Thanks for taking the time to read this tournament report. As always, the obligatory deck list is first:
2 Karplusan Forest
1 Keldon Necropolis
4 Llanowar Wastes
2 Shivan Oasis
3 Sulfurous Springs
3 Urborg Volcano
3 Blazing Specter
3 Flametongue Kavu
4 Phyrexian Rager
2 Plague Spitter
2 Thunderscape Battlemage
4 Pernicious Deed
1 Flametongue Kavu
2 Haunting Echoes
1 Plague Spitter
2 Price of Glory
2 Pyre Zombie
I’m not going to bore everyone with a card-by-card analysis. The concept behind the deck is simple. Early in the game, take their best cards, then proceed to administer a beating via creatures that are hard to remove or bad to bounce. No burn, you say? The deck doesn’t really need burn. The only thing I might change about the sideboard are the two Price of Glory, which might get switched out for Urza’s Rages or something. Other than that, I was happy with it all day long, as it showed me much love. Before we get into the report, I have just a teeny gripe first.
I’m a guy who has had his name butchered in print and speech innumerable ways throughout my life. Oh, to have had a simple name like”Rizzo” or”Wise,” or even a good old fashioned American standby like”Smith”! Alas. Until I actually made the top 8, I was registered as Jim Ferraido. I wrote the correct version on my match slip seven times before it finally got corrected. In certain circles on StarCity, I’m apparently Jim Ferraicola, the Italian soda. That’s one of the more innovative spellings I’ve seen in my life. Only the good folks at the DCI managed to get it right, printed in the Sideboard’s”Champs” list. I assure you that my real name is Jim Ferraiolo, and that’s pronounced (fair-E-oh-low). Just had to put that out before I become someone else and earn rating points under twenty different names.
Let me begin by saying that if you were one of my opponents, and I messed up one of the details of our match, please forgive me. This is all off the top of my head; no notes were taken at all. I guess I just don’t have the patience to write down notes in between rounds.
Round 1: Joe West, playing Burning Bridge
In the first game, I get my duress on early and check out his grip. I see two Breath of Darigaaz, Earthquake, Shock, and some land. Burning Bridge, huh? I hadn’t tested against this matchup, but I’m not really worried about it for a couple reasons. The first obviously being with Deed, I can blow up the world and he can’t do anything about it. Second, he has no way to deal with Spiritmonger. I have neither in my hand at the time, but I do have a Blazing Specter that’s getting ready to go to work around turn 4. I take the Shock. I Addle for red the next turn and take a Lightning Blast. He drops a Bridge on his turn, but I cast a Deed later to blow it and then my specter goes to work for 3 turns before he manages to kill it. By this time he has no cards, and I’ve got Mongers in the wait. I think you know how this story ends. I notice that he’s totally creatureless and take out the Terminates and Flametongues for Haunting Echoes and Pyre Zombies. Why not? The second game is a blur as I pretty much play the same tune over again — taking his best cards, dropping a Monger and finishing him in short order.
(1-0 matches, 2-0 games)
Round 2: Austin Crispens, playing G/W/U pro-red oriented beatings
In game 1, I don’t get any early discard, so I’m not quite sure what he’s playing. He drops a Llanowar Elf on turn 1. On turn 3, he drops a Questing Pheldagriff. I think Jon Spencer put it best when he said,”Now I got worry.” I put out a Phyrexian Rager and try to draw something. A Terminate, you say? Don’t mind if I do! Now the trick is to get him to expend that pesky white mana. What’s that? Of course you can Fact or Fiction in your main phase. Sabertooth Nishoba is among the piles. Good lord! I make a pile with Nishoba and land and two other business cards, and he takes the big beast as expected. On my turn, professor Griff purchases the farm and I Addle the Nishoba away. Later on, I Flametongue the Familiar to clear the way for my dudes, and a Blazing Specter joins the team later. I manage to pull it out and start sideboarding for game 2. The one card that really wrecks my deck is Mystic Crusader, and I just hope to God he doesn’t have any of those hiding up in that thing. I take out a Terminate and two Flametongues for three Slays and something else for another Plague Spitter. I Duress away a FoF early on and put out a Spitter on turn 3. Bad times for him, as he has an Elf and a Bird in play. However, I’m not drawing any creatures and just keep dinking for three a turn. He learns that Void is a good card as I strip him of a FoF and a Pheldagriff later on. Eventually, he gets to six mana and drops the big daddy, but I’ve got a Slay in the wait for ole’ toothy and pluck a Specter off of it. I win game 2 easily in a matchup that I really had no business winning.
