Before I begin, dear readers, I feel that I should apologize. Not for what this tournament report is, but rather for what it isn’t. You see, when I entered a 32-person Betrayers of Kamigawa Premiere Event on Magic Online last weekend, I hadn’t really been planning to write this. If I had, I would have dutifully recorded (or at least taken a screenshot of) my sealed pool and, once the Top 8 began, each pack of the triple-Betrayers draft. Instead of what you’ll actually be getting, you would be reading a glorious amalgam of a “Sealed Revealed” deck-building exercise, a “Walk With Me” draft analysis and the tournament report that will follow. Actually, the report itself would probably be a sight better as well, because I would have remembered to take notes and watch all my replays a few times. Not only that, I’d actually remember all my opponents’ names – if I’ve forgotten yours, feel free to make yourself known in the forums.
So, instead of that super-article, you get this. This is just the tournament report, and really the bare basics of that. Fear not, though; there’s still plenty to discuss. You can still critique my specific card choices and there will be several interesting plays to look at, including:
- Ways in which Scourge of Numai can turn out badly
- Ways to screw up thinking through your opponent’s possible cards
- Interesting things you can do with Hundred-Talon Strike
Now, doesn’t that sound exciting? Let’s get to it!
Since this was an MTGO event, instead of stories of driving to the tournament site, the best I can offer you is a story of my trip to the Wizards Online Store, which doesn’t even involve a stop at McDonald’s. Wheeee. (This actually marked the first time I’ve shelled out for online product since I registered my account; like many others, I have a problem paying real money for virtual cards. I justified this one to myself beautifully – I didn’t make it to a Betrayers prerelease, so this was just the money I would have spent on that.) $22 and change later, I’m queued up and kicking off.
As I’ve already admitted, I don’t have a screenshot of my entire Sealed Deck pool, but it was far from impressive. Green and Red each sported about five playable cards (although a Torrent of Stone and a Patron of the Akki did have me wishing there were more in the latter), but Blue and Black had some pretty solid stuff. Blue included a few good flyers and Black had some good removal and several early-game creatures like Wicked Akuba and Takenuma Bleeder, so that was my first effort. Sadly, the two combined to only about eighteen playables and no other color had enough legitimately splashable cards to cover the difference. That left me with White, which at least had enough cards to actually flesh out a deck, plus one “bomb” that could hopefully push through a few games. Meshing that with the Blue, with the Black removal serving as a splash, gave me the decklist I played:
Guardian of Solitude
Ninja of the Deep Hours
Sift Through Sands
Petals of Insight
Kami of False Hope
Kami of the Painted Road
Patron of the Kitsune
Now, you may have already noticed the several awesome anti-synergies in this concoction, because there are plenty. MARVEL! at the Indebted Samurai with no other Samurai! GASP! at the Patron of the Kitsune with no Foxes! WONDER! at Blinding Powder and Blessed Breath with two Glasskites and only ten other creatures! This doesn’t even touch the fact that I had a Waterveil Cavern that I couldn’t play because Horobi’s Whisper requires Swamps!
Other cards that missed the cut – and feel free to tell me if you think I got this wrong, as I ran right up against the time limit for building: Orochi Hatchery (which I passed on because my late game is already pretty good, even though it’s a crazy combo with the Patron – still not sure about this one), Kitsune Riftwalker (which I had in for a while, but I decided was too stressful on the manabase for not enough of an effect), Silent-Chant Zubera, Harsh Deceiver, Samurai Enforcers, Ethereal Haze, Threads of Disloyalty and Veil of Secrecy.
So the basic plan (if this can be said to have a real “plan”) was to win with hard-to-kill flyers or a gigantic Spirit after using removal to survive the early game, hopefully by splicing Horobi’s Whisper a few times. Splicing is the main method of casting Whisper, with six potential hulls and only three sources of black mana in the deck (although the Soratamis do let you milk two Black mana out of a single Swamp if necessary). The Cloudskater and Sift Through Sands can also help fill the graveyard, although they didn’t show up to do it much in practice. It wasn’t the best Sealed Deck I’ve ever been handed – not by a long shot – but if I managed to survive to six mana (not rare in Sealed) I could probably take control of the game.
