PV’s Playhouse – Paulo at Worlds, Part 1

Claim your territory at The 2009's State and Provincial Championships!
Tuesday, December 1st – In the first of a double dose of Paulo this week, to make up for last week’s PV drought, the Brazilian maestro shares stories from the first day of Worlds. As always, he breaks down his games in exquisite detail, and shares his thoughts on the de facto Best Deck in the format.


First of all, I’d like to apologize for not being able to write last week. I had some personal matters to attend, as well as some computer difficulties in Rome, and that means you will probably see me twice this week instead.

Also, before I start my Worlds report, I’d like to comment briefly on what happened in my last article. If you were not one of the people who replied, PMed or e-mailed me, please ignore this. What I’m talking about is the tipping thing.

In my last article, I briefly talked about going to a Brazilian Steakhouse, and the service being so good that it had almost changed my mind about tipping. That was promptly met with a flow of replies that I would probably have expected if I had just murdered someone. So, two things:

First of all, I did tip, and do tip, when I am in the United States. I do not like tipping, and I think it’s an atrocious system (just like most of the world, I might add), but I will do it even if I dislike it. That might not be entirely clear in the article, and I understand that some people might have read what I wrote as “I did not tip,” but it was never really something I thought I had to clarify this much, because I obviously did not expect this reaction.

You might not agree with my view on the matter, but the reaction I got was completely absurd and unjustified. If you want to stop reading my articles because I am against tipping (as in the replies I got with “I generally like your articles but stopped reading as soon as I read that you hadn’t tipped,” or “Formerly a fan of yours…”), then go ahead — stop reading right at this moment. Judge my articles by the Magic content, by how enjoyable they are… but for my tipping habits? Really?

So, onto the article itself…

As I said before, my preparation for Worlds was based mainly on Standard, since I had already played a lot of Extended for (and in) Austin, whereas in Standard I was pretty clueless. As the early results came in, I thought there had to be something people were missing — Jund could just not be the best deck.

Then I played. And played. And played more. And none of my decks would beat Jund consistently. It was honestly getting pretty ridiculous — I would specifically build all my decks to beat Jund, and I would still lose. There are so many times you can say “wow, what a series of perfect cascades” before you realize that this is just what the deck does, and it cascades into those cards because those are the cards in the deck, so it couldn’t really well cascade into anything else.

There wasn’t really a big testing group or anything. I played with a lot of different friends. As the tournament approached, someone set up an e-mail group that consisted of me, Paulo, LSV, David Ochoa, Josh, and Eric. The most popular deck in the email list was a variation of GW, since it supposedly beat Jund, so we started working on that. At this point, I was almost convinced I was going to play Jund — the situation reminded me too much of Faeries in Standard or Teachings in Block for me to be comfortable playing anything else — but I figured I still had time to try to come up with something different.

I borrowed some cards from Luis, and we played the Jund x GWb matchup on MTGO, with me playing GWb, and it was painfully slow from my point of view, since I was not used to it. We pretty much drew the games, and took no conclusions from them. It seemed that, in every match, someone would be stuck on two lands and the game would be a blowout.

I played more, and brainstormed more, and by the time I was ready to leave for Minneapolis, I was pretty much set on playing Jund. My reasons:

Jund was just the best deck. It played the best cards, and they were, unlike popular opinion, incredibly synergistic. Almost every cascade in the Jund deck was good, and the power of the cards made up for the slow starts. Jund is also very versatile — it is capable of a quick start if it needs one, and it can also control the board with card advantage, and, best of all, it does not need specific cards for that — it’s not like you are playing Lava Axe and Stream of Life, and need to draw the right one when you are on offense or defense. It’s just that almost all your cards have great offensive and defensive value, and you only have to play them according to what you need.

People who thought they beat Jund really didn’t most of the time. Of all the misconceptions that people have, this is usually the most common. You think you beat the best deck, but you don’t. Basically, people knew Jund was going to be the most popular deck by a mile, so it’s hard to believe that someone would play a deck that they think loses to Jund. So, we can safely assume that most people went into the tournament believing they would beat Jund. Since most varieties of decks were played, then we can conclude that every single deck beats Jund! However, if everyone beat the beat the best deck, as everyone seems to think they do, it wouldn’t be the best deck, would it? As it stands right now, there are only two decks I actively do not want to play against — the mirror and Mono Red (*cough* Faeries *cough*). Everything else I am confident in my ability to beat.

