Ah, States; that special time of year where players are playing more for pride then rating points, Pro Tour Invitations, or worldwide fame. And it’s come and gone. More often than not, States is just a great excuse to take a day off from the rest of the world and just hang out with friends. Socializing, playing some cards, hanging out with other people just like them… For some, the State Championships are just a useless tournament. What does it lead to? A playmat, a box of product, and maybe a little bit of cash.
The most important aspect of the State Championships, however, is everyone can finally play with the new cards! Mirrodin was expected to make a huge impact on Standards, and after seeing some of the early results, it is easy to say that the designers and developers of Magic have made a solid but slightly weak set for Standard. Chrome Mox, Oblivion Stone, Myr Enforcer, and others were in attendance at my own states.
The decks for Standard were discussed in detail on the forums here at StarCityGames – and to be straight to the point, I’m not here to present what you should have played at States, or what could have won you the State Championships. I’m here to tell you my story. I’m one of the players who thinks that States is nothing more then a social event; a tournament that is best held in the presence of good friends. Much more relaxed than a Pro Tour Qualifier, but much more difficult than, oh, your local Friday Night Magic.
Anyway, I played in Kentucky. Every year I have played, I have witnessed a growth in attendance for this event. Last year, we had one hundred and forty; this year, we shot up to one hundred and sixty-six. The tournament organizer, Brennan Moody, did another smash up job of producing a great tournament, and the judging staff, headed up by Level two Judge Mark Schafer was excellent all day long. The only problem occurred from the tournament staff was when Brennan announced that the top eight would be receiving product, and a playmate.
Then he let us all know the playmate we would be getting is the one and only, Dave”Joker” Emerson. Not many people were pleased with getting a fatty for a playmate. People dropped in record numbers.
Smiley faces should be inserted here, or maybe a few LOLs. Sigh.
Okay, enough of the brown-nosing. Here is my deck.
Like some people, I regret devoting the Sacred Grounds to my sideboard. The much ballyhooed land destruction decks were not at Kentucky States. In retrospect, I would have much rather played with Dwarven Blastminer, or Blood Moon, as I think both cards are very good against Affinity. You may also be scratching your head over the inclusion of Staunch Defenders. I maindecked this guy in place of Jens Thoren’s Solemn Simulacrum. I tested with the invitational card, Staunch Defender and a mix of the both, and here is why I (along with Laura Karem, and top sixteen finisher Dan Meadors) played the much-maligned Core Set reprint.
In an undefined format, aggressive decks are clearly the best in the format. I thought Goblins would be played in droves, and the newest U/G deck, Affinity would be right behind it. In short, in an aggressive metagame, Defenders and the four life that you will gain are much more important the Simulacrum. On the opposite hand, if control decks like U/W, B/W, or Slide are going to make the bulk of your tournament opponents, Jens will be happy to play for your squad.
So let’s get this report started.
Round One: Jason Crosswhite, Green/White Aggro
This was one of Jason’s first tournament, and he was playing at states as one of the gamers who just wanted to enjoy the social aspects of the game. I caught up with him several times over the day and he was happily trading with some of the others. Jason was playing a Green/White deck that sported Treetop Scouts, Suntail Hawks, Silvos, and Worship. Jason won the die roll and went first, coming out strong with three creatures out by the end of his second turn. He knocked me down to thirteen before I played Wrath of God to clear the board. Exalted Angel came down for me on turn 5 and he exploded out of the reset button with Silvos. I cast a Staunch Defender to go back up to seventeen, and attack with the Exalted Angel to go up to twenty-one.
I was pretty pleased with my board position. I figured I would be able to race his Silvos, with my tag team of Angel and Defender. He had other plans, though; an attack from the gigantic Legend was followed with an Akroma’s Vengeance. I suddenly had nothing, and the Silvos looked like he was going to end the game in short order.
My deck had other plans, and coughed up an answer for me in the form of Astral Slide. I had a grip filled with cycling cards, and was able to cycle through my deck to put threats on the board. Exalted Angel came down for me again, and Jason put the kibosh on my plans of attacking for the win in four turns. Worship came down for him – and at a such a low life total, I was forced to Slide out Silvos during each of his attack steps. I started to regain most of my lost life, and when I let Silvos attack me back down to four Jason was seemingly pleased.
I cycled Decree of Justice during his end of turn step to remove the pit fighter from the game, and put in enough soldiers to kill him during my attack step.
Out: 1 Decree of Annihilation, 1 Akroma’s Vengeance, 1 Decree of Justice.
In: 3 Wipe Clean
Jason took a mulligan to start off game two and was not pleased with his hand of six. He played a land and a Treetop Scout, but after another land drop on turn 2, he missed his next four consecutive drops. I played a face-down Angel on turn 3, and let her win the match for me.
1-0 Matches, 2-0 games.
Round Two: Matt Troutman, Mono Black Control
Matt is member of the playtest team that I am currently a part of. However, Matt was not very pleased with the way his deck worked in round one (even with the win!) and conceded to me so we could go get some food. Matt is a close friend of mine to begin with, and I enjoy his company. We’ve been to four straight State Championships, and when he is not drinking he shows great potential as a Magic player. While not a huge accomplishment outside of more defined Magic community, Matt has placed in the top sixteen of a few prereleases, and top eight of a few Grand Prix Trials. He has a very good work ethic, and I truly believe that his first PTQ top eight is not far away from him.
