The Main Phase – Declaring Block Part IV: Second With Hobbits

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Monday, July 28th – The Kentucky Open was a week or so ago, and I decided to make a weekend of it. Originally, I was planning on going to ‘double dip’ on PTQs, since there was one on Saturday in Cleveland and then one on Sunday in Louisville, but I decided to save on gas and just spend the weekend in Kentucky.

The Kentucky Open was a week or so ago, and I decided to make a weekend of it. Originally, I was planning on going to ‘double dip’ on PTQs, since there was one on Saturday in Cleveland and then one on Sunday in Louisville, but I decided to save on gas and just spend the weekend in Kentucky.

Saturday was the main event, with Standard taking center stage. I ran a 75-for-75 carbon copy of Felipe Alves Pellegrini’s Storm deck from GP: Buenos Aires. For reference, here’s a list:

I quickly lost to two Faerie decks run by very competent opposition, and was out of the contest just like that.

I and my friend Wheeler, who decided to drop at 1-1 because he didn’t feel like playing anymore, decided to get out of dodge and find the local casino about a half an hour away. After a few hours in a losing session I decided to cut my losses (even though Wheeler was up 50 or so) and we found a Red Lobster a few towns over for dinner. We had a nice shrimp feast that neither of us could finish and packed up to go back to the tournament site. We were back before Top 8.

Nice tournament.

The next morning I got up bright and early for the tournament, bought some Arnold Palmers for the day, and made my way to the tournament site. Wheeler, rather than enter with Solar Flare, with which I am sure he would have done well, decided to sleep in.

If you’ve been following along, you should already know what I’m playing by this point.

A few notes about the deck before we go to the report.

The first thing that I want to mention is that, over the course of this report, you will see that I mulliganed a lot. This was not bad luck (for the most part), but instead was a conscious decision. I am willing to take certain chances with this deck, particularly on the draw, when it comes to mulligans. Much of this had to do with mana, as I do not like keeping hands with this deck that have only one or two lands despite the plethora of lands in the deck. On the flip side, I am not adverse to the occasional five-lander, particularly because there are so many non-basics that can serve other purposes. Therefore, I tended to have a stricter starting hand requirement.

A lot of people look at mulligans like the end of the world. “I had to mull on the play, so I lost.” I prefer to look at the mulligan as a tool. The Paris mulligan is a device to be utilized, not dreaded.

3 Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tenders main deck, 1 in the sideboard?
As I said in my video last week, I think that having a full play set of Tenders main is a bit much right now. That said, I wanted to keep my one-drop count high for game 1 as that is a real strength against unprepared opposition. They are still 1/1s for one that get bigger from all of my Lords at the very least, and at the best they are a layer of protection against Firespout.

3 Thistledown Liege main deck, 1 in the sideboard?
Cuts had to be made from the main to make room for the Crib Swaps that I added, so a basic land and a Liege took the bullet. I still wanted it for the mirror match and for other aggro matchups, so it was put into the board. Speaking of Crib Swap

2 Crib Swap main and 2 more in the board?
Yes, really. I liked having a removal spell to deal with random dooders that could eat my lunch, like Demigod of Revenge or Nath of the Gilt Leaf, both of which bit the dust in game 1s during my PTQ and were utter blowouts in my favor both times. The extras in the board came in a bunch of times too. When my opponent doesn’t play a guy until turn 4 and I simply Swap it from its Crib, it’s definitely a good day to be a Kithkin.

3 Barkshell Blessing?
This is what replaced Reveillark in the board for additional anti-Firespout measures, and I am here to tell you that it was definitely worth the trade. It also saved my team in combat, not to mention some number of from Tarfires, Lash Outs, Flame Javelins, Moonglove Extracts (that’s right, I said Moonglove Extract).

Enough of this lecture, time to move on to the action.

Round 1: Zach with G/B Midrange Elves

Zach was a nice guy I hadn’t met before, running what looked a lot like Michael Pinnegar’s winning deck from the PTQ in Columbus, but he was running the Blue splash for Mulldrifter. He still ran Scarblade Elite alongside Chameleon Colossus and Nameless Inversion, as well as the usual suspects like Masked Admirers, Wren’s Run Vanquisher, and Nath of the Gilt Leaf.

I have not tested this matchup nearly as much as I probably should have, but going on the assumption that it is similar to the Standard Elves versus Standard Kithkin match up I would venture to guess that I was a slight favorite.

