This was an amazing block. I really wish I had had more time to play with the decks – unfortunately, work and life made sure I never had enough time or practice. Still, nearly every decklist made me want to play it – or at least playtest it.
On the other hand, IBC block also had a lot of randomness about it, with way too many matches decided by who could – and who could not – draw the right colored mana.
Ingrid passed her Level One judge test during an IBC block PTQ – and her first action afterward was to give me a warning and a game loss. No joke – details below.
In IBC, I also had some of my worst tournament results in a long time. I went in with a rating in the low to mid 1800s. Now my rating is below 1750, and will probably drop farther after the results of GP: Minneapolis are in. This format rewarded playtesting and careful play; I probably played as many games in major events as I did in playtesting sessions. That is not a formula for success.
IBC had its plusses, too. Nearly every deck type could work. There were no broken decks, and the format did not stagnate. The decklists at the season ending at GP: Minneapolis were as varied and interesting as those at the first PTQ. I liked playing U/R/B. I liked Domain. I liked R/B beatdown. I liked U/G/W. I liked playing practically everything, at some time or other. (Truth be told, I like playing decks that are winning, and hate decks that are losing – no surprise there. )
What I didn’t like was my play. I was rusty and made many serious mistakes. The weekend of the Odyssey Prerelease, I went 0-3-1 playing U/W/G, and lost at least three matches to my own stupidity. (My Questing Phelddagrif blocked his Lightning Angel, then died to Fire/Ice, even though I had Lashknife Barrier in play and mana open. etc.) I threw away a match at the GP against Ben Kellerstrass when I inexplicably failed to counter a Gaea’s Skyfolk, despite having mana up and two Gainsays in hand. And so forth. By the end of round 4, I dropped in total frustration and was very close to giving up Magic altogether. It was not fun.
A couple things got me to play in the Sunday PTQ. First of all, Ingrid was judging, so we had to stay overnight anyway. Ingrid has been working on her level one under Steve Port, and had judged at a few FNMs. She did well enough at FNM (like not blowing a single ruling, no matter how strange the decks got) to get invited to judge at the prerelease, and then she begged to help judge the Grand Prix and was accepted. She’s in the photo of the judges on The Sideboard – she’s the one looking to the right of the picture. http://shadow.wizards.com/sideboard/images/GPMINN01/997.jpg
Anyway, with Ingrid judging the PTQ on Sunday, we were staying in town. I ended up eating dinner with the judging crew Saturday night. Against all expectations, it was a lot of fun – enough that I decided to play Sunday instead of moping around town. I was looking for a fun, sort of mindless deck, and stumbled across Sean McKeown“anything-but-blue” creature beats deck. I think he called it”Hello Kitty.” Here’s a link: http://magic.mindripper.com/Index.cfm?ArticleID=1638&SectionID=3&Show=All
At the very least, it looked like it was less vulnerable to color screw than other decks – and I was so afraid of that problem that I did the mana math at least four times before pulling the deck together. I made only one significant change – I squeezed in one Wax and Wane. The deck looks like it cannot be that good, but as Sean put it, I’d be playing with fat creatures, Armadillo Cloak, and Fireballs – what’s not to like?
So, round one I riffle and pile shuffle a ton, draw my opening hand – and see nothing but a single Plains. I Mulligan, and see five land and one Thornscape Apprentice. Great, it’s happening again. I play land, Apprentice, and say go. Turn 2 I draw another land, beat, and think how wonderful it is that this format finally ends today. My opponent drops a Blurred Mongoose and passes the turn. I draw Armadillo Cloak, say something like”It’s pretty stupid, but…” cast the Cloak and continue to beat. Turn 4 I draw a second Armadillo Cloak, cast it and beat with my 5/5, double spirit-linked trampling Apprentice.
Things were looking up.
My equilibrium was somewhat restored. After all the bad draws and stupid plays, I was having fun playing Magic again. Especially since the deck then began working, and my creatures really were better than his. The deck isn’t really just beats – with Flametongue Kavu, Ghitu Fire, Fleetfoot Panther, it has a lot of answers. And the sideboard answers were even better.
Match 2 was going okay, with my creatures beating but my opponent casting Lay of the Land and Harrow, then Destructive Flow. I was drawing a lot of nonbasics, but was doing okay until my opponent cast a Turn 6 Spiritmonger. And a Turn 7 Spiritmonger. And a Turn 8 Spiritmonger. No, I did not win that game. I took game 2, but drew all my enchantment removal instead of threats in game 3.
