Sometimes everything just comes together…
Originally I started with testing Faeries, but quickly decided that I didn’t like my chances against Mono-Red, Doran, or even the new Kithkin lists with Stillmoon Cavaliers and Figure of Destiny. Five-Color Control immediately struck me as a deck that would beat up on the shiny new decks from Grand Prix: Kobe. As long as I could find a decent sideboard strategy to beat Faeries, I thought I would perform well at the GP.
I didn’t really feel like classic Five-Color Control would suffice, as Cloudthresher is pretty poor against everything that isn’t Faeries, especially against Mono-Red. I decided to try out Feldman’s Counter-Elves deck. Naturally, the first thing I did was test post-board against Faeries, but the results weren’t very positive.
Tommy Chaney’s sideboard plan from the Kansas City PTQ impressed me a lot. He had access to Bitterblossom and Wispmare to win the war, while also having Nameless Inversion and Sower to deal with Scions. Not only that, but he had Dorans to play a role not unlike that that Korlash played in Time Spiral Block Constructed for winning Factory wars. When you each have a Bitterblossom, having a giant animal that they have to chump every turn basically destroys any advantage they might gain.
While it might seem good in theory, unless you draws the nuts early on, those cards are pretty poor top decks against Sowers, Sprites, Scions, etc. I found that if you nut drew them every time, you could win… but other than that, if you stumbled, Faeries would take over the game quickly.
Those Cloudthreshers and Mulldrifters were looking better and better. Around the same time, Steve Sadin had shipped along a list. Unsurprisingly, he had the same ideas I did. I told him I was pursuing other options and he called me stupid over and over again. Sadin can be mean sometimes.
I arrived in Denver on Friday afternoon, and immediately looked for LSV. He hadn’t been able to test all week due to a family reunion, so he was relying on Cheon and I for a list. I was pretty stoked to show him the list I brewed up, especially since the only deck that Cheon could come up with was Kithkin. However, once on the scene I realized that Patrick Chapin had beaten me to it. Not only that, but he basically had a strictly better list than I did.
I immediately liked his Runed Halos and Oona’s Grace, and was pretty disappointed in myself for not digging a little deeper to find that tech. Luis and Cheon were already on board, and while I would have liked to have kept the deck a bit more secretive, there were several others to whom Chapin had no qualms about shipping the list.
Before I got there, Patrick’s list included some loose things like Sunken Ruins and sideboarded Jace Belerens. However, the two of us together were able to hammer out the finer details and end up with a tournament-winning deck.
This is what I ended up playing:
- 2 Austere Command
- 3 Broken Ambitions
- 4 Cryptic Command
- 2 Makeshift Mannequin
- 4 Firespout
- 2 Runed Halo
- 1 Oona's Grace
I only had two byes, but I decided to make the best of them by doing some play testing, mostly against Brian Kibler and his Doran deck. The matchup ended up being just as good as I thought it was, as I was winning the majority of the games.
Round 3: Kithkin
Awkwardly enough, I had borrowed some Runed Halos from this gentleman so he knew roughly what I was playing. However, after his first turn Plains, I wasn’t worried all that much since the matchup is great for me.
I did manage to Runed Halo Figure of Destiny in the first game, to which my opponent responded with a sigh and a second Figure. Together, they managed to activate a Windbrisk Heights, but it didn’t really matter.
Other than that, nothing really interesting happened in this match. My opponent mulliganned a bit and my eight post-board Wrath effects easily won me the match.
3-0, 2-0 in games
Round 4: Faeries
I knew what my opponent was playing because of the Nationals PTQ so I tried to mulligan aggressively for a solid hand, and mostly failed. While my hand was decent, it was a two-lander on the draw and I failed to get there.
The second game started with my Kitchen Finks applying the beats and my Cloudthresher getting Thoughtseized. He made a Scion and Sowered my Finks with two mana open, which I couldn’t stop. I had drawn a Makeshift Mannequin and conveniently had four mana open, but didn’t want to get ruined by a Broken Ambitions, so instead of making the risky play, I decided that I would wait until my turn to bring back the Thresher, even though it risked him being able to play anything he might draw. However, he played a Bitterblossom with that two mana, so I killed him instead.
Third game was very uninteresting as it was his turn to get stuck on lands while I cast a Finks and then another to play around Broken Ambitions. He cast it for one anyway, to dig for a land. His clash revealed a useless Cryptic Command while mine was a powerful Chameleon Colossus. When he didn’t find a land on his turn, he scooped â€˜em up.
