The Secret Lies With Charlotte

Nate Pease won the Standard portion of StarCityGames.com Open: Charlotte with Caw-Blade. He’s an up-and-coming Magic player who qualified for Nationals this year and has numerous PTQ Top 8s, so watch him this weekend!

For most of you reading this article, it is probably the first time you have ever heard my name. My name is Nate Pease, and I’m from Western
Massachusetts. Besides a lengthy list of PTQ Top 8s around the Northeast and a plethora of old school Vintage tournaments, Magic for me has mostly been
the weekend pastime that has allowed me to travel and see my friends, with the pipedream of eventually becoming a “grinder.” I’ve had
a lot of success since the beginning of the year, including a strong finish at GP Atlanta, qualifying for US Nationals, and now a StarCityGames.com
Open Championship.  

This particular report doesn’t start during round one, but rather six years ago. Back to the last and only time I’d ever been in

…But I’ll start the story on Thursday—not the Thursday before StarCityGames.com Open: Charlotte, but a week prior to that.

While trolling the internet, I find Michael Pozsgay, Lewis Laskin, and Nick Spagnolo are heading to Boston from New York City and are in need of help
getting from South Station to the tournament site (which is actually thirty minutes away). Seeing that I rarely see my friends, I’m quick to offer to
help them get to where they need to be, or with whatever it is they need.

After picking up the Brady Bunch, we go back to my place of residence and quickly begin busting out bags full of deck boxes and playtesting games while
waiting for Harrison Greenberg, Alex Bertoncini, Alyssa Spizzaro, and Drew Levin to arrive, who are also staying the weekend. After a quick visit to
the tournament site, we somehow manage to drag a few other degens back to the house to test and brew. ‘Playtesting’ quickly escalates to a
‘social gathering,’ as it so often does.

The weekend is pretty uneventful, but I somehow end up going back to Nick’s house in Brooklyn. Around Tuesday, we start making plans with Jake
Van Lunen—and it appears I’m going to Charlotte. Later that week, we take the train from Brooklyn to Penn Station and start heading towards
the wonderful state of New Jersey.

9 o’clock comes far too early, and we head to Gerard Fabiano house and get ready for the car ride from Jersey to Charlotte. Fast forward
600 miles, two Chick-fil-A’s, and fifteen hours later, and we’re in Charlotte. It appears that there is a slight misunderstanding with the
concierge at Jake’s hotel, so after durdling for roughly twenty minutes, we finally get to the room.

(On a side note, this has to be one of the best car rides I’ve ever been on. From Gerard’s priceless, farfetched stories and games of
charades and situations to analyzing the entire set of New Phyrexia and theorizing for fifteen hours, it was actually enjoyable.)

Anyway, this is what I played:

Every card in every slot was pretty well thought out, between a six-hour discussion in the car and my own personal experiences.

The key points to note are the absence of Into the Roil and Tumble Magnet and the singletons of Gideon Jura, Sun Titan, and Day of Judgment in the
maindeck. Edgar Flores played a list very similar to this with which he Top 4ed StarCityGames.com Open: Boston. The real strength of this version of
Caw-Blade is the inclusion of the maindeck Jace Belerens and the cheap, efficient removal spells that protect it.

Jace Beleren is absolutely absurd, helping to fight the Jace war and quite often buying you precious life and a small amount of time against aggro
decks. Single-mana removal spells and counterspells also increase in value—being that you already have a constant flow of card advantage without
having to tap any mana on turn four, which can arguably be the most important turn of the game in the mirror. The removal suite I chose ended up
between a 3/1 split between Condemn/Oust, as I wanted a miser against Lotus Cobra and the situational swing of excommunicating a blocker and getting in
with a creature carrying a sword.

As far as the sideboard is concerned, Lewis Laskin fully sold me on Consecrated Sphinx. Sphinx is a huge trump card in the matchups against other Jace
decks. Activating the +2 ability of Jace Beleren with Consecrated Sphinx in play is quite hard for your opponent to come back from. I’ve received a lot
of questions however, asking whether the Consecrated Sphinx in the sideboard should have been another Sun Titan, but I personally like the mix of one
of each. Plus, there is the added bonus of refilling you’re entire hand on your opponent’s turn. 

