Random Adventures And Valakuting Close To The Top

Tim Landale made two Top 8s with Valakut recently and has a few stories from you from his travels through the Northeast. If you’re looking for a solid Valakut deck for this weekend or SCG Open: Richmond, you’ve come to the right place.

This article is going to have a little more story time than my previous articles. This story begins the weekend before last. I found out about a Mox tournament taking place the Tuesday before the PTQ in Rhode Island!

First, I have to say how great it is that we have social media to inform us of events that I otherwise would not find out about. It makes being a grinder so much easier.

I found out about this event in Rhode Island that was offering, instead of a booster box to first place, a Mox Sapphire! Without my trusty partner in crime, Chester Li, I did not like my odds of making it to the event. But before that, I had to figure out what I wanted to play anyway.

Pretty quickly Valakut seemed to stand out as the deck that improved the most from the bannings and M12, so I opted to run that. Valakut had a very hard time beating Stoneforge Mystic, which is why the deck died out with the rise of Caw-Blade. In a matter of months Valakut had gone from the top deck in Standard to being unplayable. Now it seemed poised to take over again. I was very excited about the addition of Solemn Simulacrum and Rampant Growth replacing the dreadful Khalni Heart Expedition.

I thought I had a chance if I called my friend Griffin Corrigan. “Grif,” as he is affectionately known, is a pretty fun person to be around. He never takes life too seriously. He is by far the worst person I have ever met when it comes to planning things. I knew my best shot was to wait until Monday to ask him; otherwise I would receive the standard response of “That’s like x days away! I don’t even know what I am doing tomorrow!”

So Tuesday around 2 am I hollered at him through Facebook (isn’t social media great?). He thought it sounded like a good idea but wanted to see when he got up. So I called him around 2 pm the next day, waking him up (he leads a blessed life). Several hours later, we headed to RI.

The trip down was pretty unexciting. We sang to the radio and cursed at the traffic. We actually thought we were drawing dead until we found out the tournament started an hour later than we had thought… MISE! We finally arrived at the event, and I proceeded to buy the last few cards I needed for Valakut. Nobody had the Gaea’s Revenge I wanted for my sideboard so I jammed some Koth of the Hammers I found in my binder into the sideboard instead. Grif managed to borrow a deck, and we finally got started. After four rounds, I found myself drawing twice into the Top 8. 

I was feeling really good at this point. I don’t believe I had lost a game yet and felt like my deck was quite a bit better than everybody else’s. They offered some horrible split, and I declined it quickly. In the split they valued the Mox at $250.

This seems pretty horrible for a Mox Sapphire. I didn’t have a smart phone on me but have been buying, selling, and trading cards for a long time, and unless something has changed, that price is horrible. But regardless, I didn’t want to chop eight ways. I got paired in a Valakut mirror. He got somewhat unlucky, and I destroyed him in two games.

Since my games did not last very long, I went up to the judge who worked for the store and asked him about buying out the Mox from the other players if we agreed to a split. I asked what I was allowed to say to that effect because I did not want to get disqualified for bribery or anything else. I knew when I was coming up that I would play a ton of Vintage tournaments where the first place was a Mox. You could always offer to buy out the other guy’s share of it in the finals or top four or whatever, so I was curious if that was an option here.

Unfortunately it was a sanctioned event, so the best I was allowed to offer was “Let’s agree to split, and then if we don’t get a better offer than the store’s price in a few minutes, we sell it to them.” The store, realizing that I was not going to let them buy out a Mox Sapphire that would probably fetch closer to $350, upped its buyout value to $300. This was more acceptable, and it was already close to 2 am, so we chopped it all up. I got $75 and fourteen packs for my trouble.

The number of great friends I have met through Magic is amazing. This game has given me so much. Grif and I don’t just go play cards together. We both stay up way too late and love to party. It is not uncommon to find me at his house on a Friday with a bunch of other people enjoying life.

Naturally around 3 am we got back and decided it was a good time to cook some food and battle with his cube type game. After soundly defeating him a few times, we watched some videos online and parted ways around 5 am. I spent about twenty minutes jotting down notes from the event about how I would change my deck.

