I read [author name="Jim Ferraiolo"]Jim Ferraiolo’s[/author] article about his B/G Oversold Cemetery deck with great interest, because it’s a style of deck I love. I’m a big fan of recursion, especially with utility creatures; as I’ve said before, Living Death and its variants were very exciting to me back in the day, and I looked forward to being able to recreate that magic once again.
I’m going to go up and play in the Mid-Atlantic Regionals, so I figured I could use some practice. It’s been a month since I’ve played (moving will do that to you), and I know I’m a little rusty. Bennie Smith told me that his favorite store, TAG, in the Richmond suburb of Mechanicsville, is holding Regionals practice tournaments on the Saturdays leading up to Regionals, so I figured the opportunity was right.
Loyal reader Mike La Beau lives just a few miles from me, and agreed to share the ride. Jim’s deck in hand, I went for it. Mike and I talked a good deal of Magic theory on the way, especially about the concept of metagames. We agreed that a successful deckbuilder figures out the way the metagame winds will be blowing on the day of the tournament. It takes a good deal of courage and insight to correctly predict how the field will look, and how to best combat it.
Knowing the field is also important when it comes down to individual matches. If you know what’s being played a great deal, then you can cut the options on what can hurt you, and know what to prepare for. This knowledge can also help you in choosing what to sideboard – and more importantly, what not to sideboard, which I’ll cover later.
This particular tournament was small, with four rounds cutting to a top 4. The top 2 would split the cash prize. My goal was to get to the Top 4 and then let skills take over.
Round 1: Mike, rogue (kinda) mono-blue
As luck would have it, Mike La Beau was my first round opponent! We had only briefly discussed his deck, but I had the idea that he had lots of counters, Quicksilver Dragons, and Riftstone Portal to give him access to white and green for surprises like Beast Attack.
When Mike played a Wall of Deceit in Game 1, I raised an eyebrow. He told me he would be playing Riptide Mangler, but he didn’t have any. I tried to get a quick start, ignoring the Force Spike possibility; I couldn’t just hang onto the early stuff and hope to have a chance. I do, however, walk into a Syncopate (which Mike says is highly underrated) on my Ravenous Baloth, but even with Compulsion in play he couldn’t keep up with the pressure. I made effective use of Smother, while Faceless Butcher tricks whittled him down.
Mike did a better job of equalizing in Game 2, getting out multiple Walls and using much bounce. Still, I had him relatively low on life, so when he got out the Dragon, I was lucky enough to have plenty of life and three chumping Birds of Paradise. The game dragged out nearly to time, but many counters just can’t keep up with the two Cemeteries I had out. I finished him in extra turns, despite him playing and flashing back his Beast Attack.
Mike’s deck, or at least the concept, is a big hit with the TAG locals.
Matches 1-0, Games 2-0
RULES STUFF: If, in response to Faceless Butcher’s coming-into-play ability going on the stack, you sacrifice the Butcher to Nantuko Husk, then the targeted creature will never come back. That’s because the Butcher’s leaves-play trigger will resolve first, and won’t find the removed creature since it has yet removed. Nothing short of a Wish will get it back.
Round 2: Said, Opposition
I knew this was a horrible matchup for me, because I had no board sweepers and no Spellbane Centaurs in the sideboard. If I was going to have a chance, I had to Cabal Therapy away the Opposition and/or Squirrel Nest in Game 1, and then use the Ray of Revelations or a recurring Elvish Lyrist in Game 2.
Said came out like gangbusters in Game 1, with Nest/Nest/Opposition. I got him down to two, but it was too much. I could have handled one Nest, but two gave him a huge advantage. He wondered out loud what kind of fun an Overrun might be in his deck (I think he had eleven squirrels at the time).
In game 2, I put in two Rays and an Elvish Lyrist, taking out the three Butchers (trusting Smother to take care of any Roar of the Wurm tokens that happen along). The game is a repeat of the first; I’m black mana-light early (he did the smart thing and Smothered my Bird), and he got a fast Nest/Opposition start with no help for me, effectively locking me down when he’s at eight life. I was so desperate for black mana that I played a City of Brass, figuring I could use Baloth recursion to keep me alive.
Matches 1-1, Games 2-2
RULES STUFF: Anything that triggers during the announcement of an ability will go on the stack on top of that ability and resolve first. If you sacrifice Wirewood Herald to Nantuko Husk, you’ll search out the Elf before the Husk’s ability resolves.