Jund gets better after sideboard, in almost every match. This is probably the main factor people get unrealistic percentages against Jund. What is important is not really what goes in as much as what goes out. I remember, during one of our discussions, Luis said their Grixis control deck that tried to beat Jund by blanking all their removal with untargetable guys was posting only a 50-50 record, and was therefore unplayable since it could only get much worse after they get rid of those Terminates and Pulses.

Jund is incredibly hard to hate. There is nothing like Great Sable Stag for Jund — the deck has answers to everything, from Permanents to Graveyard to cards in hand. People get their Celestial Purges after board and think they have it good, but Celestial Purge is nothing more than a one-for-one at best! If getting a fair trade is reason for celebration, then the other deck must be really good.

During that trip, nothing really convinced me of the opposite. I played some matches with Josh (with his GW with Thornlings, Vines of Vastwood, Great Sable Stags, Behemoth Sledge) during the byes, and he beat me 6-0, but the matches looked really weird — half of them I just lost to turn 4 Master of the Wild Hunt, never drawing any of my 14 or so removal spells. After the games, I found out my deck had only 2 Lightning Bolt, and that was good because I then had something to blame. I added two more Bolts and played some more games, and I watched other people play the same matchup too, and though it was undoubtedly advantaged for the GW deck, it was not really CRUSHING Jund as you would expect it to.

Minneapolis happened, and I got the three points I needed, so, barring a DQ, I was locked Level 8. This worked just fine for me, since we all know no one really gets DQed in those events. I flew to Rome by myself, and then waited at the airport for the people I was going to room with — Luis, David, Josh, and Gerry. My flight was one hour early, which in normal circumstances would be great, but on that occasion it just meant that I had to wait for one extra hour at the airport instead of on the airplane. It seems like you can always count on good things happening when you can’t take advantage of them.

I met some other Magicians at the airport – mostly Americans, some Lithuanians – and we played some matches before the rest of their friends arrived. Then they went to the city, and I was left alone at the airport, waiting. Thankfully I met two other Brazilian guys, and we chatted for a while. I finished reading Agatha Christie’s book Cards on the Table, which I wanted to read because it talked about a murder that happened during a game of Bridge, and then finally met the Americans and we got a van to the hotel.

We got to the hotel and our check in time was not up, so we decided to go grab something to eat — apparently there was a shopping mall pretty close by, and also a Burger King if that failed. We left the hotel and then promptly followed Web (David Ochoa), who turned right. And then we walked. And walked. For most of the time we could actually see the shopping mall, but there was always an insurmountable abyss of construction machines between us, so we kept trying to go around. At some point, Web just gave up walked back to our hotel, and Josh, Gerry, Luis, and I kept walking. Eventually we found the Burger King, and after about half an hour in line — so much for fast food — we got our orders. I was so excited to get my food that I actually forgot to get the change for the 20 Euro bill with which I paid, a fact that I only realized when I looked in my pocket for coins I ought to have so that I could pay Luis the money I owed him. I went back to the cashier, not really expecting him to give me my money then, but with the help of a guy that was in the queue translating I was able to get my money back without many complications.

Once we left the Burger King, we decided we would risk keep going in the same direction, other than going back all the way, since we were walking in a circle and were bound to get to our hotel one way or another. After approximately five minutes, we were home. So much for picking the right sides at intersections…

We got back to the hotel to find Web waiting there, and then we went to check in. They told us they needed our passports to register us, which is pretty standard procedure, so we handed them over and waited. Soon after we were joined by Riki Hayashi and an exhausted Brian Kibler, who seemed to have fallen in a similar trap when trying to walk to our hotel. Twenty minutes or so pass, and we get no word from the reception. Luis asks about our passports, and they say they are still registering us. We go back to the couch and chat, and at some point the guy from the reception picks up the phone, dials, and has the following conversation:

“Italian Italian Italian Italian Luis Scott-Vargas Italian Italian Italian Italian…”

I jokingly say they are calling the Interpol to arrest Luis, and when he goes up to them to ask about it again they say they are still registering us. About ten minutes later, six fully armed policemen enter the hotel. I mentally prepare my “sorry no engrish, me Brazilian” speech in case anything goes wrong, but it turns out not to be needed, as they were not looking for Luis but checking into the hotel themselves. Apparently there was some kind of convention, because there was a bus full of them. By this point, we still haven’t gotten our passports back, so we tell the receptionist we are going to our room and picking them up later, as intriguing as it is that they have to keep our passports for this much time — I mean, what are they doing with them?