4-0, 4-1 in games
Round 5: Doran
There was a bit of an incident when I simply named “Doran” with Runed Halo and pointed at his card in play. My opponent called the judge to fish for an infraction due to the fact that I didn’t name a legal card. The judge basically did all he could from laughing at my opponent.
Now, I can normally respect someone doing everything in their power to win. If I had screwed up there, I should definitely get a penalty and it’s within my opponent’s rights to make sure that I get one, but come on. Naming Doran with the Halo is more than fine, and my opponent’s attempt to get me a warning or worse was just pathetic.
I was still in trouble in the first game because he had a Colossus to follow up the Doran that I didn’t have an immediate answer for. I did have a pair of Firespouts and a couple of Cryptic Commands to buy time. Hopefully my opponent would tap out and I’d be able to Spout away the changeling. The first time I used Cryptic to fog and cantrip and he didn’t play anything, I got a little worried that maybe my opponent was going to play correctly. Thankfully, after my second Cryptic, he tapped the majority of his mana for a Leaf-Crowned Elder and I drew the required land to double Spout his board away.
After that, it was smooth sailing.
Round 6: Faeries
This was a covered feature match, and Bill Stark did a pretty good job.
In the first game, Brett mulliganned but found a Bitterblossom on turn 4 while my Finks was beating him down. The coverage makes the game seem a lot closer than it actually was because Bill doesn’t mention the fact that I was stuck on five lands, so I could only play one spell per turn. There were about four turns where I baited Brett with a spell and then if I drew a land I could double Firespout away his fliers (presumably getting around Cryptic and Spellstutter, whereas if he had three Stutters I was probably screwed). Either way, my last Firespout ended up resolving and I had enough left over to stop him from removing his own Blossom.
In the second game he mulliganned to four but played a Bitterblossom on the play that I had no answer for. I Broken Ambitioned the second one, but couldn’t stop the third one. However, my hand was basically gas and just decided that his enchantments could kill him again. Plumeveil ate an attacker and then Brett made a bad attack from that turn on, whereas if he just waited a turn and built an army, he would get through for much more damage at the end. Instead, he was content to basically trade away two tokens for two damage a turn instead of waiting and dealing me four or six a turn.
At this point it’s quite clear that my deck is good, and if I keep playing well I have a shot. While not everyone else is performing as well as I am, I have faith in my friends to keep up the deck’s good name.
Round 7: Quick n’ Toast
I didn’t recognize my opponent, but it was quite clear he knew what was going on and was no stranger to control mirrors. This mirror usually came down to who could consistently find more business spells, so that meant fighting over Mulldrifters and Makeshift Mannequins, despite your limited countermagic. This isn’t a Psychatog mirror where there is a game-breaking spell you need to save your counters for. Everything in their deck can basically be dealt with via Shriekmaw, Austere Command, or Runed Halo, so you just have to draw more threats than they have answers.
Once I drew the Oona’s Grace around turn 10 or so, I thought I had it locked up. My deck had Archons main whereas I assumed he had some useless stuff like Nameless Inversion, more card drawing, or more land. I figured with more threats in my deck than he had, I would be able to outlast him, especially with my Compulsion-wannabe.
However, once he calmly Hallowed Burialed my first Archon, I figured maybe I was wrong. He might just have more ways to deal with my threats than I thought, as he probably was over-prepared for Kithkin. Instead, I decided to subtly count our decks and his was four cards bigger with him getting the first draw step. That meant that if either of my two remaining Broken Ambitions resolved and I won the clash, I could just deck him.
I managed to find both Ambitions and resolved them, but sadly lost both clashes. Now I was forced to beat him through damage again. I cycled through my deck and kept presenting threats that he easily dealt with until my library was Archon, Archon, Mulldrifter, in that order. I cast the first Archon when he was at four life with no hand and no board, and he drew Oona.
Now, not only did I get decked that turn, but I could have simply just played out my random Runed Halo that I was holding in hand for no real reason. I guess I just couldn’t think of anything I would have to name and therefore decided to wait until he played something good. While the 5/5 flier would have shut me down just as well, at least I would have drawn another Archon and forced him to rip again next turn.
This game could have easily been won had I know what my cards did. Did you know that Oona’s Grace targets? I certainly didn’t. Runed Halo on Oona and Gracing them out is basically the best strategy you could ask for, and I blew it.
