I did it!
After years of struggling and tweaking and working to get a deck that was Open Series-worthy, it got there! I went to the StarCityGames.com Open Series in Cincinnati last weekend for some Standard, and I managed to eke out some success. Although I felt very confident about my deck, I checked it a little bit and decided that although I thought it could get to Top 8, I would be perfectly satisfied with finishing in the money.
Cincinnati is my favorite Open Series venue; it’s close, it’s easy to access, and it’s large enough to accommodate a massive player base. Ok, before we get too deep along, let me tell you about the deck I used.
This was a modification from a challenge that we had several weeks ago, and I’d been building and testing it ever since. The engine runs off one creature connecting (and maybe a second creature blocking) to gain advantage after stabilizing from the likes of aggressive decks. I tried to stuff the deck to the gills with maindeck removal to combat the R/G Aggro and Human lists I’d seen at the time I made the deck. With all the draw power the deck offered (relative to other Rakdos-colored lists), I played an array of singletons to combat different threats.
It wasn’t long before #SCGCIN was knocking at our door, and with the last singletons being tweaked and moved, I was set. Upon arriving at the familiar Cincy venue, I traded for my last Mutavault and went up to the registration booth to get started. I would share some pictures with you like I normally do, but I
left my camera at home didn’t have time to properly document the event, so you’ll need to use your mental theater.
Round 1: R/G Aggro
One of my more feared matches, I punted game 1 when I played too many Swamps to Mutilate and still had an Olivia Voldaren after the ichor cleared. Game 2 both copies of Curse of Death’s Hold appeared one right after the other, and he was toast. In the last game, he beat me very fairly and squarely.
I’d won the first round of every Classic and Open I’d played in, so this was not a good sign.
Round 2: U/W Control
Patrick, my opponent this round, brought a traditional U/W shell to bear. Each game I was able to get him to two life with Rakdos Keyrune before he cast Sphinx’s Revelation to restock.
Now I was frustrated.
Round 3: Orzhov/Extort
My opponent this round had stocked his deck with black and white value creatures, and although he got me low each game, I was able to recover with a Homicidal Seclusioned creature to stay on top.
Round 4: Reanimator
I felt fairly confident about this matchup but chalked up a substantial defeat in game 1. Game 2 was a long, drawn-out game that nearly took us to time, and my singleton Rakdos Charm saved the day. The last game he just decided to cast all of his threats and flatten me about a minute before time was called.
I had a decision to make. I was a long way from Top 8, and even Top 32 was probably gone. I’d have to win every match from here on out to have a chance to make money. My only goal was to get into cash range, and although an X-4 would eliminate me, I thought I’d keep trying.
Things started to turn around though.
Round 5: Mono-Red Aggro
Round 6: Junk Midrange
Round 7: Jund
Round 7 was particularly exciting; powerful storms had surged into town, and we lost power twice during the fight. A leak opened up over the top tables too, causing a momentary panic.
Round 8: G/W Aggro
Round 9: Junk Midrange (2-1)
Round 10: ?
I battled back and won each match after round 4, and as a cherry on top, my final opponent was a no-show, giving me a 7-3 record and putting me in contention for a bit of change.
Once the match loss was awarded, I reported and set back off for Louisville in the pouring rain. The storms from earlier were still raging on; lightning was coursing across the skies like white blood. The whole time I was nervous whether I had gotten cash or not; before round 10, I was 88th place, so I’d have to move up a ways before I landed there. We came to a full stop on I-71 for some accident or disabled vehicle (I never figured out what), and I pulled out my phone to check the round 10 standings.
By the hairs on my chinny chin chin!
I exclaimed in the car, thrilled to have just made the cut to cash!
Now, although winning a green portrait of Ulysses S. Grant is great and all, the money was secondary to what the money meant. With a deck I’d cradled from inception to completion, I muscled out some money at a significant Standard event. I know what you’re thinking; 62nd isn’t that impressive, and you’re right, it isn’t. But it gives me some validation that the decks you see here each week are not just cute 2-2s at FNM; some of them, even just one or two of them, might have serious potential at a larger tournament too.
