Hymns Of Victory

Joe Bernal made top 4 of the Legacy Open in Louisville and made yet another Top 8 at the Invitational with Godless Blade. Also check out his unique “BantManji” deck that runs off the U/G Vengevine engine with Stoneforge added for extra punch.

First things first, I’d like to introduce myself for those who don’t know me. My name is Joe Bernal, and I have been playing Magic for
about five years. I have had some success grinding StarCityGames.com Opens and recently Top 8ed the Invitational in Indy. This is my first time writing
for StarCityGames.com, so please be gentle.

Going into the Invitational, I already knew what I was playing in Legacy. The format still looked pretty friendly for Godless-Blade the deck that I top 4ed with in Louisville) and in fact, might
have actually gotten better for the deck. Here is the list I ended up playing:

 The U/W control decks were decent matchups, and all the creature decks were great matchups because of the sheer amount of card advantage and
board presence you have. I expected the field to be mostly U/W control (with and without Stoneforge Mystic), big dumb creature decks, and BUG. I felt
completely comfortable with those matchups, and I always feel at home with my trusty disruption package of Thoughtseize, Hymn to Tourach, and Cabal
Therapy. Standard on the other hand was a different story.

I played Darkblade to a lackluster finish in Louisville and really had no intentions of picking it up for the Invitational, as I really didn’t
want to play a bunch of mirror matches all day. I went over to Matt Landstrom and Caleb Durwald’s house about three days before the event to see
if they had any secret tech. Knowing Matt (aka the Vampire King), I figured he was probably just going to play old faithful (which he did and used to
spike the Standard Open), so that left Caleb Durward and Ryan Rolen (who was in town for the week) as my only hope.

When I walked in, I saw Caleb and Ryan testing Larry Swasey’s Blumanji deck, which he used to win a PTQ. I was a little skeptical about playing
the deck at first, but after three games vs. U/R Splinter Twin, I was hooked. The deck was really consistent and had a good game vs. Caw-Blade and
Splinter Twin, so I knew it was where I wanted to be for the Invitational. One thing bothered me though; the deck’s mana base was good enough to
support any other color so why not play the best card in the format? Immediately I started brewing a list that could support Stoneforge Mystic while
maintaining the smooth mana base of Blumanji.

When I arrived at the event site, I had pretty much everything figured out except the counterspells in the sideboard. Originally I had a mix of Mana
Leak and Deprive, then just Deprive, then just Mana Leak. I couldn’t decide on either card and honestly didn’t want to play either but
couldn’t think of anything else I really wanted to play in its spot. I knew something important was missing, and it was frustrating me.

Then my savior Christian Valenti started asking questions about my deck. He saw me smashing U/R Twin and doing pretty broken stuff with Lotus Cobra, so
he asked for my list. I gave it to him after telling him the board was a little bit off, and I didn’t care for the permission in the board. After
looking at the list and fooling around with the sideboard, Christian said something that sounded like a choir of Sweet Southern Angels (or
Phyrexians)—DISMEMBER! I couldn’t believe I missed that card. It did everything I wanted it to do and more! After giving my thanks to
Christian, I changed my sideboard and ended up with this, BantManji.

After a full breakfast and my standard giant coffee, I headed to the event site and was ready to do battle with my brews. I was trying to relax as much
as possible for this event because I did not want to repeat what happened last year and bomb out of another Invitational. Last year, I put too much
importance on trying to cash and ended up beating myself on more than one occasion, and I really just wanted to be calm and focused for this event.

Round 1 (Chris Andersen with Darkblade)

The pairings came up, and the tournament started. I started humming my favorite song and doing anything to relax myself, in my head telling myself that
this was just another tournament. Wading through the crowd and seeing my pairing, I was a little excited at what I saw: Chris Andersen as my
first-round opponent. I’ve known Chris through Magic for a while now, and I knew I was in for a challenge right off the bat.

