At the conclusion of Grand Prix: Boston, Life was the most represented strategy in the top eight. Masahiko Morita brought the typical G/W build with the now-standard Aether Vials, TJ Impellizzieri had a B/W variant that made room for Duress and Cabal Therapy in the main, and Lucas Glavin nearly won the whole tournament with a hybrid Life-Cephalid Breakfast build whose mana base supported every color but Red.
I was in the market for a PTQ deck at the time, and really liked how many strong matchups Life had going for it in the aggro-laden environment I was headed into. It seemed like more than a few people were of the opinion, however, that “Life sucks” because its combo does not actually kill the opponent. This is no big deal against aggro decks and Reanimator, but when it actually is a problem – such as against Aluren and Desire – it is a big problem.
That was what sold me on the archetype. I love a good challenge, and I am all about solving problems.
TJ’s B/W list struck me as the best starting point because it maintained almost all of the consistency of regular G/W Life, while having access to the key black cards that could actually slow down or stop a combo deck. Green is not so good at disrupting combo, but black is literally the best at it.
The official coverage from Grand Prix: Boston insists that TJ only played fifty-six cards in his maindeck, but I am not buying that. Since the typical Life mana base includes twenty-three mana producers to TJ’s twenty, I am going to assume the last four cards were Swamps. I also think it’s reasonable to assume that he was planning on running “4 Shaman en-Kor” instead of “3 Shaman en-Kor, 1 Warrior en-Kor,” but was unable to find a fourth Shaman on the day of the tournament, and grabbed a Warriors as his fourth instead. If these assumptions are correct, then this was his actual list:
4 Combo Searchers
4 Vampiric Tutor
I took this bad boy for a spin, and was pleased with the results. It loses out on some of the redundancy that G/W Life enjoys because it has only Vampiric Tutor to replace both Eladamri’s Call and Living Wish — but as it turns out, this is not a big deal. When comparing the two decks, G/W Life’s redundancy is really a random perk that has little to do with the deck’s success or failure in the majority of its matchups. Consider:
B/W Life is still consistent enough to beat the tar out of:
Red Deck Wins
Sounds like Life to me.
By the way, don’t let the size of these lists fool you. Even though it appears the deck only has one more favorable matchup than unfavorable, you must keep in mind that there will be far more people playing decks from the former list than the latter at your average PTQ. Of course, one cannot choose what one is paired against in a given tournament, and having auto-loss matchups can result in missing top eight despite ample skill and playtesting. Which brings me to the primary advantage B/W Life has over the traditional configuration:
A fifteen-card sideboard!
Take a quick look at Masahiko Morita’s top eight build of G/W Life from Grand Prix: Boston. His deck featured the following sideboard package:
If we filter out the Wish targets, we are left with:
A whopping four cards.
Folks, when you bring in four cards from your board after game one, you had better not be expecting an unfavorable matchup to turn around unless all four say “Chill” across the top.
This is my beef with G/W Life. It has a number of nigh-unwinnable matchups, and a sideboard that is woefully ill-equipped to turn them around.
However, looking at B/W Life’s existing sideboard, I still don’t see the problem being solved. Even though the sideboard has fifteen cards in it, the fifteen it has are not enough to realistically turn the deck’s problem matchups around.
Okay, so Phyrexian Negator will mise wins for you. There will be times when you will go “Duress you, Therapy you, Negator,” and your opponent will just crumple. However, considering that most of your bad matchups are combo decks, a turn 3 Negator by itself is not that likely to go the whole nine unless you also find some hand disruption or a hoser to go with it. If you are playing against Aluren or Mind’s Desire, for example, it is entirely possible that you will just play a Negator turn 3, attack with it turn 4, and then die. Here’s the thing:
If you’re going to lose game one, and plan on mising a win game two with spicy sideboard draws…what is your plan for game three?
If you do not successfully pull a win out of nowhere in both games two and three, you will have lost the match anyway, and your sideboard slots will have been wasted.
