Tribal Thriftiness #27 – Unthrifty at Regionals

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Thursday, June 12th – Dave sets aside the balanced checkbook and coupon pouch for just one week to recount his tale from Regionals – a tale featuring heartbreak, heirs, revenge, corruption, more revenge, and at the end, not so much the heartbreak.

I’d like to take a break from my normal thrifty column to talk a bit about Regionals, which was the big tournament event around here last weekend. The deck I played isn’t exactly a budget option – but it’s not the worst deck out there costwise either. In any event, My Regionals.

There are two possible ways to start this story.

One would be to talk about my less-than-stellar play skills. I’ve been playing Magic for a long time. I’m old, so I have that option open to me. (Not so old to have cracked Moxen out of packs, but still, old.) In that time, the highest my rating has ever been has been about 1720. I have always considered myself the kind of player who could do well at Friday Night Magic, but probably not much more given a bigger tournament. You can look through my archive, I’m sure, and see all the references to me Bottom-8’ing various tournaments. I’ve gone through phases where I’m more competitive, and I’ve gone through phases where I just want to play for fun. But ultimately, I’m content with my lot in life. I know I’m about a 1700 player. I don’t try and reach above my raising, as my wife would say.

The thing is, should a 1700 player really be writing columns about Magic on the Internetz? If you’re a 1600 player or a 1650 player, do you really want to be taking advice from this guy? Do I really have the Magic-playing chops to be writing for a major Magic site? I wonder this pretty much every time I sit down to start an article.

Well, by the end of Saturday’s Regionals, I felt comfortable being a writer again.

The second way to tell this story would be to talk about Quick n’ Toast. Following a block filled with little dudes with legs, it only seems appropriate that Standard would be filled with decks featuring said dudes with said legs. There are aggro decks all over the place – Faeries and Elves and Merfolk are just the tribal ones, there’s also Doran and RG Aggro and that Green/White aggro deck that made a splash for about thirteen second before vanishing again. Quick n’ Toast hit the scene in Hollywood and put Guillaume Wafo-Tapa this close (make the Get Smart hand gesture – you know you want to) to Top 8, and people decried it as “perhaps the first true control deck” of Standard and an easy port to Block Constructed. But I think there’s another option, one I’m much more comfortable with: Mono-Black Control.

I’ve played MBC for quite a while, even when it hasn’t been good. I started back when Torment came out – if that’s not a catalyst for playing Black, I don’t know what is. The deck we played Mutilates and Nantuko Shades and Corrupts and Diabolic Tutors and Cabal Coffers, and ran one Mirari and one Aladdin’s Ring, and we’d laugh when we’d shoot people with it.

The reprinting of Corrupt is what got me started down that road – not to mention that we still have access, for a little while longer, to Damnation, the best Black mass removal card ever printed (no hedging my bets there). So I built it, played it at a few FNMs, learned that Corrupt is too slow and sorcery-ish for today’s Standard, and ended up with the deck below to take with me to Regionals.

And so I did.

The first question that most people asked was, “Don’t you find it hard to play MBC when Chameleon Colossus is so prevalent in the format?” Well, maybe not phrased so nicely. Mostly they said, “You’re an idiot, Colossus wrecks you.” The truth is that, yeah, Chameleon Colossus is a huge pain if it resolves, but you’ve got options. You can strip him out before they can play it with Thoughtseize. You can Damnate him away. And if bad leads to worse, you can try and race him with a Demigod and Warhammer. You also have Sudden Spoiling from the sideboard for a nasty surprise. Four of my eight opponents were playing Colossus; I beat three of them.

The second one is usually, “What? No Profane Command?” To be honest, they started out in the deck. I was convinced nearing the last minute that the Thoughtseizes needed to be maindeck — they had been in the sideboard up until that point. The Profanes are what came out (as well as the fourth Damnation) to make room for the Thoughtseizes. It only really impacted me mentally; I was so used to playing with Profane Command that I would find myself in situations where I would be praying for the Command off the top to save me. Then I would draw Thoughtseize and curse it for not being a Profane Command. All said, though, having the Thoughtseizes maindeck is probably the right answer, as there are some cards that you want to strip away as early as you can, if possible — Colossus, Bitterblossom, and Loxodon Warhammer come immediately to mind as “cards I wish I had had a chance to Thoughtseize.”

There were 200 people in Denver. Eight grueling rounds to determine who will play for the right to go to Chicago.

Round 1: versus Nathan playing Elves (?)

