At the Gathering – States 2009: What It’s All About

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Wednesday, December 16th – On December 4th, I played in my local FNM with Jund to prepare for States 2009. I had been playing with Boros since Worlds, and felt very comfortable with it, but a testing session mid-week scared me off, as I had a string of bad draws in a mock-gauntlet tournament. After shuffling Jund for a while, I felt pretty competent with it, and we felt we had some good tech to bring against the (expected) field…

On December 4th, I played in my local FNM with Jund to prepare for States 2009. I had been playing with Boros since Worlds, and felt very comfortable with it, but a testing session mid-week scared me off, as I had a string of bad draws in a mock-gauntlet tournament. After shuffling Jund for a while, I felt pretty competent with it, and we felt we had some good tech to bring against the (expected) field. Here’s the list we played:

The main deck saw us take out Putrid Leech in favor of Great Sable Stag, as we were boarding Leech out in most every matchup, and would rather have something else in the main. Since we had 4 Stags in the board, they were an easy port. We also dropped Broodmate Dragon, based on our local testing of increasingly fast decks, and wanting something that came down before turn 6. We added 1 Bituminous Blast and 1 Master of the Wild Hunt in place of Double Dragon. I liked the change, as I always liked drawing them and only occasionally made it to 6 mana, and by that time, Double Dragon wouldn’t have been relevant.

As for the sideboard, Pithing Needle was intended for the Boros matchup, as naming their fetch lands just about wrecks the deck, and getting 2 is almost a lock. It’s tougher against the Kibler version, with Terramorphic, but still very effective. Of course, Pithing Needle ended up being versatile and useful in most matchups, and was a good inclusion.

Jund Charm was for the weenie hordes, with backup of helping out against the crazy Standard Dredge deck. Sadly, I never really played against either, and I never used it all game. Still, I would keep it in the board for them.

The Eldrazi Monuments were for the Mirror, giving us some evasion and hopefully a powerful endgame in the mirror match. I also ended up using it against a W/R deck as a method to chump Baneslayer and Luminarch tokens. Overall, I was pleased with it, but as we figured, it’s best utilized as a surprise. If Eldrazi monument is a known quantity, it’s not effective, but if it’s a surprise endgame, then it does much better. This is largely why we felt Eldrazi Green wasn’t a real deck, as its surprise factor had rubbed off.

The singleton Malakir Bloodwitch was in the board over the 4th Maelstrom Pulse, as I wanted to have some sort of reasonable out to a Baneslayer Angel that didn’t involve them gaining copious amounts of life like they would with Eldrazi Monument Chump Blockers.

Ruinblaster was effective in the matches I played him, stranding a very color intensive 4 color deck on three lands that didn’t allow him to deploy any threats while I casually kicked some face.

Anyway, on to the report. Friday night, I kept telling Lurch he should go, because we didn’t have another tournament trip planned until March (we have the late qualifiers this season) and he hadn’t done well at either of the PTQs. He finally decided he hated his boss enough to call in sick, and we had a third in the car.

I get up at 5:30 to get ready, and proceed to absolutely get wrecked by some sort of stomach… thing. I don’t know if it was an illness, or bad food, or what, but I was preoccupied for a bit, if you catch my drift. I get outside, and it’s dropped 2+ inches of snow on the ground, and is still going at it. Glad I have a 4X4. I briefly consider not going, but realize I don’t want to let down the guys. Plus, Magic, amiright? I picked up Lurch and Christian and we headed out for the 3-hour drive to the site. 10 miles into it, right after we pass the last exit for about 15 miles, my fuel light comes on. Yeah, that’s about par for the morning. So, I flip a U-turn and go up the on-ramp. Keep in mind; it’s snowing, at 6 in the A.M., in the middle of Nowhere, on an Indian Reservation. Not a car in sight. Of course, I forgot that my Jeep used to be a fleet vehicle, and as such, the gas light comes on at 2/3 empty. We had another 100 miles, easy. We score some snacks at the Gas Station, and the pump goes so slow, I can actually count along with the pennies as it ticks up. Of course, some lady drives up, has the same thing happen, asks the attendant, and he fixes both of ours. I just figured it was a busted up Gas Joint in the middle of Nowhere. Meh.

We roll up to the site with about 15 minutes to spare, and the guys sweating it, but I keep reminding them, we’re running on Gamer Standard time, so the tournament won’t start till at least 30 minutes after announced. Round 1, we sit down at 10:33. Must? Is.

