Too Hot to Handle – Worlds Top 8, Part One

Thursday, December 23rd – English National champion Jonathan Randle made Top 8 on the world stage in Chiba and returns to StarCityGames.com to share his U/W Control tech. Baneslayer Angel makes a sweet comeback!

Firstly I’d like to say how nice it is to be back at StarCityGames.com. It’s been a couple of years, but hopefully I can write more regularly now. I haven’t played much Magic this year, but after finishing fourth at Nationals in August, I was thrilled to get to be going back to Worlds. I hadn’t done too well the previous two years, but this time I really felt like the pressure was off, and no matter the outcome, I’d have some fun with some good friends. My testing for the tournament was pretty much exclusively Standard. I had theorized that U/W Control could have good-to-decent matchups across the board, and so I began focusing on a suitable list. After trying many different cards and various builds, I settled on the following deck:

I could write a separate article about this deck, but for now, I’ll just say a few words.

I feel that Baneslayer is the way to go over the Titans because it’s much better against aggro and against the ramp decks. As a bonus, it also beats
Sword of Body and Mind
, which was a problem that had been coming up more and more when I was playing
Frost Titan
. It also comes down a turn earlier, and all you want is to stick a threat and untap against ramp, and it’s must easier to do that with Baneslayer. This becomes especially true when you have an Arbiter in play, since they can’t play a Titan before turn 6 unless they’ve
d (and a turn 6 Titan isn’t a big deal if you have the Arbiter in play anyway).

I preferred
to both
and Journey. I preferred it over the former because it’s imperative that you remove
Joraga Treespeaker
Overgrown Battlement
, and
Lotus Cobra
, and it’s much better against a resolved Titan or, God forbid, an Eldrazi. In hindsight, I think I would take out a couple for two Journeys to Nowhere, but this is largely because the metagame wasn’t entirely what I had expected.

The thing is, my testing had been exclusively online, which was the first time I had prepared in this manner. The problem with that is an obvious one: the online meta is quite different from the one in real life. For instance, I was crushing all these Vampire decks and Quest decks and didn’t really play against much U/B Control. Although Vampires was prevalent at Worlds, I only played against one aggro deck in the entire tournament, and therefore my heavy creature-control list suffered.

Another great dimension of
is that it allows you to control an opponent’s draw step.
ing a creature later in the game gives them a dead draw step, but more importantly, it gives you the information you need to tap out and play whichever threat you choose. Information is invaluable for a control deck, and
gives it to you.

Elspeth Tirel
is another card I’d like to mention quickly. I think it’s fantastic. Against aggro, its benefits are obvious, as three guys are a lot in one go, but its strength against control is the reason for its inclusion. Being able to trump Jace is huge. Resolving it and +2ing it means that they’re in a difficult spot, since whatever they resolve in their window (unless it’s a
Grave Titan
) will basically die, should you choose. Churning out tokens that attack Jace makes it a nightmare for other control decks to deal with.

I travelled to Japan with two of my teammates, Richard Bland and Joe Jackson. They had tested more than I, and Joe liked B/R Vampires whilst Richard was undecided between Elves and Valakut. The trip was a nightmare, as our flight form Birmingham was delayed, causing us to miss the connected flight from Paris. We had to stay overnight in France, and I fell ill from a dodgy pizza I had had back in England. Our overnight stay wasn’t all that bad though, except for the fact that it took over an hour to get to the hotel by bus, since we were literally going round and round in circles, lapping each hotel three times until we finally stopped at ours.

Nevertheless we arrived in Japan, and I was greeted by the fourth in our party, Dan Gardner, at the airport. Dan was going to play my list, since he has a fetish for anything Baneslayer. Dan G is awesome. He’s so funny. Between his stupid voices and his incredibly crude demeanor, he’s constantly making me laugh. So after our ritual Max Teetsing, Dick Barning, and Walter Fudging (inside jokes), we made our way to the hotel.

By the way, don’t get taxis in Japan – they’re unbelievably expensive.

I won’t go into detail about each match because, quite frankly, I can’t remember that much detail and wouldn’t want to create false gameplay situations. However, I’ll mention any notable scenarios and discuss the matchup briefly.

Day 1

Match 1 – Hyun Woo Jeong – Valakut

Valakut is always quite tough, and I’d put it at around 50/50. The general game plan is to counter the ramp spells, so that you can play Jace turn 4 and start fatesealing. You have to stop the Titan at all costs, and when you can’t do that, you usually lose.
Spreading Seas
is best used on their green sources early, but should they have plenty, then save them for the Valakuts. It’s possible to shut off all their Valakuts with Seas and Edge, which is usually a game-winning plan. After sideboard, they bring in
Gaea’s Revenge
, which is pretty bad against my list, since I have Baneslayers. The Arbiter really shines against ramp, primarily because it gives you a window to resolve your threat.

Win 1-0

Match 2 – Zhiyang Zhang – Valakut

These games were very close, and I came out the loser. I couldn’t stop the Titan.

Lose 1-1

Match 3 – Jorg Unfried – Vampires

This is a good matchup, as you have many spells which cause them endless grief. The main plan is to find Elspeth or Gideon. If you can resolve the former and follow it up with a Baneslayer, then it’s usually game over. Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan, and after drawing three or four lands in a row late in game three and despite my opponent missing several
triggers, I lost.

