Peebles Primers – The StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard Open *Top 8*

Read Benjamin Peebles-Mundy every Wednesday... at StarCityGames.com!Wednesday, February 27th – Each week, Benjamin Peebles-Mundy takes us through some of the more intricate and popular Standard decks, examining builds and showing us the way to success. At the StarCityGames.con $5000 Standard open, it was time to put his money where his mouth is. If you followed Evan’s video coverage this past weekend, you’ll know he did well. Click here for the story straight from BPM himself!

A friend of mine had been bugging me about going to Charlotte for the StarCityGames.com Standard Open for many weeks before I finally decided that it was worth the trip. The problem, though, was that I didn’t have a deck that I really wanted to play. Prior to Morningtide, I was a fan of the Mannequin deck, but I thought that it wasn’t a good choice for this particular tournament, since Morningtide appeared to have weakened the deck.

My partner in crime, Steve Nagy, and I eventually settled on the Reveillark combo deck that we’d seen on the Japanese GPT circuit. For a little over a week leading up to the event, we tweaked the list and prepared for the tournament. We finally jumped in the car on Friday, and drove down to Charlotte where four of us played in the main event.

The Deck

Steve and I started with the Reveillark deck featured in the first Japanese GPT Top Eight. However a list that showed up later also heavily influenced our decisions, so I’ll include both “starting point” decklists.

Higashi Takao – GPT Shizuoka 2008: Chiba

4 Mulldrifter
4 Mirror Entity
4 Reveillark
4 Riftwing Cloudskate
3 Bonded Fetch
3 Body Double
4 Prismatic Lens
1 Mind Stone
3 Condemn
3 Momentary Blink
4 Wrath of God
5 Island
4 Plains
4 Adarkar Wastes
4 Wanderwine Hub
3 Faerie Conclave
2 Calciform Pools
1 Urza’s Factory

2 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
2 Draining Whelk
2 Sower of Temptation
1 Stonecloaker
3 Teferi’s Moat
1 Mystical Teachings
4 Flashfreeze

This is the first list I found for the deck. It is relatively straightforward (at least as much as a deck with the awkward Reveillark combo can be).

Reveillark Combo
Ishii Taisuke – GPT Shizuoka 2008: Matsumoto

3 Nimbus Maze
4 Adarkar Wastes
3 Faerie Conclave
5 Snow-Covered Plains
8 Snow-Covered Island
2 Wrath of God
4 Momentary Blink
3 Unsummon
4 Reveillark
3 Vesuvan Shapeshifter
4 Riftwing Cloudskate
2 Venser, Shaper Savant
4 Mulldrifter
4 Sower of Temptation
3 Epochrasite
4 Mutavault

3 Brine Elemental
3 Tormod’s Crypt
2 Wrath of God
4 Flashfreeze
2 Draining Whelk
1 Vesuvan Shapeshifter

This list shrugged off the actual combo, going for the simple Blink control plan. This was an important find for us because it showed us Unsummon and Venser, and it gave us the idea of boarding the combo out of the deck in certain matchups.

Here’s the deck I ran with. Although the official listings have it called “Reveillark Blink,” I christened it “L.O.L.emental.”

The Combo — I don’t think that there’s anyone left that doesn’t know what the Reveillark combo is at this point, but the abridged version is that a ton of Mirror Entity activations in response to each other (with x = 0) allows you to loop a Body Double (copying Reveillark) and some other creature, usually with a comes-into-play ability. We downplayed the combo a little bit from the initial version, cutting a single Mirror Entity and a single Riftwing Cloudskate, but we got two Vensers out of this deal. I think that this slight change is important; you swing for the win with your 2/2s a lot more often than most people seem to think. Throughout the tournament, people would ask me “if I had the combo,” seemingly unaware of the fact that they were at six and I had a bunch of Mulldrifters in play.

