In the interest of keeping my first article down to a manageable length, I am going to try my best to stick to the topic and talk only about the 15+ hours I spent at the tournament site. I’ll save the in-depth deck analysis for another time.
Since I probably just lost half of the readers, I will present the decklist now, since I know that’s what you’re interested in.
A few thoughts about the deck before I get into the tournament: I had taken the last year off from playing Magic, coming back just before Lorwyn was released, which means I had not played Extended in almost two years. The only two Extended decks I had any real tournament experience with before this tournament were Affinity and CAL. Looking at the Top 8 results from the previous weeks NYC and Roanoke PTQs, I knew the only way I was going to have any chance of winning this tournament was if I could beat Doran. I’ve always loved the Aggro-Loam lists that came out the season I wasn’t playing, and after a little testing and tuning I found this build has an overwhelming matchup against the Doran deck. That, combined with my prior experience with Seismic Assault / Life From the Loam based decks, made it an easy choice. I am a firm believer that given the choice between a good deck with which you are comfortable or a slightly more powerful deck with which you’ve had less experience, it’s almost always right to go with what you know, especially in a format as large as Extended.
The Rockville, Maryland PTQ, held at Dream Wizards on 1/13, saw the store filled to capacity for the second PTQ in a row – over 170 entrants. This meant a long day with 8 rounds of swiss. My hope for the day was either a win or a quick loss so that I could get back home in time to watch the Giants game at 4:30. After registering for the tournament and picking up a few Shatterstorms from the store for my sideboard, I found my playtest group for a little Type 4 before the tournament began.
Round 1 versus Greg playing Tendrils/Egg storm deck
My first round opponent was an extremely nice fellow named Greg, and after listening to the head judges announcements we were off and running. Greg started with a mulligan and on the second cut I noticed a large crease in one of his card sleeves. It is a card in his opening hand, so I decided not to make a big deal but asked him to replace it between games. He led off with an Invasion sac land and a suspended Lotus Bloom, and I was cursing my luck because Ideal was not a deck I was looking forward to playing against. Luckily I had Blood Moon for turn 3 to slow him down, and he began playing Chromatic Stars and Eggs while I attacked him with a pair of one powered Tarmogoyfs and an equally unimpressive pair of 1/1 Terravores. I started burning for 1 with my Wall of Roots in a desperate attempt to get it into my graveyard to power up my Tarmogoyfs, but it seemed I was in for some luck as Greg got his Lotus Bloom and tried to go off after laying a few more tapped Mountains under Blood Moon, and failed. Now that his graveyard was full, my Tarmogoyfs were able to take him down in short order. I didn’t really want to see combo, as my only real disruption was Blood Moon and Molten Rain to slow him down.
I pondered my sideboard while Greg bought a new set of sleeves for game 2. Out came the Wall of Roots and Burning Wishes, and in come all my 1/1 dorks and my Shatterstorms. Game 2 I got to land another early Blood Moon to slow him down, and this time I actually had some fetch lands and cycling lands to make my Terravore into a real clock. Once again Greg spent his first few turns laying Eggs and Spheres and Stars. I Shatterstormed to try to keep him off of colored mana, and the turn before he died he had to try to go off. In the end he generated a ton of mana off Cabal Rituals and Seething Songs but came up one storm count short of being able to Tendrils me out, and I killed him on my next swing. After the match I found out he wasn’t able to build the deck quite the way he wanted due to his card pool – he was lacking Burning Wish.
So far so good.
Round 2 versus Ben Cox playing U/R Tron
Game 1 I lost the die roll and Ben laid down what I think was a Tolaria West for his first land. I landed a Molten Rain and a Blood Moon, and from there Ben had to try to win with nothing but a Signet for Blue mana and mountains for land. Sideboard time, in came those wild Wild Cantors and Shatterstorms for some of the dead cards in the matchup. Ben led off with an Urza land, and I led off with a Wild Cantor. The Wild Cantor got in there for 4 damage over the next few turns while we laid some lands and my early drops got countered. Eventually I cashed in Wild Cantor to re-cast a Remanded Tarmogoyf and was able to land a Blood Moon soon after. Ben spent the next few turns digging through his deck with Fact or Fiction and Thirst for Knowledge, but I was eventually able to resolve a Shatterstorm, leaving him with 7 Mountains to face my guys who like to attack. It goes without saying that it is very difficult for â€˜Tron to win with a Blood Moon in play, so that left the score at Blood Moon 2, my opponents 0.
