Hey everybody!Â My name is Corey Gaudreau. Most people know me as Milhouse (yes, like the character from the Simpsons). I’m a local ringer and PTQ grinder; however I have only been playing Magic since the release of Shards of Alara. Although I am a Marketing/Social Media guy, I really enjoy writing and sharing experiences, and I love reading Star City Games’ articles. The StarCityGames.com Open Series was in my neck of the woods this past weekend, and I have been preparing for the Standard Open for weeks.
So, what sets me apart from every other writer out there? I’m one of you; the reader. I have zero pro points; this is only my second Star City Open, since I cannot afford to travel all over the country and play in a ton of events. I am just trying to perform to the best of my ability each event.
I’ve been running pretty well in the last month or so in Standard. I was one win away from being in the Top 8 or better in two Pro Tour Qualifiers (PTQs) and was hoping to continue to do well onÂ Saturday.
For the last two PTQs, I chose to play Caw-Blade (Hero-Blade in the first one, and closer to the Edgar Flores/Nick Spagnolo version in the second). I’ve been wielding Caw-Blade basically since it was a ‘deck’ once Mirrodin Besieged was released.Â I’mÂ slightly above averageÂ at piloting the deck andÂ have the necessary experience with it, but still lose to those who have played the deck more than I have.
SaturdayÂ was different. The No-Combo RUG Pod deck seemed like the deck to play, as I was mostly expecting Caw-Blade, Valakut, other Birthing Pod decks, and some U/R Combo/random aggro decks, in that order of popularity. I didn’t want to play Caw-Blade again. I considered playing Puresteel Paladin, but decided Pod was the way to go, so this is the list I ended up playing:
- 1 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 2 Acidic Slime
- 2 Lotus Cobra
- 1 Cunning Sparkmage
- 1 Tuktuk Scrapper
- 2 Sea Gate Oracle
- 1 Tuktuk the Explorer
- 1 Vengevine
- 1 Frost Titan
- 2 Inferno Titan
- 1 Obstinate Baloth
- 1 Sylvan Ranger
- 1 Sylvok Replica
- 1 Hero of Oxid Ridge
- 1 Urabrask the Hidden
- 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 1 Phantasmal Image
The starting point of this deck is the list that MJ posted a few days ago, here, along with a bunch of videos from Magic Online. I made the following changes:
2 Lotus Cobra – The deck only runs 22 lands. I’ve seen some lists go up to FOUR copies, which seems insane. This deck does not have room for four of a two-drop creature that does nothing when it hits the board and is a Goblin Piker when you don’t have any lands to play. Two seemed good. I want to draw exactly one most games, and some games he’s just pod-fodder. Don’t get me wrong, this card is essential to your explosive hands, but I found myself only wanting two.
Frost Titan, the Third Six-Drop – The original list only had two Inferno Titans as the maindeck six-drops, and Frost Titan is superb against Valakut, a pretty bad matchup for the deck. I felt some games I wanted something other than Inferno Titan (I’m insane, I know), and a third six-drop in the main tested much better than I originally thought it would.
Tuktuk the Explorer – Yes! People had joked about this card in the three-drop slot, but I decided to man up and cut a Sea Gate Oracle for a more aggressive creature. Tuktuk was a card I wanted against U/B, since it’s very tough to deal with and leaves me with a formidable 5/5 when I pod him away (or if someone wipes the board). He got the nod since I wanted a better, preferably hasty attacker at the three slot, and he was the man for the job.
2 Beast Within, 1 Nature’s ClaimÂ – Again, the original list has 2 Nature’s Claim and 1 Forked Bolt. Forked Bolt… really…? This card is only good in your already good matchups. Guess what cards are really good against you? Consecrated Sphinx, Titans, Gideon Jura, Deceiver Exarch, Torpor Orb…
Oh yeah, Beast Within turns all of those into a 3/3, at instant speed, and then it dies to Inferno Titan. Also, if your opponent stumbles on land drops, Beast Within, Acidic Slime, and your Clones can just wreck your opponent right out of the game. You rarely care about a 3/3. Oh, you played Primeval Titan? Let me somehow try to get this Forked Bolt to kill it. Come on.