One comment on the dangers of playing foil lands: My round 3 or 4 opponent was playing an U/W/B Desolation Angel deck, and got a turn 2, turn 3, and turn 4 Spectral Lynx. I was pretty ticked, since over half my deck is green creatures, but I managed to Ghitu Fire one of them and was finally stalled, with creatures being continuously blocked by one Lynx, and the other Lynx slowly killing me. Finally he tapped all but two lands to play Yawgmoth’s Agenda, then tapped the last two lands for mana and announced Spectral Lynx from his graveyard. I told him he couldn’t do that, that Agenda sees itself as the spell that turn, but he argued. (About five people around me all agreed when I said Agenda saw itself, but he argued anyway.) He said no one had ever ruled that way – at least that he had heard before.* Anyway, I saw a Judge about six feet away and called him over. I explained the problem and the judge ruled that Agenda was indeed the only spell allowed – that Spectral Lynx could not be cast. We backed up to that point.
So what does that have to do with foil lands? Well, the two lands he tapped were both Coastal Towers, but one was foil and the reflected light made it difficult to read – and I thought it was a Salt Marsh. Since my only chance to win was to draw a Ghitu Fire or Flametongue Kavu and burn the Lynx next turn, I didn’t want him to have regeneration mana available, so I told the judge that he had tapped the lands first, then announced the spell. Bystanders agreed, so the lands stayed tapped and he took the burn. If the Tower hadn’t been a foil, or if I could have seen that it couldn’t produce black, I wouldn’t have bothered arguing to keep it tapped, but… So that’s what you get for playing foils – or maybe for playing me when my glasses are dirty.
As it turned out, it didn’t matter – I drew land, not burn or an FTK, and he killed me. But game 2 I sided in Pure Reflection and showed him just how unfair a turn 3 Reflection can be. He countered stuff, but the Reflection tokens appeared anyways. He summoned lots of creatures, including Familiar Walls and Meddling Mages, but he could never keep the reflection token. Whenever he cast a creature, I cast Fleetfoot Panther at the end of his turn so I had a 3/3 token ready to beat on my turn. It took a while, but Reflection tokens ran him down. I had brought in Dodecapods, even though I figured he would probably side out the Verdicts, because hardcasting a Dodecapod with Pure Reflection in play isn’t too bad – a 3/3 for four mana, plus a 4/4 white token and a severe warning to your opponent about Verdict and Recoil, is okay. And besides, Spectral Lynx doesn’t have protection from any of that. (Samite Elder is another answer to the Lynx problem – but only if you can draw him. I didn’t, not once all day.)
After that match, I carefully pulled out the Dodecapods and Pure Reflections, then apparently tossed them on top of my deck and the cards from my deck back on top of the sideboard pile. I shuffled up, won the die roll, drew my opening hand – and was staring at a Dodecapod. They are sideboard cards – none maindeck. At the same time, my opponent dropped some cards from his hand accidentally – Undermine, Recoil and Fire/Ice. Great – I was pre-sideboarded against a deck I have problems with game 1, but crush with Pods and Pure Reflection sideboarded in. I knew I would win the game if I didn’t say anything – so I called a judge. I hate it when being honest costs me.
The closest judge was Ingrid, who had just came by to tell me she scored a 92% on her judge test.** I told her she needed to give me a game loss. She thought I was kidding… Then I showed her the sideboard cards in hand. She and I had talked through the sideboard that morning, so she immediately knew I was serious. So her first official action as a judge after passing the test – giving me a game loss. No, it wasn’t a setup. Honest. Still, the other Judges thought it was hilarious. Chris Richter told her she should have made the”o” in”loss” a little heart.
Thank gawd I won games 2 (unsideboarded) and game 3, or I would have been really ticked.
Next match: I lost game 1, won game two and would have had him dead the next turn in game 3, despite a mulligan and not casting anything until turn 5. I was at seven life. He cast his only spell in hand during my endstep – Prophetic Bolt – and found a second Bolt to cheese the win. Damn.
