One Step Ahead – Recapping the Minnesota $5K

Wednesday, September 17th – Last weekend saw what is possibly the Last Hurrah of Time Spiral Standard…. the Minnesota $5k event. While Gerry Thompson didn’t manage to set the field afire, he was there to document some of the more interesting plays and stories from the tournament floor…

The Minnesota 5K was certainly interesting. While I didn’t win (not even close), StarCityGames.com own Owen Turtenwald did, with the same 75 from his article. Congratulations to him!

I was out of contention after round 3, which was nothing short of disappointing. However, I did re-learn the importance of byes. The day before the 5K, I had the opportunity to go to the store early and play in some trials, but since they only awarded one bye, I didn’t deem them worthy of my time or money. Naturally, I lost round 1. Who’s to say how things would have gone had I had a bye, but ultimately I wasn’t playing very well and I definitely wasn’t running good.

I replaced a couple cards from the list in my article from two weeks ago, but didn’t make any major changes. Initially, I was excited for this tournament because I was expecting there to be a ton of creature decks. I saw almost the exact opposite when I was walking around in between rounds. Blue was everywhere. Elves was almost non-existent, and RDW was only a tiny portion of the field. I had no idea how all of these people had managed to come to different conclusions than I had, but it was readily apparent that I had a bad deck for the tournament.

Sadly, the turnout was a disappointing 135. Hopefully, that doesn’t negatively impact the odds of there being more 5Ks in my neighborhood.

First round I won the die roll and mulliganed into a hand of Rune Snag, Pact of Negation, two Wall of Roots, Vivid Meadow, and Vivid Creek. My opponent started with Island, Ancestral Visions, and a second turn Calciform Pools. Obviously I wasn’t up against anything I would consider a “real” deck. His second Calciform Pools put him way ahead, and his second and third Ancestrals all but cemented his victory.

I managed to resolve one Careful Consideration (which he definitely should have fought over, as I have several dead cards in my deck), but I failed to find a Mystical Teachings that would have kept me in the game. Instead, he was able to maintain his lead.

At one point, he played a morph with seven mana left open. As my hand was Rune Snag, Firespout, and Runed Halo, I had to Snag it so that he couldn’t flip it if it were a Brine Elemental. He Snagged my Snag, I paid the two, and then, surprisingly, he just let his morph get countered. I expected to have to trade two of my cards for one of his, but instead my dead card traded with two of his solid cards. Regardless, I was still behind and didn’t put up a fight after that.

Second game, we were doing the usual “draw go” thing. He had a chargeland and I didn’t, which allowed him to push his Teferi past my hand that contained only Cryptic Commands. I untapped, played my eighth land, and bounced his Teferi. When he replayed it on his turn, he had another counterspell. I had my own Teferi for the trade, and confidently passed the turn with Rune Snag for four, Rune Snag for six, and Pact of Negation versus basically his nothing. However, all he needed was an Urza’s Factory, and I was dead in a couple turns.

That loss was extremely frustrating for several reasons. I feel that with Teachings in my deck, I should be favored. The games are always going to go long, so I should be able to find them before I get kolded. I have more drawing power than him, more lands (and probably the same amount of chargelands post board), and my sideboard is especially sick against his deck. An Imp’s Mischief on Ancestral is almost certainly game, as is a Detritivore. I also have a Tolaria to find my Factory where he probably only has one.

Sigh. Maybe next time I’ll play in some trials.

Second round my opponent won the roll, but had to mulligan once. I kept Firespout, Runed Halo, Slaughter Pact, lands, obviously hoping that he was some sort of aggressive deck. Thankfully he was, and he ran directly into Firespout by playing Shadow Guildmage, Mogg War Marshal, and Magus of the Moon. He could only muster a Bitterblossom after that, but it wasn’t an issue.

I mulliganed to start the second game and had to keep a two lander with Wall of Roots. He Thoughtseized away my Firespout and started the token beats. I’m stuck on two lands for three or four turns, but eventually cast Careful Consideration to find some more. He manages to play a Magus of the Moon, but I cast a Nucklavee to get back the Spout and a Cryptic Command. He can only get me down to one with an alpha strike, and Firespout puts me firmly in control.