It’s also worth pointing out that we didn’t run any sort of actual kill card. A lot of lists that I saw floating around, either online or in local tournaments, ran a Merrow Witsniper, Mogg Fanatic, or Mudbutton Torchrunner so that comboing off could actually end the game. I didn’t like this idea much at all, for two reasons. First, it seems to me that bouncing all of your opponent’s permanents and then attacking for well over twenty on your next turn should be plenty to win you the game. The only time that I thought I might want one of these cards was when I was faced with the fact that my round 6 mirror-match opponent might be able to gain infinite life with Aven Riftwatcher. I don’t think that this corner case justifies one of these kill options, though.

Finally, I want to mention that I often will not go for the combo when my opponent has mana up, even if I have all of the pieces. There are so many cards that can trip you up mid-combo, whether we’re talking about Extirpate, Unsummon, or anything else that messes with your graveyard or your creatures. Because the existence of the combo implies the ability to attack for massive amounts of damage, it’s often correct to just pass the turn and make them deal with your attack force. In all but the strangest of circumstances, you can combo off when they try to remove your creatures.

Unsummon — This is probably the most important way in which our deck was different from most. It’s pretty hard to describe just how good Unsummon is, since it looks so simple and random. The fact is that it just does a lot of things that you really like with this deck. Since I believe that the primary plan for victory is to swing in with flying creatures, Unsummon’s ability to remove a blocker is very important. I also thought that the Reveillark deck would be the most-played deck in the room, and Unsummon allows you to interrupt their combination if they don’t have an extra Body Double for each Unsummon you’ve got in-hand. It also fits in with your Venser/Cloudskate bounce plan, allowing you to slow down aggro decks that open on something like Llanowar Elves to buy the time you need for your power cards to take over.

Venser, Shaper Savant — I think that Venser is absolutely amazing in this deck. In addition to giving you defense against something like Profane Command, Venser can hop out at the end of turn to bounce lands that represent possible counterspells. Plus he’s just as good at messing up combat as he always has been, and is just a great way to lock the game up when you combine him with Momentary Blink. Note that it’s often an advantage that Venser is Legendary; it’s pretty easy to get them into the graveyard to reuse at strange moments with a Blink on Reveillark.

Prismatic Lens — I’m certain that Prismatic Lens is superior to Mind Stone in these decks; I didn’t draw a card off my singleton Stone all weekend long. In fact, during testing we found that you just never activated the Stone’s ability, and so the Lens’s color-fixing aspect made it dramatically more appealing. I also want to mention that Prismatic Lens is tied with Mulldrifter for the spot as card I most want to see in my opening hand. After all, we’re packing tons (twenty in the main, ten in the side) of spells that cost four or more mana.

Desert — Going in, the deck we least wanted to see was Faeries. Our problem was that they could sneak in underneath our bounce spells, protect their side with Scion of Oona, and stop our big guns with Cryptic Command, Rune Snag, or Spellstutter Sprite. While Desert doesn’t actually help us resolve our spells, it does make their life much more difficult, to the point that you can buy yourself a ton of time to try to get in the game (if they don’t have a Scion of Oona). We figured that shoring up our worst matchup was worth the loss of Faerie Conclaves, especially since lands that came into play tapped could be so bad in so many situations.

The Sideboard

Serrated Arrows — Another nod to our worst matchup. Arrows isn’t the best card in the world against Faeries, but it gets the job done. It’s especially potent in this deck because you can reuse it by bouncing it with Venser or Cloudskate when it runs out of counters. Again, Scion of Oona can be a problem, but the hope is that you can kill the Scion with the Arrows once they stop your first -1/-1 counter, or that you can use Unsummon to manage Scions and buy yourself time to use the Arrows.

Magus of the Moat — I think that the Magus is actually less fragile than Teferi’s Moat, despite the fact that conventional wisdom would go the other way. Basically, I was planning on boarding in whatever Moat we did play against Elves and Kithkin, and not much else. Those decks have access to cards like Disenchant, Naturalize, Seal of Primordium, Ronom Unicorn, and Primal Command, all of which can answer Teferi’s Moat. On the other hand, many Elf-Warrior decks have no outs, either maindeck or sideboard, to Magus of the Moat, while Kithkin decks usually only have Oblivion Ring. The thing about that is that Oblivion Ring also stops Teferi’s Moat, but the Magus can be saved by Momentary Blink.

