In case you hadn’t noticed: I took a break.
I do this once a year, every year, just after Nationals is all over. Why? Well, for one thing playing the same game every week can get a bit boring every once in a while, and I find that playing Magic for only eleven months of every year is just right for me. The other reason is that after Nationals, I’m usually suffering from a massive overdose of our favourite card game.
On the run up to Nationals I practice more, I go to more tourneys, and my entire life gets put on hold while I work out what cards I’ll be playing against the best in England. Some years I do better than others, but I always put in a fantastic amount of effort – for me, anyway.
So; I had June off and now it’s July and there’s a Bath Monthly Standard tourney to go to. For the first time, Judgment is Standard-legal, which brings up the age-old question: What shall I play?
I expected to see lots of Blue/Green decks, thanks to Wonder and everyone’s obsession with flying 6/6 Wurms. I also expected to see a smattering of Red/Green, mono-Black, Psychatog, and all our old favourites. Whatever I played would need to be able to deal with all of these – so I put the following deck together and had a play.
I liked the number of counterspells, and the number of small creatures worked well with Opposition. The game plan is to do one of two things: Either go aggro with Wild Dog and Rootwallas, drop a few Wurms, and overpower my opponent – or control the game with small guys and Opposition until I can get enough damage on the table for an Alpha Strike and use Opposition to tap all blockers the turn before I come in for one big kill.
I reasoned that a creature can’t attack if you’ve tapped it even if it’s a 6/6 Wurm and even if it has flying, so Wonder (hopefully) wouldn’t be a problem.
After a few games the deck was performing very well, but the two Squirrel Nests didn’t come out very often, and didn’t work well with my first strategy. Nostalgic Dreams was good sometimes, but more often than not I found myself with few cards in hand that I couldn’t afford to throw away. Change was in the air.
Given all the decks I’ve seen for OBC I decided to give Quiet Speculation a test run to see how that would work. I dropped the Nests for two and dropped the Dreams for a third Roar of the Wurm and sat down to play a few more games. I found that Speculation made the deck run a little smoother. If you drew one early, it helped you get to more card drawing and 6/6 monsters; if you drew one late, there would almost always be one or two cards to get that would still help out. They also thinned the deck a little, making it just that touch more likely that I’d draw land – something else I was worried about.
After a little more testing and chatting with some friends in PhatBeats, I threw a sideboard together, worked out a rough sideboarding plan, sleeved up my deck, and got ready for the upcoming tourney.
Here’s the deck I took with me.
UG Opposition (version 2)
When building a sideboard, I tend to use cards that will fix a problem, rather than prevent one. Rushing River can bounce things that have got past my counter spells; Elvish Lyrist can sneak out past counter spells and get rid of an enchantment that’s annoying me; Blind Seer can change the colour of things to solve some problems (I make my Opposition Black, I change my Wurm to be Red).
I was expecting plenty of control – hence the Gainsays – a few Trenches and Squirrel-based decks, and lots of aggro (Blue/Green or Red/Green). The Barriers give me a little more time to build up a good defence, The Gurzigost can block 6/6 Wurms, and Unnatural Selection makes Goblin Soldier Legends and Squirrel Legends vanish faster than pretty much anything else in the game.
My teammate Alan chose to run a very similar deck, putting the Oppositions in the sideboard and playing a slightly more aggressive main deck.
On the day we got to the venue with plenty of time to spare, wrote up our deck lists and got ready to play.
Round 1: Neal Wooler (Green/Blue).
I’ve not played Neal before, so I didn’t know what to expect. He started off by telling me that he’d not been playing very long which always puts me on my guard. He played out a few Green monsters and started to beat me down, but I dropped some of my own, followed shortly by an Opposition. I locked the game down until I had enough creatures to start sending one Wurm over a turn, and finished him off with two Wurms and a Rootwalla.
In the third game Neal started off well again, but this time I saw plenty of creatures to slow him down and he saw no Wonder. Eventually, Neal dropped Nullmage Advocate on the table. I had to pick it up to read it:
Tap: Return two target cards in an opponent’s graveyard to his or her hand. Destroy target artifact or enchantment.
Hmm. I really need to have another look at Judgment.
We stalled for a while and Neal eventually drew a Wonder but had no way to discard it. Instead he chose to cast it and, not wanting to lose, I let him. For the next few turns, Neal attacked me for two through the air whilst I seemed to wait.
