Black Magic – Grand Prix: Oakland

SCG Open Richmond!

Tuesday, February 16th – At last weekend’s Grand Prix: Oakland, Sam Black piloted Faeries into Day 2 play before a slew of Zoo decks brought him down. Today, he recaps the highlights of his tournament, and discusses some of the stronger decks to succeed at the tournament. He also makes a few suggestions regarding the metagame going forward.

I’m not sure how much introduction a tournament report really needs. I didn’t do too well, but I made Day 2, so I played enough matches to have some insights. Once I’m done detailing my experience, I’ll get to my thoughts on where this event leaves Extended for the coming weeks.

I played Faeries, because it’s Faeries, and it wasn’t an unreasonable choice. I expected a lot of of Thopter Depths, and I like my matchup there. I found out Friday that there was likely going to be more Zoo than I had been expecting, which was disappointing, but I really didn’t want to play a different deck, so I just upped the Deathmark count in the board to four and hoped for the best.

I played:

I haven’t loved Mistbind Clique in Extended. It’s in the deck because the interaction with Bitterblossom is powerful enough to be good, but it’s not really specifically good against anyone and I almost always side it out. I cut one to try out Jace, the Mind Sculptor, partially because I knew it would be very fun. I was pretty happy with my build, but it’s possible something (maybe a Mistbind Clique or the Jace) should be a third Smother.

Round 4 I played against UW Thopters. I was surrounded by people playing Zoo, so I was pretty happy with my pairing. At one point he managed to get Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek in play at the same time, but I drew Spell Snare the next turn, so I was able to bounce the Foundry with the Cryptic Command I had and Spell Snare it on the way back in. I sided out 2 Smother, 3 Mistbind Clique, Jace, and 3 Jitte for 4 Leyline of the Void, 2 Thoughtseize, 1 Extirpate, and 1 Spell Snare. After that I felt really good about my chances. Leyline seemed like it would be very good, but not worth aggressively mulliganning to find since most of my other cards are also very good.

Round 5 I got to experience the Czech Boros deck first hand, and while I can’t say I liked the experience, I was extremely impressed with the deck. It looks to me like it’s just better than every previous burn or Boros deck, but I’m not an expert on such things. The Flagstone Landfall engine is very powerful, especially if people think they should treat Flagstones in play as zero saved fetch lands rather than potentially two saved fetch lands. For those who haven’t looked closely at the Top 8 coverage, the deck is:

When my match was over, I felt like that was probably the best deck for the tournament, and I would never expect myself to feel that way about a Boros deck.

I knew after game 1 that Steppe Lynx was probably his only White creature, but I had to side in 2 Deathmarks anyway because I couldn’t beat a Steppe Lynx and didn’t have anything else good against him. Game 1 I had nothing and he killed me very slowly, saving all his fetch lands because I had mana up. If he had just gone for maximum damage he could have killed me very quickly, but he could clearly afford to be careful with all his fetches. I’m not sure if that was the better way to play it, but it definitely makes sense to save fetch activations whenever you can with Zektar Shrine in the deck. If you play this deck, keep in mind that you often don’t want to burn fetches early if you don’t have to, because you’re likely to get more value out of them later.

Against me, I’m not convinced that it mattered how he played. I think if I played 10 games against him, I’d win less than one on average.

Round 6 I played against Elves, and it felt like Pro Tour: Berlin had just happened and I built my deck specifically to beat him. I had to make room for 2 Thoughtseize, 4 Deathmark, Smother, and 2 Flashfreeze when I was sideboarding, so Bitterblossom and Mistbind Clique were the first to go, since I knew I just wanted to trade cards until I either won with card draw or got a Jitte active. After cutting those 7, it got much harder, and I’m not sure exactly what I ended up cutting. It was probably something like 2 Cryptic Commands. If Elves becomes the deck to beat after this event, Faeries would be a great way to beat it, if Zoo is less popular and Boros doesn’t explode.

Round 7 I played against a WB aggro deck with Thoughtseize, Castigate, and Tidehollow Sculler. In the first game I kept a hand that was basically just a bunch of Mana Leaks, and he played Isamaru on turn 1, resolved some other threats, and just killed me. I side in 4 Deathmark, 1 Smother, and 1 Spell Snare for 4 Mana Leak, 1 Thoughtseize, and 1.. Vendilion Clique or Cryptic Command, I think. In both games 2 and 3, I manage to keep Jace in play and it wins me the game easily. In game 3 I kept it in play by playing a Bitterblossom and Jace in the same turn when I was at 9 and he could attack for 5, and he decided to put me down to 3 after my blossom triggered rather than kill my Jace. I championed my Bitterblossom with a Mistbind Clique the next turn, and the game was basically over.