Aven Riftwatcher — A flying blocker that gains life is good against Faeries and Dragonstorm, though there’s always the chance that you’ll run into something that you didn’t see coming. This happened to me when I played against a burn deck, but usually this guy is here to block Pestermites or help you live through a Dragonstorm combo turn.

Sower of Temptation — Taking your opponent’s creature is very good against most aggro decks (specifically Kithkin and Elves), but also very potent in the mirror match. A lot of the people I talked to seemed to think that the combo was the most important part of the mirror, and while it’s something that you need to worry about, you’re much more likely to win if you just play a complete tempo game and try to bounce all of their permanents. When you can steal their Reveillark instead of bouncing it, it’s even better.

Draining Whelk — Primarily for Dragonstorm and Red/Green Mana decks, this guy is either a late-game “lock” with Momentary Blink or a huge win condition. People who get hit by the Whelk almost always visibly slump when they realize that not only is their Cloudthresher no longer resolving, they now have to find an answer to a 7/7 flyer out of a Blink Control deck.

Stonecloaker — This was our second card for the mirror matchup, though it’s also good against Blue/Black Mannequin and Blue/Black/Red Reanimator. Surprise. The reasons that we chose Stonecloaker over something like Tormod’s Crypt are many, but the important ones are that it doesn’t advertise itself ahead of time, that it bounces Mulldrifters, Vensers, and Reveillarks, and that it can actually provide a decent clock in addition to managing your opponent’s graveyard.

The Tournament

Instead of going through each matchup as a separate section, I’ll talk about them as I go over the matches I played.

Round 1 — Blink Riders

For the first couple of turns, it looked like we were playing a mirror match, because he led off with Blue and White lands, and played Aven Riftwatcher. When he searched up a Mountain with Terramorphic Expanse, I thought that he might just have it there to be able to hardcast his Mogg Fanatic, but instead he Pyroclasm’d my side away and then played Lightning Angel. Realizing that he must be playing Blink Riders, I settled down to make sure that I could either kill him with Mirror Entity or find the Body Double to combo out while protecting myself from Bogardan Hellkite with Venser. Eventually I bounced too much of his side with Cloudskate, and swung for the win.

I sideboarded in Draining Whelks and Sowers for Wraths.

The second game was very strange. I started off just drawing a ton of cards with Mulldrifter, Blink, and Reveillark, and he tried to ramp right up to eight mana with Coalition Relic. On the way, he hassled my Bonded Fetch discards with a Stonecloaker, but I managed to stop it with Draining Whelk at some point. I was able to hold off the Hellkite for a few turns by using Cloudskate and Blink to bounce his Relic and Ancient Amphitheater, but he eventually made it to eight mana anyways. Still, he needed to target my creatures, and I had so much gas that I was able to keep Unsummoning it and attack for more and more.

Throughout the match, I was worried that he might have Reveillarks of his own, since he had plenty of guys that he might want to regrow. However, he seemed to be pretty far behind in terms of matchup, since my acceleration got me out ahead of his own, and since a lot of his cards weren’t too great against my deck. Aven Riftwatcher was slightly annoying, but it was relatively easy to wait it out and the swing for the gates.


Round 2 — Dragonstorm

He led off with a Suspended Lotus Bloom, and then a chargeland that he activated on turns 2 and 3. I had a Prismatic Lens that allowed me to bounce his Lotus Bloom with Venser on his next upkeep. However, he tapped his lands for five mana, played two Rite of Flames (eight mana), and killed me with Pyromancer’s Swath, Shock, Incinerate, and a twenty-four point Grapeshot. Looking back, I think that bouncing the Lotus Bloom is the wrong play. If it resolves, he still needs a land and Rite of Flame to cast Dragonstorm, and then it’s only for three. If he has two Rite of Flames (like he did) he can easily kill me with Pyromancer’s Swath. If, instead, I wait on the Venser to bounce either a Dragonstorm copy or the Swath itself, I can clean up the mess with Wrath of God or simply live through the turn when his Grapeshot goes from dealing 21 to dealing 7.