I won the roll and, after a mulligan, got a quick start with a Stalwart turn 1 into Wizened Cenn turn 2. I took him down to 14 rather quickly, but he killed my Cenn with a Shriekmaw to stop those shenanigans at a respectable time. He regrouped with a Mannequin on Maw and a Colossus, followed by a Nath (that was quickly Swapped) and a Kitchen Finks. Meanwhile, I’m still throwing dudes onto the board. Eventually, I get a pair of Cloudgoat Rangers onto the board and barely get there with a Rustic Clachan to deal the final point of damage necessary. Reinforce for the win.

+2 Crib Swap, +1 Thistledown Liege, -3 Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender

The Swaps come in because he has big threats like Colossus and Nath that could do some serious damage if left unchecked. Also, I needed to take something out for the next to useless Forge-Tenders in this matchup.

Game 2 I had another quick Stalwart but no such beats this game as the last. He amassed a pretty big defense on his board, but after a few token generators I Mirrorweaved my Thistledown Liege and dealt him something like 27 damage with unblocked Spectral Possession tokens.

Matches: 1-0, Games: 2-0

Round 2: Robert with Red-Black Mix-Up

Robert had a dust up with his first round opponent and was flustered from that whole ordeal. He looked more like a man who wanted a nap more than one ready for the second round. He was running a nearly Mono-Red deck with Murderous Redcap, Demigod of Revenge, and a full burn suite, with a Black splash for Bitterblossom and Festercreep.

I have a lot of experience playing against this type of deck, since some of my playtest buddies and I built something similar a few weeks ago for once Eventide becomes legal. I am here to tell you that Kith is a very big favorite against any deck that runs Mountains as its main mana source, not only because Kithkin runs Forge-Tenders but also because most of the elimination spells in the Red deck are one-for-ones, which cannot deal effectively with Spectral Procession and Cloudgoat Ranger.

Game 1 I won the roll and took a mulligan, and after my first turn Windbrisk Heights was punished with a Thoughtseize I appeared to be on the back foot. My beats got in there though, and his Thoughtseize and Bitterblossom came back to bite him as I was able to squeak out a victory.

+2 Crib Swap, +1 BFT, -3 Goldmeadow Harrier

Swaps come in to deal not only with Demigod, but also the ever-annoying Redcap. Harriers don’t do much here except die to Tarfire and Lash Out, so they came out over Stalwart because they can at least deal some damage if they survive. I didn’t bring in Wispmare because he had no real way to abuse Bitterblossom, like with Ashenmoor Liege or Furystoke Giant, so I decided to let it slowly chip away at his life total like it did in game 1.

Game 2 I mulliganed again, but on the draw it didn’t hurt so much and I had some gas in my hand anyway. He once more Thoughtseized me early but had to take a two-drop to slow my curve instead of the Cloudgoat Ranger or Crib Swap to stem the bleeding. His Bitterblossom turn 2 couldn’t save him from the onslaught and, once again, his own Black spells did him in.

2-0, 4-0

Wheeler showed up with some lunch from McDonalds for me after this round. I am no fan. I had half of the Big Mac he bought for me and gave the rest of the sandwich and fries to the ravenous Magicians beside me.

Oh, did I forget to mention that he stopped at an Applebees and had already had three drinks? Before the fourth, however, the manager of the Bees came over and told Mr. Wheeler that his waitress was apparently new, and that it is against state law to serve alcohol before noon on Sunday in the great state of Kentucky.

Such Wheels.

Round 3: Eli with Quickish Toast

Eli is a very solid player who knows his way around a control deck. I usually only see him at PTQs south of Columbus like this one, so I assume he’s from Tennessee or Kentucky, but that’s just a guess. This time around he was battling with Cloudthreshers, Kitchen Finks, Sowers of Temptation, and a lot of other cards that made it look like Quick n’ Toast, but he also ran Chameleon Colossus and Profane Command in support roles.

I lost the roll and mulliganed, but even those two facts couldn’t contain the little White guys at my disposal. Add to that the fact that Eli dealt himself a decent amount of damage since he had to evoke a Cloudthresher turn 4 and played a Bitterblossom shortly thereafter, and you have a recipe for a game 1 win.

+2 Swap, +1 Liege, -3 BFT

In retrospect, this was a bad move as Eli had sneakily sideboarded into Firespout. With infinite Vivids at his disposal, who is to say he’s wrong? The Swaps come in to deal with any given monster he brings to battle, but it is particularly for Sowers. The Liege was added just to up the threat count.

