If You Rush A Miracle Man, You Get Rotten Miracles

Chris VanMeter talks about the PTQ he made Top 8 of this past weekend and what you should think about playing in Standard this weekend at #SCGOAK or #SCGCOL.

Last weekend I planned on going to Grand Prix Toronto with Brian Braun-Duin for some fun in not-so-sunny Canada. Unfortunately, he got sick as a turkey or sick on some turkey, and I decided that I didn’t want to make the drive alone. Thankfully, there was a PTQ in Virginia Beach less than five hours away, so I went to that.

Had I known in advance that it was only going to be 55 people, I would have skipped the GP anyway and went to the PTQ.

With the PTQ only being six rounds, all I needed to do was 4-0 a Daily Event (RIP) and double draw into the Top 8. The PTQ was decently stacked for only having 55 people, with myself, Rudy "Biscuits" Briksza, Orrin Beasley, Shaheen Soorani, and a few of the NC/VA grinders that I see at every tournament.

I had practiced a bit on Magic Online over the last week since I was planning on playing in Toronto, and with the PTQ being the same format, I was adequately prepared. I went into the PTQ hoping to have a good U/G deck. Voyaging Satyr with efficient creatures like Nessian Courser, Nessian Asp, and Prescient Chimera backed up with Voyage’s End and Griptide is a very powerful strategy in Sealed. Sea God’s Revenge is similarly powerful, and it’s very difficult to lose when you resolve the spell.

My second hope was to be U/B with Returned Phalanx, Keepsake Gorgon, some black removal, and the rest of the awesome blue spells.

Fortunately, I received the pool that Shaheen had registered, and it had an awesome U/B deck in it with double Returned Phalanx, double Erebos’s Emissary, double Cavern Lampad, Pharika’s Cure, Sip of Hemlock, Sea God’s Revenge, Keepsake Gorgon, and Prognostic Sphinx. I even had a U/B scry land to go along with the rest of the deck. The Erebos’s Emissarys were awesome, letting me play them like a Psychatog a lot of the time by getting in for three point chunks due to the fear of trying to trade and losing creatures and eventually just killing them from nowhere.

I was able to go 4-0 in the Swiss and double draw into the Top 8. Going into the Top 8 draft, I wanted to try to avoid green since I felt that green is a little overdrafted and not as good in Draft as it is in Sealed. In pack 1, I opened an Arbor Colossus with four other very good green playables: Time to Feed, Voyaging Satyr, Nessian Asp, and Nessian Courser. The only white card in the pack was Heliod’s Emissary, which is very good, and going into the draft I wanted to try to be W/B, U/W, or U/B.

"Am I going MAD or did the word ‘think’ escape your lips? You were not hired for your brains, you hippopotamic land mass!"

I took the Heliod’s Emissary and got passed an Anthousa, Setessan Hero along with a few other awesome green cards. I took a Battlewise Hoplite and settled into looking for a U/W Heroic deck. I hadn’t seen any Wingsteed Riders or Hopeful Eidolons yet, but I was hoping that there hadn’t been any.

This strategy was flawed for two reasons. One, I should have just drafted based on what I saw and not tried to avoid a strategy or force a strategy. Second, Shaheen was only one seat away from me to my left, and I would be willing to bet a billion dollars that he was probably going to be U/x in the draft.

I opened a Hundred-Handed One in pack 3, which was a gift, and got an eighth-pick Medomai, the Ageless in the same pack. I ended up with a mediocre U/W Heroic deck and got dispatched in three games against a gentleman with an awesome U/B deck with Hythonia the Cruel, Agent of the Fates, plenty of bestow guys including multiple Baleful Eidolons, and a bunch of spot removal.

I was gifted a 55-person PTQ, and while I was able to Top 8, I couldn’t finish it out. I really wanted to qualify for Valencia since BBD, Brad Nelson, and Todd Anderson are all qualified and it would be awesome to be able to travel with everyone and play on the Pro Tour again. While I may have wanted this win really bad, I know that it’s not the only tournament I’ll play in. There will be more, and all I have to do is be patient. Trying to rush things can leave you with sour results. I’ll take my time and get there when it’s my time.

This coming weekend there are a lot of Standard tournaments. There’s a SCG Classic in Columbus, a SCG Open in Oakland, and IQs everywhere, and it also marks the beginning of the PTQ season for Pro Tour Journey to Nyx—and it’s Standard.

If I were playing in a Standard tournament this weekend (and I am), the only thing that I’m sure of is that I’d be playing Nightveil Specter. Mono-Blue and Mono-Black Devotion have been tearing up tournaments all over the world the last few weeks, and I think they are both still the top two decks in the format.

"You’re trying to kidnap what I’ve rightfully stolen."

Owen Turtenwald Mono-Black Devotion is where I imagine everyone is going to be moving forward. The biggest change from the GP Louisville-era Mono-Black Devotion lists is going with the full four Pack Rats in the maindeck. Pack Rat is one of those cards that can allow you to just win sometimes. When you open up with Thoughtseize into Pack Rat on the play, it’s a pretty good feeling. I have won very few games on the opposite side of an early Pack Rat, and even if you are Thoughtseizing back and forth, a turn 5 Pack Rat off the top can spell game over.

