
swings with a sworded Colonnade. I win exactly on turn 5 and walk over to Reid and company who are ready to commiserate my loss, having abandoned the
rail a few turns earlier.
I enter round six having picked up a loss to the mirror on my first ever table one appearance. I sit down against Chris Lachmann, having the benefit of
knowing he’s playing a mono-white Emeria, the Sky Ruin deck, since Luis lost to him earlier. Game one is a loss to his Sword of Body of Mind, but game
two is a quick win.
Late in game three, I have a good board position, but his topdecked Emeria puts the game back in play—a few turns later to be answered by my
topdecked Tectonic Edge. We’re running out of time, and again I start making sloppy plays, such as trying to double activate Jace and double play a
land (both of which he promptly corrected). I again win on the last turn of extra turns though, buttressed by the surprisingly quick clock Caw can
It’s this that reminds me most of Faeries. While many games involve the inexorable grind of Jace and Sword of Feast and Famine to win board and card
advantage, most of your plays produce enough damage early on that you can finish them off handily between Gideon, Colonnade, or a double-sworded man.
Having beat another mirror to reach 6-1, it appears my breakers seem good enough to draw into the Top 8 (a straight cut to the eight Nationals
qualification slots). My opponent, unfortunately, has slightly worse breakers, and I didn’t get enough time with the standings to figure out draw
math and whether he can make it.
Again, my inexperience comes up in that I’d very much like a draw with someone who probably needs to play, don’t particularly care about packs
but am knowledgeable about the prohibitions against impermissible inducements and outside assistance. Our table is surrounded by judges monitoring
against the above, so I discuss gingerly the possibility of a draw, having no innate feel about exactly what is permissible. I mention from the outset
that I’m pretty sure I can draw in but that his breakers are worse. I ask the judges if I can reference what’s happening at adjoining tables (i.e.,
that while the players above us have drawn, the ones below us are playing). The judges get increasingly more suspicious once they sense my dancing, so
I present my deck and gird myself for a win-and-in.
My opponent then utters the glorious, albeit unfortunately phrased, “Let’s gamble,” and offers the handshake. I respond very
succinctly “OK, DRAW?”, shake his hand, mark down 0-0-3, and then spend the rest of the last round avoiding him so as not to feed any judge
When standings are announced, I ecstatically make seventh, having the highest of the breakers at 6-1-1. My round-eight opponent ends up ninth, missing
by little more than one percentage point in breakers.
This is my first actual successful finish in a paper event, which is a pretty nice feeling. Of course, the Magic Online Championship Series (MOCS)
season 4 finals is in a couple hours, so I know I have to get back to work, but with a celebratory beer and burger until then.
The MOCS finals start at 10 pm, but my three byes means I don’t enter until after midnight. It’s a reschedule from the previous
weekend’s attempt that froze after round seven at the distressing hour of 5 am. I’ve written in the forums and elsewhere about the
inconsistent support that high-level events on MODO receive, and while it was heartbreaking to play seven hours for nothing the last week, I was a
beneficiary of the last-minute fix. I had left off last time 6-2 with an outside shot of the Top 8. Now I’m back to even with the clean respawn, except
the event is slightly smaller, having cut some people who opted out the previous week, leaving a beatable 147 players. With ten rounds, it looks like
most of the X-2s will make it, meaning 5-2 after my byes.
Anyway, I get home with the plan to take a small nap before I have to play, but it’s either severe dehydration/event fatigue or food poisoning,
and I don’t feel well. I feel too much like crap to doze off, so the best I can do is drink as much water as I can, either to rehydrate or induce
vomiting. Regardless of how awful I feel, I know I need to soldier on, lest my carefully cultivated 45 QPs go to waste (documented here:part 1, part 2).
