This is my report from the 2008 World Championships.
My preparation for Worlds began a bit later than my usual preparations for large events, and it was much smaller than the preparation I made for my three previous Pro Tours. This was the one tournament of the year in which lack of time was actually a concern, since I’ve been studying for a very, very important exam. Still, one could say my preparation for Worlds began when I started testing for Hollywood, and that I have since then added a lot to it, as I obviously didn’t forget anything I had concluded for Hollywood, Berlin, and the Limited GPs I played. Overall, I guess you could say Worlds was the tournament I was prepared for the most, even though I didn’t prepare a lot for it specifically.
I knew from the beginning I wanted to play Faeries in Standard. I had a firm conviction it was the best deck in Hollywood, and though the format changed, the conviction did not. To me, it was still the best deck. I played some games, just to make sure, and I was convinced that I didn’t want to play against Faeries with anything, so I might as well play it myself. There were some other choices, like Five-Color Control, which I dismissed instantly due to many factors, the most important being that it had a bad matchup versus Faeries and I wouldn’t leave my favorite deck for one that lost to it. I also hated the manabase, both in color and in quantity of lands that came into play tapped. Another option was BW Tokens, which all of the other Brazilians ended up playing, and even though it felt nice it still didn’t have the appeal Faeries has to me.
Of course, there is also the fact that I’m in love with the Faerie deck. Since the beginning of the year, all my attempts to play something else resulted in me concluding Faeries was simply better. I played Faeries in all the main Standard tournaments this year, and I had reasonable finishes in all of them — Hollywood, Nationals, GP: Buenos Aires, and GP: Denver (which was Block Constructed, and probably the most important tournament of all those, since the list looked more like Block than Standard). I’ve played a lot with it, to the point where I could draw conclusions without extensive playtesting, and that fit perfectly in my plan of having a relatively short playtest session pre-tournament. Apparently I’d need all my time for Extended, because I had no clue what to play.
I knew, from Denver, that I wanted to play Sower of Temptation maindeck, in big numbers. It’s good against the two main decks — Kithkin and Faeries — and against the decks it’s bad, like Five-Color Control, you don’t mind having some dead cards because the matchup is good and there are plenty of cards to side in. Some people don’t like Sowers in the mirror, but I do — they are a way to win a Blossom war, and they can be absolutely devastating if they get Scion or Mistbind. It’s also good versus decks like Elves and Merfolk, and it’s not even bad versus aggressive Red decks in some situations.
I also knew Broken Ambitions was a fine replacement for Rune Snag — I know some people don’t like it, but I think it’s a necessary evil if anything — you need something to counter early Spectral Processions and, to a lesser extent, Glorious Anthem. If Spectral Procession didn’t exist, I’d be down with playing Remove Souls in bigger numbers, but since it does exist, you need at least three Broken Ambitions. I ended up playing four Ambitions and one Remove Soul, but I think nowadays playing two Remove Souls is better — it seems I overestimated the number of White decks.
After reading LSV’s article on how Agony Warp was the new Lightning Helix, I decided to try it out. I liked it better than Terror in some matchups, and worse than Terror in the others. During playtesting, I set myself this ruling — I wanted at least two Terrors, and the rest would be Agony Warps. I like Terror because it kills War-Monk, Cloudthresher, and Mistbind Clique, as well as 4/4 Figures — I think you need some number of them. There is also the fact that I hate tapping out with this deck (Sower is a concession I make because it’s so game-changing), so most of the time I don’t Agony Warp during combat, which makes the point moot. Still, it’s good to add another tool to your arsenal of cards that are absolutely devastating if they walk into it — now with four open mana you can have Scion, Mistbind, Command, or Agony Warp — pretty much impossible to play around all of those, since each usually requires a different play, and this is one of the reasons I like this deck so much. The list I started playing had three Agony Warps and two Terrors, and I ended up cutting one for a land, which I’ll explain later. If I had decided I wanted six removal spells, I’d have played 4 Agony Warps and 2 Terrors. Had I only wanted two removal spells, they would have been the two Terrors — I don’t think you can go below that number.
Thoughtseize was my newest addition. I like the card a lot — it’s probably the one card I want to see in my opening hand besides Bitterblossom — but the problem is that most of the time I only want to see it in my opening hand. The deck is short on card drawing now, and I don’t think you can play the full four Thoughtseizes — you can’t afford to draw that many cards that don’t impact the board in some matchups. Without Ancestral Visions, the deck becomes more tempo-oriented — you counter some spells and kill them. If you Thoughtseize them in the middle of the game, they’ll just play another spell instead. If you counter their spell with Broken Ambitions, you’ve stolen their turn. I think I’d rather have Thoughtseize in my opening hand, but anywhere from turn 3 on I’d rather have Broken Ambitions. One big plus of Thoughtseize is that it lets you look at their hand, which gives you even more control over the game than you already have. I jokingly said I’d probably play Peek over Ponder — that’s how good I think looking at their hand is with this deck.
