Jacob’s Ladder – Worlds 2010: Blink

Friday, December 17th – Michael Jacob has an “inner voice” named DarkestMage, who tells him to make certain plays in the middle of his games. Unfortunately, Michael Jacob has other ideas…

Brian Kibler, Patrick Chapin, Luis-Scott Vargas, Josh Utter-Leyton, Conley Woods, Eric Froehlich, David Ochoa, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, Brad Nelson, Corey Baumeister, Ben Stark, myself, and others all gathered in San Jose two weeks before Worlds to break the formats. The “dream team” had huge success in Amsterdam, and we all got back together to try for a repeat performance.

I was pretty sure I wanted to play RUG in the Standard portion. I gave Brad Nelson and his brother my most recent list for the 1K at Superstars down the street and watched them beat everything and Top 8, ending with Brad splitting in the finals.

My deck was almost set in stone, so I went about playing the stock decks against everyone else’s brews, mostly U/B Control. The biggest pitfall that large playtest groups have is the lack of motivated opponents who know how to play their decks. I felt confident enough in my knowledge of the format to play everything at near 100%, so I was able to provide feedback on matchups and what sideboard plans could actually work.

RUG was my default deck choice, but no one wanted to play it due to its complexity. People also surmised that it wouldn’t show up in force due to its poor Valakut and Vampires matchups, so I wasn’t able to practice any games with my favorite deck.

Vampires seemed like the premier aggro deck, but Mark of Mutiny was terrible maindeck. Half the time it wasn’t even good enough to beat Valakut (due to Summoning Trap or Avenger of Zendikar). When Mark of Mutiny isn’t good enough to turn around your worst matchup, then it’s time for a change of plan. Demon of Death’s Gate could consistently be played turn 3 against the mono-green menace and was a surefire way to win. (A neat trick is one-drop into one-drop + Lavaclaw Reaches; activate the manland on turn 3 to get the third black creature to sacrifice to the Demon!)

Valakut was a deck no one was seriously considering. It was the deck to beat, and there was very little play skill involved. Tumble Magnet seemed like it was a necessity in the sideboard (for the mirror, Mark of Mutiny, Demon of Death’s Gate), as well as Koths to fight the control decks.

U/W was a latecomer to the party, and we didn’t have nearly as much time to test this deck as the others. However, Squadron Hawk was awesome every time it was drawn, so we knew we were on to something there. Leyline of Sanctity was tested extensively and was shown to not be good enough, just barely getting edged out by Spreading Seas.

U/B was the choice most of the team seemed to settle on. Inquisition of Kozilek and Spreading Seas provided just enough disruption to be able to play a Grave Titan, which seemed like the best win condition in the format (nothing kills it).

A week passed testing Standard, and then we were all off to the Mercure Hotel in Japan to get some Extended testing in. We cycled through most of the possible decks and were left with only two real choices, Necrotic Ooze and Four-Color.

Four-Color Control looked interesting, if uninspired. Certainly a safe choice; I was familiar with the archetype from Amsterdam, and I knew I could play it at near 100% without testing. My time was better spent trying to improve Conley’s Necrotic Ooze deck.

I mostly jammed the Ooze against Jund and 4-Color Control, and the same issues would keep coming up, so I kept asking:

“Can we add Bloodbraid Elf?”

“Can we add Mulldrifter?”

Suggestions which he always dismissed as not being worth screwing with the mana base. I have built decks like this before, and I know that Fauna Shaman needs fuel, and playing thirty creatures was not the answer. It was then that David Ochoa offhandedly suggested Masked Admirers as a possibility.

That card was

It drew a card, it was an Elf, and it comboed awesomely with Fauna Shaman. It became an alternate win condition against control decks, as you could search for the Admirers and then start dropping Fulminator Mages/Necrotic Ooze for days (G for Shaman, GG for Admirers, 1BB for Fulminator). It could even combo with Molten-Tail Masticore to allow you to cast spells with just a single card in hand.

(I was told that Conley and company ended up cutting this card, and they’re idiots for doing so. This is exactly the type of effect you want and probably in multiples.)

A week passed rather quickly, and it was soon the night before Worlds. I needed to decide between the team’s choice of U/B Control or the old standby, RUG. After consulting with the team, it was decided that it was better to play the deck I liked and knew better than anyone, rather than the team’s brew. I was able to incorporate some new ideas I had garnered from testing U/B, like in using Spreading Seas to keep Valakut and Vampires off just long enough for a Titan to seal the deal. Because I took out Tumble Magnets, I thought I needed a removal spell for massive monsters, so Frost Titan came in over the overperforming Inferno Titan. My new anti-Vampire plan involved taking out all the small creatures for Pyroclasm, but I needed some more slots, so I took out an Oracle for a Garruk Wildspeaker.

Round 1 against Sureyya Dipsar (Valakut)

Game 1: I opened with T2 Cobra, T3 Cobra + Oracle + Spreading Seas on a Forest, T4 Frost Titan. His board of two Khalni Heart Expeditions offered little resistance.

