Line Drive To Shortstop

CVM shares how he learned to expect the unexpected at #SCGPHILLY and what he thinks about the current Standard format going into Grand Prix Miami this weekend.

Here are two excerpts from my weekend in Philly playing in the StarCityGames.com Standard Open and Legacy Open.

On the draw game 3 in the Junk Reanimator mirror, I kept the following:

Overgrown Tomb Arbor Elf Arbor Elf Avacyn's Pilgrim Acidic Slime Restoration Angel Garruk Relentless

My opponent mulliganed to five, played a land on the first two turns, and cast a Contaminated Ground on my Overgrown Tomb after I played my Arbor Elf. He then Acidic Slimed my second land on turn 5 (I had drawn it for that turn). Eventually, in this same game, I had to remind him to gain his seven life after I fought his Griselbrand with my Garruk Relentless to kill it off.

Yep, it was one of those games.

On the draw game 1 against Dredge with Omni-Tell, my opponent flashed back his Cabal Therapy on turn 2 after dredging it and a Narcomoeba. I Brainstormed with my Island (all of the information he had about the match and my deck), drawing into a second Enter the Infinite and a Show and Tell. I hid Show and Tell and an irrelevant card since I was going to shuffle it away next turn with a fetchland, putting him on naming Show and Tell most of the time in this situation. He thought for half a second and named:

Line drive to shortstop.

That describes my weekend perfectly. I’m out.

What happened? I felt like I had a good grasp on both formats, had a good list of decks that I expected to see, and had a plan against them.

I didn’t expect to see Contaminated Ground. [Editor’s Note: Neither did I…] I also didn’t expect to play U/W Miracles, Doomsday, Storm, and Dredge in the first four rounds of the Legacy Open.

Expect the unexpected!

Open tournaments are just that—open. Anyone can play in them, and anyone can bring any deck. We sometimes forget this and sit high and mighty on our throne overseeing the metagame. We have preconceived notions of what people are going to play and plan accordingly. We are well tested, ultra-prepared, and solidified in our knowledge of our deck, its sideboard, and the matchups. Sometimes you win the whole thing, and sometimes you get Contaminated Grounded out of the game.

What’s the point of all this? Should we start playing Contaminated Ground? Doubtful. However, this does show that anything can be good and win at any given point in time. People mulligan into oblivion and get mana screwed. People draw their one outer and topdeck you out of the game. There is variance in Magic, and it’s because of this variance that this game we all love is thriving.

Why? Because if anyone can win at any given time, why shouldn’t everyone play? Just like poker, right Mr. Moneymaker?

I love this game, and these types of stories are the reason why. In each scenario that happened to me this weekend, I could have avoided them and planned accordingly, even against things like Contaminated Ground and Cabal Therapy on Enter the Infinite.

I knew that my opponent had Contaminated Ground in his deck from games 1 and 2 and could have simply mulliganed. I could have mulliganed my hand that could Slime him on turn 3 and 4 when he mulliganed to five if I were a better player and could see past blowing him out. With him on a mulligan and already being down cards, I didn’t need to blow him out; I just needed to minimize my chance of losing. That is how you combat variance. You ask yourself at every opportunity, "How do I lose this game?" By knowing how your opponent can win, you can sculpt your lines of play to reduce the chances of that happening. When your opponent mulligans to five, their most likely route to victory involves you being mana screwed in some fashion.

The same line of thinking can apply in the Cabal Therapy instance. It’s definitely correct to hide the Show and Tell on top, but I could have also put one of the Enter the Infinite there too. I didn’t need to shuffle the next turn. It would allow me to see one additional new card, but his dredge had been less than stellar and I wasn’t going to be dead in that one turn. I polled quite a few people about what they would name in that same situation, and everyone was extremely shocked that my opponent named Enter the Infinite.

I had the same line of thought and felt like it was close to a 0% chance that he would name it, but I still could have played around it. I was so focused on what I thought he was going to do that I didn’t even entertain the possibility that he might just blind name something else. In fact, I should have thought about it a little better. Blind missing on Cabal Therapy into a Brainstorm with Show and Tell isn’t as exciting as slyly naming Enter the Infinite and hitting two copies. We are playing Notion Thief right now because we want stories to tell. We are only human.