I also played four Scion of Oona. I didn’t expect that to be a point of controversy, but since the World Champion didn’t play them, I’ll go ahead and say I think he was totally wrong. I think it’s a very important card in the deck, because it serves a lot of roles. It’s a card you play instant speed, which lets you punish them for not walking into anything and just standing still by adding a free threat to the board. It’s a card that lets you go aggressive and kill them before they can recover from the fact that you controlled the board. It’s a card that wins the token wars, which is very important since Bitterblossom is the best card against you. It messes up their combat math (it’s so much easier to play against Faeries if you know they don’t have Scion), it protects Sowers — basically, it does everything. In Hollywood I took them out in a lot of matchups, but now I rarely do so — they’ve became a lot more important for me.
Throughout my Faeries year, I won many more matches than I lost with the deck. I distinctly remember almost every single one of my losses, and in a lot of them I remember not having the fourth land on turn 4, or not having the fifth for Razormane Masticore. Though I didn’t play Razormane Masticores anymore (or Damnation), I played three maindeck Sowers. I got tired of losing games with Mistbind, Sower and Command in hand, so I added a 26th land. Contrary to all logic, I take this land out in the mirror and in the control matchup — those are the matches where you can’t afford to flood and you have time to draw your lands, since the key cards don’t cost four, but one, two, and three. Not playing Mistbind turn 4 is not very bad in those matchups, but it is the difference between winning or losing against White Weenie. I felt the deck was so good that I could afford one extra land, because if I drew four lands on turn 4 it wouldn’t matter if I had three of four spells to play because those spells would, most of the time, be good enough. It seems I was the only person in the entire tournament playing 26 lands (no, I didn’t go through all the lists), so I can certainly not fault you for choosing to play 25 — I think either is fine, it’s just a question of personal preference. Karsten wanted more lands but didn’t want to flood, so he played 25 lands and one Ponder, which I think is fine too. Or a Peek *evil grin*.
I played only one Faerie Conclave for the same reason — I think the deck is good enough that I’ll win if I play my spells in a timely fashion. I certainly cannot fault you for playing two or three, though I probably wouldn’t play four, even with 26 lands. I think two is probably the optimal number if you feel playing one is too random.
This is the list I played:
I’m going to skip Extended for now — when I get to the Extended part of the tournament, I’ll flashback to my preparation for that. I think it’s easier this way so you don’t have to keep going back and forth from Standard to Extended.
I left Brazil on Monday, to get there on Tuesday. I flew by myself, and I was to meet Carlos and Celso at the airport. The Brazilians from the National team would only get there on Wednesday, due to some complications with the travel agency. My plane flew around Memphis for some hours, due to “severe weather conditions.” When I arrived I couldn’t help noticing the amount of signs of “extreme weather shelter,” and that makes me wonder if there was no better place to hold the World Championship than one that gets stormy at this time of the year. When I got there, with a big delay, Carlos complained his plane had also had problems landing. Celso’s flight didn’t get delayed for that long, and we went to our hotel. They were both set on playing BW.
On Tuesday we did some shopping and got ourselves used to the timezone, and on Wednesday we went to Graceland to get ourselves registered. Once there, I got to talk to a bunch of people. The main thing I discovered was that Esper Battlemage killed Stillmoon Cavalier, but I didn’t see much relevance in that since Stillmoon is not very good against Faeries — quite the opposite, as I like it when they play it because I have Sowers. Still, it might not be bad in the Mirror, so you might want to try it out. I didn’t bother.
I also talked to some reporters, and when they asked what my goal for the week was, I said nothing short of Top 8 would make me happy. Maybe next time I should say nothing short of a win makes me happy. The reason for that was that I needed 10 pro points to level up — which meant only a Top 8 would give me plane tickets for all the Pro Tours in the next season. Living in Brazil, the plane tickets are very important for me, because they are extremely expensive — to fly to Kyoto would cost me around 2300 dollars, and to Honolulu pretty much the same. That was my last opportunity to get them, and leaving without them would make me disappointed.
After that we went into the actual Elvis House. I’ve never been a big fan — I expect most people of my generation aren’t — but I went there anyway, since, well, it’s probably the last time I’m setting foot on Memphis. We took a bunch of pictures that included his cars and his airplane. His airplane was quite nice — I hope I get to have an airplane of my own when I grow up.
It turned out everyone else I had contact with was playing a different deck — usually BW. As such, I spent the evening trying to figure out my sideboard myself, after we came back. The final version came to be at the event, since we had all the time in the world because of the flags and hall of fame ceremony. It became apparent BW would be a popular deck, due to Stillmoon Cavaliers being sold out at 25 dollars and stuff like that, so I changed my sideboard accordingly. As you can see from the list above, I played this:
Jace Beleren is, in my opinion, the best card you can have in control matchups. He will win the game by himself if they don’t have an answer, and most of the time they won’t. Thoughtseizes are for the mirror and other control matchups, as well as several other matches when you are on the draw. Flashfreeze is good against Five-Color Control — it counters all their relevant cards other than Mulldrifters (and Blossoms I guess) — as well as being great against Elves, and obviously mainly Red decks.
Sower is against Kithkin (from now on, whenever I say Kithkin or BW, you read both) as well as Elves. I don’t like the fourth Sower in the mirror, though I keep in the three I already have maindeck. Infest and Stillmoon are pretty much only against Kithkin. I don’t play four Infest because I have so many creatures myself — Sowers, Scions and Stillmoons — and it’s not uncommon that you wish you had a removal spell instead. It’s possible, though, that a 3/3 Split is better. The thing with Infest is that it counters one of the ways they have of beating you — being too quick with turn 3 Procession. The problem with it is that they have Ajani and Anthem, to limit the number of things you kill, and if they have Blossom, Infest isn’t really a solution.