A few notes for playtesting: In game one, there are very few cards that Mono Black Control can use to beat you. Mind Sludge and Consume Spirits are the most important ones to have answers to, and Persecute is another problem-causer. If you have the Gilded Light for these cards, great – you’re a really good player. If you don’t get those two answers (yes, I know it is very hard to guarantee yourself these two cards), then here are your most important cards in the matchup:
1. Lightning Rift
2. Decree of Justice
3. Decree of Annihilation
So when you sideboard, the proper way in my opinion is to remove your Wrath of Gods and Spark Sprays. Replace them with Karma and Wipe Clean. I am of the opinion that Mono Black Control is a very easy matchup for a Slide player who’s done his homework.
Round Three: Jeremy Tate, Goblins
Finally, a matchup against one of the decks that I wanted to see the most! In our testing, Goblins was an easy matchup with Solemn Simulacrum, but it was even easier when the Staunch Defenders were added to the main. Toss in a Circle of Protection or two from the sideboard, and match looks and plays much different than the matchup from the Onslaught Block Constructed Season.
I’m on the play in game one, and from my notes, it looked like he got off to a very slow start. I have an early Wrath followed by an Angel, followed by a Staunch Defender. Astral Slide comes out to give me some more life from the Defender – and after a half-hearted attempt to get back into the game, JT scooped when I got back above thirty life.
Out: 2 Decree of Justice, 1 Decree of Annihilation, 3 Astral Slide
In: 3 Wipe Clean, 3 Circle of Protection: Red.
J.T. started off pretty slowly again this game, but exploded when I tapped out on turn three to cast a morph. He had no removal spells, but cast Warchief and Piledriver, and attacked with those guys and the Sledder he cast on turn one. I answer back with a Circle of Protection: Red, and he tries to force through as much damage as he could with his team. I keep playing land, preventing his damage and finally flip the Angel face-up. She brought me back up to twenty-four before the game was over.
Round Four: Chip Bowles, White Weenie/Damping Matrix
Chip is one of the oldest players that Kentucky has to offer – and while he is much more of old school player, I knew he had a good deck. He always comes up something unexpected and this event was no exception. He was running White Weenie, but instead of packing it full of stuff like Bonesplitter, he saw fit to run the Oblivion Stone-killing Damping Matrix. This card is incredible against just about every other deck in the format, but is fairly useless against Slide.
Chip won the die roll and watched me Paris down to five before I found an acceptable hand. Thankfully, it was good enough against him. He started to beat down with a Tundra Wolves, then recruited knights to join his growing army. I was able to clear some breathing room by Wrathing away his team, and soon afterwards, his threats were being outclassed by my Exalted Angel. I was able to race his ground force with my lone flier, and we both reached for our sideboards.
Out: I have no idea what I took out.
In: 3 Wipe Cleans
Game two was much more of the same for Chip. After I survived his first couple of turns, Wrath of God showed up, but I was lacking any pressure. I had no win conditions in hand! I cycled cards feverishly, looking for an Angel, or a Dragon, or gee, I guess even a Lightning Rift. I was being put on clocks every other turn, but I drew the other three Wraths, and two Akroma’s Vengeances to wipe his board clean. I finally found an Angel, and she bashed Chip in good.
Round Five: Anthony”Fro” Justice, Affinity
Anthony is hands-down the best player in all of Kentucky. He has been on the Pro Tour several times and is someone I consider a friend. He lives in extreme Eastern Kentucky, but had another reason to show up to States besides the tournament itself; he had tickets for the Dave Atell show (the guy on”Insomniac” on Comedy Central) the previous night in Louisville.
Fro won the die roll and promptly mulliganed away his starting seven. I kept, and he led off with an artifact land and passed. The first real threat was my second-turn Lightning Rift, but he answered that with a third-turn Myr Enforcer, I put a face-down Angel into play, and after taking four from him, I play an Astral Slide. I thought I had the game firmly in grasp.
Lightning Greaves came down for him, and it was joined by a Frogmite. I took another six, Slid out my Angel, and cast Wrath of God. Broodstar looked to end the game in short order, but I had a cycler to take him out while Greaves was on the stack. I again cast Wrath of God, but ‘Fro had the Chain of Vapor to save his Broodstar. I slide my angel out in response to that, and passed the turn. Fro recast the Broodstar, I blocked with my Angel, and removed her with my powerful enchantment. I did it again during his end step, and cast Akroma’s Vengeance on my turn. After the one-sided Jokulhaups resolved, it was on to the sideboard.
In: 3 Shatter
Out: 2 Decree of Justice, 1 Decree of Annihilation
Fro made the second game rather anticlimactic when he took a mulligan to four cards. I had a second-turn Shatter to further cripple his position, and after he tapped out to pressure me with a Myr Enforcer, I cast Akroma’s Vengeance. With five cards in hand to his none, Fro shuffled up his five-color deck and signed the results slip.
