States is the greatest tournament of the year. Over the past year, nothing has given me greater pride than to say that I’m the defending Arizona State Champion. Just like one of my greatest moments was receiving the 2003 plaque, one of saddest moments was selling my 2003 States playmat…. for a movie ticket…. to a waste of DNA.
Needless to say, I wanted to defend my prestigious title. Most of my testing occurred by playing formats other than Champions Standard. That last statement is a bit misleading, since Mirrodin Block and pre-Kamigawa Standard are pretty much the same format as the States. You play Affinity and try to win the mirror match, or you play a deck that does nothing but beat Affinity and go home when you play someone who didn’t get the memo.
After pretending that I might play other decks, here’s the list I played.
Affinity, Duh! By WotC R&D
4 Arcbound Worker
4 Arcbound Ravager
3 Myr Enforcer
4 Disciple of the Vault
4 Aether Vial
4 Chromatic Sphere
3 Pyrite Spellbomb
4 Cranial Plating
4 Blinkmoth Nexus
3 Great Furnace
2 Tree of Tales
2 Darksteel Citadel
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Vault of Whispers
2 Tree of Tales
3 Viridian Shaman
3 Moriok Rigger
Not terribly too exciting, I just played all the cards I wanted to, then filled in the empty slots with some cards that I would actually use. I have no idea why people like Mana Leak, Terror, Shrapnel Blast, and the like. You’re making your broken Affinity starts worse and adding inconsistency by playing extra colored spells. There are very few cards I’m willing to side out, and I’m stretching it for the mirror as it is.
I’ll admit it. I have “the fear.” I’m afraid of Disciple of the Vault and I’ve heard that Horobi, Death’s Wail is a giant beating. I honestly have never seen a Horobi in play against affinity, but I’m sure its pretty good if the board is semi-stable. The Pyrite Spellbombs give you some removal – although somewhat inefficiently – while being a one-mana artifact and a cycler.
The random configurations of Tree of Tales and Darksteel Citadel are simply because I would rarely side in any other card in the format. I’d much rather have two indestructible lands in my maindeck than play some narrow (not to mention colored) sideboard cards. I like my Affinity decks to have a heavy dose of artifacts.
<Insert awkward transitional phrase here>
A hundred and eight players showed up for AZ states this year, slightly down from last year. Unfortunately, everyone had to walk in and out the single door for pairings. Fortunately, the door was not revolving.
Round 1 – Michael King – Affinity
Game 1 was about him stalling and me finding enough gas to attack him for lethal damage before he could draw out of it.
Game 2 featured my removal package. The high-quality green spells teamed up with Pyrite Spellbombs to allow my cheap-but-efficient team to finish the job.
Round 2 – Jordan Ladis – Affinity
Game 1: He came out quicker than I did, and was threatening lethal damage in a billion different ways. I had a Pyrite Spellbomb that was preventing him from going all-in with his pair of Blinkmoth Nexi. For some reason, he decided to pump one of the attacking Nexi to bring me to six. Going into my turn, I had a Cranial Plating in play, one in hand, and five lands in play. I hadn’t dealt any damage to him, but I did have eight artifacts in play plus the Nexus. I sacced my Pyrite Spellbomb to draw a card at the end of turn (going down to seven artifacts), giving me two shots at any artifact land to have six mana to attach two Platings to my Nexus and swing for twenty-one. I failed.
Games 2 and 3 were classic races between Oxidize/Shaman and Disciple of the Vault. Game 2, I had a pair of Disciples and won, while he only had one Disciple in Game 3 – but once again, he was faster than I was and nearly killed me with Disciple when I cast my green spells. I was applying actual beats while he was trying to mise a Disciple win, so I came out ahead.
Round 3 – Ryan Rocco – U/G control
Game 1 was a blowout. He didn’t do anything relevant and I put a million permanents into play
Game 2 was also a blowout. This time, I couldn’t keep anything in play until he played March of the Machines. Rather than subject myself to the no permanents = no talking rule, I scooped. I don’t know what I would do if forced to be silent.
In between games, I have a feeling Rocco tagged in for Harry Shipley (or vice versa?). I never can tell.
Game 3 featured the Atog/Rigger tag-team. Basically, I forced him to have a billion Echoing Truths throughout the course of the game – but he only played one, and it merely delayed the inevitable. To be honest, I think Rocco/Harry actually had a billion Echoing Truths in his hand but wanted to drop, so he let me kill him.
