After mixed success with green creature based control last weekend, I briefly thought about switching up and playing a more established deck. But then I thought again. This is my hometown! I couldn’t NOT play green here; people are going to be disappointed if I shuffle up an Oath or Necro deck. Besides, none of the premier decks right now thrill me; I don’t like any of them. They are good, no doubt, but that doesn’t mean they fit my style. The closest is probably 3cOath, an extremely difficult deck to play. After winning two byes for Grand Prix Philly, I may end up playing Oath there simply to improve my odds of making top 8 (or close to it; I’m assuming at least one or two pro’s will make it there, so the New York invites roll on down). I’m sure I can play it, as the Tutor base to fetch one-of utility cards makes it resemble the Survival decks I used to favor.
Survival is another possibility. My problem with Survival is that it doesn’t seem to have enough“oomph!” to carry the day. It’s also a bit slow too stop it’s traditional weak matchup, combo. Duress and four main deck Lyrists could help…
But ultimately, I decided to give my green control deck another chance. It had a good showing at the Grand Prix Trial against a small, Sliver dominated field. Could it stand against a broader crowd?
Here is the deck I played; my buddy Kevin deemed it Virginia States.dec, but it’s still…
“Blair Witch Green”
4 Elvish Lyrist
4 Birds of Paradise
2 Fyndhorn Elves
4 Wall of Roots
3 Spike Feeder
2 Simian Grunts
3 Deranged Hermit
2 Child of Gaea
3 Crop Rotation
4 Creeping Mold“could catch you”
4 Plow Under
1 Stunted Growth
4 Rishadan Port
1 Dust Bowl
3 Gaea’s Cradle
4 Treetop Village
I have been extremely impressed with Choke, especially in conjunction with Rishadan Ports and Plow Under; lock down their Island lands and forget about them, and deal with their non-Island lands with your Ports, Creeps and Plows. Fantastic against Forbidian, and decent against Sliver since so many of their dual lands count as Islands, too. Null Rod has been fantastic against Necro and Forbidian, since they rely so heavily on artifacts to handle non-creature permanents. Is Tinker still around? John Shuler was the only one I saw playing it at the q, and he was only playing it for fun since he’s already qualified for New York.
A quick word about Simian Grunts… I was looking for a card that would help against beatdown decks, like Negator Black and Sligh, and I stumbled across the Grunts. An instant blocker is pretty good, and can turn into some nice card advantage. Plus, it can’t be Duressed. The four toughness is huge in Extended, and it’s a nice surprise for someone attacking Jackal Pup. I bolt you and kill your Pup!
The night before the tournament, my wife and I are invited to a keg party… while we are the model of domestic bliss, we still get lured to some of the“good ol’ days” activities sometimes. Hey, it’s Fosters on tap! How good is that? Anyhow, we get to bed around 4am, but luckily, the tournament is right here in town. In fact, it’s like 10 minutes down the street from me! So I sleep until about 45 minutes before the tournament, shower up, grab some chow and Gatorade for the slight hangover and make it in barely under the wire. I thought I had a deck listing written out, but I couldn’t find the damn thing. I guess I’ve played this deck enough to be able to recount it from memory, but keep my fingers crossed that I don’t get deck checked. Pairings go up and I seek out my first round opponent.
Round 1 vs. Tim with Sligh
Ah, no! It’s Tim from last week, who won the Grand Prix Trial and handed me my only loss! I’ve really enjoyed talking with Tim, he’s another like me who’s a little older than the crowd, is married and tries to juggle Magic with a normal life. He tells me he sold his soul to the devil to be here again this weekend, and I have to laugh. Tim also tells me he and his wife are expecting their first kid, so I guess he’s getting in some Magic while the getting’s good. Congratulations, Tim! That’s awesome!
