Me: Okay, let’s do this. I already Tarfired you? Riftbolt you. Rite of Flame. Shock you. Grapeshot you for four. Ignite Memories you five times. You are at nine before the Ignites resolve?
Nassif: Three cards. One of them kills me. I am drawing live, I guess.
Grapeshot. Life total is at 7.
Grapeshot. Life total is at 5.
Grapeshot. Life total is at 3.
How many copies left?
RITE OF FLAME! Life total is at 2.
I started really working on Worlds as soon as Valencia was over. I was unable to attend Valencia on account of it taking place in Notamerica. Testing for Valencia was an interesting experience as I tested with 83 of my closest friends, but it wasn’t as productive as it could have been, as it, like all uber-teams, was just too many cooks.
For Worlds, Mark Herberholz, Gabriel Nassif, and I decided to just work together as a three man team. Initially, I focused primarily on Legacy, as I was pretty confident that Heezy and Hat would come up with a sick brew for the Standard portion.
The one of the first decks I came up with was a U/b/g/w Threshold variant that took advantage of all the best cheap spells those colors had to offer, plus the Counterbalance Top engine. Throughout playtesting, I built a number of other decks, including Time Vault combo decks and B/g/w Hymn to Tourach decks, but in the end, I had to return to Threshold deck, as it was the most consistent, powerful, and fun. In addition, it had good match-ups versus the mirror, goblins, and most combo decks.
Lorwyn draft was certainly my weakest format, so to get the best practice possible, I flew down to Daytona for the Grand Prix. If you are so inclined, you can read about my 34th place finish here. The important thing for that GP was definitely the practice, as well as advice from Rich Hoaen, Mark Herberholz, Kenji Tsumura, and Gabe Walls.
The biggest thing I learned was that I have to be flexible in this format, regarding color and tribal affiliations. There is just so big of a reward for reading the signals that you are being sent. That is how you end up with 8th pick Lys-Alana Huntmasters or third pick Thundercloud Shamans.
With just a week to go before the big tournament, we still didn’t know what we were playing in Standard. Every day, Nassif would ask me to ship him a new deck. I send him a U/b Teachings/Guile hybrid modeled after Conrad’s Nationals deck. I send him the U/G/w Blink deck I talked about last week. I sent him a Big Mana R/G. I sent him a Mono-B Korlash/Grim Harvest deck.
We weren’t happy with anything, although the best we had come up with so far was Nassif’s take on Snow-Red. Here is his list, which features some Classic Hats’ innovations.
Papa Hat’s Snow-Red
3 Chandra Nalaar
3 Martyr of Ashes
2 Molten Disaster
2 Volcanic Awakening
1 Stalking Yeti
4 Phyrexian Ironfoot
2 Stuffy Doll
1 Icy Manipulator
1 Loxodon Warhammer
2 Mind Stone
4 Coldsteel Heart
1 Urza’s Factory
4 Scrying Sheets
4 Mouth of Ronom
15 Snow-covered Mountain
1 Snow-covered Forest
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Volcanic Awakening
2 Stuffy Doll
4 Bottle Gnomes
1 Stalking Yeti
1 Molten Disaster
I really liked this build, as it had a legitimate plan against Blue control decks (Volcanic Awakening, etc) without sacrificing its strength against mid-range. The problem was, its aggro match-ups were just not thrilling.
You may be wondering about the Awakenings, but remember, against most people you will board them out and use them game 1 to kill a Treetop Village or something. Against Blue, however, you Sheets DI and eventually reach a point where you play a Mind Stone, followed by a Chandra (which they typically counter). Then you play a Martyr and Volcanic Awakening for five, leaving them crippled.
I know that sounds expensive, but with Sheets, you will hit your land drops, and besides, they aren’t exactly putting a clock on you. The storm mechanic is so powerful for providing inevitability against Blue decks.
Finally, one day I sent Nassif a Dragonstorm deck I had thrown together based on a concept I had heard about from a side event at GP Daytona. A player whose name I do not know (but will find out by next week) ran a deck based on Spinerock Knoll and Dragonstorm at the Car Tournament Trial in Daytona. If anyone knows his name, please speak up in the forums.
I didn’t think too much of the list, as it looked cute, but like many of my ideas, it looked crazy and seemed like it could be terrible just as likely as it could be good. The next day I drove up to East Lansing to test with Nassif and Herberholz. I asked Nassif what he liked so far, only to find that he was undefeated with Dragonstorm and that none of his opponents had a chance.