This matchup was a little more difficult than a normal Caw-Blade deck because he had Mirran Crusaders over Squadron Hawk, so my Vengevines were nowhere
near as good. We ended up playing some pretty close games, but due to the power of Consecrated Sphinx and Frost Titan (and a little help from Jace), I
ended up getting the job done.


Round 2 (Jim Orr, Tempered Steel)

This was one I didn’t expect. Christian told me that he had gotten crushed by Tempered Steel round one, so I was a little nervous when my
opponent led with a bunch of artifacts. In the end though, it turned out I had maindeck artifact and enchantment hate, and they can’t really do
anything about Lotus Cobra or Fauna Shaman, so I basically was able to run rampant, getting to do the most broken things my deck can do.


Round 3 (Sam Swisher, Caw-Blade)

REMATCH!!!!! This was my opponent who beat me in the top 4 of the Louisville Legacy Open, and I was eager for a rematch. I put him on Caw-Blade, and he
didn’t disappoint. Game one ended on turn 5 after going: turn 1 Birds of Paradise. Turn 2 Lotus Cobra, Misty Rainforest, and Stoneforge for Sword
of War and Peace. Turn 3 Jace and Spellskite. Turn 4 equip sword and attack. Game two ended with my having Jace, the Mind Sculptor in play for far too
long. I happily signed the slip 2-0 and got my sweet, sweet revenge.


Round 4 (Felix Adam, Darkblade)

This match is covered here.


After going undefeated in Standard, I felt like I made the right choice. Three Caw-Blade decks was one less then I had planned on playing against, but
I wasn’t complaining. After a short break, I couldn’t help but think how nice it would be to go undefeated in Legacy—my favorite
format and the one I feel most comfortable in.

Round 5 (Brad Sheppard, BUG)

Annnnnnd we got dream-crushed immediately. Brad crushed me in very quick fashion with Pernicious Deed, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and the haymaker
itself, Maelstrom Pulse. This match was not pretty.


Round 6 (Patrick Chapin, U/W Control)

This match was awful. I played very poorly in game two, and it almost cost me the match. We ended up going to game three with five minutes left in the
match, and I won on turn 4 of turns with a bunch of hateful little 2/2s.


Round 7 (Michael Jacob, NO RUG)

This is one of the creature decks you hope to play against all day. It’s a very positive matchup, and you usually should not have a problem with
the deck unless they disrupt your first couple of spells and fire off a quick Natural Order. Thankfully everything went smoothly, and I took the match


Round 8 (Edgar Flores, U/W/B Stoneblade)

This was a sweet camera match that had some very interesting plays. Edgar was the only undefeated left in the field, so I knew I was in for some good
games. I didn’t know what he was playing, but I was certainly surprised to get into a Bitterblossom battle in Legacy! This was a sweet match
where we both got to play awesome cards and have plenty of interaction with each other. This match reminded me of why Legacy is the best format.


Starting off Day One at 7-1 was a pretty big improvement from last year where I went 4-4 with two byes missing Day Two. I felt great about my decks
except Ben Swartz was also 7-1 playing Dredge, and I left my graveyard hate at home. I was hoping I could just dodge him the rest of the way, but of
course, it was not to be.

Round 9 (Ben Swartz, Dredge)

This was how I had to start my Day 2? My worst matchup by far and I had zero hate?! All signs pointed to my crashing and burning, and I really
regretted not having some graveyard hate. Every time I bring the hate, I never play against a graveyard deck. And every time I don’t bring it, I
get crushed by one of the few people in the room playing a graveyard deck. It’s my curse, but luckily, I was able to pull out a draw due to Ben
forgetting to Cabal Therapy the blocker in my hand, and I also got a little lucky with my miser Sensei’s Divining Top.


Round 10 (Rob Vaughan, U/W Stoneforge)

This was one of those games where I was able to assemble the Voltron and have Bitterblossom, Sensei’s Divining Top, Elspeth, Knight-Errant, and
Phyrexian Arena (and I believe Dark Confidant) in play. My opponent didn’t really think these cards could be played in Legacy, but I assured him
that they were all sweet and legal cards.