Master Thief – This guy is almost strictly for the mirror and a straight swap-out for Tuktuk Scrapper. Why would I want to destroy their Birthing Pod, Wurmcoil Engine, or Phyrexian Metamorph when I can just straight up take it? Especially when most lists have VERY few ways to get rid of a random 2/2, this guy is the Donald Trump in the mirror.
Spellskite – I added a singleton copy of everyone’s favorite Oh-Four. He just hangs out against Splinter Twin and makes them have to answer him before they can combo off and is a pretty good card against Mono Red (where Phantasmal Image dies to everything).
If you don’t want to hear about random adventures through Massachusetts, just Control + F ‘CatÂ Sun’s Zenith’ to go straight to the tournament report.
My car leftÂ FridayÂ afternoon for Andover (where we were staying, about 25 minutes from Boxborough, where SCG ‘Boston’ was being held). Accompanying me was my brother Adam, Payman Ghorbani (top 16 last SCG Boston, won a 5k in LA with Jund), Mike O’Neil, and Trevor Ward. We all piled into my Alero, aka The ‘Incredible Hulk,’ and headed for Mike’s Uncle’s house.
Now, it seems that it is almost standardized in tournament reports for people to talk about every single restaurant, food excursion, and each calorie the person ingested over the weekend. I honestly don’t get it. Maybe it’s because I weigh 140 pounds and have a nervous stomach so I don’t eat on days there is a large Magic tournament. Either way, if you’re looking for Good Eats, this isn’t the place.
Our ride up consisted of listening to Payman talk about how much he loves Bramblesnap (he actually played it in his G/W Birthing Pod deck; some of you might actually have seen his deck in action at the last few PTQs or on Saturday). We eventually got to move on to what our decks’ names were, even though the SCG decklist sheets don’t have a spot for them, sad! Trev was planning on playing a G/W Aggro list, with Squadron Hawk, Sword of War and Peace, Garruk Wildspeaker,Â and the like.Â We came up with about a hundred stupid things to call it; one was Jim Sokolove Blade. I think only the locals will get that one.
WeÂ satÂ in Boston traffic much longer than we expected to, since we were planning to hit up a local store forÂ FridayÂ Night MagicÂ and trading the night before, but we ended up getting to Andover a little later than we expected to.Â We decided a night of just hanging out and playtesting was a better idea. We ran to the grocery store, grabbed pizzas from Dominos, and settled back in for some games of Magic.
My brother, Adam,Â was playtesting both Valakut and Goblins and decided that he drew way too many Mountains with Goblins and decided thatÂ if he was going to draw them, he wanted them to be triggering Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle.Â
Mike had been set on Caw-Blade for a while, as we tested a bunch of mirrors, and heÂ didn’t drop a match to me. This might be because of the three Day of Judgments he had. Like I said, I’m not the worst Caw-Blade pilot, but there are better.
Payman said we couldn’t pay him $100 to not playÂ BramblesnapÂ on Saturday and was on G/WÂ Birthing Pod.Â That left Trevor with his G/WÂ Sword of Boar and Peace deck. We told him heÂ had some pretty good game against the field, but decided he didn’t like it much. He then picked up our Goblins build, and forever had turn 1 Goblin Guides, and decided he was running well enough with the deck to callÂ an audible.Â PlaytestingÂ and random Magic OnlineÂ drafts continued until about 1 am, and we decided to get a bit of restÂ before a long day of guaranteed ten rounds of Swiss.
We hopped in The Incredible Hulk and headed on over to Boxborough, which still isn’t Boston, and arrived about an hour before the event started. We met up with a ton of other players from Cape Cod, which is great to see considering about eight months ago, there would be about three people I would go to an event with. Other friends I’ve met from Rhode Island, Boston, and all over were in attendance as well. I’m an extremely friendly person. If you’ve played against me, you would know I like to have a little fun, crack some jokes, and just get people to smile and have fun.Â Through this, I’ve made a ton of friends from all over, and I can’t tell you how happy I am when a bunch of them are all in the same room and we get to catch up a bit.