We joined an 8 man, played 1 round against U/B Faeries, crushing it, then dropped. I mean, what were we really trying to accomplish? Win 8 packs? It was clear that we had broken the format. We practiced a few games against ourselves, testing the Pickles, R/G, and B/G match-ups. We determined that B/G seemed to be the only mainstream strategy that gave us many problems.
Blue decks had a great deal of trouble with the Storm Mechanic, plus we could just out mana them on account of 8 storage lands. R/G (and other aggro decks) couldn’t possibly race us, considering we could slow them down with burn and they had no disruption for us.
Black-Green decks, thanks primarily to Thoughtseizes and sideboarded Riftsweepers, gave us trouble. Still, we moved to Legacy, as Hat Heezy were not sold on my Legacy deck, on account of its perceived vulnerability to Wasteland recursion.
I drove out to New York with my parents last Monday. It was nice to spend some time with them, and the drive was fairly uneventful. After driving all night Monday, we arrive Tuesday midday. I end up going over to Finkel’s place, where I will be spending the week. My parents continue on their trip, planning to meet back up with me after the tournament.
After kicking it with Jonny Magic and friends, I end up at Plataforma celebrating Jelger’s birthday, along with Heezy, Nassif, and 25 of our closest random-European friends.
I don’t know if you are familiar with Plataforma or Brazilian Steakhouses at all, but the deal is this. Everyone sits at one table and is welcome to a fantastic salad bar and dozens of appetizers that are world class.
Don’t fall for it. It is a trick.
You have this medallion that is red on one side and green on the other. Red indicates that the servers should not interfere with your dining. It means stop. It is for when you need to catch your breath or just want to evaluate if there is any room for more.
Green means Go. As in “go ahead and bring the meat.” When you flip your medallion to green, servers immediately began bringing you meat on swords. When you first flip your medallion, you should be very hungry and the prospect of men with swords of meat bringing out bacon-wrapped turkey, sausage, duck, and lamb is very appealing.
The thing is, this is a well-organized plan to fill you up. The thing is, after they bring you over half a dozen high quality meats, you start to realize that you have already eaten more than you intended to. And then they start bringing out the top shelf meats. The prime rib, top sirloin, and flank steak all make appearances. It all culminates in the rib eye, which must be tasted to be understood.
At this point, you feel as if you will burst from all the gluttony and hedonism. Then you realize you forgot to flip your medallion to red. They are still bringing you swords of meat. See, the only way to make it stop is to submit. If you start eating at 6pm, they will still be bringing you swords of meat at midnight unless you stop them.
There is literally no way to wait them out. They always win. You have to give in eventually. At first, you want them to come faster, but as you fill up, you start falling behind and have to start passing on some meats or just taking smaller portions. Eventually you have to flip to red every so often to buy yourself some time to catch back up.
Still, you can always go back to green. They know they will win the long game. Finally, you cannot bring yourself to flip back to green any longer. You sit and enjoy the company of your friends in one of the greatest dining experiences of your life and bask in the simple joys of life.
It is at this point that the Plataforma servers let you know that they have won, as they always do, but it is you who will see the spoils of victory. They bring out the desert cart. All I can say is that I never realized that there are basically two types of chocolate mousse in the world. Apparently, I had never had “real” chocolate mousse. My life is better as a result.
One of the most important people in my life moved to New York last month. I dated her for three and a half years, and she is the only woman I have ever loved. It was not meant to be with her and me. We remain friends, though, and it was wonderful to have a chance to hang out with her that night.
The next day, I go to a late lunch with her at this fabulous Thai restaurant, then head over to the site. I meet back up with Heezy and Hat and give them their copies of Dragonstorm, before hooking up with Jon Finkel, Dave Williams, and Bob Maher, and heading over to Finkel’s place.
We go back to Jon’s place and test Standard. Dave and Bob are going to play our Dragonstorm deck, and Jon ends up abandoning Flores’ U/B Faeries deck after he plays against Dragonstorm with every deck he can get his hands on and is unable to win anywhere close to a reasonable amount of the time.
