Welcome to my first article as a columnist on StarCityGames.com! I consider it an honor to be here, and I hope you guys are as excited as I am. While I had previously been skeptical about my ability to put out a quality piece every week, I’ve come to realize that I probably have more to write about than I originally thought… so here I am!
This time of the year is usually unreal boring for competitive Magic. Standard and Draft have been played out, and there aren’t even any PTQs. Thankfully, on September 13th, Misty Mountain Games North is running a 5k event in Minnesota, similar to the ones you’ve seen from StarCityGames.com. The format is Standard, so that means I’m back in the MTGO trenches. Pro Tour: Berlin testing is going to have to wait, as the bills have to get paid first.
My roommate Brandon Scheel and I both decided that we wanted to run some form of Five-Color Control (Quick n’ Toast, for the people who like stupid deck names), so we started brewing up a list. Thankfully, we had plenty of lists to peruse and steal ideas from, as Manuel Bucher wrote a fantastic article on this very site, and Grand Prix: Copenhagen had just happened.
We decided that Kitchen Finks seemed miserable, as there isn’t really a deck that they are good against. The whole Mulldrifter/Makeshift Mannequin engine seemed poor too. While that type of stuff is fine for Block Constructed, I’m not a big fan of Mulldrifter in Standard as the format is a lot faster. Mystical Teachings seemed like something we should be interested in, as it would give us an edge against Faeries and the mirror.
After chatting about the deck with LSV, here is the list with which I played my first couple of queues:
As you can see, the list is quite similar to ManuelB’s offering. LSV and I decided on a 2/2 split for Pyroclasm and Firespout as we weren’t quite sure which was better. I really wanted to be able to hold my own against RDW in the first game, hence the triple Runed Halo. I don’t really like the second Pact of Negation, but I had an open slot and Luis tried to tell me it was very valuable.
The sideboard is kind of a strange one. If Faeries doesn’t have a Bitterblossom, Detritivore is going to destroy them most of the time. Even if they do have Bitterblossom, all is not lost. You have plenty of cheap counterspells like Pact and Guttural Response to try and force through a Crovax.
Teferi’s Moat plus Runed Halo on Demigod is basically a Solitary Confinement against Red decks, so that definitely seemed like the best plan against them.
My first couple of queues were more or less a comedy of errors. In the first one, I played against an interesting mirror match featuring such hits as Desert and Akroma, Angel of Wrath. I lost the first game to an Akroma that just wouldn’t die, thanks to Makeshift Mannequin. MTGO then decided that I shouldn’t be able to sideboard, as I “didn’t own Rune Snags,” despite them being right there. I had to log in and out to correct the problem, but it was too late and the game had already started.
I managed to win game 2, although I’m sure my opponent thought I was a complete idiot for keeping in Firespout and Runed Halo. I got to sideboard for the final game, but it was over quickly when my opponent Snagged my Wall, played Coalition Relic, and then ran out a Teferi into my two untapped lands. I didn’t have a Rune Snag, and that was basically that. I decided that I needed something extra in my board to kill Teferi.
I was pretty happy when my opponent’s first land drop in the second queue was a Plains, but then I proceeded to throw the match away by walking my Teferi’s Moat into a Mana Tithe in the deciding game. As soon as I cast it, I knew he had it and I knew I was going to lose because of it… and sure enough. Justice, etc.
I think I just needed to tighten up a bit, as it had been a while since I had played Standard, or even Magic Online.
Round 1: DragonRider (Faeries)
He wins the roll and mulligans once. I keep a hand that could turn out to be great or awful: Cloudthresher, Cryptic Command, Firespout, Pyroclasm, Prismatic Lens, Vivid Meadow, and Mystic Gate. He leads with Mutavault while I draw a Rune Snag. I’m thinking about taking a break from MTGO after he plays Secluded Glen and a Bitterblossom, as I assume that my record is going to plummet to 0-3. However, you should never give up.
I draw another non-land, this time a Cryptic Command, and just play land and the Lens. His turn is spent making a token and fearlessly attacking with Mutavault. My draw step is a Tolaria West, and I just play it while he had another land and another attack with Mutavault. My next draw is a Wall of Roots, but I don’t play it as I want to try to bounce his Blossom with my Cryptic.