Round 11 (Patrick Sullivan, Burn Zoo)

Okay so normally I would be overwhelmed with joy to play against Zoo with my Gatekeepers of Malakir, Stoneforge Mystics, and Hymns to Tourach, but I
heard that this guy knows how to sling a Lightning Bolt pretty well. This was the tightest match I had all weekend, and after some very aggressive
Wastelands and Patrick not hitting on his land, I was able to get there in three super close games.


Round 12 (Dan Jordan, BluManji)

This was basically a mirror match, but I had removal for his mana dorks and Linvala, Keeper of Silence. I won the die roll (which is pretty important)
and crushed him in game one. Game two I was crushed in similar fashion. Game three had him at two life, and I had a Frost Titaned Linvala in play with
a Mortarpod on it. After whiffing on several Jace Brainstorms, I missed my opportunity to double shoot him with Mortarpod for the match. When you have
your opponent at one life and lose, you can’t help but think that you forgot to attack somewhere. I’m pretty sure I missed a Linvala attack
or Lotus Cobra attack somewhere, but I still can’t remember exactly when.


Round 13 (Sam Stoddard, U/R Twin)

This was it, my win and in to Top 8. I tried to keep calm and stay focused, but it really didn’t help having to play a feature match with Top 8
on the line. Game one I saw he was playing U/R Twin and wanted to jump for joy. All I could think of was how sweet it was to get paired up against one
of my best matchups in my win and in.

And then Sam turn foured me in game one. My heart dropped, and all I could do was reach for my board with a look of disgust on my face. Was I really
about to lose to one of my best matchups and get knocked out of Top 8 contention? No sir, I would not go down without a fight! I collected myself for
the next two games.

Game two I played a Lotus Cobra turn 2 and went turn 3 Acidic Slime, turn 4 Frost titan, locking down a land, and that was all she wrote, as both of my
land destruction spells resolved. Game three I was on the draw and kept a hand with three lands, Jace, Fauna Shaman, Dismember, and Nature’s
Claim. So pretty much the stone-cold nuts. This game was a little more convoluted then the last but ultimately ended up with me having Jace in play for
several turns yet again and getting the win with my trusty Vengevines.

Round 14 (Jim Davis, Darkblade)

I scooped Jim Davis into the Top 8 because I was a lock and am a nice guy (most of the time). We did play it out afterwards, and he beat me 2-0 making
it my first loss to Caw-Blade with the deck.

Quarterfinals (Rematch: Michael Jacob, NO RUG)

Michael won the die roll and opted to play first. I got a little choked on mana, and he really tore me apart with the mana advantage Noble Hierarch
decks naturally have. I was never really able to play more than one spell per turn, and he just crushed me with tempo into Natural Order. Game two was
much better, as my deck started operating on all cylinders, and I was to keep his hand and board in check long enough for me to get some Equipment
going to seal the game.

Then the heartbreaker came. In game three, I mulliganed down to four cards and got stomped but Tarmogoyf and Friends. It was possible I should have
kept the Chrome Mox, no-land hand on the draw, but I decided to not take the gamble and play it safe. I drew two hands with zero lands, and just like
that, my run was over.

Overall, I know I had a good weekend. I feel like I played the right decks and played (for the most part) pretty well all weekend. But I can’t
help but think about what could have been if I had just taken the gamble and kept that hand. I feel like I could have changed the outcome of the match
and possibly advanced to the next round. But all of these things aside, I had a great weekend filled with friends and success, and I can safely say
that I have “The Fire” more now than ever. I’m planning on going to Baltimore, Seattle, Cincinnati, Pittsburg, and Nationals this
summer so hopefully I can keep the ball rolling and keep coming in the money.

Thanks for reading my very first (and hopefully not the last) article, and I hope you give me some feedback on what you liked and didn’t like
about the report. Feel free to email me at [email protected] if you have questions on either of the
decks or want sideboarding advice for either.

Joe Bernal