I am wary of this sideboard package in the same way I am wary of a Mirrodin Block Constructed deck that loses to Affinity in game one and then brings in four Oxidizes and two Viridian Shamans to “turn the matchup around.” Things will go better for you in games two and three, yes – but will you actually win the match?
With this in mind, take a look at how I modified TJ’s maindeck in order to accommodate my own sideboarding package. (These changes may seem minor for now, but hang with me and you will see why I have made them.)
If you assume that TJ properly balanced his ratio of en-Kor, Target-Me-And-I-Get-Bigger guys, and sacrifice outlets, then this is a perfectly legitimate swap. All other draws being equal, Worldly Tutor can always turn into a Daru Spiritualist, which leaves you with the same effective number of Target-Me guys overall. You lose a card in the process, this way, but in exchange you receive the vastly superior Spiritualist over the underpowered Task Force.
Even if Worldly Tutor were not important to the sideboard plan I am proposing, I would probably consider making this swap anyway. Besides the obvious downside that he cannot be sacrificed to Starlit Sanctum, there is the problem that Task Force costs three mana.
Three mana is a ton. Unless you draw one of the two Chrome Moxen in the deck, there is literally no way you can go off on turn 3 with Task Force. Aether Vial or no, you cannot go off any earlier than turn 4 if Task Force is your third combo piece. With Spiritualist, not only do you get to go off on turn three with much higher frequency, you also tend to get the ever-important pair of infinite-toughness blockers into play a turn earlier as well.
As I said, I’m not sure if TJ’s original list actually had 24 mana sources, since the coverage omitted four cards which I presumed to be Swamps. If I guessed correctly, and there actually were 24 mana sources in the deck, this count should definitely be dropped to 22 after replacing the Task Forces with Tutors. Without Task Force in the deck, the mana curve tops out at a whopping two. Twenty-two mana producers plus four Aether Vials is more than enough to support this.
Generally speaking, balancing a mana base of three or more colors is a delicate process that involves incorporating just the right number of fetchlands and painlands such that one will not get manascrewed while still not taking too much pain.
This was much easier. I just cut as many non-painlands as I could find and put in more painlands. Know why I got to do that? Because my life total only matters against aggro decks, and I beat the crap out of aggro decks.
After mixing in all these changes, we arrive at the following list:
As you can imagine, my list still functions roughly in the same way as TJ’s – perhaps a bit better in some matchups and a bit worse in others – but nothing too dramatic. Now for the fun part: my sideboard. Check out what my deck turns into post-board against, say, Mind’s Desire:
12 Combo Pieces
4 Cephalid Illusionist
4 Nomads En-Kor
4 Shaman En-Kor
Bam! Whole new deck.
If you are already familiar with the new combo in question, skip the rest of this paragraph. If not, welcome to Cephalid Breakfast! This combo works similarly to the Life combo, except instead of targeting Daru Spiritualist a billion times, you instead target Cephalid Illusionist until you have decked yourself. You then flashback Krosan Reclamation on a Reanimate (or two) and draw it during your draw step. Cast Reanimate on Sutured Ghoul, and remove all the creatures in your graveyard from the game. With Krosan Cloudscraper, this can yield as much as twenty-five combined power and toughness. When the Ghoul comes into play, Dragon Breath jumps onto him for free, and you bash face with your 26/25 Trampling, Hasted beating stick.
If you successfully execute your plan of “gain infinite life” and still lose, then perhaps the problem is that you need a new plan. As far as I can make out, this is the most brutally effective way possible to solve the deck’s bad matchups: transform into a deck that has a good matchup against these decks.
Here’s a quick rundown on what this sideboard strategy does for you:
You still lose game one every time to your bad matchups, but now you actually have a good chance of winning both games two and three. Not just an okay chance, or a “if-I-mise-I-can-win” chance, but a good chance. This is absolutely critical when you are planning on winning an entire match after losing the first game.