The third Agony Warp is a random card, against Elves, Red decks, Kithkin (though not BW), and Merfolk.
So, it began.
Round 1: Edel, Willy (RW Kithkin)
D’oh. Still, I knew what he was playing, and I considered it a good matchup, so I wasn’t all that sad to play against him. I knew he had no removal maindeck, so my Sowers would be key. He also knew that.
We roll the die and I win. I ask him to lend me a die, because I left mine at home, and he says since I won I can keep this one, because it’s obviously an unlucky die for him. We both mulligan our opening hands and I keep a hand of Broken Ambitions, Remove Soul, two other spells, and two lands.
I pass turn 2 with two open mana and those two counters in my hand. He plays Knight of Meadowgrain. In this position, I think the best play is normally to counter with Remove Soul, not close, since Ambition stops both Ajani and Procession, as well as countering any two-drop he tries to play turn 3, but the thing is that I still only had those two lands from my opening hand. That meant I wouldn’t be able to Ambitions a two-drop next turn. I decided to play the Ambitions, to try to get another land (or two, because I had Sower and Command), and it ends up losing this game for me. I clash into a land and he plays a Procession. Then he plays an Ajani, and pumps his tokens. He has a Mutavault, which is also getting pumped on future turns. I draw a fourth Land and a Blossom and fight hard with my Sower, stealing a token, blocking, bouncing the Sower with Cryptic Command, stealing another guy. He has a second Ajani when his first one dies, as well as a Meadowgrain.
He makes a nice play in the middle of the game, when he attacks with his Meadowgrain and then uses the Ajani pump ability, after combat, so in case I draw Sower I’m getting a tapped guy who can’t block. It doesn’t matter though, as I don’t have another Sower. In the end I manage to pretty much stabilize with a Scion during combat, and I’m left to topdecking Mistbind Clique or Command before Blossom kills me, but his face-down card under Windbrisk Heights is Cloudgoat Ranger and that does the trick.
I kept pondering about whether I should have played Remove Soul or Broken Ambitions. It’s pretty clear to me that I would have won had I played the Remove Soul, because his draw would have been very bad without the Procession — instead of hitting me with 3/3 flying tokens, he would have gained four life — quite a difference. It’s hard to lose the first game of a Pro Tour to a decision you made, but I think it was probably the right decision — it could be that I clashed into a non-land and by putting it on bottom I ended up winning the game, who knows.
Siding against this deck is very hard, and I’m still not sure what to do. Sprite is not bad against him — he has a lot of one-drops — but I figured I was going to tap out a lot since I’m adding all those sorcery speed cards, so it made sense to remove counters and Sprite is the worst of them. I’m not exactly sure this is how I boarded, but I believe it is.
Game 2 I have a good hand, with Command, double Stillmoon, Sower, and Infest. The game ends up being surprisingly hard — I Infest his first two creatures (a Stillmoon and a 2/2) and follow it with two Stillmoons, but I have to keep back on defense because he has two Heights and a lot of creatures thanks to Cloudgoat Ranger. I have two Cryptic Commands and a Sower, but only four mana, so I can’t do much other than pass the turn. He attacks with everything and I make some blocks. I counter one of his Heights spells and bounce a token, so that when I untap and Sower a guy he won’t have three guys to activate his next Heights. I keep not drawing lands, but I draw a third Command — that means I can attack with my guys and tap his team twice to make it even.
Game 3 would have been very easy, if I didn’t know he had Chaotic Backlash in his sideboard. Backlash is surprisingly good against me, because I have Stillmoons and four Sowers, so if I draw Stillmoon plus Sower it’s already six damage at instant speed (after all, I’m going to steal a White creature). I have Stillmoon out and a Sowered Figure of Destiny, as well as a Bitterblossom and a Mistbind Clique. He has Cloudgoat Ranger and a bunch of Kithkins. My hand is two more Sowers and two Commands, but I can’t play Sower because I’ll die to Backlash, and I only have two Blue mana so I can’t play Command. It takes me frustratingly long to draw the third Blue mana, to the point of Blossom putting me into Backlash range even if I don’t play Sower. Because of that, I suicide my Figure of Destiny into his Stillmoon Cavalier, since it’s not going to do anything and its two less damage I’m taking from Backlash. I also can’t attack, so I pass. Eventually I draw the Blue mana and I’m able to attack for the win.
I was particularly pleased with myself for those games, as I had to fight very hard in all of them. I didn’t even know if he boarded in Backlash (turns out he boarded in two), but I played around it anyway. He didn’t have it in his hand, but it was still satisfying knowing I’d have won even if he had. After the match, Bill Stark asked if I felt guilty by beating a National team member, and I said that no, not really — I felt bad by beating a friend, but no worse because he was a team member. Now that I think of it, this is an awkward question — I should feel bad for beating him here, as much as he should feel bad for beating me at Nationals, since the Brazilian National team would have one extra win had any of those not happened.
