Spring is almost upon us, and like the swallows of Capistrano, I once again returned to the Soldiery in Columbus, Ohio for their monthly Type One full-proxy tournament. As you may remember from my last installment, the field is skewed towards highly powered, fast decks. If a deck cannot stop a combo right off the board, it loses, especially with the many new combo decks coming out.
The week before the tournament, I engaged in some semi-serious playtesting with Team Mercy, the resident Type One gang at Miami University. I had been tinkering with the Vengeur Masque build that Carl Devos recently piloted to victory in Europe, but gave up on that. Masque performs incredibly well in aggro environments, but this was the field of two-turn wins or twenty-turn lockdowns. Next on the list was GAT-possibly from my irrational love of Quirion Dryad. It plays the beatdown in the Psychatog mirror with Hulk and packs enough disruption to slow down combo and roll over everything else.
I think that the epiphany that GAT was not the deck for me was playtesting against my teammate Roland, running WelderMUD with Trinispheres. A turn 1 Trinisphere, which happens far more often than I would like to admit, shuts down GAT enough that the Stax player can drop their Smokestacks, the bane of permanent-light GAT’s existence.
Part of the success that players have comes not only from the cards in their decks, but how well they know the deck. This finally sunk into me two nights before the tournament, when I made the fateful decision to play my old standby, Ghey Red. As avid readers might remember, I piloted the deck to a fifth-place finish in the last tournament, memorialized by my tourney report on StarCityGames.com. The deck is built around mana denial. When your opponent cannot cast anything, feel free to win with Cloud of Faeries, otherwise known as the”Most Humiliating Death in Type One.” Supporting Blue’s counter power in Force of Will and Daze (a dark horse card if there ever was one) as well as Red’s artifact destruction and burn, the deck can buy a lot of time for beatdown. It packs one of the strongest sideboards in T1 and, despite everything it does to wreck, hardly anyone sideboards against it.
Enough of praising the deck, here it is!
4 Grim Lavamancer
4 Cloud of Faeries
4 Spiketail Hatchling
2 Voidmage Prodigy
4 Force of Will
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk
3 Null Rod
1 Black Vise
Mana Makers, Booty Shakers:
4 Mishra’s Factory
2 Faerie Conclave
4 Volcanic Island
4 Flooded Strand
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Strip Mine
3 Rack and Ruin
2 Goblin Vandal
2 Sigil of Sleep
2 Fire / Ice
3 Red Elemental Blast
3 Tormod’s Crypt
And there you have it. In the maindeck, I removed one of the usual Voidmages for a Black Vise. I got to thinking about how worthless Voidmages are in the deck and the night before the tournament, the Vise dawned on me. It works so well with the deck strategy of slowing the game down. A Standstill is a no-win situation with a Vise down, and with your opponent sitting on useless artifacts due to Null Rod and no land thanks to Strip Mine, it is downright nasty.
In the sideboard, I packed heavy artifact removal. The Vandals are in as a first-turn chance against Trinisphere. Stax can generally wreck the deck, and having something like that can turn the tide. Sadly, I didn’t draw into a single one the whole tournament. The Sigils were there because I was expecting a gout of Oshawa Stompy and Madness, neither of which showed up in force, if at all. It also does fun things against Psychatogs, but there are better cards to side in against Dr. Teeth.
I made my voyage to the store, talked a bit with some teammates who had made it down as well, and did some scouting. Dragon and Spoils Mask were abounding, with the first a virtual”bye” for Fish and the second a nightmare. I smartly kept my deck hidden, except for showing a few people my nifty altered 8th Edition Curiosity with a certain monkey passed out from ether, summed up by Steve Menendian’s,”Looks like Curious George got a little too curious!” Having fun in Magic is paramount to playing the game.
Round 1: Robbie, with Spoils Mask
Table 13, and I am paired against an ultrafast, disruptive deck that should seal my fate if I play wrong. I see this table as the high-water mark of the day if things go south. I win the die roll and see a Null Rod, land, and Mox Sapphire in my opening hand. It should never be this easy. I drop the three aforementioned cards and shut down Illusionary Mask for good. He is forced to Demonic Consultation for a Phyrexian Negator, cast off of Dark Ritual, which ran into my Mishra’s Factory, netting me his only land and only creature. The game, predictably, went my way from there.
-2 Voidmage Prodigy
+3 Rack and Ruin
+2 Sigil Of Sleep
Game two was in stark contrast to the first. He took out my Forces with Unmask and Duress, and powered out a Mask and his friend, Phyrexian Dreadnought. I drew my third card of the game, not seeing Rack and Ruin, and shuffled up for game three.
The third game, I play Island-go. My opponent leads with Black Lotus and no land. Daze doesn’t agree with this, and my twenty-five cent investment eats his five hundred-dollar cardboard. He plays a Mox Emerald and passes the turn. I drop a Null Rod and Standstill somewhere in here and I walk out with a 2-1 win.
Round 2: Joe Bushman, Hulk Smash
Joe is a veteran of T1 and is playing Hulk Smash, containing possibly the most psychologically traumatizing creature in Magic. I have an unfounded fear of the beastie, and go into this matchup unsure of what will happen, knowing that I didn’t have enough time to playtest against Hulk.
Game 1 sees his mana sputter. A Wasteland tanks his Tropical Island to prevent Berserk/Pernicious Deed lunacy, both of which wreck my deck. Null Rod locks down the game and I go all the way.