“But if sideboarding into Cephalid Breakfast is a good idea, mise well just play Lucas Glavin’s hybrid deck, amiright?” Well, it’s not that simple.
For starters, the hybrid deck is less resilient to the Life hosers that have been cropping up since Glavin played at Grand Prix: Boston. Cursed Totem, Sulfuric Vortex, and False Cure, to name a few, are popular sideboard cards that must be immediately answered before going off is possible. Four Duress and four Cabal Therapy are invaluable as one-mana answers to these problems; they are leaps and bounds more efficient than having to tutor for and play clunky creatures like Uktabi Orangutan or Monk Realist to answer problem cards.
Another problem I have with the hybrid deck is that it loses consistency at both ends of the string. Whenever you draw a Cephalid Illusionist or Krosan Cloudscraper against Red Deck Wins, for example, you are in Frown Town. If Tarnished Citadel is your only source of colored mana, you have nearly halved your life total; a Blistering Firecat is practically guaranteed to kill you on turn 4.
These minor quibbles alone are not enough to make your good matchups bad all of a sudden, but if you give an aggro deck a foot, it will take a mile. You drop your Duress count against Red Deck Wins and suddenly you are Tutoring for Uktabi Orangutan instead of Daru Spiritualist in order to remove Cursed Totem. Then your Nomads en-Kor are left stranded in your hand while incantations from a Cursed Scroll are recited straight into your face.
Even straight-up Life can drop a game to a God Draw or due to sluggishness in assembling the combo. As long as it is only one game out of three, this is not a problem. But when you keep introducing factors that increase the probability that you might drop a second game, you run the risk of losing to the very decks your deck was chosen in order to beat.
The same is true of the Cephalid half of the deck. Having to Living Wish for and play an Illusionist or Nomads is much, much slower than just drawing him. The difference between three Illusionists, three Nomads, and a Shaman and a full four Illusionists, four Nomads, and four Shamans is huge. When I keep a hand with one of these three fellows, I can easily Vampiric or Worldly Tutor for whichever other I need, and go off promptly on my third turn. When I must instead spend extra mana using Living Wish or Brainstorm to search for the appropriate combo piece, my execution can be delayed for as much as a full turn.
This is a pretty big deal when you consider that the entire reason you want access to the Cephalid combo in the first place is to be able to kill a turn faster than the combo decks that otherwise outrace you.
For a PTQ season that seems to involve more aggro decks and Reanimator than Life-hating combo decks, I would rather bring the deck that beats aggro and Reanimator more consistently, while still retaining maximum combo-smashing efficiency after sideboarding, than the deck that is “merely favorable” in all three games of these matchups.
I suppose the best way to demonstrate the way my deck works is with a report from a PTQ I attended last weekend in Madison, WI. The decklist I submitted was as follows:
Sideboarding this thing is wonderfully simple.
Against Reanimator, U/G Madness:
Against any aggro deck except Madness:
+1 Disenchant, -1 Gilded Drake
Most aggro decks these days (other than Madness) have some kind of artifact or enchantment in their sideboards that hose Life. Disenchant provides an extra answer to these on top of Duress and Therapy, plus the Drake is only useful against Akroma, Angel of Wrath and Waterfront Bouncer anyway.
Against every other deck, you board in the Cephalid Breakfast combo. (See the list I gave above, under “Thug Life, Post-Board” for what it should look like when you’re done.) After boarding in the usual combo pieces, additional sideboarding is as follows:
Against Reanimation Machine:
+1 Disenchant, +1 Gilded Drake, -1 Reanimate, -1 Exhume
Drake is your best out against Platinum Angel. Once you deck yourself, you can Reclamation back two Reanimates – one for your Ghoul, and one for Gilded Drake on the next turn. Alternately, you can just Drake their Welder before going off.
