It never ceases to amaze me how enjoyable Magic trips are. Sometimes they’re just short, two-hour trips to an in-state venue, but other times they’re entire weekend-long endeavors filled with awkward stories and plenty of hilarious moments. This past weekend I attended a PTQ in Chicago, which was (thankfully) hosted at a Hilton rather than at the Pastimes store. I’m a huge fan of Chicago, and so I naturally had a good time on the trip. The night before the tournament, however, was easily the most fun. We played this really exciting game I’d never played before, called Catch Phrase…
Okay, but seriously, it was a fairly great weekend for me. Going into the event, I was convinced that Conley’s deck from U.S. Nationals was the deck to play, as it had few bad match-ups and actually was testing very well against Five-Color, a match-up that I wanted to be sure that I could beat when the time came. Here’s the list I played after all of my changes:
- 4 Mulldrifter
- 3 Shriekmaw
- 2 Kitchen Finks
- 2 Puppeteer Clique
- 2 Caldera Hellion
- 4 Putrid Leech
- 4 Bloodbraid Elf
- 4 Anathemancer
I took some advice from Conley and added a twenty-fifth land (though I decided that I’d rather have better mana and use Twilight Mire as opposed to having another basic against Anathemancer). Moving Anathemancer to the maindeck was an obvious decision, one that I’m pretty sure everyone has already done by this point. I took some liberties with Caldera Hellion and Maelstrom Pulse, cutting one of each from the deck to make room for the maindecked Puppeteer Cliques. Clique is simply the best card for the mirror match, and it’s more than passable in just about every match-up, which means that I could easily play it main without much regret. More on that later, however.
I honestly wanted to get rid of Kitchen Finks altogether, but the lifegain is relevant against decks with Anathemancers, and it also happens to be very good with Caldera Hellion, so I kept two copies in the deck. I wanted to fit at least another in the sideboard, but I never found the room. I needed the third Hellion in the sideboard for the mirror and Kithkin decks, and I obviously could not drop to less than two Cloudthreshers in the seventy-five. Stags were pivotal in the mirror and against Fae, Deathmark is uncuttable, and Thought Hemorrhage might have been the single most important card in my sideboard, leaving me with few options for cuts. In the end, I was fairly happy with my list.
And away we go!
Round 1: Five-Color Control
This was a player that I’ve seen at various PTQs, and he usually does fairly well, so sitting down across from him for my first match was setting me up for a good round one. He led off with a Vivid Creek, which quickly put him on a Five-Color. I got a really fast start in game 1 and dispatched him with relative ease, despite never seeing an Anathemancer. 1-0
I never saw any Mulldrifters from him in game 1, so I took out my Cliques. In game 2 I again got a moderately fast start, but he hit seven mana and resolved a Cruel Ultimatum that I simply could not come back from. 1-1
In game 3 I got a turn 2 Leech, and started applying pressure. A few early Anathemancers leveled his life total, giving him few outs. He tapped out for a Cruel, and I responded with a Cloudthresher. I beat him back the next turn with it, and then he Cruelled me again, leaving the life totals at five (me) and eight (him). He passed the turn, and I stopped to consider my options before I drew my card. I had a Cloudthresher as the lone card in my hand, and he had a full seven in the grip. He had seven nonbasic lands, which meant my only out was to draw a Bloodbraid Elf and cascade into an Anathemancer. That’s a pretty tall order, but I sucked it up and drew my card.
Bloodbraid Elf. So far, the plan was going pretty smoothly. I played it, and joked about how I was obviously going to hit Anathemancer. He gestured towards my library, and a moment later I ten’d him to the dome and took the match. How lucky.