Naturally, second game I drew a pair of Finks and two counterspells which couldn’t protect them. Other than those, I drew 13 lands. I got him down to three life, but once my Finks got buried and my three lands got Mind Shattered, I was out of it. The game got a bit more interesting as I drew a few good spells in a row, but my opponent one upped me nearly every turn, so I basically got my hopes up for nothing.
I don’t feel like I deserved to win that match anyway. I wasn’t as prepared as I needed to be.
Round 8: Faeries
I was extremely disappointed that this wasn’t a feature match, as my opponent was none other than Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa. Clearly Brett Blackman is a bigger star than Paulo. First game I continued my string of aggressively mulliganning against Faeries, trying to find cards that matter, but failed again. Not only was a Runed Halo in both of my openers, but I drew the second shortly after. Paulo had a Bitterblossom on turn 2 so the game was basically over. He jokingly put it in his graveyard, expecting the Ambitions, but I am not that skilled.
Second game he mulliganned to five and my opener was pretty sick. I started with a Finks and an evoked Mulldrifter, despite him showing me a Puppeteer Clique off a Secluded Glen because I didn’t have any lands. His Stillmoon Cavalier stopped my Finks, but my Colossus looked like it would end the game pretty quick. PV’s Clique recouped the lost cards from his mulligan, but I had a second Colossus to all but cement my victory.
Paulo went deep in the tank on his turn and tapped my creatures and bounced my second Colossus with a Cryptic Command, activated his Mutavault and attacked me down to nine. He was at thirteen and I untapped with five mana and the relevant cards in my hand being two Cryptic Commands, but no other lands. I could attack with both getting him down to six and pass, hoping that the Cryptic in my hand would be good enough to make sure I don’t die on the return. If that got countered, I would have another Cryptic to hopefully force through the lethal damage.
I could also just attack with the Colossus and get him down to nine, but that meant that Colossus wouldn’t be lethal on the counter swing. If he had another Cryptic, he could just bounce my Colossus and then I would be so far behind because of my land shortage. I wanted to make the most aggressive play possible because I felt that while I would win the long game, I didn’t have what was necessary to deal with what he already had in play.
I would basically end up losing if he had a land and a Broken Ambitions, but that was about it. Based on the play that PV had made, I could assume he had either a Cryptic Command, Ambitions and the land, or nothing while he was hoping to draw into any of the above.
In the end, he had what was necessary and I lost. After the game, Owen asked me why I didn’t just main phase bounce the Cavalier with the Cryptic, but then he can just attack me down to six, chump the Colossus with the Mutavault, and then if he did have what he needed that turn to beat me, I would just be in the same situation, except I would have given him a turn.
Either way, I had a bad taste in my mouth after that game, like I was missing something obvious, but even now I can’t figure it out.
Round 9: Kithkin
While I was happy about the matchup, I was upset that I was playing Nate Siftar, one of my friends. The first game was a drawn out affair, but it was typical of how the matchup plays out. This is another one of the games that I feel like I should have won, but just can’t quite place my finger on it. When he would have two guys out, I would cast a Shriekmaw and trade, and then use a Spout or Austere to clear out his tokens after he cast the Goat or Procession he was sandbagging. Eventually, I ran out of answers to his threats.
Thankfully for me, the next two games went as planned. I didn’t run out of answers, mostly because Oona’s Grace proved its worth yet again. Post board, that card is so sick, as it provides a constant stream of awesome cards, whereas game 1 you can’t sift through dead cards.
I ended Day 1 in 30th place. If I could 5-0 on Day 2 I would be a lock for Top 8 with a draw, but with my decent breakers, and especially with PV as one of them, I figured that maybe I could make Top 8 with a 5-1 record.
Round 10: Kithkin
I certainly wasn’t complaining about starting the day off with the perfect matchup. If I remember correctly, the first game just wasn’t close at all.
The second was probably another game that I threw away. In the first, I noticed that my opponent was pretty good at sandbagging Burrenton Forge Tender, and playing it and a large threat in the same turn… at least, that’s how it played out, but I suppose he could have just been playing the cards as he drew them.
Towards the end of game 2 he has a Thistledown Liege and a Knight of Meadowgrain and a few cards in hand, while my hand is completely stacked. I have a Shriekmaw, Hallowed Burial, and a pair of Firespouts, but I’m only on two life. I figured that not only could he be slow rolling a Forge Tender to protect something like a Cloudgoat Ranger and hopefully trick me into using my more expensive Wraths when I have the chance, but if I cast Shriekmaw he could Unmake it and then force me to use a Firespout on just a single Liege, as I would be at one life. I figured saving Shriekmaw might be better if he did in fact end up having a Forge Tender, but he didn’t. He simply had a bunch of token generators and I ran out of sweepers.