Another highlight: An opponent looked at my G/W/r lands on the table and said,”Well, at least you aren’t playing counterspells.” Two turns later he tried to Prophetic Bolt my Noble Panther, I tapped 1GW, announced”counterspell,” then cast Fleetfoot Panther and gated out the Noble Panther. Prophetic Bolt was countered on resolution. No one counterspells my Fleetfoot! Fleetfoot Panther fizzled at least four Bolts, three Rages, several Fire and Ices, some Terminates, and other assorted goodness during the tournament.
Going into the final match, I was at 3-3. I had won three matches, lost one to bad play (and triple Spiritmonger), one to mana screw (and a superior opponent), and one to a cheesy double-Bolt. I needed to win the last round to end with a winning record.
The final match of the IBC season, at least for me, came down to game 3 of the seventh match, against U/B/R with Familiars. We played a long and intense game, with lots of careful play around Pure Reflection and a regenerating Familiar. At the start of extra turns, he was at one. I attacked with a Blurred Mongoose and a 2/2 token. He Terminated the token, blocked the Mongoose, and regenerated the Familiar. I cast Fleetfoot Panther to bounce the Mongoose. He Excluded the Panther, and had Undermine mana still untapped. I looked at the mana, at the two Undermines in his graveyard, and tried Ghitu Fire for one as an instant, in response to Exclude. I even had one mana up for Disrupt. He tapped the two islands, then the Salt Marsh for black and slowly laid down…
An Island. No Undermine. He extended his hand. I had won what we both agreed was a great match. Moreover, I had a lot of fun playing the deck, which was something I hadn’t had in some time in IBC. It’s good to have that back. Thanks, Sean.
And thanks to all my opponents.
I tried variants of the deck in casual play. It is a lot of fun, but you have to tweak the creatures a bit. Noble Panther is pretty big for IBC, but nothing special when larger sets are involved. Nishoba fits pretty well, and Darigaaz is okay. However, the basic concepts are good, and the deck is still a lot of fun.
Along with IBC, T2 with Masques is on its last legs. If you don’t play Friday Night Magic, you have probably already played your last game. If you do play FNM, you can still get a last few matches in with Nether Spirit, Saproling Burst, etc.
I have had a soft spot for Blinding Angel ever since making a Masques Block T8 with her early on. She is a great lock against creature attacks, but has to be protected and the lock fails if she gets blocked. Flametongue Kavu and Prophetic Bolt both do her in, but Lashknife Barrier solves that problem. Traveler’s Cloak (landwalk of your choice) solves the blockers problem. Since both are cantrips, they are not that bad. Mix in some counters, some card drawing and a few stall creatures, and it looks like a deck.
Here’s what I played:
4x Counterspell, Absorb, Accumulated Knowledge, Blinding Angel
3x Meddling Mage, Travelers Cloak, Lashknife Barrier, Glacial Wall,
2x Fact or Fiction, Wrath of God
1x Misdirection, Dominate, Dismantling Blow
4x Adarkar Wastes, Coastal Tower
The concept was pretty simple: Stall with walls, etc. to force the opponent to overcommit, then Wrath or drop Blinding Angel and make sure they never attack. The scariest threat is Terminate, but by the time you play the Angel, you should have counters and/or Misdirection as back up.
The deck had enough cantrips and card drawing that I could usually stabilize quickly enough. Meddling Mage was a beating, especially one game where it was naming Ghitu Fire against a mono-red deck. I had three Lashknife Barriers out, so the Mage was immune to Rage, Flametongue Kavu, Fire/Ice, etc. And it could block anything but Skizzik.
Anyway, the deck went undefeated and won me a foil Quirion Ranger. It also helped restore my faith in my deckbuilding and play. Sure, it was just FNM, but it still worked the way it was supposed to. For something designed in my head on the drive home, and never playtested before round 1, it was pretty good.
I did not play this casually. First of all, the Blinding Angel lock only works on a small number of opponents – ditto the counterspells as protection. And when it does work, it is a slow and solid lock. That’s not my idea of a fun multiplayer deck.
The next major constructed tourney is States, and the next constructed season is Extended. I love Extended, with the dual lands and despite the ever-present Donate – but Donate is less dangerous now, I think. Time to get to work. I hope I have time to actually playtest this time.
* – It’s the last PTQ of the season – people have been playing Agenda for months, and this is the first he’s heard that Agenda counts itself? Okay.
** – Passing for level 1 is 70%. Passing for level 2 is 90%. Ingrid is pissed because she blew three questions she absolutely knew but suffered brain-farts. She should have had a 96 or 98.