1-0 in matches, 2-1 in games
Round 2: Eric with Faeries
Eric led off this match with an Arcane Sanctum into a Vivid Creek. I asked him on his third upkeep how Faeries was treating him in the new metagame, and the look on his face told me that my guess was correct. Sure enough, he Vendilion Cliqued me on my next draw, sending a Fallout to the bottom of my deck. He was fumbling a lot with his words (like when he played Cryptic Commands to tap my guys, etc etc) and I politely offered corrections as we played. Towards the end of the game, he passed the turn and I knew that he had a Mistbind Clique in his hand. On my upkeep, I looked at him, and said nothing. He stared back, and then I asked “upkeep effects?” to which he responded “oh, right… Mistbind Clique!” I lost to that Mistbind Clique two turns later. I realized at that point that I needed to be a bit less forgiving.
Game 2 was not very close, as I got two early Stags and beat his face. I’m actually quite sure I made a mistake here, as I played both Stags when he could easily have had Firespout, but luckily for me he didn’t and I got there within a matter of turns. He did have the Gargoyle Castle to block one of my Stags, but the Putrid Leech I had in play was enough to lethal him regardless.
He played a Vendilion Clique on my fourth draw in game 3, and I revealed two Stags and a Fallout along with some other goodies. That game wasn’t very close, either.
2-0 in matches, 4-2 in games
Round 3: Jason with RW Swans
When he played a turn 1 Jungle Shrine, I’ll admit I was thoroughly confused. He had Pyroclasms, Fallouts, Lightning Bolts, and on turn 4 he played an Ajani Vengeant to keep one of my Vivid lands tapped. I played an Anathemancer the following turn to nuke the planeswalker, but he played another one the following turn. As soon as I dealt with it, he had a Baneslayer Angel to fight back with. I played a Shriekmaw to off it, and we exchanged spells over the course of the next few turns (his removal for my x/2s). He Banefire’d me for six one turn, then for eight two turns later. His life total was two when I died.
In game 2, I resolved a turn 4 Thought Hemorrhage to remove Baneslayer Angels from his deck, as I didn’t think that Swans or Banefire were nearly as pressing of an issue for me. The next turn I Acidic Slimed one of his lands, and then proceeded to Mannequin it back three more times to nuke four of his lands over four consecutive turns. I later ended up Hemorrhaging out his Banefires, but by then it was elementary.
In game 3 he played a turn 2 Runed Halo naming Thought Hemorrhage, and he matched my board of 3/2s and 4/4s with a Baneslayer Angel on turn 5. I topdecked a Maelstrom Pulse for it, and we both entered topdeck mode after he played a Hallowed Burial to sweep my board. I eventually got a Cloudthresher to his Swans, and he let me put him to two. The next turn I drew a second Thresher, but decide to slow roll it merely to see if he would let me draw seven cards when he blocked. Instead, he Bolted his Swans in response to my attack, and I decided just to evoke in response and end things.
3-0 in matches, 6-3 in games
Round 4: Joe Bernal with RB Aggro
I’d never had the pleasure of playing against Joe before this, but I knew he was a good player and I wasn’t about to take him lightly. Going into this PTQ, I thought that RB Aggro was a very bad match-up for me, and so when he played a turn 1 Mountain and passed I was far from excited. He spent his second turn playing a Hellspark Elemental to drop me to seventeen, and I played a Putrid Leech on my turn and passed. By the fifth turn he had still not unearthed his Elemental, so I played a Puppeteer Clique to lethal him. My life total was well above ten at that point, so I felt pretty lucky.
Note: I didn’t bring in Thought Hemorrhage for this match-up (I consider it a do-nothing as the last thing I want to do against a full-out aggro deck is spend four mana to not affect the board), but later when I talked to Stephen Boggemes about it he said he had had a lot of success just bringing it in against any deck with Anathemancer. I’m now inclined to agree with him.
Game 2 was closer than game 1, but not by much. We went back and forth with Anathemancers (his are better than mine, of course), but I eventually got us into a situation where he was at eight with six nonbasics and I was at nine with seven nonbasics. He tapped out to do something on his turn (I don’t actually remember what it was) but I took the opportunity to end step a Volcanic Fallout to put him to six. I untapped, gestured towards the Anathemancer in my graveyard, and got the concession.