In hindsight I should have figured that he didn’t have the Forge Tender, but I had already made a mental note of how he seemed to be playing game 1 and I let that heavily influence my decision. I should have realized that not only could I use the Burial on a sandbagged Forge Tender, but that I was already at a very low life and didn’t have the luxury of “wasting” my Wraths when I could simply use a Shriekmaw. Honestly, there wasn’t a good time for him to use his Unmake at any point up until that, but there was no reason to make me believe that he had it already either way. I should have just cast the Shriekmaw, as I can’t afford to be extremely cautious and I have to buy myself the most time.
Thankfully, game 3 was another blowout in my favor. He got me kind of low, but it was only as low as I allowed myself to go while crafting the perfect hand and making sure that I wouldn’t lose to any of his topdecked threats.
Round 11: RDW
During my byes I was playing some games against our National Champion Michael Jacob (feel free to go ahead and introduce yourself to him at the next tournament you’re both at, as he loves to meet new people) who was playing a Mono-Red Aggro deck. None of those games were close. After about the second game he was disgusted that Chapin and I would play something so “obviously” metagamed against just him, but he continued to play. After about the sixth game, we called it quits. Runed Halo is just a gigantic beating.
Needless to say, I was pretty happy with this pairing, although I would rather always play against Kithkin. Anyway, the first game was extremely close. We both traded a ton while I stabilized at around eight or so. We played draw go for roughly ten turns before either of us drew anything of worth. However, once I drew Mulldrifter into Mulldrifter and was able to show him a sick hand, he conceded.
I thought second game was going well, even though I was at three life. At some point, I Dismissed a spell on his turn with three mana open and drew an Oona’s Grace, but decided not to cast it for fear of a burn spell. Sure enough, end of my turn he Tarfires me which I “let” resolve because three life is basically the same as one life against his deck. On his turn he Tarfires me again, to which I respond to with an Oona’s Grace, and then another, with four mana open, and draw Cryptic Command! I show it to him, and he shows me another burn spell. I thought the game was really close, but it really wasn’t…
At least by not casting the Grace right away, I gave myself a chance to draw out of it, as my opponent was clearly trying to play around counter magic that I didn’t have.
The third game was pretty close, or at least it could have been if he had drawn literal perfects. Instead, I ran an Archon out there that went distance as I used Cryptic Commands and Plumeveils to ensure the race ended in my favor. Every turn I was wracking my brain to figure out what exactly I could or couldn’t afford to play around, but thankfully he had almost none of the scary cards and Archon safely ended the game.
Round 12: Faeries
I decided to make a tiny split with my opponent this round as he was competent and I figured that maybe my luck against Faeries would run out, so I should hedge my bets. I was pretty pleased with myself for making the split after I was down a game, especially since it wasn’t even close. I just got destroyed by his good draw.
Second game and third game were the exact opposite. If he cast a Bitterblossom, I had the answer. From my experience, it’s almost always better to just wait until you can protect it with Scion or Spellstutter, as its your main route to victory. The games will almost always go long, so you can afford to wait a couple of turns.
Third game he mulliganned at least once and had a somewhat poor draw. He did manage to resolve a Mistbind Clique (which he cast in his main phase to avoid getting blown out by a Thresher or some such) after I tapped out for an evoked Mulldrifter. Now I was under the gun and had to do something about that Clique, but awkwardly enough I knew he had a Scion in his hand from a clash, so I couldn’t do much about it. My hand was also kind of bad, so I needed to draw into an answer pretty quickly.
I decided that I was just going to tap his guy and draw a card with Cryptic Command, but when my opponent drew his card for the turn, glanced at my graveyard, and then went into the tank, I wasn’t so sure about my plan anymore. I was basically certain he had drawn a Puppeteer Clique for his turn and was debating about how to play. Thankfully for me, he did about the best thing imaginable and cast it during his first main phase, which allowed me to counter it and bounce his Mistbind, while countering his Mistbind on the way back down. Once that happened, I was in complete control.
After the match, we talked about that play. I could tell that he was getting desperate and thought that he had to make a move. He said that in regards to the Puppeteer Clique, he just had to hope that I didn’t have the Cryptic, but I felt that at the very least he should have attacked first and kind of hedged his bets. However, if he would have just put himself in my spot, then he would understand how bad a position I was already in. He had a Mistbind in play and a Scion in hand to protect it, so how am I supposed to deal with that? I told him I was probably going to tap his guy that turn, which would have allowed him to draw some cards with Puppeteer, and then he would have way more options. In the end, I think his hasty decision cost him the game and the match.