Round 2: Komuro, Shu (BG Elves)
When I sat down to play, I thought he was playing BR, because that was what the other Japanese players I had seen were playing. My hand is very, very good against Red decks — Bitterblossom, Mistbind Clique, double Spellstutter, three lands, one of them a Mutavault. It turns out he isn’t playing BR but Elves, but fortunately this hand is broken against anything, including Elves. I don’t think any deck beats this draw, except one that can deal with the Blossom as soon as you play it. I’m able to counter a turn 3 Garruk with Spellstutter (Vault + Stutter + Blossom + Token) and from there it’s academic. I even draw a third Spellstutter and a Scion.
I sided in the other two Thoughtseizes and out the Broken Ambitions because Ambitions is pretty bad against him on the draw. He has Llanowar Elves and cheap creatures to play around it, and eight Manlands to punish me if I decide to sit on it, so I think having Thoughtseize and being proactive is better.
Game 2 I mulligan into Seize and Sower, draw a Command and play a turn 1 Thoughtseize, taking his Thoughtseize. Maybe I should have taken his Garruk, but I was afraid to just die to random creatures if he took out my only business, and I figured I could handle the Garruk with Sower and Command. It didn’t turn out very well, because he plays Wolf-Skull Shaman and I draw Bitterblossom, which gives me the business I’d be missing if I had left the Thoughtseize with him. As it is, the Garruk ends up making three Beasts. He also has a Treetop. I’m with my back to the wall and he plays Liliana, tutoring for something when I’m at two life. He draws, tutors for something else, and passes. At this point I know he has something that kills me in his hand, and I can bet that he has a Thoughtseize on top of his library. I think for a long time and figure that if his card in hand is Cloudthresher, I can’t win, so I play for it to be Profane Command. At the end of his turn I play a Scion of Oona (even if his card is a Command, have to topdeck something here), but it’s the Cloudthresher and I lose.
On the play I board -2 Thoughtseize +2 Broken Ambitions. I like that the Faeries deck has a lot of that — so many cards are much better on the play than on the draw and you always have to keep sideboarding. Even if I’m not changing anything, I like to pretend to do some sideboarding, so my opponent doesn’t know when I’m actually changing something. The Broken Ambitions are better here on the play, because they counter the four-mana good cards, and his two-drop if he doesn’t have Llanowar Elves.
Game 3 is pretty easy, because he is stuck on two lands for a number of turns. I counter everything he plays and kill him before he hits his fourth land drop.
Round 3: Nassif, Gabriel (Five-Color Control)
I believe he was playing the same list as Jamie Parke. He wins the die roll, but can’t do anything to stop my turn 2 Bitterblossom. I Thoughtseize next turn and see three Esper Charms which he couldn’t play, because playing cards that cost 2GGGG, 1UUU, and GRB in the same deck doesn’t come without a cost.
I take out a Jund Charm and he doesn’t play many spells that do something other than drawing cards, until he plays a Wrath of God on his last turn, for which I have two counters. He did show me Negate and Remove Soul throughout the game, though, and those are good cards to have in mind when playing the following games. It’s nice to note that, at some point, I had Mutavault and some tokens and played a Scion of Oona, but didn’t attack with it — it wouldn’t make my clock any faster and it’d make it slower if he had the Condemn, so I saw no reason to.
I mulligan to five game 2, and he frowns when I play Thoughtseize. I take out his Bitterblossom, but he just plays another on turn 3. I take the same posture I would against another Faeries deck when they have Blossom and I don’t, and start going aggressive with Mutavault in the hopes of racing him. I have a Scion, and in his upkeep I Cryptic Command his team. If he counters that, I’m dead, so I know he doesn’t have a counter. I have another Command in my hand, and if I tap his team again he is dead to my Scion + Mutavault + his Blossom, so he has one turn to draw a counterspell, or two to draw a removal spell. He draws Tidings, which draws him into Negate for my Cryptic on the following turn. Still, it felt good to know that I had mulliganed to five, he had had his best start after I Thoughtseized him, and I still came dangerously close to winning.
Game 3 he has Bitterblossom again, though not turn 2. I draw a bunch of cards with Jace and resolve a Mistbind Clique, which is trading with his Blossom tokens. At some point, I have two Mutavaults, a Faerie Conclave, and a Mistbind Clique, and he plays Mulldrifter and another Blossom. He has two tokens, and attacks with one, leaving one untapped. At the end of his turn I Terror the Mulldrifter, and since he attacked with the one token he felt compelled to do something about it. He is taking too much damage if I can attack with my Mutavaults as well, so he plays Cryptic Command, leaving only one mana up. I let it resolve and play another Mistbind Clique, then on my turn I Command his Mulldrifter and Token, activate my three Manlands, and attack for 14. He was at 15 and died to his Bitterblossom.
Round 4: Ruel, Antoine (Five-Color Control)
This round is a featured match, you can find it here. Nothing particularly exciting happened — both games he was short on lands. In the first, I Command back his Vivid land when he is about to discard, and I can play a Mistbind Clique mainphase when he has to replay it tapped, and he just scoops. Game 2 his lands were Vivid Marsh, Flooded Grove, and Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] — he didn’t play many spells.