When he plays a Swamp, I basically figure he’s running Randle’s Great Britain Nationals winning list. Being able to spot these differences in deck lists and keeping up with the times will give you a huge edge, as most people will simply copy a net deck and make few changes. They play something inconspicuous like a basic Swamp, and suddenly you know their entire list.
Anyway, he makes the standard attack and passes, while my Cryptic trades with his Rune Snag. I draw a Vivid land and cast the Wall. It’s possible that I should have used one of my sweepers here, but I wasn’t really planning ahead. I also kind of thought I would have more time than I did. The Pendelhaven he played on the next turn messed with my Pyroclasm and Cloudthresher plans. I also had to spend my turn fighting over his Mistbind Clique, a fight which I won.
On his turn he attacks me down to three by pumping with Pendelhaven, which was possibly a mistake as a Clasm or Thresher is basically my only out and would now kill everything. I have limited answers to his token army and Bitterblossom, in addition to being on a low life total, so I decide that the best course of action is probably just trying to get Thresher to resolve. I just throw it out there, and he has the Cryptic.
I probably could have just Pyroclasmed and played out some additional mana sources that I had drawn, but then he would have Pendelhaven open and be able to save a guy while I would fall to one and wouldn’t be able to put him in The Abyss as easily. Also, for every draw step I give him, it’s all the more likely that he will have a counterspell.
I sideboard in the Response, Thresher, Dreadhip, Mischief, Crovaxes, and two Detritivores for the Clasms, Firespouts, Halos, and Nucklavee.
My opener was solid: Vivid Meadow, Dreadship Reef, Fungal Reaches, Flooded Grove, Rune Snag, Careful Consideration, and Mystical Teachings. It became even better when he mulliganed to five. He did start by Thoughtseizing my Careful Consideration, but with Teachings in my hand, it wasn’t really an issue. I start charging my lands while he just plays a couple lands. When I finally cast Mystical Teachings, he just concedes with five lands in play, having not cast a spell since the Thoughtseize.
In game 3 he mulligans once, but he has the nuts: Ancestral and then Bitterblossom. My hand was pretty sketchy because of the fact that I was on the draw with a pair of Rune Snags, but it also had a Crovax, a Cryptic, a chargeland, and he’d mulliganed, so I kept.
I draw Guttural Response, Detritivore, and then the lands I need, while he doesn’t seem to be drawing lands at all. When I cast a Wall of Roots on turn 4, he Snags it to tap me out so that his Ancestral resolves. Despite drawing four cards, he doesn’t find any lands and has to discard. Meanwhile, I suspend my Detritivore for one to ensure that I can resolve my Crovax next turn, which causes him to concede.
I definitely feel like I got a bit lucky that match, but I feel like game 3 probably would have worked out in my favor regardless of if he had lands or not.
Round 2: unreal_lucky (RDW)
I win the roll and keep two Halos, Cryptic, Wall of Roots, Reflecting Pool, Dreadship Reef, and Vivid Meadow. His first turn Figure makes me a pretty happy man, especially once I draw the third Halo, which I use to stop his Figure. His Boggart Ram-Gang a turn later tells me that it’s likely he doesn’t have Magus in the deck, which makes things a lot easier for me. I Halo his Ram-Gang and any potential Demigods, while also adding some Walls.
I’m careful to keep my Walls Gouger-proof here, as there’s really no need for me to use them when I don’t have to, even if I could be charging my lands. Keeping my Walls alive is more important than possibly having some mana stored up for later.
Urza’s Factory is a pretty good draw. I use the tokens to actually kill some Gougers that he plays, and then eventually just use Cryptic Command to Falter him twice.
I side in Halo, Moats, Pyroclasm, and I realize that I would probably rather have a Dreadship Reef main instead of Fungal Reaches, so I make that swap, in addition to cutting the Pact of Negations, a Teachings, a Thresher, and a Teferi, for lack of a better card to cut.
I keep Mystic Gate, Grove of the Burnwillows, Prismatic Lens, Careful Consideration, Pyroclasm, Cryptic Command, and Firespout. While this hand might seem kind of sketchy, I am basically money with any land. Obviously I draw the Reflecting Pool first pitch. His first play is a Ram-Gang, while I spend my turn 3 drawing some cards, as next turn I get to cast Firespout and Runed Halo in addition to using all of my mana this turn. If I just Spout him this turn, I basically have to cast Halo next turn to prevent Demigod from hitting me, and then it’s like I just didn’t get to cast a Consideration to save three damage.