What I was waiting for was a second Opposition. I had one in my hand and only two cards in my graveyard, as Neal had been using a Forcemage advocate to make his creatures bigger.
Eventually, on seven life I saw a second Opposition and cast it. Neal destroyed it with his Advocate and flew in for two more points of damage. Next turn I dropped my second one and he tried to kill it.
"Which two target cards in my graveyard, Neal?"
"Oh. You only have one Opposition there."
I tapped down all his creatures in his next turn and attacked him for precisely twenty points of damage for the win, with a Counterspell and Snake in hand just in case.
Matches: 1-0, Games: 2-1.
I had a long chat to Neal about some of the cards in his deck. As a new player, he just didn’t have the Rares and Uncommons he needed and didn’t have many good common cards from older sets and Seventh that would have helped him. Hopefully, he’ll stay in the game for a while – and as he does, he’ll be able to pick up the cards he needs to give him a little more of an edge. If he does, he’s going to be difficult to beat.
Round 2: Chris Hardy (Psychatog).
Chris and I are on the same team and we really didn’t want to play each other. We decided to ID. Not only would that mean we wouldn’t get a loss too early on in the day, but we’d also have to play other players that drew, or get paired down and up throughout the day – meaning we’d play worse decks than if one of us had won.
We played a fun game and Chris was very unlucky to have to tap out early on, allowing me to drop an Opposition and keep him tapped down for most of the game until I could saunter over and kill him.
We spent the rest of the round checking out interesting-looking decks.
Matches: 1-1-0, games: 2-1.
Round 3: Martin Bishop (W/u Birds).
I’ve not played Martin before but I’ve seen him at Bath tournaments on a regular basis. He always seems to come with a good deck and I was interested to see what he’d put together now that Judgment was legal.
I won the die roll and dropped a Rootwalla. Martin dropped a Plains and dropped a Suntail Hawk. I’d heard rumours of a new Standard White Weenie deck based around birds, as there are a couple of builds in OBC, but I hadn’t run into one yet so this would be interesting.
Martin started attacking and dropped a Soulcatcher’s Aerie. I took a moment to read it – but I couldn’t counter it. Unfortunately for Martin, he’d tapped out and I had a few creatures in play. I played Opposition and started to keep him locked down until I could get a Wurm or two into play. I started attacking with the Wurms to keep his creature numbers down, but they started to get a little bigger as he chumped each time and kept adding counters to his Aerie. Finally, he had few enough creatures for me to tap them all down and two 6/6 bad boys cruised in for the twelve points of damage I needed to move us on to game 2.
I bought in my enchantment control and we settled in for another game. This time Martin’s side of the board didn’t develop well and I didn’t let him cast anything I thought was too interesting. I soon had more creatures than him and an Opposition in play and Martin’s forlorn face told it all: Another game win to me.
Matches: 2-1-0, Games: 4-1
I had a quick chat with Martin about the spells he was playing to get a rough idea of the build of his deck. He said that you always empty your hand very quickly when playing it – and that that was the deck’s biggest problem. One early Wrath or Mutilate could mean game over unless enough damage had already been done for a lone Hawk to finish off the match. Maybe splashing Fact or Fiction or Deep Analysis would help?
Round 4: Claire Williams (UGr Opposition)
Great. Another local player that I test with. I guess if you play with good players and they keep winning, and I keep winning, we’re bound to meet up sooner or later. Claire runs a tourney over in nearby Bristol and is a very active judge nationally too. She’s been working on her game for the past year or so and she always has a very good deck that she’s spent a good number of hours practicing with. Time to sit down and concentrate.
Claire started well with a few, aggressive creatures as I decided that Looting was more important and dropped a Merfolk Looter to start looking for some answers. She kept attacking but eventually I saw an Opposition and managed to get it into play. I locked her down for a few turns, but not enough as she managed to sneak a Squirrel Nest into play. Although my looting was getting through a bunch of land I didn’t want, I wasn’t seeing many counterspells and soon Claire managed to get her own Opposition down. She also managed to kill a few of my creatures. I needed to cast creatures every turn, as Claire could just tap me down and come in for the win, luckily she decided to loot in her turn, as I tried to tap down as many creatures as I could, and I slipped out an Arrogant Wurm with one of my own looters.