Third round I played against an unconventional Faerie deck. While he had the usual suspects, he also had Ponder instead of Ancestral (which is always wrong), and at least three Swamps. I got to play first and kept Wall of Roots, Teferi, and five lands. I would definitely keep this hand against any random opponent, especially if I had a Dreadship Reef. He mulliganed and didn’t seem to have a very good draw. I was able to sneak in Teferi when he tapped low for a Spellstutter, presumably setting up Mistbind Clique for next turn. Sure enough, he had the Clique and it got in for 20 with the help of a Scion.

I drew two more Wall of Roots, the other Teferi, and lands that game.

I started to make the standard sideboarding changes, but realize that Mischief is probably bad due to his lack of Ancestrals. Detritivore also loses its effectiveness when my opponent has all those basics. In the end, I kept in some miser’s cards: one Firespout, one Runed Halo, and one Detritivore. I figured that either of those is going to be better than the alternatives and drawing one of either of those cards is usually fine. My opponent wasn’t very good, so I assumed that with more removal, the only way he could realistically win was with Bitterblossom. If I only drew a way to deal with his Clique game 1, I would have definitely won.

Neither of us mulliganed, and I started with a Prismatic Lens, and then a Teachings for Teachings, with Crovax in the grip. My game plan revolved entirely around resolving him. I planned on casting Teachings for Pact of Negation, flashing back Teachings for Guttural Response, and then casting Crovax with double counter backup. He sort of throws a wrench into my plans by playing two Scions. I could cast Slaughter Pact in response to the second one, but that would set me back a turn, and I would take basically the same amount of damage and be in the same situation. There was no reason to do so. I might as well save it for a potential Mistbind Clique or something that trying to block a lethal attack.

I stuck to plan and got Crovax in there. He had a third Scion that brought me to eight, but a flashbacked Teachings found Cloudthresher to put an end to that. He did have a Mistbind Clique, but my Slaughter Pact took care of that, and my animals finished him off.

He started out game 3 with the requisite turn 2 Bitterblossom, while I had a turn 2 Prismatic Lens. On my turn 3, I had a couple of options, but hastily decided to cast Careful Consideration, which got Rune Snagged. What I should have done is simply play a Wall of Roots and charge my Reef, that way I would have a third Blue next turn to counter any potential Mistbind Cliques (which he had), and then I would also be able to play around Rune Snag. While Bitterblossom may seem like it puts me on a fast clock, I played it way too risky and lost because of it.

After he successfully Cliqued me, he had three more counterspells to stop my attempts at fighting back. Even though his draw was insane, I still had a chance if I didn’t mess up.

At that point I decided to get some food, rail bird some matches, and do some coverage later.

Round 4: Justin Meyer (Five-Color Control) versus I forgot to check (RDW)

Justin is one of Minnesota’s finest, having qualified for a few Pro Tours and even making money in his first one (granted, it was skins, but still). While, in my opinion, he is a great player, he struggles a bit at drafting and building decks. He is working with me for Berlin, so expect to see him do well there.

When I first arrived to the match, Justin wasn’t looking very good. His opponent was attacking with Demigod, Ashenmoor Gouger, and a Blood Knight. Wall of Roots was holding off the Gouger, but the other animals brought him to seven. When a Careful Consideration didn’t yield anything of value, a Flame Javelin and an Incinerate were more than enough to end the game.

Starting down a game is definitely not what you want to happen when you’re effectively in single elimination mode at 3-1, but I have seen Justin pull out of worse spots.

Meyer’s hand for the second game was about as good as it gets: Wall of Roots, Careful Consideration, Firespout, Cryptic Command, and three lands. His opponent even decided to mulligan once. Justin played his Wall while all his opponent had were Mountains, until a turn 3 Figure of Destiny. All Justin could do is charge his land and pass the turn again, as he didn’t have double Blue for his Consideration.

Justin’s opponent attempted an Everlasting Torment, a key sideboard card to fight the Five-Color Control deck’s sideboarded (and sometimes maindeck) Runed Halos, which met a Rune Snag. Justin simply played a land and passed while the Figure became a 2/2. An attack plus Incinerate got rid of the Wall, but Meyer had a Teferi. Careful Consideration dug for business but came up short. Teferi got in for three damage and Figure leveled up again.