Game 2 Eli gets his game on when I miss my third land drop four times in a row. In the meantime, double Finks and a Sower for Knight of Meadowgrain ramp up his team. My third land turn 7 for Procession couldn’t save me.

In game 3 I opened up with Stalwart turn 1, Knight turn 2, and Wizened Cenn turn 3. Them’s some good beats. He drops a Finks followed by a Colossus to try to keep up, which he does. Fortunately for Team Main Phase, my Spectral Procession tokens chew him down slowly from 11 to get there for the win.

3-0, 6-1

Round 4: Avery with Nearly Mono-Red

Avery had a deck similar to my round 2 opponent, but decided not to add Black for Bitterblossom and Festercreep. Instead, he had a small Green splash to support Firespout’s other half. In addition, he ran main deck Vexing Shusher.

Game 1 I mulliganed and got stuck on 3 lands. A pair of Knight of Meadowgrains kept the game close, but Avery drew a bunch of gas including double Demigod and triple Tarfire to deal with my team.

+3 Barkshell Blessing, +2 Crib Swap, +1 BFT, -4 Stalwart, -1 Liege, -1 ?

Obviously, I brought in the fourth Forge-Tender. This time around I took out the Stalwarts because they actually do nothing against him. The Harriers can at least do something, and he appeared in Game 1 to not want to deal with them, and instead ignore them and try to run me over. The Blessings come in as anti-Spout tech. The Swaps are there to deal with Demigod shenanigans that could, like game 1, get out of hand. They extra Liege came out because of the myriad ways he had to deal with it. Also, I had a sick read that he was keeping his Demigods in, so taking out Mirrorweave was not a choice. I forget the last card I took out.

Game 2, Avery mulliganed to 5 and was stuck on three lands all game while I had my way with the board and beat him down with Mirrorweaved Cenns turn 5 or 6.

Game 3 I had a turn 1 Forge-Tender into turn 2 Cenn into turn 3 Procession. On his fourth turn he Firespouted, so I sacrificed my Forge-Tender to prevent it. I didn’t need to really though, as it turns out he didn’t have the Thicket in play to get my fliers. I just assumed. And you know what happens when you assume… Anyway, I kept beating with White guys, and eventually got there.

4-0, 8-2

Round 5: Josh with Faeries (lost in Top 8)

You may remember Josh from my Regionals report earlier this summer, when he brought Doran to the table against my Elves. This time around he brought Faeries that eschewed popular standards and chose to run Pestermite over some of the other possible inclusions, like Peppersmoke or Vendilion Clique.

Game 1 I mulligan to 5 on the play, and his turn 3 Pestermite to tap my land in my upkeep put me on the back foot the whole game. Bitterblossom tokens took over at that point, and we were quickly on to game 2.

+4 Wispmare, +2 Swap, +1 Liege, -3 BFT, -3 Harrier, -1 Cloudgoat Ranger

The Swaps come in to deal with Cliques on the stack and the occasional Scion. Wispmares come in to deal with Faerie Tauntings. No, I’m just kidding. We all know what the Mares are for. The extra Liege comes in because it is instant speed, and it’s tougher to deal with than the average Kithkin.

Game 2 I mull to 5 again, but Josh mulls to 6 and keeps a two-land hand that doesn’t get there. I have double Stalwart beats going for me, so he decided to end it early.

Game 3 we both keep our opening sevens (shocking!). He has Scion into Clique on turn 3 and 4, which would have been a blowout in my favor if I had a Crib Swap. Alas, there is no justice to be found here and he taps all my lands. I draw the Swap a turn later (of course) and throw it the way of the 4/4, but he has another one to put the first out of harm’s way… and gets a Scion back as a bonus. I couldn’t recover from that, and it was over.

4-1, 9-4

Round 6: Josh with Faeries

No, that isn’t a glitch in the matrix. I once again played against a man named Josh with a Faerie deck. This time it was fellow Magic writer and friend of mine Josh Claytor. This is the first time he and I have battled in a sanctioned event, so it was a neat experience to be sure.

We had our decks checked, this round and Josh mentioned that he thought that he was going to get a game loss, which kind of bummed me out. Don’t get me wrong, I like to mise the occasional free win every once and a while, but I much prefer to play and win a hard-fought game. This brings me to another point that I want to make very clear.

No one should ever lose a game ever do to an illegal deck. Ever.

I haven’t had an illegal deck in years because the last time my deck was illegal it disqualified me from a Top 8. Do yourself a favor: double check. Hell, quadruple check if you have to. There is no excuse for this.