I wanted to take out my Wraths and Unsummons, so I boarded in the Riftwatchers, Draining Whelks, and Stonecloakers. Honestly, I don’t know what I was thinking.

I started off with a third-turn Riftwatcher, while he Suspended a Bloom on turn 2 after playing a Spinerock Knoll. I bounced a Chargeland that he built up to three counters at the end of his fourth turn, and then attacked and passed. When he went for it with Pyromancer’s Swath, I was able to use Blink to live through the turn (I actually Blinked my Riftwatcher instead of the Venser because I wanted him to be locked under his Swath). When I Draining Whelked his next spell, he conceded.

I boarded out the do-nothing Stonecloakers for two Wraths, realizing that they were key to living through a Dragonstorm.

I didn’t really do a whole lot this game, sitting on a fourth-turn Venser for his fifth-turn combo, but when he went for it, he only dealt me twelve points of damage. I bounced a land when he passed the turn with me at eight, and then I just killed him with Cloudskates and Venser. To tell the truth, I don’t really know what happened on the other side of the table; I can only assume that he thought he had to try to kill me on the turn that his Lotus Bloom resolved.

Dragonstorm is a matchup I’d rather not play against, but not one that’s unbeatable. Without maindeck Aven Riftwatchers, it’s pretty hard to live through a combo turn in game 1, so you’re starting off with a likely first-game loss. Again, I’m pretty certain that the right play is to save Venser to bounce a Dragonstorm Copy or Pyromancer’s Swath, as opposed to using it against Lotus Bloom. However, I can certainly see situations where the opposite is true, such as when you have the ability to reuse the Venser with Momentary Blink. After you board, you get to dump your anti-creature cards for lifegain and counterspells, so you’re in much better shape. You do want to leave in a couple of Wraths, though, because they’re not actually dead cards; if you gain some life so that you can live through a Dragonstorm, you’re going to need a way to not die to the four dragons they pulled out of their deck.


Round 3 — UW Control

This was likely the least interesting match I played all weekend. I say this because it seemed to me that not only was the matchup heavily in my favor, my opponent got below-average draws that I was easily able to punish.

In the first game, he mulliganed to five while I started out drawing cards with Mulldrifters. I evoked the first, hardcast the second, and then bounced a Porphyry Nodes with a Cloudskate. Meanwhile, he was loading up a Calciform Pools, but I wasn’t concerned that anything too scary would hop out of it. He replayed the Nodes, I hit him for a few damage, and then he killed my Mulldrifter on his upkeep. He unloaded the Pools to play a White Akroma. I responded with Momentary Blink on my Cloudskate (meaning that there were no creatures in play, killing his Nodes), let the Akroma resolve, and then cast Unsummon. He conceded to a Reveillark.

I boarded in Draining Whelks and Sowers for my Wraths.

My opponent kept his seven cards this time, but didn’t have any plays while I resolved a third-turn Venser and a fourth-turn Cloudskate, both bouncing his lands. He passed yet again on turn 5, and I bounced two of his lands with Momentary Blink. He replayed one and passed, and I had another Blink to put him to zero permanents. Remarking that he’d rather have a five-card opener than no lands on turn 6, he conceded the game.

I think that this is just not a winnable matchup for my opponent. Counterspells aren’t great for this deck if you get a slow draw, but slipping under the permission with Venser and Cloudskate will put them so far behind that they just can’t keep up. Eventually you’ll either just kill them with hits for four to six, or combo off when they attempt to get back in the game.


Round 4 — Elf Warriors

At this point I was moved out into the Feature Match area. I was a little bit surprised that I hadn’t been out there from the start, but I figured that I needed to earn my spot there. The Feature area was actually amazing, and Evan and James were extremely nice guys. Unfortunately my memories of the games are slightly fuzzier, because I wound up talking to many more people than I had been before being moved outside. I recommend watching Evan Erwin video coverage, since I was interviewed about each match when the round ended.