-4 Lightning Bolt, -1 Explore, -2 Oracle of Mul Daya, -1 Avenger of Zendikar

+2 Spell Pierce, +1 Flashfreeze, +1 Deprive, +2 Spreading Seas, + 2 Acidic Slime

Game 2: T2 Spell Pierce on an Explore into Spreading Seas on the only Forest with Jace fateseal locked it up.

Round 2 against Dinko Sulicic (G/U Genesis Wave)

Game 1: My opponent opened up with Halimar Depths into a Misty Rainforest, Lotus Cobra. I put him on RUG, and my hand was:

Mana Leak, Lightning Bolt, Jace the Mind Sculptor, Jace the Mind Sculptor, Misty Rainforest, Scalding Tarn.

Board: Halimar Depths, Raging Ravine, Forest

Some would think of Lightning Bolting the Cobra and passing the turn, but my experience in the mirror made me think otherwise. Generally people will follow up a Cobra with a four-drop, one that I can Mana Leak, which lets me Lightning Bolt the Cobra and leave him tapped out and on the receiving end of a Jace beating. If I immediately Lightning Bolt it, he will likely do nothing on his turn, leaving the Jace I wish to play vulnerable to a Mana Leak into Jace, the exact line of play I wish to spring on him.

Disaster of disasters, he cracks a fetchland (it may have been a mistake to not Lightning Bolt the Cobra in response when he chose to float green) and plays Joraga Treespeaker, Overgrown Battlement, then levels it up. Understanding how awkward it seemed, I Lightning Bolted his Lotus Cobra then played Jace and -1ed on his Treespeaker. He Jaces my Jace and replays his Elf, while I Brainstorm a few times before getting rolled by a Genesis Wave for six.

-2 Spreading Seas, -1 Avenger of Zendikar, -1 Explore, -1 Oracle of Mul Daya

+2 Acidic Slime, +1 Jace Beleren, +1 Deprive, +1 Flashfreeze

Game 2 was a standard RUG game of turn 3 Jace and Mana Leak/Lightning Bolt eliminating everything that was played before Lotus Cobra and Raging Ravines took him out.

Being on the draw would be a difficult affair, so I thought to bring in some Pyroclasms to deal with his nut draws.

-2 Explore

+2 Pyroclasm

Game 3 Dinko opened with Joraga Treespeaker. I turn 1 Preordained into Lotus Cobra and Raging Ravine, with a hand of:

Pyroclasm, Mana Leak, Jace, Inferno Titan, Misty RainForest, Forest

A safe route could be to keep Ravine or even keep both, leading into a turn 4 Jace with potential Mana Leak backup. I tapped into the expert Magic player within me, DarkestMage, to peer into my opponent’s soul for some more information before I made my decision. The soul read revealed he probably had an awesome hand, so I needed to do better. Sending both to the bottom, I received a Lotus Cobra.

Dinko then leveled his Treespeaker and played two more. Believing in the heart of the cards, my draw step revealed… Scalding Tarn. A hastily retrieved Mountain and a Pyroclasm later, Dinko looked down but not out. His Halimar Depths seemed to give him hope, and I replied with a Lotus Cobra. Dinko calmly played Garruk Wildspeaker, untapping two lands and playing another Joraga Treespeaker, looking to set up a desperation Genesis Wave. Inferno Titan dealing one to the Speaker and two to the Garruk and Lotus Cobra, finishing it off, earned a concession.

I thanked DarkestMage for lending me his help in the victory.


Round 3 against Zhiyang Zhang (Valakut)

I lost the die roll and ended up mulliganing to five.

A turn 1 Terramorphic Expanse revealed the enemy to be Valakut, so I turn 1 Preordained to dig for one of my two Spreading Seas. Finding it, I left him stranded with Mountains and an Island for three turns while his Khalni Heart Expedition gathered counters. My deck offered little to capitalize on the free turns, as Oracle of Mul Daya kept revealing spells. On the final turn of reprieve before he could start casting boom booms, Garruk Wildspeaker showed, and things were looking up, as I probably only needed two more turns to finish him off. This is where I believe I made a mistake:



2 Copperline Gorges (tapped), 2 Raging Ravine, 2 Island.

Garruk Wildspeaker (4 loyalty), Oracle of Mul Daya

Top of deck: Jace the Mind Sculptor

Hand: Mana Leak, Mana Leak.


4 Mountain, 2 Forest, 1 Island (Forest)

6 Cards in hand

On my end of turn, he cast Harrow, sacrificing the Island for a Forest and a Mountain, then cast Summoning Trap. DarkestMage told me to F6, and the words “that resolves” were about to escape my lips. I frantically pushed F3 and berated myself for almost making such an obvious misplay. Silly DM, of course, I Mana Leak! Tapping a Ravine and an Island, I Leaked the Summoning Trap.

Durdle obviously played Primeval Titan with three mana up, and I lost everything in short fashion. I looked at the top of my deck after Jace and saw Frost Titan laughing at my ineptitude. If only I had one more turn… but wait, did I have a chance that game? There had to be a reason the instinct I greatly rely on would tell me to let the Trap resolve, so I reviewed the situation again.

