I just can’t help myself…
The more I test decks, the more I feel the need to improve on them. I’m never completely content with my 75, and I’ll be the last to ever
admit that any deck I brew is a perfect list.
For Worlds, I put my money where my mouth was and played the much-maligned Tempered Steel deck, and the two pilots (myself and Pascal Maynard) put up a
Which brings us to GP Atlanta, the next relevant Extended tournament, where I went with my gut again and put my tournament life on the line with a
homebrew that I devised on the Thursday night prior to the GP. And for the first time that I can honestly admit, I’ve made a deck that I’m really proud of.
My experiences at the PTQ on the weekend before with Aggro Wargate led me to believe that Prismatic Omen was where I wanted to be. I was also being
goaded into playing R/G Titan Scapeshift by Felix Tse and Pascal. The lure of playing an “I Win” card like Scapeshift was very tempting,
but I liked the consistency offered by Omen and Knight of the Reliquary, which I played in my Aggro Wargate list. Ergo, I set myself to mash it up. It
I pitched the idea to Dan Lanthier, who was at the local shop at the time and immediately set it to work against Faeries. He got back to me with
positive results for Game 1’s, which encouraged me to keep going with it.
I flew out to Atlanta the next morning, and the first live matches I played with the deck were during my two-hour layover in Philadelphia. There, we
ran into a couple of local Pennsylvanians who were on U/W Control, and we tested against them as well on the lounge seats. Still, we were winning.
Pascal and I started working on a sideboard on our next flight’s complimentary drink napkin and also found room to write down some matchup
sideboard notes. Talk about running raw!
Touchdown in Atlanta, and I was teeming with excitement about the deck. I was trying (in vain) to get the completely un-inspirable Phil Samms on the
deck, and Pascal was equally skeptical due to the lack of testing that went into it. Legitimate.
Sammy T (Samuel Tharmaratnam) from Toronto, however, was far more impressionable! My infectious blathering got him. He scrapped it together and played
approximately zero games on Friday night. Six meager hours of sleep later, we handed over our decklists to the estimable GP judges and sold our souls
to the following decklist:
Reliquary Scapeshift, a deck by Jonathan Smithers
For those who are results-oriented, a quick note about the Canadians who played this deck over the weekend and their results:
Jonathan Smithers (GP- 17th place 12-3)
Samuel Tharmaratnam (GP- 22nd place 12-3)
Kyle Duncan (Sunday PTQ- 2nd place, 7-1-1 Swiss, narrowly lost game 3 of finals on a mull to four)
Francis Toussaint (Sunday PTQ- lost the win-and-in round, since he and Duncan IDed in round six, 6-2-1 in matches)
That is a really solid finish from a group of players who literally had played ZERO matches with the deck prior to the tournament’s
start. That is both a burden and a blessing, however. Sammy and I were laughing our way through the GP, as many of our opponents punted games away. I
had an opponent elect to not Cryptic Command my desperation Scapeshift while he had lethal on board, since he thought he was being cute
calling my bluff on having enough Mountains to kill him. He died.
Sammy’s story is that he was paired up against a Jund opponent who led off with a Copperline Gorge. Sammy’s turn 1 land was a Valakut. His
opponent clearly knows that Lightning Bolt is a dead card in that matchup and proceeded to Bolt Sammy down to 17. Then he lost the game to a third-turn
Knight of the Reliquary, a 3/3.
Let’s run down the list and explain a couple card choices that might stand out:
Knight of the Reliquary:
Words cannot describe… How awesome… ughh….. This chick is amazing. Any deck with access to green and white mana (or anything with green fetches
and Murmuring Bosk) is playing her with good reason. She turns matches around on her own, by standing in front of Vengevines, Thoctars, Bloodbraids,
and helps you manually rawdog your Valakuts if you draw Prismatic Omen. Simply absurd.
It’s a creature (which means it can trade or chump-block), and it helps hit ramp spells or dig to Omens. Or if you’re really lucky, it hits
a Knight. Regardless, having creatures with value in your deck is very relevant because of…
Path to Exile:
Removal spell or Rampant Growth. You choose. Many a Faerie player bit the dust when they tried to Mistbind Clique me this weekend. Whoops!!! Taste the
Scapeshift. Path is the most criminally under-played removal spell in the Extended format. Also turns your Bloodbraid Elves and Knights into lands if
you need just that last one to dome them out. But the primary target for Pathing your own creatures is…
The only spell that enables a turn 4 Primeval Titan on its own. The little spawn also effectively blocks a creature then eats a Path to ramp you up to
lethal range. At the very least, the Spawn saves you from losing 4-6 life by blocking a
Wren’s Run Vanquisher
I wanted to play Scapeshift with nine Mountains to have a one-card combo. Does this make me a griefer? Possibly. Does it win games? Absolutely.
Scapeshift off-the-top is simultaneously the most exciting and embarrassing topdeck imaginable. Thanks for playing.
Was a Raging Ravine until I realized that: red mana wasn’t necessary; I never activated the manland once; Plant is Path-able and blocks creatures
to save damage. SammyT’s last minute suggestion ended up winning us both a handful of games on the tournament.