Round 1: Draft Dodger (U/B)
The first game started out with us trading Cloudskaters and then ground to a halt. Draft Dodger played a Blinding Powder and I Sifted Through Sands, but nothing else happened until I dropped a Kami of the Painted Road. He found a Scourge of Numai, which I happily slapped with some Mystic Restraints and swung in. After one more hit, he summoned a Nezumi Graverobber and Powdered him up, but I used a Petals of Insight to give my Kami protection from Black and swing though again. I kept the Petals, planning to continue this tactic until the Kami and Scourge upkeep killed him, but he also played a Teller of Tales. Luckily, I was able to Petal into an Otherworldly Journey to remove one of the blockers and get through for enough to let the Scourge finish him off.
Game two saw me get pretty lucky with my draw, as it matched up to my opponent’s almost perfectly. After we dropped a few creatures each, including a Genju of the Falls that I matched with a Floodbringer, I ran my Jetting Glasskite right into a Hisoka’s Defiance. Unfazed, I dropped Patron of the Kitsune out on the next turn with Blessed Breath mana still available. He hit me with an Okiba-Gang Shinobi, but I had a couple Plains to discard because of Petals of Insight. A turn later, Draft tried to summon Keiga, the Tide Star, but I had my own Defiance waiting, and his attempt to Rend Spirit the Patron on the following turn met the Breath. The Floodbringer tapped down the Genju and I hammered home the victory.
I must admit that I felt like something of a lucksack after that second game. There may only be wrong answers, but I didn’t seem to have any of them. Still, I suppose I shouldn’t complain, amirite?
Round 2: Forgotten Name #1 (W/B)
Payback! After my opponent chooses to play first, I somehow convince myself to keep a hand of a Plains, a Swamp, Kami of False Hope and four blue cards. One of those cards was Ninja of the Deep Hours and I was falsely hoping (Zing! You see what I did there? Yeah, that was pretty sweet) to find an Island in my first two draws. This really should have been a mulligan, but my inner Bruce got the better of me and I paid dearly for it. I ended up using an Otherworldly Journey on my Kami just so I wouldn’t have to discard (which I did anyway on the next turn) and my attempt to point a Terashi’s Verdict at my opponent’s Mothrider Samurai found only Blessed Breath. He Who Hungers came out, and I conceded in response to an activation, hoping to maintain some surprises for the next game.
In the second game, I didn’t have nearly enough speed to overcome a Bile Urchin–Moonlit Strider–He Who Hungers opening that ripped my hand apart, leaving me with only a Quillmane Baku equipped with Blinding Powder for my troubles. My opponent had some more spells, while I no longer had any ability to match him. After a turn, I packed it in.
Round 3: Forgotten Name #2 (G/R/w)
The first game of round three started off extremely uninteresting, as both of us had some problems developing mana. I recovered slightly faster, summoning a Shimmering Glasskite, but my deck is not exactly the type that punishes slow draws. I was still only seeing Green and White mana from my opponent, but he eventually managed to play some guys, including a Traproot Kami and Sakura-Tribe Springcaller. Eventually he also found a Kabuto Moth and Neko-Te, an excruciatingly hard card to negotiate when accompanied by Kabuto Moth. (Class exercise: Make a list of ten cards that aren’t made more difficult to beat when accompanied by Kabuto Moth.) Thankfully, I did have Blinding Powder, which could prevent my creatures from being locked down.
Sadly, my two flyers were my Glasskites, which don’t like equipment much, and I could no longer attack with flyers while still playing spells unless I was willing to have them shut down forever. I managed to establish some ground presence with Moonlit Strider and Indebted Samurai, but my opponent also had Isao, Enlightened Bushi as well as Sosuke’s Summons and an Orochi Ranger to reuse it, so the Powder went to work on that front. I managed to find some removal and offed the Moth with Rend Spirit, which also gave me enough of a graveyard to Whisper away Isao. This let me swing through for a few points, but my opponent also found a Burr Grafter, which still threatened to pump the Traproot, and could also get back the Moth once it did. I had a Hisoka’s Defiance, but I was tapped down at the moment and so planned to use it on the Moth later.
My opponent eventually used Kodoma’s Reach to fetch enough Red mana to play a Frostwielder, a pretty mean combo with Neko-Te, and I was forced to Cloudskate my Swamp into an extra Black mana to Whisper it away. Lucky me I drew Rend Flesh off the activation, and the discard gave me four cards in the graveyard again. I Rent the ‘Wielder and spliced the Whisper at Traproot Kami, opening up the space for my flyers to eventually seal the deal.