Tim is again with Sligh, and ends up winning like turn three with a Final Fortune, to untap and do some massive damage on his extra turn to leave me a smoldering burnt-out ruin. Ouch! I bring in my fourth Feeder, the Grunts, and 2 Masticores to fight the power, and they do their job. I get the bolt you and kill your Pups surprise with the Grunts, and eventually get a Masticore out there to finish him. The last game was tough, I had to mulligan twice with no lands, but he luckily has a slow draw after turn 1 Pup for the third time. I stabilize the board at 10 life, which is still a scary place to be, and he top decks a Cursed Scroll. When he scrolls me with Fireblast, with two cards in hand and four Mountains in play, I know I’m doomed. As Sligh so often does,“Oops! I win!” It was tough because I had a squirrel swarm getting ready to come down and end it for him quickly.
Not the best start, for sure, but any deck can lose to Sligh like that. I still feel confident in my deck.
Round 2 vs. Henry with R/b Corpse Dance Rogue
I recognize Henry from the Grand Prix Trial, he was Tim’s last round opponent there, playing a Forbidian variant with black splashed in for Duresses and Lobotomy. This time he’s got a mostly red deck, with black for Duress and Corpse Dance. Main deck Pyroclasms are interesting tech. In the first game, I manage to whittle him down with a creature swarm and squirrels finish it (after he kills the first horde with Pyroclasm). Stunts, Plow Unders and Creeps keep him from his plans. Game 2 I get very little disruption, and struggle to stop the bleeding as Ball Lightning, Sandstalkers and Mogg Fanatics hit me and start Dancing out of the graveyard. He easily wears me out without taking any damage. The last match I take a Ball Lightning to the teeth, then a Fanatic hit, but I get out a protected Masticore early enough to neutralize the dancing tricks, and his life total goes 18-14-10-6-2-dead. Go, you gunmetal beastie!
Round 3 vs. Adam with Two Color Oath
I’ve seen Adam around at big events, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to play him before. He’s quiet and doesn’t say much during the course of the game, so I didn’t come away with much more of an impression after spending the hour with him. Ah well; some folks are friendly and chatty, some aren’t. The first game is mine as I get early Lyrists on the board to handle the Oath. The second game…
Well, the second game was the most important game in the tournament for me. It basically screwed up any chance I had to evaluate how good my deck was against the field. I’m sure we’ve all looked back and can point to a particular moment, whether it was an opponent’s top deck or a mistake on your part, that drastically impacted your tournament performance. It’s one of the things that make Magic both so fun and frustrating at the same time.
Here’s the setupÂ—the game is starting well in my favor. I get an early Lyrist out, and eventually get a second on the board. That, plus the Emerald Charm in my hand pretty much guarantee that Oath of Druids is not going to be a problem. However, I get very little offense going (Bird of Paradise doesn’t qualify), and I have to settle for trying to do some disruption with Creeps and Plows; some make it through, some are countered. He eventually casts a Spike Feeder and Weaver about the time I get a Deranged Hermit on the board. I top deck another Hermit and begin serving with 3/3 squirrels. He of course starts to fog. Then Morphling hits the board and I’m on a clock. I calculate the turns I have to live (4), and the Weaver tokens (4, including the Feeder). The turn after Morphling kills me will be the first turn I’ll be able to launch a fogless lethal attack. I convince myself that I have to top deck a Feeder of my own in the next 4 draws to live long enough to get the attack through, and that was my mistake. I was looking strictly at life totals as the ultimate solution to my problem. Does anyone see the alternate solution yet? Anyway, he starts the Mophling assault, and I counter with an attack of my own, which he fogs. At 5 life I finally top deck the Feeder and make my final mistake. He’s got 3 cards in hand and plenty of blue mana. I’ve got a ton of critters on the board. I decide to tap the Cradle for 16 mana and cast the Feeder; if the Feeder gets countered, I’m dead next turn anyway, right? So mise well mana burn myself to death, right? Go out in green style? If the Feeder hits the board, I can easily sink the rest of the green mana into the Feeder and go on with my turn. Well of course, he counters it, I burn to death and he looks at me in surprise.
“Why did you do that?” he asks dully.