Lose 1-2

Match 4 – Claude Crook – U/B Control

U/B Control is a difficult matchup, since they have spells that give them a lot more information than you do. You, however, have different kinds of threats, which they can struggle to answer, namely Elspeth and Venser. As always, the matchup revolves around Jace, and I was fortunate enough to resolve mine first both games. An Elspeth in game two sealed things up, and no amount of
Ratchet Bomb
s or
Doom Blade
s was going to be enough from there.

Win 2-2

Match 5 – AJ Sacher– Valakut

I had read several of AJ’s articles in the past, and since we got deck-checked, I took the opportunity to chat with him a little. He’s a cool chap, and it turns out we had some mutual friends and shared a similar Pro Tour career.

In this game, things went according to plan, and the Arbiters got in for a cheeky two each turn.

Win 3-2

Match 6 – Vincent Thibeault – Valakut

Before the tournament began, I had exchanged a few lists and ideas with my good friend and Canadian Champ Jay Elarar. Vincent was on the Canadian team and was also aware of my list through Jay. He seemed to be a really nice guy, and we had three very close games that came down to his drawing a
on the last critical turn.

Lose 3-3

So Day 1 didn’t go as I had hoped. I was confident in my deck, but I didn’t get the chance to play against the matchups I’d hoped for. Dan had gone 4-2 whilst Richard and Joe had both 2-4ed.

Next were the two team rounds, and since I wasn’t playing, I pretended to do coverage, so that I could sit next to Dan and watch his match.

Team Match 1 – England vs. France

Dan was playing against Antoine Ruel playing U/B. After forty minutes of doing nothing, the other two matches had finished, and we had won. This meant that Dan could turn on his charm, and the game degenerated into a joke with Dan Negating a
Mana Leak
when he still had about ten mana available.

Win 1-0

Team Match 2 – England vs. Russia

Another classic between two rival nations, and again I watched Dan’s match, and once again he played against U/B Control. Every time I watch Dan play, he cracks me up. This time he managed to eventually exile every single permanent his opponent had after
Mana Leak
ing his own
Day of Judgment
twice (Venser had ultimated). Dan naturally rubbed this fact in, and his polite Russian opponent played it out until Dan gained life with Elspeth (Dan had been at three life, and his opponent was splashing red for Bolt; it’s a slight shame he didn’t draw his
because watching Dan tilt is one of the most enjoyable sights you can witness).

This was a satisfying win also because for some unknown reason, we had recently lost the right to host the next European World Cup to Russia. I’m pretty sure it’s because they’re so corrupt. We won’t have a chance to get it now until I’m at least fifty years old.

Win 2-0

Winning both our team rounds though definitely cheered us all up, since it meant the team was still in with a chance of making Top 2.

On a personal note, I didn’t feel too bad about going 3-3. I always review my games in my mind, and I wasn’t aware of any mistakes I had made, so I did feel that I’d been playing well, which is all you can ask for. My attitude for this tournament was quite different from others I’ve played in. I cared, of course, but I was trying to be lucid and detached from my feelings win or lose. I had been focusing on each game, each turn, each phase… and that was all. My results didn’t matter too much to me, and it left me with a rather nice feeling.

Day 2

Draft 1

My draft was quite an interesting one. I hadn’t had the time to really practice
s draft, so I wasn’t too clued up on the different archetypes. I drafted a solid R/B Metalcraft deck with seventeen artifacts including
Contagion Engine
and two Golem Foundries. It had several removal spells including
and double
Galvanic Blast
. I had mixed feelings after the draft was done, since it felt like I had a solid deck, but I hadn’t really read anything written about this archetype before. Having
Contagion Engine
certainly helps though ;)

Match 7 – Yann Massicard – R/W Metalcraft

My games against Yann weren’t particularly close. I had removal spells, and he didn’t, and
Golem Foundry
can be quite sick when you have
Contagion Engine
in play.

Win 4-3

Match 8 – Brian Kowal – G/W Dinosaurs

I won game one, since I had a blistering draw, which included the Engine, but in game two something interesting happened. We were engaged in a stalled board; I had a few 3/3 Golems whilst he had Kemba equipped and was making a free 2/2 each turn. Brian wasn’t attacking me, though. With each draw step, I sighed and put the land on to the table, and this kept going for 6-7 turns until I drew the
Galvanic Blast
. I then killed him from sixteen life with Blast for four and
for twelve (I had several Myrs in play). Yes,
isn’t a very good card (although it’s better than most people give it credit for), but I’m not complaining.

Match 9 – Robert Jurkovic – G/B Infect

These games were very close. Game one saw me lose when he was dead next turn thanks to his
that I didn’t know about. Game two saw me win with
Contagion Engine
, but game three was very nerve-wracking. I had sided in
Fulgent Distraction
, which let me tap down his
when he cast it. On the final turn, I went for the win with two flying creatures, but he had
Tainted Strike
to keep himself alive. I was pretty sure I’d die on his turn if he had a removal spell for my blockers, but he didn’t, and I finished him off on my go. I was very relieved to win, since my opponent was clearly a very, very good player with a strong deck. 3-0ing the pod was necessary if I wanted to finish in the money.

I’ll end part one here, since the exciting part is still to come where I played some big names and managed to obtain some good results.