(2-0 matches, 4-0 games)
Round 3: Justin M Morgan, playing Equilibrium/tempo
Justin is a friend of mine, and a familiar face from when he used to play down at The End Games, in Charlottesville. Now that he’s back in college, he calls Richmond’s Time Capsule his home base and naturally I think he’s a big fat traitor (just kidding). Unfortunately for him, Justin has never seemed to have much luck against me in Constructed tournaments. Today was no exception. We had talked prior to States getting underway, and he showed me his deck. I recognized it as being a tempo deck off of Brainburst, featuring small green beans, Standstill, and Equilibrium/Aether Bursts for bounce. I’ve tested this deck and know it card-for-card, right down to the sideboard. Needless to say, he doesn’t feel too confident going into the matchup — having seen what’s in my deck also and knowing full well that none of the news contained therein can be any good for him.
In game 1, he manages to get out a few guys — a couple little Titans, a Skyfolk here and there. But once again, Flametongue Kavu proves to be too good. I have a huge advantage in this match, given that none of the creatures in my deck are ones that you want to bounce. Flametongues? Sure. Battlemages? Be my guest. Specter? Sure, he’s coming right back in your face next turn anyway. Memories of game 1 are pretty hazy, but I win via the usual suspects. In game 2, he lays a land and says go. I Duress him. He has a hand of four islands, Standstill, Counterspell. Not exactly a winner. I take the Standstill, knowing I’ve got his Counterspell on lockdown with the Addle in my hand. Justin is dejected and knows he’s pretty much done for with such a poor hand. I Addle away his Counterspell the next turn (he didn’t even counter it out of spite), and the rout is on. I drop some guys, he draws nothing but land, and he succumbs to a tide of little 2/2 dorks.
(3-0 matches, 6-0 games)
Round 4: Thomas Chillerni, playing Rice Snack
Another lucky pairing, as I was talking with this guy outside in between round 2 and 3 talking about the Rice Snack deck he was running. He mentioned how he thought Orim’s Chant was a horrible card in the deck and how he was running Mana Shorts instead. I said I thought it was an interesting call, but what do you do when there’s a bunch of guys beating on you? He said he had a couple Pernicious Deeds in the deck. Okay, that’s fair. He also shows me his sideboard which features Call of the Herds and Spiritmongers, totally transforming his deck into an all-out beatfest. Note to others: Don’t show other people at the tournament your deck. You might end up playing against them.
Early on in game 1 I’m sitting on a couple discard spells, a couple Ragers, and a Deed. I’ve got a lot of dead cards game 1 (Terminate, Flametongue, Deed, etc.), and I just have to hope that I don’t draw into many of them in order to win. I go first and I think I Duress for an Early Harvest early on, followed by an Addle for a Harrow. He casts Rampant Growth, but that’s about all he has in the way of mana fixers. As we all know, Rice Snack doesn’t work very well without mana fixers and throughout this game he’s casting Worldly Counsel and Allied Strategies for two and three when he really needs it for 4 and 5. Staring down the army of darkness (led by General Monger), he scoops and begins shuffling for game 2. At this point I side out Deeds and Plague Spitters for two Haunting Echoes, three Slays, and one Pyre Zombie, thinking he had the big creatures coming in out of the sideboard.