“You were going to kill me next turn with Morphling.”
“I figured you’d block with the Mana Bird. I was so dead.”
I look down at the Bird of Paradise that had gotten shuffled in with the rest of my land cards and mentally rage at myself. That was one of the reasons I put Birds in the deck, because they were flying. They’d be less vulnerable to removal like Earthquake, and could block fliers in a pinch. Heck, Spiked up Birds have been known to pull out wins, too. But was I smart enough to remember that now, when I had victory in my grasp? No. The Birds were just another land in my mind, and it cost me the victory.
The match ends in a draw as we run out of time as control on control often does. Ah, defeat snatched from the jaws of victory!
So, going into round 4, I have a draw; that probably means I’m going to get matched up against someone who also has a draw. That means either control or a lock deck like Stasis. That doesn’t bode well for me.
Round 5 vs. Sam with Big Blue
I see Islands popping up on the other side and I know I’m in for a long fight. We skirmish some in the beginning but he counters my disruption, gets a Looter on the board, then gets a Tradewind and soon has a third creature out. Things go quickly down hill from there. The sideboarded Chokes help in the second match, and I actually get off an amazing turn, first casting Stunted Growth to empty his hand, and then burying the cards with a Plow Under all in one turn. Needless to say, I win that game. The last game we both get some decent board control, him with active Tradewind, me with 2 Chokes on the board. We joust back and forth, I’ve got like 3 Ports locking up his mana, and time is called. There is no way we can finish the match in time, and since having 2 draws so early in the day would guarantee neither one of us making it to the top 8, we agree to flip a coin to see who wins.
Can you guess who wins the flip? Would I have even been in this situation if I hadn’t made such a stupid mistake last game to draw instead of winning?
Sam was fun to play against, and I wish him luck in the Swiss.
Matches 1-2-1 At this point, I’m out of the running for top 8, so of course I win all my next matches and end up going 4-2-1 for the day. What really angers me is I failed the deck; one big mistake pretty much hosed any chance I’d have of playing at the top tables to see if Blair Witch Green had the right stuff to compete. My gut feeling is that it does, but I can’t be sure now. Playtesting is fine and good, but nothing compares to running a deck through a competitive gauntlet. So now I’m in a quandary. I can probably make just one more event before the Grand Prix in Philadelphia. Do I drop Blair Witch Green and play one of the top decks like Oath, or maybe Rec/Sur, and get some playtest and practice under my belt before the GP, or do I stick with Blair Witch? The guy who won Richmond, Tom Coppage, has obviously been trying out different decks, but they are all standard“decks to beat.” Last week it was Countersliver; this week it was Necro. I don’t think the guys that qualify for the PT’s are necessarily better players than I am, but the difference is that they are willing to play the decks that are good rather than their own decks. On the other hand, do you ever hear about most of the guys who get on the Pro Tour playing other people’s decks? Most of the guys who make a splash on the Tour, do really well and get plenty of glory are the guys who make their own decks and pilot them to high finishes. Look at guys like Zvi, Alan Comer and Randy Buehler, these guys are both good players and good deck innovators. I guess deep down these are the guys I look up to; these are the guys that inspire me. Sure, making the Tour would be a fantastic rush, but playing someone else’s deck to do it would feel almost like cheating. I look at a guy I’ve seen at many of the local big events, for some inexplicable reason he has the preface“Iron.” He won a slot on the Pro Tour the last Extended season playing High Tide. He played the best deck and won with it. Did he help design it? No. Has he done anything on the Tour? To the best of my knowledge, no. I’m pretty sure he’s made it on the Tour several times, and maybe he’s won some cash and he’s gotten to hobnob with some of the regulars, but has he made it big with any impressive finishes or come up with an amazing new deck design? I look at this guy and I see someone who’s riding on the coattails of others to be successful in Magic, and that’s not someone who I want to emulate.
So I guess this means I’m going to stay Rogue. Sky would be proud of me.
‘Til next time…