Let’s battle!

Round One Magic

Clifton sits down and spills his deck on the table while shuffling—revealing a Preordain and a Lightning Bolt. Nice RUG deck.

He leads with a Scalding Tarn and a Preordain, putting both on bottom. I play my second land and turn 2 Stoneforge Mystic, fetching Sword of Feast and
Famine, before he Bolts it. We both play draw/go before Clifton plays a third Island and Jace, the Mind Sculptor, which is met with my Spell Pierce. He
leads with two more fetches, while I calmly resolve Squadron Hawk and start to nibble away with them. He concedes a turn later, after discarding his
last card to my sword.

I side in a Day of Judgment and two Ousts, Consecrated Sphinx, and a Divine Offering for three Condemns, a Gideon Jura, and a lone Squadron Hawk.

We both spend the first turn casting Preordain; however, Clifton sent both to the bottom—indicating he was searching for something, He cast turn
2 Sphere of the Suns, which I happily offered to trade with my Divine Offering, as his only lands in play were three Islands. Stoneforge Mystic
eventually resolved, and Sun Titan joined the party.

To be fair, my opponent didn’t really do anything game two—he just… sort of died. He later told me he was playing U/B/r Tezzeret (I
assume similar to Chapin’s). He revealed his hand after the game, which contained six black cards, and his only black mana source was the Sphere
of the Suns in his yard. Yeah, that one felt good.


Round Two Magic

I went to grab a blackberry lemonade as round two was announced. It was also announced that I had a feature match against Harrison Greenberg. Seeing
that he borrowed Flashfreezes, Stoneforge Mystics, and Ousts, I knew he was playing Caw-Blade. He won the die roll and led with a Preordain and a turn
2 Stoneforge Mystic. I cast my own Mystic; both fetched Swords of Feast and Famine. He played a third land—an Inkmoth Nexus—and passed,
while I played a Tectonic Edge and did the same, before he snuck his Sword into play during my end step. On his fourth turn, he dropped a land and
decided to get aggressive by activating his Inkmoth Nexus, equipping Sword of Feast and Famine, and sending his suited-up land into the red zone. I
activated Tectonic Edge, targeting his Inkmoth Nexus; Harrison missed his next three land drops. Squadron Hawk and his friends quickly took game one,
along with the fact that Harrison had three lands in play for the remainder of the game. Harrison later explained that he just didn’t see the
Tectonic Edge play.

I brought in Consecrated Sphinx, a Sword of Feast and Famine, and two Divine Offerings for three Mana Leaks and Day of Judgment.

Game two found Harrison on the play, as well as on the mulligan. He spent his first two turns casting Preordain, digging for land drops. I resolved a
turn 3 Jace Beleren and drew a card. On his next turn, Harrison cast a Stoneforge Mystic and put a Sword of Feast and Famine into his hand. I drew Jace
Beleren down to a single loyalty counter before shipping the turn and discarding an extra land. At the time, I was anticipating Harrison to try and
attack Jace Beleren and play into my Condemn, leaving him stranded on creatures and very far behind—but instead, he just played a fourth land and
passed back to me.

I +2ed Jace, before playing a land and a Squadron Hawk. After searching for one of his friends however, I had eight cards including a Sun Titan, a
Divine Offering, a Squadron Hawk, a Sword of Feast and Famine, and lands. I announced my end step, and he activated Stoneforge Mystic, dropping sword
into play. I elected to Divine Offering it for two reasons: 1) if I didn’t, I was going to have to discard a card, and 2) it also left me tapped
out. This would give him an opening to tap out, so that I could easily cast my Sun Titan the next turn.

He Mana Leaked my Divine Offering, equipped his Stoneforge with Sword of Feast of Famine, and attacked me. I chump-blocked with Squadron Hawk, and he
played his own, fetching one more bird. Sun Titan resolved, and he scooped on the spot.