After scrambling around to try and help some friends finish building their decks, the tournament was about to begin, and I couldn’t have been more excited to play my deck. I have about 15 times more fun playing RUG Pod than I do playing Caw-Blade, and I was expecting to play just about anything round 1.
CatÂ Sun’s Zenith – it’s time to get to the tournament report:
Round 1 – Seth Kerin – Mono-U Grand Architect Mill
Like I said, prepared for anything.
Seth was a really polite guyÂ and was in the older demographic in the room.Â When he went turn 1 Hedron Crab both games, I knew I was in for something interesting. He played Mental Misstep to counter my turn 1 Birds of Paradise both games, too! Archive Trap got me a few times when I searched with my nine fetchlands andÂ Birthing Pod. Game 1 I won with nine cards left in my library. I sided in some Combusts for his Grand Architects and Hedron Crabs.
I took game two, even after he played Sword of Body and Mind! That card wrecks me, I’m pretty sure. I used Combust on his Hedron Crab the turn after he played the sword, and I Acidic Slimed one of his Islands and podded it away for an Inferno Titan.
Round 2 – Jack Dupont – B/R Vampires
The other side of the spectrum here. Jack was younger than I was, probably just going into High School this year.
In game one he managed to get some creatures out, including Kalastria Highborn, and the board ended up with him attacking with all of his creatures except Highborn when he is at one, and I had a Sea Gate Oracle and a Phantasmal Image copying it. I blocked his two Vampire Lacerators and not his Bloodghasts so he wouldn’t gain life. Next turn, I attacked with both Sea Gate Oracles, and he claimed to be at two instead of one, but was using six-sided dice for his life total. I recreated the damage for the last four turns on my paper to the judge, and he determined I was correct, and we went to game two.
Round 3 – Mike Clanton – Caw-Blade @ Table 6, Looking Good!
Mike was a really cool guy. I could tell he was a bit nervous, as we were near the top tables.Â He mentioned he hadn’t dropped a game yet, which I hadn’t either, so it sounded like it was going to be a good match! He had pink sleeves and was 2-0, so I put him on Caw-Blade. I was correct.
Game 1 he had the usual Squadron Hawks, with a Sword of Feast and Famine on him. I turned his first Gideon Jura into a 3/3 Beast, but he had a second. I almost was able to win by getting a Hero of Oxid Ridge, but he would have went to two, so I just scooped rather than showing him I was playing it.
The rubber game of the match involved a turn two Torpor Orb from Mike. However, I played creatures like Vengevine, pod into Urabrask, and then Pod into Wurmcoil Engine. No enter the battlefield effects? No problem. I ended up copying the Wurmcoil Engine twice with Phantasmal Image and Phyrexian Metamorph. I sealed the match shortly afterwards.
Round 4 – Nick Spagnolo – Caw-Blade
I knew exactly who Nick was, but tried to sort of play it off like I didn’t. I put him onÂ U/BÂ Control, which I know he’s piloted to a number of victories. Nick was one of the guys I hoped was really cool and a genuine guy, and he didn’t disappoint.Â Glad to know nice guys can finish first.
I actually don’t have a lot of notes from his match. Caw-Blade is supposed to be one of my better matchups, but when he paid two life to counter my turn one Birds of Paradise with Mental Misstep, my only blue mana source, I was pretty much out of it. I didn’t draw a blue source for about four more turns, and he ended up having a Phantasmal Image copying Emeria Angel and just killed me with fliers.
Game two, I mulliganed to six on the play and had a Copperline Gorge and a Birds among a few other things, but it just wasn’t enough. Nick is a really good player, and we agreed that Mental Misstep is busted. I wished him luck and knew I was going to have really good tiebreakers.
Round 5 – Pascal Marion – RUG Pod
Welcome to the X-1 bracket.
Game 1 might have been the most interesting moment of the weekend for me. Pascal led off with an Island into a Ponder, and kept all three on top. I played a land and said go. He played a Scalding Tarn, cracked it for a Mountain and said go. Oh cool, Splinter Twin. I ran a Lotus Cobra out on my turn,Â with a second in hand, trying to bait out a Mana Leak. It resolved, much to my surprise. I had been drawing a bunch of lands after a Cobra, Cobra, Tuktuk Scrapper, four-land start. I needed to draw something good eventually.