Round 4 – Anthony Avitollo – G/R Freshmaker
Like myself, Anthony is from Ohio. Due to our dominance of AZ States over the past two years, the Arizona State Championship is now called the Ohio State Championship, Part II.
So during round 4 of Ohio State Champs, Part II, I decided to use my secret strategy: I tricked Anthony into thinking that this was a PTQ and not states. See, Anthony has Top 8ed States twice in Arizona, yet has no PTQ Top 8s. My strategy worked. By default, Anthony cannot win at PTQs and therefore I had to win that match. We played a few more games after our match and I won them all. I reminded him that this was in fact States before the next round.
Apparently, Anthony reminded his opponents that he couldn’t lose at States. Playing for Top 8, his opponent made the stellar play of attacking with Atog into Viridian Shaman with a 4/4 Moriok Rigger in play. One of the creatures died. It was not Viridian Shaman. The next turn, Anthony made a stellar play of Fireballing the 4/4 Moriok Rigger for four when his opponent has an Aether Vial on two counters in play. Yep. You guessed it: The Moriok Rigger died.
Anthony is so good at States – but not quite as good as me.
<distant voice>: Hey, foreshadowing! that’s your cue!
<foreshadowing>: Sorry, brah. I was just outside with Rocco.
Round 5 – Justin Verdugo – MonoRed Dragon!
Game 1 – I made him chump with Arc-Slogger. His maindeck Shatters did nothing.
Game 2 – I made a 10/10 Blinkmoth Nexus to kill a Ryusei, the Falling Star and threatened to go lethal next turn. Despite the fact that any land destruction spell or a Shatter would leave me threatless (I’d seen three Shatters and no LD spells that game), he didn’t have anything.
Round 6 – ID, cause I felt like it.
I love casting spells and normally I don’t like drawing unless it matters – but for some reason, I drew with the guy.
Round 7 – Michael Benedict – Three-Color Tooth
The only thing worse than playing a deck that relies on colorless lands to cast colored spells is playing essentially off-color basic lands to power up stupid stuff like Engineered Explosives.
Game 1: I’m about to go lethal when he has two Cloudposts and three Forests for mana. Of course, he rips the third Cloudpost to enable Tooth and Nail.
Game 2: I see his blue splash…. March of the Machines. I guess he doesn’t have enough spells that don’t affect the board, but lock up the game. I know this is States and all, but don’t people think about their decks anymore? You most certainly don’t need another four-mana spell that doesn’t stop you from dying when you’re playing with “can’t lose the game.” I don’t have any action, and he entwines Tooth and Nail long before I require him to.
The Arizona Top 8 is three Affinity decks, two Tooth, one G/B, one R/G, and one U/W
Top 8 – Jan Dourlein – U/W with 4x March main
This match is comical. I have almost no action whatsoever and when he plays March of the Machines, I put no less than six lands into my graveyard. Fortunately, I have a Blinkmoth Nexus and some dorks that have been eating at his life total. I draw into two more Blinkmoths and some random dorky artifacts. He’s doing all these stupid Sensei’s Divining Top tricks while I’m just beating him in the air for two a turn with my Blinkmoth Nexus (with a modular counter, of course).
I miss an opportunity to cut his clock by a full turn by forgetting to swing with my Aether Vial. Needless to say, he can’t draw one of the six cards that would beat me, so he scoops to nothing more than a Blinkmoth Nexus. It’s amusing to see his frustration when each draw step doesn’t give him a Pristine Angel or a Pulse of the Fields.
Game 2 is exactly the same as the first, except I don’t draw as many lands and I’m able to sneak a Ravager into play to counteract his Purge. He still played March of the Machines when I had no pressure, and I still dealt him a million with Blinkmoth Nexus.
Top 4 – Michael B Benedict – Three-Color Tooth
What comes around goes around, I guess. His draw is insanely lucky, as on Turn 4 on the play he plays his third Cloudpost and has Platinum Angel in hand. Somehow he decides that playing Solemn Simulacrum is better than “Can’t lose.” I had a Pyrite Spellbomb and an Atog in play. I kill his Sad Robot and attack for lethal damage with my Atog.
The second game is a perfect example of why I will never play Tooth and Nail. His draw is fine, he plays plenty of spells, but none of it is cohesive. A Vine Trellis here, a Viridian Shaman there, here a Sylvan Scrying, there a Solemn, everywhere an Oxidize. Unfortunately, Old MacDonald didn’t have a Tooth and Nail, nor the required nine mana to win the game. When your gameplan revolves around a nine-mana sorcery in a format with turn 4 kills, land destruction, and counterspells, your deck is fundamentally flawed… Especially when you have little to no search for said nine-mana sorcery.