There are three reasons I liked this deck.
1. It had no bad matchups, just some more challenging ones.
Every game I lost I either got one game out of the match or nearly killed them outright. I made a play mistake that probably cost me the game round 1, but that matchup was winnable, as was the control matchup and the Reanimator matchup. The control matchup was by far the most difficult. It was in that moment that I realized how important Slaughter Games is to the match. The card is also strong against Reanimator, so I could see getting additional copies in for those matchups. Everything from aggro to lockdown control was within the deck’s reach; it just needed a bit of fortune and smart piloting to make it happen.
2. Every card played a role throughout the day.
Every sideboard card saw action, and some cards were really tight players. There was no card I threw out every match (often the case when I try an untested deck), and the cards worked really well together.
3. The deck was excellent at recovering in the aggro matchup.
Aggro is every cutesy deck’s fear; getting online while under a hail of burn spells and hasty creatures is a bit of a harrowing experience, and the fact that the deck managed threats as effectively as it did was a real blessing throughout the day. Several matches against aggro left me at just a few life points, but the life-gain outlets and sweepers the deck packed helped keep my heart beating for those two or three crucial turns.
Deck All-Star: Lifebane Zombie
Several people told me that they’d had bad luck with Lifebane Zombie triggers over the last few weeks, but I liked the evasive, efficient body that trades with Hellrider and Thragtusk on the ground. It proved to be a key player throughout the day, seeing successful play in all but the round 2 control matchup and nearly always getting a two-for-one. Even if it misses, it still provides valuable hand information and an impressive board presence on offense or defense.
Sideboard All-Star: Trading Post
I had one in the maindeck too, but Trading Post was awesome in slow matchups; making a Goat and swinging for three lifelinking damage was pretty good, and it caught a couple people off-guard. The life gain was essential against the Orzhov drain decks and to mitigate Bonfire of the Damned hits too. I was often able to recover a downed Haunted Plate Mail or Keyrune as well. This versatile little planeswalker, as Shaheen Soorani called it, is a great tool in this deck. Trading Post for life!
Deck Disappointment: Liliana of the Veil
Liliana was not the powerhouse I expected her to be; she was obviously pretty awful in most aggro matchups, and even against the slower decks I found that she wouldn’t hit anything important. Disciple of Bolas could recharge their hand, and undying creatures would negate her -2. I brought her out in most but not all matchups, and I was bummed that she didn’t get more of a chance to shine.
Sideboard Disappointment: Corrupt
It was just too expensive. I decided to option it over a third Rakdos’s Return for two reasons. First, it can kill a creature, and second, it can help you when you are behind. You can squash their Desecration Demon or whatnot and be back on top again in no time. The problem is I just preferred more inexpensive, consistent threats. I lost one match because I had a Corrupt in hand and three Swamps out, not the four I needed to stay alive. Leave this one to mono-black, folks.
In the end, I could not be happier with the outcome of the tournament. The list was fun, interesting, and exciting even for my opponents who were getting smacked around a bit. I’d also like to take a second to say that everyone I played had a great attitude and a good spirit for the game. This is a tried and true deck that dominates midrange and aggro decks effectively; I hope you’ll give it a try before the cards from it disappear at the end of the month!
It Takes One
Let’s hop into last week’s challenge and wrap up with an open-ended one for the day, as this week lacked a bit of a theme. Last week I asked everyone to make decks based around one-drops and the power they can have. There were a ton of submissions for this week, but a couple stood out.
G/B Aggro by James Smith
4 Diregraf Ghoul
2 Young Wolf
4 Lotleth Troll
4 Scavenging Ooze
4 Wasteland Viper
2 Varolz, the Scar-Striped
4 Tragic Slip
4 Abrupt Decay
1 Ranger’s Guile
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Woodland Cemetery
2 Liliana of the Veil
4 Deathrite Shaman
2 Vile Rebirth
3 Ranger’s Guile
2 Pithing Needle
2 Illness in the Ranks
James took a slim aggro package and fleshed it out effectively. A lot of people went down this path, but I think James’ was the most consistent and pressure-filled. Trample is really important in a format full of 1/1s, and giving your creatures any kind of life after death is important too.