Recently, Brian David-Marshall posted this question on Twitter:

This is a very interesting question. I want to look at two responses it garnered: one from AJ Sacher and one from Jelger Wiegersma.

Both of these are powerful responses and advocate taking the Cloudgoat Ranger over the $500 foil Tarmogoyf due to its insane power level in Limited. At first glance, it is very easy to say that you should just slam the Tarmogoyf since it is additional guaranteed money on top of what you’re already getting for making the Top 8 of the Grand Prix, but Jelger’s response puts it in a different perspective.

How much is that memory worth to you? As gamers, we are driven by the notion of value. We go to great lengths for the better value and want to get the most of anything we are involved in. However, not everyone is in that value gamer group. Some people want to make stories. Some people want to name Enter the Infinite on the off chance they get to create a memory out of it.

I’m just a poor fat kid running the tough streets of Roanoke, so I’d take the Tarmogoyf, but I understand and respect anyone who would take the Cloudgoat Ranger and aspires to crush the Grand Prix.

I’m sure most of you stopped by my little corner of the Internet to see the updated list of Junk Reanimator that I played in Philly. I thought the list was awesome, and I still think that it’s a great choice for Grand Prix Miami. Just be wary of them Contaminated Grounds.

Fellow Slimesman Brian Braun-Duin and I talked quite a bit about the deck on our way to Philly and ended up on Lingering Souls again. I knew I wanted to be Craterhoofing people and playing Garruk Relentless in the main. With all of the U/W/R decks going the way of Geist of Saint Traft and Thundermaw Hellkite, I didn’t want Cavern of Souls anymore, so we went with Lingering Souls and Gavony Township. I also decided to listen to the masses and put Acidic Slime in the sideboard. I still think that Slime is good enough for the maindeck, but it may be as a one- or two-of like we saw in the second place deck at Philly.

I was disappointed with a couple of cards, and moving forward I think that they should probably be reduced, moved, or cut.

Blood Baron of Vizkopa was a massive letdown. Junk Aristocrats is going the way of the dinosaur, and it’s not very good against anything else. For five mana, I’d rather be casting Thragtusk; Acidic Slime; or Obzedat, Ghost Council. The main problem with Blood Baron is that it doesn’t really do anything when you cast it. It’s just another creature that comes into play and dies to some sort of removal. At least with Thragtusk and Acidic Slime you get value when they come into play, and unless they’re doubly equipped, Thragtusk can still continue the assault when they do answer him.

Verdict: Cut

Craterhoof Behemoth was abysmal. Previously, our plan in the mirror was to go over the top with Craterhoof Behemoth. This was a fine plan until Acidic Slime was unleashed; now, getting to eight mana is a pipe dream, and hitting it with Mulch or Grisly Salvage is unreliable. I mainly wanted Craterhoof Behemoth for the Junk Aristocrats matchup, but much like Blood Baron of Vizkopa, it’s not that great in any other matchup.

Verdict: Cut

Voice of Resurgence is in a unique spot right now. It plays an awesome dual role of being a threat against the control decks and a great speed bump impersonation against the aggressive decks. However, with the popularity of Junk Aristocrats and the Naya deck using Strangleroot Geist and Voice of Resurgence, Pillar of Flame is at an all-time high in popularity. This leads me to believe that Voice of Resurgence isn’t the droid we are looking for and we need to look elsewhere for this role.

Verdict: Reduce or Cut

While there were some cards that didn’t pan out, I was quite impressed by one card in particular.

Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice was awesome. With the exception of the R/G decks, the other aggressive decks have slowed down a turn or so, which allows us to stabilize with our removal and take over the game with Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice. Being a 2/5 is huge since most decks are ill equipped to remove her, and once you get to untap with her in play, it’s tough to lose. I was even able to stay ahead of Bant Hexproof by curving Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice into Thragtusk into Restoration Angel. Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice more than earned her spot back in the sideboard, and I expect to see more of her moving forward from other Junk Reanimator decks.

Grand Prix Miami is this weekend, and while I may not be attending, I will be watching the coverage and would like to share some of my random thoughts about the current Standard format for everyone to digest.

That’s all for this week folks! Thank you for stopping by and giving me your ear for a bit. I’m interested to hear people’s opinions on the foil Tarmogoyf versus Cloudgoat Ranger question. Feel free to send any questions you have my way via Twitter or Facebook!

<3 CVM

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