I know that not too many articles have been written about pre-Scourge Onslaught Block. I have only seen the scattered few Pro Tour reports, and the great article that [author name="Rob Dougherty"]Rob Dougherty[/author] wrote about The Claw. As an amateur player, it is hard to care about this format. Pro Tour Qualifiers that use this format will use Scourge, and well, not everyone has to get byes for Grand Prix: Detroit.
Sadly, I am one of those players that have to care. I’ve been play testing the Pro tour decks since the day after North American Regionals. Getting ready for a format that will change the day after you leave Origins seems a bit time-consuming, but you have to get the required practice in. You have to know what the deck you choose to play is going to do, and how well it plays against other decks in the format.
My playtest team put in a little more than one hundred hours worth of playtesting time just to get ready for a Grand Prix trial in Louisville. We all picked our decks pretty early in testing. Jacob and Laura were going to play beasts, Matt was going to play Astral Slide, and Lamar was going to play Goblins. Well, I can’t really say that we all picked decks fairly early on in testing; I was bouncing from deck to deck like a fat kid in a candy store bounced from aisle to aisle. I eventually settled in to play the following deck.
U/R Counter Rift
4 Lightning Rift
4 Chain of Vapor
3 Slice and Dice
3 Choking Tethers
2 Rorix Bladewing
1 Grand Coliseum
4 Forgotten Cave
4 Lonely Sandbar
This deck is very good, but it is missing something. In testing, it consistently two of what I consider to be Tier One decks in the format, Goblins and Slide. It has good matchups with The Claw, Green/White Veggies, and the Three-Color Veggies decks that all made top eight at Venice. It only lost consistently to the most played-deck in Louisville – Beasts. With the assumption that more than half of the field would be playing this deck for the trial, I put it away, and considered my other options.
I could play Beasts; I was only missing one Tephraderm. I could play G/W Veggies, but it sadly had the same problems with Beasts that the U/R deck has: It just loses. I finally get to the event, and think, well, I did put a lot of hours in with Astral Slide, so I should build a copy of it on site.
I went off, built the deck, and found out that I was only missing two copies each of Starstorm and Akroma’s Vengeance. Yeah. They both seem to be important to the deck, but I just wanted to play anything I could kind of build. I replaced those four missing cards with four Slice and Dice. There were still a lot of Beasts decks there, but there were plenty of Goblins running around as well. It seemed like an acceptable call – and even though I did well, I should have sat this one out. This is what I played. Be warned, it indeed is a pile. I credit the performance to having really really good matchups.
Grand Prix: Detroit trial
Location: Books and Music Exchange, Louisville KY.
Format: Onslaught Block Constructed (No Scourge)
Organizer: Brennan Moody
Judge: Kevin Gray
This is the deck that I played:
4 Exalted Angel
2 Jareth, Leonine Titan
2 Daru Sanctifier
2 Gempalm Incinerator
4 Astral Slide
4 Lightning Rift
4 Renewed Faith
4 Akroma’s Blessing
2 Akroma’s Vengeance
4 Slice and Dice
4 Forgotten Cave
4 Secluded Steppe
I really wanted to have the other two Incinerators in the board. I never found them in the cards that I brought with me, so I just took some cards, and tried my best to make a decent board. Stoic Champion, although I never played with him before this event, was surprisingly good.
Enough with the boring stuff; here is the report. Oh yeah, for some reason I’ve decided to post the players’ ratings after their names. I have no idea why.
Round One: Paul Hollar, BGW Veggies. 1753
Heavily metagamed against Goblins with Wall of Mulch main, Paul is one of my teammates, and testing showed this to be a decent matchup for Slide. I kept an opening hand for game one that featured two Astral Slides, a Lightning Rift, three lands, and a cycler, which seemed like a great grip to keep against a slower deck. I ripped an Angel, put her face-down, and paid costs the turn after. When he finally played an action card that was not Wall of Mulch or Explosive Vegetation, I was prepared for the oncoming angels. Rift Number one gets joined by Rift number two, and game one is over soon afterwards.
Game two is not much better for my teammate: I get fourth-turn Angel again this game; however, he fights back with a Vengeance, and then two Angels of his own. I have a Slide in play, so I am able to keep up with him, and when I play two more of my Angels, he plays another Vengeance. I untap, draw, play Akroma, and three turns later, I’m sitting at 1-0.
Round Two: Barry Rowe, Elves. 1805
If ever there were a round where I was truly pleased with playing main deck Slice and Dice, it was here. I think elves are truly an overlooked tribe in this block, but for good reason: When a cycled card can take out four or five of your guys, the deck can be often be overlooked. This happened once in game one, taking out a Wellwisher, Taunting Elf, Birchlore Rangers, and two Bloodline Shamans. I got Jareth on turn 6, and Angel on turn 7.
Game two was more or less of the same train wreck. A turn 4 Starstorm took out two potentially dangerous”Timberlake” Elves, and several angels later, I sat at 2-0.
Round Three: Jarod Burt, Goblins. 1987
Good ol’ Jarod. Of the players in the room, he clearly has the most experience on the Tour. He joked during the day that he owns the last column in all the Pro Tour standings. I’d prolly give my left arm to even be on those standings, but Jarod is one of the best players in all of Kentucky. (I think he’s second best – but not by much, coming in just behind Anthony Justice.)
