As I write this, it is Wednesday at 9:52am. I am in my Global Tour Geography class, and I am thinking more about the fact that I don’t have a deck for this Pro Tour than I am about the test due Friday.
The life of a grinder is nice. Trust me.
I’ve pretty much given up on this Pro Tour. Every deck sucks. Every deck has a terrible matchup. Every deck has a bye. When formats like this occur, I normally just play a deck that I like, test the crap out of it, and know how to play it extremely well. But I don’t like any of these decks and that is where the problem lies.
What am I going to do? I guess you, like me, will find out round 1 of the Pro Tour.
I went to StarCityGames.com $10000 Open Weekend in Philadelphia with the intentions of figuring out what I wanted to play for this Pro Tour, but I didn’t get anything done. Osyp, Lenny B, Sacherball, The Good Doctor, and many others were there, but we couldn’t figure out anything worth a darn.
Speaking of $10K Philly, here is what I played on Day 1. I call it…
Going into this tournament, I wanted to be able to beat Vampires, Jund, and any Red decks that showed up. GAScade has a good matchup against other control decks because all of the cards are already naturally good against control decks:
– Cascade is awesome against control though you would sideboard out Bituminous Blast
– Ajani Vengeant is, as I’m sure you know, great against control
– Blightning is nice
– Uril, the Miststalker can’t be killed except by Day of Judgment and Baneslayer Angel (which is not living!)
– Realm Razer is game over if it resolves
I felt pretty good going into this tournament, as I felt GAScade was a really powerful deck, but alas, it was not to be. I went 6-3, losing to a CAScade deck with the goal of hitting only Blightning or Esper Charm after sideboard, a Naya deck that absolutely destroyed me, and a GW Token deck when I was playing for Top 16.
The Standard format feels pretty random to me. Cascade is still quite dominant, which is annoying; Vampires is only as good as how many times Vampire Nocturnus is active; and the rest of the decks are just a bunch of good cards put together.
Except for one!
- 3 Ranger of Eos
- 4 Elite Vanguard
- 2 Goblin Bushwhacker
- 4 Goblin Guide
- 4 Kor Skyfisher
- 4 Plated Geopede
- 4 Steppe Lynx
This deck is real. Very real! I think this is the best deck in the format right now, and if I had to play a Standard tournament in 25 minutes, this is what I would play, no questions asked. Boros Bushwhacker, as stupid a name as that is, is an extremely focused deck with many interactions that you don’t notice until you play the deck a lot Christian Calcano did not lose a match with this deck until the finals, and he beat Jund six times along the way to his second place finish.
The only critique I have on this deck is maybe there should be another Goblin Bushwhacker in the deck, but I’m not even positive on that as the deck looks tight on slots as it is. Play it and enjoy it.
Saturday night, I decided to start testing heavily for the $5000 Legacy Open the following morning. My process was as follows:
– Me, Sacherball, and Josh Jacobson headed over to a place with awesome cheesesteaks, ordered some, and took a taxi back to our hotel.
– I remove my shirt, decide I’m too lazy to put on my Steve Nash jersey, and start eating shirtless.
– Yes. Shirtless.
– Halfway through my destruction of that poor poor cheesesteak, I decide that goldfishing this deck with two lands in it is probably a good idea if I planned on winning the tournament.
– After finding out that this deck frequently kills people on turn 1, I decide to figure out what cards are terrible.
– I find out that Infernal Tutor and Spoils of the Vault are garbage; Seething Song and Desperate Ritual are awesome; and having Burning Wish targets are pretty irrelevant as you only Wish for Tendrils of Agony or Empty the Warrens anyway.
– I keep goldfishing while watching the new Rambo for the second day in a row in the hotel room. That movie is something else. Anything I type here will not do the ridiculousness of that movie justice.
– I decide that 2.5 hours of goldfishing is plenty and head to sleep.
– At no point did I consider putting a shirt on.
And so begins my journey to the Top 8 of another Legacy tournament:
- 4 Dark Ritual
- 4 Land Grant
- 4 Desperate Ritual
- 4 Burning Wish
- 4 Goblin Charbelcher
- 4 Seething Song
- 4 Lotus Petal
- 4 Lion's Eye Diamond
- 4 Chrome Mox
- 4 Rite of Flame
- 3 Empty the Warrens
- 3 Manamorphose
Round 1 versus Naya
The fun part about playing two-land Belcher is when you look at your opening hand. You have to do a few calculations to see if you have enough mana to do what you want to do. Once you have done that, then you decide if you opponent has a Force of Will in his/her hand. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter if they do, because you are going to cast Empty the Warrens. The other times, you don’t care because you are going to go for it anyway. So, once you finally come to the realization that you don’t care about anything, you recheck your math to make sure you have enough mana to do whatever you were going to do… and then just do it!