Game 2 begins and I begin to see the folly of my ways, drawing a hand of like Duress, two Slays, Addle, Haunting Echoes, and two lands. A purely reactive hand. I had the early discard, which was good, but I had no pressure against a deck that desperately needs pressure put on it early. I had tested the Rice Snack matchup and other than Domain, it’s easily the worst. Early on in the game I am fortunate, as I duress for an Early Harvest and then Addle for a Worldly Counsel. I notice that he has sided in Global Ruin as well, but he had just drawn it. Things look grim. If I can only get to five lands and he has some business cards in the graveyard… If only. Well, I eventually draw into a land pocket. He casts a New Frontiers and gets his mana situation straight on his turn, I drop the Haunted Echoes hammer on him the next turn, snagging New Frontiers, Early Harvest, Worldly Counsel, and one other spell that escapes me. I feel pretty damn good about this play, thinking he can’t possibly beat me without Early Harvest in his deck. Well, I’ve been wrong before and I’ll be wrong again. First he casts Global Ruin, doing severe work against my mostly dual-land deck. My opponent then proceeds to get his Allied Strategery on like a madman, counters every creature I cast, and then with like five cards left in his library, he casts Time Stretch. Untap. Draw. Death Grasp you for ten. Untap. Draw. Time Stretch. Untap. Draw. Restock Death Grasp. Untap. Draw. Death Grasp you for ten. Hell of a game.
I made a mistake siding out a bunch of my three-drops the last game in favor of removal spells and decide that I’m just gonna go all out this time. I need creatures to win, and I need to win fast as time is running out in the round. I take out the Haunting Echoes, Slays, and Voids and just go for pure beats. Well, sometimes pure beats just wins. I get an amazing draw with three Phyrexian Ragers and crush him quickly. He seems really annoyed that he lost, but hey, what can you do?
(4-0 matches, 8-1 games)
Round 5: Chuck Myers, playing B/G beats
For a good overview of this deck, check out Bennie Smith article on States that he posted yesterday. Chuck also made the Top 8 so you can check out the contents on the Sideboard as well.
I can’t explain my confidence level when I see him drop a Llanowar Elf on the first turn. Any deck that has green in it, I just feel I can roll because of Deed and Slay. I Addle for black and catch a Spiritmonger. Good thing, too, because I have to draw a Terminate to deal with that guy if he hits play. His next turn, he casts Call of the Herd. I cast Pernicious Deed on my turn and Deed away an Elf, a Bird, and a token. He only has two lands in play and he doesn’t seem to draw any more. I Flametongue a Bird that he put out to chump block the Blazing Specter that had been beating on him, and it’s over quickly.
For game 2, I happily side in four Slays, one Plague Spitter, and one more Flametongue. I feel that he has no chance. The chance he had also decided not to show up (if I were a chance, I wouldn’t if I was staring down four Slay) as Chuck draws nothing but lands and easily-killed mana critters as a swath of dudes wash over him in a gleeful cacophony of vicious beatings.
(5-0 matches, 10-1 games)
Could this be true? Am I really 5-0? I only have to win one more match before I can draw into the Top 8.
Round 6: Jason Rivera, playing R/G Fat Crank
Once again, I am very happy to be playing against the R/G Fat Crank or any other green based deck. I’ve tested the bejesus out of this matchup and know I am favored to win. I am favored to win, that is… If I don’t make dumb mistakes. In game 1 we go back and forth, with me finally gaining the upper hand when I am at four life. I have a Flametongue Kavu and a Spiritmonger on the table and six mana open. He has a Flametongue on the board and a Call token. He has a Beast Attack in his graveyard and the mana to use it. He’s at seven life. I swing with both of my guys, knowing he has to block. … But I had mistakenly counted on him blocking the ‘Monger with the Flametongue and letting my Flametongue through. Somewhere in the rules of Magic, there’s something that says that your opponent gets to decide how to block, and for some reason that didn’t register with me at the time. He chumps my Monger with the Call token and lets the Flametongue through. He’s at three. I have a Pernicious Deed and a Spiritmonger in my hand. I don’t know why, but for some reason I was more concerned with the Beast Attack he was going to cast out of his graveyard and forgot about the Flametongue that could kill me anyway. I cast it, and see that I only have three mana open. I look at the table and go…”Oh damn. I just lost the match.” He looks at me and goes,”Yup.”