We get to our room and pretty much just want to fall asleep, but know we have no decks — at this point I still need a Jund list, and I’m at ground zero for both Extended and Legacy, both of which I needed on the first day, for Teams. Gerry brews a UW Thopter Foundry deck that was slightly different than the ones we were trying — all our builds had either Thopter Foundry/Sword of the Meek as a secondary combo (say, as one-ofs in Dark Depths) or were fully dedicated combo decks with four of each. Gerry’s build was much more of a control deck that happened to have the combo as a kill. We all liked his deck more, and when he decided to go do some shopping we grabbed his deck and “fixed” it to suit our liking. Then we decided to go meet some other American players that were in a nearby hotel.

We walk to the reception and ask about our passports, and they tell us they are still registering us. We argue that we are leaving, so we really need them (I don’t like to leave without my passport), to which he replies “leaving? *shrug* okay…” He then goes through a stack of papers, grabs our passports and proceeds to type stuff in his computer for no more than three minutes. “There you go!” Really, did you need four hours to do that? In any case, we were number 720 (or close to that) on a certain street, and the other Americans were on the same street, number 170, so we decided to walk, since it could not be very far… right?

I’m not entirely sure how those numbers work in the US, but in Brazil it is really straightforward — the number is the amount of meters from the beginning of the street. Therefore, numbers 720 and 170 will always be 550 meters apart. I ingenuously believed this to be the same, or close to the same, in Italy. When we walked for 25 minutes and were still at number 580, we knew it was not really close to that, and decided to take a bus. We hoop on the bus and then, after not seeing anyone who is charging for anything, I ask a random passenger how we pay, to which he replies “you don’t.” After some ninja language skills, we figure out we needed to have bought the passes already. We have the option of leaving and trying to buy a ticket, or to just go on for the remaining 400 numbers and hope nothing bad happens, which is of course what we do.

(I’m braced for the numerous e-mails on how little bus drivers get paid in Italy, and what a complete jerk I am for riding the bus without the ticket.)

We finally get to their hotel (and it turned out the distance was completely off limits for walking), and play some games of Boros versus Jund, Red versus Jund, and Red versus Boros. I don’t know who came up with the idea that Boros beats Jund, but, in my mind, it really does not, and the games were never really hard when I played. I played 4 games against Brad Nelson and went 3-1, and then we went out to eat. The reason I even considered the Mono Red deck was that, as I said, it’s actually the one deck that has a good record versus Jund, but after playing some games against Boros and talking to Brad about them, I was convinced it had a really bad matchup there, and Boros was probably going to be the second most played deck. That, coupled with the fact that Mono Red is not really my kind of deck and I would probably be very angry the first time I drew three lands in a row, made me dismiss it.

We go back, and then the next day we go to Luis’s hotel. When we got there, it became apparent that we would not really fit in the room, since there were two single beds and no space on the floor to move them, and there were five of us (rumor says the Portuguese fit seven in their room — either they are all very small, or they got a room bigger than ours). We figured someone would probably have to find another place to stay, and since no one else volunteered I decided I would try to find one myself. We go to the event, and after some searching, I found the Brazilian guys I had met at the airport — they had rented something close to an apartment that was supposedly really big, so I decided to go with them. The player’s party had good food and outstanding desserts, and in the end I talked to a lot of people about decks and didn’t really conclude anything.

I went back to their apartment, and of course we were stopped by the reception because of my big suitcase, even if I was not the one carrying it. We explain that I am only visiting and will leave shortly, and she looks really suspicious but lets me in. Once we go upstairs, we try to figure out ways to convince her nothing is wrong. At this point we could probably have ignored everything and I could just have stayed there forever, but she really did look suspicious, so we thought it was better not to risk anything.

My friends had told me there were a couple of Irish players in the room next to us, so we knock on the wall and they show up at the window. I ask them for a little help, which they are glad to provide. The plan is that I leave the hotel with my Brazilian friend, making sure she sees me, and then he comes back alone, and after a while I go inside again with the Irish guys, and this time she is not going to ask anything because I don’t have a big suitcase. We leave, I put on my glasses, a jacket, and when a group of almost 10 Japanese players storm into the reception for check in, we decide it’s a good moment for me to go upstairs, and I’m hardly noticed. We were not really bothered about it after that, so apparently the plan worked — either that or we were just too worried to begin with. In any case, thanks for the Irish players for helping me (and for inviting me to drink every subsequent night).