Round 8 I played against Scapeshift. Game 1 was scary in that he had enough lands to win with Scapeshift and I didn’t have a counter, so I tried to play Mistbind in his upkeep and he Remanded it,. That happened for several turns in a row, but he never found a way to kill me. In game 2 I drew a bunch of Thoughtseizes and eventually left him with a bunch of lands and a hand of 3 Gigadrowses. He tapped me out in my upkeep three turns in a row, but didn’t manage to find a Scapeshift in those 3 turns. I sideboard out 3 Jitte and 3 Mistbind Clique for 2 Flashfreeze, 2 Thoughtseize, 1 Extirpate, and 1 Spell Snare against them.

Round 9 I played against Scapeshift again. Game 1 I attacked with a Sprite with a Jitte for several turns in a row and we get to my turn where I have 8 lands and 2 of them are Mutavaults, he’s at 3 life, and I have a Sprite with a Jitte. I draw Jace, my first spell in a long time, and decide to play it before combat to try to draw a Cryptic for his Cryptic. He Condescends for 2, which I pay, but then I can’t kill him because he has a Cryptic and he finds his Scapeshift on the next turn. It’s possible that I should have not played Jace so that he couldn’t Condescend to dig. Game 2 I Thoughtseize away his hand, which included Tooth and Nail, but he has a lot of lands including Boseiju, so I play a Vendilion Clique in his draw step to make sure I’m safe. The next turn I have 5 lands in play, Secluded Glen, Flashfreeze, 3 Cryptic Commands, and some other non-faeries in my hand. Because I can’t have 6 mana to bounce his Boseiju and have Flashfreeze ready, I decide to animate my Mutavault and attack, and he draws Scapeshift and kills me. What I should have done is played the Cryptic Command to bounce his Boseiju and draw a card in my mainphase, and then if I draw any Faerie or any land other than Secluded Glen, I can have 2 mana up and I win that game. Instead I lost and ended the day at 7-2.

Round 10 I played against Yuuta Takahashi – who played Faeries in Worlds, which inspired me to pick up the deck again – in the mirror. Game 1 I went to 6 cards and suspended 2 Visions. I drew a Bitterblossom on turn 3, but waited until turn 4 to play it with Mana Leak backup. On turn 4 I resolved my Bitterblossom, but he Sprited both of my Visions and managed to resolve some of his own. His extra draws mostly hit lands, and I was able to beat him with Bitterblossom. For game 2 I sided out 3 Mistbind Cliques for 2 Thoughseize and 1 Spell Snare. We both just played lands and passed for a long time, until he played a Jitte and won a counter war over it. I was worried, but he didn’t have any guys to make it do anything. I played a Sprite just to start attacking, and drew a Mutavault and just attacked for 3 until he died. It was a weird game.

The rest of a tournament is something of a blur of losing to various Zoo decks. I played a very close match against Martin Juza with Thopter/Depths, in which I just couldn’t draw anything to get ahead after Leylining him in game 3, and he barely beat me by keeping Bitterblossom under control with a 20/20 and pitching 3 artifacts (including Sword of the Meek and Thopter Foundry) to his Fountry to kill me with 1/1s. I had hope in one of the Zoo matches, but similarly flooded out once everything was stable.

My verdict on the deck at this point is that I don’t think I can recommend it because the Zoo and Boros matchups are so bad, which is frustrating because it’s very good against Thopters, Elves, and Hypergenesis, which are three decks you want to be able to beat.

As for the results of the GP, we have yet another Extended GP stolen by a known combo deck that people refused to prepare for, that could reasonably have been stolen by Hypergenesis in the same way. Presumably people will start playing these more because they did well, but in all likelihood, it will be a bad decision, as people will also be more prepared for them. Saito’s answer to the question about whether he would change is deck sums it up perfectly, especially if you compare it to other of his Top 8s, like his top 8s with Zoo last season. He says the timing was right for playing Hypergenesis, whereas last season he felt his Zoo deck was just the best deck. That said, the Terastodon plus Oblivion Ring addition looks pretty good. Oblivion Ring is an excellent utility card, and combining it with Terastodon when resolving Hypergenesis will often allow you to leave your opponent with nothing but elephants by Ringing the Terastodon and Terastodoning the Ring.

Elves, Hypergenesis, and Living End are all hated by Chalice of the Void, so I would expect to see a little more of that in the coming weeks, which also makes Ancestral Visions a little worse.

Conley’s deck looks pretty good, and it’s excellent against Thopter/Depths, so that would be worth considering, especially since you can stick with the plan of sideboarding White hateful creatures, and just tag in Ethersworn Canonist, who is problematic for those three decks as well.

As mentioned above, the Boros deck looks very good, but a lot of it’s power did come from people being unprepared, so it may not be as good next week. If I were to play that deck I would probably consider Cryoclasm in the board, but maybe you’re already good enough against Blue. Expect the success of this deck and Elves to result in a slight increase in the number of Darkblasts in people’s sideboards.

The metagame appears to be at a point where Punishing Fire has dropped in popularity enough that people are playing decks that it’s very good against again (the same decks that Darkblast is good against), so it might be time to go back to that engine.

That’s all I have for Extended. Now back to thinking about Standard to get ready for this weekend.

Thanks for reading…