Round Three Magic

I was paired against Chris. I also knew Chris was playing Caw-Blade. We fought back and forth with Squadron Hawks and swords, while carefully playing
around countermagic. He got far ahead with a Gideon Jura and a Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but a Mortarpod took out his Jace, while the Squadron Hawks and
a Celestial Colonnade binned the Gideon. I don’t remember exactly where, but somewhere I bounced his Sun Titan and made him discard it with a
Sword of Feast and Famine trigger. This was one of those weird games, where you think you’re behind the entire time, but a well-timed play or two
somehow picks up a game.

Game two was not close. He curved Stoneforge Mystic into Sword of Feast and Famine and had two Spell Pierces for both my Divine Offering and my
Condemn. A Jace and a Sun Titan left me saying ‘I’ll play’ and reaching for my sideboard. Game three gave me far more Jaces than he
had, and the Condemns just blew out his aggressive draw. Time was called, and I picked up the match on turn five


Round Four Magic

His turn 2 Lotus Cobra fell to a ping from Mortarpod. Stoneforge Mystic snuck sword into play and allowed me to attack and cast Papa Jace, leaving him
with four lands and a Khalni Heart Expedition on one, after bouncing an Overgrown Battlement. His tapped Valakut got Tec Edged, and he started
discarding cards to my Stoneforge Mystic while trying to draw the lands to cast the powerful six-drops in his hand. With no cards in hand and nothing
on the board, he peeled a Green Sun’s Zenith for Primeval Titan. While searching his library, I pointed out that I had him dead on board with
Colonnade, and he packed them up. ‘You might not have noticed.’

I brought in both Ousts, Day of Judgment, Sword of Feast and Famine, and Flashfreezes for Squadron Hawks and a few Condemns.

Game two, I Flashfreezed a turn 4 Primeval Titan, but he obviously Summoning Trapped into another one, fetching two Valakuts. They always have it! An
end-step Harrow into another one? Where do they find these cards?

I was on the play for game three, and he was on the mulligan. I had Stoneforge turn 2 and Ousted his Overgrown Battlement turn 3 while dropping sword
into play. I equipped my Stoneforge Mystic and Flashfreezed his Lightning Bolt, forcing him to discard an Avenger of Zendikar and allowing me to untap
with three counters in hand.


Round Five Magic

This round was much more exciting when my opponent, James, played a Guru Forest and a Joraga Treespeaker. I remember that I Ousted it and connected
with sword, all while Condemning two Inferno Titans, back to back. It was also funny that his board was more expensive than mine at the end of the
game—with me having a foil Jace, the Mind Sculptor in play. He had twelve Gurus.

I boarded the same way as in the prior round.

I lost game two and won game three, in extra turns. I’m sorry for the lack of detail for this round, but it was a long day, and I was hungry. My
friends know how I get when I’m hungry. Kind of like a zombie movie…


Round Six Magic

This round found me paired against AJ Sacher. He’s been on a recent tear; and he mulliganed. I led off with Preordain, finding my second land for
Stoneforge Mystic. He cast Mortarpod and shipped back. I played a tapped land and passed, while he cast a Sword of Feast and Famine. I attacked with my
equipped Stoneforge Mystic and threw my Mortarpod at his Mortarpod token. A Spell Pierce on his Tumble Magnet led to game two. I don’t really
remember game two, except that I had Sun Titan, and he didn’t. The entire match took like ten minutes, but to be fair, I severely outdrew
him—but I’ll take it.


Round Seven Magic

Round seven had me one win away from drawing into Top 8. I knew that Christian Valenti was playing Caw-Blade and that that he’s a pretty good player.
Game one was really close… until he got an advantage with Tectonic Edges and a Gideon, followed by a Sun Titan. I took game two with Consecrated
Sphinx, and I found myself playing for a draw in game three, behind to a Sun Titan and a flock of angry birds. It looked like I was going to get said
draw… until another freshly peeled Sun Titan and a double Tectonic Edge activation took out two blockers and hit me for exacties on turn 5. Must be.


Round Eight Magic

I heard my named called to the feature match area. My opponent must be pretty good.