I had to get to the event early next morning, for the Flag ceremony. The first time I was part of it was really nice, and it made me really proud, but this one was somewhat disappointing. There were judges filling in for players every four countries. I mean, is there no one who wants to go carry the flag? I guess they just didn’t want to wake up. The other problem was that we were rushed into walking with the flag, and as a result we finish much earlier than Rich Hagon, who was announcing the countries. By the time he was announcing Israel, we were all at the stage already! That could have been avoided if only they had waited twice as long to send us in.

After that I meet Luis again, and he informed me he had removed Putrid Leeches in favor of some Borderland Rangers and expensive spells — you can always count on Luis to do something reckless if I leave him alone for a few hours. I was pretty convinced I was sticking to my Leeches. I was informed Jund was even more popular than I originally assumed, and did some hasty changes to my deck. After that, I had to hurry to find my seat, which was made somewhat more complicated by the fact that they had pairings up already, directly on top of the seatings. When I went to my table, of course there were two people in there already, since it was not my seating table. Then, as I pick up my things and my yet unsleeved deck, I manage to drop it all on the floor, which makes me want to cry with frustration. I go to my table and some nearby friends help me sleeve, and then I’m ready. Overall it just felt very unprofessional from my part to not even have my deck sleeved at that point — next time I will make sure I bring my own sleeves instead of waiting for the ones they give, as sometimes there is simply not enough time for me to do everything comfortably.

In the end, I played this list:

Some unconventional card choices:

4 Putrid Leech — I never thought this would be an unconventional card choice, but apparently it is. I really like this card, and I think Jund loses most of its power without it — that is, the power to go aggressive when you have to. This is probably the most aggressive card in the entire format, and this is one of the reasons you beat the random decks such as the Dredge deck or Fog. Against decks such as Boros it’s not insane or anything, but it is a fine blocker. Even if you block and trade with Vanguard or Goblin Guide it’s already done a good job, since you would have to use a removal spell on those anyway. I also think the best strategy in the mirror is to be aggressive, which gets pretty hard when you don’t have those.

2 Great Sable Stag — These were my last minute additions, over one Pulse and one Master of the Wild Hunt. As I said, I think the best way to beat the mirror is to be the aggressor (and this deck just keeps reminding me of Faeries in the most subtle ways), and Stag is probably the best card for that. It is also good in post board games, because you definitely want something that costs three, so that it doesn’t get stopped by Goblin Ruinblasters even on the draw (and it also blocks said Ruinblaster). If people take out their Lightning Bolts, which I don’t think anyone should but apparently some people do, he gets even better — and so does Leech. He is also randomly good against the control decks, being completely unblockable and only really vulnerable to Lightning Bolt and Earthquake, which, if they have, is no big deal, but if they don’t they probably lose to this guy alone.

2 Master of the Wild Hunt — We figured this was the best card to beat the cards with which people were trying to beat Jund — Protection bears. Most White decks just can’t beat this card if it stays in play, and it’s never really bad. I think in the mirror Siege-Gang Commander is likely (but not definitely) better, but everywhere else I would rather have this guy.

2 Oran-Rief, the Vastwood — Just an insane combo with Master, and pretty good with both Thrinax and Stag, bringing it out of Bolt and Bloodbraid Elf range. Sure, the deck has plenty of tapped lands already, but I’ve found that most of the time your cards are very good at making up for the loss of tempo, and when Oran-Rief is good it is really good, so I think it’s worth it.

2 Maelstrom Pulse — Pulse is better than Terminate against random decks, but Terminate is better against both Boros and Jund. Since those were the most played decks, the 3/2 split seemed better this way. If for some reason Elves, Planeswalkers, or even GW Tokens become more popular, then you can go back to 2/3, but right now Terminate seems better.

The sideboard has two more Stags, which to me seem better than Mind Rot in the mirror. Again, I would rather be aggressive with a 3/3 that is hard to block and kill than trying to fight an attrition war I have no real control over. If they board in all sorts of cards like this, then the aggressive plan gets even better — imagine you go Leech into Stag and their first play is Blightning or Mind Rot, or Elf into one of those — they are really far behind now, even if they are up in the card count department. I also think 4 Mind Rots is excessive, since when the mirror does become an attrition war it often goes to topdeck, and Mind Rot is as lousy a topdeck as there is.