In any event, I was able to make him chump my Atog a lot, and Disciple of the Vault forced extra damage through.
Justice was served, as the two people that love playing Magic the most in Arizona found themselves in the finals. If you don’t believe me when I say I love magic, then you don’t know me that well. Let’s just say I love collectable card games more than I love the GG Bridge.
The finals of the Ohio State Champs, Part II – Anthony Avitollo – R/G Freshmaker
Designed in Northern Ohio, Anthony’s deck is obviously fresh. The only thing that could possibly make it more fresh is Rend Fresh. But then it would be RGb Freshmaker, which doesn’t sound as fresh.
Similar to the Yankees and the Red Sox from 1918-2003, Anthony and I have a Hammer and Nail rivalry. I’m the hammer; he’s the nail. Like the 5-0 thrashing I gave him in the Swiss, he got crushed once again. He didn’t play Viridian Shaman/Eternal Witness on Turn 3 and I just played a million permanents. Every removal he drew was just 1 for 1 at a tempo loss. I won the second game on the back of Manute Bol – and just like that, I repeated my victory at Ohio States, Part II, as Champion.
The entire Top 8 got to fill out these nifty surveys for Wizards about our States experience. Hopefully, some of my responses will provide some insight into my thoughts on the format.
Q: Why did you choose the deck you played?
Me: Because I feel the new mechanics Wizards comes up with are fun and exciting and I wanted to try one out.
Q: What are the top 5 Kamigawa cards you saw today?
Me: They all suck cause they cost mana.
Q: What do you think the future of Standard looks like?
Me: Affinity, Affinity, Affinity, and stupid people at the bottom tables.
In all honesty, I think the fact that people don’t like playing Affinity will keep its numbers down – at least in smaller tournaments. Affinity won over half of the states – I think that number should have been closer to 75%. For one reason or another, people like Joshua Claytor (my favorite barn/hull) decided to play other decks and dominate with them anyway. If you want nothing more than to win the Standard tournament you’re entering, you should definitely be playing Affinity.
An interesting phenomenon has been occurring with articles about decks and their chances against Affinity.
Many deck authors claimed their decks beat Affinity. Four Oxidizes main, plus more removal in the sideboard was good enough.
Affinity keeps on dominating Block and Standard; pros write about how Affinity goes 50-50 or better against everything but the mirror. People listen.
Many deck authors know better than to claim a good win percentage against Affinity, so they claim every deck is 50-50 against Affinity. Most decks don’t even come close to 50-50 – yet all the new Standard decks claim this! If you’re one of those people that actually believes your deck can stand up to Affinity and has game against the rest of the field, you’re probably wrong. Don’t worry, though; our own Teddy Cardgame thinks that Monoblue can stand up to Affinity. Maybe he thinks that you can counter creatures that are Aether Vialed into play.
In summary, play Affinity if you want to win. I have two State Championship Plaques; I’m obviously a master of irrelevant tournaments.
Random Things I wanted to say that don’t fit elsewhere into the report. Formerly known as Praps and Slaps:
– I somehow managed to get through an entire report without mentioned the best magical playing Davis in the world. I am of course speaking of James Davis, a State Championship Semi-Finalist and the provider for these wonderful pictures in this report. He narrowly beat out Owen Davis, who knows his artifact lands, and BDavis who is most likely hookin’ up with someone twice my size. I’m not a small man.
– Osyp’s Black Perspective on PT Columbus was hysterical. Mostly because I still cannot stop laughing about his caption on America’s young stars. Heh. Mitchell’s a donkey!
– Since this isn’t a Vs. article, I have to try really hard to fit Alex Etzel’s name into it. Mise be blatant, no?
– Joey Bags is building the City of God, and Tim Aten is turning your tears into dancing.
– Dan Voigt is a Real American Hero
– If you ever see me at an event, ask to play a game of “INF” with me. A.k.a. Type 4, my INF stack is full of Erratas by Sharpie. It may or may not cause you to get a match loss at Worlds… And it would still be worth it.
Harass me. I’m ihatepants on MODO, dirkavanbrussel on aim and you can email me at [email protected]
Adam Prosak, Two-time Arizona State Champion, no-time Pro Tour money finisher