Round 3: Chris, ‘tog
Chris was playing the Compulsion version of Psychatog. Game 1 I got very quick beats, forcing him to Upheaval without any advantage. With mana creatures, I’m faster than he is getting back on top, and I easily knocked off the last few points.
For Game 2, I sided out the Butchers, the Assassins, a Baloth and Herald, and came in with four Braids and three Withered Wretches. I decided to leave the fourth Therapy in the board for this game. My opening hand had three Smothers in it, so I kept. This time I draw into some pressure, with Phantom Centaur being kinda nasty. Unfortunately, he stole it with Persuasion after it hit him twice.
When I dropped Braids, he had no counters and was not amused. I kept up the pressure, though, forcing him to Upheaval again. He made the choice to sacrifice the Centaur to the Braids so that he could get the extra mana out; this time he’s in a better place, even with Force Spiking the first Smother, but the second one bought me some time. He got out another ‘Tog, but it was merely playing defense because he was down to five. By this time, I had three creatures on the board, one of which was a Husk. When he Upheavaled again with enough mana to play the ‘Tog, I floated three mana, then sacrificed everything to the Husk. When he tapped out to play the ‘Tog, I played Caller of the Claw (which he knew I had in my hand, since I brought it back with the Cemetery), netting me three additional creatures. That’s one too many for him to handle. Caller is good.
Matches 2-1, Games 4-2
RULES STUFF: When playing Cabal Therapy, it’s very important to wait to announce what card you’re choosing. The choosing is done on resolution.
Round 4: Todd, Mirari’s Wake
I met lots of new folks at the shop, and Todd was the one I liked most. He was very friendly, and went out of his way to make the new guys feel welcome. We were playing to get into the top 4, and he’s not happy. He knows this is a tough matchup for him – but fortunately, it didn’t last long enough to be painful.
Game 1, I came out with a second-turn Husk, courtesy of a Bird, and had a Centaur in my hand. Going first was extremely important in this game, because it afforded me the luxury of playing a turn 3 Centaur and then Cabal Therapy on turn 4, before he had a chance to hurt me. Going second, I would have had to play the Therapy on turn 3. I had out a Bird, a Husk, and a Centaur; I announced Cabal Therapy, and Todd gambled and lost.
He had a Memory Lapse in his hand and choose not to play it, because – as he later told me – he assumed that I would, like many players, Therapy for Wake first. He would then counter the Flashbacked version of the spell once I saw his hand. The only thing that went through my mind when I was deciding on what to Therapy was,”What would hurt me right now?” Clearly, Wake doesn’t help him; he’s dead in two turns. The only thing that might ruin my day is Wrath of God. I named it, and Todd groaned; he had two in his hand. He did Memory Lapse the Flashback version that would have stripped him of his two Lapses, but he died quickly thereafter.
I sided out the Butchers, Smothers, and Assassins. I initially wanted to side in eleven cards, but then consider that the Wretches might not be all that great, so I kept it to eight. I bring in Braids, the Scrapper, the Lyrist, and 2 Rays.
On turn 3, I noticed that Todd doesn’t have any blue mana available, so I did the only thing that I could do (and I’m sure I didn’t need to be a good player to do it): I drop Braids. He groaned and scooped.
Matches 3-1, Games 6-2
RULES STUFF: When a Flashbacked spell is Memory Lapsed, it’s removed from the game. There’s currently no way of making a Flashback spell do anything else (rule 502.22a)
The other folks in the Top 4 ask if I’d like to take a four-way split (this is an unsanctioned tournament, by the way) of the prize money. I’m all for it, because two of them were playing Opposition (including Said). It seemed like a good idea to walk away with a portion of something than a whole lotta nothing. We took our cash, grabbed a sandwich, and then let some of that cash pay for a draft. I won’t cover it in detail, but Zombies and Clerics are good, although I keep missing Cruel Revival. And Glarecaster is an”I win” card.
I like the deck; again, it’s my style. It’s is already prepared to handle combo decks and ‘tog. I didn’t see any R/G beats (I hear control is very popular at TAG), so I really can’t say. It’s a tough matchup for anyone. Opposition, which Jim didn’t even see fit to cover because the environment isn’t expecting much of it, is tough. Spellbane might be an answer, of course.
I’d like the ‘tog matchup to be a little easier as well; the thought of Vexing Beetle crossed my mind. Finally, I’d love to be able to make room main deck for a Hurricane; this is a wonderful finisher that hands U/G Madness its eyeballs. I think I’d rather punish someone for their strategy instead of not letting them play it.
And that’s my Final Judgement.