3 Jund Charm and 2 Burst Lightning are against the aggressive strategies, with Burst Lightning being selected over Pyroclasm mainly because it kills both Ball Lightning and 4/4 Oran-Riefed Stags. Malakir Bloodwitch is just a great card, and sometimes single-handedly beats the decks that think they beat Jund — Andre Coimbra deck, for example, has a really hard time dealing with it. Ruinblaster is for the mirror, again good with the aggression plan, and also for random control decks. Master is for creature decks that are not Jund, and Slave of Bolas is the card to fill the last slot we had against the mirror, while also not being bad versus big GW decks or Naya.

Onto the games:

Round 1: Vampires

I have to say my opponent round 1 was not the best of players, a fact that was made evident by his Vampire Nocturnus. Every single turn I had to watch as he revealed a card that would completely destroy me, only to have him cast something else instead, and then flip yet another card that would kill me. At some point he is at 6 life and I am at 3, and he has Nocturnus in play that is revealing a Hexmage, as well as a Bloodghast. He draws his Hexmage and reveals a Sign in Blood. He attacks, I Terminate the Nocturnus, and fall to one. He has four untapped Swamps, and passes without casting his Hexmage. It makes some sense to not cast anything if he has a Tendrils in hand — he has the Sign in Blood to kill me next turn, so the only thing he loses to is double Bolt/Blightning or Elf into Bolt, so sitting on Tendrils is not that bad. I draw a Bolt and pass. He attacks with his Bloodghast, which I Bolt, and then passes without a play! That means he now has Hexmage and Sign in Blood in hand, both of which would have killed me, and he declined to cast either. I draw another Lightning Bolt and pass again, and he draws, slams his fifth land in play, does not return either of his TWO Bloodghasts (remember, I am at one), and plays a Malakir. So, at this point, if I have a way to kill the Malakir, I might actually win this game! Imagine if instead of Bolt I drew Bituminous Blast — I kill Malakir with the trigger on the stack, flip a guy, draw a Bolt/Elf/Blightning, and attack for six! As it was, I couldn’t do anything, and lost.

-2 Blightning
-1 Lightning Bolt
+1 Master of the Wild Hunt
+2 Great Sable Stag

I didn’t have much idea what to sideboard — as much as I had played Standard, I had not really came up with sideboarding strategies for this particular build that I ended up playing, since I changed it five minutes before the tournament began. After game 2, I swapped back the Bolt for another Blightning.

Game 2 was pretty close, but I won with exactly lethal with my two Stags plus Bloodbraid into a removal spell, when I would have likely lost if I had flipped a creature instead. Game 3 was not as close, as my Master of the Wild Hunt, which he has to read every five seconds, completely dominates the board. At some point I have two Wolf Tokens and he has a Nighthawk, and I ponder what I would do if I used it — would I just bin one guy? Could I ask him how he would distribute the damage? I tried to figure out a way to ask him how he was dividing the damage without being obvious that he can kill both, and I think the best I came up with was “so you’re killing one Wolf, right?”and then picking it up, as if suggesting it, which I guess would be perfectly legal (but these days, one never knows). If my opponent killed only one of my wolves, then killing his Nighthawk was a good play, but if both Wolves ended up dying I would rather just attack back for four. In the end I decided it was not worth the gamble that he would play incorrectly, and just attacked with my guys. It ended up not really mattering, and he was dead either way.


Round 2: Leit, with Boros

I knew Leit was playing Boros, though I was unsure of the actual version. Over the course of this tournament, there were three matches that I played really badly — this was the first.

The first game I mulligan to five, and after some pressure on his part, we get to a scenario where he has two Bushwhackers in play and five lands, and I am at two life and have Bloodbraid, Pulse, and Bituminous Blast in hand, and four lands. I can Pulse both of his guys and then hope he doesn’t draw something, or I can play Bloodbraid. I figured that two things have to happen this game — I have to kill him as fast as possible, while at the same time dying to the fewest number of things — so I decided to play the Bloodbraid. If I hit a creature, this play is strictly better than Pulsing, as I can attack next turn already, and I don’t die to either Goblin Guide or Ranger of Eos, and I have a way to deal with Skyfisher if he draws it. If I Bloodbraid into a removal spell, it’s pretty much the same — I still don’t die to any card that is not a direct damage spell, but this time I have trouble with cards like Teetering Peeks, and then my chances of beating a Ranger of Eos are not very good even if I don’t die on the spot. I end up hitting a Blightning, and he attacks me down to one. I then draw Verdant Catacombs, which I can’t play because I am at one, and decide to Pulse his guy and wait for my fifth land, or another guy, before I start attacking. I draw another guy, and then a Thrinax, and he has two cards in hand, one of which I’m almost certain is a land. I decide to attack him for six, putting him to nine – so dead next turn – and leaving one of my guys back. He draws and plays Path on my guy, then Goblin Guide. Frown.