I experimented with two Stillmoon Cavaliers over Spellstutters this match, since I thought he was playing Nassif’s version, with Rhox War Monk, Bitterblossom, and Jund Charm, but I didn’t really get to know if they were good or not.
I’d like to point out that the feature match area was quite nice — it was pretty, had an electronic score and, most importantly, had places for people to sit and stand to watch. Thumbs up for those.
Round 5: Sajgalik, Eduardo (BG Elves)
I sit down and ask where he is from, since Eduardo is, as far as I know, a Portuguese name. His answer is something like “My mother is Italian, I was born in the U.S., I’m living in England, and I’m part of the Canadian national team.” Awkward.
He mulligans into turn 1 Llanowar Elves. I Seize him and see Profane Command, Garruk, Colossus, and Wren’s Run Vanquisher (no other land). I can take the Colossus here, so he doesn’t play the Vanquisher, but it’s better to just take the Vanquisher — he doesn’t have lands, and I have Agony Warp next turn for his Elf, so he is not doing anything anytime soon. He draws a card that is not a land. I kill his Elf. Two turns later he has three lands in play, and attempts to Profane Command it back, which I Ambitions — he wins the clash, revealing Civic Wayfinder. I play Bitterblossom, knowing he isn’t going to do anything other than the Wayfinder. He gets a fourth land and I pass the turn with Command, Sower, and Mistbind Cliques. He attacks and I play Mistbind. I see a lot of people who just automatically play Mistbind Clique on their opponent’s upkeeps — I think most of the time, this is incorrect. No one play spells before they attack; there is no reason not to eat the attacker as well.
It’s also important not to play Mistbind Clique on their upkeep if they have some creature that pumps — namely Colossus and Figure of Destiny (but specially Colossus). If you play it on their upkeep, they are just going to pump their guy. The best moment to do it is after damage is already on the stack, still in the combat phase — this way they don’t pump their guy (or they do but it doesn’t deal you extra damage) and they are still deprived of their mana for that turn.
Well, back to the game – this time playing it during combat didn’t do me any good, because he played Eyeblight’s Ending on it. I draw another Mistbind Clique and the same thing happens, but he plays a Treetop Village as well — I now know all the cards in his hand. Next turn I play my Sower and he has Terror. I’m falling dangerously low on life at this point, from Treetop and Civic Wayfinder attacks, though I chump it with a Blossom token once. Maybe I should have left two tokens to block it, but since I had just seen his hand I expected one of the Mistbinds to kill it.
He plays his Garruk and Colossus, and I’m dying to my own Blossom in the meantime. He also has a Mutavault. I have a Cryptic Command in my hand, that I know I’ll have to use to bounce my Blossom if I want to kill him. If he Overruns with his Garruk I’ll have to draw either another Command or another Mistbind, because I’ll need to tap his team and bounce the Treetop. He doesn’t do that, instead attacking with the Colossus, probably hoping I have to Command it anyway. I have a Spellstutter Sprite though, and chump it rather than spending my Command. Next turn he doesn’t Overrun again, and I chump block everything and bounce my Blossom at the end of his turn, at one life, to kill him.
I sided the same as in round 2.
My opening hand this game is Bitterblossom and six lands; I mulligan into Blossom, Seize, Spellstutter, Scion, Sower, Mutavault; I mulligan that into Thoughtseize, Agony Warp and three lands — not bad for five cards. He has Llanowar Elves again, and I Thoughtseize out his Colossus, leaving him with another Llanowar and Wren’s Run Vanquisher. He plays his Vanquisher and the Thoughtseize he just drew, leaving me with just lands and the Spellstutter I just drew. I draw a Sower and steal his Vanquisher, and it looks like I’m going to stabilize. One of my lands is a Mutavault and I have the Spellstutter in hand. I end up drawing another Spellstutter and a Flashfreeze. He attempts a Cloudthresher, which I Flashfreeze. He draws and evokes another Cloudthresher, and I die because I don’t have six Faeries.
He doesn’t have many lands this time around again, and I again have Thoughtseize to see that he doesn’t have any business. He has Colossus and Garruk in hand, but only two lands and a Llanowar, which I Sower. I spend my next turn playing Bitterblossom and attacking with Mutavault, instead of championing it for my Mistbind, because I know he has only four casting cost cards in hand and I want to wait until he has three lands in play — if I Mistbind now, I’ll tap him out in a turn he wouldn’t do anything anyway, and I felt it was better to just get the Blossom there. He draws, plays a third land and a Hurricane for two — frown. I play the Mistbind Clique next turn and in the end I’m able to race him with the Scion I drew, but it was very close.
Round 6: Oiso, Masashi (Faeries)
Oiso’s list is rather interesting. If you don’t want to play mine, I recommend his.
Game 1 he is on the play. I mulligan a hand without Blossom or Seize, and keep my six that doesn’t have either. He has turn 2 Blossom of his own, but he is stuck on two lands, so he doesn’t do much else. I’m able to stick a Mistbind Clique to trade with his Faerie tokens, and eventually he plays one of his own, which I Sower. At this point, if he has a removal spell, I’m probably dead. He draws and passes the turn with four mana, so I assume he doesn’t have it. I attack with both my Mistbinds and he chump blocks with two Tokens, and at the end of my turn he attempts a Scion, which I Command as a Counter plus bounce his Blossom — that way, even if he draws an answer such as another Mistbind or his Sower, he doesn’t get his Bitterblossom in play. He draws and plays Agony Warp on my Sower, which is very convenient because it leaves him with two mana to replay the Blossom I just bounced.
