The Magic Show #14 – Top 8’ing Champs 2006

Evan took a deck that succeeded at the StarCityGames.com $1500 tournament, and piloted it all the way to the Top 8 of his local Champs! Today he shares the video rundown of his deck-choice, and presents the video of his play from the tournament itself!

Woohoo! I made Top 8 of Tennessee Champs this year. Check out the video:

And here is my Top 8 match, annotated (my apologies for the technical difficulties—the batteries were dying in that camera):

[The following is a transcript of the show, which you really should check out.]

Hello everybody and welcome to the Magic Show. This week comes on the heels of my Top 8 performance in Nashville, Tennessee, where I went through eight rounds of a swiss to a 6-1-1 record. You’ll get to see my own Top 8 performance later, where I faced off against the Evil Izzetron Empire and lost quite handily.

But first, the deck I ran. This deck is a tweaked copy of Mike Mihealsick’s R/W/B Firemane Angel Control that took 3rd place at the StarCityGames’ $1,500 New Standard Open. So with that said, let’s take a look at the deck I brought to States this year:

I upped the Godless Shrine count to four, removing a Caves of Koilos, and in the sideboard I brought in some massive tech for recursive strategies such as Firemane Angel or Haakon.

Now, I’m not one to brag, much, but, do you remember an article I wrote called Life After Kamigawa? I told you about a bunch of cards that I thought were extremely underrated. Cards that could be potential all-stars when the big boys of Kamigawaville finally left us.

So while you have your hits and misses, two of those cards I pointed out are filling Top 8 decklists as they either invalidate or propel popular control and recursion decks: Skeletal Vampire and Moratorium Stone.

Last week, Ken Adams told me that the one card he didn’t want to see was Moratorium Stone. It breaks his deck like nothing else. Dread Return is immensely powerful, as in some ways Solar Pox’s creatures are more powerful in the graveyard than they are in play. Court Hussars in the graveyard are walking impulses—Akroma is just waiting to be returned to action.

Skeletal Vampire, as we know, has become the king of black finishers, as Stronghold Overseer, as ass-kicking as he may seem, can’t do what Michael J. told us no one does: Block. Who blocks, man? Mr. Vampire does, and all of his little friends.

Another point of interest in this decklist is Evangelize. I found I had no problems getting to a bunch of mana, and with people’s interest in finishing people with a single threat, I thought it would be a great piece of utility.

Well, not so much. As I suspected, this spell is just underpowered. Firstly, I rarely drew it, and when I did, I would be facing tokens or underpowered creatures. I certainly didn’t want a Dark Confidant.

The other one-of tech-off I had in there was Debtors’ Knell. Now let me tell you: This thing is the real deal. With such painful graveyard shenanigans running around, this let me take Angels and Hierarchs whenever it stuck. Matter of fact, getting Debtors’ Knell to stick was the one thing that made U/W almost immediately scoop. Either they had Disenchant or Repeal, or they lost.

So with that said, I’ll take you down a rundown of what I faced in each round:

Round 1 was against U/G. His deck featured Rune Snags and Remands and Voidslimes and Mystic Snakes. He loved his counters, and that’s how, in game 3, he was reliant on a creature – Cap’n Tickles, no less – to end my life, instead of a Psionic Blast, of which he owned zero. Psionic Blast would’ve killed me quick, and I was fortunate to make it out of that one alive.

U/G has an awesome disruptive power, if you can get it moving. The key plays of this deck are this:

First turn Mana Dude.
Second turn Ohran Viper. This can also be an Elephant Token or Looter il-Kor, but the Viper is what really makes this deck dangerous.
Third turn swing with Viper, then Plaxmanta their Condemn. I saw this play so many times it wasn’t funny. This one play can mean game against Solar Pox or Firemane Angel Control. Condemn is so popular – yet so restrictive – that Plaxmanta’s value exceeds its normal worth. The mid-game is then dominated by he-who-may-have-Plaxmanta, as drawing a single card off Ohran Viper or multiple activations of Looter il-Kor can mean doom for their opponent.

Rounds 2-3 I faced virtually identical U/W Draw-Go-Mesa decks. They hope to drop their masterful enchantment and run you over through a slow, painful process complete with almost infinite removal and enough counterspells to make it annoying.

Unfortunately, my Angels come back time and time again, and Angel of Despair plus Mortify is generally bad news when you rely on Sacred Mesa and Urza’s Factory to pull you through. This was virtually the same game four times in a row, where I swept both matches.

Round 4 I played Aushaud (I know I’m butchering his name—my apologies!), an excellent player I knew from Bristol, TN. He was playing Snow Control with a pair of Hall of Famers: Dark Confidant and Shadowmage Infiltrator. Unfortunately my removal was rocking and my Firemane Angels were difficult to stop once I hit ten mana.