Is the lynchpin of the deck. Without the existence of Bosk, this deck is not viable.
During the three byes, my fellow Canadians and I went to the nearby mall and ate lunch, whereupon we met up with a lonely Guillaume Matignon, who we
invited to come eat with us. He was on Faeries, but when our curious minds pried the secret tech list he was playing and how he built it, we
couldn’t help but collectively drop our jaws at some of his card choices. Being the World Champion and all, we just assumed he was so far next
level our minds could not comprehend. Turns out that wasn’t the case…
Never have I ever been more excited to get down to playing Magic! I was jumping around smiling ear-to-ear in anticipation of slinging Magical spells.
It could not have happened any better than to be feature-matched Round 4 against Garvas Elscott!
(Disclaimer: I’m really terrible at remembering my intricacies of my match-by-match play, but I’ll give you what I can.)
Round 4 — Luis Scott-Vargas — Faeries
Game 1 he kept a sketch hand with no colored sources, and I kept five lands, Knight, Explore. Well LSV bricked on lands until about turn 6, but that
wasn’t relevant since I bricked on spells until turn 7. At which point, I was being Mistbind Clique’d out of the game. Game 2 I got him
with double Knight of the Reliquary. Game 3 I kept a hand with double Stag, two land, Explore, Bloodbraid, Scapeshift on the draw. Amazing hand! Until
I missed my third land from the Explore… Thankfully, I drew a Mountain the following turn and cast Stag, then Stag, then Path on his upkeep Mistbind
and a third Stag, then cast my Bloodbraid on the next turn to win the race against his Bitterblossom and Creeping Tar Pit.
Round 5 — Carson Wick — Faeries
Round 6 — Orrin Beasley — Mythic
I caught Orrin off-guard in one game where he definitely wasn’t expecting a manual Scapeshift for eighteen. I’m not sure if he had the Mana
Leak or not, but he was definitely shaking his head after that play! Orrin had the same problem that many of my opponents had over the course of the
weekend; they weren’t expecting a timely Path to Exile to disrupt their game plan so much. Also, the fact that my deck is a rogue creation and
people test against stock lists mean their knowledge is for the most part imperfect, whereas mine is near perfect with regards to what to expect from
Round 7 — Adam Reiser — Wargate
All three games were a bit of a blowout. Game 1 he was on the play and ramped into Wargate — Valakut, then Omen, Wargate another Valakut, then
play a fetch and kill me. Game 2 was similarly won by me Scapeshifting him out on turn 4. Game 3 went long, but the fact that he drew all four Cryptic
Commands let him buy infinite time for him to play around my Nature’s Claim that I represented but didn’t have in my 75.
Round 8 — Tom Raney — Faeries
Not as a shot to Tom, since I know he is a fine player with the respect of the pro community, but the match we played was probably one of the most
miserable I’ve played in a long time. The fact is that I’m quite vocal during matches and the downtime before and after the games. I wish
all my opponents “Good Luck” and ask where they’re from to try and establish a common ground for us to get comfortable in and
concentrate properly. Tom is the most silent guy I’ve ever had to play against, with simple finger points to indicate he’s passing the
turn, hardly spoke a word before, during, or after the game, and left the match table without saying anything at all. This might be his edge, but
either way, he Faerie nut-drew me in both games while I had little action so the experience was just depressing in general.
Starting off 6-0 then going 0-2 is a dismal state to be in. Tilting hard from losing that last match the way I did, I needed to calm down and clear my
mind and balance things out. I lost the match in about fifteen minutes, so I had plenty of time to leave the hotel, walk around downtown Atlanta
listening to Girl Talk, and push it all aside. I refused to join the 6-0, 0-3 club. I find that time alone outside is what I always need when things
seem to all come crashing down. I just walk and think and breathe. I came back feeling invigorated and determined to win my next match.
Round 9 — Josh Ravitz — U/W Control
A match with Josh is just what I needed to settle right back into my tournament groove. A really friendly guy who is also a tight player, Josh is
another victim of the utter difficulty of Pro Point accumulation for staying on the Pro Tour gravy train. Regardless, our games were a bit uneventful,
as I had a natural Scapeshift draw in game 1 while he drew no Cryptic Commands, and game 2 he went on the beatdown plan with Coralhelm Commander and
Kitchen Finks while I also went on the beatdown plan — with three 13/13 Knights of the Reliquary. My army proved a bit larger.
So at the end of Day 1, Sammy and I were both 7-2, not the best but definitely not the worst. The Canadians at the tournament had a strong showing in
general; other day 2 competitors included Dan Lanthier, Phil Samms, Pascal Maynard, and Matt Mercier.
I was really surprised that the nine rounds ended so early! By 9:30, we were clearing out and starving for food, so props to the tournament organizers
and judges for running everything so smoothly! Upon the suggestion of our hotel roomie, Travis Woo, we were ushered to Vortex, home of America’s
best burgers in downtown Atlanta but were daunted by an hour-long waiting line also occupied by Brian David-Marshall and friends! We bailed in search
of faster food and found a local brewery/restaurant that looked great! BDM’s crew eventually grew tired of waiting in the cold and followed us in
as well. The beer was fantastic, and my meal was tasty, but Lanthier’s bread roll was quite possibly made from hardened concrete. After mocking
Dan for his brittle teeth, he dared me to try and cut it with a bread knife. Mission: Impossible.