4-0 in matches, 8-3 in games
Round 5: Five-Color Control
My notes for this match are, well, quite vague, so forgive me if this one isn’t all that in-depth. Game 1 was pretty heavily in my favor as he obviously had no Runed Halos in his maindeck and I easily Anathemancer’d him to death. We did have an awkward judge call, as after he countered my Putrid Leech on turn 2, his Broken Ambitions was nowhere to be found. I’m not sure how the card ended up on the bottom of his library, but it was definitely a strange occurrence. Don’t see that one very often.
Game 2 was… a disaster. My opener was pretty pitiful (the mull to five), but it was passable. My first play was a Bloodbraid Elf, which I foolishly ran into a Plumeveil. Later, he Cruelled me and I just couldn’t come back. I tried Acidic Slime about ten thousand times, but he managed to counter three Mannequins over the course of one turn (once in his end step, twice on my turn). My goal was just to get rid of his Halo, as I had two â€˜Mancers in my graveyard, but it just wasn’t happening. He found his Broodmate eventually, and I conceded.
Game three was basically the same concept. He got an early Halo out and I couldn’t catch up nor could I resolve a Hemorrhage. He stomped me pretty hard.
4-1 in matches, 9-5 in games
Round 6: RB Aggro
This was the friend of the guy I played in round 2, and he was equally as friendly. Once again, this match-up proved to be a breeze as I quite easily won game 1 without much trouble. He reduced my life total to less than ten, but he couldn’t keep up with my 4/4s.
I took Stephen’s advice and brought in Thought Hemorrhage, but it didn’t really matter (note that I’m not sure if this sideboarding plan was correct — I winged it). He kept an awful hand with only one land (on the mull to six?), and ended up discarding a Demigod of Revenge. He found a second land on turn 4, and hit me with a Hellspark Elemental. On my fifth turn I Cliqued the Hellspark to bash him, and the following turn I stole his Demigod with my second Clique. Not close.
5-1 in matches, 11-5 in games
Round 7: Stephen Boggemes with Jund Aggro
This was essentially the nutlow. Not only is Stephen a fellow RIW player, but he also had Jund Charms maindeck and Chameleon Colossus in the sideboard, two cards I didn’t want to see. I have Caldera Hellion, sure, but Jund Charm is a pretty saucy trump card in this match-up. His deck (which I’ll talk about later) was a new concoction that was serving him pretty well, and he definitely had some nice surprises in the deck (that I luckily knew about).
Game 1 was a nongame as I had to mull to four (seven was the double filter hand, six was a one-lander, and five had none) and keep the three-land Fallout hand. I drew into three Bloodbraid Elves, but never into the fourth land.
Note: I probably could have kept Fallout in for this match-up, but I needed to cut cards and I didn’t want to remove my only card-drawing advantage completely (Mulldrifter).
Game 2 was interesting. On turn 4 I Hemorrhaged out his Anathemancers and saw that his hand contained a Thought Hemorrhage, to which I made the comment “looks like I know your next play.” He mentioned that he still needed a land, which he failed to draw on his next turn. He played a Sign in Blood, played his freshly-drawn land, and passed. I played the Anathemancer from my hand, putting him in an awkward position with that Hemorrhage in his hand. He ended up never playing that Thought Hemorrhage, and I drew all four Anathemancers. “Must be nice,” he told me. “Makes up for last game” was my response.
Game 3 was fairly close, as we both quickly removed the Anathemancers from each other’s decks. He also Hemorrhaged me for Hellion, which sixed me and left me with no outs to his board. To be fair, he lived the dream of turn 2 Sygg turn 3 Ram-Gang, so I have no regrets. It was well-fought, as I expected that it would be.
5-2 in matches, 12-7 in games
At this point I was playing for Top 16, so I stayed in for the last round.
Round 8: Five-Color Control
Game 1 I drew some Anathemancers. I don’t think there was much more to it than that.