In the first game, I took a mulligan down to five cards, and my five were not exactly impressive. I wound up keeping two Islands and three Wraths (on the draw) against an unknown opponent. I drew two Plains in a row and he played Llanowar Elves, so I thought that I was in decent shape, but an Obsidian Battle-Axe meant that even my Wraths weren’t going to let me stabilize. I died on turn 6.

I boarded in the three Moats and two Sowers, taking out three Cloudskates, one Bonded Fetch, and one Mirror Entity. I wanted to de-emphasize the combo while still retaining the ability to pull it off, and I wanted to turn my Cloudskates (which are largely unimpressive in this matchup because they’re so slow) into creatures that had a huge impact on the board.

We both mulliganed this time, and I went about doing essentially nothing while my opponent played three Mutavaults and started swinging. He eventually drew a Forest and started attacking for four. Meanwhile, I Evoked a Mulldrifter to try to find some answer, but basically had nothing. I ended up passing the turn, at one life, with a Reveillark in play and two mana open, and only one creature in my graveyard. My opponent, who had recently played a Llanowar Elves, could swing with his two manlands and the Elf for the win. Afraid of something, he attacked with only his two Mutavaults, which allowed me to Blink my Reveillark (drawing two cards off of Mulldrifter) and block his attack. This got me to Magus of the Moat, and when I told him that Primal Command said “non-creature” after he tried to put it on top of my deck, he conceded the game.

We both mulliganed again, and I found myself on the wrong end of a ton of manlands for the second game in a row. Sitting on the full four Reveillarks and a few Wraths, I somehow managed to slow the game down to the point where it was my two untapped Reveillarks against his four-counter Garruk, Mutavault, and Treetop Village. Again, I was at one. He activated both of his lands, used Garruk’s Overrun, and attacked me for eleven points of trample. I had Unsummon for his Village and a double-block for his Mutavault, and this again swung the game completely around. My dying Reveillark got me a Mirror Entity and a Mulldrifter (that drew both of my Vensers), so two attacks later my opponent was dead.

The Elf deck has three scary cards in it: Treetop Village, Mutavault, and Obsidian Battle-Axe. These cards are scary because they make your Wraths really terrible. By the time you’re able to cast one of them, you’ll usually find yourself at or below ten life, and spending your turn Wrathing means you’ll just get hit for five by something that you couldn’t stop. I was willing to make trades that might otherwise seem terrible just to keep his manlands off the table, because without them in play, my deck would simply overpower his.


Round 5 — Reanimator

For the first few turns, I thought I was playing against Faeries, because he started off with Secluded Glen and two Oona’s Prowlers. I changed my read to a Rogues deck when he played Looter il-Kor, but a Bonded Fetch gave away the fact that he was actually playing Reanimator. The game proceeded very strangely, as I Wrathed away his discard outlets (and primary threats), and managed his Akromas with bounce effects. Meanwhile, I had two Bonded Fetches digging and digging for the combo kill, but I still didn’t have the Body Double to complete it even when I was forty cards into my deck. Similarly, my opponent couldn’t find a Bogardan Hellkite to kill me, since I was sitting on a mere four life for multiple turns. I finally found the Body Double, and demonstrated that I knew how to bounce all of his guys and end the turn with a Venser lock in play.

I boarded out my Cloudskates and two Wraths for one Draining Whelk, two Stonecloakers, and two Sower of Temptations.

This time, I was hit early by Oona’s Prowler and Earwig Squad, which removed all of my Body Doubles. This left me without the ability to combo off, and also without the ability to piggyback his reanimation package. Meanwhile, I was trying really hard to get some sort of a plan together, but I didn’t have the right action at the right time. When I Wrathed his Squad away, he reanimated a Red Akroma. At this point, I realized that the Sowers were completely useless, and with no outs to Red Akroma, we went to game 3.

I took the Sowers back out of my deck, adding one Wrath and the last Draining Whelk. This brought the overall board plan to -3 Riftwing Cloudskate, -1 Wrath of God, +2 Draining Whelk, +2 Stonecloaker.

