Today I’m going to recount the horror and occasional splendor of the StarCityGames.com Battle Royale. The format was Budget Standard; no one’s deck could cost more than 30 event tickets to put together on MTGO. The four participants in the challenge were me, Todd Anderson, Gavin Verhey, and Max McCall. Round robin meant I’d be playing each of them once. Here’s the list I used.
- 4 Lightning Bolt
- 2 Pyroclasm
- 4 Mana Leak
- 4 Foresee
- 4 Burst Lightning
- 3 Into the Roil
- 4 Pyromancer Ascension
- 1 Deprive
- 4 See Beyond
- 4 Preordain
- 2 Call to Mind
Initially I considered playing a Mono-Green Beastmaster Ascension list (I guess I wanted to Ascend somehow, I dunno), but I felt like Pyromancer was the right way to go in a budget format. I only had the budget for one Jace Beleren, and I couldn’t afford a single Scalding Tarn, but those cards aren’t essential pieces, and Terramorphic Expanse was available as a poor but adequate substitute for the latter. Sideboarding Frost Titan was out of the question, so I called on Shel Turtlestein, a.k.a. convertible turtle, a.k.a. Calcite Snap Keep to give me a creature threat out of the board.
If I was going to ball out of control and flex the white gold tarantula (i.e. play non-budget Standard), I wouldn’t start two Pyroclasms, but in this world, I knew the other decks wouldn’t have planeswalkers and would probably have some small creatures, so instead of one Deprive and the one Jace I couldn’t afford, I started two Clasms and left the other two in the board.
Round 1: Max McCall playing Mono-Green Poison
Max played a deck that Cedric has been raving about recently; it’s the Groundswell + Vines of Vastwood + infect creature plan. Game 1 Max’s plan goes off without a hitch, and a Cystbearer kills me after some 1/1s died to burn. At one point I remember looking at the Cystbearer attacking me and thinking to myself, “Did I pass him an Untamed Might??” and then remembering this wasn’t actually a draft. It’s pretty hard to get a 2-for-1 with Pyroclasm in this matchup, because if I decide to just cast See Beyond or Foresee now and wait to get two guys next turn, I might just die to Groundswell or Adventuring Gear or whatever else.
Game 2 I’m able to burn and counter my way through all his business as an Ascension gains counters, and I win easily.
Game 3, for all the marbles, pride on the line, trying desperately to avoid losing to a draft deck, and I mulligan to five. I’d never mulligan to give myself an excuse, a crutch to lean on, in the event I lost an embarrassing matchup, but here we are. On MODO, it said “GuiIJoe has been poisoned!” when game 1 ended, and I joked with Max that it should just say “GuiIJoe was embarrassed!” or “Humiliation!” or something. Here I am playing a deck with eight Bolts and 2 Pyroclasms to go with a combo engine that my opponent can’t interact with (game 1), and I’ve been defeated by Necropede and the other infected villagers that ganged together to storm my ivory tower of Pyromancer pedagogy. I was sickened, and I felt sickened.
0-1 (1-2 games)
Round 2: Todd Anderson playing Vampires
Okay, here we go again, I wonder how this little kid is going to humiliate me. Oh, he’s chosen his Twilight-theme deck featuring format staples Pawn of Ulamog and Pulse Tracker. Bloodghast is a concern, but the other guys are pretty much nocturnal unplayables. In both games, I just Bolted my way through several bloodsuckers and then stuck an Ascension, which of course the mono-black deck can’t kill (this isn’t Pro Tour Monte Carlo folks, it’s not like he just flew in on a private jet and had his butler fetch him a playset of Ratchet Bomb).
Todd was a class act in defeat as usual. I gained a lot of respect for Todd after I saw how he handled the Charles Gindy DQ when he was a member of the US National team at Worlds last year. He basically just said “these things happen,” and he didn’t appear mad at Gindy or upset at the judges despite the fact that one or both had cost him a chance to win a lot of money. No one really mentioned how he handled this situation with maturity and class, in a moment in which he literally represented the United States on a world stage.
**insert bro hug culminating in awkward fist pound and a wipe of the eyes to show that even thuggish Magic ballers and bitter enemies can share a tender moment**
1-1Â Â (3-2 games)
Round 3: Gavin Verhey playing Vampires
Sweet, I get to beat up on black Grizzly Bears again and finish 2-1. “Not so fast!” I assume Gavin was thinking. Game 1 he Bloodghasted me out as all my burn spells were really just Fogs against this particularly Grizzled Bear. As I looked at my sideboard between games, I saw a comforting and sharp amphibious face looking back at me. It was time to convert Gavin into a believer. Turtle Power.
Gavin had three Bloodghasts at the midpoint of game 2, and things were looking bleak. As I hanged my head, I heard a
A slow rustling of leaves, and then another
Two Snapping Turtles showed up to hold down the fort!! An Ascension went live, and as three Bloodghasts crashed in, two of them got chomped, and the third got Bolted, with a copy headed Gavin’s way. I untapped, laid a land to piss off the Turtles and attacked for eight. Gavin could block one Turtle, but he took four from the other, and two Bolts finished him off.
Game 3 I wasn’t so lucky. Two Duresses + two Dark Tutelages are too much to overcome, and Gavin took the match.
1-2Â Â (4-4 games)
A one-and-two finish playing nearly full-blown hibachi Ascension against some half-baked creature decks. Not my finest hour, but I definitely had fun battling royale. For those looking for an inexpensive way to enter the Standard format, Ascension is a good choice. Just look out for Necropedes and Bloodthrone Vampires, the traditional bane of combo decks.
mtg_law_etc on Twitter