I sleeve up the following:
Basically the same as the above, just slightly tweaked back towards beating the mirror and RUG, which I expected more of online. The metagame for the
MOCS and the previous Regionals was kind of funny. Where I saw only the briefest spark of aggro at Regionals, my first two matches were against
I lose my first game round four despite the fact that he made no play until turn 4. I misplay, despite having Stoneforge and Squadron Hawk, by holding
up Mana Leak instead of developing my board. The misplay catches up when I choke on lands and am forced to overcommit to sword while he plays out his
hand. Lifestaff and Squadron Hawk carry me in the rest of the match, however, and also against the same matchup the next round.
I’ve drunk four liters of water since getting home, stabilizing on a churning stomach and general fatigue but basically dead to any topdeck. Fate
doesn’t get there though, and my symptoms start dissipating. Round six I play the mirror for the first time in the MOCS and fifth time today.
Game one I keep an iffy hand a little short on gas, but my flood gives me an advantage since its heavy on Tectonic Edges, taking him off of white mana.
After losing a quick game two, I win game three with a Sun Titan, backed up with Edges. When the mirror goes late, the game can swing wildly based on
the bombs (Titan, Gideon, Reins), which means Edging them down to four or five lands can matter even if you aren’t hitting manlands.
I’m trying not to fall asleep. I just locked up my Top 8 berth with wins over Boros and the mirror (outdrawing him on lands). I’m not
looking forward to playing two more rounds of Swiss, despite devouring a fresh pot of coffee and a leftover muffin from the deep.
Round nine starts, and I go to watch replays of my opponent’s previous rounds to see that there are only eight of us playing, and the chat room
is in an uproar. Apparently, whoever set up the new event didn’t factor in byes, and several people at X-1 didn’t make the cut. It really
sucks that it “broke” again, but at least the event kept going, and I was on the other side of things.
My opponent is playing Valakut with maindeck Joraga Treespeaker, preventing me from attacking his mana profitably but letting me save my counters for
his gas. The Flashfreezes post-board lock up a quick 2-0.
I wait for my semifinals matchup—which is either Jabs (Carlos Romao) or another Brazilian ringer (_NovA_, my round eight opponent), both playing
Caw-Blade—and I’m not really happy to play either. Carlos has a maindeck Sun Titan, which I’d be hard-pressed to answer, and both have
access to the newest tech of Hero of Bladehold, so I feel I’m at a slight deck disadvantage.
I end up playing _NovA_, making me marginally happier for two reasons. First, Jabs is the reigning MOCS champion, and second, I’m 3-0 against
_NovA_ in my MOCS career.
He wins the die roll and a quick game one but is screwed on lands games two and three, letting me win at my own pace. I was a little leery of
Gerry’s insistence on 27 lands, though given the importance of making land drops, it might be a good call. Inkmoth Nexus mitigates the problem of
flooding, and the six-drops are so swingy that extra lands will make them just a little better than your opponent’s.
The finals is against another mirror, though thankfully with a more traditional list. In game one, I win the roll and have a pretty good draw of
Stoneforge against his Squadron Hawk. With Sword in my hand, I search up Mortarpod, which will let me force through an untapped Hawk if needed. His
turn 3 involves holding back Hawk but failing to cast a second despite having three mana up.
This seems extremely fishy to me, so I choose to play Mortarpod but don’t kill his Hawk. One of the easiest ways to lose this opening is to have
your Sworded guy neutralized and have them untap into Jace to bounce your guy. Even if you have another Jace, they now have initiative on an empty
board, and if you don’t have a Jace (and I don’t), then it’s their Jace versus whatever small guy you play next, letting them collect card
and board advantage while you race to kill Jace. By not using Mortarpod, I’m leaving myself with another body to carry a sword. I don’t choose to
bluff a Leak, since he’s representing Condemn plus Leak, and I can force him to find his own way to claw back.
He does have the Condemn and untaps into another Hawk, while I start swinging with my sworded Germ. He continues to play Hawks to chump, allowing me to
swing with Colonnades. The damage eventually gets there.
Game two I keep an iffy six of Celestial Colonnade, Glacial Fortress, Preordain, Stoneforge Mystic, and some cards that will be blanks early. I
don’t draw an untapped land and lose to a pretty standard draw from my opponent.