He led off with an Oona’s Prowler that I Unsummoned, fearing Earwig Squad. He replaced it with a third-turn Vexing Sphinx, while I just played lands. After one attack with the Sphinx, I Unsummoned it as well, leaving him with just lands and a Hellkite in the graveyard. I had a Stonecloaker that I was sitting on, but I wasn’t casting it because I didn’t want to get hit with a Makeshift Mannequin in response. I passed turn 4 after bouncing the Sphinx, and he didn’t have a land and just passed. I didn’t do anything, dropped a fifth land, and said go. At this point, he went for Dread Return, but I had Stonecloaker to stop it. I untapped and played a Mulldrifter, and he played two Looter il-Kors. I hit him for two and Wrathed our guys away. I Evoked a Reveillark that drew me into the full combo, but when he passed his turn with two Black mana up, I didn’t actually try to combo off because of the threat of Extirpate. With Venser, Mirror Entity, and Body Double in play, and Reveillark in my graveyard, my opponent tapped out for Mulldrifter. With the draw trigger on the stack, I bounced his whole side. He drew two cards, and I untapped and killed him.

I’m not exactly sure what the best plan is against this deck. It seems to me that as long as you don’t lose your ability to combo out, you’re always favored to win, because you can either piggyback their entire deck, or you can use your own combo to kill them. However, you have to worry about Akromas and Hellkites showing up at instant speed, and you have to worry about fast pressure from Oona’s Prowler, Looter, and Earwig Squad. Still, I think that it’s a favorable matchup, as long as you don’t let yourself lose to a surprise Mannequin.


Round 6 — Reveillark Combo

When Steve and I had tested the Mirror, we decided that the best way to win was to bounce lands at all possible opportunities. Instead of trying to assemble the combo or control the opponent, the best way to win was just get on to the board faster than the other guy, and to abuse your bounce effects. It seemed as though my opponent didn’t agree with this assessment, because he spent time casting Oblivion Rings while I was expanding my mana with Prismatic Lens and restricting his with Venser and Cloudskate. When he tapped low in a middle turn of the game, I showed him the combo and he conceded.

I boarded out the Wraths for two Stonecloakers and two Sower of Temptations. I had originally planned on bringing Whelks in for this matchup, either to stop them from comboing or just to keep the pressure on, but I decided that the high cost was not worth it.

We again played different games, as I attacked his mana as hard as I could while he tried to control my creatures. However, my mana advantage allowed me to draw extra cards with Mulldrifters and an Evoked Reveillark. I played a Body Double copying his Cloudskate to bounce yet another mana source, and he went for an Oblivion Ring. I had a Blink in my graveyard that I attempted to use to save my man, but he had a Rune Snag to stop that, and to put him to just one open Plains. Without the threat of Unsummon, I used a second blink to turn into Reveillark and combo off in the middle of his turn.

After the match, a spectator asked if it was “just who combos first” and my opponent confirmed this. While it’s true that comboing off will win you the game (because it always does), you can make sure that you’re the one doing it by bouncing lands as fast as you can. You want to see an opening hand with Lenses, Vensers, Cloudskates, and Blinks because you’ll be able to put threats into play while making sure that your opponent can’t do the same. At that point, either the combo will come together, or you’ll simply attack with your 2/2s until they die.


Round 7 — Burn

A first-turn Mogg Fanatic told me I was playing against Red Deck Wins, but a slew of burn spells (and some Browbeat) told me that I was actually up against a Burn deck. Unfortunately for me, this means that I need to find a combo-kill fast, and I need to do it without losing a piece to a well-timed Incinerate, Shard Volley, or Shock. Because I didn’t have maindeck Aven Riftwatchers to fall back on, my opponent was able to just play more burn spells than I could survive before I found a way to combo kill him.

I boarded out Mirror Entities and Bonded Fetches for Aven Riftwatchers and Serrated Arrows. Despite the fact that my best way to win the first game was a combo kill, I don’t think that I can reliably win that way against Sulfur Elementals. Arrows isn’t great, but it’s another way to kill things like Magus of the Scroll, Mogg Fanatic, and Mutavault.

