My friend Charles and I decided to take the trek down to the Indy PTQ this past Sunday and, while I would love to regale you with tales of epic comebacks or one-sided slaughters, that unfortunately was not the case. Despite starting off with a promising 2-0 record, I quickly found myself the not-so-proud owner of two mint condition losses. There were a few points of interest that came up from this weekend, but first here’s the deck that I chose to run.
There’s a lot I have to say about the deck, but I’d like to at least briefly discuss what my tournament was like. Leading up to the PTQ, I did not really have much testing under my belt, but the few playtesting sessions that I had felt very promising. The night before the tournament was actually too good to be true, as I ended up posting ridiculously positive results. I was routinely blowing my playtest partners out of the water, even when they were playing a host of different decks. It seemed like I was being blessed with very good draws and/or my opponents were getting very mediocre hands, and I knew deep in my heart that the luck couldn’t last forever. We ended up playing until about two in the morning, which was probably not the healthiest of ideas considering we were supposed to be on the road by 5am. I exacerbated the situation by staying up and watching replays of Extended Daily and Premier events on MTGO.
My first two rounds in the tournament felt very solid. I battled against a young woman named Brenna packing Bant in the first round, and she certainly brought her game face. She ended up doing much better than I in the tournament, and she was 4-1 or 5-1 the last time I asked her about her record. Kavu Predator absolutely shone in this matchup, as it not only made her Kitchen Finks tremendously awkward, but her Rhox Was Monks as well. My deck truly did what it was meant to do in this match, as I was smashing in with dudes and crippling her manabase by Molten Raining her lands.
My next round opponent was one-drop Zoo, and it was in this match that Bloodchief Ascension really showed what it could do. I actually ended up losing game 1 to an extremely awkward situation where I couldn’t cast the Terminate in my hand with my collection of Blood Crypt, Skarrg, and Forest as mana sources, but pulled it together to win the next two. Game 3 was actually quite interesting, as I dropped a Bloodchief Ascension on the draw after my opponent’s turn 1 Kird Ape. He declined to take two to drop his Nacatl, so I had essentially Time Walked him with the Enchantment. On my turn I had the option of playing a Tarmogoyf or aiming all of my burn at his face to Ascend as quickly as possible. I chose to do just that, Bolting him once on my turn, once on his turn, and Molten Raining one of his two lands on my next turn. It was a risky move, but with the Ascension active, all I needed to do was kill his creatures to win the game, and I began to do just that.
Round 3 was a little frustrating, although I can’t complain too much as I won game 1 when my opponent mulliganed to oblivion. Games 2 and 3 were those times when you’re just not destined to win, as my opponent simply decided to draw his Scapeshift just in time to win in each game. In the rubber game it was even sillier, as he made the huge mistake of casting Scapeshift when I was at 19 with a Dark Confidant on the table. When the Confidant flipped up a land, I repaid its kindness by killing it, dropped a Kavu Predator, Duressed him, and left him with nothing but Remands. He apologized when he drew the remaining Scapeshift the next turn to fetch out the lone remaining Steam Vents in the deck.
Round 4 was against Wgub Martyr, which admittedly is not a very good matchup to begin with. Game 1 was a routing on his part as I managed to do about 60 points of damage to him without killing him, but the fact that he consistently drew the exact right cards at the exact right moment game 2 to win was a bit frustrating. I had him at 10 life with an active Bloodchief Ascension on the table and enough power to kill him on my next swing and, after having Thoughtseized him, I left him with nothing but lands in his hand and on the board. He proceeds to rip the Wrath to drop to 8 (from the Ascension), the O-ring for the Ascension, then a Mulldrifter and Proclamation of Rebirth. Barf.
Overall, there were several things I liked about the deck, but I’m still not sold as to whether I’d play it again. The deck has trouble dealing with monsters that have a butt larger than three, to say nothing about Marit Lage tokens. The deck also doesn’t have quite the reach of Zoo (unless there’s a Bloodchief Ascension on the table), nor does it have its raw power. Knight of the Reliquary is just such a beating for three mana it’s hard not justifying its inclusion in an aggro deck. If this deck is to continue, I think it probably needs to become much more heavy-hitting than it is in its current form.