+1 Disenchant, +1 Ray of Revelation, -2 Reanimate
Ray of Revelation lets you hold on to your second combo guy instead of tapping out to play him if you suspect Aluren will go off on the next turn. Then once the big enchantment itself comes into play, you can respond to Cavern Harpy by playing your second combo guy at instant speed, for free, then mill yourself until you hit the Ray and flash it back on Aluren to stop the opponent’s combo mid-sentence. When you’re done, just untap and deck yourself to go off as planned.
+1 Dragon Shadow, -1 Duress
Life can usually put two infinite-toughness blockers into play by the time you are ready to send in your Ghoul, but these will be irrelevant if your big guy has Fear.
Bonus tech for those of you actually reading this far: I played Dragon Shadow because that was what the original Cephalid Breakfast designers did, but it has since occurred to me that Dragon Wings does the same thing, only better. Not only does it have Cycling in case you accidentally draw it and need a way to get it into the graveyard other than wasting a Cabal Therapy on yourself, but it is also useful against Reanimation Machine to get around those big-assed Sundering Titan blockers, against which Dragon Shadow is useless.
On to the report.
I traveled up from St. Louis to Madison with Troy Rumans and JP Smee, my fellow Team Check Minus members and partners in crime. Since I have access to the data from what they played at the event in addition to my own, I might as well share it with you as long as I’m writing a full report. I’ll include the results of their matches along with my own at the end of each round.
For reference, Troy played a U/B Mind’s Desire build that closely resembled Masashi Oiso’s list from PT Columbus. JP played an anti-combo build of Red Deck Wins, featuring Slith Firewalker over Mogg Fanatic, Tangle Wire over Pillage, Volcanic Hammer over Magma Jet, and Lava Dart over Firebolt.
Round 1 – Jeremy playing Homebrew RDW
Jeremy was a cool guy. Or at least I think his name was Jeremy; I misplaced my life total pad between rounds one and two, and actually have no record whatsoever of my opponent’s name for this round. I can at least say with some degree of certainty that he looked like a Jeremy.
Jeremy was playing a homebrew version of Red Deck Wins with Pyrite Spellbombs, Shrapnel Blasts, and Browbeat. To be honest, I doubt he would have called it Red Deck Wins, if that helps put the deck in perspective.
Game one could have turned out very badly for me, as I discovered on turn 2 that he was maindecking Sulfuric Vortex. Fortunately, I discovered this while Duressing him, and I proceeded to gain a substantial amount of life before he found another.
In game two, Jeremy mulliganed to five in the process of “looking for the card that beats you,” but never actually found it. Even worse, the five cards he ended up with were not very strong, and I went off with little resistance.
Thug Life (Richard) beats Homebrew RDW 2-0, and is now 1-0.
RDW (JP) beats Temporary Solution 2-0, and is now 1-0.
U/B Desire (Troy) beats U-B-G Opposition 2-0 and is now 1-0.
Round 2 – Simon playing U-B/W Scepter-Chant
Simon quickly gets a Scepter down with Chant on it despite my Duress, but I find a window of opportunity to cast Worthy Cause, and gain six hundred trillion and one life. Simon doesn’t scoop, so I’m figuring he will put Brain Freeze on a stick soon and deck me with it.
However, he does something peculiar instead – he plays a stick with Fire / Ice on it. This gets me thinking: does he actually have an out here after all? It couldn’t hurt to ask, so I do: “You still have an out here?”
“Yeah,” he says, “Brain Freeze.” Fair enough. I ask him to keep the clock in mind, since he is tapping and untapping his lands one at a time every time he activates his Scepter during my upkeep. (To be fair, he’s been tapping all of his lands like this the whole match, so I don’t think he is trying to stall me out. Nevertheless, I still do not want to take a draw here for no reason.)