Speaking of round 1, here we go.

1) Aaron Hurst, R/W Control (?)
Aaron and I have played before, but not really. At a GPT earlier this year, his car didn’t get to the site until 45 minutes after the supposed start time. They got in the building 9 minutes into round 1, after telling the T.O. to register them anyway from the car. He was paired against me for the first round, and I took my first win the easy way. Here, he’s playing some sort of R/W combination with things like Path, Journey to Nowhere, Oblivion Ring, Ajani Vengeant, Bolt, Luminarch Ascension, and of course Baneslayer Angel. He wins game one because I can’t think straight, and feel like death would be kinda nice right now. I keep holding Pulse back, but with nothing else relevant to do, when I should have wrecked either his Ajani or his Luminarch. Instead, both get to ultimate before I hit the Ajani off lethal. A few turns later, infinite Angel Tokens wreck me.

In game two, he mulligans, I Blightning, and we’re on to game 3. So this is why people like Jund. Nice deck.

The third game closes out when he lands a Baneslayer, with no hand, when I have a Thrinax on board. I Terminate it, (With Extreme Prejudice!) but he plays another off the top. I play Eldrazi Monument to stop the beats, but he rips Oblivion Ring. He plays it on my Monument, which is wrong, because if he Rings the Thrinax, I have to sac the Monument, and he two-for-one’s me. As it is, I have a second Monument in hand, which I run out there hoping to punish him for his mistake, but he rips Journey to Nowhere to remove the Thrinax and go lethal anyway. I know I played poorly in game one, but it feels rough to get beat down from the top like that. However, Aaron played well, so I can only fault myself and my mistakes.


After this round, I get some fresh air and sip a little Gatorade, but still feel a little queasy. My wife texts me to say that 2 of my kids are also feeling ill, so maybe it was food. However, she feels just fine.

2) Corwin Delight, U/G Control Ramp
This round is all a hazy blur. I remember him triggering a landfall after passing the turn, and I let him go on it, but then regretted it. Later, he plays an Ior Ruin Expedition, lays a land to put one counter on it. Then he casts Harrow with one land left open. He plays the Harrow lands, taps them, throws down a Wall of Frost, shuffles a few times, and then moves to trigger the Ior Ruin Expedition, which I contest. We call a judge, who obviously rules that by playing the Wall of Frost, he was implying he wished to move the game-state forward to that point. As I said “Okay, it resolves,” I am in agreement to this shortcut, so you have missed the optional trigger. It doesn’t matter, as I am not even thinking straight for most of the games, and proceed to lose 0-2 anyway.


After this round, I proceed to move directly to the bathroom, where I decimate the toilet in a quick and violent manner. This, however, makes me feel fantastic, so I go outside, and the cold air feels good. Or so I thought, but instead find some nearby bushes to attack further. My Doctor said the cold air caused some sort of convulsion, kind of like an aftershock. Cute, huh?

Either way, I am feeling fantastic now. I down a Red Bull, and am ready to X-0 my way back to the prizes. Lurch is 0-2 also, playing Jacerator, and Christian is 1-1 with Jund.

3) Derek Carter, U/G Ramp
The first game is a blowout, with me just hitting my curve beautifully, and him stalling a little bit. The second was actually the weirdest game I’ve played in a while. The game state had both of us with three Saproling Tokens. (He had cast a Rite of Replication on one of my Thrinaxes earlier, both of which killed each other) I had a Great Sable Stag, another Thrinax, and another 3/3 (I don’t remember exactly what) while he had a Sphinx of Jwar Isle. He’s at 5 life, and I’m at 2. I swing all out, and he looks at the board and goes “Yep, I lose,” and scoops ’em up. Must.

Now, there wasn’t any confusion on the tokens, as I actually loaned him 3 Saproling Tokens to use. If he chumps the big guys and eats one with his Sphinx, his Sphinx attack kills me. The only thing I can think is he looked at the Saprolings all trading, not thinking about using them to block the bigger guys, and in that case 6 damage would get through, although to be honest, I didn’t stop to ask. After throwing away the first two rounds to illness, I was ready to take any wins I could get.


4) Jesse Loerschter, Jacerator
Lurch and I played some close games. He actually was about to beat me in the third game when he, out of nowhere, says “I concede.” I ask if he’s sure, because I don’t want him to feel like he’s obligated to for any reason, and he says “Yeah, you’re more likely to use the prize (entry fees) if you win, and you also have better tie-breakers. I just came to play some Magic. Good Luck.”