Next up, a slightly more controlling route emerged from Sgt. Jack Morehead as he put together a list that used Blood Artist; Dark Prophecy; and a solid, stable sideboard to get him deep in. He also included a Black Cat, which gives you half bonus points.
Jund Artist by Jack Morehead
3 Altar’s Reap
4 Skirsdag High Priest
1 Black Cat
4 Blood Artist
2 Undying Evil
2 Faithless Looting
4 Young Wolf
4 Festering Newt
4 Goblin Arsonist
4 Centaur’s Herald
2 Barrage of Expendables
1 Bone Splinters
4 Dark Prophecy
2 Grim Backwoods
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Woodland Cemetery
4 Blood Crypt
4 Dragonskull Summit
3 Bone Splinters
4 Bond Beetle
4 Dead Weight
His route planned to use tiny guys to get value and used some great options to get there. Goblin Arsonist is a really nice touch, helping you block and deal with some of the larger creatures in a small format. Electrickery is a big beatdown from the sideboard, and Bond Beetle is a perfectly fine 1/2 or can make something else sturdier. Good entry, sir!
Mine is a little silly compared to the others, but I settled on Centaurs as my core for this challenge. Here’s my Selesnya Tokens list.
Selesnyokens by Matt Higgs
4 Centaur’s Herald
4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Doomed Traveler
4 Beckon Apparition
4 Wake the Reflections
4 Voice of Resurgence
4 Selesnya Charm
4 Call of the Conclave
3 Path of Bravery
1 Ajani, Caller of the Pride
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Temple Garden
1 Selesnya Guildgate
1 Gavony Township
4 Pay No Heed
4 Righteous Blow
4 Faith’s Shield
3 Rain of Blades
Path of Bravery seems so good, and in this list giving your team a permanent pump that only gets bigger seems very exciting. You can even get it out on turn 2 with the Pilgrim and start beating down! Ajani’s nearly impossible to kill with damage, and the potential of making X 3/3 Cat tokens (with Path) is exciting!
Ok, for this week’s challenge, we’re going to bring all the casual folks in. Door of Destinies is a card that is exciting for every tribal player, and now it’s back! Although it’s unlikely to see any Standard play, I want to explore it and the tribal concept in a broader sense. In short, what is your favorite tribe? I’m sure many of you tribal geeks out there already have a super fun tribal deck, so we’re going to pursue the Tribal Wars format; share your favorite deck!
- Format: Tribal Wars
- Tribal Wars is a casual format based on the Legacy card base. There is a banned list, which you can find here. Basically, it’s a 60-card minimum deck with no sideboard. One third of your deck must be made up of creatures that fit a single tribe.
- Pick a tribe (preferably your favorite one) and build a deck to share with us! Some of you may already have one built.
- No sideboards are used in Tribal Wars.
- You can use any tribe you want, even relatively unsupported ones, but bear in mind that I love offbeat tribes. If you also like those kinds of creatures, submit your wild and crazy list! I’ll pick two or three of my favorites. That’s not to say I won’t pick an Elf or Goblin deck, but I do like to see some stretches.
- Bear in mind that I will count any card that involves a creature type (such as Sacred Mesa) as an acceptable creature card of the type that it involves. I’m not too worried about the “one-third” rule, so use it more as a guide. Similarly, I don’t mind “changeling-style” decks, i.e. Conspiracy / Charisma style decks that mess with creature type. You can get your Johnny juices flowing too if you’d rather!
Everyone’s got a favorite tribe, so let’s take a break from the Standard canon and browse the history of Magic for an exciting tribal brew! Just send them to [email protected] by Saturday, September 7th at 11:59 PM PDT!
Next week I have another heavily tested Standard deck I’d like to share along with a bit of a wild hair, plus a fun challenge and this week’s results. As always, thank you for your participation in the community, and I hope that you enjoy sharing your ideas in emails and in the comments below. See you next week, and until then, don’t forget to untap!
CaptainShapiro on Magic Online