The first clue was that he had used Harrow to go from seven to eight lands. This seemed like a pretty strange play, as he could easily topdeck a Valakut and get some free Lightning Bolts later on and hardly needed to worry about it getting countered.

Next was the usage of the Summoning Trap on my end of turn. He was about to have nine mana and be able to pay for a Mana Leak if he just waited a turn, and he was not under the gun quite yet. That is unless he had a Primeval Titan and land number nine in hand, so he did not expect to get an opportunity to cast Summoning Trap for several turns.

This meant that the correct play was to let the Trap resolve and double Mana Leak the Titan he was telegraphing. Sure, he could hit a fatty off his Trap, but I 100% lose to the Primeval Titan next turn and only 60% to lose off the Summoning Trap.

DarkestMage was correct, and I had perhaps punted my first game in the tournament.

Game 2 had me on the play with the nuts:

Preordain, Misty Rainforest, Island, Copperline Gorge, Explore, Spreading Seas, Mana Leak

I countered his first spell and Seas-ed his Forest. Sadly, two Preordains hit three lands each, and I ended up attacking with Raging Ravine turns 4-6. He had an Avenger, and I was cold.


Round 4 against Tsuyoshi Fujita (Valakut)

Games 1 and 3 involved Spreading Seas on Forest and beating with 2/1s and 2/2s. Mountains and Islands are not threatening from a mono-green deck.


Round 5 against Markku Rikola (U/W Control)

Game 1 I was super flooded and had nothing, but he refused to just kill me with Gideon and Celestial Colonnade and decided to +2 on Gideon for the six turns required for Luminarch Ascension to kill me instead.

-2 Explore, -4 Lightning Bolt

+2 Spell Pierce, +1 Deprive, +1 Jace Beleren, +2 Acidic Slime

Game 2 I had a great draw, as my turn 2 Lotus Cobra on the play followed by the no attack (playing around Condemn) gave me a huge mana advantage going into the mid-game. I resolved a Jace, +2 for fear of the Colonnade, and countered some Jaces of his. Jace kept feeding me three lands a turn though, and I could not gather together an attack force to get by a Wall of Omens.

The third time Jace failed me, I got frustrated and played Oracle of Mul Daya with Spell Pierce and Mana Leak backup. Burdle thought for a while and cast Mana Leak on it, which I snap paid for despite DarkestMage’s ravings on its being a terrible play. “MJ, you have a Jace; just ride it out!” he shouted, but I paid him no heed. I chided DM, “What was the worst that could happen?”

Then he played his sixth land and cast Sun Titan, rebuying a Beleren and leaving me with Mana Leak and Spell Pierce in hand and an Oracle of Mul Daya on the battlefield.

DarkestMage 3, Michael Jacob 0.

My face went crimson with embarrassment at how badly I had played, and I dejectedly cracked the Scalding Tarn that Oracle had given me, hoping the old gal would bail me out of the hot seat.

The shuffle revealed: Frost Titan. How convenient!

After that, two Raging Ravines came to rumble, followed by a Jace, the Mind Sculptor smiling at me. Day of Judgment wiped the board, but Jace made up for his previous behavior by giving me an Inferno Titan to seal the deal with his Phage-touch.

Game 3 was a frustrating affair of both my early Lotus Cobras getting Journey to Nowhered and his Gideon giving me the business while Luminarch Ascension ticked up to my doom. I probably win this game if Avenger of Zendikar had been an Inferno Titan, as I was one mana away from being able to protect and pay for a Spell pierce on the final turn.


Round 6 against Carlos Romao (Valakut)

Game 1 Carlos started off pretty slow after I countered an early ramp spell, and I was able to land a Lotus Cobra and a Jace, the Mind Sculptor, leading to the following board:


Board: 4 Mountain, 2 Forest

5 Cards in hand


Board: Lotus Cobra, Jace the Mind Sculptor (3 loyalty)

Raging Ravine (tapped), Halimar Depths (tapped), Forest (tapped), 1 Island, 1 Misty Rainforest.

In hand:

Inferno Titan, Mana Leak, Scalding Tarn, Copperline Gorge, Lightning Bolt

(Jace and land on top of deck)

It was Carlos’s play, and he cast Inferno Titan. I reached for the Mana Leak and was about to cast it when DarkestMage clobbered me, forcing me to reevaluate the board state.

Unlike Primeval Titan, Inferno Titan did not spell doom. My hand already contained a solution to him, in the form of Inferno Titan + Lightning Bolt. I counted my mana stealthily, giving no outward indication of my plan, and it showed that I would have nine mana on the next turn. This would allow an Inferno Titan + Lightning Bolt, with Mana Leak backup for the inevitable fatty that would ACTUALLY kill me the next turn. Mana Leaking the fire-breather would also leave me wide open to Summoning Trap, which could be disasterific in any number of ways.

This whole plan hinged on Lotus Cobra living, however. He could very easily just deal one to it and two to Jace, leaving me basically dead. I would be left with six mana and unable to actually deal with Sir Crisp-a-lot, dying on the next turn to the fatty I could not realistically leave counter mana up to stop.