Game 1, I made 12 goblins on turn 1 on the play. He conceded without playing a card.
Game 2, I brought in three Duress just in case he was playing a Blue deck. He was playing Naya Zoo and beat me down before I could draw a combo piece.
Game 3, I made 16 goblins on turn 1 on the play. He, once again, conceded without playing a card.
Round 2 versus Solidarity
Game 1, I go for a turn 1 kill with Goblin Charbelcher, but he has the Force of Will. I find my way into another kill via Belcher on turn 4, but he kills me in response with some Meditate plus Twincast shenanigans.
Game 2, I Duress my opponents Mindbreak Trap and kill him the next turn with Goblin Charbelcher.
Game 3, I am really slow and deliberate with my casting of mana sources. I am pretty sure he has a Force of Will in his hand, due to his snap keep, and know I can’t beat a Mindbreak Trap anyway. There is a time where he can screw up my numbers with a timely Force of Will on a mana spell, but he doesn’t and I end casting Empty the Warrens for ten goblins. He Force of Wills one copy of the spell (sick read, thanks!) and I start giving him the beatdowns. I draw into a Burning Wish on turn 3 and cast it, break Lion’s Eye Diamond in response for three Red mana, and he thinks for a while before letting it resolve. It resolves, I go grab a Duress and make him discard a spell so that he can’t kill me. If I would have broken the Lion’s Eye Diamond for black mana, I would have been able to kill him right then and there with Tendrils of Agony, but I forgot the card was in my sideboard. Yes, I’m an idiot!
Round 3 versus White Stax
Game 1, my opponent and eventual champion mulligans to five cards on the play. I make 12 goblins on the draw and really just hope he doesn’t find a Ghostly Prison in time. He doesn’t and I am up a game.
Game 2, my opponent plays a Trinisphere turn 1 on the play. This card, as you might expect, is very difficult to beat. I sided in my Ingot Chewers, but I was never able to find one before I got killed by Magus of the Tabernacle and Baneslayer Angel.
Game 3, I make my biggest mistake of the tournament. My opponent has a turn 1 Trinisphere again, but he has no action in terms of actually killing me. I have a few Spirit Guides in my hand and I’ve actually drawn a land so I am setting up a way to kill him without actually having to kill Trinisphere via Goblin Charbelcher. My hand is a few dead cards, Goblin Charbelcher, 2 Spirit Guides, and a Seething Song. I could easily just Seething Song out my Goblin Charbelcher through Trinisphere, but then I would need to peel two more Spirit Guides to be able to activate it and kill him. Thinking for some reason that that was likely, I played my Goblin Charbelcher naked, it got Oblivion Ringed, and I immediately lost. While drawing two more Spirit Guides is unlikely, that was my only out, and playing the Goblin Charbelcher there accomplishes nothing. I have to peel two more Spirit Guides or another Seething Song, so that is the out I should have played to.
My next two draws were Elvish Spirit Guide and Simian Spirit Guide, for the record. Ugh!
Round 4 versus Threshold
Game 1, I played a turn 1 Goblin Charbelcher and killed him with it. Weeeee!
Game 2, I played a turn 1 Xantid Swarm. He was able to Stifle the trigger once, but the second time he was unable and I killed him on turn 3 with Goblin Charbelcher.
Round 5 versus Naya
Game 1, I played 12 goblins turn 1 on the play, and he conceded without playing a card.
Game 2, I played a turn 1 Goblin Charbelcher and hit my Bayou on the activation. Qasali Pridemage came just in the nick of time to blow it up and we were on our way to game 3.
Game 3, I killed my opponent with Goblin Charbelcher on turn 1 before he even got to consider playing a spell.
Round 6 versus Life
Now this match was awesome. Before we began, my opponent lamented the fact that he had not won a die roll all day. I simply said, “If you worry about things like that, you will never win a tournament. There is no reason to worry about the things you can’t control.” He lost the die roll here too, of course.
Game 1, I played 14 goblins on turn 1 on the play and he conceded without playing a card.
Game 2, he was able to gain infinite life via Starlit Sanctum on turn 3 before I could kill him. Rats!
Game 3, I had the option of playing 16 goblins on turn 1 or “rolling the dice” with one land left in my deck with Goblin Charbelcher. I like to roll the dice, and dealt him 48 damage on turn 1. Bah Hah!
Round 7 versus a Blue deck
Game 1, my turn 1 Goblin Charbelcher got Force of Willed and I was got beaten down by Bitterblossom, of all things. He played a Spellstutter Sprite this game as well, so I was kind of worried if the game went late (read: past turn 2).