Round 6: Richard Poteet, Affinity Stick
I won the roll, and Richard got one of the draws that makes Affinity a sick machine. I was getting attacked by at least six guys on turn 4. I had the Wrath, but Broodstar made an appearance shortly thereafter. A hit from the flying beastie took me to five, and Shrapnel Blast put me out of the game.
Out: 2 Decree of Justice, 1 Decree of Annihilation
In: 3 Shatter.
I once again got an early Shatter for his land, and followed that up with a face-down Angel, she got flipped during the next turn, and I was able to ride her past the land-hosed Poteet.
Game three was a tight, fast-played affair, and I am certain that I am going to struggle remembering some of the key details of this game. I stopped taking notes during the third game, because I was too intent on trying to win than I was in trying to figure out what I was going to tell my readers.
We got into an early battle of Angels and Enforcers. He started to outnumber my guys quickly, so attacking was no longer an option. He tapped out to cast something – it may have been Thirst for Knowledge or Thoughtcast – so my Wrath of God went unopposed, and cleaned off the board. I get an Astral Slide the next turn, but am still reeling when he cast the remaining creatures in his board. I attempt Vengeance, which gets met with a counterspell, and threw a face-down Angel into play.
Broodstar finally makes an appearance for Richard this game, and I have nothing besides Wrath. I play it, and we restart again. Frogmites rain down upon me, and I am drawing next to nothing. I’m forced to play an Eternal Dragon to keep from dying, and his second Broodstar comes down. I attack with my team, hoping to slide some damage through and take advantage of his mana-weakened state to resolve a crucial Akroma’s Vengeance. He had one Island untapped, along with a Tree of Tales and two Talismans. I cast the Vengeance, he Mana Leaks, and I tap the three remaining lands I have in play. He thinks for a minute, shuffles his hand around, thinks some more, and finally lets my Vengeance resolve.
To say I celebrated this occasion would be an understatement.
I regrow my Dragon, cast it, and start to beat down. I take him to two as time is called, and cast my Lightning Rift. I’m holding Wrath of God, and he has nothing in play. Had I cast Wrath and waited to regrow the Dragon, I could have won during the next turn. I did not, though, and hoped that my deck would draw me an answer.
It was a good idea for me to not cast Wrath, as his next card was Scrabbling Claws. He passed the turn back, and my deck gave me a Renewed Faith. I cycled it, and moved to 6-0.
Round Seven: Intentional Draw, Affinity
I forgot my opponent’s name, mainly because we just waited for the results slip. We drew, I went to buy cookies and a smoke, and waited for the next round.
Round Eight: Nathaniel, Goblins
I check the tiebreakers to see if I am in with a loss, and see where some of my friends were sitting at. I decided that I was going to play to help some of my other friends make Top Eight.
In short, after Nathaniel wins game one with the God draw of Goblins, I win the next two based solely on the Circles of Protection that I was drawing. Hard for Goblins to win when they can’t deal damage!
So my win allowed one of my best friends to make the top eight, and put me in first place after the Swiss rounds.
Top eight after the Swiss looked something like this:
Me: Astral Slide
Jack Prater: UW Control
Someone Else: Affinity
Anthony Justice: Affinity
Jeremy Gill: Affinity
Richard Poteet: Affinity
Barry Hyden: Zombies
Laura Karem: Astral Slide
So yeah, half of the top eight was Affinity… I think. I really don’t remember anymore.
I get paired against one of my closest friends, Laura Karem, in the top eight, and lose in a quick fashion. While I was disappointed to lose, I was also very happy at the same time. Laura entered Law School earlier this year, and it is nice to see that even though she can not play as often as she would like to, when she gets to play she is still very good.
So I leave with some product, a little bit of cash from the prize split that me and Laura worked out, and went home.
Before I go, here is my list for the Last-Chance Qualifier in New Orleans this week.
2 Solemn Simulacrum
3 Eternal Dragon
4 Exalted Angel
1 Decree of Annihilation
2 Decree of Justice
3 Astral Slide
4 Lightning Rift
4 Wrath of God
4 Akroma’s Vengeance
3 Spark Spray
3 Renewed Faith
2 Gilded Light
2 Temple of the False God
4 Forgotten Cave
4 Secluded Steppe
3 Wipe Clean
3 Circle of Protection: Red
2 Sacred Ground
I am more than likely going to be running Blood Moons in the sideboard as well. I have yet to decide what I am going to cut from this tight little package, but I have a basic understanding that Blood Moon would make it harder for Affinity to counter my key spells.
Anyway, thanks for reading and wish me luck. I’m going to need it much more then you!
- Laura Karem, Matt Troutman, Lamar Sharp, Will Lute, Paul Hollar, Mike Gould, Joshua and Jacob Beal, Ben Kersey, Dan Meadors: For testing and helping me prepare more then did for this tournament. Without you solid testers, I think my personal results would be much worse.
- Kevin Gray, Mark Schafer, and Darlye Jansich: Great job judging.
- Brennan Moody and the rest of the Bluegrass Magic Staff: Another great job running this event!
No slops. I don’t really care to give those out anyway.