When game two started, I had about ten minutes of clock left to my opponent’s twenty-one and was very concerned about running out of time – so concerned, in fact, that I accidentally F4ed through my entire first turn and had to discard. Ouch. I do not like this, Sam I Am. I buckled down and started being much more cautious, getting off a turn 4 Rend Flesh on Isao and summoning a Floodbringer (I believe). I still got beat down a bit by a Sakura-Tribe Springcaller (and possibly another creature) wearing Neko-Te before I got out Patron of the Kitsune, which I had to let be locked down by the Springcaller to avoid dropping into burn range. Thankfully, the Patron still triggers while tapped, and he eventually brought me back above ten life, although all of those priorities got me worrying even more about my clock. I got out my Cloudskater to go with my Floodbringer and slowly started whittling my opponent down – an Indebted Samurai I wanted to have help out met with Yamabushi’s Flame – even skipping possible ‘Skater draws to conserve time. I had to use it to get a second Black mana to Whisper away a Frostwielder, which let me finally kill off my opponent with 1:15 left on my clock and about 1:30 left in the round.
Have I mentioned that the MTGO clocks freak me out? I often feel rushed because of them, sometimes even early in game one. Just knowing that it’s there unnerves me a little, and when I forget… well, you see what happens. I take twenty minutes on one game. I’m not even that slow of a player in real life, but all those “OK”s add up.
Round 4: Forgotten Name #3 (B/R)
This fine fellow was playing a pretty quick deck and I was in legitimate danger of being overrun in the first game. He had quick Deceivers of both varieties as well as a Goblin Cohort and an Ogre Recluse (two great tastes that taste great together!), but he Ninjutsu-ed out an Okiba-Gang Shinobi… right into Terashi’s Verdict. That’s what the kids call a “loss of tempo.” I managed to gum up the ground with generic men and apply my flyers to the face, even sneaking in a Ninja of the Deep Hours for a card. Eventually the hard-to-kill Glasskites finished things up.
The second game saw my opponent struggle mightily with his mana early on, and even a Sensei’s Divining Top wasn’t helping much. As I’ve noted, though, I don’t have the capacity to really bash a helpless opponent, and the first thing I could muster was a turn 4 Shimmering Glasskite. He eventually found some creatures: an Akki Avalanchers and a Wicked Akuba that met with Terashi’s Verdict. He dug up a couple more lands and Frostling, while I summoned Jetting Glasskite. On his turn, he attacked with his two little men, and I was faced with a decision.
There are two reasons my opponent could be attacking here. The first: he thinks he can burn me out, even though I’m still in the mid-teens. If this is the case, I should block the Avalanchers, which are capable of dealing more damage to me than Frostling. The second: he thinks he can kill the Jetting Glasskite if I block. This isn’t a major problem for me, as I still have more gas in hand even if I lose the ‘Kite, so I decide to still block something. Now, if this is the case, he must have some sort of burn spell (a Rend or Whisper wouldn’t require combat damage added on), but in order to clear the way for that, he needs to break the bubble on the Glasskite. This is no problem, of course – he has a Frostling. In this scenario, I should also block the Avalanchers, which would kill them and require the sacrifice of the Frostling, netting me a three-for-one instead of a two-for-one. The only way that isn’t right is if his burn spell only deals one or two damage, and therefore needs the extra damage from the Avalanchers to kill the Glasskite – in that case, I should block the Frostling, which would leave my Glasskite alive. I somehow latch onto that last part and put the ‘Kite in front of the little spirit. Of course, it meets with a Yamabushi’s Flame and dies. This was a needless mistake: what I failed to consider is that if his spell had been, say, First Volley or Glacial Ray, he wouldn’t have been attacking with the Frostling in the first place, so blocking the Avalanchers (or just taking the damage) was, in fact, the right play all along. Drat.
Still, it turns out to be a moot point, as I have more creatures and he still hasn’t fully gotten his mana set up, and I coast to victory, but that was still a dumb error and, in other circumstances, could certainly have cost me the game. My opponent was actually pretty cool about it after the fact despite his poor draw – probably a lot friendlier than I was in round two. Props to you, sir!
Round 5: Mr. Self-Destruct (??)
My opponent accepts the offer of an intentional draw and I squeak into the Top 8 as the eighth seed. Have at thee, Mr. Mousseau!
