Jersey Blues

CVM talks about his adventures with RUG Midrange and B/W Midrange last weekend and the G/R Monsters list he’s thinking about playing this weekend at #SCGSTL.

Boy, do I hate snow.

Unless you live under a rock or were stuck under two feet of snow with no power, you may have heard that the SCG Open Series in New Jersey was canceled last weekend due to the weather.

Basically, a bunch of snow fell, the roads were horrible, and there was two feet of snow barricading the Star City Game Center. I was quite upset, as you can imagine, since I travel to most of the Open Series within eight hours of Roanoke.

Thursday night I was sitting in my room, building the sweet Legacy deck that I planned on battling with, when I saw the announcement. I had an inkling that it might happen, but something inside me kept looking back at Indianapolis and thought that come hell or high water (or a crap ton of snow) that the Open was going to fire.

I had visions of going to New Jersey, doing well, and picking up some points to gain some ground on the three big names ahead of me on the SCG Players’ Championship Leaderboard to qualify in Season One. William "Huey" Jensen, Bradley "Bard Narson" Nelson, and Brian "BBD" Braun-Duin are all in Valencia preparing for the Pro Tour this weekend, and with New Jersey and St. Louis, I had a real shot at taking the lead.

I did need to win one of the tournaments to catapult myself up there, but that’s definitely possible. Plus it’s about damn time I get to shave. Also, I usually get to see a bunch of awesome people when I head up to the Northeast.

Needless to say, I was totally bummed.

Thankfully, I still had an opportunity to scoop up some points over the weekend since there was an Invitational Qualifier at the Star City Game Center on Saturday once they were able to push all of the snow out of the way.

I had spent the week working on the RUG Kiora deck from my article last week, and even though I knew the B/W deck that BBD and I had been endorsing to each other was better, I decided to play a slightly modified version of the RUG deck.

I had been toying around with the deck during the week, and while it was performing decently, I was extremely unhappy with Magma Jet. I wanted something that could answer early pressure like Daring Skyjek but could also be an answer to something like Polukranos, World Eater or Desecration Demon in the mid to late game. Turn // Burn fit the bill perfectly!

I also decided that I wanted four Mizzium Mortars in the maindeck since I was expecting a lot of Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Archangel of Thune.

We were just under the threshold for six rounds, so we were looking at five rounds of Swiss and then a cut to the Top 8. I was excited to play a new deck, and every round I had a bit of a crowd around me to watch me play something new.

I promptly went 0-2 drop and went home for an early lunch.

What happened? To be honest, I can’t tell if the deck isn’t good or if I just got pretty unlucky. In the first round, I lost to a G/R Monsters deck splashing white for Fleecemane Lion and presumably other white spells where I flooded pretty hard in game 3 after losing game 1 to a turn 2 Domri Rade. I gave myself plenty of chances to win in game 3, even blocking a Xenagos, God of Revelryed Fleecemane Lion that wasn’t quite monstrous yet with a Polukranos, World Eater since I was only dead to double Ghor-Clan Rampager and he had been holding on to two cards in his hand for a while.

He did have the Ghor-Clans and just played them out the following turn, and even though I could overload a Cyclonic Rift, I drew lands for multiple turns (even getting to filter some lands off the top with Courser of Kruphix) and died. I got to see just how good Xenagos, God of Revels is in that game, and it really makes me want to play him.

In round 2, I was dispatched by an Esper Mill deck with Phenax, God of Deception. I lost a very long game 1 in which I couldn’t ever find an Aetherling. Even though I got to counter multiple Sphinx’s Revelations with Izzet Charm, I eventually lost to his fourth Consuming Aberration with a Phenax, God of Deception out.

I was able to ultimate Kiora, the Crashing Wave fairly early in game 2 and went on to lose a long game 3 where yet again I couldn’t find an Aetherling fast enough and he was aggressively milling me with Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver.

Building a sweet brew and trying to be prepared for a specific metagame can sometimes backfire when you happen to get paired against something you weren’t expecting to see, but that’s the price of innovation.

Moving forward, I still really like Kiora, the Crashing Wave, but I don’t think that this is the shell for her. A lot of people had positive feedback about playing her in a BUG shell so I may try that, but I expect I’ll be on either B/W Midrange or G/R Monsters for St. Louis.

I’ve been tinkering around with a bit more aggressive version of G/R Monsters recently, and I think that it might be pretty good.

This build of G/R Monsters eschews the resiliency of Xenagos, the Reveler in the maindeck and has a little bit less acceleration with no Sylvan Caryatids, but we gain Kalonian Tusker and Fanatic of Xenagos, which are quite aggressive when paired together.

When I was trying to fit Fanatic of Xenagos into the already existing planeswalker-heavy builds of G/R Monsters, it just didn’t feel right. Most of the time the Fanatic never did what I needed it to do, but now that we can curve it after a Kalonian Tusker, either mode feels like much more of the threat.

I also noticed that I was losing a lot of games where I had lots of mana and no action. Making our deck less reliant on having an accelerator now that we have a better curve with Tusker and Fanatic, we can pressure our opponent with a higher percentage of our draws.

