Friday evening was fast approaching, and I still didn’t have an idea of what I wanted to play. I had settled on a Bant concoction intent on trying to abuse the awesome power of Aven Mimeomancer in conjunction with one-drop accelerators and token producers such as Emeria Angel and Elspeth. I was going to need to borrow quite a few cards to finish up the deck however which, while not a problem, might be a slight hindrance in my attempt to play the deck for that night’s FNM. I was certainly willing to play something else should the opportunity arise, and arise it did!
Because I wasn’t working during the day, I had nothing better to do but play in a Standard Daily event online. Now, I must confess, while I did have a goal of not playing Jund for States, it is my deck of choice for online Standard. I was 3-0 in the tournament when I ran into a bizarre deck in the final round. I was beaten in an epic game 3 (after a timely rip game 1 to beat me) and so, being intrigued, I asked my opponent Muellermilch2go if he would mind sharing his list, and he obliged. I hurriedly threw together the deck, of which I had all but 2 or 3 cards, and sprinted toward the train so that I could make it to FNM on time. I quickly borrowed/traded for the last cards, made some last minute tweaks to the decklist, and ended up running the following:
- 1 Sharuum the Hegemon
- 4 Tidehollow Sculler
- 1 Ethersworn Adjudicator
- 2 Sphinx Summoner
- 4 Architects of Will
- 1 Sphinx of the Steel Wind
- 4 Glassdust Hulk
Like I said, there were a few changes to the original decklist, most of which were to the sideboard. In the maindeck, I replaced 2 Oblivion Rings (he had 4 to start) with 2 Scepter of Dominance, a card whose power I have increasingly liked more and more. While a turn slower than the O-ring, the scepter is able to stop problem cards such as Hell’s Thunder or Hellspark Elemental, and while unable to put the kibosh on annoying planeswalkers, they can hinder a player’s manabase in a pinch, something I opted to do quite often. I was never dissatisfied with the switch, although there were times when the double-White cost, plus another White to activate, was a bit of a strain for a single turn. The only other switch I made to the maindeck was opting to play a singleton Soul Manipulation over a Courier’s Capsule, and after playing with the deck for a solid two tournaments I was definitely happy with this change. I might even go so far as to replace one or two more if I decide to play the deck again. Again, the sideboard was altered quite a bit. His original sideboard was: 4 Spreading Seas, 3 Infest, 3 Duress, 1 Sen Triplets, 4 Identity Crisis.
I ended up getting the lone bye (awesome), beating Jund, Mono-White Aggro, Green Eldrazi, and losing to Jund in the finals. The loss to Jund was one of those matches where one looks back and goes, “really?” It was against Kevin Gouletas who ended up getting Top 4 the next day, and who had some extremely appropriate sideboard cards against me. I won game 1, and game 2 came down to me either casting Tidehollow Sculler to see the final card in his hand in addition to an Open the Vaults to provide some defense, or simply casting Sphinx of the Steel Wind. I chose the latter, saying, “Well, unless the one card in your hand is a Deathmark, I guess I win,” to which he showed me the Deathmark, blowing my mind. A similar exchange happened game 3 where he had only one card in hand when I dropped the game-dominating Sphinx, to which he again had the Deathmark. Who plays with that card? Apparently Jund players who don’t want to lose to Sphinx of the Steel Wind.
After such a promising showing, I was super happy to be running the deck the next day. I made a couple last minute changes to the sideboard, cutting both remaining Identity Crisis and adding another Wall of Reverence and a World Queller. World Queller is such a house against Mono-Green it’s almost unfair. Unless they get out a Master of the Wild Hunt, you effectively shut off their planeswalker advantage. I’m not sure I’d play him again, but he was certainly a fun inclusion.
For those uninterested in reading the entirety of the following report, feel free to skip to the end.