After having slept on the floor for Friday night, a bed for the second night was a pleasant change. Gavin Verhey snoring was not.
Round 10 — Kimball Polanik — White/Black Weenie
This match ended up being gifted to me by a grievous error by my opponent. Kimball totally blew me out game 1 while I thought he was White Weenie; he
played a Fetid Heath on the last turn and used two Zealous Persecutions to pump his Spectral Procession army over the top from out of nowhere. Then in
game 3, while I was at four life, his team of Steppe Lynx, Tidehollow Sculler (stealing one of my Paths) bashed into me for lethal. I used my freshly
topdecked Path to Exile to kill the Sculler, which resolved, giving me back my other Path, which I hit the Lynx with. This all happened kind of fast,
and Kimball shortcutted and asked if he could just search both lands out at the same time, to which I replied “Sure.” It was only then that
he realized that he had forgotten his last card in hand, Lapse of Certainty, that he could’ve used in response to either Path to win the game
hands-down. Whoops! That’s the problem with playing in a winning position; you spend less time thinking about potentially losing. Anyway, a
couple of turns later, he still had no board, and I drew into a Primeval Titan.
Round 11 — Ryan Sosna — Mythic
In our deciding game 3, Ryan punted the match by accident. In the final relevant turn, he had one card in hand, thirteen life, and a pair of Knights
that were 6/6 along with a Noble Hierarch and a Lotus Cobra. I had four life, one card in hand, nine lands in play, and a Prismatic Omen (no Valakuts).
I drew my card for the turn, Primeval Titan, which let me tutor out two Valakuts and put four triggers onto the stack, killing both Knights. I won the
following turn, when he flashed me that his last card in hand was a Verdant Catacombs, which he could have played the previous turn and not cracked it.
By virtue of it being there, I can’t kill him since he’s at thirteen life, and I can’t kill his Knights since they would be 7/7s. He
didn’t think it would be relevant but said in retrospect that he should’ve laid it down and not tried to bluff a trick.
Round 12 — Bradley Tinney — R/G Titan Scapeshift
These games were mostly non-interactive races, as this matchup tends to be. Against this deck, I had to not play scared of Nature’s Claim, since
he can bluff it for as long as he wants. Their goldfish turn can often be faster than mine, so I just have to play as if he has nothing, hoping he
doesn’t reach eight lands before I can. It worked out for me in game 3 since he drew a hand with multiple Acidic Slimes but elected to kill off
my enchantments instead of my lands, which let me Scapeshift him out.
Round 13 — Matt Boccio — Warrior Elves
This match is covered on GGsLive.com, so go check their video coverage of watching me toss it in the garbage. Long story short: I didn’t play
Magic during Lorwyn block, and I’ve never had the opportunity to play against Bramblewood Paragon. I knew that he pumped Warriors but clearly
didn’t know he assigned them trample as well. By all means, I should’ve read the card and win the match. Also, sick Vines of the Vastwood! I had
a turn 4 kill if I could Path to Exile my own Eldrazi Spawn, but he Vines’d it in response, so I couldn’t fetch my sixth land. I had another in hand,
so all I needed was to untap and win. Sadly, he drew another lord for his turn, which turned my bad block into lethal damage. RTFC Kids!
Round 14 — Bronson Magnan — Naya
Finally, a dream matchup! Naya is just a goldfish matchup, and any hands that are too slow have to simply be tossed. Growth Spasms and Path to Exiles
showed their worth throughout our two games, and I took it down with relative ease.
Round 15 — Ben Friedman — Naya
The decisive match, we were both playing it out for Top 16 (or so we thought at the time), as our breakers seemed to let the winner squeak in probably
at 15th or 16th place. In our third game, he thought he was in the driver’s seat being on the play, attacked me down to eight life, and flooded
the board with creatures. Little did he expect to see Day of Judgment shatter his dreams and was relegated to the Raging Ravine beatdown plan. Ravine
brought me down to four on the following turn, and I followed with a pair of Bloodbraids to provide chump-blockers. I eventually drew a Primeval Titan
to go with my Prismatic Omen to put the game away.
Seventeenth place is a real heartbreaker, considering my tiebreakers were .04% lower than sixteenth place and also considering that I had the absolute
best breakers of all X-2s after Day 1 at 81%. I suppose all of my opponents chose to start losing matches, and I dropped down to 69%. I still need to
qualify for Nagoya (since Japan is the best country ever, and you all need to go at some point in your life — that’s an order, soldier!),
which of course means I’ll be grinding away on the PTQ circuit for the next little while, unless of course I have a great weekend at PT Paris in
the upcoming weeks, so wish me luck! Also, congrats to Psamms who went X-3 and placed fourteenth despite having only one measly bye!
Thanks for reading, and be sure to test out Reliquary Scapeshift. I’ll warn you that the aforementioned sideboard needs a lot of work, but the
maindeck is really tight. Let me know your thoughts on the forums!