Round 13: Doran
The good matchups just keep coming. However, my opponent basically had the nuts on the play. Vanquisher, Doran, and then Colossus after I mulliganned to five. I did manage to double Cryptic/Fog his guys until I had enough lands to Austere them away, but he wisely held some threats in reserve and I died shortly thereafter. If I didn’t double mulligan this game, I figured that I would have won, despite his insane draw.
Game 2 started far better for me. I dealt with all of his early threats but there was a bit of a scare when I didn’t have any action as we entered the late game. Sometimes I wish I didn’t draw so many Mulldrifters against stuff like Kithkin or RDW, but sometimes I wish I was playing ten Mulldrifters. This game was certainly the latter, as I was quite flooded and couldn’t find any card drawing. However, Runed Halo kept him at bay long enough for the Drifters to start showing up. He conceded to save time for game 3.
Third game was basically the same as game 2. I dealt with his early aggression, but failed to find any card drawing. I was getting a little worried that my Top 8 hopes were going to end. Once I was forced to burn the Mannequin I was saving for a Mulldrifter on a Kitchen Finks just to stay out of Profane Command range, I figured that I was just going to chump block until I died. Thankfully, a Runed Halo protected me from his Doran, and later a Chameleon Colossus.
We played draw go for a few turns before he Thoughtseized me. I showed him my three lands and he passed the turn. On his turn he played a Vanquisher which I Cryptic Commanded. Awkwardly enough, he Thoughtseized me after that and I showed him the land I drew. A few turns later he Thoughtseized me again, but again I showed him lands.
He topdecked a Treefolk Harbinger to find a Wickerbough Elder, which freed up his Colossus. I drew a Mulldrifter on my turn, which I hard cast. That one found me another, which I evoked with five mana left over, and I drew a Hallowed Burial that reset the board. He was conceding a few turns later.
Round 14: RDW (Owen Turtenwald)
Win and in. We briefly discussed the merits of a split, or even of IDing and taking our chances against someone else next round, but with my insane breakers, it was probably the same as me conceding this round. It’s been a while since Owen had done well in a non-Eternal format, and I would have liked to see him back on top.
I’ve been in this situation many times before, but I think this is the biggest beating I’ve ever received while playing for Top 8. We both started game 1 with a mulligan, but his turn 1 Auntie’s Hovel showing me Vexing Shusher and casting Figure of Destiny far outclassed my turn 1 Vivid land. I thought the game was mine when he didn’t play a second land, but he got there on turn 3.
I briefly debated the merits of Ambitioning for zero here and trying to dig for an untapped land, and I probably paused long enough for Owen to put the read on me. In the end, I decided that I would probably need it later to counter a key Javelin or Demigod as I was light on permission.
Had my third land not been yet another Vivid, I could have Firespouted them all away, but had to take some extra damage instead. Thankfully, he didn’t have much to follow it up with.
I had the option of hard casting a Mulldrifter on turn 5 or simply evoking it and keeping Broken Ambitions mana open, but he only had three lands, so it’s not like I was scared of Demigod. He would have had to draw a three-drop as there was no reason for him to be sandbagging one. I decided that keeping Ambitions mana open was almost useless, but there was also the consideration of if he had a Lash Out, would he use it on if I evoked or not. Owen is very good and would probably know that he should Lash Out the evoked Mulldrifter to dig for pressure, so I decided that I should cast it and hope that he has Tarfire or other random burn instead of the Lash Out, at which point, Mulldrifter would trade for a real spell.
I cast Mulldrifter, and he had the Lash Out and won the clash, put it on the bottom, drew a land and passed. I played my sixth land and passed with Thresher mana open. He slammed his fifth land and cast a Demigod, which I instantly let resolve. He instantly passed the turn, as he knew I had the Ambitions, so if I didn’t counter it, clearly I had Cloudthresher.
Owen is next level.
Obviously now I’m committed to casting the Cloudthresher and I fall to five life. I cast another Mulldrifter on my turn but can’t attack as I’m dead if he has another burn spell. On his upkeep, he Lashes Out the Mulldrifter and wins the clash yet again with a Demigod, which he keeps on top. I keep my Runed Halo on top. He has another Lash Out which would be lethal, so I Ambitions it for one to put my Halo on the bottom and hopefully hit a five or six drop so I don’t die. Awkwardly enough, I have another Runed Halo on top.