Round 3 versus Justin Onusic playing Heartbeat Desire
Justin was one of the guys I playtested for this tournament with so we knew our matchup pretty well. We considered taking an ID but unfortunately we know this matchup well, and Justin knew he was favored since he was playing all basic lands and cards like Search for Tomorrow and Sakura-Tribe Elder to render my disruption moot. Unfortunately this match turned out to be a total train wreck for Justin, where he failed to win on his critical turn and then forgot to replace his Wish targets into his sideboard for game 3. He noticed this as he was mulling to 5, and the judge watching our match (we were on the end of a table near the isle) did not fail to notice either. The only thing I can really say about this match is that even when you are playing matches against friends you can’t allow yourself relax and go back to kitchen table play. A mistake in your living room means a laugh and move on to the next game, whereas a mistake in a tournament could mean you’re out of contention.
Round 4 versus Matt Linde playing Goblins
Game 1 I had the Assault, Loam, Birds nut hand for this deck, and although he shot down my Birds, my turn 3 Assault turned the game into a race to see if he could play hasty goblins faster than I could fill my hand with land. Eventually he ran out of goblins while Life From The Loam ensured I’d never run out. Sideboard time… out with the Blood Moons, in with the Mogg Fanatics. Two Birds switched for two Wild Cantors, since a Skirk Prospector is less likely to attack into a Wild Cantor than a Bird of Paradise. Game 2 consisted of us trading guys until I made a bad block with my Mogg Fanatics and Wall of Roots, which left him with two Mogg War Marshal tokens to my Wall of Roots. From there we were in topdecking mode while his tokens were able to poke me down from 6 until I was in Tarfire range.
Game 3 was interesting as Matt decided to keep a hand where his two lands were Barbarian Rings. We each had turn 1 Mogg Fanatics and did a good job hurting ourselves with our lands as we played out our dudes. Unfortunately for Matt, his 3rd land was also a Barbarian Ring. At this point I decided to take advantage of his land situation and become the aggressor for the game, and started sending the Tarmogoyfs into his team. I was winning the life race but he was able to get a Goblin Warchief into play, and he followed it up the next turn with a Goblin Matron for a Goblin Ringleader, which hit Siege-Gang Commander and Goblin Piledriver. Luckily he still only had one land that didn’t deal him damage, and he was getting tight on life. A Wild Cantor off the top allowed me to finally cast the Seismic Assault that was in my hand off the two Mountains and one Forest I had in play, and Goblin Warchief was no longer a threat. Matt was now precariously low on life, and my remaining Tarmogoyf was eating through his team. He finished the game with the Siege-Gang Commander, Goblin King, and a few other goblins in his hand that he couldn’t cast without dying. I also had to deal with a Leyline of the Void or a Tormod’s Crypt this game, because I couldn’t get my Loam engine online.
Round 5 versus Chris playing Doran
I won the die roll and drew a hand that had Life From the Loam and turn 3 Seismic Assault potential. I led with a Bloodstained Mire and a Stomping Grounds, and Chris thought for awhile before drawing a card for his turn, making me think he was playing Cabal Therapy, then he led off with a Plains. On his second turn he played a Swamp and Dark Confidant… finally a Doran deck! Unfortunately for him I played a Seismic Assault on my next turn and killed Bob, and when he missed his 3rd and fourth land drop I was able to kill him on my 5th turn with Seismic Assault and Life From the Loam recursion. Game 2 I was on the draw, and boarded out the Blood Moons for Mogg Fanatics. Chris started out with a Leyline of the Void in play and a Birds of Paradise off a Forest. My turn 1 Mogg Fanatic dealt with his creature, and then made his way off into the void. Chris’s next land drop was also Green, and things suddenly didn’t look so great for him. For the second game in a row he missed his third land drop, and from there I was able to take over with Tarmogoyfs and Molten Rains. If nothing else this should be a lesson in when to mulligan. Both games Chris kept fragile hands that depended heavily on a one toughness creature to live in order to have any action. Once I killed those creatures, I might as well have been goldfishing my deck.