He adds another Ram-Gang which I â€˜Spout away, and then I Halo his Demigods. He doesn’t even have a fifth land, just a Gargadon and a Flame Javelin that puts me at seven. I draw a Teferi’s Moat and cast it, as I’m definitely going to want it in play to prevent Gargadon from ever killing me. If I get to untap, I will almost certainly win this game. He can only Javelin me down to three and pass.
I decide to Halo his Incinerates and Teachings up a Teferi that will allow me to fearlessly start chaining Teachings. The turn after I cast it, he uses an unexpected Unwilling Recruit which I have to Cryptic, drawing into a Rune Snag. He casts another one with his last mana, which I Snag.
He attempts to kill me with a Sulfurous Blast, but I counter it and flashback Teachings for another Teachings. When he passes the next turn I Teach up Nucklavee and play it. He casts a Figure, but I just bounce Nucklavee and tap his team, then replay Nucklavee. Basically he’s in the Fog lock and I can’t really lose unless I mess up. I end up giving him a chance to beat me by not playing my Runed Halo, but I didn’t think I would need it as his burn spells are kind of expensive and I had some counterspells.
He levels up his Figure to a 4/4 and untaps, then enters his attack phase without making his Figure a flier. I do the standard tap your guys and bounce Nucklavee, and then replay it and attack him down to seven. He makes his Figure an 8/8 at my end of turn, which I Slaughter Pact.
He Skreds my Nucklavee, which I realize now that I have to counter, as I need it to kill him. He has six mana untapped with two cards, so if they are his last Flame Javelins I lose, as I can only counter two spells. I decided to take the risk of him having both Javelins and counter the Skred. He only has a Sulfurous Blast though, so he dies on my turn.
I forgot that I would have to counter a Skred. I guess I kind of just assumed that he sided it out because he had Gargadon, Unwilling Recruit, and Sulfurous Blast, but that’s what I get for making assumptions.
My opponent offers the split in the finals, which I happily accept, as I wouldn’t mind changing my deck and taking a break. This is the new list:
I was overly worried about beating RDW with all those main deck Halos, which were pretty bad against everything else. I didn’t think I would like having two of each Pact main deck, but so far it’s been fine. Pyroclasm is useless against a bunch of random situations that were coming up. Lord of Atlantis, Wizened Cenn, Glorious Anthem, Pendelhaven, and Boggart Ram-Gang are all reasons to play Firespout instead. You are normally pretty happy if they spend turn 2 and 3 leveling up Figure anyway.
Round 1: BigSteve0034 (RDW)
I win the roll and keep five good lands and two Mystical Teachings. You might be thinking that I should probably be mulliganing some of these hands, but honestly this hand is either the nuts or terrible. Even if he is mono Red, my hand is still okay as long as I draw anything remotely good.
He leads with Figure and I draw a Cryptic Command. BigSteve casts a Magus of the Scroll and levels up his Figure while I draw another land. His Gouger goes unanswered. I use a Cryptic to Fog on his turn, and he has the Magus of the Moon. When my draw is a blank, I concede.
For the second game, I keep Wall of Roots, Slaughter Pact, Nucklavee, Teferi’s Moat, and three lands. His Blood Knight doesn’t seem to compare well to my Wall, and his three-drop is a lowly Fanatic. I draw a Mystical Teachings on turn 5 and then use Luminesce to counter a Skred and prevent him from attacking, while Teachings finds me a Careful Consideration to dig for a Halo, as Demigod is about the only way I can lose right now.
I cast the Consideration on my turn, and cast the Halo that I find. He probably felt pretty good about his Magus of the Moon, but Slaughter Pact took it down. Teferi’s Moat made the majority of his creatures useless. Shortly thereafter, Teferi and Nucklavee lock it up.
We both keep our openers for the decider, although mine lacks answers to Magus of the Moon: Wall of Roots, Teferi, Careful Consideration, Grove of the Burnwillows, Dreadship Reef, and a pair of Vivid Meadows. He leads with a Figure while I draw a Teferi’s Moat.