The question mark is because I’m assuming here. I never saw Imperious Perfect or Wren’s Run Vanquisher, but I saw all the usual OTHER suspects from this deck, including Thoughtseize and Profane Command and all the other green dudes. Nathan is also running Bitterblossom, of which he gets two going in the first game. I have my own Bitterblossom to try and combat, but when he adds a Colossus to the board, I know it is going to be tough going. I try to come back with a Tendrils, but the three life it gains me simply isn’t enough to outlast his men.

I sideboard in the Deathmarks, the last Damnation, and the Sudden Spoilings. I side out the Sudden Deaths (they don’t kill Colossus or Tarmogoyf most of the time), the Bitterblossoms, and a pair of random singletons.

The second game, I have a lot of removal, Nathan mulligans to 4, and it’s all only helped by the fact that my first Dusk Urchin draws me three cards and my second draws me another two. I have enough removal to keep his side of the board clean until Korlash can show up to mop up the last few points.

In game 3, it’s my turn to mulligan, so it’s good that Nathan does most of the work for me. Let’s see here. 9 damage from Bitterblossom. Two Thoughtseizes. Four taps of a painland. That’s what now? 17? We trade a lot of guys and I’m starting to feel the crunch. He has two Faerie tokens (one he just made) and a Kitchen Finks (which put him to 5); I am at four and had just Beseeched for Sudden Spoiling to give myself one more chance to topdeck a win. He attacks with his Faerie and Finks. I Fog. He makes a Chameleon Colossus as a backup. It’s now or never.

My top card is: Demigod of Revenge.

There is a second in my graveyard.

Now here is where my bad play comes into account. For some reason, I am unable to read the card in front of me, despite it being in my hand, and I look at the board and I think and I think because even if I get two Demigods, he’ll just block one with the Faerie token and one with the Colossus. I still lose. But I’ve got no other option really. I make the Demigod. He brings along his cousin. I declare my attack. He extends his hand.

I am stunned! I tell him what I was thinking about him blocking! Yeah, he points out that in fact he couldn’t block because of the flying and all. Well, I won’t make that mistake again.

1-0, 2-1

Round 2: versus Daniel playing Mono-Black Rogues

Daniel is running the whole set of Rogues, including Oona’s Blackguard, Earwig Squad, even Stinkdrinker Bandit. But the whole match really comes down to “who can get Bitterblossom and Loxodon Warhammer online first?” In the first game, it’s me, and I ride it all the way to victory. In the second game, it’s Daniel, and although I attempt to make a game of it with Demigod and a pair of Tendrils (which took me from 8 to 24 over two turns), the Warhammer and tokens overwhelm me in a long, drawn-out affair.

We cook it through the first few rounds of game 3. Daniel plays two Bitterblossoms in an attempt to make a quick win, and I keep in the game with a pair of Tendrils to keep me at a comfortable life total. He eventually find a Warhammer… and time is called. Neither of us have the ability to finish the other off, so it’s a draw.

1-0-1, 3-2-1

Round 3: versus Stephen playing Tokens

I’ve never seen the Token deck up until this point. I had read about it on the Internetz, but I don’t think I really grasped what the deck was supposed to do.

Stephen mulligans to five, but comes out quick with a Mogg Fanatic and a Knucklebone Witch. I dispatch those and play a Korlash, then follow up with Warhammer. Low on cards and even lower on possible solutions, Stephen concedes.

Game 2 is my turn to mulligan to five, but I hope to keep him out of the game with some early Thoughtseize action. I get a Bitterblossom, then a Furystoke Giant, but he’s still able to make a few small men and ride them to victory.

Game 3, however, is more drawn out. We both set up early Bitterblossoms and I get the opportunity to attack first. I sneak in damage where I can, and eventually find a Korlash, and use his Grandeur ability to fetch out the two Leechridden Swamps. Between the Swamps and the perpetual blockers provided by Bitterblossom (and a late Demigod), I am able to crack through his own defenses and win the round.

2-0-1, 5-3-1

Round 4: versus Jon playing Elves

I do no damage to Jon in game 1. He, however, has no problem smacking me around with an army of Elves, and I succumb in short order.

I side in the Deathmarks and the last Damnation, siding out the Bitterblossoms and a singleton here and there. I’m really sorry about the lack of recall when it comes to the sideboarding. If there’s any continued interest in this deck, I’ll try and make a more formalized sideboard strategy for a later article.

The second game goes quickly, with a Dusk Urchin taking the first bites of his life before a second one joins the battle and drop him to 10. I draw a Korlash from the Dusk Urchins, fetch up a Hammer, and smash myself up to a comfortable life total.