I could say that I got extremely unlucky this game as my opponent won three clashes to win and drew out of his one-lander, but he did everything in his power to maximize his chances of winning and got there. Meanwhile, I gave away my hand and he used that to his advantage.
Second game was anticlimactic as I kept a two lander and missed. I wished Owen some sincere good luck in Top 8, and hoped I could still make it.
Round 15: Kithkin
At the very least, I have an easy ride to Top 8 (if I can even make it). This was another feature match on the Wizards site. Nate Price did a great job, so feel free to read that if you haven’t already. My opponent had a slow start game 1, and that, combined with my double Firespout draw, meant he was never in it.
I knew that he had Oversoul coming in, so I wanted to keep in some amount of Runed Halos, as well as siding in the Colossi.
Second game he started with a Knight of Meadowgrain which I Haloed, as I didn’t have much in the way of removal. I was certainly going to Mulldrifter on turn 3, and didn’t want to take a bunch of damage. Against Kithkin, there really isn’t anything insane that you want to save the Halo for, so feel free to use it on anything you can’t currently answer. Anyway, in typical GerryT fashion, he had a second Knight, and I pumped the fist when he played it.
He played some more dudes but I had Austere, Firespout, Firespout to clear them out. After that, he didn’t have much gas in the tank, while I had more than enough to handle whatever he could throw at me.
In Round 14, AJ Sacher convinced his opponent who was 12-1-1 to ID with him, even though a draw was effectively the same as a loss. Owen had the misfortune of playing against that person this round and lost, which put him into tenth.
I knew that I was going to be 7th, 8th, or 9th, but wasn’t quite sure which. PV was also on the fence. I knew that at least three of my tiebreakers had won in round 15, so I was pretty confident, but it’s still nice to hear your name being announced and knowing that you are in for sure. I ended up 7th and Paulo was 9th. While I felt sad for him, I was pretty happy for me as I didn’t want to play against him again.
It certainly felt good to make my sixth GP Top 8, especially so long after the last one. Although, to be fair, I probably would have made Top 8 in a couple of others had I not conceded to my friends so much. Thankfully, they were losing while I was winning, so I never had to play against them and just had to win my matches instead.
Top 8: Quick n’ Toast
When we got to look at the deck lists, I formulated a plan. He really only had a pair of Oonas and three Profane Commands to kill me with, both of which I can deal with via Runed Halo. After that, I should be able to deck him with Oona’s Grace. Awkwardly enough, all of the games were won via damage.
First game we did the usual attrition thing. I figured that he would be outdrawing me pretty heavily due to his high Mannequin count and Profanes, so I didn’t mind Gracing a few times when I needed to find answers to his threats.
This game actually wouldn’t have been as close as it were had he been drawing cards with his Cryptics instead of wasting the second part on them to bounce my Vivids. I figured it was possible that he was just a stone master and knew what I was planning on doing, but by the way he was recklessly drawing cards off his Mulldrifters, I decided that wasn’t the case.
He ended up resolving an Oona with two mana open, so I decided now would be a great time to resolve a Halo, which I obviously named Oona. End of my turn he tried to make some tokens, but I informed him that he couldn’t. I thought I had done a decent job at stabilizing, but I was only at 14 or so. His first Profane took a huge chunk of my life and I was left scrambling to find the other Runed Halo to ensure that I didn’t get burnt out.
I didn’t mind having to Austere his board away as I still had the Halo on Oona. He only had one Cryptic left to get rid of my Halo, so I would have preferred to keep the Oona in play to prevent any Mannequins from bringing it back later.
A second resolved Profane and a Mulldrifter took me to one. He then resolved his last Cryptic to get rid of my Halo for a turn, Mannequinned Oona, and milled me for five. I reset the board again and went deep into the tank to figure out whether I should Halo Oona or Profane. He had one of each left, but the Mannequins gave him as many Oonas as he wanted. In the end, I decided that it was possible that he had the Profane and I couldn’t defend myself from it at this very moment, so I should name it. That choice was probably wrong as I can’t defend myself from Oona either, and if I name Oona now he’s got one out, whereas if I name Profane he’s drawing fairly live, with Mannequins, his last Oona, and even the Profane to bring it back.
I’m unsure if it mattered, as I died a few turns later. I’m not even sure that I could have decked him in that situation anyway, and he had way too much removal for me to even hope to break through.