His second turn is spent playing a Megaliths and leveling up his Figure. I play the Reflecting Pool that I draw and my Wall, all the while chanting, “NoMagusNoMagusNoMagus.” Thankfully, all he has is an Incinerate for my Wall after I block. Thankfully, I peel another one. He simply runs out an Ashenmoor Gouger and I’m very happy to be able to stop his team with a Moat, all the while on 18 life, despite being on the draw. He even missed his fourth land drop, so I knew no Demigods were forthcoming.
His fifth turn only brings another Mountain, while I am happy to spend my turn drawing four cards from Careful Consideration. Sadly, I draw mostly blanks except for a Mystical Teachings. The only thing I’m worried about here is him drawing lands and hitting me with Demigods, so I have to find a Runed Halo quickly.
My opponent again fails to draw the required land and adds a Blood Knight instead. I play my sixth land and cast a main phase Teachings for a Consideration, using my Wall of Roots for mana so that I still have four available on his turn to cast the draw spell or my Cryptic. It’s being able to use your mana efficiently like this that is going to allow you to pull ahead, or even come from behind in close games.
He plays out a Pithing Needle on my Urza’s Factory, but when I start tapping mana in his end step, he sees the writing on the wall and concedes, albeit a bit prematurely.
Round 2: Hoyzain (RB Burn)
I win the die roll and keep a pretty solid hand of Rune Snag, Firespout, Careful Consideration, Cryptic Command, Dreadship Reef, Yavimaya Coast, and Reflecting Pool. I lead with the Pool and pass, while he simply plays a Swamp. I draw a Slaughter Pact and end up Snagging his Keldon Marauders. I’m not quite sure what would cause my opponent to play Swamps in his burn deck, but I’m sure I’ll find out eventually.
Sure enough, he casts a Dusk Urchins on his next turn, which I have to let resolve. I have a few options on my turn. I could cast Careful Consideration, which would almost certainly use my mana in the most efficient manner, as holding open Cryptic doesn’t seem like the best idea. Firespouting away his Urchins would probably save me a lot of trouble in the long run as he wouldn’t draw any extra cards off it, but that would leave me without answers to any follow-up Black creatures. I could deal with a Magus with my Black Pact, so that wasn’t really an issue.
I decide to go with the Consideration, hoping he might commit another threat to the board next turn. However, I probably should have just played it safe by Firespouting. His Keldon Marauders should be a giveaway to the fact that his deck is more burn based, as opposed to Michael Jacob style Red decks with hard-to-handle giant animals and only eight spells with reach. Against the burn deck, I had the option of stopping his Lava Axe that drew him three cards, and when you think about it like that, it just seems like a terrible play.
Anyway, my four cards were pretty bad, only another Firespout and some lands. Obviously he didn’t add anymore pressure and just Flame Javelined me at my end of turn, which ate the Rune Snag I had just drawn. Perhaps that was just bait though, as Ashenmoor Gouger came down next turn while he was still stuck on three lands. My hand was pretty bad, so I used Cryptic to buy me a turn and hopefully draw me into something relevant. Sadly, I drew another land and watched my opponent suspend a Rift Bolt.
I could double Firespout away my opponent’s board, but I decided to Fog him again when I ripped another Cryptic. An end of turn Incinerate and the Rift Bolt brought me down to nine, while Cryptic drew me into a Mystical Teachings. At least now I would have something to do with all my mana, assuming I didn’t just die instead. When all he did was suspend another Rift Bolt and passed, I used the counters on my Dreadship Reef to power out a Teachings for Teachings, since I was going to have eight mana next turn.
It is very possible that I should have used either the first or second Cryptic to counter one of his Rift Bolts instead of simply drawing a card, as I shouldn’t really feel safe at six life, but I was kind of digging for a Runed Halo as I was pretty sure he had at least one Demigod in hand. However, Demigod wasn’t entirely relevant at this point, as he was stuck on three lands, I was already in burn range, and he had a clock.