This is what I played in Standard:
- 4 Shock
- 4 Incinerate
- 4 Dragonstorm
- 4 Rite of Flame
- 4 Grapeshot
- 4 Lotus Bloom
- 3 Rift Bolt
- 3 Pyromancer's Swath
- 2 Tarfire
The basic plan is to control the board with burn while building a mana advantage with storage lands, eventually killing the opponent with Dragonstorm or Pyromancer’s Swath + Grapeshot, although it is not uncommon to just devastate the opponent with a Dragon or two and win over time.
The real keys to the deck are the lands. This deck makes better use of storage lands than any other deck ever made, and in retrospect I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to use a Saltcrusted Steppe instead of a 12th Mountain, like I wanted to.
The Spinerock Knoll is the breakout technology, though. It is very easy to trigger with this much burn. The benefit it provides is unreal. First of all, it is a Red Impulse. Then you factor in that it doesn’t cost you a card, as you are able to use the Spinerock as a land. Finally, it lets you play the spell without paying its casting cost. Traditionally, the “play without paying its casting cost” mechanic has been one of the most powerful in the game, possibly second only to the “Storm” mechanic.
If I were going to play this deck again, I think I would reconsider the Dodecapods and Wheels. I would certainly play a 4th Blast, as well as 3 Krosan Grips (probably in place of Grudges). The mana would have to be bent a little, but it is nothing that a few Karplusan Forests couldn’t fix. I knew I was soft to enchantments like Story Circle, Rule of Law, and the Imperial Mask, but I didn’t think people would actually play those cards yet, so I just went in naked. The sideboard also needs a new plan against these B/G decks.
My first round opponent is my good friend Rich Hoaen. He is not thrilled with this matchup, as he is playing R/G Big Mana which has actually no chance at all of beating Dragonstorm… at least not without a hateful sideboard, which Rich did not possess.
Game 1 is a total blow out. I think it basically involved Richie tapping out on turn 3 to Harmonize and me killing him on my turn.
Game 2, I mulligan and keep a sub-par hand. Rich comes out aggressively and plays a turn 3 Garruk into Tarmagoyf. Some direct damage and some attacking later, I fall the turn before I can go off. I am not too concerned though, as I had tested against his exact list the night before and was pretty sure I was at least a 10 to 1 favorite to win game 3 on the play.
Rich double mulligans, and our game is pretty anti-climatic.
Round 2, I am paired with Ohio modern-day legend, Adam Yurchick. He is playing Pickles but doesn’t know what I am playing. Game 1, I play only Snow-covered Mountains for the first 6 turns of the game, which turns out to pay off. Adam had me on Snow-Red and was playing accordingly. As a result, he played a morph on turn 7, leaving only 4 open.
On his end step, I shocked him from 20. Then he realized the jig was up. I untapped, played two Rite of Flames, two Pyromancers Swaths (which I assume he didn’t counter, as he didn’t know what was going on, though it wouldn’t have mattered unless he could stop both), another Shock, and a Grapeshot. I am not sure if he realized the interaction between Grapeshot and Swath, up until this point.
Game 2 involved an endstep turn 5 Teferi, a ton of permission, and a quick turn 7 or 8 Pickles lock after I try to go off with Swath. He uses Cryptic Command to counter a Grapeshot and bounce the Swath. I sideboarded in Ignites, my main weapon against Blue decks, though not Empty, as it is not an effective way to fight a Pickles lock. I think I may have also brought in a Grudge or two thinking he may have Needles.
Game 3 I still had a major advantage. Adam didn’t know that I was a Dragonstorm deck. I store up charge lands and play my Lotus, but many bounce spells slow me way down. Finally, I get to a point where I have a full grip and drop Swath, knowing it will draw a counter and build the storm. It does in fact draw a counter, leaving him with 4 mana open. A few more spells and I Dragonstorm for five.
He has two Rune Snags, so he manages to stay alive by a thread, but is unable to draw an answer to 3 Dragons. Even if he had drawn a Cryptic Command to tap my guys, he was at 1 and I had a Grapeshot in hand. He had enough mana to Brine Elemental me, but not to do both.
Round 3, I am paired with Micha Reiter, armed with B/G. Our first game is pretty brutal, with him leading with turn 1 Thoughtseize, Turn 2 Goyf, Turn 3 Troll, Turn 4 Troll + Thoughtseize.
Game 2 is no better. I blow him out with Sulfurous Blast, but Hypnotic Specter off the top strangely enough gives me trouble. If only I knew what the future held… Eventually his third Troll and third Thoughtseize are too much.