When I fan open my opening seven for game three, I see glimpses of the golden hand: Island, Plains, Stoneforge, Squadron Hawk, Sword, Jace, and
Volition Reins. Drawing two lands in three draw steps will give me Jace in time, but even if I stumble, I have more than enough business to keep my
lands occupied. My deck delivers, finding me lands and a Spell Pierce, letting me push through a Sworded guy and keep pressure on. On the last turn, I
click Volition Reins, tap my mana, untap, and redo everything very slowly. Volition Reins, targeting his only blocker, blue, blue, blue, mana, mana,
mana. Activate Gideon. Declare attackers. Attack, attack, attack, pass to combat damage. Combat damage resolves, and time stops while I wait for the
“The game ended on Turn 8 in defeat. prolepsis9 has won the match.”
“prolepsis9 has won the tournament!”
And with that, I’m headed back to Worlds, given another chance to avenge my prior defeat. I spend a couple minutes running around the house and shaking
my wife out of her peaceful slumber. I come back to the computer to find a flood of congratulations on MODO and Twitter, fueling my sleep-deprived
The deck is all there, and I’d recommend it to anyone with the time to learn the intricacies of the deck and the mirror. I’m taking a small
break, but the next steps with the deck for me would be:
– Learn how Magnets play: I’m still not entirely sold on them, but they do seem inherently powerful, and it’s pretty hard to assess when
you’re unfamiliar with how they affect the various lines of play.
– Try Hero of Bladehold: Hero seems like a strong card, having four toughness (relevant versus a sworded Mystic and Lightning Bolt), able to
assassinate Gideon by herself, and through a rules quirk, a Jace through an active Gideon. She also makes basically infinite guys while also being
immune to Spell Pierce. I think like the little U/W–U/W/r–U/W/b dance performed earlier in the season, the next (albeit smaller) dance will
be between U/W builds with and without Day of Judgment. Including Hero or Sun Titan main will give you an advantage but also leave you a little more
prone to Day of Judgment.
– Play more lands, maybe with more Inkmoths: A lot of my wins in the mirror were basically due to drawing lands when I needed them. The deck mulligans
very well, and you can get a good foothold in the early game with just two lands and a Hawk or Mystic. The problem is getting out of the early game,
and you’ll lose quickly if you stall out at three lands. You don’t even need to draw a planeswalker, since Hawk and Mystic give you things
to spend mana on and, while not ideal, are respectable against Jace. Inkmoth also flies, avoids Day and both Jace and Gideon’s minus abilities.
Sometimes, you even get to poison them out. (As an aside, whoever on the MODO team decided to get rid of “_____ was poisoned!!!” needs to
The apparently legitimate spoiler for New Phyrexia just hit the internet, and while unfortunate, it hints towards large changes in Standard. In
addition to feeding a number of new strategies (Tempered Steel, Birthing Pod), it also gives a lot of tools for and against Caw-Blade. Amusingly
enough, Jarvis Yu and I were mentioning hours before how we would probably play two Peeks in the deck, and when I saw the new Peek, it basically blew
Winning the MOCS also brings with it a sense of relief. I definitely have gained the fire, and my most recent success has given me the confidence in
both my playskill and ability to win in paper as well, but the downside is that for every non-MODO thing I wanted to do (including PTQs and other
real-life tournaments), I had to calculate how many QPs I’d give up to do so. There’s a reason it’s called a grind, and it certainly feels
that way after basically spending 24 hours straight playing Magic. Now I get to focus on PTQs and upcoming tournaments (GP Providence, Nationals, SCG
Opens) without guilt.
The day after, I remembered a snippet of conversation about the grind I had with Reid following a long playtesting session two weeks earlier:
7:55 PM prolepsis9: i am trying to decide if i should skip season 5
7:55 PM reiderrabbit: why would you?
7:55 PM reiderrabbit: because you won season 4?
7:55 PM prolepsis9: 😀