Round 1: The Rock (G/B)
I had the immediate impression that, while a nice guy, my opponent was not terribly familiar with the tournament scene. He played a Green-Black homebrew deck with cards that were all “good”— Lotus Cobra, Vampire Nighthawk, Vines of the Vastwood — but never seemed to have very much synergy together. Maybe that’s not the case at all, because neither of our games really showcased his deck much. In fact, aside from those three cards and the occasional Grim Discovery, I never really saw any of his deck. In both games he came out with a quick creature and followed it up with… nothing, really. He actually seemed to be a good player, but his deck never really seemed to offer him much. I apologize for the sparseness of this round report, but it was really as simple as that.
Round 2: Jund
I was seated on the end table for round 2 which, unfortunately, was the perfect position for which my friend Mehran could watch me play. I say “unfortunately” because I think I let his presence affect at the very least one of my decisions. Specifically, I kept a game 1 hand that could only be described as “extremely questionable.” I don’t think I would have normally kept the hand (even though I did try to defend the choice to my friends later), but the proximity of my jovial, boisterous friend had me in the mindset of “let’s just get there!” Needless to say, I didn’t get there, but the game actually went as long as to approach the point where my opponent needed to topdeck a spell to kill me, essentially any spell at all since I was at 3 life with a Sculler hiding his Lightning Bolt, otherwise I was going to play a Sharuum to get back an Architect of Will and ensure at least a turn or turn window within which I might be able to win. Alas, he topdecked a Blightning to kill me, but I really have no one to blame but myself.
Game 2 was the opposite. This time it was my opponent’s turn to get mana screwed, getting stuck on two lands for a little too long.
With games 1 and 2 being so much of a mana-based issue, it was time to have an actual match. Unfortunately, I decided to make things interesting by mulliganing. My opponent chose to Blightning me on his third turn, whereas I decided to make a Wall of Denial. On turn 4, I had an interesting dilemma: I was stuck on three lands with two cyclers in my hand and a Soul Manipulation (and no other creatures in the graveyard). Should I cycle one of the creatures, hoping to mise and get that land and maximize the usefulness of the counterspell? Or should I hold off in an attempt to trap whatever threat my opponent plays? I feel I definitely made the wrong decision here; I cycled, seeing no land, then cycled again and got one, but unfortunately, that left my opponent a window to cast a creature that I didn’t expect and which utterly dominated me: Malakir Bloodwitch. I held off on casting anything else the next turn, hoping to catch something, but alas, my opponent choose to cast another Blightning instead. I played a Sphinx Summoner, fetching a Ethersworn Adjudicator, one of my only outs to the pro-white Vampire. Unfortunately he had the removal for it, and I died.
Round 3: Jund
A chance to redeem myself! Game 1 was a complete routing. On his part. I was utterly decimated. I kept a 4-land, 3-cycler hand, and proceeded to draw nothing but lands for a long while. I actual made a small error; on turn four I played and cracked a Marsh Flats in an effort to thin what little land was remaining in my deck and then proceeded to cast Architects on Will in lieu of cycling it. I targeted myself and saw nothing, and I realized then that I should have held on to the fetchland to shuffle away any unwanted chaff that was on top of my deck. As it turned out, it didn’t really matter, as I was completely destroyed after that turn anyway.
Games 2 and 3 were much better. I can’t seem to find my notes but I know I won quite handily. My opponent was frustrated after losing bemoaning his poor luck in “only drawing one cascade spell in those last two games,” but them’s the breaks, I guess.
Round 4: UWr Control
I was assigned to the same seat in which I had had my earlier loss, so I was quick to sit on the opposite side of the table for superstitious reasons (clearly the other seat was cursed to lose). The mulligan demon hadn’t gone far, as I was forced to mulligan my hand into an admittedly solid 6 (double Tidehollow Sculler, double Courier’s Capsule, Arcane Sanctum, Glacial Fortress). However, my opponent was kind enough to mulligan to 5. I went to work on his hand with a turn 3 Tidehollow Sculler seeing Ajani, Path to Exile, Double Negative, and Sphinx of Jwar Isle among some non-Red producing lands. I took the Path, planning on dropping the second Sculler after he used Ajani’s Helix ability on the first should he draw a Red source to be able to Double Negative. He ends up dropping a Scalding Tarn on his turn 3, so I just play and draw with my Courier’s Capsules, the second of which earns the counterspell. He finally drops his Ajani, but luckily I’ve drawn an Oblivion Ring for it. The nail in the coffin comes when he taps out for a Sphinx of Jwar Isle and I have the lone Soul Manipulation for the blowout.