Round 4, I faced Rafael Mendoca, also with R/G Big Mana. Nothing too exciting, although he did tilt a bit during game 1. He tapped his lands in the worst way possible causing him to take a damage from a Karplusan Forest and me to gain a life with a Grove of the Burnwillows. Then he played Molten Disaster to kill my Hellkite, not realizing that it would do no such thing.
Round 4, my opponent was Miro Popov, armed with U/G Faeries. I just stuck to my usual anti-faeries plan of killing everything in sight. He is unable to put much of a clock on me, as Spellstutter Sprites and Scryb Rangers just don’t hit that hard. Finally a turn 7 Hellkite destroys his board. A turn 8 Hellkite brings a concession.
Game 2 started out well for Miro, as he was always a creature ahead of my burn. The game reached a climax when he went to Pestermite one of his own lands with 4 lands in play. I responded to the untap ability with a Sulfurous Blast. As you can imagine, things were definitely good for me at that point.
After the Standard portion, things were looking good. I was feeling pretty happy, and was excited that our deck had come out in force. Nassif, Herberholz, Finkel, Williams, Amiel, and I were all 4-1. The combined record of players with Dragonstorm was 36-14, and would have been better except for some unusual occurrences, such as one player removing a Lotus Bloom’s final counter, playing it, drawing a Dragonstorm, and with 14 mana, an opponent with 10 life, and two Dragons left in his deck, just says go. Just a straight up mental blanking. To protect the integrity of the Hall of Fame, I will not mention which Hall of Famer it was…
I sat down to draft with an open mind, looking to take whatever signals the player to my right sent me. I opened a first pick Lash Out and forced myself to pick it over Sentinels of Glen Elendra, determined to be disciplined and not let my preference for Blue steer me off course.
A second pick Epic Proportions seemed to be a pretty clear signal that I should be Green. A common was missing, so I figured the player to my right had probably taken a Nameless Inversion, Mulldrifter, or a Douser. Anything else he could have taken still points to Blue or Black, so I was pretty comfortable with R/G, though it is an archetype I haven’t drafted a ton.
A third pick Lash Out was followed by a hodge podge collection of solid cards, without a definite tribe. Pack 2 rolls around and I am happy to open a Briarhorn. When I am passed a Thundercloud Shaman, I immediately move in on Giants.
In retrospect, I wish I had been more committed to the Giants plan, as I was still picking Elves to, which didn’t pan out. I ended up picking a Lys Alana Huntmaster over an Elvish Handservant. The Handservant would have been great and the Huntmaster ended up in my sideboard. I also took a Seedguide Ash that didn’t make the cut over a Woodland Changeling. I know it is unusual to sideboard those cards, but I had too many plays at those spots on the curve and my other choices had better synergy with my deck.
Third pack I am resigned to first picking one of my three Blind Spot Giants, but am pleasantly surprised to be passed Vigor. I end up with a solid Giants deck
1 Elvish Handservant
1 Nath’s Elite
1 Fistful of Force
1 Epic Proportions
3 Blind-Spot Giant
1 Thundercloud Shaman
3 Mudbutton Torchrunner
3 Lowland Oaf
2 Stinkdrinker Daredevil
2 Lash Out
1 Giant’s Ire
1 Soulbright Flamekin
My first round opponent was Mark Herrin with a G/W Kithkin deck. I am able to win two games easily, on the strength of Thundercloud Shaman one game and Nath’s Elite plus Epic Proportions the other.
My second opponent of the draft was Yuuta Hirosawa. I believe he was running a U/W Merfolk deck, though I don’t remember much of our match, aside from ending a game with the Vigor + Nath’s Elite combination.
My final opponent of the day was Amiel Tenenbaum. Despite our match being a feature match, I don’t remember much of it, as I was pretty tired at this point from getting zero hours of sleep the night before. I know that he mulliganed at least once and I played Thundercloud Shaman, Vigor, and Briarhorn against him. Sorry for the lame game account.
Going into Day 2 of the World Championships, I was sitting at a reasonable record of only one loss. I was feeling good, knowing I would need a record of 5-2-1 to make Top 8, which I thought was doable considering my comfort in the Legacy. I went out to dinner with Erik Lauer at this fabulous steakhouse called “The Steakhouse,” before returning to Finkel’s and trying to get some sleep.
Tune in next week for the second half of my World Championships Tournament Report!
To be continued…