I kept a decent hand that would contain my opponent’s lands, but he didn’t care, because he kept a one-lander on the play. That was plenty to win the game, though, because he spent the first four turns Suspending Rift Bolts and burning my face. I dug with Mulldrifters and bounced his eventual threats with Cloudskates, but I couldn’t find an Aven Riftwatcher to save myself from the burn. I missed an opportunity to kill my own Mulldrifter with Serrated Arrows, which would have allowed me to Reveillark it back and possibly draw into a Riftwatcher and Blink when I was sitting on one life, but because I didn’t see the play I died on his next turn. As it happened, I would have draw exactly what I needed, though even gaining ten life might well not have been enough.

My opponent said that he didn’t really want to face many Reveillark decks, because they have so many ways to stop him, either by bouncing all of his lands or by gaining life with Riftwatchers. I think that he’s underestimating his position in the matchup, but I can’t say for certain. All I know is that I don’t think I can win the first game without any lifegain, and I think he can contain the combo pretty easily in games 2 and 3.


Round 8 — Dragonstorm

I had a scout on my opponent, and knew that he was playing Dragonstorm, so I made sure that I kept a hand that had a chance against him for the first game. I was on the play, and he wouldn’t be able to go off until the sixth turn, because he had suspended Bloom late and I had Vensered his chargeland on the fourth turn. I played a Reveillark on the fifth turn that I thought he might just kill with Incinerate, but it survived the turn. When his Bloom did resolve, he cast a Rite of Flame, sacced the Bloom for mana, and cast Dragonstorm for three. I didn’t really have anything left in the tank other than a second Venser, so I thought for a while about what the best play was. I decided to let the top copy resolve, and he shot my Venser for two and my Reveillark for three. In response, I played Venser, bouncing his second Dragonstorm copy. This put both Vensers in the graveyard, so when the Hellkite trigger resolved, I returned a Venser and a Mirror Entity, bouncing the actual Dragonstorm. Because my opponent only had five lands, the only way for him to recast it would have been Rite of Flame, and if he had that in hand he would have used it to power up his Dragonstorm on this turn. With six lands in play, one in hand, and an opponent on ten, I was planning on using the Entity to force him to block and then die on the following turn, but I drew Unsummon and killed him ahead of schedule.

I boarded out my Unsummons, a Wrath, and a Mirror Entity for two Whelks and three Riftwatchers.

This game was a little bit strange, because he started off with a Knoll, a Bloom, and then a morph on the third turn. When his Bloom resolved, he dealt me twelve damage with Bloom, Rite of Flame, Pyromancer’s Swath, and Grapeshot, and then popped his Knoll for a face-up Akroma. He discarded his hand, and I Wrathed his two angels away. He then drew a five-point Rift Bolt, but that only put me to one, and now I had Draining Whelk up. Because he couldn’t build up multiple spells due to the Swath, when I Whelked a spell and then Blinked it on another, he packed it up.

I don’t have much more to say about the Dragonstorm matchup. The only new info is that apparently Wrath is definitely worth keeping in, because some opponents will have Red Akromas that you need to answer.


Round 9 — UB Mannequin

Unfortunately, this is the match I remember the least out of all of them. Sitting in ninth and tenth place, my opponent and I weren’t able to draw into the Top 8, so we had to play it out.

He led with Faerie Conclave and a River of Tears, and then an Evoked Mulldrifter completed the Mannequin tell. I started to just get on the board as fast as I could, but ended up losing a Reveillark that couldn’t regrow anything to a Profane Command. However, I was able to use Venser to put him down to just three mana a few turns later, and that gave me a chance to combo him out.

I boarded out my Unsummons and Wraths for two Stonecloaker, two Draining Whelk, two Sower of Temptation, and an Aven Riftwatcher.

I didn’t think that I could possibly lose the second game, because I had multiple Mulldrifters, Cloudskates, and Blinks, but despite the large amount of gas I had at the beginning of the game, I wound up completely running out of steam. I had a Desert that was holding off his Mannequin’d guys, but he had an above-average draw, and used all four Mannequins to draw extra gas and hit me with draw-step Mournwhelks. After I drew another card that wouldn’t help me out, we went to game 3.