I play Cryptic Command on his Mistbind, leaving two mana up — I have Broken Ambitions in hand, so if he draws a land I can’t stop him from simply replaying it, but I’m hoping that he will either not draw it or fear I have Remove Soul instead, for me to have made that play. He doesn’t draw a land and doesn’t play it, but he manages to stick a Scion somewhere.
At the end of one of my turns, he attempts the Mistbind again. I have Broken Ambitions, which leaves me tapped out, and he mainphases a second Scion into play, which makes things very hard, because he has two Mutavault. I have some windows to draw Command, but I don’t. In the end he goes all in with what he thinks is lethal, but I point out one of his tokens has summoning sickness and I’m able to block everything, killing his entire board including the two Scions… but two turns later I die to my own Bitterblossom.
On the draw, I’d have sided in just two Thoughtseizes, and kept the Mistbind and the Agony Warp. Oiso didn’t take out his Jaces even when he was on the draw, but I think they are much worse when your opponent can just play Scion when you play them turn 3. It’s possible that you should bring in the third Jace — it’s certainly good on the play — in that case I think you can probably remove another Mistbind Clique, or a Broken Ambitions, though I like Mistbind Clique more than most people in this matchup.
My opening hand has Bitterblossom, Spellstutter Sprite and Broken Ambitions, so it’s really good. I pass turn 2 without playing Blossom, so I get the chance to counter his. Some months before, you couldn’t really do this, because that would mean you can get your Blossom Rune-Snagged if you attempt it turn 3. Since Rune Snag doesn’t exist anymore, the only risk is that you get Thoughtseized turn 2 — that is, that your opponent draws the Thoughtseize. If he doesn’t play his Blossom, you can just play yours turn 3 — you’ve missed a token but it’s probably not relevant — since you are on the play, he can’t punish you much for tapping out turn 3. Since I also had Spellstutter, a topdecked Thoughtseize is not a concern here. He has the Bitterblossom and I play Broken Ambitions on it, revealing a second Bitterblossom. I have to think for some time about it, which is bad because it’ll give it away that I already had the Bitterblossom in hand, so he knows the way I play this particular situation, in case we play again somewhere. He will also know that I have a second Blossom, in case I keep. I decide to send it to the bottom, which was probably a mistake — I’m usually paranoid of double Blossom, but maybe it was the right play to keep it.
I play my Blossom and pass, and he plays Jace. We get into a draw-go situation in which he is pumping Jace and I’m attacking it with Blossom. I draw into my own Jace, but I decide to wait until I kill his to play it, since I’m likely attacking it to death anyway. That was maybe also a mistake, since I had the advantage with Bitterblossom and both of us drawing cards is always better for the person in the worst shape. He draws and plays his own Blossom, and I Thoughtseize him. He plays Spellstutter Sprite, and I play Command with counter and draw. His hand was Scion and two Cryptic Commands, so I take one Command. My friends who were watching the match said I should have bounced the Bitterblossom with the Command, to get it with the Thoughtseize — maybe that was the right play. I end up Thoughtseizing him some more and he is left with three lands in hand. I pass, he draws, attacks with some tokens and two Mutavaults. I make my blocks and attempt to Terror one of the Mutavaults, but it turns out the card he just drew was another Scion, which puts me to low life and dead next turn. I played the Terror after blocking because, if he has Command, he counter-taps to kill me, whereas if he has Scion I get another turn to chain a bunch of topdecks. I’m probably dead either way if he draws any of those two cards.
Overall, this was a complicated match. I could have played differently on many occasions, and I’d probably have won if I had played differently in some of them. One interesting situation was when he Thoughtseized me and I had, among other spells, only one land. Usually when I’m Thoughtseized I note down myself the lands my opponents saw, so I know which cards he knows I have and play those same lands, and not others. In my Top 8 match, Jamie kept holding one of the lands I knew was in his hand for almost the entire game, instead of playing it and holding another, which gave me additional information on what he had. This time, though, since I only had one land, I didn’t write it down. Then I drew another land and suddenly had no clue which land I had already showed him — I thought for a long time but couldn’t figure it out, so I just played one at random. I even thought about not playing a land that turn, but then I’m in the same situation next turn so that doesn’t help much. He raised an eyebrow when I played my land, so I think I probably played the wrong one there.
I was happy with my Standard performance, though losing the last round is always bad. Going 0-2 and 4-2 is an explosion of happiness, whereas going 4-0 and 4-2 makes you want to kill yourself, but in the end they are the same result. I was 18th going into the draft, which started some tiebreak nightmares again. It felt really unfair to have bad breaks — my one opponent that was not a known pro player had gone 5-1, losing only to me, and my other five opponents had been Willy, Shu Komuro, Nassif, Ruel, and Oiso — I could be at the Invitational and have those pairings. Still, that put me at table 3 for the next day.
Going into the draft, I had some convictions. The first was that I liked Red above all colors, and Jund was the best Shard for me. Still, I knew I should not force it — I wanted to be reactive. In a format where not many drafters in a table can play a certain card because of color commitments, and in a set in which the double colored cards are very powerful, it usually pays off to go with what you are being passed.