Game 2 I lose because I am far too greedy. My opponent flops a turn 5 Baneslayer on the table, a cute strategy as I’ve sided all of my copies of Journey to Nowhere out. Luckily I’ve got a Scepter of Dominance, but he has an Ajani to counter. At this point, I haven’t used the Scepter, so he’s still keeping one land tapped. I’ve taken 6 (one from a fetchland), and I have the option of dropping a World Queller, Ethersworn Adjudicator, or simply O-ring the Baneslayer. I have a Vedalken Outlander out that drops Ajani to two, and I decide to risk it by running the World Queller out there. I drop to 9, and he has the double bolt plus Ajani activation to finish me off.
Game 3 was somewhat of a disappointment. My opponent actually apologized after the match for topdecking like a champion in the latter parts of the game. Again, I have early disruption for him in two Tidehollow Scullers, taking Ajani and Mind Spring respectively. He’s stuck on 3 lands, so when he draws that fourth one he wastes to time in using his other Mind Spring to draw 2 cards, which I am totally fine with. My hand is interesting: I have several Open the Vaults, but not much else going on. He Wraths to get his cards back, so I figure it’s best to Open the Vaults now, rather than let him get an Ajani active. Luckily, the only things he has for a couple of turns are two walls, one for denying, one for revering. I draw a Sphinx Summoner, probably the best card in my deck at this point, and fetch a Sharuum. He unfortunately draws a Baneslayer. Because I still have two Open the Vaults in my hand, I have no problem chump blocking for several turns, first with a Summoner, then again with the Summoner that Sharuum brings back. I fetch up an Ethersworn Adjudicator which prompts him to decide to Martial Coup after I cast it. He’s at a ridiculous 49 life, but luckily I have about 20 power worth of creatures on the board to his 6 1/1s and hand of Sphinx of Jwar Isle after I Open the Vaults. He rips a Day of Judgment to get back his two trapped cards, but opts to cast the Sphinx instead. I cast my third Open the Vaults of the match, the Ajani and Mind Spring yet again fall under the yoke of my Scullers. I fetch up an Architect of Will with the Summoner, confident that if he were to draw a blank I would be able to set up a few more blanks for him where I could win. Unfortunately, he draws a Path, gets his Mind Spring back, draws 8 cards, and then Earthquakes for my life total (11) on the next turn. Barf.
Round 5: Barely Boros
I had played this matchup several times before as my friend Graham had built it and was playing it. We had played a few games and things looked to be overwhelmingly in his favor. Game 1 played out exactly as such, with my only notes for the match being “he stomped me.”
Game 2 was much better, although I think my opponent might have made an error in there. I had boarded in the vast majority of my board, everything except the Zealous Persecutions and World Queller (I actually boarded in the Persecutions for game 3), and I started off strong my running not one, but two Wall of Denial out there. Good luck, mon frÃ¨re. The Veldaken Outlanders and Wall of Reverences I played eventually made things much more difficult, to the point where he conceded with 17 life, but there was a window of opportunity when I was at 13 life and he could have attacked with his Geopede pumpable up to a 9/9. I clearly couldn’t afford to take that, so I would’ve had to lose a wall. I suppose he might have been waiting for another Zektar Shrine Expedition, but knocking down that wall seemed like it would’ve been a good idea at the time.
Game 3 was pretty simple. My opponent was stuck on two Mountains, but it was really a moot point with my triple Veldaken Outlander draw.
Round 6: GWb
When I Scullered my round 6 opponent on turn 2, I was very surprised to see that he two had a Sculler in store for me! I decided to take the Sculler over the other goodies, including Path. Eventually he overwhelms the board with dudes and I wrath, having only sustained minor damage. Post Day of Judgment I drop a Glassdusk Hulk who becomes unblockable 3 turns in a row, dealing the final blow with a couple extra pumps from an Open the Vaults.