I now had an actual plan, and I thanked DarkestMage for his timely intervention. Calmly I uttered “that resolves” and made an ever so slight move towards my Jace; perhaps I could Jedi him into making the only play that I could win with. Whether by my suggestion or because he thought it was the best play, he killed my Jace and passed the turn.

I drew the Jace I knew was there and quickly Inferno Titaned and Lightning Bolted his critter down, paving the way for a critical two points from my Lotus Cobra, bringing him to sixteen and shipped the turn with a fetch untapped.

Sure enough, Carlos had the Primeval Titan for the next turn, and I cracked Scalding Tarn for a Mountain, Mana Leaking it. I fell into a Summoning Trap that I also surmised he had, and I sat back into my chair, knowing I played the best I could, and if he had it, then I was done for. After picking up the top seven one at a time and reviewing his hand, I thought out loud, “Oh no, you have choices!?”

He replied, “Nope, no choices” and placed all seven on the bottom of the deck.

Carlos seemed surprised when I showed him that Inferno Titan had Phage’s ability, as I knocked him for exactly lethal with the landfall from Copperline Gorge the following turn.

DarkestMage 4, Michael Jacob 0.

Game 2 I countered every relevant spell and beat him to death with Acidic Slime and Jace.


I ended the day with a record I thought could’ve easily been 5-1 or 6-0, especially if I had played better or had a tighter list. Against U/W, I really missed Goblin Ruinblaster, which would’ve been gold, and the Avenger and Frost Titans in the main were god-awful. DarkestMage had told me weeks ago that Inferno Titan was the nutz, and I did not listen enough. I also regretted spending so much time helping everyone else out with their Vampire and U/B Control lists instead of spending a single minute on the deck I knew I wanted to play four weeks ago. Lessons were learned, and I vowed to never make the same mistake again.

I went out to eat with the crew to a tempura place near the convention center. During the meal, I made the mistake of being quite parched and eyed the empty green tea cup I had, deciding that the tea-kettle-like object in the middle of our table was the tea I yearned for. To my and the rest of the table’s great chagrin, I found out after I had refilled cups that it was in fact soy sauce. Too embarrassed to speak of the grave error to the waitress, we had to go about the meal soy sauceless.

The meal was fairly priced but sadly not fulfilling for the typical American stomach. We gamed for who would pay, and it ended up being Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and me in the finals. Paulo ended up winning (losing?), and I realized afterwards we were NEXT LEVEL credit card gaming, so I even got Ochoa’s buy-out! I purchased some super delicious Lipton Milk Tea and pastries with it on the way back to the hotel. Overall, a great end to a mediocre day.

Day 2 was the Draft portion of Worlds, and I was not looking forward to it. I began the draft knowing I would avoid infect at all costs, and that I would be red/X no matter what. I ended with an R/W/u pile splashing for Trinket Mage off of two Islands and a Silver Myr. I had two Turn to Slags, Bloodshot Trainee, Arrest, two Darksteel Axes, Myr Battlesphere, Trinket Mage, and a bunch of filler, like two Ferrovores (six artifacts, yay) and two Oxidda Daredevils. I would be happy to 1-2 with this junk.

Round 7 against Rafael Coqueiro (G/B infect)

I won the die roll and chose to draw, as mana screw was a huge portion of this deck’s win percentage.

Game 1: He opened with Vector Asp, Plague Stinger, Plague Stinger, Grafted Exoskeleton. Not a flier in my deck. Awkward.

Game 2: I still chose to draw, and he did not play any infect creatures, instead battling with Moriok Reaver and company. Maybe he nut perfected me game 1?

Game 3: Bloodshot Trainee and Darksteel Axe took him to frown town. How lucky.


Round 8 against Matthias Künzler (four-color metalcraft with True Conviction)

I again won the die roll and chose to draw. Come on, mana screw!

Game 1: Matthias began with some very mediocre Replica, Myr, and off-color Spellbomb beats. I was mana-screwed, but Oxidda Daredevil and Ferrovore threatened to trade with cards far better than they, so I was able to stabilize at eighteen life. Eventually Matthias drew Sky-Eel School, and I had a choice of casting Barrage Ogre or Turn to Slag on the flier. I chose the former despite Saberclaw Golem being my only artifact in play. I was severely punished as Matthias slammed his sixth land and a True Conviction, and alpha-striked with his team. Forced to make some awkward blocks, I fell to twelve, leaving him with the Sky-Eel School, a Myr, and two off-color Spellbombs with no cards in hand. My board was five lands and Barrage Ogre, and I used my next turn to Turn to Slag the flier. I felt like I could come back in the game, despite him having a significant lead in life totals.

Matthias topdecked Darksteel Juggernaut (4/4) and I felt the walls closing in. Arrest was my only out, and I was pretty close to chump-block mode. The two Spellbombs he had in play were Panic and Horizon, so I would have to have at least two chumpers back every turn. I had Myr Battlesphere, Darksteel Axe, and Ferrovore in hand but only five lands. I would need some miracle topdecks to get back in to the game.