Friday rolled around, and a bunch of us headed out to the Bell in Hand, a local club. After many drinks, a night filled with dancing, and some lovely ladies, I was exhausted. Highlights for the night included Chester Li hearing repeatedly “I would leave my boyfriend for you!”

Nothing too crazy happened, and nobody ended up leaving with anybody else. Things shut down around 2 am, and we headed back to the hotel where a few of them were staying and crashed for the night. I fell asleep pondering the value of Memoricide in my sideboard.

I woke up the next morning, changed, hydrated, and headed to the site. I decided against the Memoricide plan, though it does help you in the mirror and against Splinter Twin decks, which are the two matchups I was worried about. I just didn’t think I would see enough of it to justify playing them, and I didn’t want to have a bunch of non-basics in my deck to help find the Swamp. I ended up with the following seventy-five:

I was pretty happy with this list going into the event. Nothing had seemed to be a horrible matchup except for UR Splinter Twin. The Creeping Corrosion seemed to be insane against the Tempered Steel decks. Even the sideboard excited me. For those of you who don’t know me very well, I hate sideboards. I never feel good about them or what to take out. It is by far the weakest part of my game in my opinion. So for me to be excited about my sideboard is pretty rare. That being said, I had thirteen cards that I felt could dramatically swing a game in my favor and two Nature’s Claim that seemed quite solid. After all, it’s hard to have a card for one mana that should can shift the game in Standard.

The first couple of rounds went pretty smoothly, I ended up being able to sneak away to get some food after the second or third round and felt much better after that. It was pouring rain when we had arrived, so I didn’t want to walk to get food, even though it was very apparent that I needed some. After playing against a variety of decks during the first six rounds, I found myself sitting pretty at 6-0 and feeling super confident. After all I had not lost a match in two tournaments so far!

Naturally I had already drafted once during the course of the event and fired up another since I should be drawing in. Is anything as much fun as doing 3v3 drafts with your friends? I ended up not having to finish a match in the second one before we won! Go team! I think more than anything else drafting with my friends brings me the most joy. Big events feel like a crapshoot, and while I enjoy doing well, it’s still not as much fun as winning some team drafts and getting your loot. This time I ended up playing two games before my teammates had won five matches! Truly I was working hard to get paid these days.

The top eight finally started, and I had to play against U/W Tempered Steel. I had yet to play against the blue version, but it seemed like it should be much worse for me. They are a little bit slower but have quite a few more interactive cards, which is not what Valakut wants. We played two very interesting games. The first game I would have won if I had run Lightning Bolt instead of Burst Lightning. I could have cast it and Primeval Titan one turn and instead had to pay the kicker on Burst Lightning to kill a Signal Pest that was pumped by Tempered Steel. I still don’t know which card I like better.

I did manage to kill a Deciever Exarch earlier in the event with a Burst Lightning, which may have won me that game. I think it is pretty rare that it matters either way, but going forward I might just run a split of them until I figure it out. The second game went more according to plan with my casting a Pyroclasm to kill three Memnites and then fighting off various creatures the rest of the game until I could get a Primeval Titan in. The third game was anticlimactic. I mulled to five and kept one land, Pyroclasm, and some ramp. I never made my land drop until it was too late.

Not a great way to end the PTQ, but I was delighted to find out that I could trade my PTQ T8 pin for six cookies! I haumphed down a few cookies, as I birded Chester Li, Jason Ford, and other local friends finishing up a draft. They were delighted to help me devour the spoils of victory. The draft ended pretty shortly afterwards, and Chester began asking about the deck, which forced me to think about it for this weekend. This is what I would play this weekend:

With Caw-Blade performing very well last weekend, I really feel like this deck is poised to take over. Your Splinter Twin matchup is still pretty bad, but they can just brick off on drawing both combo pieces. So far nothing else has felt like a bad matchup. I have been playing the deck quite a bit on Magic Online and have been doing pretty well on there as well. I don’t know if I will be attending the StarCityGames.com Open Series in Richmond or going to another PTQ that is a bit closer to home, but either way I will be battling with something very close to this list. Hope you enjoyed the article; feel free to ask any questions in the forums.