In his attack step, I cast Teachings for a Cryptic to tap his team, drawing into the Halo that I was kind of searching for. He decided to pass again. On my turn I cast the Halo and got Incinerated in response. I could simply double Spout away his guys here, but then I would be dead to any burn spell, so I figured the best course of action at this point is Halo-ing the Gouger, and flashing back Teachings on my main phase for a Pact of Negation, so he can’t burn me in response.
He finally gets to draw three cards off his Dusk Urchins, but only plays a fourth land and passes while I happily draw a Rune Snag, which counters a Flame Javelin. A Demigod finally gets cast, which I have to Pact. End of turn I flashback Teachings for Careful Consideration, hoping to draw into my Runed Halo but miss. I do have another Pact, which is good if he only has one burn spell and a bunch of non-Demigod creatures, but he has the Demigod and I have no way to stop them.
I’m pretty sure I should have won that game. I was overly focused on finding a Teachings or just drawing into some gas because of how land-heavy my draw was. I didn’t want to use a Cryptic to not draw a card and then just be flooded and defenseless, but I didn’t really have any other option. Going down to six and drawing a card instead was just too risky.
I sideboard a little bit differently here, as Slaughter Pact is basically useless.
I keep the very sick opener of Runed Halo, Cryptic Command, Teferi’s Moat, Mystic Gate, Reflecting Pool, Yavimaya Coast, and Grove of the Burnwillows. He has a Mountain but no one-drop, while I draw a Vivid Meadow and cast Runed Halo on Demigod, as I know that I’m going to want one eventually and will probably have to cast Moat on my turn 5, leaving me vulnerable to his hasty flier.
His two-drop is a surprise Sygg, River Cutthroat, cast with the help of Graven Cairns. He has a third land, but thankfully only attacks and passes. I draw a Wall of Roots, but decide to simply sit on Cryptic mana, which I use on his end of turn Flame Javelin. Perhaps he didn’t know how his Sygg worked, or maybe he misclicked.
On his turn I get Incinerated, Keldon Maraudered, and attacked, while he gets to draw a card. I could cast Moat on my turn, but I’m pretty sure I would rather have it on Black instead of Red, mostly because of Dusk Urchins. Plus, I have the Wall to block his Marauders anyway. He attacks, Javelins me, and again gets to rip another free card. A topdecked Firespout puts an end to that nonsense, although I’m on five life at this point and he’s still got three cards.
However, most of his cards become worthless when I play my Moat on Black. Over the next couple of turns, I’m making Factory tokens while he’s just casting the useless creatures that he draws. Eventually, I draw into a Mystical Teachings and play it safe, searching up a counterspell and always keeping mana open for it. Eventually, I tutor up Teferi and then Nucklavee and put him in the lock.
My opener for game 3 is a miserable six-lander, but my six-card hand is a very solid Rune Snag, Firespout, and four lands. He also mulligans.
His turn 1 is a suspended Rift Bolt, while I draw the ever important Runed Halo. His Marauders can’t get around my Wall of Roots, and his turn 3 and 4 are simply draw-go. If I had a Teachings at this point, the game would be over, but I’m not exactly complaining either way. I draw into the second and third Runed Halo to turn his big burn spells into do nothings.
He finally finds a land for a Dusk Urchins, but I gladly Firespout it away. His Sygg meets the same fate. A Moat for Black all but completes the lock. When I draw Teachings a few turns later I knew I had the game won, although I played it fairly poorly to begin with, trying to get Teferi to stick when he obviously had a bunch of dead burn spells in his hand. I used some excess Cryptics to avoid taking damage off his Soul Reaps, but let it go when he threw a Flame Javelin at it. Instead, I made some Factory tokens and tapped his guys a couple times with Commands.
Round 3: Millenium9999 (RDW)
I win the die roll and mulligan a one-lander into Tolaria West, Vivid Meadow, Rune Snag, Nucklavee, Firespout, and Cryptic Command. A solid hand to mulligan into, but sadly I was on the play and didn’t draw a land that would come into play untapped, and had to let his Blood Knight resolve. However, it might have worked out for the best as I got to Snag his Gouger next turn instead.
I didn’t draw a land, but Prismatic Lens is almost as good. His second Blood Knight was basically the perfect card he could have played, as I was probably going to have to Firespout away his singleton Knight anyway. He Demigods me down to eight, but I just bounce it and draw a card when he attacks again.