Justin’s opponent was surprised when his Demigod of Revenge resolved, and it and the Figure attacked Justin down to ten. Teferi attacked again, and then Cryptic Command prevented a near lethal combat step. A Figure of Destiny was Rune Snagged, but his opponent elected not to pay, and instead take the opportunity to resolve an Everlasting Torment when Justin was tapped out.

Justin was planning on using Snag to tap out his opponent so he could Firespout away the second Figure, but that Torment basically removed any outs that he could have had. With it in play, he had no answer to the Demigod.

Justin drops from the tournament while his opponent advances.

One of the main reasons I had a good time at this tournament was because I got to see some old friends. Brent Heaser told me a story this round about how he had mulliganed to five in the deciding game with his Kithkin deck. He had an early Windbrisk Heights that had missed, but his draw was still pretty solid. He had enough early aggression that a Mirrorweave suddenly turned his attack lethal, but his opponent Cryptic Commanded it.

Brent had no cards in hand, so I’m sure his opponent was a bit shocked when Heaser calmly used Windbrisk Heights and flipped over a Mana Tithe to counter the Command. Brent went all the way to the finals until he got his first loss.

During round 5, the top tables were Faeries versus Five-Color Control, Faeries versus Swans, Kithkin versus BR Tokens, Faeries versus Merfolk, and a 75-card UW Lark mirror between Owen Turtenwald and Vintage all-star Tommy Kolowith.

Round 7: Owen Turtenwald (UW Lark) versus Gaudenis Vidugiris (Swans)

While technically 4-1-1, Owen had yet to lose a match so far. His loss was a concession to his friend Tommy in the stone mirror. Gaudenis is a member of the Lithuanian National Team, despite the fact that he lives in Madison, Wisconsin. He got 2nd place at Grand Prix: Indianapolis and after this year will be at least level 4. Owen needs no introduction.

OwenTheEnchanter keeps his opener of Kitchen Finks, Venser, Momentary Blink, Mulldrifter, two Plains, and an Island… and so does Gau. Owen Ponders on turn 2 and shuffles, which will continue to be the trend. A second turn Lotus Bloom is suspended from Gau, while Turtenwald plays his Finks. Gau has a Telling Time to dig for his combo, but isn’t quite there yet. Owen evokes a Mulldrifter, attempting to dig for lands, but misses. A Vendilion Clique gives him some help by cycling a Careful Consideration, and a pair of Thoughtseizes take a Ponder and Venser. Finally, Vendilion gets in for three damage.

Owen attacks back and Sowers the Vendilion. Lotus comes into play and Gau has the Seismic Assault, but not the Swans. Assault manages to steal the Vendilion back, but the Finks keep coming. Gaudenis has another Thoughtseize, but Owen Ponders into the nuts, and is able to Pact of Negation the Swan when it finally shows up. Seismic Assault stops the bleeding for a couple turns, but Owen is able to Venser it with Blink backup, and Gau concedes.

Owen sides in Unicorns and Remove Souls for some Sowers, Reveillarks, and Careful Considerations.

Owen mulligans a one-lander into two Island, two Kitchen Finks, Adarkar Wastes, and Mystic Gate. Gau has a turn 2 Thoughtseize which takes the Ronom Unicorn, while Turtenwald can only Ponder and shuffle. Owen plays out two Finks, while Gau has a pair of Swans. The Finks are winning the race, especially after they are joined by a third ouphe and a Mutavault. The Swans have to stay him, and Owen gets to draw five cards, while Gaudenis falls to three. A Telling Time is no help, and Gau reveals a hand of all lands.

After round 7, there is one person undefeated at 7-0, two at 6-0-1, and five players are 6-1. Normally those players would be able to ID in, but Owen is the wildcard at 5-1-1. If he wins his last match against a 5-2, he would knock out the 6-1-1 with the lowest breakers. If the two 6-1s play it out, and the 5-2 beats Owen, that means a 6-2 will make Top 8, most likely the person who beat Owen.

Round 8: Owen Turtenwald (UW Lark) versus Trevor Jones (BR Tokens)

Trevor is another one of Minnesota’s best and brightest. While he has failed to make a splash on the Pro scene, he consistently wins in the local tournaments and even started 8-0 at Grand Prix: Milwaukee way back. His token deck is in for a rough matchup, especially considering that Owen has Crovax after sideboard. While Jones has the full amount of Sudden Deaths in his sideboard, will he have enough foresight to bring them in?