-2 Great Stable Stag
-4 Blightning
-1 Master of the Wild Hunt
+2 Malakir Bloodwitch
+3 Jund Charm
+2 Burst Lightning

Game 2 I had a hand that had removal but not many early drops, but he doesn’t have Ruinblasters (which he turned out not to be playing) so I can play my two Malakirs and seal the game killing everything he plays. At the beginning of this game, he made a play that is puzzling me to this day — I will have to ask him about it when I see him. I led with a tapped land, and he led with Scalding Tarn, sacrificed it for a Mountain, thought for a while, and passed. I then put him on probably Goblin Bushwhacker, with a small chance of trying to bluff a Bushwhacker. Then, on turn 2, he plays another fetchland, gets another Mountain, and plays double Goblin Guide!

Game 3 my hand is 3 lands, all of which come into play tapped, 3 Thrinax, and Burst Lightning. I don’t draw a land to play Thrinax on turn 3, but he is stuck on lands himself. At some point, I am at 15, facing Steppe Lynx and a Fetchland, and I have triple Thrinax, having drawn the fourth, as well as an Oran-Rief and two Bolts in hand. The entire match I played very conservatively, not attacking into empty boards to leave a blocker up, for example, and this is the way I think the match should be played. I remember when I was playing against Brad Nelson the previous day, at some point with an overly dominant board position I thought very hard for some minutes, and then apologized for the delay, but I was trying to figure out how I was going to lose that game. Brad then said that he thought this was the way good players played that matchup — they didn’t ask themselves how they could win, but instead how they could lose. I agree — in this match, you often have to put yourself in your opponent’s place and try to figure out what they can do to beat you, because, if they don’t beat you, you automatically win! For that, you must be aware of everything that they can do, of course, so it is one of those matches that it really pays to have playtested, or at least played with the other deck for a few games.

So, as I was saying, up to that point I was playing very conservatively. Then, for some reason, I decided to attack with my three Thrinaxes — if I leave only one of them up, I pretty much cannot possibly lose this game. But no, I decide to attack with all of them, and pass with double Bolt + Oran-Rief up. Then on his turn he draws, plays another Fetchland, and attacks — and then I realize that I’m dead to triple Bolt if I don’t do anything. I can attempt to Bolt his Lynx twice, but then he might have Harm’s Way and that is really bad. I know that the game is very much within my grasp, and if I lose to something like triple Bolt I’ll be looking like an idiot, so I just Bolt my Thrinax in the hopes of making three 2/2 tokens and blocking with one. He responds with Path. I could have Bolted it again in response, but I let it resolve and Bolted another Thrinax, which was just silly — at this point, a Thrinax in play was worth more than a Land. He Paths that Thrinax too, and then I am stuck taking six and I now have two lands instead of two Thrinax plus two Bolts. Still, my hand is full of gas, or I would not have attempted to play this way in the first place.

The game slows down for a while and he plays a Baneslayer Angel, which I Bituminous Blast — since I have already drawn four Thrinaxes, most of the cards in my deck will finish the Baneslayer off. If it all fails, I have another Blast. It dies on my first attempt, and then we get to the situation where he has nothing in play and I have Thrinax in play, Thrinax in hand, Pulse, Blast, 7 lands in play, including Oran-Rief and Catacombs. I decide to Pulse my Thrinax and play another Thrinax, and I tap the Oran Rief for that, not wanting to use the Catacombs because that means he needs one extra damage to kill me, and I don’t see myself losing to anything other than direct damage at this point, though I suppose I could have lost to Baneslayer if I fizzle on Blast and don’t draw anything. He plays two blockers, I Bituminous Blast one of them and attack for exacts.

This game was very weird. There were plenty of ways I could have played, each of them being around a different thing, and I always chose the worst route. There were plenty of people watching, and they probably feel like I’m the worst player on earth, spending all my removal spells on my own guys throughout the game, and, for all I care, regarding this game they are right. I tried to reason what he could have in hand that he had not played before, and that could only be Burn Spells or Haste guys, so I tried to play defensively around that as much as I could after my double Thrinax mistake. I honestly believe that most average players would have won this game without any trouble — in my efforts to play around absolutely everything, I ended up almost dying to anything that was not exactly what I was playing around. I had to play around some things, but a line had to be drawn, and I just refused to do it — I even played around Earthquake, even if I knew there was almost no chance he would have boarded it in (I knew he didn’t have it main), and that was mostly a mistake.