In the second game my saving grace was Urza’s Factory. It took another read from him to affirm that it was an artifact creature and therefore could block the Fearful Finkel. Luckily he did not have the Last Gasp and I stopped him from drawing the cards that would crush me. He had a hard time with my Phyrexian Arena and I finished him off with the token generator.

Round 5 I played my friend Ryan Leek, who also lives in Knoxville. He built a deck of his very own: an interesting Blue/Green/White with Mystic Enforcers, Mystic Snakes, and what I consider the breakout star of Tennessee Champs: Momentary Blink. Let’s take a look at this guy:

Momentary Blink with Mystic Snake is ten mana for three counterspells. Breakable into many turns, with a Mystic Snake in play and a Momentary Blink in the yard, you have a four mana counterspell just sitting there. In this long-term format we live in, that’s a fantastic advantage. Mystic Snake then has a huge target on his head, a target that can be nullified by either two mana via another Momentary Blink in your hand, or the four mana flashback waiting in the yard.

I convinced my friend Joe, the only player who made Top 8 with Solar Pox at my event, to run a copy of Momentary Blink. He told me he never needed it, that he would rather kill the opponent than do any fancy tricks. It also didn’t save Akroma from Wrath of God. But he did get to cycle it with Court Hussar twice, using six mana to Impulse twice.

All I’m saying is, with Mystic Snake or Angel of Despair on the board, Momentary Blink is your best friend.

Breaking News: Check out this awesome Momentary Blink deck that just won Oklahoma Champs:

Awesome list, isn’t it? He said he defeated a R/W/B Firemane much like my own, and I don’t doubt it. Mystic Snake with that many Momentary Blinks is enough to stop all of my tricks, and I’m sure it’s enough for everyone else’s.

[Editor’s Note: I know Evan was not the creator of the list, as he himself admits – his name is in as a placeholder. Can the real Slim Shady deck designer/winner of Oklahoma Champs please stand up? Once done, I’ll edit the list to give due credit. – Craig, impressed with the deck.]

However, the notable play in this matchup was not Mystic Snake nor Mystic Enforcer’s noble ability to dodge Demonfire through a great deal of tricks from Ryan. At the end of the third game, Ryan with a Debtors’ Knell returning a Court Hussar every upkeep to create an almost unstoppable card advantage engine, he drops a Vitu-Ghazi on the board. He then creates a few tokens, thinks, counts his mana, and taps a bunch of it. I have a Firemane Angel on my board, and about eight mana untapped.

Biorhythm,” he says, and my eyes grow to saucer size. The crowd loses it as I think about the play.

Lightning Helix,” I say.

Rune Snag,” he says. I pay two mana. “Rune Snag,” he says again, so I pay four mana, tapping me out.

He then Cancels the Lightning Helix and swings with a Mystic Enforcer and three Vitu-Ghazi tokens. Good game. Did I mention I at, like, 53 life at that point?

Round 6 I play Resurrection.dec. This unfortunate foe had a 3-0-2 record, meaning his deck must be glacially slow. Good thing my deck destroys control decks.

However, with infinite draw spells and tons of mana, his Akroma and Simic Sky Swallower-filled deck could get nasty. He was drawing Resurrections seemingly by the dozens, and in game 1 I couldn’t find my Condemns and was almost put on tilt as I sideboarded furiously for the second and third games.

In the final two I crushed him as my Moratorium Stone went all the way, nullifying his strategy, and my Wrath of Gods showed up for his multiple Simic Sky Swallowers.

In Round 7, I drew with my buddy Derrick Sheets in a bid for Top 8 glory. As long as we won in the final round, we would make it. I believe I had the match for sure, as his Solar Pox build was completely devoid of Mortify in the maindeck, leaving my Phyrexian Arenas in danger of only Angel of Despair. Not to mention simply throwing burn at his face is usually the way to win. Without Peace of Mind he’ll die to Demonfire soon enough. But no worries, we simply needed to win next round.

Next round came and I got the dream matchup of Zoo, and Derek got the nightmare matchup of Izzetron. So my dream came true and his nightmare indeed lived up to its name, and I faced the same nightmare matchup in Top 8. So here is the video from that matchup.

Thanks for watching everybody. As for the winner, it was the Snow Bob deck piloted by Aushaud and second place went to Alex Kim and his Snow Control mono-Blue deck – with four Red cards in the form of Skred. Flores would be proud.

So that was my Champs. How was yours? Thanks for watching.

Evan “misterorange” Erwin
dubya dubya dubya dot misterorange dot com
eerwin +at+ gmail +dot+ com
Written while searching for the Top 8 Champs lists.
Music Credits:
Title – “Handshake Drugs”, Wilco
Firemane Decklist – “The Greatest”, Cat Power
Momentary Blink Decklist – “They Cannot Let It Expand”, midlake