Neither player has to mulligan and Trevor starts off with a Mutavault and a Mogg War Marshal, while Owen can only accelerate with a Coldsteel Heart. Trevor pays the echo and gets in for three damage with the help of a Pendelhaven. Turtenwald puts a stop to the beatdown with a Kitchen Finks. The 1/1s come marching in anyway, and half of a Finks trades with the token, while Trevor adds a Husk.

Owen decides to Sower the Husk and, after some thought, Trevor decides to allow it, despite the fact that Owen could sacrifice it to itself at any time. At this point I wasn’t sure if Trevor had Sudden Death main, or even if he was just trying to rope Owen into making a bad play later by allowing Sudden Death to steal back a Husk in a later game. It was kind of clear that the game was going downhill for Trevor, so it was possible that he could have been setting Owen up. If that was the case I would have had a whole new respect for Trevor.

Maybe the game wasn’t going downhill after all, as Jones had a Siege-Gang Commander to seemingly put him slightly ahead, should he get an untap step. Owen evoked a Mulldrifter, sacked it the Husk, and crashed in with everybody. A second Finks joined the team. Trevor attacked with his pair of 1/1s and shipped the turn back. Before combat, Siege-Gang shot down the Sower while the Husk predictably ate itself.

The Finks got in there again, this time trading for a Mutavault, tapping Trevor out. Turntables took this opportunity to Sower the Siege-Gang and even had a Coldsteel Heart set to Red! Trevor had nothing left, while Owen still had a full tank. A Blinked Reveillark was more than enough to convince Trevor to try his luck in the second game.

Jones starts off with a mulligan, while Owen plays the powerful U Sorcery “shuffle your deck, draw a card.” Trevor’s first play is a Husk, while Owen is fine with evoking a Mulldrifter and discarding an excess land. A surprise Avalanche Riders sets him back, but he’s still got plenty of mana, including a Mind Stone. Jones sacks the Riders to Husk in his upkeep, and then Puppeteer Cliques the Mulldrifter and attacks.

Owen has another Mulldrifter, but has to chump block the Husk when Siege-Gang Commander threatens to make it lethal. A Ponder attempts to dig for answers, but Owen has to shuffle again. He was slow rolling the Wrath of God, but his hand was five lands, while Trevor got another use out of his Clique.

Jones attacks, Thoughtseizes to make sure the coast is clear, and adds two more threats. Owen draws and a blank and it’s onto game 3.

Owen keeps Mulldrifter, Venser, Mutavault, Coldsteel Heart, Plains, and two Islands, while Trevor has to mulligan again. Coldsteel Heart accelerates Owen, but Trevor takes the wind out of his sails with a Thoughtseize, leaving only a Venser. Fulminator Mage makes an appearance, but Venser “counters” it and gets in for some damage, alongside a Mutavault.

Avalanche Riders blows up a Plains and then attacks, which was possibly a bit overzealous, as Owen cracks back for four damage. Fulminator makes a return appearance and immediately destroys the Mutavault. Trevor’s all-star Puppeteer Clique gets its Soul Remove, and then Owen rips Crovax, which severely hampers Trevor’s token deck.

Owen is still being aggressive, and even gets to add a Mulldrifter to his army, while Trevor can only play a miserable 1/1 Siege-Gang Commander. Owen’s hand went from all lands to stacked, and the game was all but locked up, unless Trevor could draw a miracle Sudden Death. It turns out that he did leave them in the sideboard.

Quarterfinals: Brad Nelson (Five-Color) versus Tyler Clatanoff (GB Elves)

You might not recognize the name Brad Nelson, but if you play Magic Online, you’ve probably lost to him at some point under the screen name fffreak. He also barely missed the Top 8 of U.S. Nationals two years ago. Tyler Clatanoff would simply like the entire world to know that he “invented” GB Death Cloud. He just wants some credit, ladies and gentlemen. On paper, the matchup heavily favors Nelson, whose card drawing and removal should trump the lowly creature deck. However, Tyler has anti control tech that could turn the tide in his favor…

Tyler had an embarrassing Tarmogoyf on turn 2, while Brad elected to not play Wall of Roots on second turn, instead keeping up Snag mana. A Kitchen Finks wasn’t deemed worthy enough to waste the counterspell on, and the Wall came down the next turn. When the Finks attacked, Brad didn’t want to risk losing his Wall and simply took the damage. Fffreak had a second Wall and blocked this time, and Snagged the Murderous Redcap that attempted to finish it off.