The third game I find an early Hammer, but nothing to attach it to. I stay in the game with lots of removal and Tendrils, but he eventually mounts a force of Elves. Thankfully I draw a Demigod of Revenge, who picks up the hammer and swings him to 18, then 1 after he takes a painland draw. I play Korlash and activate a Leechridden Swamp for the last point of damage.

3-0-1, 7-4-1

I call my friend Mike in Jersey. This is how he answers the phone: “How’s it going, Mister 0-2 Draft?” I inform him that I am 3-0-1. We agree that it can’t last long.

Round 5: versus Corey playing Faeries

… and it doesn’t. I mulligan to five in game 1, and Corey has a magnificent start: turn 1 suspend Visions, turn 2 Bitterblossom, turn 3 Bitterblossom, and then two consecutive Mistbind Cliques. I try and stay in the game with a Dusk Urchins, but ultimately I’m overrun by Faerie tokens.

Game 2 is more of the same. I mulligan, Corey starts out with Thoughtseize this time rather than Visions, and eventually finds a Bitterblossom. I Extirpate both Cryptic Command and Mistbind Clique in this game, but I still fall under the pure advantage of Bitterblossom, which he didn’t get until the midgame.

3-1-1, 7-6-1

Round 6: versus Zack playing Doran

Game 1, I Thoughtseize early, snagging a Bitterblossom, but I can’t stop the Doran that he draws off the top. Doran goes all the way, assisted by a Llanowar Elf, while the Terrors in my hand look on lamely.

I sided in the Deathmarks and the last Damnation, and sided out the Sudden Deaths, which don’t kill Doran or Tarmogoyf or any of his good dudes, and some singletons.

In the second game I get an early Bitterblossom, hoping to staunch the tide, but Chameleon Colossus finally shows up ruin my fun. I can’t get to a Damnation or a Beseech in time, and Colossus slides between my blockers like they were butter, punching me in the face for my deck choice and kindly reminding me that Colossus is good against more decks than just Elves and Faeries. Yeah, I got it.

3-2-1, 7-8-1

Round 7: versus Darryl playing Merfolk

When Darryl plays a turn 2 Silvergill Adept, I take that advantage to play a Bitterblossom. He adds a few more Merfolk to his side of the board, and eventually I am forced to Damnate the board away. I search up a Hammer and play it, and start to swing my life total back to double-digits. Demigod of Revenge shows up at the end to put the game away.

In the second game, Darryl keeps a hand that I ask him about after the game. His first land is a Plains; his second and third are Reflecting Pools. I make a Bitterblossom and a Hammer while I have no fear of counter-reprisal. Darryl never draws Blue to play the Merfolk in his hand.

4-2-1, 9-8-1

Round 8: versus Dieter playing Wish Doran

I have no better way to explain that deck other than those words. It was, I guess, a Doran deck, but it ran maindeck Glittering Wish as well as Wilt-Leaf Liege. I made an early Bitterblossom; he matched with an early Kitchen Finks. Kitchen Finks is another card that is tough for MBC to deal with, in that it has to deal with it twice. I’d willingly play Puncture Bolt, I think, just because of the prevalence of Persist creatures. My Faeries would attack where possible, and I would deal with the Kitchen Finks, only to have another arrive. Eventually he wished for Oversoul of Dusk and just made me frowny-face.

I sided similarly to my first-round matchup, knowing I need the Sudden Spoilings to help against Chameleon Colossus.

In game 2, Dieter makes an early Kitchen Finks, but I have plenty of removal this round and am able to take care of the Wilt-Leaf Lieges that show up. I make Korlash, and then a Demigod a turn later, and smash in for 10. Korlash goes on defense when Doran shows up, and Demigod flies over for the win.

Game 3, Dieter made three Wilt-Leaf Lieges, and I killed all three of them. I found Korlash, Grandeured him into the two Leechridden Swamps, and then paired them with a Demigod and a Hammer and outlasted his early Doran.

5-2-1, 11-9-1, 26th place

It’s hard to tell if I should be excited. On one hand, 5-2-1 and 26th place certainly is nothing to sneeze at, especially for a guy who’s used to finishing in the middle of the pack whenever he goes to a PTQ (85th, for instance, in the last PTQ I played in). On the other hand, 11-9-1 in games is really about average. I’ve never really paid attention to other people’s GAME-winning percentage when they do well – I guess I ought to.

I had a great time at Regionals playing Mono-Black Control. Next week we’ll head back into the budget nature of this column.

Until next week!