Fortunately, Josh’s fears were not confirmed (and fortunately for me, my deck was also declared legal), and we were finally off.

I lost the roll, but got out to a quick start. His turn 2 Bitterblossom did nothing more than Forcefield my 3/3 Knight of Meadowgrain (thanks to a Wizened Cenn) for a few turns. He put up a valiant effort, but with no relief in the form of Cryptic Command in sight he scooped up his cards for game 2.

+4 Mare, +2 Swap, +1 Liege, -3 Harrier, -3 BFT, -1 Goat

Second verse, same as the first. This time, I will explain why I took out what I took out. The Harriers aren’t very good against his deck, as he can give any and all members of his team Shroud at some random times. The Forge-Tenders… well, they aren’t very good at all here, are they? The single Cloudgoat leaving the deck may look fishy, but a 5-mana sorcery speed spell is not something you want to be drawing multiples of against a deck that runs so many counterspells.

Game 2 was, unfortunately, as much about Josh’s deck not showing up to play as it was about my deck doing what it does. Apparently, Josh kept a 4-land hand… and continued to draw lands for the next 5 turns. Apparently, having only 3 spells for an entire game doesn’t add up to a notch in the win column. Hey, this is variance folks. This time, the pendulum swung my way.

5-1, 11-4

Round 7: ID with Nocco (lost in Top 4)

5-1-1, 11-4-1

At this point I am in fourth place with 15 points and only 16 pointers ahead of me, so I am fairly confident that I will make the Top 8. there was an outside shot I would miss it since there were 3 people with 16 points and 6 with 15, so someone was going to be disappointed (sorry Cedric). I decided to go and grab some grub with a few of my fellow Top 8 competitors at a local Taco bell, which was the best available option (McDonald’s across the street was the only other choice). After a pair of soft tacos with no onion (Wheeler’s request, since I ordered for him too) and no tomato (salmonella gonna getcha), I was ready to get this Top 8 underway.

After the last round was over, I looked at my potential opponents: round 1 was against the Rage Forger deck I was hearing so much about all day that had apparently been ripping people apart. Fortunately I knew this was a good matchup, as main deck Forge-Tender throws a wrench in their plans. Also, my dudes are just quicker than his so I was confident.

I noticed that there were only two Fae decks in our Top 8, and they were both on the other side of the bracket, which was kind of a bummer. I am very confident in my Faerie matchup (after this PTQ, I am 7-1 on the season). I am not particularly proud of my Elementals matchup, what with their Firespout, Shriekmaws, and Nameless Inversions, and there was one of them on my side of the bracket as well as a possible matchup in the finals…

But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves here. I have a few matches to play before I have to worry about that.

Quarterfinals: Marshall with Mono-Red Shamans

Marshall is a new face to me, with a new deck. He was running an almost Mono-Red deck that ran 4 Graven Cairns and 4 Manaforge Cinder to be able to take occasional advantage of Spiteflame Witch.

Game 1 I lose the roll but land an early Forge-Tender, which puts him quickly on the back foot. His turn 2 Vexing Shusher is, I am sure, very good against any number of decks… but to me it’s just another Grizzly Bear. He played out a Rage Forger on turn 5 to put a bunch of counters on his team but couldn’t attack because the retributive attack would have been lethal. It didn’t matter anyway, as I end up getting him with a Mirrorweave on Thistledown Liege while he had no burn in his hand.

+3 Barkshell, +1 BFT, -4 Harrier

The Barkshells came in because I wanted an easy one-mana counter to a burn spell. The Harriers came out because they don’t do me much good here, as the strength of his deck is in numbers not in giant beats.

Game 2 I get a turn 1 Forge-Tender he thinks that he has the answer in his Moonglove Extract on turn 3, but when he goes to kill it I simply Blessed it and dealt him an additional two damage. The next turn he had another Extract to deal with my troublesome Tender of Forge… but the miser that I am, I had another Blessing in my hand. After that, I landed a Cloudgoat Ranger and some other guys and put the game away shortly thereafter.

Top 8: 1-0, 2-0, 6-1-1, 13-4

So that was that. Now I had to sit and wait to see who my next opponent was, either a mirror match or a meeting with Elementals…

Semifinals: David with Elementals

… And we have our answer. Dave was playing a very Brian Six-ish list of Elementals, complete with singleton Soulstoke, Festercreep and Crib Swap.