In my turn, Claire didn’t have enough creatures left to tap down my Wurms, and so I sent them in for the win. I think if she’d had a little more patience, she’d have won the game – as she had a Nest and Opposition in play and sooner or later she’d have had many more creatures than me and could have come in for the win.
In the next game I started slowly again, getting Looters in play as Claire cast Call of the Herd and started attacking me with 3/3 guys. I took a lot of damage as I built up a sizeable number of creatures and managed to get Opposition on the table again. I soon had enough creatures to control the attack and waited to get enough to free up my looters and start looking for Wurms for the win. Eventually they showed up, and I had had enough counter spells to deal with Claire’s spells, giving me another 2-0 win.
Matches: 3-1-0, Games: 6-1
This match, more than any other, made me think that there was a hole in the deck. There are plenty of two casting-cost spells – but there doesn’t seem to be enough three casting-cost spells in the curve. Against more aggressive decks, you miss a turn’s development whilst they’re pumping out another creature with power equal or better to its casting cost. Maybe more Arrogant Wurms or a few Call of the Herd should be in the deck?
Round 4: Styfen Batten (UGw madness)
You might have read some of Styfen’s articles on Star City. He’s one of the best players in Wales, maybe even the UK, and the current Bath Invitational Champion. He’s never easy to beat, so it should be a good match.
The first game came down to Opposition. Styfen and I developed each side of the board in parallel – but eventually he tapped out, giving me the chance to drop Opposition. I waited until I could safely send in a few creatures, and beat him down.
Game two Styfen got the upper hand at the start, with an early Quiet Speculation, some Wurms, and lots of card drawing. I managed to stop a few creatures, but Styfen cast something every turn – and in general, they were better spells than I was casting, so he won and we moved on to the next game.
Game three started well, as I managed to get a few early points of damage in until both Styfen and I got out our Looters, Wurms, Dogs, and ‘Wallas. We stalled for a while until I managed to force an Opposition onto the table. Styfen cast a Ray of Revelation and although I had the counter spell I needed, he had more and my Opposition died.
With the Ray in the graveyard, I’d need a couple of counters in hand and another Opposition before I could win, and so we settled down for a long match. I wasn’t sure what Styfen was waiting for – maybe a Wonder – but I knew whoever reached their solution card first would probably win.
"How much life are you on?"
"Okay, give all my guys protection from Blue.”
"Let that resolve, then give all my guys protection from Green."
"In for eighteen."
"Hmm. Make my Wild Mongrels both Black and block a Mongrel and a Wurm."
Styfen had forgotten my two Mongrels and had mistakenly sent everything in for the win. I took nine points of damage and lost my two Mongrels. Styfen had enough blockers to survive a hit from my team, but I had an Opposition in hand, two Wurms, two Wallas, and an Arrogant Wurm and a couple of Looters in play. I dropped the Opposition, tapped down enough of his men to let mine through, and nipped in for eleven and the game.
Matches: 4-1-0, Games: 8-2.
Styfen explained that he’d spent all game reminding himself that Mongrels can change colour and had forgotten at the last moment.
I’d taken my Quiet Speculations out in this match and it didn’t affect me that much. I’d go so far as to say that two of them doesn’t help that much and might not be worth playing with at all, unless you’re going to play four.
So; two Blue/Green decks in a row. Hopefully, I’ll get to play something different next round. I checked the rankings and I was third and my teammate Chris was second. Not bad for two players who ID’d in the second round.
Round 6: Madog Williams (WU Birds)
Like Martin in the earlier round, Madog was playing a Birds deck, but Madog’s was much better than Martin’s. So much better, in fact, that he won the tournament, going 7-0.
Game one, he had to mulligan and saw a few 1/1 birds and one Plains. By the time he saw a second one, I had four creatures and Opposition in play and was tapping all of his permanents down every upkeep. We moved on to the next game.
Game two, I had to mulligan down to five and came out with a slow start whilst Madog cast lots of Birds, Divine Sacraments, and Battle Screeches to come in for the win.
Game three, we both saw enough land and spells, but Madog saw enough creatures and spells to keep me on the back foot, as I couldn’t deal with the onrush fast enough. I started to stabilise, but he saw another Battle Screech and I couldn’t Counterspell it twice. Another two 3/3 birds added to the pressure and he gave me my first loss of the day.