I’m sure there was a way to play that game perfectly and give yourself an almost 100% chance to win given the start we had, and it was not the way I played — it definitely involves leaving at least one Thrinax back. If you are going to absorb anything from this match, let it be this: I was on 15, with triple Thrinax and double Bolt, facing a single Steppe Lynx and a mana screwed opponent, and I almost threw the game away because I decided to attack with everything. Of course there are scenarios in which you must attack to prevent them from getting extra draw steps, but that was not the case most of match — in this match, really, the best offense is defense.


Round 3: Another Boros player

These games are not nearly as interesting, in that there is little that can be drawn from them. Game 1 my opponent flooded absurdly and I kept drawing removal spells, and I ended up killing him with a single Putrid Leech plus some burn. Game 2 is somewhat close, but he kills me with double Burst Lightning. I remember during this match that he played Hell’s Thunder and I had to end-of-turn Jund Charm to remove it from the graveyard, because I needed to play a creature next turn and could not afford that he would draw a land and Unearth it that very next turn when I was tapped out. Most of the time, you want to let them pay five so you Charm it away, but on this occasion I could not afford the worst case scenario, so I went for the “even.”

Game 3 I mulligan to 5 and have the very unexciting hand of Malakir, Putrid Leech, Mountain, Swamp, Pulse. I have to keep and draw my Forest early enough. He Purges my Leech and I have a Malakir in hand, but only four lands — all basics. Then my opponent plays a Goblin Ruinblaster, not kicked. I then draw Savage Lands, but I was almost sure he had another Ruinblaster, so I didn’t have much hope. It turned out that he did not, and my Malakir resolved. I drew a Broodmate and another land soon after, and he had a window of two turns to draw Burst Lightning, but he didn’t and I won.


Round 4: Terry Soh playing Naya Aggro

This might have been round 3, and the previous write-up round 4; I am not sure. This was a covered feature match, so you can read it on the mothership.

I remember he started the game with Jungle Shrine, only to play turn 2 Misty Rainforest and Goblin Guide, which left me at a complete loss as to what he was playing. I controlled the game with Master, and he had a surprise Colossal Might to leave me at one (should have been two, but we miscounted the Oran-Rief counter on my guy and I went to one), which gave him two turns to draw Lightning Bolt, but he didn’t.

-2 Great Sable Stag
-4 Blightning
-1 Broodmate Dragon
+2 Malakir Bloodwitch
+3 Jund Charm
+2 Burst Lightning
+1 Master of the Wild Hunt

At this point I still didn’t have much idea of what he was playing — for example, I didn’t know if he had Baneslayers or not. The Malakirs seemed good anyway, and I decided to take out one Broodmate so I wouldn’t have many expensive cards, as he had Goblin Guides and Colossal Mights so his deck was probably geared towards fast draws. Game 2 he has some mana problems after I kill his mana guy, and his Stag is not enough to kill me before the Master takes over. There was a play from him that was really good: he was stuck on two Forests, and then on a given turn he went Lotus Cobra, Ancient Ziggurat, Bolt your Master. He was obviously holding one of the two — I believe the Cobra — and I think most people would just have thrown it there, frustrated at being stuck on two lands, which would have only resulted in me killing it instantly. I ended up killing the Cobra anyway, but by then he had already gotten his Red mana to Bolt my guy. My hand was too good, and he was never really in this game, though that doesn’t take away the merit of his holdup.


Round 5: GW

I was pretty much destroyed this match, though there were a couple of things that could have happened for it to go my way. My opponent had a Knight of the Reliquary with double Fetch, so that it was already too big when it came into play. Then he played Mycoid Shepherd and Baneslayer, and I managed to Blast into Terminate, but even then I did not do much else and he killed me with Sigil of Distinction. I played two Bloodbraid Elves this game, and they both cascade into guys — if they had cascaded into removal, I would have had a real chance.

-2 Great Sable Stag
-2 Putrid Leech (I think)
+1 Master of the Wild Hunt
+1 Slave of Bolas
+2 Malakir Bloodwitch

Game 2 was much less lopsided. The key point in the match was when I had Bloodbraid, Malakir, Bituminous Blast, basic land, Savage Lands in hand, and three lands in play. I could have played the Savage Lands to ensure my five-drop next turn, or to play Bloodbraid Elf and then hope to draw a land. Since he had a big Knight and a Sledge already, I opted to play the Elf, which cascaded into removal for his guy. Then he played Mycoid Shepherd again, and if I draw a land I’m in a really good shape, since I have guys in play already and he is probably going to equip it next turn and I can kill it in response… but I draw another Savage Lands. He equips his guy, attacks, and next turn I drop Malakir, which (coupled with my Elf) is enough to double block and kill his guy, but he has Sigil of Distinction and I die.