Down a game, I wasn’t very confident, although with two more Halos and Plumeveil to stop his beats, I figured I might be okay. From his list, I assumed that he would bring in the Ambitions and Puppeteer Cliques, with Crib Swaps to deal with my Colossi, but I could tell he only sided in six cards because his sideboard wasn’t sleeved. I was pretty sure he just ignored my sideboarded Colossi, as there was no way he would omit Cliques or more countermagic.
Game 2 looked to be a blowout when I countered his Finks and then played Colossus and an Archon, but my opponent held his own. He evoked and cast a Mulldrifter, but I just Shriekmawed it and got in there. However, he evoked a Maw to kill my Archon while I used to kill a land, and then he Mannequinned a Finks to give him a bunch of time.
He played another Finks but I just kept attacking and wearing them down and I played another Archon. A Puppeteer Clique removed my first Archon and hit me for four, but thankfully didn’t get to kill anything on its way out. I decided to attack with everyone, and with the Cliques persist on the stack, a surprise Nameless Inversion killed my Archon, which he brought back. On his turn, he Profaned his/my Archon and removed my Colossus, while also returning a Mulldrifter. At this point, I thought it was all downhill, as I had nothing except two Runed Halos, which didn’t go well with my aggressive draw. Neither did Plumeveil, but at least it finished off his Puppeteer.
I still had that Shriekmaw plugging away, and when he tried to Sower it I dismissed it with a Cryptic Command. When I drew a Colossus off that, I thought I was back in good shape. He just simply attacked with a Mulldrifter and passed it back with eight mana. I figured it was possible that he had a Cryptic Command and maybe a second one, but he didn’t cast it during my upkeep, which allowed me to draw a Cryptic for my turn. When he cast his own Cryptic during my attack phase, I should have known that he had a second, as he was willing to give me a chance to draw a counter spell, probably because he didn’t care. For some reason, I thought that if I didn’t use mine now, it gave him a chance to draw a second, or possibly something else that would wreck me, but that logic was just flawed as I still had the Cryptic. I foolishly decided to attempt to kill him that turn, but he showed me the second one. Thankfully, he only drew a card instead of bouncing my Colossus when I only had seven mana, as that could have been disastrous.
He played a Profane Command that I could beat, but then he also cast a Sower on my Colossus. Thankfully, I drew a Mannequin to get back my Shriekmaw, and he was out of answers.
Once my opponent had demonstrated that he knew how to abuse his Puppeteer Clique and possibly make my Archons work for him, I decided to bring those out as well for more answers to Sower of Temptation. He went reaching for his sideboard as well, so I could only assume that the Crib Swaps were now coming in.
The third game was extremely easy as not only did my opponent barely cast anything, but I Mulldriftered five times thanks to Makeshift Mannequin, and just protected my little guys until he died.
That match had taken quite a bit of time, so I went off for a quick bathroom break. Surprisingly, Antonino had lost to Kithkin (his second loss to that deck in the tournament) which gave me the gift matchup.
Top 4: Kithkin
I won the die roll and he started with a mulligan. I decided to Shriekmaw his Goldmeadow Stalwart and then use a Halo on Figure of Destiny, which he obviously had a second copy of. I stopped his first couple of token generators with counter spells and Cloudthreshered away some Procession tokens. After that, I used Firespouts to clear the way.
I would normally board in Colossi for the Archons here as their removal of choice has typically been Unmake, but he had the full boat of Crib Swaps main and only a single Unmake in the sideboard. Even still, Colossus is probably a better man just because it’s a mana cheaper and can certainly end the game faster. Both of them give Kithkin a solid Mirrorweave target, but hopefully you can either play around that or just avoid casting your win conditions until you are safe from Weave shenanigans.
When I looked at my opener game 2, I was pretty sure I was going to keep if my opponent mulliganned once, but would probably ship if he insta-kept. It was a pretty slow hand with a couple Mulldrifters, Cryptic Command, and Austere Command. He mulliganned once and yet again hemmed and hawwed about his second hand, but ultimately kept. I knew I had to be cautious though because of how good his first hand was even though he seemed unsure about it.
Regardless, my first draw steps were quite good. In fact, they were close to perfect. A Kitchen Finks got Crib Swapped but my Firespout killed his Wizened Cenn. I cast a Mulldrifter to block his Procession tokens and a Halo to stop his Mutavault from getting in there. Once I felt like I had enough gas left over, I Austered the board away. His follow up Cloudgoat was about the best he could hope for, but I simply cast a Finks and a Mulldrifter, which I chumped with. The next turn, I did the same and found a Shriekmaw to permanently deal with the Goat. Once he overextended again, I reset the board with a Hallowed Burial and played an Archon of Justice. He had a Figure of Destiny and some other guys but I just Spouted them away. I Haloed his second Figure and decided to play the waiting game. Eventually I drew a Shriekmaw and put the clock on him, with a Cryptic Command as back up should he have had anything.