The Top 8 draft turned out to be triple-Betrayers instead of the Champions-Champions-Betrayers I had been expecting, but no big deal – still fine by me. My first pack was fairly unimpressive except for a Waxmane Baku and a Split-Tail Miko, of which I took the former. The second pack had another Miko and a Torrent of Stone, so I took the Torrent, looking to line up a Red/White spirit deck (although obviously not too heavy on the White as I was passing so many foxes downstream). The third pack offered up a Frostling and the fourth showed yet another Split-Tail, which I snapped up. Later in the first pack I grabbed a Ribbons of the Rekai, as the Red had stopped flowing and it seemed like it could work out alright if I got a lot more spirits.
I continued with Blue in pack two, grabbing two Shimmering Glasskites in the first three picks and snagging more Ribbons and a Moonlit Strider in addition to some small spirits and a Mistblade Shinobi. It was pack three that really made my deck, however, as I cracked a Faithful Squire and managed to pick up a Callow Jushi, Ninja of the Deep Hours and a second Split-Tail Miko to round things out. My final decklist:
Kami of False Hope
Kami of False Hope
Ninja of the Deep Hours
Veil of Secrecy
Toils of Night and Day
Toils of Night and Day
Obviously far more aggressive than my sealed deck, this deck hopes to use quick creatures with disruption and combat tricks (as opposed to actual removal) to force through damage, maybe even triggering some Ninja on the side. Flipping one of the Betrayers isn’t too difficult with thirteen spirits and Arcane spells, plus the ability to return some to your hand and cast them again. Shuko can actually equip a Glasskite as well as make even Teardrop Kami a decent combatant. Overall, I was far more pleased with this deck, although I was worried about possibly facing a deck full of Whispers and Torrents or a dangerous creature I couldn’t remove, like an opposing Waxmane Baku.
Other cards I could have included: Ribbons of the Rekai (x3), Terashi’s Grasp, Mending Hands, Chisei, Heart of Oceans, Kami of the Tattered Shoji
Quarterfinals: Coach (B/R)
The opening turns of game one were not particularly memorable, although I do believe that a Goblin Cohort that rarely attacked was involved. Eventually a Takenuma Bleeder came out while I was mustering a Shimmering Glasskite. He gets out a Scourge of Numai to kill off both of his creatures’ drawbacks, but after swinging in I use Phantom Wings to return the Bleeder to his hand, looking to race the giant monsters since I know I can’t match them. When he replays the Bleeder, I’m ready with Minamo’s Meddling, which shows me a Stir the Grave among other cards. I’m able to continue attacking with the Glasskite (and, I believe another creature) while throwing a Kami of False Hope at the Scourge, and when the Bleeder is recast, I send it home by flashing out a Mistblade Shinobi. This gives me enough time – and causes enough life loss to the Scourge – to finally deal lethal damage in the air.
Times I’ve been killed by Scourge of Numai: 0
Times Scourge of Numai has killed its controller: 2
Gotta love those Black cards.
After some quick crashing together of smaller men to start game two, it became apparent that Coach in fact had several creatures that were bigger than mine, starting with the Takenuma Bleeder again. I was going to just race it with my Shimmering Glasskite, but that plan lost some ground with an Ogre Recluse. I figured I could keep that one occupied with some instants – until it was joined by a Frost Ogre. Facing down some exceptionally large men (at least compared to my team), I had to resort to more trickery to stay alive. Already knocked down to single digits, I stopped the opposing forces on the next few turn with (in no particular order) two Toils of Night and Day (tapping the Bleeder and Frost Ogre while triggering the Recluse), a Moonlit Strider that blocked and protected another blocker and a recurred Kami of False Hope. All in all, my opponent’s creatures were kept busy enough for long enough that I could win with evasion creatures.
Semifinals: ISmell (R/W)
In game one, I finally drew one of my flip cards, the Callow Jushi. It got out there along with a Kami of False Hope, a Ninja of the Deep Hours and a Waxmane Baku, but this time I was facing down a Goblin Cohort and a Split-Tail Miko backed up by Neko-Te. Some constant pressure (and tapping of the Miko) managed to get my opponent down to eight, but my Ninja ended up perma-tapped after crashing into the equipped Miko while the Baku met with a Torrent of Stone. ISmell found a Kami of the Tattered Shoji that I could only match with Teardrop Kami (which finally put a counter on the Jushi) and things got even worse when he tapped out for Kami of the Honored Dead, threatening to both stabilize the board and regain some life.