If I had played the tapped land the turn before, then he would probably have equipped his Knight and attacked, and I would have taken one hit, untapped, Bloodbraided into removal and then I would be always one step ahead of him, with access to my fifth mana before he could equip his Mycoid, so I would probably have won. If he had played the Mycoid instead of equipping, then I would have Blasted into removal, which is even better. Of course, if I do NOT cascade into removal, I’m just dead if my turn 4 is “tapped land, go,” so I think my play was actually good — there are some situations in which you just have to assume you’ll cascade into the right card, otherwise you cannot win, but at this point if my Elf cascades into, say, a Thrinax, then I’m in good shape still, so I don’t think this was one of those cases. As it turned out, though, with me cascading into removal and not drawing an untapped land, the other play would have been better.


Round 6: Mono White

Game 1 is one of those boring games where your opponent has mana problems, so doesn’t play anything, and you in turn don’t play anything either because your hand is a bunch of answers. He starts with a Sigiled Paladin, which I Bolt. I then play double Stag and he Oblivion Rings both, still stuck on three lands. We play draw go for a while, with him discarding Brave the Elements and Elspeth to my Blightning, and at some point he finally draws his fourth land to play Emeria Angel, which I kill with a random removal. I then draw a Pulse for his Rings, and, surprisingly enough, he does not play anything with his four lands, with 5 or so cards in hand — I figure they are all Baneslayers and cards like Brave the Elements and Harm’s Way, and perhaps a Conqueror’s Pledge or two. He plays a White Knight, which gives me a better idea about his deck, and soon after he is dead.

I didn’t know much how to sideboard, because I was unsure of how aggressive he was — normally against White Weenie I would board in Jund Charms and take out Blightnings, but from the cards he played (and mainly from the cards he did not play, even though he had four mana), I figured he was a slightly more controlling version. The only card that was bothering me was Sigiled Paladin — that did not really fit a control deck much. Still, I went with this plan:

-1 Great Sable Stag
-4 Sprouting Thrinax
+2 Malakir Bloodwitch
+2 Burst Lightning
+1 Master of the Wild Hunt

Perhaps I should have played with those cards maindeck, since I sided them in every match… Thrinax seemed pretty bad against him, with all his guys supposedly either having protection or being fliers — it didn’t look like the Thrinax was ever going to die, and I prefer Stag being able to block White Knights and Lightcasters. I am not entirely sure this is how I boarded, but I think this is how I should have anyway. I decided that if I was under too much pressure then I would take out Blightnings for Jund Charms.

Game 2 he starts with an early Devout Lightcaster that doesn’t kill anything, and I have triple Blightning but not much else, as I’m very flooded. My hand is two Bituminous Blast that I can’t cast, and when I finally draw a Master of the Wild Hunt it gets Pathed, so I’m in danger of losing to that Lightcaster by himself. When I’m on three, I draw a Bloodbraid Elf, and since I now have nine mana I can even Blast it if he attempts to mess with it, just to cascade. He does not mess with it, and I draw a Broodmate Dragon, and that is that. I remember being happy with myself for playing around Brave the Elements in the last turn, since the card he had in hand turned out to be Brave the Elements, but I don’t remember the specifics.


So, I had finished 5-1 — an outstanding result from my point of view, since I was really going for a 4-2 in this format. Overall, it felt like I won most of the games I should have won — I did not do many spectacular things, I just played the cards I drew. I felt pretty lucky, both during the games since more than once I Cascaded into the right type of card, and also more than once my opponents had a couple turns to draw a burn spell and never did. There was also the fact that I was probably the only person in the entire tournament to not have played against Jund at least once – it’s no secret that I hate mirror matches, especially that one, but I was not about to complain, as 15 points is 15 points. I think there was not much I could do about the match I lost, or rather there was, but I didn’t think it was the right thing to do, and I was lucky that the times I messed up did not harm my final result.

I was also pretty happy with Teams, since we were first by a decent margin, with records of 5-1, 5-1 and 4-2, with all of us playing Jund, though not the same version. It was time for me to go find the last few cards for my Legacy deck… I’ll leave for my next article.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this, and see you later this week!