Then he starts making irrelevant plays like laying Shadowmage Infiltrators that never attack and Firing my Nomads en-Kor, which gets me wondering if he actually does have an out here or is just stalling. When he taps his second Scepter to Fire me from six hundred trillion seventeen down to six hundred trillion fifteen, I call a judge.
The judge cautions him that making irrelevant plays is grounds for stalling, and after watching the game progress for a turn or two, gives him a “polite request” to tap and untap his lands for his Scepter all at once.
There is precious little time left in the round when he draws the third-to-last card in his library. At this point I am all-in on the assumption that he does not actually have Brain Freeze, since he has seven cards in hand and plenty of land in play, and would not even need to put the Freeze on a Scepter to Storm me out at this point.
Finally, during my end step, he Cunning Wishes for Stroke of Genius, untaps, and decks me with it.
“I just drew that,” he apologizes, referring to the Cunning Wish. I nod, and start sideboarding. We go into extra turns almost immediately, and I scoop after Duressing him to see a spicy hand that I know I cannot beat inside the extra turns, even if I mise perfectly on every draw step.
I find out later from a spectator that he had been holding on to the lethal Cunning Wish for several turns, and he was evidently just holding out on playing it in order to eat up more time in game one.
It frankly had not occurred to me that anyone would have the balls to run such a strategy, but I have to hand it to him – it worked perfectly. Had I not managed to convince myself that he did not have the trump card anywhere in his deck, I would have scooped much earlier and at least given myself enough time to try and Breakfast him out properly in games two and three.
Still, it is difficult to concede a game in which you are not actually sure any card in your opponent’s deck can kill you. I mean, what if he really did not have an answer and was just bluffing under the assumption that I’d scoop if he pretended long enough to be looking for Cunning Wish?
I hate that matchup.
Thug Life (Richard) loses to U-B/W Scepter-Chant 0-2, and is now 1-1.
RDW (JP) loses to Cold Shower 1-2, and is now 1-1.
U/B Desire (Troy) beats GAT 2-0 and is now 2-0.
After the Therapy whiffs, my opponent explains that he has played almost no Extended this season, and is really only familiar with the decks in Standard. From this, I extrapolate that he took my play of turn 1 Aether Vial to mean that I was playing Affinity, with Forbidden Orchard in for the usual Glimmervoid or City of Brass. Interesting.
He uses his Orchard token to flashback Therapy on my Vampiric Tutor, but this is not enough to stop me from gaining fifteen digits worth of life on turn 4.
Game two is uneventful; at one point it looks like he might have me with Disciple and Atog, but I Tutor for the last combo piece I need and go off.
Thug Life (Richard) beats Affinity 2-0, and is now 2-1.
RDW (JP) beats Scepter-Tog 2-1, and is now 2-1.
U/B Desire (Troy) beats Rock 2-1 and is now 3-0.
Round 4 – Isaac playing Affinity
I keep an awesome hand with a Duress plus all my combo pieces – Nomads, Spiritualist, and Starlit Sanctum. My turn 1 Duress snags his Aether Vial, and I frown while noting a Wasteland in addition to the usual Affinity trappings.
He plays out a speedy start involving multiple Arcbound Ravagers and a Disciple of the Vault, so I am forced to play my Sanctum (my only second mana source) into the Wasteland I know he has in order to get my Spiritualist in play, so that I can at least put some implacable blockers in front of his Disciple-powered offense.
He unloads a handful of free artifacts, all of which are immediately lethal thanks to his two Ravagers, and passes the turn. I am definitely dead as soon as he attacks me, so I glumly flip over my top card before reaching for my sideboard.
…oh hey, Worthy Cause! That’s what we call, uh, playskill, folks.
In game two, I keep a one-lander with an Aether Vial. He Wastes that one land, but the Vial dumps Nomads en-Kor and Daru Spiritualist into play, slowing his offense to a crawl. The reason I kept the hand becomes clear as soon as I draw a Forbidden Orchard, when I tap it on his end step to Vampiric Tutor for Worthy Cause and a whole bunch of life.