Game 2, my opponent snap kept. Which was interesting considering I made 14 goblins on turn 1. What are you snap keeping that allows me to make that many creatures on turn 1?
Game 3 was a nice one. Turn 1, my opponent played a Volcanic Island on turn 1 and passed. I immediately think about all of the Blue cards I care about before doing anything:
– Force of Will
– Mindbreak Trap
– Force Spike
– Spell Snare
This is the series of plays that took place:
Me: Lotus Petal?
Me: Crack for a Green, Tinder Wall?
Him: Float a Blue, Daze Tinder Wall?
Me: Remove Elvish Spirit Guide to pay for Daze.
Me: Move to my attack step?
Him: Excuse me?
Me: Move to my attack step?
Me: Goblins. A lot of them!
Him: *shakes head and concedes*
He had a Firespout in his hand, but Daze set him too far back to cast it.
Round 8 versus a Blue deck
The players discussed a split, but I was not interested at all. I knew I was up against a Blue deck, which is supposedly a bad matchup, but I was 3-0 against Blue for the day and I had no reason to fear playing against it. The Top 8 was very favorable for me if I beat the Blue deck in the quarterfinals, and the trip here was costing me a lot of money, so I decided to risk it and try to recoup some money the hard way. By earning it!
Top 8 versus Canadian Threshold
My opponent is James Bishop, a player I have seen around a fair amount. He is a Floridian, a solid mage, and a nice guy all around. Getting by him would be tough, but it was worth a shot.
Game 1, James waited patiently to screw up my math with Force of Will, and did so well enough to win himself the game. Perhaps I could have been more patient, but I had the win turn 1 and decided to go for it. The more time I wait against Threshold, the worse it gets for me. He was the first Blue opponent I played against that countered the correct spell when I was going off. Boo hoo!
Game 2, I mulliganed to four/five and was pretty sure I had no shot at winning, but I was able to get back into it since he had no pressure on me at all. A Nimble Mongoose came to town to mess with me a little bit, but it was providing anything close to a clock until the second one showed up. James decided he needed to get me dead a little faster, activated his Wasteland on his own Tropical Island and upped the pressure substantially. At four life and facing down two angry Mongeese, it was time for me to make my move.
Now I don’t remember the exact sequence that took place, but it involved him casting two Disrupts and a Daze, me being able to get through it, and having the total spell count be exactly enough for my Tendrils of Agony kill him for exactsies.
Let me say that again. Two. Disrupts!
Can I get that split now…?
Daze, Force of Will, Spell Snare? Those are no big deal. I’ve beaten those all day.
Disrupt? The actual nightmare! Getting to mess with me and draw a card? How is that fair in any world?!
Game 3, I think I mulliganed once, but I had a turn 1 Xantid Swarm. James thought long and hard about letting it resolve before he decided to Daze the busy bee. I had an Elvish Spirit Guide to pay for Daze, but Force of Will stopped me cold.
I can’t believe James thought about letting Xantid Swarm resolve. If that angry insect resolved, he was dead on turn 2. Counter it every time, James!
The game went on for a long time, and he was mana screwed pretty badly, while I naturally drew both of my lands. He tapped a land on his turn for a Ponder, leaving him just one Blue mana available, so I decided it was time to try to go off.
I did a lot of things, but none of them ended up mattering, as a Disrupt and a Force of Will screwed up everything. It was very strange because I was doing all this stuff and he only played two spells and I was stopped again. As I write this article, I still feel like I did something wrong in that exchange, but I’m not sure what.
It turns out James had two Force of Will, Daze, Stifle, Pyroclasm, and Disrupt in his hand when I was going off, but it still doesn’t mean I didn’t screw up. I wish I could replay that scenario again.
And that was the end of my tournament. I had a ton of fun playing this deck, and I will play it again in the next Legacy tournament in which I take part. I loved every second of this tournament, and I don’t understand why Two-Land Belcher isn’t more popular. It is frighteningly consistent, mulligans extremely well for a deck with two lands in it, and is much better against Blue decks than people think.
For those keeping track at home, I had 10 turn 1 kills. Nice. Deck. Thanks.
Before I go, I’d like to give a special shout out to the judging staff that worked this past weekend. They did an outstanding job, and judges do not get enough credit for when they do such great work. So, big props to Adam Shaw and everyone else that ran the show this past weekend (and thanks for saving my luggage!)
I’m on my way to Austin for the Pro Tour. By the time this article goes up, I will probably already be out of the tournament. But, if I make it to the draft portion with a relevant record, I feel really good about my chances. I love this Limited format and feel I am really awesome at it. So, we will see what happens. Hopefully the cards fall my way.
Until next week!