The second was that I disliked five color. I know some people swear by it, but I don’t see it working. Most of the time it’s a bunch of expensive cards and Obelisks, and cards that draw into more expensive cards, Obelisks, and card drawers. I also don’t like playing with 21 mana sources in my deck, no matter how many Courier’s Capsules. If I’m going to draw extra cards, I want them to be cards that matter.
I also knew I liked speed. Some people say this format is very slow — I think they couldn’t be more wrong. I think the format is very fast, and most of my decks are beatdown decks.
My first table was:
Amaya Troncoso, Carlos
da Rosa, Paulo Vitor
I opened my pack and there wasn’t anything other than the Hellkite Overlord. I’m not really a fan of eight-mana guys, but it’s not a bad card and it’s Jund, my favorite combination. I think most decks in this format (or all formats) should have something to do with their mana in case they are flooded — I’d have preferred Resounding Thunder, but I guess Hellkite will do.
Second pick I get passed Branching Bolt and Sarkhan Vol. There is a common missing. I don’t understand how someone can pick something over Sarkhan Vol. To me, it was as clear a signal as there could possibly be. I even called a judge to ask him what was made of foil Rares — if they became normal Rares or Commons. When he said Commons, I knew the guy on my left had taken Oblivion Ring, though I’ll never agree with this pick. That positioned me perfectly for Jund.
I followed with a Vithian Stinger over Naya Charm. I think Naya Charm is the more powerful card, but since I know I’m so well positioned to draft Jund I don’t think it’s worth trying to go Naya, and Stinger is very powerful, so I take it. Next I have the choice between Naya Battlemage and another Stinger, and I again take the pinger. This is bad, because I’m creating a Naya deck on my left, with Branching Bolt, Naya Charm and Naya Battlemage as the consecutive clear best picks of the pack. This means I’ll not get much GR in pack 2, but it’s good because it shows how much those colors are open regarding those people who are passing me. I get two Bloodpyre Elementals and a Grixis Panorama, and my deck is looking very good.
Pack 2 is also very good, to my surprise. I get Resounding Thunder then Magma Spray, and a very surprising third pick Vein Drinker, as well as a number of Dreadcape Zombies to round out my curve. At this point I’m mostly BR, with a Green splash. I also pick two Naturalizes, which I think are going to be important because I passed a lot of Esper and I know some people in my table who like drafting it.
Pack three I get another Resounding Thunder and then I have to pick between Viscera Dragger and Savage Lands. In Jund, this pick ordinarily wouldn’t have been hard, and I picked the Savage Lands, but after looking through my cards, while building my deck, I regret doing it — due to Green being a small splash, me playing an Obelisk of Jund and two Panoramas (one of them Jund, which I got in pack three as well), my mana would have been very good anyway, and I lacked playables.
My deck ended like this:
3 Dregscape Zombie
1 Goblin Deathraiders
2 Vithian Stinger
1 Hellkite Overlord
2 Resounding Thunder
1 Vein Drinker
1 Incurable Ogre
1 Magma Spray
2 Bloodpyre Elemental
1 Topan Ascetic
1 Sarkhan Vol
1 Thunder-Trash Elder
1 Ridge Rannet
1 Scourge Devil
1 Carrion Thrash
1 Obelisk of Jund
1 Dreg Reaver
This deck is very, very good. It has everything going for it — good mana, cheap creatures, bombs, removal, things to do with extra lands, etc. The only problems are the last two cards — Naturalize and Reaver. I usually don’t mind playing Reaver, but in this deck I didn’t want to play it, because I already had other four five-drops as well as two bigger guys. The Naturalize is something I hate playing, but it seemed better than my other options, Reaver number two and Shore Snapper. Due to passing many artifacts I didn’t feel that bad about playing it.
I had one other option, though — playing the Agony Warp and Grixis Charm I hate picked. I had a Grixis Panorama and I could play two Islands, but in the end I decided to go for the consistency — I already had plenty of removal anyway. When forced to decide, I’ll usually go for the consistency — proof of that is GP: Atlanta, in which I had THREE Wild Nacatls and I still opted for Black over White, even though White had better cards, just because I had three non-basics that produced Black and would be playing with 17 basics had I picked White. I decided that my triple Nacatl, Mycoloth, Flameblast Dragon, Feral Hydra deck had enough power that the only way I’d lose was to my manabase, so I opted for not risking consistency for more power, since I had power enough as it was. It might have been the wrong decision, since the deck gets much more powerful with White, but, still, I only lost one match that day, and it was to mana problems when I decided to morph to Naya because I felt my Nacatls being 3/3s were much better in that particular matchup (2/2 guys, slow deck, Jund Charm, Infest).
Round 7: Iyanaga, Jun’ya — I knew Jun’ya from GP: Thailand, where he beat me in both drafts — he also won the whole thing, and then some weeks later won a U.S. GP, if I’m not mistaken.