Matches: 4-1-1, Games: 9-4.
Madog has asked me to keep his deck list secret, so I will. It’ll come out soon enough somewhere else anyway, but you should start looking to see if you can build it yourself – as it’s very aggressive, and has the sideboard cards to deal well with most matchups.
Once again, I was reminded that it was fliers causing me trouble. I’d lost an earlier game to Wonder when I couldn’t keep Opposition on the table – and now I’d lost to a bunch of birds. Perhaps Wonder is necessary as well as Opposition?
Even loosing this round I noticed that I was still in third place. I checked my tiebreakers and they were up at nearly 69%! Mind you Chris, Styfen, Claire, and Madog were all in the top eight…
Losing this round would knock me out of the top eight, though, so it’s time to dig deep and get that one last win.
Round 7 (final round): Mark Bathe-Taylor (BG Beats)
Mark started off by pointing out that he’d just beaten two UG decks in a row. I jokingly offered an ID, but we both knew that we were here to play and settled in for the match.
Game one, I had a good opening hand and went with it: Two land, a Looter, Roar, Mongrel and Rootwalla is as good a hand as I’d had all day. Unfortunately for me I didn’t see another land for a few turns as Mark dropped lots, and started casting spells. I never really recovered and we moved to game two.
Game two we both had spells but Mark was screwed for land and I easily gained control with fourteen life left in the bank. 6/6 Wurms finished him off.
Game three started well but I stalled on three land. Even casting Deep Analysis and looting wasn’t helping as Mark started to beat me down with a Nantuko Shade with five sources of black mana to pump it. I let him through a few times and then drew into a few chump blockers and Rushing River. Each turn I bounced it Mark didn’t use all his mana, and so could re-cast it as I was stuck with one Blue source of mana. Five turns of this later, I’d run out of chump blockers – and even casting a Wurm wouldn’t help, as Mark had enough mana to flashback Chainer’s Edict and still kill me.
Matches: 4-1-2, Games: 10-6.
With the highest tie-breakers at the tourney I drifted to the top of the 13 point pile, but still could only manage to come in ninth, getting two boosters for my troubles. Alan, playing with the Oppositions in the sideboard, came in fifth on fifteen points at 5-2 and Chris came in second on 5-1-1 and sixteen points. Not a bad day for Team PhatBeats.
Alan said that he wanted the Oppositions in his main deck all day, and I must admit that I was never really upset to see them – but at the end of the day, Alan got one more than me.
I noticed that the Mystic Snakes, although giving me tricks to play with blocking, an extra three counterspells, and an instant-speed creature to mess around with Opposition math, I think they may drop from the deck – or at least go down to just two of them. The Quiet Speculations belong in a much more focused and aggressive deck than the one I played and they may drop out altogether for two Wonders, giving me a way to deal with enemy fliers without needing Opposition all the time.
Finally, the mana base. In a couple of matches, and when I lost games, it was due (mainly) to colour screw or mana screw. Colour screw will be very difficult to fix unless we play with City of Brass or Treva’s Ruins or some way (like Opt) to smooth the mana a little more. It may be possible to reduce the number of Green or Blue spells in the deck so that instead of a two-colour deck, the deck is more focused on one of the colours, again allowing us to smooth the mana. Either way the deck seems like it needs at least one more land. Perhaps adding one, or taking one away and adding three Opts is the answer…
If I was going to play the deck tomorrow, I’d make a few changes to the deck.
UG Opposition (version 3)
The sideboard worked well, but the deck will need more Enchantment removal thanks to the new birds decks. I’d leave in the Blind Seers, but the Jungle Barriers are questionable. Unnatural Selection helps with trenches and Squirrels, and the extra enchantment removal should help a little more too. Finally, I’d drop the Divert. Although useful, I didn’t really need it – and even against the decks I thought I’d need it against there are probably better things to sideboard.
So; I’m back playing Magic again. During the day I found myself enjoying playing and being bored. By the end of the day, even with my two defeats, I’d certainly found that I’d got the bug back.
I’m off to Germany for a holiday this weekend, but I’ll be back in time to write for next week – see you then.
Cheers, Jim Grimmett.
Level 2 DCI Judge.