We still have Elvish Mystic, which can facilitate the ever so awesome turn 2 Domri Rade or Fanatic of Xenagos.

We’re leaning on Mizzium Mortars and Domri Rade to do some heavy lifting against other decks with Courser of Kruphix in them, but it’s very nice that if we already have a Domri Rade out whatever mode Fanatic of Xenagos enters the battlefield as we can fight and kill the Courser.

Since we don’t have Sylvan Caryatid, it’s even more important to make our land drops, so we’ve upped the count to 24. With the list being such a heavy creature build, it’s very important to be able to cast Xenagos, God of Revels every time we have him in hand, meaning we might even want another land, but 24 feels right for now.

I really like how Tusker and Fanatic make Flesh // Blood much better against the main matchup where we want it: Mono-Blue Devotion. With so many three-power creatures, we can now reliably use Flesh // Blood to kill Nightveil Specter and continue to pressure our opponent.

Against the control decks, we still have planeswalkers to bring in out of the sideboard. Xenagos, the Reveler and Chandra, Pyromaster are both very good against Sphinx’s Revelation decks and black-based control decks, so I like having access to them. I also really like how being more aggressive with Kalonian Tusker and Fanatic of Xenagos has the potential to make our Mistcutter Hydras even more scary post-board. Getting in a significant amount of early damage makes midgame Mistcutters for four or five quite threatening.

I prefer Destructive Revelry here over Unravel the Aether because I think the damage is going to matter. We don’t really care too much about getting rid of any of the Gods that are going to see play against us, and it’s mainly there for Detention Sphere and any deck with Whip of Erebos. It’s important to note that Courser of Kruphix is also an enchantment, so if there happen to be any more targets for our Destructive Revelrys along with Courser we can bring it in against those decks too.

As resident "black splash aficionado" Cedric Phillips has correctly identified that Desecration Demon can be a bit of a problem for G/R Monsters, I’ve gone with some Plummets in the sideboard. Without Xenagos, the Reveler in the maindeck, we’re going to be relying a lot on Ghor-Clan Rampager to help us push through the Big D in game 1 and plan to overload their answers for our answers to Desecration Demon in the sideboarded games.

There’s a good chance that I end up playing something along these lines at the Standard Open this weekend in St. Louis, but I’ve also been impressed with B/W Midrange.

The weather cleared up on Saturday, and after hearing about an Elite IQ at a shop in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania, Stephen Horne (a Roanoke local and frequent travel buddy) and I decided "what the hell, let’s go." We had planned on playing a bunch of Magic that weekend, and it was just under six hours to Coopersburg.

Stephen had gotten second at the IQ with BBD’s B/W Midrange list from his article last week and was pretty high on the deck. I really liked the maindeck but was unhappy with the Drown in Sorrows in the sideboard. There are very few Soldier of the Pantheon decks right now, and I would rather just have another spot removal spell and something else for the control decks. While playing the deck, I missed Erebos, God of the Dead out of the sideboard, and even though I thought about playing one, I opted for another Sin Collector instead. Moving forward, I will definitely be playing an Erebos in the sideboard.

On the drive up to Coopersburg, we ran into a sticky situation. I had taken over driving since Stephen was getting tired, and I was passing a nice big semi-truck when a giant blown tire appeared in the middle of the road. I had no choice but to just drive over the tire and hope for the best. About an hour later when we stopped for a potty break, we noticed that the exhaust was rattling something fierce and needed to be fixed.

Luckily there was a Pep Boys fairly close to the hotel we were staying at, and the next morning Stephen headed there at 9 AM when they opened to try to get it fixed. Unfortunately, they were packed, and by the time he checked on getting a cab to the site, the wait was much longer than he had time for. Sadly, the only other means of transportation that I knew of wasn’t big enough for him.

Yep—not big enough. I’m a pretty big dude (hey, I’m getting smaller with this #MTGFitness thing), and he basically dwarfs me. 6’7" and the build to fill it out isn’t really going to fit into a nice small car that I barely fit into.

We drove six hours, and he missed the tournament. Thankfully just some U-bolt had snapped and only cost twenty bucks to fix, but I felt terrible. Then I went 1-2 drop after getting absolutely crushed by Gerard Fabiano and his Esper deck and then punting to another Esper deck.

B/W Midrange is awesome against U/W Control, but Esper is a different story. With plenty of answers for Obzedat, Ghost Council and Blood Baron of Vizkopa and still having Detention Sphere; Elspeth, Sun’s Champion; Sphinx’s Revelation; and their own Blood Barons, it’s a pretty tricky matchup. I think if Esper starts to creep back up that going back to Mono-Black Devotion might be better. It’s important to note that Gerard completely worked me over with Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver.

Hopefully, we can dodge another snowpocalypse this weekend, and I’ll get to battle my little heart out in St. Louis. That area used to be my stomping ground when I was living in Wichita, so here’s hoping I get to see a bunch of old friends and shave this beard.

Oh, and maybe have some BBQ. I love BBQ.