Game 3 I got out some early Stags, which he blocked for a while with Goat tokens (courtesy of Springjack Pasture). On turn 5, my hand had a Slime, a Mannequin, and two Hemorrhages. I Slimed him, but he naturally had the counterspell. I tried again during his upkeep a turn later (with Mannequin), but he again had the counterspell. However, I took the opening in his counterwall to Hemorrhage his Cruels, and saw that his hand was devoid of countermagic. The next turn I Hemorrhaged his Broodmates, and it was all over.
6-2 in matches, 14-8 in games
I ended up making Top 16 along with Kyle and Stephen Boggemes. I did pretty well, but “pretty well” isn’t what I was aiming for. However, with another PTQ next weekend I feel like there is a lot of new ground I can cover with this deck.
First and foremost, I hated Kitchen Finks. The only time it was good at all was when Joe Bernal mentioned that the four life I gained from it actually caused him to lose game 2 of our match, but even then I’m not sure if it’s worth keeping in the deck. I think for now it’s a necessary evil, but I’d never play four again.
Caldera Hellion was very bad for me, as I only kept it in for one match all day, and I never actually played it the entire event. However, that has a lot more to do with my match-ups than it does with the card’s actual worth. I think it’s a reasonable cut from the maindeck, but I definitely want it in my seventy-five as a three- to four-of.
Maelstrom Pulse was equally rancid, but blowing Halos was pretty important (even though I never did that). I did off Jaces and Ajani Vengeants a number of times with it, but I was greatly underwhelmed by it overall. I think two will remain in the deck, but no more than that are really needed I don’t think.
Puppeteer Clique is stupid good. I won a lot of games on the back of that card, and I think it had a lot to do with my (surprisingly enough) positive match-up with RB Aggro. I’m considering cutting one from the maindeck (to the sideboard) for a maindeck Acidic Slime, because that card was also insane. If I wasn’t blowing up lands or Halos with it I was blocking big creatures and causing mayhem, which is never a bad thing. In retrospect, I should have brought them in against the mirror in round 7, especially since I knew he had Colossus in addition to Stag. I thought about it, and the only match-up where Slime isn’t good is RB, as everywhere else it’s anywhere from good to nutty. Versus Kithkin it hits Honor of the Pure and blocks a creature, against Five-Color Control it hits Halo and lands, against the mirror it blocks pro-Black guys, against Sieve Combo it hits basically anything, against Elves it’s really no worse than a Kitchen Finks (and game 2 it blocks Oversoul), and against Faeries it hits Bitterblossoms and lands. Maindeckable? I definitely think so.
Here’s a possible updated list, and what I would play if the event was tomorrow:
- 4 Mulldrifter
- 3 Shriekmaw
- 2 Kitchen Finks
- 1 Puppeteer Clique
- 2 Caldera Hellion
- 4 Putrid Leech
- 4 Bloodbraid Elf
- 4 Anathemancer
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 2 Siege-Gang Commander
- 4 Boggart Ram-Gang
- 2 Sygg, River Cutthroat
- 4 Putrid Leech
- 4 Bloodbraid Elf
- 3 Anathemancer
This is the list that Stephen Boggemes battled me with in round 7. I don’t particularly agree with only three Anathemancers in the maindeck, or even the total lack of Fallout, but otherwise it seems like the best possible Jund Aggro list. Siege-Gang is pretty good at giving you a fair amount of reach as well as control in phase three, though I don’t know how good it really is. That is, this archetype doesn’t give you much incentive to lay lands past the sixth or seventh, and unless you can at least activate Siege-Gang once in response to the inevitable Fallout, I don’t see how you get much value out of it. It must be quite good against Kithkin though, so maybe I’m being too skeptical. In any case, it served him well and maybe it can help someone else as well.
Well, that’ll do it for me this week. I’ll be playing in Ohio this weekend, so hopefully I can put what I learned in Chicago to good use and get myself a blue envelope.
Until next time…
“Shinjutsei” on MTGO and everywhere else