Thug Life (Richard) beats Affinity 2-0, and is now 3-1.
RDW (JP) beats RDW Mirror 2-0, and is now 3-1.
U/B Desire (Troy) beats Scepter-Chant 2-1 and is now 4-0.
Round 5 – Eric “Danger” Taylor playing U/W Desire
Though I’ve read plenty of his stuff, I have never had the pleasure of sparring with the legendary edt himself. Having done so now, I must say he is the most laid-back player I have ever met. He was completely unfazed by every move I made, and remained so even after I sideboard into an entirely different archetype.
In game one, I start getting giddy when I combo out and resolve Unspeakable Symbol against Desire. Unfortunately, Eric has no intention of losing to those shenanigans, and Snaps my 30/30 Nomads away before combat damage. I re-play them and pass the turn. He Intuitions and draws some cards, then hands it back to me.
I bash with my Nomads, and once again they are Snapped. I play them for the third time this game, and thumb my Vampiric Tutor, trying to figure out what card will serve me best in this situation. While I am doing this, Eric Cunning Wishes for Meditate and goes off on the following turn.
Sigh. Some matchups were not meant to be won.
I riffle my sideboard in, then extract Spiritualists, Worthy Causes, and anything else that is more conducive to Life than to Cephalid Breakfast.
In game two, I Reanimate a Sutured Ghoul on turn 3 and send twenty-six points across the table. Here, I definitely expected some sort of reaction…but as I said, edt is a very chill guy, and all he said when I attacked for twenty-six was “all right.”
I open the deciding game with a mulligan to six, and just about do a backflip when I see my hand: Cephalid Illusionist, Shaman en-Kor, Reanimate, Chrome Mox, City of Brass, Cabal Therapy. If I draw a land in either of my first two draw steps, I’m winning the prize on turn two.
Eric thinks for a bit, then plays Sapphire Medallion and, I believe, a Merchant Scroll. He ends his turn tapped out, so when I play my land and the Illusionist, I have nothing to fear. A flashbacked Cabal Therapy names Daze (since he has no other possible outs here), and when he has none I Reanimate my Ghoul on Turn Freaking Two for the crazy win.
To be fair, I’m pretty sure turn three would have gotten the job done there, but winning on turn two was ri-goddamn-diculous. I guess Sutured Ghoul was just itching to get in there and bash face; the poor guy had been stuck in the sideboard for four full rounds before this one.
Thug Life (Richard) beats U/W Desire 2-1, and is now 4-1.
RDW (JP) beats R/G Goblins 2-1, and is now 4-1.
U/B Desire (Troy) beats Aluren 2-1 and is now 5-0.
Round 6 – Matt Severa playing Aluren
I do not recognize Matt, but apparently he is a Good Player from way back who has been out of the game (or at least Extended) for awhile. I have some hand disruption to slow down his combo in game one, but as expected it is not enough. He brings out Aluren, Raven Familiar, and Cavern Harpy in short order and I scoop.
In game two, I assemble my combo pieces on the third turn and tear his hand apart with two flashbacked Therapies. I pass the turn with an empty library, a full graveyard, and mana to both flashback Krosan Reclamation on my next upkeep and play Reanimate in my next main phase.
Matt topdecks and plays Vampiric Tutor, then uses Raven Familiar to draw into the card he Tutored for. This could potentially be bad news for me — except that the card he Tutored for was Cabal Therapy. Having not played Extended in awhile, he was evidently unaware of the fact that I did not actually have to be holding the Reanimate to kill on the next turn.
Thug Life (Richard) beats Aluren 2-1, and is now 5-1.
RDW (JP) beats Reanimator 2-0, and is now 5-1.
U/B Desire (Troy) intentionally draws and is now 5-0-1.