Game 2 I get quickly overrun with his squad of Lotus Cobra and Tidehollow Sculler making quick work of my life total. I get out a removal spell (Scepter of Dominance) but he has the Maelstrom Pulse for it and I die with my life decreasing via increments of 4.
Game 3 my opponent feels bad for winning the last game and decides to mulligan twice for me. I don’t really think he needed to though, as my monsters smash his face, and I still have infinite cards in my hand. [Hehe… — Craig.]
Round 7: Jund again
Both these games felt a lot closer than they actually were. I Sculler again on turn 2 (how lucky) and see a hand of Thrinax, Bloodbraid, Terminate, some lands, and interestingly enough, Trace of Abundance. I throw up blockers, but they keep getting removed, and his squad eventually overwhelms me. As an aside, I don’t know if anyone else has thought about using Trace in conjunction with or in lieu of Rampant Growth, but it seems to have some awesome advantages over its Green counterpart. While having to provide RG instead of just G1 can be awkward at times, placing a Trace of Abundance on your lone non-basic land can make opposing Ruinblasters extremely ineffective. What I think I like most about it is how it can completely ruin a Spreading Seas deck’s game plan. While getting RG on the draw might be difficult (as one of your lands is almost surely an island at that point), playing Trace of Abundance on turn 2 is pretty much the nuts. You have access to literally all of you colors of mana for the rest of the game, and the Spread â€˜Em decks entire plan is basically moot. Anyway, back to the games.
Game 2 I am, again, unfortunately on the receiving end of a bunch of Malakir Bloodwitch beats, and all the Walls of Denials in the world can do nothing to stop him. I play an Ethersworn Adjudicator, but he rips either the land for the Siege-Gang Commander needed to both play and fire two goblins at my poor Blue flyer. I need a miracle on the next turn — a Day of Judgment or a Wall of Reverence — to stay alive. I rip the Wall like a champ and gain 5 life, putting me at 11, but a Lightning Bolt off the top kills me for exacties.
As my ride is currently playing in the last round to make Top 8, I decide to play round 8 for kicks.
Round 8: Naya Lightsaber.
Game 1 my opponent plays a turn 1 Nacatl, which hits me for 1 before taking a relaxing Journey to Nowhere. That is the last point of damage my opponent does to me, as I just rock out threats and remove all his threats via enchantments.
Game 2 was just as easy, but I was a little curious as to why until the end of the game. I got down an early Scepter of Dominance and, since my opponent was only applying minimal pressure against me, used it to continuously tap down his lone White source. Eventually I start drawing threats of my own after removing all of his; he has Paths for the big guys (Sphinx of the Steel Wind, Adjudicator), but Architects of Will and Sphinx Summoner beats slowly add up, and he has an almost full grip but does nothing. At the end of the game he shows me a hand full of White cards, including all four Baneslayer Angels. Dodged a bullet there.
Overall, I had a fabulous time with the deck, which was exactly was I wanted to do. I definitely felt like I could have done much better if I had prepared more, but for having played with the deck for less than 24 hours, I was extremely satisfied. There were certainly changes I would make to the deck. First and foremost, while the Scullers were often useful, they more often than not just died. Against decks like Eldrazi Green they can really shine, but most decks these days are chock full of removal, and poor little Scullers get killed. That being said, they are great in conjunction with Architects of Will after a Open the Vaults; you get to neuter their hand and prevent them from drawing anything relevant, but I think, moving forward, Veldaken Outlander definitely deserves a spot in the maindeck, and Sculler looks like the one who needs to go. Also, while the Courier’s Capsules were nice card draw, they were a bit slow in what can occasionally be an incredibly fast format. With a cycling guy in the graveyard, Soul Manipulation can provide an equal amount of card advantage (if not more in, say, countering a Siege-Gang or Broodmate Dragon), and it affects the board. True, Soul Manipulation is not an artifact, but so be it. I hope everyone had as much fun as I did playing in Champs, and hopefully people might take this deck out for a spin.
Zoochz on MTGO