Draw step came, and…. Mountain! Excellent! I dropped the Axe, Ferrovore, and a Mountain and passed the turn.

Matthias’s topdeck was clearly a land from the disappointed look and attacked. I chucked an Axe at the Myr, and went to six. He played his Copperline Gorge (how lucky, with Panic and Horizon Spellbombs and only Islands and Plains) and said go.

Another draw step, and… Silver Myr!!! I can do this. Play it, pass. Chump with Ferrovore. Matthias couldn’t really sacrifice his Spellbombs, as he needed to keep his Juggernaut lethal, so passed after playing another land.

Another land for my draw step, and I slammed down Myr Battlesphere. He was at thirty life, but it seemed doable!

Matthias drew for his turn, then attacked with Juggernaut. I was pleased he did not topdeck another artifact to make it a 4/4 and moved to block with my 4/7 Sphere, when I was halted by a familiar voice.

DarkestMage screamed, “Wait! He has Seize the Initiative!! Block with a token!!!”

MJ silently ROFLed at the statement; why would a four-color metalcraft deck have that? There’s no way you got this one right, DM; I am blocking here.

Matthias calmly, coolly,


tapped a Plains and cast Seize the Initiative.

I was stunned.

Never mind that he should’ve waited for first strike and then played the Seize, as I had an untapped Barrage Ogre and chucked it at him (he could’ve gained a free three life).

Never mind that blocking with the 4/7
wasn’t the right play even without the Seize


The correct play was to block and sacrifice a token and crack back with the Sphere and leave two Myr back every turn. His gaining six life was worth far more than a Myr’s life.

Never mind that for me to come back he would have to literally draw a brick the next four turns.

The point was that DarkestMage had the sickest read, and I ignored it, just to spite him for being right every other time.

Of course, Matthias bricked on the next four draw steps, and Oxidda Daredevil and Darksteel Axe off the top allowed me to crawl back into the game. I was forced to chump with Barrage Ogre after a Panic Spellbomb activation, and I topdecked Blade-Tribe Berserkers, which, combined with what I had left on the board, would have been ten damage, and he was at eleven life.

DarkestMage 5, Michael Jacob 0

Game 2: He was stuck on Mountain and Island while I brought the very bad 2/1 and 2/2 beats.

Game 3: He got a very aggressive opening involving multiple Spellbombs, Myr, and Chrome Steed (barely playable, by the way). I double-blocked them down and Turned to Slag another, and he dropped the Juggernaut with his fifth land (Copperline Gorge, Mountain, Island, Plains, Plains ). It is just a 3/3, and I was at ten life, so I ended up battling back with double Darksteel Axed dorks. I needed just one more turn when he topdecked his sixth land, a third Plains. He looked pleased as he dropped it and a True Conviction, which I was unable to stop.


Round 9 against Shi Tian Lee (U/R Metalcraft)

I won the die roll and again chose to draw.

Game 1, Shi led with a Riddlesmith and a Myr, while Silver Myr powered out a Bloodshot Trainee with a Darksteel Axe at the ready. He bounced it with a Lumengrid Drake to buy some time and seemed rather frantic after I replayed it the next turn. Shi proceeded to cycle through numerous Spellbombs, discarding multiple Sky-Eel Schools to his Riddlesmith, apparently short on land as well as answers to the Visara the Dreadful. He ended his turn with Gold Myr, Riddlesmith, Lumengrid Drake, Flight Spellbomb, Snapsail Glider, and an untapped Mountain in play, to my Silver Myr, Bloodshot Trainee, and Darksteel Axe.

Shi did not look defeated as I began my turn, and I was under quite a bit of pressure. I could either cast Barrage Ogre or equip my Bloodshot Trainee and cast Ferrovore. He was signaling Galvanic Blast with his Mountain (he could have easily kept an Island open to cycle the Flight Spellbomb instead). I decided I had the read and equipped my Trainee, and to my surprise, he did not have the Galvanic Blast. He must have left the Mountain up in case Riddlesmith provided the Blast on the loot effect.

DarkestMage 5, Michael Jacob 1

I cast my Ferrovore and proceeded to pass the turn when I was interrupted by a whisper.

“Kill the Myr now… ”

I paused as I considered the wisdom of such a play. Shi was certainly mana-light, given he had four lands and a Gold Myr for mana, yet discarded two Sky-Eel Schools. However, it would certainly make me look foolish if he played a Barbed Battlegear or similar equipment and bashed me for a ton of damage, life that I could protect with an untapped Trainee. Again, the voice was quenched, and I passed the turn without further delay.

Shi drew for his turn, then attacked with Lumengrid Drake. I took it, and he then played a second main-phase Tumble Magnet and looted off the Riddlesmith. I let it resolve, as well as a cycling of a Flight Spellbomb. He played a Mountain and said go. End of turn, I shot down the Gold Myr, to which he responded with Galvanic Blast.

I am an


He had exactly enough mana to do it too.