I keep a clunky hand that has three Mountains, the cycler, Resounding Thunder, something else and Obelisk of Jund. He curves out with turn 2 and turn 3 two-power guys, and I draw Savage Lands but play Mountain to cast the Obelisk. He thinks for a moment and Oblivion Rings my Obelisk, for which I’m glad. Next turn I play Resounding Thunder on one of his guys and my tapped Land. He plays Guardians of Akrasa and attacks me for three, and I play Sarkhan Vol. He attacks it to two counters and I start playing guys, including Vein Drinker, all hasty, and he can’t do anything about it.
I bring in the second Naturalize, since he is Esper.
My opening hand game 2 is a bunch of removal, including the two Naturalizes. I remove his first two guys, but he has Sanctum Gargoyle to make things problematic. I’m attacking him with big guys, Carrion Thrash and Scourge Devil, but he has Puppet Conjurer and Guardians of Akrasa to block both. At the end of his turn, I cycle Thunder on the Guardians, to be able to get on offensive. From the Cycling I draw Hellkite Overlord, and that was that.
Round 8: Thompson, Gerry
I win the die roll and play two Dregscape Zombies. He spends a removal spell in one and takes some damage from the other. He plays Blood Cultist, but I have Sarkhan Vol to Threaten it and make it kill itself. He kills my Sarkhan Vol with Blightning, but he is too low on life and can’t stabilize anymore.
He starts game 2 with Visionary and Dragon Fodder, but I manage to make a Stinger live for two turns. When he finally kills it, I’ve already killed two of his guys, so it’s fine. We run draw-go for a while and I play a 5/1 and a Scourge Devil — he has just the 1/1 left. He plays Ridge Rannet, and I for some reason think it’s the 5/6 Spider, so I Unearth back my Stinger, kill his 1/1 but don’t attack with my 5/1. Next turn I actually look at his card and see that it’s 6/4, not 5/6, so I attack and we trade. That leaves me with Scourge Devil to his nothing, and he dies to Resounding Thunder. Had I attacked him one turn earlier, I’d have gotten another Devil attack in. Oh well.
Round 9: Chapin, Patrick
I start with turn 2 Dregscape Zombie and turn 4 Incurable Ogre, and he has turn 3 Obelisk and turn 4 Obelisk + Infest. After that I have Carrion Thrash and Scourge Devil, and he has Plowbeast. He doesn’t attack and I can’t attack either, and he plays Scourglass. I’m terribly flooded by then and we keep playing draw-go. At the end of my turn, he Resounding Thunders me down to 14. Then he Thunders me again, down to 8, and plays a Kiss of the Amesha and a Steelclad Serpent. On his next turn he uses the Scourglass — in my hand I have Topan Ascetic and Ridge Rannet, and mana to play them both next turn. I also have Zombie and Devil in my graveyard now. He attacks me down to 4 and plays a Cloudheath Drake and another guy, I believe a Deft Duelist, but I’m not sure. I draw Naturalize, play both my guys (tapping me out; I think it’s better to play a guy than to Naturalize here) and pass, and he attacks with the Drake only, and plays another guy, so he has four guys to my two and I’m at one.
I took out the Reaver for the Naturalize.
Game 2 he starts with turn 2 Deft Duelist, which is very good against my deck. I play 2/1s and 3/1s, but I’m short on lands. He keeps drawing cards but doesn’t find anything, and I keep not playing anything because I don’t have lands. At some point, he plays Covenant of Minds, and I give him Grixis Charm and note it down. Then, at the end of my turn, he plays Esper Charm. That makes me wonder if I didn’t give him Esper Charm and, because the pictures are somewhat similar (okay, not very…), I thought it was Grixis Charm, but I decided to act like he had the Grixis Charm still (which, as it turned out, he had).
There is a turn in which he has two cards in hand and two guys, and I have some guys and many cards in hand, one of which is Sarkhan Vol. If I Unearth back my two Zombies and Threaten his guy, he is dead unless he has a second Resounding Silence in hand. If he does have a Resounding Silence, then he also needs to have a Resounding Thunder, or draw it in two cards, to kill me. I decide to go for it. I play Sarkhan Vol first, because, after all, if he counters it, I don’t want to Unearth my guys. When it resolves, I make the mistake of Unearthing back a Zombie before I steal his guy, which gives him the window to Resounding Thunder my Sarkhan Vol. That means I can’t kill him this turn, but I’m also not going to die anytime soon. I attack with my Topan only, and it trades with his 5/5. He also has a Scourglass in play. We keep looking at each other again without doing anything, and because he has played Capsule, Covenant of Minds, Esper Charm, Kiss of the Amesha, and a bunch of cracked Panoramas, he is going to deck himself soon.
We trade some blows, but I’m always careful to not put myself in Resounding Thunder range. I try some attacks, and when he attacks back with his Deft Duelist I chump block it with Zombies. With one card in his deck, I have a 3/3 and a 2/1 and he has a Deft Duelist — he attacks with it. I know the Infest is still there, since he hasn’t played it, so I just chump block it with the Zombie — I don’t want him to go Infest-dude-dude-dude to kill me next turn or something like that. He doesn’t have anything, though, and ends up decking himself while I still have removal left in my hand and Unearth guys in my graveyard.
I was really happy with my result, and it felt really fair to me, because my deck was very good.
That’s all for today… join me next week, when I’ll round out the rest of the tournament, bringing you play-by-play through draft 2, Extended, and my Top 8 match. Until then, happy holidays!