When Tyler activated two manlands and attacked the next turn, Teferi made an appearance and mugged a Treetop Village. Tyler was out of pressure at this point, and simply passed the turn twice, while Brad had an end of turn Mulldrifter, courtesy of Teferi. Some five-mana Vanquishers were played in the next couple of turns, one of which traded with Teferi. Brad gassed up the tank with a Careful Consideration and elected not to Cryptic Command a Profane Command for five. Instead, he double Condemned some attackers, sending his opponent to 28 life and him down to 11.

Brad wasn’t worried as he had Urza’s Factory online, and even a Cloudthresher. After a few turns of making tokens, some Cryptic Commands cleared the way.

Brad definitely wanted to bring in three Runed Halo, two Archon of Justice, and another Condemn, but didn’t know what to take out.

“No one plays this deck on Magic Online anymore! How am I supposed to know how to sideboard against it?”

Eventually, he decided to do a little shaving and cut a Relic, a Teferi, a Careful Consideration, two Pact of Negations, and a card that I missed.

Tolaria West, Vivid Meadow, Mulldrifter, Mystical Teachings, Firespout, and two Rune Snags was a solid opener for Brad. Tyler started off strong with a Llanowar, Vanquisher, and then attacked with both and a Mutavault. Brad Spouted them away and Tyler could only attack with a Mutavault again. Wall of Roots looked like it’s going to put a stop to the beatdown, but an evoked Shriekmaw attempted to clear the way. Nelson Snagged it for two to make his other Snag live and prevent two damage.

Brad drew an Archon of Justice and excitedly played it, and then lost his hand to a Mind Shatter for three. Playing a Mulldrifter here would have protected him from Mind Shatter, while also accomplishing mostly the same thing: holding off the Mutavault. Brad attributed this turn to where he lost the match.

Fffreak still managed to find a sixth land and flashback a Teachings for Consideration, hoping to dig for answers. However, Clatanoff had another Mind Shatter, this time ripping a Condemn and an Oona from his hand. The manlands continued their assault, and Tyler even had a Colossus. Nucklavee was a powerful topdeck, but Eyeblight’s Ending got rid of that. When Careful Consideration showed him all blanks, Brad scooped ‘em up.

Both players kept for the decider, and Tyler was the first to add anything to the board with his Treetop, and then Vanquisher. The Treetop and Vanquisher attacked, but when Brad reached five mana, only the Vanquisher attacked. Tarmogoyf went unmolested, and sure enough, Brad had the Teferi. Vanquisher got in for another three damage, but Colossus was Dismissed, and then Wall of Roots was flashed into play.

Teferi finally traded with the 3/3. Clatanoff decided to move in on a Mind Shatter for three, which Brad could only respond to with a Careful Consideration. In the end, Brad only had a Mulldrifter left, but it drew him into a Runed Halo, which held off the Tarmogoyf. A second Mulldrifter allowed Brad to double up on a Treetop, but another one kept charging in. When Treetop attacked next turn, Brad bounced it and drew a card.

Tyler contemplated for a while, but decided not to cast a lethal Profane Command into any potential Rune Snags. Waiting a turn didn’t cost him, as Brad had nothing.

The Top 8 was:

Owen Turtenwald (UW Lark) versus Will Tarbox (Faeries) (Owen wins)
Zach Stolp (Five-Color Control) versus Tommy Kolowith (UW Lark) (Zach wins on the back of a huge Mind Shatter)
Brad Nelson (Five-Color Control) versus Tyler Clatanoff (GB Elves) (Tyler wins)
Brent Heaser (Kithkin) versus Stephan Hink (RG Ramp) (Brent wins)

Top 4:

Owen avenges Tommy by defeating Zach
Heaser defeats Tyler

Owen defeats Heaser to become the 5K champion!

I hope you all enjoyed the recap. It seemed like a fitting way to end this Standard format. Most of the decks were well represented and, in the end, one of the best players in Top 8 won.

See you guys next week!