Yet again, I was scared coming into this matchup. His main deck Puppeteer Cliques were like some kind of sick joke. He even had a Vendilion Clique that was very threatening. He even drew in it in our first two games.
First game I mulliganned a crappy hand with a Runed Halo into a crappy hand with a Runed Halo. Sigh. He had a turn 1 Thoughtseize that I couldn’t care less about. After that, my Finks got destroyed by some Peppersmokes, he successfully baited out a counter spell with a Scion, and then I got Mistbind Cliqued. He also found a Bitterblossom in there at some point. I tried to Austere away all creatures, hopefully trying to kill him with his own Blossom, but he obviously had the counter. I couldn’t kill enchantments as that would free up his Mutavaults from my Halo while I still had the Vendilion to worry about.
I drew a Mulldrifter and when it resolved it was quite obvious he had nothing. If I drew something sick off it, I could still win this game. Sadly, he had a Scion to knock me to two life, cutting my outs, and then my next draw step was a land.
When he had the nuts in game 2 (turn 1 Thoughtseize, turn 2 Bitterblossom), I thought I was done for. I had a couple of Finks to pressure him, but he had a Vendilion to make the race interesting. On my turn 5 I was almost certain he had a Mistbind Clique. I could play the Reflecting Pool I had and a Mulldrifter before attacking, but I decided I would rather hope he champions a token and then Wispmare his Bitterblossom, which is exactly what happened.
Mistbind Clique stayed home on his turn and my Mulldrifter resolved. When I traded it for the Vendilion Clique, Puppeteer Clique used it to draw some cards. I got Thoughtseized, but I had plenty of good spells. I probably should have just Austered away his big guys on my turn, but I wouldn’t have been able to attack at all because he would Puppeteer back my Wispmare. Instead I cast a Mulldrifter, which meant that his Clique was almost certainly going to draw him cards if it ever got to persist.
Instead I set up a turn where I attacked with everything and evoked a Thresher to kill his team and Jace. However, he did have a Consign to Dream to bounce his Mistbind, which he actually should have used to bounce his Puppeteer Clique. When Puppeteer persisted back and targeted my Mulldrifter, I Mannequinned it. Thankfully, he didn’t recast his Mistbind Clique on his turn, hoping to Time Walk me in a desperate situation, so I got cast a Cloudthresher in my upkeep and we were onto game 3.
Before the third game started, Ant asked us if we were nervous but I honestly wasn’t. I was just in the zone. It got a bit awkward when I broke out of that zone to look up at the crowd and realized roughly a hundred people were watching me, but I just ignored them and went back to business.
My opponent had the Bitterblossom on turn 2 again, but I had the Wispmare and his draw basically just crumbled from that. He had double Spellstutter and a Mistbind, but nothing for them to feed off. I once again had the early Finks for beatdown and the Ambitions to counter his Mistbind. When he slumped in his chair after he Thoughtseized me, I could basically tell that I had won. He did pass with four mana open, so there was always the possibility he had a Cryptic to counter my Mulldrifter and a Puppeteer Clique to get him back in the game, but my Mulldrifter resolved and then that was that. I basically couldn’t lose.
I would like to thank everyone who wished me congratulations and such, although I’m sorry if I brushed off anyone who was trying to talk to me in Denver (especially Charles Gindy), as someone had just stolen my backpack during the awards ceremony and I was frantically trying to find it. You might think I won a lot of money at this GP, but I really didn’t…
Either way, it feels great to have won a tournament for once. I told Rich Hagon at Nationals that if I ever won something I would be completely shameless with the trophy and carry it with me wherever I went. I would use it for a token, or put it on top of my deck to not forget upkeep triggers, but as I’m packing for Gen Con, I don’t think there’s any reason to bring it with me. I don’t want to be a person with only one major success who flaunts it around. I would rather win all the time and let that do the talking for me. Basically, I have the desire to win again, and I don’t know how much conceding I’m going to be doing in the future, as winning simply feels too good.
This Grand Prix puts me at 14 pro points for the year. With the two I automatically get in Berlin, I can use my once a year invite on Worlds and if (when) I pick up some extra points, I’ll be qualified for all of next year.
Thanks for reading.