DarkestMage 6, Michael Jacob 0

Only by the grace of god did that mistake not cost me the game, as I ended up having three of my six artifacts in play to cast Blade-Tribe Berserkers with haste, allowing me to suck up a Tumble Magnet activation and hit for exactsies when I was at four life facing down two Lumengrid Drakes.

Game 2 Barrage Ogre and Myr Battlesphere knocked out his team of x/2s, while Turn to Slag ate a School.


I felt lucky to have 2-1ed that draft with such a miserable deck, in addition to playing as terribly as I did. The next draft pod had both Gerry Thompson and Josh Utter-Leyton, with Josh being directly to my right. Josh knew how much I hated infect, and that made me believe I was going to have to go down that path even if I did not want to.

The draft began with a Strata Scythe, Glint Hawk Idol, and a Neurok Replica. Fourth pick made me choose Silver Myr or Cystbearer, and after a long deliberation, I chose the Silver Myr. The next pick was Cystbearer or Auriok Replica, and I knew I had to move in. I got five more infect creatures that pack, and I resigned myself to another god-awful deck.

Pack 2 was devoid of playables, sans a Heavy Arbalest. I got shipped a Grand Architect and nothing else, so I caved and grabbed it. I was rewarded with back-to-back Sky-Eel Schools, Kemba, Arrest, and Glimmerpoint Stag. Eighth pick provided a True Conviction, and I was committed to U/W.

Pack 3 provided only filler in Vulshok Replica and Chrome Steed, as well as two Flight Spellbombs and a Soliton. The deck ended up pretty decent, and I thought with my four rares, I had a chance to 3-0 the pod.

Round 10 against Josh Utter-Leyton (U/W)

I was surprised to see him U/W directly to my right.

Game 1 I did not attack turn 4 with my Vulshok Replica into his Palladium Myr and four untapped lands and was rewarded when he end of turned a Darksteel Sentinel. He brought the beats for multiple turns, and the game state ended up very stalled with me having two Sky-Eel Schools and a Strata Scythe (for six) to his horde of random ground pounders, a Lumengrid Drake with Barbed Battlegear, Darksteel Sentinel, and a pair of Flight Spellbombs.

I was stuck on five lands, and I couldn’t attack and reequip the Scythe to another creature, as Darksteel Sentinel would jump and block, leaving my creature dead if I moved it to a Kemba I had on the ground. By the same token, I couldn’t really just move the Strata Scythe to Kemba, as Lumengrid Drake was very threatening with the Gear, not to mention the Sentinel could just pick it up and jump to pay me a very painful visit.

The stalemate eventually was broken when I topdecked both Grand Architect and Dispense Justice. This allowed me to swing with a School and then move the equipment (4/4 with three damage). I looked at the time and noticed there were only 25 minutes left and decided I needed to go for it, stupidly. I played Glimmerpoint Stag, removing his Golem, then attacked with both fliers, and he chumped with a flier. With one card in hand (Dispense Justice) and three untapped mana, it could not be more obvious what I wanted him to do.

Josh, not brain-dead, Volition Reins-ed my Strata Scythe, jumped his Golem after equipping it, and attacked me for exact lethal with a pair of random ground guys. Man I punted this game bad.

Game 2 I had a decent draw of Glint Hawk Idol, Kemba, Heavy Arbalest, two Sky-Eel Schools on the play, but Josh’s was equally strong with a turn 2 Myrsmith pumping out a guy every turn. I ripped the sixth land for a defensive True Conviction but decided that I should wait a turn and play Auriok Replica, as Josh had a Darksteel Sentinel and two Flight Spellbombs in play. Very wary of the Reins, I waited until I drew Glimmerpoint Stag before playing the enchantment, but I was still unable to attack.

Josh quickly grabbed the True Conviction with Volition Reins and alpha striked. Making the only blocks I could, I ended the turn at one life. Glimmerpoint Stag reclaimed my enchantment, and Kemba picked up the Arbalest, and things were looking decent. Josh still had one last trick that he topdecked, Revoke Existence. Kemba shot down a flier to gain two life, but I punted the game by blocking his Glint Hawk Idol with my own, instead of blocking a Myr token and using Auriok Replica to prevent the Glint Hawk Idol damage. I ended up at one life and down a blocker instead of at two life and us both having the 2/2 flier. I lost two turns later to his topdecked Origin Spellbomb into Chrome Steed, me having one less life to give before Kemba and two equipment would win me the game.

Josh is certainly a very deliberate Magic player, and it would be easy for me to blame my loss on there not being enough time to fully think out my plays, but in the end it was really my fault.


Round 11 against Christopher O’Bryant (G/B Dinosaurs)

Game 1: My attack was stymied by a Cystbearer with Bladed Pinions for a long time before I topdecked Strata Scythe to try and break through. He had the Slice in Twain, and I was forced to start grinding with Heavy Arbalest. On the final turn, I was at ten life, and he was attacking with a 7/3 Molder Beast. Auriok Replica stood at the ready, prepared to give its life so I could play it safe, but I decided to keep my options open and dropped to three. I was punished with my idiotic play with him showing me an Exsanguinate.