These games were hard fought, and he actually was about to win the last one with no cards in his library himself, having drawn the last one on his last turn to get the lethal Archive Trap.


5) Josiah Stivers, 4 Color Discard
Josiah played against Christian in round 3 I believe, so I had some idea of what his deck was. I asked Christian to give me some quick hits before we sat down, and he just reaffirmed what I had seen, although he did remind me to watch out for Unearth. Josiah is playing Jund +Grixis, with Blightning and the Grixis colored Sedraxis Specter to go with Blightning and some Green stuff (probably Bloodbraid Elf.)

Game 1, I curve out perfectly, with turn 3 Blightning, turn 4 Bloodbraid Elf into Blightning, turn 5 Bloodbraid Elf into Terminate for his blocker. It was pretty brutal.

Game 2, I bring in the Ruinblasters for his shaky manabase. He misses his turn 4 land drop, but hits a Crumbling Necropolis on turn 5 to get the following land base: 2 Crumbling Necropolis (one tapped), Mountain, Forest. I cast Bloodbraid Elf with a Savage Lands untapped, hit a Ruinblaster, kick it into his face by wrecking the Necropolis, and proceed to win out from there while he has two Sedraxis Specters in hand.


Looking at the standings, it would take a small miracle to make the Top 8 (as we only have 6 rounds) but it is incrementally possible if I get paired up, and every one of my opponents wins this round.

6) Nathan Stivers, Naya Life-gain
I instead get paired down, against a 2-3. I tell him I have a very slim chance at Top 8 if he concedes, and would be guaranteed prizes, while he can’t make either. He asks what I’m playing, and when I say Jund, he says “Shuffle up.” I felt like I was from Turkey. He mentions if I had been playing anything else, he would have conceded, but not Jund, I’m going to have to earn it. Such is life.

Game 1 is never close, and I earn a flawless victory by never even moving off of 20. He gains a total of 10 life, so I actually did 30+ damage to him that game, but he never got any offense going. Game 2 is the exact opposite, with his life going 20-17-22-26-31, while I go in the opposite direction, and fast. Game 3 was probably the best game of Magic all day, and was truly a battle back and forth, with both of us throwing haymakers. Baneslayers and Masters galore with a Lethal Garruk Overrun coming in with a Monument to take him from 19 to 0. We did mess one part up royally, and I didn’t even realize it until dinner, so I’ll save it until then.

12th (?) place

I know I finished between 10th and 16th, but other than that, it’s a guess, as I was elsewhere during prizes and just barely got them before we headed out to dinner.

Lurch ended up 1-5, although he had a lot of fun playing. His 2 Archive Traps always seemed to be on the bottom four, as he lost 3 separate games (and one 2 others, barely) where both archive traps were in the bottom 5 cards, and if even one had been closer, he would have won. Bad beats.

Christian started out 3-1, then lost the Jund Mirror when paired up and then lost to Naya Lightsaber, although I think he had mentally given up after not taking the draw in round 5 that was offered. I think his opponent should have conceded, as 4-1-1 would have done it and locked both of them in, but I can see why he didn’t.

Afterwards, we went to Applebee’s for dinner, and I was replaying round 6, game 3 for them. I attacked with my 4/4 beast token into his Baneslayer, which he obviously blocked with. I then used Bituminous Blast to finish it off, and cascaded into Bloodbraid Elf and Lightning Bolt.

Christian said “Wait, back up. Where did you get enough damage to kill the Baneslayer?”
“Dude, I ran a 4/4 beast into it to get the first four, then finished it with a Bit Blast.”
“Uh, Jeff, Baneslayer has First Strike. You guys messed that up.”

Ooh, yeah, my bad. I think the Bituminous Blast would have been lethal anyway, as I obviously would have targeted it with the Bolt had we known, but that would have been three more life he had. If Nathan is out there reading this, my apologies to you. I totally forgot about the first strike. I Blame MaRo.

I had the Pulled Pork Sliders which were actually really good, despite how it sounds, and seemed to settle my Stomach for the ride home. Also, they had 11 different lemonade options, which was cool.

We drove home afterwards, completing the Iron-man trip in one day, and had quite a good time. Despite the illness (which wrecked me for the better part of dead week. How appropriately named) I had a good time with the guys. This is another great reason to play Magic, to spend time with friends around you and enjoy the game.

Until next time, this is Jeff Phillips, reminding you: Don’t make the Loser Choice.