Sadly, I have no notes for this matchup. I never drew a Slide or Jareth after game one, which I won. Games two and three he comes out like a champ, and beats me senseless. He lets me keep the score sheet as a keepsake and I dejectedly walk away from the table, thinking about the downward slide that is about to come.
And did it ever.
I will not go into great detail about it here, but I am now looking for a new Limited team. So if you happen to know of anyone looking for a random in the Louisville or Indianapolis area, please have them contact me.
Round Four: James Kimbel, Beasts. I have no idea.
Game one James kept what seemed like a pretty suboptimal hand for this matchup. I was shocked to not see the turn 4 8/8 Canopy Crawler. After that happened, I was pretty much on cruise control – true, his Thoughtbound Primocs were hitting me, but they were the least of my worries. Lightning Rift took a huge bite out of him this game, and Exalted Angel flew over for the win in a game where he saw absolutely nothing good.
Game two, the 7/7 Crawler came down, and I almost scooped. Whatever possessed me to keep a hand with no Slides is beyond me; maybe I thought I could be a good player and draw what I needed whenever I needed it. Nope. I caught a well-deserved beatdown.
Game three, we have eight minutes left before the round is over, and I am playing first. I offer the draw, hoping to go smoke, but James wanted to play it out. I sided in my Champions, hoping that I with them, I could get enough pressure down to win easily. I drew all three of them in my opening hand along with two plains. I played them out over the turns, and soon the beatdown was coming… But not from my side. I did take him down to fourteen with the Champs, but consecutive Ravenous Baloths stymied the bleeding. Soon, I was looking at my hand with huge casting-cost spells, and facing the possibility of losing this round. I needed to draw lands – and when I started to draw land, time was called. If I could draw one more land off the top, I would be playing for a draw. I take the Plains off the top, throw down Akroma’s Vengeance, and follow the turn up with an Exalted Angel. The life I was able to gain kept him from winning, and I entered the last round needing to win to get into the top eight.
Round Five: Lamar Sharp, Goblins. 1586
Okay, Lamar is a really good Yu-Gi-Oh! Player. Rumor has it he was the Yu-Gi-Oh! Georgia State champion before he moved up to Kentucky to live with his cousin and my teammate Matt Troutman. I’m not sure about the validity of these State Champion claims, and I’m not going to check to make sure.
Lamar is part of our playtest squad, and he chose to play goblins. Actually, he did not choose to play goblins per se – he wanted to run the three-color Vegetation deck that Paul played, but we could not come up with Exalted Angels number 13-16 to complete the deck. He picked up the goblin deck, played it well, even beating a matchup that, prior to this event, we thought was unwinnable. He took it to Slide during the third round, and his only loss was to a mirror match where he got outplayed.
We got down to the match and both games played out like this:
Turn 2 Rift, turn 3 Slide, turn 4 Morphed Angel (which I was able to protect with a cycler), turn 5 morphed Angel (Which I was again able to protect), turn 6 Jareth, Leonine Titan.
It was over in about ten minutes. Sadly, Lamar finished 9th on the day, which is not bad for him but it undershot his hopes a bit.
Anyhow, I go on to make the top eight with a record of 3-1-1. Not bad, I think, for a deck that featured some suboptimal cards. I got very lucky, and I do not doubt had I gotten different matchups, this article would have been two rounds long, and described what I drank after I dropped. Better lucky then good, I guess.
Actually, I know. It’s better.
Top Eight: Ben Stoll, Goblins. 1905
I was talking to Ben the day before the event, and he told me how he got cast to be in some movie this past week. Ben is a really talented actor, and a talented Magic player – prolly one of the most talented players to play until he got suspended for collusion after Grand Prix: Detroit a few years ago. The six months he was forced to take off made him draft and play a lot of 5-Color – but as a teenager, high school, the commitments that come with it, and acting have forced him to take time off of Magic. Basically, my teammate for the Limited season was playing for packs, as he could not make it to Grand Prix: Detroit so he could attend attacking camp in Chicago.
(Oh, and he is not my teammate anymore, he dropped me, Jeremy Tate, and Justin Brown like a bad habit to play with Andrew Just and Laura Karem.)
Game one, he had no chance. I get three Slides, and enough cycling cards to make sure that I only got hit for paltry one or two points a combat phase. I am trying to find an Angel to put some pressure on the board, but instead am granted with three Rifts. I keep drawing cards that cycle, and kill him off Rift.
Game three was much like the first, but Ben never got past a mana-screwed hand. Angel, Jareth, and Akroma gave me a win.
I’d like to say that I went on to make top two, but Jarod was standing in my way again – and after two crushing games that featured him beating me down with Thoughtbound Primoc, I packed it up, took my half box of product and left for home. It was nice to have a bit of Saturday to still spend with light out.
So what did I learn? Matchups make for good results. Sometimes it does not matter how good you think the matchup is for you, you still lose. Akroma’s Vengeance and Starstorm are really good in the deck.
So in closing, I hope to play a better deck, with all the cards next time, and not have to rely on getting incredible matchups throughout the event.
Decklists for those interested can be obtained at www.bluegrassmagic.com/local
Thanks for reading,