Game 2 and 3 I boarded out all my one-toughness creatures against his Fume Spitters and Instill Infections and won with fliers, carefully playing around Exsanguinate by not being a complete moron.


Round 12 against Gerry Thompson (B/R 2xMyr Battlesphere.dec)

Game 1 Culling Dais/Mimic Vat looked to take me to Value Village, but Revoke Existence showed up in the nick of time, and I was able to kill him before his late game took over.

Game 2: I kept a rather loose hand involving Vedalken Certarch, Flight Spellbomb, and only a single Island as the land. I was appropriately punished for the terrible keep by not receiving a land in the top three cards, and Gerry easily killed me.

Game 3 Gerry mulled to five on the play and was never really in it.


I felt fortunate that 4-2 was my record in Scars Limited. I hated the format, and the new set will hopefully breathe new life into the stale gameplay.

The crew was starving, and our guide Ben Swartz directed us to an all-you-can-eat Korean barbeque-style place in a nearby shopping mall. For a mere 3500 yen, you get 90 minutes of infinite meat and sides. There was not enough room for seven at a table, and the seatings ended up with Owen Turtenwald, Corey Baumeister, and myself at one, with Luis-Scott Vargas, Ben Swartz, Josh Utter-Leyton, and Paulo at the other.

Long story short, we were utterly incompetent at preparing our food. The three of us were basically children who had never cooked, and each and every thing we attempted ended up burnt to a crisp. We were fairly unhappy, staring longingly at the other table filled with competent food preparers, as well as a fluent Japanese speaker who could order additional meats. My meager repertoire of Japanese was able to garner some chicken, rice, potato salad, and water, but everything else was beyond my grasp.

Thankfully David Ochoa came and sat down at our table, finishing his meal at a different restaurant (one that did not cost $45 a head). I demonstrated our lack of cooking ability, and either out of pity or boredom, Ochoa took it upon himself to cook the meat for us. Ochoa coolly, casually, expertly completed his task, and we reaped the rewards of his prowess, devouring the edibles until we were stuffed.

The ninety-minute time limit had elapsed, and the credit card game for the 23,000 yen bill had us all on the edge of our seat. Ochoa did the honors of hosting, and Luis was stuck with the bill. Bwhahahahahaha!

The next day did not start until 11 am, which was fortunate, as I did not have an Extended deck yet. I asked around if anyone had any cards up for borrowing and was universally rebuffed. I really wanted to play Necrotic Ooze.dec because of Masked Admirers, but I could nary find a single rare to borrow.

Fortunately my Grixis deck from Amsterdam was still fully assembled in my deck box, and I tore it apart for the playables needed for our Four-Color Control list. I was missing Esper Charms and Vivid lands, as well as a host of sideboard rares. Gabriel Nassif bailed me out as my last hope and was able to get the deck together just in time for the pairings.

I would definitely not run my sideboard the same way, nor the maindeck, so any sideboarding plans would be silly.

Round 13 Cheuk Yin Li (Jund)

Game 1, three Blightnings wrecked most of my plans, but I sand bagged a Cruel Ultimatum, and it looked like I had a chance. Cheuk ripped a Thoughtseize on the last turn and ruined me.

Game 2 I lost to the nut perfect Jund draw of Thoughtseize, Putrid Leech, Blightning, Bloodbraid into Anathemancer.


Round 14 Nakajima, Chikara (Jund)

Game 1 I played a turn 6 Grave Titan that got Terminated. Sadly, everyone else on the team had two Wurmcoil Engines instead of one of each, and I got beat to death by two Sprouting Thrinaxes as my 2/2 Zombie tokens looked on in dismay.

Game 2 involved four Bloodbraid elves. It was messy.


Round 15 Rodríguez López, Juan (Valakut)

Game 1 Juan was on the play, and his turn 3 Cultivate got Mana Leaked, followed by two Esper Charms leaving him empty-handed on turn 5. Jace fatesealed until the deed was done.

Game 2 a turn 3 Vendilion Clique revealed Primeval Titan, Guttural Response, Obstinate Baloth, and lands (he must really hate Esper Charm). I took the Titan and waited until he cast the Baloth before I emptied his hand with Esper Charm. Jace again +2ed until ultimate.


Round 16 Ben Stark

I needed a Top 64 to Level 6, and Ben wasn’t playing for anything, so he scooped.


Round 17 Miguel Gatica (4-Color without Preordain)

Game 1 was draw-go for the first ten turns with me sifting through my draws with three Preordains. Miguel started to panic as he missed his tenth land drop and started to play spells (a disaster in the mirror). This led to him getting out countered on multiple occasions, and a Cruel sealed the deal.

Game 2 Miguel stalled on two lands while I used Cryptic to bounce a land, Cryptic to bounce a land, then Grave Titan for the win.


Round 18 Kitayama, Masaya [JPN] (Prismatic Omen/Scapeshift/Wargate)

I offered a draw, as it would guarantee us both quite a bit of cash and me a Top 64. He declined, saying that if he won he would be Level 4. We shuffled up for the last match of the year with both our levels on the line.