Yup. You said it, brother. The right play would have been not to attack, to cast the other Monger in my hand and leave everyone on D, block as necessary the next turn, then drop the Deed, Deed away whatever, and then swing for the win. D’oh! I suck.
A couple of my compatriots reassure me,”Don’t get rattled, Jimbo. Just forget about it and move on.” Well if I lose this match and it keeps me out of the Top 8, I don’t think I’ll be forgetting about it. In the second game I side in my standard stuff against R/G, and I come storming back with a vicious win. The deck was working all the angles — spitting away mana creatures, slaying the enemy green machine, discarding away burn spells. I can’t remember much about game 2. In game 3, Jason gets the screw draw. He has nothing but red mana — not a single green source. For about ten turns, he either lays a mountain or discards something out of his hand. Unfortunately, I am unable to take advantage of it, as I have nothing in my hand either… Except for three Slays, one Flametongue, and a Terminate. My side of the table has like twelve lands down to his five. I have not seen a single creature from him yet. Eventually he casts a Skizzik with kicker, but I Flametongue it after taking the five. He burns my FTK, and casts another Skizzik. It gets Terminated (with extreme prejudice). I find some Ragers, which find Spiritmongers, which find him at zero life very soon. I feel fortunate to have pulled this match out after making the second worst play mistake of my life. The worst play mistake is a story for another time, but it involves improper use of a Thornscape Battlemage with my opponent at two life.
(6-0 matches, 11-2 games)
Round 7: Benjamin Dooley, DRAW
Ben has a banana explode inside of his bag, leaving gross banana slime inside his binder and all over his cards. Eeeewww. We were one and two in points respectively, so we both knew we were in and decide to draw. I grab dinner at Wendy’s; Ben tries to find another banana.
(6-0-1 matches, 11-2 games)
Round 8: Brett Kelly, DRAW
I know what’s in Brett’s deck and none of it is any good for me. Galina’s Knights, Lightning Angels, Repulse, Rages, Fact or Fiction, Absorb… Orim’s Thunders in the sideboard… Just bad times all around. Brett is desperate for a draw, since he’s 6-1 already. I know I could play him and probably still get in to the top 8, but it’s a chance that I’d rather not take. We draw, much to his delight. I feel all right about it because he doesn’t know what’s in my deck, but I know what’s in his. I figure at least I’ll have the upper hand if we play in the Top 8. It’s a bad matchup and the less he sees of my deck, the better. If anything, this tournament has taught me that knowledge is power.
(6-0-2 matches, 11-2 games)
Top 8: Rick Ralsten, playing R/W/U Angel
Rick also wrote about this match in his tournament report for StarCity, so be sure to check that out. He was playing a really tight deck with Think Tank and Teferi’s Moats maindeck, and all of our games were really close.
In game 1 we go back and forth, with him burning most of my critters and me Flametonguing/Terminating his. I managed to Duress/Addle/Thunderscape Battlemage away three of his four Prophetic Bolts, and I gotta tell ya that I felt good about that. Anyone who tells you that card is bad is nuts. He’s got his Think Tank in play, and although I have a Deed out, I don’t want to blow it just for the Think Tank. You had better believe I thought about it, though, as he kept putting lands in his graveyard and taking pure gold off the top of his library. I knew I couldn’t Deed it away, because it’s never a guarantee that the other ones won’t get countered. I had to save the Deed for a real threat. I manage to narrowly win through sheer creature-to-burn ratio, as he notes, the turn before he would have topdecked a Rage to burn me out. He only had about seven cards left in his library. However, it’s extra bad because he has only two Rages in his deck. That hurts.