Game 1 was an interesting affair, with me curving out but David responding in kind with a veritable plethora of removal spells. My early Forge-Tender stuck, and protected me from possibly Firespout blowout potential. On turn 5 he had the requisite mana to both Nameless my Tender and Firespout my team, which also meant Firespouting his Mulldrifter and Smokebraider. I knew this was coming so I had kept the gas that I had in my hand right where it was, Baxter Magic style. So the next turn, onto an empty board, I plopped… what else? A Cloudgoat Ranger. He had no more gas, and I proceeded to bash him with it and its little friends for a few turns for the win.

+2 Swap, +1 BFT, +1 Liege, -3 Harrier, -1 Mirrorweave

Harrier is only good on the play here, as it keeps Braider in check, but even then it’s subpar. I only took out a single Weave because I had a sick read on him that he was keeping his Cloudthreshers in. This is a mistake, people. Cloudthresher is bad versus Kithkin. It only answers one card in my deck and it deals you two damage along the way. Not too good. Anyway, since I knew he was keeping in the 7/7s for me to Weave him out, I decided to keep in a brace of the hybrid instant.

Game 2 I got stuck on two lands and didn’t really do anything except get my brains bashed in by angry multicolored Elementals.

Game 3 was one of those “grind it out” games. I lead off with Stalwart into Knight into BFT into Procession. He fought them off well, but in the end the few points of damage that were trickling through every turn came back to bite him because he couldn’t kill my Tender with double Firespout in hand, and I took it down.

2-0, 4-1, 7-1-1, 15-5-1

The other semifinal match was not yet over, Faeries against Elementals, so I decided to go walk around outside the hall. I was pretty pumped. This was my first PTQ Top 8 since I was 14 or 15, and after this long of a drought – and to be in the finals – was a rush. Unfortunately, American Idol tryouts were down the hall, and the echoing of bad renditions of every song imaginable were etched onto my brain. I decided to go back inside.

Finals: Nick with Elementals

Nick, who came to Taco Bell with me earlier, was running a more Levy-style list with Soulstokes over Firespouts main.

Game 1 I won the roll and got him to 6 fairly quickly with double Stalwart and Forge-Tender action, but his miser’s main deck Fulminator Mage blew me out. I would have had a lethal Mirrorweave on board the very next turn, but as it turned out I was stuck on three for the rest of the game. Over the next 5 turns, I drew my last 2 Mirrorweaves and 3 Cloudgoat Rangers. In the meantime he drew gas and beat me down with Shriekmaws. Them’s the breaks.

+2 Swap, +1 BFT, +1 Liege, -3 Harrier, -1 Weave

Game 2 was also very close. I got him to 2 through Knight beats (that also put me up to a comfy 31 life), but he stabilized just in time. I drew poorly in the end game and he proceeded to draw very well, but he also played very well with the cards he was given. Eventually he put me to 4 with only a Cloudthresher, a Festercreep (with 2 mana available) and two other creatures available. I only had a Mutavault and a Harrier to my name, I decided to take my stand. I tapped his Thresher at the end of the turn and untapped, drew a land and played it.

Now with 6 lands in play, 5 Plains and a Mutavault, I had a few options, none of which were enviable. I only way to win was to win this turn, as he has incredible creature advantage that I cannot stop unless I wanted to use my Mirrorweave defensibly, which I wasn’t prepared to try and do. At that point I saw 3 options. One, attack with both dudes and hope he doesn’t block the Harrier, at which point I Mirrorweave his bigger and fatter dude. Nah, that’s too simple. Second, I could cast Mirrorweave targeting his Festercreep, Wrath the board, and get in there with Mutavault. No, he would see that he could remove the counter in response. I went with the last option: I activated Mutavault, declared my attacks, and before blockers were declared I cast Mirrorweave on Mutavault. I was hoping that, as confusing as the interaction is, that he would just punt and give the game away to me. Unfortunately, Nick was not complete noob status, and asked the judge if he could just reactivate his Vaults to block mine. At that point, I knew the jig was up and I extended my hand in defeat.

Overall Finish: 7-2-1, Second Place

This is the kind of improvement I was talking about the last few weeks. I learned from my mistakes and my past experiences ,and this time around they fought for me. Unfortunately I didn’t get the big prize, and therefore I still have to look at this experience as a bit of a letdown, but make no mistake: I am happy with my experience, and hopefully I can win just one more match next time.

See you at Nats!


Reuben Bresler
Reubs in the forums
[email protected]
CleverMonikerMan on AIM

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Flogging Molly – Float
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