At this point, I could get my opponent down as far as 1 by completely selling out on offense, but it wasn’t enough so I just sent the Jushi, which was blocked by the Kami. I cast Hundred-Talon Strike splicing another Strike (tapping a just-cast Moonlit Strider) and then cast the second Strike for a +3/+0 bonus, taking down the Kami. It gave ISmell five life, but also flipped the Jushi into Jaraku the Interloper with four counters and removed his biggest blocker. I allowed a Shinka Gatekeeper, and when it attacked on the next turn I piled three creatures in front of it, causing enough damage that I could win on the counterattack.
Game two wasn’t nearly as interesting since ISmell got caught on two Plains for several turns, but there are actually a couple scenarios I think are worth looking at. I dropped a Kami of False Hope on my first turn and he played a Miko on his second, and I dropped Callow Jushi on my third. On my fourth turn, I attacked with the Jushi, even though he could just prevent the damage easily. The purpose of this was to give him the chance to trade a Hundred-Talon Strike (if he had one) for my Kami of False Hope by forcing me to sacrifice it to save the Jushi. I reasoned that the Kami wasn’t going to do me any good since it could be picked off easily by the Miko if it ever attacked, and I certainly wasn’t going to need to prevent any combat damage for a while, so cashing it out for one of my opponent’s few playable cards seemed like a good deal. On top of that, I had a Moonlit Strider in hand that could get the Kami back if necessary. However, I would be allowing a manascrewed opponent to trade one of the few cards he could probably cast for one of my permanents, perhaps unnecessarily. He did block and use the Strike and I did use the Kami to prevent the damage, but I’m still not sure who came out ahead.
I played the Strider after my attack, putting a counter on the Callow Jushi and on my next turn I attacked with both. I had drawn a Mistblade Shinobi that turn and had a Hundred-Talon Strike of my own still in hand. ISmell, still stuck on two lands, prevented two damage to himself, but he did so before damage was on the stack, allowing me an opportunity for an interesting play. I had been considering using the Shinobi to return the Strider to my hand, allowing me to cast it again and flip Jaraku, but of course the Shinobi’s damage would be prevented and his ability would be stopped, and I would be sitting with Jaraku, Moonlit Strider and the Mistblade against the Split-Tail Miko. The Shinobi would be more or less unable to attack, as it would break itself upon the Miko just like Kami of False Hope would have, so I would only be swinging for an effective two per turn. This wouldn’t be a “bad” position, but it would give my opponent plenty of time to draw into lands and fight through my ki counters.
Now I had another option. I returned the Strider with the Shinobi, but instead of stacking damage, I cast Hundred-Talon Strike on the Callow Jushi. This meant that the Jushi dealt first strike damage and soaked up the damage prevention shield, allowing the Shinobi to bounce the Split-Tail Miko while still flipping Jaraku. This left my opponent with an empty board and me with four power of attackers, a far more advantageous scenario than the one outlined above. I countered a Waxmane Baku and the attempt to recast the Miko while replaying the Moonlit Strider (which then protected Jaraku from a Torrent of Stone, since my opponent did find some lands) and easily won, something that might not have happened if I had given my opponent more time. Even when someone is already disadvantaged, it’s important to look for ways to stop them from getting back in the game. Take note, though: If he had still had his Hundred-Talon Strike, this wouldn’t have worked – he could have Struck the Shinobi, moving it into the first-strike step as well and making it preventable. Of course, had damage been put on the stack first, this would all be a wash anyway, so let that be a lesson to you. Even when it doesn’t seem like it will matter… it might.
Finals: Forgotten Name #4 (U/B with lots of Ninja, learned from watching previous games)
So, I’m sorry to get all anticlimactic on you here, but there were no finals. I’d been sitting at the computer for seven hours (yeah, with breaks, but still) and was about ready to get out of there. Moreover, I knew I wouldn’t have access to a computer on March 19th, the date of the Release Championship that all flight winners qualified for, so that invitation was, sadly, of no use to me. My opponent and I decided to split the prize packs and I conceded the invitation to him. (Probably a good thing, too – I’d won the roll and decided to play first, and my opening hand was Teardrop Kami and six lands.) Playing the finals would have made for a better ending, sure, but to paraphrase people that used to be in high places, “You write a report about the tournament you played, not about the tournament you might want or wish to have played.” Next time, I promise.
Regardless, I came out twenty-one packs and two Ninja avatars richer, which was enough to finish building a casual deck and should keep me from breaking down and having to enter the ol’ credit card number again for at least a little while longer. Until then, there will be one more player drafting on the house.
clauticea at kenyon dot edu