I side in Price of Glory thinking it’s really gonna help, but it really didn’t, and it hadn’t really helped me all day. I thought the card was a good sideboard choice against Trenches decks, U/R creatureless, etc. but I didn’t run into any of those. My first three turns went Duress, Addle, Price of Glory. Not bad. Yet Price of Glory really sucks when you have to Deed stuff away that costs more than two, which as one might imagine is a frequent situation. He just aims a lot of burn at my noggin, and I’m more than happy to help him by taking a bunch of pain from painlands. A Teferi’s Moat impeded my ability to deal any damage to him at all, as I took jabs (Fire/Ice), hooks (Rages), and uppercuts (Prophetic Bolt) to my face before hitting the canvas.
In game 3, I take out the lousy Price of Glories and go straight for the throat, like I did against the Rice Snack deck. I even put in Dodecapods because hey, they’re a 3/3 creature. I get the draw of the century: The three Phyrexian Rager draw. I Duress and check for Wrath of Gods, and find none early. In fact, he didn’t have much of anything good, except for a couple of Fire/Ice and a Counterspell. I cast a Plague Spitter to bait one of the Fire/Ices out of his hand, and then just go buck wild with the Ragers. They get down, they make him use a burn spell, they get me another card. That’s all they do, and I love them for it. I just start casting creature after creature, and with no solution in sight, Rick extends his hand.
(7-0-2 matches, 13-3 games)
Top 4: Benjamin Dooley, playing U/B Upheaval
I honestly felt that I had a great chance against this deck. It couldn’t be that good right? If I just get some early discard to take away his combo pieces, it’s nothing but a blue/black Infiltrator deck – which I typically should win against. Discard is what I need. If I don’t have discard, he will win. My threats are good, but they’re not fast.
Ben wins the die roll. I get out of the blocks quickly, taking a Counterspell and a FoF with a pair of Duresses. He draws into a Standstill and casts it on turn 3. Damn. Standstill. I know that if I just sit and do nothing, he will lay lands until he has the combo and then crush me with slavering zombie tokens. The cards I’d get don’t matter, because it’s too late. Truly a great use of Standstill. I cast a Rager, and he gets his three-card pluck. Ben lays a land and says he’s done. I cast Void on my turn which, shockingly, resolves. I name it for three and strike gold, getting two Recoils and a Repulse. He has Upheaval in his hand but nothing else but land. He draws and says go. I cast a Spiritmonger on my turn and ride the big horse to victory.
One match from the finals. I side out two Pernicious Deed (since they don’t do me any good anyway), one Flametongue, one Spitter, and two Blazing Specters for three Dodecapods, two Haunting Echoes, and a Pyre Zombie. If I can resolve an Echoes on him with one of the combo pieces in the graveyard, he can’t win. He just can’t. I draw a crappy hand but since I’m drawing, I paris. I then get a hand with a Duress and two Addles and three land. Yes! This is just what I need to win! Ben lays a land and passes the turn. I draw a Pernicious Deed. Okay; cool. I Duress Ben, to reveal the sickest hand he could possibly have: Counterspell, two Fact or Fictions, Shadowmage Infiltrator, two land. I take the Counterspell, setting up my two Addles for the next two turns. He lays a land and is done. I Addle for Blue and see that he’s drawn an Upheaval. I take the Fact or Fiction, figuring I’ll keep him from drawing more land or the Zombie Infestation. He lays a land, drops Finkel and proclaims”Deal with him!” I said that I would try. I Addle again on my turn for blue, taking the other Fact or Fiction — reasoning that I could drop the Deed on my next turn and then Deed away Finkel… The two extra cards he’d get, I could live with. Little did I know that they would be two Recoils. He starts nibbling with Finkel, Recoils my Deed. I draw another one, of course. I cast it again, but again it is Recoiled. The third time I cast the original Deed, it gets countered. Then I attempt to cast my second one; it, too, is countered. Finkels nibble me to death for the win. The lesson here, as always, when a Finkel is available for the taking, you take it. You might not be able to deal with him later, as I mistakenly thought I could.