Jordan and I got to talking, and I mentioned that he was in 22nd place on the standings list with an OMW of 49%. He replied that he was excited to
rally from the 0-1 bracket and was more than happy with the 50 dollars he could win.

Round 8 is covered here.

Round Nine Magic

Round nine had me in fourth place, on top of all the other X-1s. After signing a quick ‘ID’ on the match slip, I found myself with
Christian Calcano and Edgar Flores, playing the most skilled game of the day. For some odd reason, we started throwing a stack of draft commons at a
‘Five Hour Energy’ bottle that kept rolling on the edge of the table, trying to knock it off. After about fifty throws, Edgar knocked off
the bottle, and Christian was stuck picking up the cards.

After they announced the final standings, I heard my name called in seventh place. “Nate Peazzy.” Has a nice ring.

Top 8

After filling out the profile card, I sat down to battle Ryan Millar. I looked at his decklist. It was easy to see this would be a close
match—Mono Red with a million burn spells and Manic Vandal out of the board. He won the die roll and landed a first-turn Spikeshot Elder, while I
kept a shaky six. He pinged all of my Hawks with Spikeshot Elder, and I never caught up after the two Searing Blazes he drew.

I brought in the Kor Firewalkers, the Sylvok Lifestaff, the two Ousts, a Gideon, and a Day of Judgment, along with some Flashfreezes. I think I boarded
out Spell Pierces and a few Mana Leaks, along with a lot of Jaces, like either five or six.

I got ahead with turn 2 Stoneforge Mystic for Mortarpod, while I had Lifestaff in my hand. I blocked his Spikeshot Elder with Mystic before dropping in
Mortarpod. Turn 4 had me playing and equipping Sylvok Lifestaff to the token and being infinitely far ahead… that is, until he played Manic Vandal
and Goblin Guide. I wrathed his board and stuck a Sun Titan, returning the Lifestaff he blew up. After one more trigger from Sun Titan, fetching a
creature to equip both my Sylvok Lifestaff and Mortarpod, we were on to the rubber.

He started on the mulligan, while I kept a very risky seven containing Celestial Colonnade, Preordain, Preordain, Flashfreeze, Kor Firewalker, Condemn,
and Sylvok Lifestaff. He drew his six cards and went into the tank. I went to go get something to drink; after about three minutes, he was still in the
tank. He said “LET’S GAMBLE!”, played a Mountain, and passed. I drew a Plains and my tapped land. He drew four cards and never saw a second land; Kor
Firewalker made him extend the hand.

A few congratulations and a few minutes in the SCGLive booth finished the day, while Jake, Lewis, Nick, and myself ordered Domino’s (again). We
came back to the room, and I set my alarm for 7:30.

I arrived at 7:55, and to my surprise, I was the only competitor there. Orrin, Edgar, and AJ casually arrived, and I and Orrin shuffled up under the
camera for game one. I won’t go into detail, because it was covered, but Consecrated Sphinx solely took down that match. I feel like I played this
match extremely well—by far my best played match on the weekend (despite what Gerard says).

The finals can be found here.

I got pretty lucky and played pretty well this weekend—you need both to win a tournament. I guess Charlotte is just lucky for me. As for the
future of this deck and the soon-to-be completely new format, I have absolutely no idea what lies ahead. None. Zilch. Everything seems so powerful and
good. Free removal spells and counters? Check. Powerful equipment? Check. Scared? Check. I’ll be in Orlando slinging whatever I feel is best, even if
Jace is on the bench.

I joined the ranks of SCG Level Three mages with a win and am pretty sure I’ll be attending the rest of the Opens for the year. I also realized that
the Invitational at the end of the year is being held in Charlotte! Must be nice!

‘‘First prize at the Invitational this year is $10,000. Does it have my name on it? I don’t know, but I’m going to find
out…” (Kudos if you know where that’s from!)

See you in Orlando.

~ Nate

A big thanks goes out to all my friends who helped me this weekend and with whom I spent a lot of my time recently. Nick, Lewis Laskin, JVL, Ashok,
Griffin, Chris Atkinson, Dave Shiels, and Ken Adams—Thanks, fellas.