Game 1 I kept Lightning Bolt, Esper Charm, five lands on the play, and never drew another spell.

Game 2 I Vendilion Cliqued and took his Jace, leaving him with lands and a Wargate. I countered every spell he played and the Faerie did 21.

Game 3 He sideboarded into a creature plan, and I was land stalled after emptying his hand with Esper Charms, losing to Prismatic Omen, two Valakuts, and a fetchland.


I was crestfallen that I had screwed up so many times.

I asked Owen to look for me up in the final standings; I could not bear to see it for myself

He returned with a smile and said “58th place!”

Thinking Owen the greatest troll who ever lived, I moved to the nearest board to see for myself. Surely I could not be so lucky!

I made Level 6 again! Hooray, another year I can justify of traveling, hanging out with friends, and best of all, doing what I want to do.

Thoughts on Standard

U/B seems to be the new best deck, with Valakut taking a backseat due to its vulnerability to Spreading Seas. Inquisition and Duress give it huge edge in the Jace wars, and the metagame would have to drastically shift towards Koth-based aggro or RUG for this king to be dethroned.

U/W needs some more sideboard work, but it should be able to provide the solutions to the metagame. Squadron Hawk is totally awesome, and there is a lot of potential yet to explore, as long as your list has four Preordains.

Valakut needs to fight the encroaching waters, and I believe Owen’s Jund tech of Prophetic Prism may be in order. If you don’t like that idea, I suggest more Oracles of Mul Daya or Horizon Spellbomb to help get you there. As a fatty, Artisan of Kozilek may fit the bill you require more than Gaea’s Revenge.

RUG, my old friend, needs some help. I boarded out all the red in five of the six rounds at Worlds, and the Oracles came out the same amount. The deck needs rethinking, and I think Garruk is the answer I may be looking for. Two Lotus Cobras and a Raging Ravine, combined with Garruk’s ultimate, is seventeen damage, which might as well be twenty with Bolts and Inferno Titans in the deck. Goblin Ruinblaster probably deserves his slots back in the board as well.

B/R Vampires, Tectonic Edge, as a four-of, would drastically improve your matchup against control decks (you can board out two Burst Lightnings and two Swamps for the Edges.). Dark Tutelage combos extremely well with it, giving you a Time Walk and costing zero, allowing multiple Tutelages to fuel a lethal Vampire mix. Prophetic Prism could also be used here, as Seas is as bad for you as it seems.

Other decks: Sorry, got nothing for you. I either don’t like you (Quest aggro), or I have not played with or against you (every other deck).


Four-Color Control certainly wants Leyline of Sanctity over Runed Halo in the sideboard. Not only does it stop the Blightning, Anathemancer, and Valakuts as Halo would, but it also stops Vendilion Clique, Thoughtseize, Cruel Ultimatum, Esper Charm in the mirror and is even good against Mono-Red Aggro. It does not stop Vengevine or Demigod of Revenge, but no one is playing those cards yet. Please play Preordain; you will not regret it. Jace, the Mind Sculptor was also pretty bad and could easily go down for another Wall of Omens.

Traditional Standard Valakut/Scapeshift, get real. This is not the format for you, as blue decks play hard counters, and other decks have Thoughtseize. Play Gerry’s list or upgrade to a Prismatic Omen version.

Wargate.dec seems sweet but needs a lot more tuning. Valakut/Flooded Grove/Plains draws seem avoidable.

Jund does not play Sygg, and I do not understand why. The card is unreal in so many different ways. Please, get rid of Sprouting Thrinax; that guy is a joke.

Ooze.dec needs to play Masked Admirers. Badly. It should probably splash blue for a card filterer of some kind; Enclave Cryptologist would be nice but does not work with the Ooze. Merfolk Looter might work, and Elvish Harbinger (for Fauna/Admirer/Devoted) might be worth looking into.

Tempered Steel Aggro seems decent and could just be a good version of Quest aggro in Standard. This deck may suffer splash damage from people wanting to destroy Prismatic Omen, and Nature’s Claim seems like a great way to ruin this deck’s day.

Merfolk, get with the times. You were never a real deck to begin with.

Everything else, I’ll talk about you when I test the format.

Congrats to Brad Nelson, Paulo, and Efro on their accomplishments, and I look forward to another year of working with you guys.

P.S. The DarkestMage in this article is my instinct that I have honed from ten years of playing Magic. Luis-Scott Vargas suggested a book called

that goes into detail about how your subconscious knows a lot more about things than you do, and that I should take its advice more seriously. Everyone has this sort of thing; I just chose to give mine a name.

P.P.S. Think of it just like Yu-Gi-Oh! Instead of a 5000-year-old pharaoh named Aten giving a smaller-than-average high school student assistance, it’s Magic: The Gathering Level 6 Pro DarkestMage giving 26-year-old man-child Michael Jacob much needed guidance.

P.P.P.S. No, I am not insane.

No one can fight the tide forever.