In the pressure filled game 3, I elect to go first and decide to keep my hand which is really, really weak. I had only taken out the Pyre Zombie for a Blazing Specter as a sideboard change. My hand is three tap lands, a Pernicious Deed, and a Blazing Specter. No discard there, no Dodecapod in case he gets cute and decides to Recoil a tapland. I think hard for a moment and foolishly decide to keep it because I just can’t risk taking a mulligan when I am playing first. If I draw one land or no land, I have go down to five because my deck is pretty expensive, and that’s a situation I just don’t want to be in. I decide to roll with it and see what happens; maybe I’ll get lucky and draw into something.
Ben breaks my heart and casts a Standstill on turn 2. I eventually have to break the Standstill with a Blazing Specter – which, of course, is countered. I feel pretty bad. I have no business cards in my hand, have gotten no discard, and he’s just drawn three. Not good times. The rest of the game is pretty moot, as I am unable to muster a threat that can stay on the board. He Recoils my creatures and counters a crucial Haunting Echoes that would have netted me a bundle. He thought long and hard about it when I announced it, but he had two blue mana untapped. I probed (nicely),”I don’t think there’s much to think about here. Either you have it or you don’t.” He countered it, and only after the match did he tell me that he already had the combo in his hand. Still, Ben’s taken a bunch from painlands, and all I have to do is get a creature to stay on the table and start beating with it.
Ben: I’ll cast Upheaval. And I’ll float one black mana.
Me: One black mana… I think I just got broken.
He lays a land, casts Zombie Infestation and makes three 2/2 zombies. I could still theoretically pull it out if I can just get this Pernicious Deed into play. I lay a land and say done. He makes one more 2/2 at the end of my turn and swings for eight. He then drops a land and casts…. You guessed it. Standstill. Sigh. I untap, lay a land, Terminate one Zombie token. He draws three cards and makes two more tokens at the end of my turn. Should I have taken another ten and went down to two, hoping that I could cast the Deed in my hand without it being countered the next turn? In retrospect, maybe I should have taken that chance. But it probably wouldn’t have made it through – and even if it did and I deeded for zero on his turn, he still has plenty of cards to make Zombies with. It didn’t matter. I conceded the game and Ben moved on to the finals.
(7-1-2 matches, 14-5 games)
Damn! So close. I felt my deck had a really good chance against Skip Potter’s in the finals, considering it was an essential replica of Chuck Myers’, except without the Ebony Treefolk. I wished Skip luck, but told him it’d be damn hard to win without discard. Skip succumbed to Ben as I did, in three close games.
Well, that was my experience at Virginia States. It was my first Top 8 finish in any”major” event. I’ve only been back into Magic for less than a year, and it was quite nice to actually place at a semi recognizable event. Before I wrap this up, I have a couple of rants.
I hear a lot of people talking down States as a scrub tournament, which sickens me. Sure the prizes aren’t great, but if your deck is good enough to make it through eight to ten rounds of swiss, then you don’t have to listen to what anybody tells you. Also, nobody knew who the hell I was before this tournament, since I don’t go to many. People still won’t know who I am; I guarantee that. If you’re a Magic player who’s been around for a while, whatever you do, don’t ever think you’re”supposed” to beat somebody just because you a) think you’re better than them or b) have never seen them before. That’s the most arrogant thing you can assume. In Magic, anybody can win if they put in the time and dedication. A couple of the people that lost to me probably thought I sucked and was the randomest random in Virginia until they shook my hand and wondered how it happened. Don’t get sucked in to the reputation game. Play your game, accept your losses, don’t bitch too much when you lose and don’t gloat too much when you win. Sorry to get all preachy on it, but that’s how I feel; there’s too much attitude in Magic where there shouldn’t be.
Shout outs go to the entire End Games crew: Sam Fog, Richie Anderson, Jon Wilkins, Kevin Stokes, Andy Hall, Justin Morgan (redcoat!), and to Pete Leiher particularly for helping me test the night before. Props to Donald Sterling for hooking me up with the fourth Spiritmonger I needed to complete the deck also.
Likewise to Starcity for running a smooth tournament.
Thumbs down to Hardees’ and their slow employee staff across America. I narrowly made it back in time for a match, because I think they had to actually catch, kill, and fry the chicken that I ordered.
Dobbs on IRC