-2 Voidmage Prodigy
-3 Null Rod
+3 Red Elemental Blast
+3 Tormod’s Crypt
Game 2 was tense. Pumped from my last win, I go into this game with half a chance. If I win, I avoid another game of hot Tog action. If I lose, I face Dr. Teeth and his instruments of death again. I lead with an early Grim Lavamancer. His Red Elemental Blasts stop my expansion, and mine his. He puts a Tog on the board and my Lavamancer starts shooting it. We had roughly equal graveyards, but with him running Yawgmoth’s Will and using a kill dependent on his graveyard, he had much more invested in his than I did in mine. Slowly the Wizard ate his away, until he was left with few cards in hand and a nearly empty graveyard.
At this point, he started surging in cards. Accumulated Knowledges and Ancestral Recall slipped past my wall and made his Psychatog pushing the red zone, and hit for exactly twelve. Looking over the final board, I saw his advantage – he had plenty of Moxes out and I had sided out my Null Rods because they shut down the Crypts I sided in. Realizing how bad a move that was, I made sure not to repeat it the next game or in subsequent matches.
Game 3 saw possibly the most fun game of the day. My opening hand had Black Vise and Standstill, and beyond that I didn’t care. With my first turn I sent my opponent on a vacation to Vise City and backed it up with a Standstill, which hit a Red Elemental Blast. The small crowd around me then saw my savagely topdecked Standstill hit the board. He had no choice but to break it, and the game progressed onward. I put in small faerie beats and hit with a Factory until he dropped a Pernicious Deed with me holding no cards. My second beautiful topdeck: Ancestral Recall.
Say what you want about how it is overrated and there are better cards. That little dude putting on his helmet by a pyramid drew me into a Force of Will, land and, the clincher, Stifle.
I baited his Deed with a freshly animated Faerie Conclave, and when he blew it, like any smart player should, it was Stifled for the win. He commented afterwards that he just knew I had a Stifle in my hand. Sometimes Fish are just stupid like that.
Let it be known that I ate a sandwich at this point to refuel. When you see my next opponent, you will see why fully concentrating is the only option available. Hunger, as I have said before, is a Magic player’s worst enemy.
Round 3: JP Meyer, Hulk Smash
Buoyed from my win against Hulk the previous round, the wind fell out of my sails when I found I was to play the premiere Tog player and fashion diva, JP Meyer.”Hey, a 3-2 might still get me into the T8,” I thought. So I sat down with resignation.
The first game a Null Rod hits and the concentrated Strip effects fly on both sides. JP loses the race and winds up dead. He at one point was forced to break a Standstill, which can be disheartening.
-2 Voidmage Prodigy
+3 Red Elemental Blast
+3 Tormod’s Crypt
Game two saw me relieved to have left Null Rod in my deck as his Moxes and Mana Crypt are shut down and he is sent to Vise City once again. The strongest play in the world sometimes isn’t enough to dodge mana screw, and for his credit, when JP had mana, he used it very effectively. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as I pulled out 2-0 against him. Maybe my deck doesn’t roll to Hulk after all!
Round 4, Kevin Kron playing Stax
Trinisphere is what will eventually make Mishra’s Workshop restricted or Blinkmoth Well a playable card. Neither of these have happened yet, and I rolled in game 1.
-2 Voidmage Prodigy
+3 Rack and Ruin
+2 Goblin Vandal
Game 2 sees the same stellar play as game 1. Trinisphere gives me a swift kick right there, when I find myself without counters after stopping a Smokestack. As a side note, Kevin removed Karn from his deck and just used Welders to kill. Although I give him credit for packing strong spheres outside of his deck as well, I somehow wish Stax would find more inventive ways to kill once it has set up a lock. Dragon Engine, people!
Round 5 is an intentional draw into the T8 with a run for Taco Bell in the meantime. Zesty chicken bowls are tech.
In the quarterfinals, I am paired against Bizarro Superman himself again, and I sit down across from Kevin.
He resolves a first-turn Trinisphere. I shuffle for the next game.
Game 2 sees another Trinisphere, and I decide to play out for the fun of it. Let’s see if Welders can go the distance! His first one runs into a Mishra’s Factory that Kevin didn’t see, buying me some time. I beat with the Factory until OSHA shuts it down due to Smokestack pollution. At one point, he had out a Volcanic Island and I had more life than he had cards in his library. If I was able to grab a Wasteland, I could have taken out the Island, possibly buying more turns and seeing if I could give him a run on cards. Alas, it was not meant to be. I got him to one life though, which I see as quite an accomplishment.
Reflecting on the tournament, I had a great time. It was as much a social event as a competition, with Type One heavyweights JP Meyer, Kevin Kron, and Steve Menendian showing up, and plenty of teams making an appearance. When you go to a tournament, meet people! People who share the obsession are a lot of fun to talk to. I even learned how to play Type 4 with Paul Mastriano.
The Top 8 had a great diversity to it, with two-land Belcher and the new Draw-7 deck making high appearances, with TnT coming back from the dead, and Stax and Tog being the usual stars that they are. The metagame is very healthy when a full-proxy tournament isn’t so heavily skewed at the top.
Now for my delicious pearls of wisdom about T1:
Null Rod is still good. With the rise of combo, it goes the distance. It is a bigger thorn in combo’s side than some of the players will have you think. There are very few decks it doesn’t stupidly slow down. It seems that every time it resolved, I won the game.
Trinisphere killed my parents when I was seven. Or at least that’s what it feels like. This card will make waves.
The Voidmage spot in Red Fish in particular is in contention. I sided out Voidmages every single game, and if I knew I would be facing so many artifacts, I would have maindecked Goblin Vandal. Think of it as a Null Rod supplement, and an answer to Stax’s”roll over and die” cards.
Until next time, readers, and never be afraid to play the Little Blue Guys That Can!
Hi-Val on TMD