Standings are up. Troy has not lost yet, and is second in the standings. JP has the second-worst tiebreakers of the 5-1 players, and worse breakers than all of the 4-1-1 players. Unfortunately, he is second-worst only because mine are even more abysmal. Despite being at X-1 heading into the last round, there is no way either one of us can draw in. Big frowns.
Round 7 – JP “Sexiest Ever” Smee
Although it would be infinitely preferable for JP and I to play out our last rounds separately for a chance at a spot in the top eight apiece, we are instead paired against one another without the possibility of drawing in. When we learn that the top eight will consist of multiple red decks, Reanimator, and Rock, JP concedes the match after politely informing me that if I don’t win this PTQ, I will never hear the end of it.
Quarterfinals – Matt playing Reanimator
My opening hand is sweet, and I keep almost immediately. Matt Duresses my Vampiric Tutor, leaving Shaman en-Kor and Starlit Sanctum as my only combo pieces. Okay, no biggie. All I have to do now is find Worldly Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, Daru Spiritualist, or even my lone Gilded Drake in the next couple of draw steps and I win.
That was what I needed to do. What I did was draw Chrome Mox, Aether Vial, land, and more land. During this time Rorix Bladewing had something to say to my life total, which was “get the hell out of the way.”
Even bigger frowns. I have literally never lost a game to Reanimator with this deck in any tournament, ever, and here I am down a game already when we’re in single-elimination mode.
I get things together game two and use the Reanimate I boarded in to steal his Akroma. This forces him to blow his only Exhume to put a second one from his graveyard into play and reset the board, netting me ample time to find my third combo piece and go off.
In game three, I keep a hand of three Vampiric Tutors, Shaman en-Kor, and land. He Duresses turn 1, taking a Tutor. I draw another land. He Duresses again on turn 2, pulling a second Tutor. For the third game in a row, I find myself down to two combo pieces in hand, and searching for the third one off the top of my library.
I draw another Shaman en-Kor I don’t need and pass again. He plays Phyrexian Negator. Now I have a tough choice to make. I can Tutor right now for Daru Spiritualist and play him, shutting down the Negator offense. However, my opponent can trump this with Smother – which I know he is playing – or by reanimating a fatty next turn.
Since Smother screws me up in this position regardless, I have to assume he does not have it, and opt to wait for more information from my draw step. If I find another combo piece, I can go off next turn. If not, I can still Tutor for the infinite-toughness blocker and proceed as planned. This gives me two draw steps to find Starlit Sanctum, Worthy Cause, Vampiric Tutor, Worldly Tutor, or Daru Spiritualist.
Naturally, I draw two land again and lose.
I discuss the probabilities of this play later on with the team, and we decide that I should have gone for the blocker a turn earlier. What I failed to factor into my on-the-spot calculation was that even if my opponent reanimated something huge after I played the implacable blocker, any draw of Starlit Sanctum, Worthy Cause, Vampiric Tutor or Worldly Tutor for Gilded Drake would still win that game.
With this in mind, I would have actually had a damn good chance of winning the topdeck war that such a play would have put me into, and while this certainly would not have turned the game around by itself, it at least would have given me a better chance.
Luckily (?), Troy gets manascrewed in the deciding game against Scepter-Chant, which I would have been paired against (and most likely lost to) had I beaten Reanimator anyway. Big frowns all around.
All in all, though, I’d say this tournament was a fair representation of what the deck does. I consistently beat up on aggro decks all day, lost to some rough draws tempered by a suboptimal play to a great matchup in the top eight, and turned two of Life’s unwinnable matchups around with my sideboard in the Swiss.
Now I suppose I’m technically hurting my own chances at future surprise victories by spilling my tech over the internet – but then again, for a deckbuilder like myself, it would be much more rewarding to see someone else’s name atop my list in a PTQ top eight than my own. If anyone else out there has any kind of success with this deck, shoot me an e-mail and tell me about it. I’d love to hear it!
Until next time, may Sutured Ghoul prove the answer to all of Life’s problems.