This game was also strange, in that I thought I had him dead for sure when I tapped out to play a Clouskate on one of his Faerie Conclaves. Unfortunately for me, he had a Loxodon Warhammer that I wasn’t expecting to see, and it doubled his clock and put him out of reach of my swing back. However, I drew a Venser that I was able to use mid-combat to bounce his threat, and I had a Blink to give myself an extra turn. I attacked him to one, which was important because he’d flipped over a Damnation and his only source of Black mana was an Underground River. He passed the turn to me with enough mana to activate Faerie Conclave and Mouth of Ronom (or cast something like Cryptic Command or Makeshift Mannequin), while I had Venser, Cloudskate, and the Riftwatcher with only one counter. I used my Blink on his endstep to reset my Riftwatcher, meaning that he needed to deal with all three of my threats to live through the turn. I drew a Momentary Blink that locked the game up, but he didn’t even have a spell that he could have saved himself with.

I think that the Mannequin matchup plays out similarly to the mirror, in that you really want to be controlling the number of lands they can keep in play. However, things are worse for you because they can trade off easier since they’re based on Mannequin instead of Blink. Still, it seemed like it was all about whoever could get their spells rolling, since both people can do some pretty sick things. The best way to make sure that you can do it while they can’t is to make sure you have twice as many lands as they do.


Quarterfinals — Faeries

I’d spent all day avoiding the Faerie matchup, and then instantly ran into it in the Top 8. I can’t say for certain that I would have beaten anyone else in the elimination rounds, but I certainly would have rather played any of the other six guys.

He started off with a mulligan to five, but he had a Bitterblossom and a Pestermite right away. When I went to Desert his Pestermite, he had Scion of Oona to save it. This also stopped my suspended Cloudskate from bouncing his Bitterblossom (so I bounced the Scion), but I had a Mirror Entity from the previous turn, and I just smashed in and activated the Entity for five. On my next turn, he had a Mistbind Clique, so I activated for five again and traded my Entity for his Clique and a token. At this point I had hopes of running him out of life, since he’d been forced into blocking with all of his guys, so he only had a Pestermite and was already at eight. However, he still had that Scion, and I lost the game the turn before he would have died to Bitterblossom.

I boarded out the Fetches and Entities for Serrated Arrows and Aven Riftwatchers. The threat of Extirpate is just too great to try to combo off.

He started off much slower in game 2, but I had kept a hand that was slow as well, and I got hit by a Thoughtseize that took a Mulldrifter. Another Thoughtseize took one of my two Blinks, and then Extirpate got the second one (and the one left in my deck). I drew Serrated Arrows, but he had Rune Snag for it, and then Extirpated those. This left me with just three Cloudskates in hand, but my opponent’s board was empty, so I had hope. I started to play them out, but he had a Pestermite and then a Mistbind Clique. I played more and more 2/2 flyers, and then killed the Clique with a block and two Desert activations. He played out two more guys, and hit me for four (to nine) and then hardcast Notorious Throng. I was able to get him to one life when he swung with his team, but he had a counterspell for my Wrath and I was dead.

Despite our best efforts, we still didn’t have a way to beat Faeries reliably. I had assumed that the top two decks in the room would be Reveillark and Big Mana, and so hoped that the Mana decks would knock out all of my Faerie opponents, but it was not to be. If anyone has ideas about how to fix that matchup, I’d love to hear them.

The End

All in all, the tournament was a blast. Being featured by Evan made it even more fun, though obviously I would have rather won the thing instead of being eliminated in the Quarterfinals. I think that the Reveillark deck is the best deck in the format, especially if you think that you’ll be playing against Big Mana. I’m not sure how Void and Extirpate change that matchup, but I still think that your Blink Control plan is very good against them (as is Draining Whelk). My crew stuck around for the next-day PTQ, but the farthest that anyone made it was to the semifinals, while I finished just outside the Top 8.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me in the forums, via email, or on AIM.

Benjamin Peebles-Mundy
ben at mundy dot net
SlickPeebles on AIM