Round 6 versus Justin Larose playing Doran
Justin had made the Top 8 in the Roanoke PTQ the week before with this same Doran deck, and was off to a great start again today. Game 1 I was on the draw and had the perfect Birds of Paradise / Blood Moon hand for this matchup. Unfortunately Justin had a turn 1 Thoughtseize and ruined my dreams of the Blood Moon blowout. Justin had an equally good turn 2 Dark Confidant, which I was not equipped to deal with. This game became a long war of attrition with me having to wish for a Hull Breach to keep a Umezawa’s Jitte from getting out of hand, and being unable to stick a Seismic Assault around without Blood Moon to help protect it from Vindicate. I cast Molten Rain twice which kept him off his mana for several turns, and it was an interesting race, but all the while Dark Confidant did his thing and was ultimately was able to get him the lands he needed to put two Loxodon Hierarchs on the table. Even so, I was able to get him down to one life before the end of the game, forcing him to flash back a Cabal Therapy on my empty hand to get rid of Dark Confidant before finally putting it away with Eternal Witness for Umezawa’s Jitte.
Game 2 saw me with the Life From the Loam engine churning but no Seismic Assault to turn it into a threat, while Justin had Doran, a pair of Dark Confidants, and a Loxodon Hierarch knocking on my door. Luckily I finally cycled into the only card that could turn the game around for me the turn before it was too late. Burning Wish. Burning Wish for Devastating Dreams left me with no cards in hand and one land, but more importantly completely wiped Justin’s board and left him with a grip full of spells he couldn’t cast. My first draw after that was Seismic Assault, followed by a land, and once I dredged Life From the Loam back before he had even drawn his first post-Dreams land it was time for game 3.
Game 3 was another rollercoaster ride which began for the third game in a row by a turn 2 Dark Confidant for Justin. I was hit by a surprise Extirpate for my Life From the Loam, and it suddenly looked like I was not going to be able keep up with the card advantage Justin was getting from Dark Confidant. Not having Loam kept my Terravore as a fair 4/4 body. An Umezawa’s Jitte came down on his side of the table just as time was called, but luckily I had a Mogg Fanatic and a Wall of Roots that was almost on its last counter in play that I could use to stall the Umezawa’s Jitte until the extra turns played out. At least that was my plan… until I drew that magical Burning Wish on turn 1 of extra turns. Burning Wish for Devastating Dreams again left me with 3 lands to Justin’s 1 and an 8/8 Terravore to his Doran. The problem was I was sitting on 3 life to his 11, so I couldn’t attack. My next draw on turn 3 was a fetchland, and turn 5 gave me a Molten Rain. At the end of the final turn my Terravore was the sole ruler of the board, but I didn’t have time to finish the job.
Round 7 versus John playing Doran
Another Doran matchup… now we’re talking! Although I felt a little less confident after how close the last match went, I still had faith in my testing results and was glad to be paired against Doran again. Game 1 saw 3 different types of Green-producing lands from John, and a turn 1 Birds. Unfortunately for him this game also saw a turn 2 Seismic Assault for me with Life From the Loam backup, and when he finally drew a non-Green source I had drawn a Molten Rain. Game 2 started out with me taking 2 mulligans down to a five-card hand with some cycling lands and Life From the Loam, but nothing else. Luckily for me John’s first two plays were Treetop Villages, and I had cycled into a Molten Rain for his turn 3 Godless Shrine. His next land drop was also a Green-producing land, and by now I had a few Wall of Roots and a Tarmogoyf out to hold the fort against his Loxodon Hierarch. I continued to cycle away while John kept having mana troubles with a little help from Molten Rain. Eventually I found a Seismic Assault and ended the game with about 15 cards left in my library. This was another round made much easier by my opponents keeping fragile hands. Learn to mulligan, people!
Round 8 versus Tom playing Doran
ID, and we’re in the Top 8, woohoo! Also the Giants stop the Cowboys’ final drive and pull off the upset! This is shaping up to be quite a Sunday.