On his turn 3, he missed a land drop and said go. I was pretty surprised, no Mana Leak? No more draw spells? On my turn, I played a Misty Rainforest, to which Pascal responded, “Yeah, you got it.” I drew a land for my turn and literally had nothing going. I asked if he was conceding, and he said he was, and grabbed for his sideboard. I guess Splinter Twin gets some bad hands sometimes.
I sideboarded for Twinâ€”you know, brought in Combusts and Act of Aggressions. My opening hand had Cobra, both Combusts, and some lands; it was looking pretty good. Pascal led off with… Copperline Gorge into Birds of Paradise. He said, ‘Yep, it’s the mirror match.’ I looked at my hand and realized I was going to lose this game. It turns out, Combust can’t kill Vengevines, and I lost in short order.
For game 3, I sideboarded for the mirror instead, believe it or not. I got a really fast hand with Vengevine and Hero of Oxid Ridge, and he had one-power guys to block. It turns out Hero of Oxid Ridge is a good card against those guys, and I attacked for exactsies to kill him.
Round 6 – Justin Dinino – Bant Pod
Justin was a little tilted going into the match, as he lost his bag of dice. I offered to share mine, trying to lighten the mood. He smiled a bit, and we were underway.
I knew I saw him playing at table near me earlier, and it took me a while to remember what he was playing. He said he hated Caw-Blade, but his Bant Pod deck had Squadron Hawks AND Sword of Feast and Famine in it. Irony?
Game 1 he recurred Phantasmal Image as aÂ SunÂ Titan infinite times, but I managed to get enough four-power guys attacking to swing past two 6/6s.
Round 7 – Robert Jackson – U/R Twin
More pink sleeves! Must be Caw-Blade.
Onslaught foil basics were Robert’s lands of choice, and I had some pretty foil John Avon full-arts too, which became our first topic of conversation during our match. I like to just talk to people, makes the game more personable and fun. I shortly figure out he’s playing Splinter Twin, and not Caw-Blade.
He missed some land drops game one, and he only had a single Island. I got a bit greedy, and went to Beast Within it, to which he responded with Deceiver Exarch. Next turn he had the Splinter Twin, and I packed them up.
Game two, he mulliganed down to five and led off with a pay-two-life Gitaxian Probe, looked at my hand, drew a card, and said go without playing a land. I mean, are you gonna mull to four with that deck? It wasn’t much of a game. He drew a single Mountain the whole time, and we moved onto game three.
Game three was a huge grind. My hand, at one point, consisted of a Birthing Pod that got bounced, two Combusts, two Act of Aggressions, and an Acidic Slime thatÂ I couldn’t tap out for. I hadÂ a Scalding Tarn in play, with two Mountains andÂ two Islands, soÂ it couldn’t fetch for anything.Â We started playing some draw go. I tried to play a creature; heÂ Mana LeakedÂ it, and I couldn’t payÂ the three mana for it, or else I would just die next turn.
He eventually tapped out for a Wurmcoil Engine, and he knew I had Act in my hand and Birthing Pod in play. At this point, I thought he wasÂ just trying to waste cards in my hand or try to get me to answer the 6/6 or just die to it. I chose to steal the Wurmcoil, attack, and then sacrifice it to Birthing Pod and get two 3/3s. Next turn, he Slagstormed them away, and we were back to square one.
He attempted two Splinter Twins on Deceiver Exarch in the game, to which I responded by Combusting his guy, hoping he didn’t have Mutagenic Growth either time, and the game ended with him having three Dispels in his hand, and I had a lethal Vengevine on board. I later found out he sided out the Mutagenic Growths, as he didn’t see Combust game two.
That match took a huge toll on me, but I was relieved to win an unfavorable matchup. Robert was a super nice guy, and we had an awesome match, and he said he didn’t feel bad losing that game, to which I said I felt the same had I lost.
Round 8 – Chris Marshall – Caw Blade @ Table 5
Chris said he had seen me earlier and what I was playing. Unfortunately, I did not have the same information on him.