He has the Magus post-combat, and when my draw step is a blank, I scoop â€˜em up.
My opener for the second game is Vivid Creek, Vivid Meadow, Prismatic Lens, Wall of Roots, Rune Snag, Teferi’s Moat, and a Firespout. That hand has everything I need except a Runed Halo. He leads with Fanatic and I draw a Careful Consideration. He just attacks and passes, while I sigh when I draw the second Consideration and play a Wall. He’s got a Magus, but I’m not really worried. The Halo I was looking for shows up, but for now I’m content with just playing the Prismatic Lens. Hopefully I can Firespout and still Snag his next threat, while only taking an extra damage.
My Wall predictably gets Incinerated and I draw another, but decide to Spout away his guys, so that I can Halo Demigod the next turn if he has it, which he does. I draw a Reflecting Pool and play the Halo and Wall. He’s got a Gouger but I one-up him with a Moat. He tops my Moat considerably with a Manabarbs. My knee jerk reaction is to concede, but I decide to play it out, as I’m not quite dead yet, and can always find a Runed Halo.
I draw a land, another Lens which I cast, and some more counters. I finally decide to go digging with a Careful Consideration that costs me two damage to cast. He Incinerates me down to six and then tries to Flame Javelin me, which I Snag. I end up on a lowly three life, but I found a Luminesce.
End of his turn, I cast the lowly White instant and Cryptic Command the Manabarbs. I cast a Consideration on my turn and pass with three counters in my hand. He casts an Avalanche Riders, but I don’t really care, as I have enough mana and should probably save my permission for his cards that actually kill me. When I draw a Teachings a few turns later, it’s basically locked up.
I think that it was kind of awkward that he never replayed the Manabarbs, as it was possible that I didn’t have the counterspell. At the very least, he should have just traded it for a Rune Snag.
I don’t have anything in my board to deal with Manabarbs, and that probably won’t change. Playing one Krosan Grip isn’t exactly a good answer. Something like Flashfreeze might help, but they are very narrow and I basically need all my sideboard slots, in addition to not really having anything I would want to side out against Red decks. I just need to place more emphasis on the importance of having counterspell mana available when he would be able to cast the Barbs.
Thankfully, after playing two games where I’m basically mana screwed, I get a nice opener for the final game: Grove of the Burnwillows, Reflecting Pool, Dreadship Reef, Mystic Gate, Wall of Roots, Cryptic Command, Teferi. It gets kind of scary when I draw two lands to start off, but my opponent doesn’t have any pressure. I make a pretty big mistake on turn 3, when I play a charge land instead of something that would allow me to Cryptic his Avalanche Riders or Manabarbs. Thankfully, he didn’t have it. I was just on autopilot and not really thinking.
He just had a Blood Knight and a Murderous Redcap. My opponent probably thought activating his Ghitu Encampment was a good idea until Teferi ambushed him. I used one of my many counters on a Manabarbs, and Haloed Demigod. When he cast a Magus of the Moon, I decided it was a good time to use the Firespout, which killed my Teferi with the help of his Redcap, but left him with a 1/1, a Megaliths, and one card in hand against my Cryptic, Snag, Luminesce, and Wall. I liked my chances.
Luminesce countered an attempted Flame Javelin on my Wall, and then the race was on between his Megaliths versus the top of my deck. Nucklavee arrived a couple of turns later, and went in for twenty.
I’m pretty confident with the list at the moment, although I can (and will) always try to improve. Faeries, RDW, Elves, Reveillark, Merfolk, and the mirror are the only decks I am worried about right now, with Swans and Torrent being the honorable mentions, and I feel with some tight play I can beat all of them.
So, do you guys like this type of format for an article or should I just stick to what I’ve been doing in the past? Let me know in the forums.
I feel like it’s appropriate to leave you with a couple of MTGO quotes from my favorite opponents…
largebrandon: Man, I really do hate people like you. Your fancy foils and decent rating. You think you are hot sh**, but you really aren’t.
Warriors_T: Anyway, from what I’ve heard, your clan is filled with sore losers who disconnect when losing, who flame opponents, etc
The second quote holds a special place in my heart, as it was from a time when my clan was simply ten of my own accounts.
Thanks for reading, and see you next week!