Battle Royale Round 11 – Drawing Dead

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Jeroen Remie, two-time Battle Royale champion, took a leaf from the Holy Book of Wakefield for this current round of play. Cards? 62. Lands? 26. Fat monsters, removal, and fun. Was it enough to bring down the grumpiest player on the Pro Tour? You’ll have to read the article to find out…

The end of an era…

I know, I know. A two-round winning streak doesn’t really amount to much, but I gotta tell you… it felt good to be the champ! Now it’s all over, and all I have left are the memories, the bitter-sweet memories. Memories of how I was on top, how I couldn’t lose… and then I got crushed by a fellow pro that had better draws than I did.

Here are the lists, in case you’ve forgotten about them:

The first thing I thought when I saw the lists? I thought that Richie’s deck didn’t look that tough. He didn’t have a lot of card advantage (only the four Compulsive Researches really), and he only had seven guys, each of which I could easily handle with Icy Manipulator, removal spells, or even the Cremates from the sideboard – packed to be brought in for precisely this sort of deck. I was very happy to see no X-spells, such as Demonfire or the more budget-friendly Blaze, in the maindeck or sideboard, as such an addition would easily have meant that the matchup would be horrible for me.

That being said, I also didn’t expect this to be easy. My deck’s strength was very much geared toward beating creature decks, and thus it can give a deck like Richie’s a great deal of time to set up. On top of that, game 1 could be horrible as those Angels would come back time and again.

Guess what happened… correct. That’s exactly how I got crushed in the first game.

I mulliganed and couldn’t really put up much pressure when my guys were neutered by a Faith’s Fetters or two, and Richie played his Arbiter perfectly, thanks to the backup of double Remand. He then followed this up with a Firemane Angel. My only removal was an Edict at that point, so I was forced to just play creatures (he had ten mana by this stage) and hope he couldn’t kill me in time.

Oh, he could.

My sideboard strategy was simple: since I didn’t have any real early pressure, my plan was to kill him slowly. Keep his guys off the board, gain control, and then mop up with huge Drain Lifes (a.k.a. Consume Spirit). This lead me to pull the Ravenous Rats (he has so many bouncelands and card-draw spells that they didn’t really matter), the Coldsteel Hearts (tempo wasn’t really an issue… my game plan simply didn’t care, and I still had plenty of lands to work with), and the Bottle Gnomes (he wasn’t really beatdown, and I already had the Drain Lifes for lifegain anyway. On top of that, they are also a negligible threat on their own), swapping them out for Cremates, Blackmails, Last Gasps (as the spell kills all his guys) and the Phyrexian Snowcrushers, simply to have some extra threats available.

There really isn’t much to say about the next two games. My sideboard plan seemed to work just fine, except for one small detail – I didn’t ever draw a Consume Spirit. This meant that due to Confiscate, Dream Leash, and some Angel damage, he managed to get me low enough both games to simply burn me out before I could draw one. Sure, his draws were great, with multiple Fetters (he saw all four in game 2) and Dream Leashes (he saw all four in game 3) and a huge amount of burn (he drew at least three Lightning Helixes and two Electrolyzes in the top half of his deck in each game), but it simply came down to my mulligans, awkward draws, and…. well, my lack of Drain Lifes.

Should I have kept in the Bottle Gnomes? Sure, they seemed very suboptimal, but basically his only gameplan was to burn me out from a reasonable total. I figured with four Consume Spirits that the burn wouldn’t really be a problem, but it turned out to be a thorn in my side. The Bottle Gnomes wouldn’t have been great, but some other cards in my deck weren’t particularly stellar after boarding. I am still unsure what I should have done for the overall game, but looking back, those Bottle Gnomes def belonged maindeck.

In all honestly, I feel like I threw it away myself. In trying to make the deck as fun as possible, I simply played suboptimal cards in slots where I could have played awesome ones…

Yes, Skeletal Vampire is better than Phyrexian Gargantuan, and it also produces card advantage of sorts.

Yes, Icy Manipulator doesn’t really do anything, and Jump Knights might have been better than Ravenous Rats.

Yes, I should have played more copies of Persecute; that would have given me a better shot against controlling decks like Richie’s offering.

However, in the end, the fact that I was performing so well in the Battle Royale as a whole made me make suboptimal choices for my deck, just because they looked like fun.

That’ll teach me.

The saddest thing is that I was looking forward to Time Spiral so much, as I had ideas everywhere. Here’s a list of one of the ideas I had for the next round, if I made it:

UB Madness

4 Thought Courier
4 Looter Il-Kor
4 Vexing Sphinx
4 Compulsive Research

4 Dark Withering
4 Psychotic Episodes
4 Nightshade Assassin
3 Haakon, Stromgald Scourge.

Some great outlets, combined with the great availability of madness. Haakon is a sleeper hit in a deck like this, as he is basically an extra madness card that can be cast later, rather than immediately, if you don’t have the mana.

We have even been testing a deck like this for Standard, and while it wasn’t the best around, it was still very good in some matchups, which means it would be perfect for this event.

It is also fairly cheap, with some rares that aren’t very popular, as well as a lot of commons. Sure, Haakon went up lately, but still, he should be quite affordable.

That’s about it from this side. I know this article is a little shorter than what you guys have come to expect from me, but it is hard to write a full-length epic about a match you lost in three games straight. I didn’t make any real mistakes, but my deck wasn’t up to snuff, and Richie’s was simply stronger than mine.

Good Luck Richie! I know your heart ain’t in it at the moment, but at least try and have some fun there buddy! I know I had a lot of laughs, and I am happy to put my name back on the bottom of the list, able to come back to the top soon enough.

Until then,


PS: Once again, if you liked my stuff, be sure to check out my regular column every Wednesday, over on the Premium side of the site.

PPS: Thanks for supporting me through the rounds, guys. I’ve had some excellent positive feedback. Believe me, it’s been a blast.