As you may have seen by now, the Top 8 was made up of 4 Doran decks, 3 Goblin decks, and me. The interesting thing is that at least two of the Goblin lists were playing Blood Moon in the maindeck. To me, this indicates a substantial weakness in the metagame right now, and it will be interesting to see how long it takes it to adjust. The way the Top 8 brackets fell out, I ended up in the Doran bracket and the top seed (the fourth Doran deck) ended up in the Goblin bracket. This was amazing for me since that meant I would have two Doran decks on my way to the finals. My deck did not disappoint either, serving up two quick 2-0 victories, finishing both my quarter and semifinals matches before the quarterfinal goblin mirror match had even finished their second game. Those two matches went by in a blur, as it was getting to be 10pm at night and we were all exhausted mentally and physically. I do want to give props to Justin Larose for being such a good sport as we faced each other in a rematch in the quarterfinals. Instead of the close nail-biters we played in the Swiss rounds, my deck served me the nuts card after card, and once I had gained the advantage the tiredness started taking over and I started playing and acting like a fool. In the semifinals I met up against Christian from NYC, and I think I landed early Assaults both games 1 and 2.
Finals versus Brad Taulbee playing Blood Moon Goblins with Bob
Brad is a local favorite and perennial PTQ Top 8 player, I have played against him several times before and wasn’t really looking forward to playing against such a tough opponent in a matchup I didn’t test against. But I knew he was main decking 4 Blood Moons just like I was, and that kind of a dead card is much more damaging for a rush deck like goblins than deck like mine. Also I already beat a tough opponent playing goblins in the swiss, and I knew that if I could just land an early Seismic Assault or hit a Burning Wish for Pyroclasm I had a great chance at winning.
Game 1 saw us both throwing back our seven card hands since they both contained Blood Moon, or multiple Blood Moons in my case. After a painful decision to keep, Brad led off with a Swamp and no play, I had a turn 3 Molten Rain in my hand so already I was thinking that if he just stumbled one turn I could put this game away. It was not to be however, as a Bloodstained Mire on turn 2 brought Dark Confidant out, and after flipping a Chrome Mox on turn 3 Brad laid his whole hand on the table – double Chrome Mox, Goblin Warchief, Goblin Piledriver. My Wall of Roots sucked up the Goblin Piledriver damage and I dropped to 15 from the attack. Over the next few turns Tarmogoyf and Terravore joined my team while Dark Confidant flipped up a Blood Moon and some of the less impressive goblins from Brad’s deck. My creatures were starting to outclass Brad’s, and I was able to stabilize at 10 life. Now it was time to dig with Life From the Loam and hope for either a Burning Wish or a Seismic Assault before Brad drew enough goblins to overwhelm my tough but outnumbered blocking force. Luckily I was able to find the Seismic Assault before he can find a Goblin Ringleader and take down game 1.
Going to the sideboard the Blood Moons and two Birds of Paradise trade out for Mogg Fanatics and Wild Cantors and we get shuffled up for game 2. My opening hand game 2 consists of 6 lands and Birds of Paradise. For most decks that would be an auto mull, however with 3 of the lands able to cycle and the other 3 being fetches, this hand puts me in a good position to leverage all the power cards in my deck should I draw one in the early turns. That combined with the extra card I will get by going second and the leeway that comes with winning the first game made it a keeper. Brad led off with a turn 1 Dark Confidant off of Chrome Mox. I was getting very sick of seeing him across the table all evening long, and started praying for a Mogg Fanatic off the top. It wasn’t there for me but Brad had one to shoot my turn 1 Birds of Paradise. Turn 2 gave me Wall of Roots and I got to work cycling. A Terravore on turn 3 was suddenly a 6/6 thanks to my busy lands and one of Brad’s Bloodstained Mires. Dark Confidant kept filling Brad’s hand however, and his goblins threw themselves at my blockers, knocking me down to 5 before I was able to put enough guys out that he could no longer attack without losing too many of his important creatures. Several turns went by while I worked my Loam engine, once again digging for the Burning Wish or Assault while Brad tried to find a Goblin Ringleader or Siege-Gang Commander or Goblin Sharpshooter (if he didn’t board it out) off the top of his deck. Once again the power of the Loam engine came through, and I found a Seismic Assault in time to take control of the board and allow my 10/10 Terravore to come rumbling through the red zone for the win and the proverbial blue envelope!
In the end the Blood Moon gamble and the anti-Doran game plan paid off big time. While I actually only got to cast Blood Moon twice after the first two rounds, it was a great card to have in my deck for 8 of my 11 matches that day. Like any tournament win it took a little luck, especially in the early rounds, to make it to the top. But once I was 4-0 the way to the finals was paved by Doran decks, making it was almost impossible for this deck not to get there. On the day I went 4-0-1 playing against Doran, with Terravore being just a little too small to win before the extra turns ran out during the one draw. Doran, you are hereby on notice.