I have played a lot against Mono-Black Devotion, and the reason the deck is so powerful is that it attacks from different angles very effectively and can transition between them smoothly.

Pack Rat can put games away quickly if it shows itself early and isn’t answered. Nightveil Specter is a card advantage machine, sometimes winning games all on its own depending what you pluck off the top of your opponent’s library. Desecration Demon is very difficult for some decks to answer and ends games very quickly, usually with only one or two hits needed because of Gray Merchant of Asphodel. I remember seeing a tweet where someone mentioned that Gray Merchant is at worst a Soul Feast at common but most often is an extremely undercosted Sorin’s Vengeance. The card is bonkers in Limited and even more powerful in Constructed.

Our opponents have to defend against the different angles of attack from just our creatures, and we also have Underworld Connections to bury them in card advantage/creature removal. Against the other devotion decks and creature-based strategies, implementing the "kill them all" plan works out very well.

I really like Owen’s sideboard from Albuquerque. Pharika’s Cure and Shrivel are very well positioned right now with Boros and Rakdos Cackler decks picking up in popularity. Duress and the extra Erebos, God of the Dead are good against the Sphinx’s Revelation decks, and Dark Betrayal gives you a leg up in the mirror.

If I were to play Mono-Black Devotion this weekend, the only change that I would make would be to find room for a second Shrivel in the sideboard.

"You ARE the brute squad."

Sam Black has been putting a number on Standard with Mono-Blue Devotion since its debut at Pro Tour Theros, and there are no signs of it slowing down. While there may not have been any copies of Gray Merchant of Asphodel in the Top 16 of GP Vienna, there was a ton of Mono-Blue Devotion, and it took the crown.

At first glance, Mono-Blue Devotion is just a mixture of cards with lots of blue mana symbols in their casting costs. Alone, no single card is too powerful (with Nightveil Specter being the exception), but the deck as a whole an extremely potent machine that will plow over people once it gets going.

Cloudfin Raptor and Judge’s Familiar are pretty unimpressive, but they allow us to get in bits and pieces of damage before Thassa, God of the Sea and Master of Waves show up to put the nail in the coffin. Frostburn Weird is a good man/girl/Weird and gets in damage fairly regularly, and when Tidebinder Mage actually has relevant text, it feels like Christmas in July.

There are two cards in particular that I think make this deck very potent right now, and those are Master of Waves and Bident of Thassa.

Master of Waves does a very good job of playing offense and defense. This army in a box is pretty fragile to the black spot removal, but against decks like W/R Aggro, R/W Devotion, and Mono-Red Aggro, Master of Waves is game breaking. Sometimes they just don’t have the removal spell, and we end up crashing in for fifteen damage and winning.

Bident of Thassa shines against the Thoughtseize decks. Thoughtseize is one of the most powerful cards in the format, and if we can get some attacks in with a Bident of Thassa, it’s very tough for us to fall behind when we are drawing two or three cards a turn. Jace, Architect of Thought is jockeying for the same position, and I like the 2/2 split in the maindeck with extras in the sideboard.

Marcin Staciwa expected to see the mirror a number of times, so he came prepared with the full four Gainsays and three Domestications in the sideboard and extra copies of Rapid Hybridization and Cyclonic Rift. Gainsay is particularly powerful right now since it can counter Thassa, God of the Sea; Sphinx’s Revelation; Detention Sphere; opposing counterspells; and every relevant creature in the mirror.

The mirror usually ends up coming down to Nightveil Specter and Master of Waves advantage, and Domestication is a huge trump on both fronts. Taking a Nightveil Specter is sweet, but stealing a Master of Waves to kill all of their Elemental tokens and pump your own is something of pure beauty.

I think that either of these decks is a very good choice for this weekend. Both reward smart play, and both decks lend themselves to those who have spent time playing them. If you think you want to pick up one of the devotion decks for this weekend, I suggest getting a lot of games in now with it, testing in real life or on Magic Online. I’m still a little torn on which deck I want to play, but I’m leaning towards Mono-Blue Devotion for my events this weekend.

"Get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, then you haven’t got anything."

I want to talk briefly about a journey that I have embarked on. BBD has been a huge inspiration for me ever since I moved here to Roanoke, and with the help of my good friend Joe Stierwalt, I am now part of a #MTGFitness collaborative. Brad Nelson is also taking part, as is Evan Arkin, a friend from back home.

I am dedicating myself to changing my lifestyle. My life is in an awesome place right now; I have a dream job and have surrounded myself with tons of fabulous people that I love, and I want to be able to share in that for a long time to come. I have the support in place and the will to make these changes, so everyone can look forward to a leaner and meaner CVM.

The first cycle of this new healthy lifestyle is December 1-Janurary 1, and I’m already underway. I’m not going to be blogging or anything about my progress, but I will be more than happy to update anyone who is interested.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me in all of my Magic ventures, and I look forward to being successful in the next aspect of my life.

Be sure to check out my stream this week, as we will have some guests during the week and should have BBD once again for #TestingThursday for some sweet sexy Standard action.