Game one he dealt with my Inferno Titan among other threats by casting Day of Judgment, and then took control of the game with flying creatures like Celestial Colonnade and Squadron Hawk, not to my surprise.
Game two he was stuck on lands a bit, and he had two open mana, and my hand had Vengevine and Phyrexian Metamorph among other cards. I played Vengevine first, which was countered by Mana Leak, my first creature spell of the turn. I then played Phyrexian Metamorph, triggering Vengevine’s return to the battlefield ability, and then Metamorph resolved, copying the 4/3 haste creature, and attacked. Next turn he played Day of Judgment at eight life and passed the turn. I topdecked Hero of Oxid Ridge with five lands in play and Inferno Titan in my hand, and he couldn’t answer it the next turn and scooped.
Game three I got out an Inferno Titan, Beast Within on his Sun Titan, and Stingerfling Spider for his Consecrated Sphinx. I ended up tutoring up Cunning Sparkmage to kill his last blocked, and he scooped up his cards.
It turned out that Chris got 33rd in the end. Chris, if you’re reading, I feel your pain, man!
Round 9 – Tim Sussino – U/R Twin @ Table 3
Apparently Tim’sÂ previous round was covered, so we didn’t get the feature match for this round. Come on, no one wanted to watch RUG Pod on SCGLive?
SoÂ in the last two Pro Tour QualifiersÂ I mentioned earlier, one was in Boston and one was in Providence. In Boston, I started off 3-0 and ended up X-2 to not make Top 8. In Providence, I was X-1-1 and had a win-and-in match in the final round against Mike Bregoli. I lost the match in two games, and it wasn’t close. He ended up going to the finals and losing to Elves, though.
I sort of had a chip on my shoulder that day and swore to myself I would win the next win-and-in opportunity I faced.
That opportunity came in Round 9 onÂ Saturday.
Tim and IÂ satÂ down, and he said he had just lost his first match of the day last round. I knew it was going to be a much more serious game, as we had a decent amount of people watching us. Eventual winner Anders Simpson-Wolf was playing to our right, and I noticed there was a chance that a lot of Splinter Twin decks were going to be in Top 8. Lovely.
Game one wasn’t close, as per usual in game one against Twin. He comboed off; I had no answer, GG. Here we go again.
Game two he played a Grim Lavamancer. Whoops, looks like I lose again. I didn’t draw any of my sideboard cards except podding into Spellskite, which got Dismembered, and I lost in short order after he Lavamancered my Acidic Slime, Deceiver Exarch, untapped Lavamancer, killed my Birds of Paradise, and I had nothing in my hand.
I shook Tim’s hand and wished him good luck in Top 8. Tim was a cool guy, and we cracked some jokes along the way at some craziness going on in the table next to us.
A bunch of my friends were watching our match, hoping to see me win and get into Top 8. I have a lot of support from my friends, and I felt bad letting them down there. My second win-and-in in three weeks, and I just couldn’t get it done. I knew I had to just shake it off to try and win next round to get into top 16.
Round 10 – Ben Winterhalter – Valakut
It was Ben’s birthday I found out; happy birthday again, Ben! Shaheen Soorani and Matt Bartley decided to draw next to us, as they figured out they could both guarantee top 32 if they did. Ben and I figured we should have looked to see if we could have done the same, but decided to play it out. Better to have one of us top 16.
I immediately regretted my decision to play it out when he played a turn 1 Raging Ravine into turn 2 Khalni Heart Expedition. Valakut, what an awful matchup. I Beast Within-ed the first Primeval Titan he played,Â but he had the second to kill me.
Game two I sided in my Act of Aggressions, my main plan against Valakut. I managed to get a turn three or four Frost Titan out to try and keep him off of lands, and he wasÂ at 16 from being attacked twice from Lotus Cobra. On his turn, he dropped an Inferno Titan, killed my Cobra, and dealt two to me. On my turn, I did some math, stole hisÂ Inferno TitanÂ with Act of Aggression, attacked with both Titans (12) trigger Inferno Titan to deal three to him (15), and had Copperline Gorge left over to pump with firebreathing (16). Exactsies.