The sideboard is also a big sloppy mess, and I think retuning it to better take advantage of the metagame is a much needed step. I had precisely zero testing with this deck post-board, a habit I rarely encourage, and it showed. There simply were not enough answers to handle the decks that I needed to handle, and I lost because of it. What in this board can I bring in against Scapeshift? Dredge? I had Thought Hemorrhages in my board all the way until 5 minutes before I handed in my deck registration sheets, but Jedi Mind Tricked myself into swapping them out for Duresses simply because every time I have ever cast Thought Hemorrhage in previous matches, I have hated it. Unlike last year’s Standard season however, Extended is built upon a glass foundation of one- or two-card combos, and often stripping a single piece from it causes the whole Jenga tower to come tumbling down. The Dead/Gone was there to have some sort of an out to Dark Depths, but I’m still unsure as to whether it’ll be enough. I really liked the Maelstrom Pulses though, as a catchall card is really needed post board, as you never know what your opponent might be playing.
As for the things I liked about the deck: the Kavu Predators were incredible all day long. Their interaction with Grove of the Burnwillows is even better now than it was in the good ol’ days of Time Spiral Block, thanks to the land’s added utility with Punishing Fire and the number of times there was some awkward interaction for the opponent. The Predator not only does a number on people relying on Kitchen Finks to save their butts, but decks such as Thopter Foundry have a very hard time chump blocking a creature that gets incrementally larger along with their army. I highly expect people to start to adapt this card in their various Punishing Fire decks, as it can get very large, very fast. All that, and it has trample to boot! What’s not to like?
Moving on from my pitiful excuse of a showing, my friend Charles was packing a different beast that day. He started off 5-0, only one win from drawing into the Top 8, when he claimed to have punted, at the very least, one match. He ended up in 12th place with a record of 6-2 running a list that has been doing very well online recently:
Within the past week, this new deck has been putting up impressive numbers on the interwebs, not only making the Top 8 of the most recent online PTQ, but also placing 1st and 4th in consecutive Extended Premier events on 1/08. The deck is pretty straight forward in its design combining 3 useful strategies: Scapeshift combo, Punishing Fires recursion, and beating your opponent’s face in with burn and creatures. Unlike other Scapeshift decks of the Blue ilk, the namesake card is not the only means of winning the game making this version much less susceptible to either sideboard or maindeck hate. If Gaddock Teeg or Meddling Mage are a problem, note the large collection of burn spells contained therein, not to mention the ability of Umezawa’s Jitte to utterly dominate creature battles. Cranial Extraction naming Scapeshift? Sure, I’ll just attack you for 10. The converse is true as well: if an opponent spends all of their resources containing your ground pounding threats, there is little in the way of opposition to a lethal Scapeshift with seven lands out. Even a card such as Blood Moon isn’t too much of a problem for this deck, as they run more than enough basics to operate underneath one and, again, don’t rely on the all-eggs-in-the-Scapeshift-basket plan. If you’re unsure of what to play this weekend, I would highly recommend this build, as not only has it proven itself to be a viable contender but the deck seems very straightforward in terms of playing out games. Unfamiliarity with a deck often can lead to mistakes, and there are far fewer decisions that need to be made with this deck than with others that one might decide to play on the fly.
There’s a final deck I’d like bring up today but I do so with trepidation. I have yet to play it myself, but I had the (dis)pleasure of playing against it in the second round of an Extended 8-man, piloted by the person who went on to win the tournament. While the deck I battled seemed like it had been considerably modified, the core of the deck remains the same, namely abusing the absurd power between Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and innocuous Prismatic Omen. With those two in play, any land suddenly becomes a free Lightning Bolt or, in the case of fetchlands, two free Lightning Bolts. The original list that I saw placed 16th in the online PTQ, piloted by JWay:
While JWay’s list contains only two ways with which to kill your opponent — Valakut and Tarmogoyf — there are infinite ways that one could build a deck around the aforementioned two-card combo that makes up the core of the deck. I imagine that, with the inclusion of a couple of Vendilion Cliques, this deck could appeal to those players who were big fans of Next Level Blue decks of the past.
That’s all for now. I’d love to hear thoughts.