Game three Ben got to six mana, and I asked him which Titan he was going to play, and he said neither and passed the turn. I kept attacking with four-power guys and ended up podding for Entomber Exarch to see what wasÂ up with his hand. Everyone around us read the black card I clearly couldn’t cast, and he revealed a Slagstorm and three lands. Rough. I took the Slagstorm and passed.
He drew a card, thought for a second, and said go. I podded away the one black creature in my 75 and got Acidic Slime to destroy his one Raging Ravine and had Act of Aggression in hand in case he drew Summoning Trap, but he drew another blank, and I attacked for lethal and finished the Swiss at 8-2.
After finishing my last round, I knew for a fact that I wasn’t making Top 8, but knew I had a very good chance to top 16. All I really wanted was a Feature Match on the day and to top 16 and get my name and decklist on the Star City website. People like recognition, and I’m a people.
We listened to the Top 8, one being Tim, whom I lost to in round 9, and I was rooting for him to win the whole thing. I’m a pretty good sport. Final standings were then posted, and my brother and I walked over. Here’s how it went as we approached the board:
Adam: Watch. 17th place, I’m calling it.
(in my head): No way…
I looked to the board and found my name, with the worst number to the left of it I have seen in my life; 17. Seventeenth place. No decklist, half the payout, one-hundred percent crushed. I immediately sulked as my brother went over to the rest of my friends and broke the news. I shuffled over to them and shook my head, completely defeated. Tie breakers. Douglas McKay’s Opponent’s Match WinÂ percentage was 60.3%, and mine was 59.2%. My friends said it was a virtual top 16, which I should be happy with, and I eventually agreed the next day, but I just couldn’t believe I was that guy who almost made it. As most people, I didn’t go to the event to get 17th, or even 16th for that matter, but I would have been so much more content with just being in the top 16.
I was one of the last people to go over and collect my prize, as I was watching Payman play against Adrian Sullivan in some Modern games before we left. Five-Color Juniper Order Ranger beats Zoo. When asked what my social security number was, I completely blanked. My brain could not even function I was so mentally exhausted and butt-hurt about 17th, I just couldn’t remember what it was. I had to ask what the format of numbers were usuallyÂ to even begin to remember and had to go backÂ SundayÂ to have it corrected since I didn’t remember it correctly. We left shortly afterwards, and I barely remembered getting back to the house in Andover, and just passed out on the couch, worn out, disappointed, and the guy who finished in 17th.
Mike woke me up the next morning so we could get to the site so Adam could get to play Legacy. It took me a good couple hours of just sleeping to be over my near top 16, and decided to play a StandardÂ 8-man or two at the site to make me feel better.
I collected some foils for my deck and split in the finals of a win-a-box with Charlie from Singapore, another really fun guy. I played the same deck as the day before. RUG Pod is just super fun to play, and I was back having fun and put SaturdayÂ behind me. I think the Master Thief is a bit too cute and would probably change it to another Spellskite in the board. The Splinter Twin matchup is a little tough, and I think Valakut isn’t as bad as people make it out to be; you just need to know how to attack the deck.
In the end, the SCG Boston Open weekend was one to remember for me. We had a ton of fun; I got to hang out and catch up with friends and even made some new ones along the way.
Thank you to every single one of my opponents this weekend, as I can safely say you were all very fun people. Each match of Magic was fun for me, and I hope it was just as much fun for you, too.
Thank you to all of my friends that I came with, the ones that I met up with from Cape Cod at GameNight.net, Boston, and Rhode Island, or wherever you may be from.
Thank you to all of the new friends I made over the weekend. I hope we can meet up again at some point at another event in the future!
Finally, thank you Star City Games for holding these events and giving people who just can’t make it to too many large events the chance to (almost, in my case) win a big tournament and possibly make a name for themselves.
I hope to possibly make it to Pittsburgh for only my second Grand Prix this weekend. I’m almost positive I’ll be. If you happen to recognize me, feel free to stop and talk for a while; maybe we’ll even play in the event! Hopefully, I’ll continue to write and eventually win that one match I need to top 8. Thank you for reading, and remember, this could be you at the next Star City Open near you! Comment below on what you think about my deck, my report, or anything really. I’ll try to respond to each one. CatÂ Sun’s Zenith!
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