We have the brackets. Play has begun, both online and off. This week, Ponza tries to stomp Nasiff 5c Control, Affinity faces Goblins, and Chapin 5CB duels with Squirrels. All that, plus an open letter to Jamie Wakefield.
What’s going on: I am going to run a tournament matching 32 of the best Standard legal decks of all time in a single elimination tournament. The idea is to find out if modern decks can run with the best historical decks. The event will play best of five matches, with two unsideboarded and up to three sideboarded matches. The decks chosen are a selection of the most famous historical decks, as played at the time.
The brackets and decklists can be found here.
Where possible, I’m playing these matches out online, on MTGO. It’s obviously not possible for some matches, of course, since many of these decks rely on cards that just don’t exist online. (Rishadan Port is a great example.) When necessary, I’ll end up playing these matches between my two accounts, but I’d prefer actual opponents. When I’m online and available, I’ll hang out in a room called UST. Just type “/join UST” in any window on MTGO.
Here are the brackets to date.
Thanks for the Help:
Several people have helped play out matches. I really appreciate this. Keep it up!
If you have time, meet me online or just play out a matchup with your friends. Just use the decklists here, and please provide a complete record of the games — opening hands, cards played, relevant abilities used, life total changes, etc. It isn’t enough to say Stompy smashed Sabre Bargain — we want to see how, why, and what happened.
I also keep the brackets on that page up to date — in other words, once a match is played, I’ll note it as “(played),” and post the results after the article with the results goes up.
On to coverage.
Brawler Ponza versus Nassif 5c Control
We played a half dozen games practice preboard. It was not looking good for 5cc — the short version was “lands stayed tapped until they were destroyed.” 5cc won one game, and that only because it drew two Broken Ambitions for the only LD spells Ponza drew, then a Pithing Needle for Masticore (Ponza drew three), plus Wall of Reverence and Plumeveil. In that game, 5cc resolved a Broodmate Dragon before Ponza resolved a single LD spell. Not typical.
Here’s the first of the games that actually counted:
5cc on the play — opening hand is Vivid Creek, Island, Broodmate, 2 Cruel Ultimatum, Cryptic Command, Volcanic Fallout. Can’t keep that. The six card hand is 2 Vivid Creek, Vivid Marsh, Broken Ambitions, Reflecting Pool, Muldrifter. Keep. Ponza kept a seven.
5cc: Draw Broodmate Dragon, play Reflecting Pool. Play Mulldrifter, drawing Island and Esper Charm. (Played Muldrifter for five — trading Mulldrifter for the Seal of Fire is fine, because that might keep Wall of Reverence alive.)
Ponza: Dust Bowl, Tectonic Break to kill three lands each, go.
5cc: Draw Esper Charm, play Island, beat for 2, play Esper Charm to make Ponza discard two cards (discard Mountain and Avalanche Riders, leaving one card in hand.)
Ponza: Draw, pass with two lands in play.
5cc: Draw Volcanic Fallout, play Reflecting Pool, beat for two (Seal kills Mulldrifter in response to attack), Esper Charm making Ponza discard two Pillages, leaving it with two land in play and nothing in hand.
Ponza: Draw, go.
5cc: Draw Broodmate, go.
Ponza: Draw, go
5cc: Draw Mulldrifter, play Broodmate #2.
Ponza: Draw, scoop
Ponza: Activate one Encampment, beat for 4
5cc: Draw dead, at 6 life – concede
Sideboarding: Ponza really doesn’t have anything. A sign of how the times have changed — even though it is playing against a base Blue control deck, Ponza isn’t going to bring in Boil. It did bring in the Goblin Cadets for Masticores, at least for game 1, since the Masticores can’t expect to kill anything except maybe a Mulldrifter. 5cc brings in two Negates and the Celestial Purge for the Volcanic Fallouts.
In what may well be the most important play of the match, Ponza calls heads for the first post-board game, and it is heads. Ponza keeps. 5cc draws a hand with 2 Vivid lands, Negate, Esper Charm, Plumeveil, Broodmate, Cryptic. It is a bit chancy, but better than 6.
After seeing the Cadets, 5cc takes out the Ultimatums and brings in two more Volcanic Fallouts. (Marginal. In practice, Ultimatum had actually been more useful than Fallout.) 5cc is on the play and draws a hand with nothing but Sunken Ruins and Cascade Bluffs. Mulligan to Vivid Marsh, Reflecting Pool, 2 Sunken Ruins, Terror, Volcanic Fallout.
5cc: Draw and play Reflecting Pool, go
Ponza: Mountain, play Avalanche Riders targeting Vivid Marsh, 5cc plays Plumeveil in response, Ponza attacks with both creatures. 5cc blocks Avalanche Riders.
5cc: (Tangle Wire taps both lands and Plumeveil), draw and play Vivid Creek
Ponza: (Tangle Wire taps itself, two Mountain) beat for four with the Brawlers.
5cc: (Tangle Wire tap everything) Draw Negate
5cc: (Creek Ported on upkeep) draw Broodmate, discard Cryptic
Ponza: Goblin Cadet
5cc: Draw Wall of Reverence, play Reflecting Pool, Wall of Reverence, gain 4 life (Wall plus Plumeveil)
Ponza: Draw, concede (with 5cc gaining life, and with 4 lands in play, Ponza is out of gas.)
Ponza: Mountain, Brawlers
5cc: Draw Fallout, play Crag
Ponza: Play Tangle Wire (if 5cc counters, both Brawlers will come in, so it resolves. 5cc casts Celestial Purge targeting Brawler EoT)
5cc: With Tangle Wire on the stack, casts Esper Charm to draw 2 cards. If it draws a land that comes into play untapped, Brawlers cannot attack. It draws Celestial Purge, Broodmate Dragon, Negate — no lands. Discards.
Ponza: Activates Encampment, beats for 6, drops Seal of Fire #2.
5cc: no outs. Celestial Purge can kill the Brawlers, but the Encampment and 2 Seal of Fire will be lethal next turn. Gawds, that was long.
Affinity versus Goblin Bidding
My thanks to Conelead in the forums. He and his friends played this match out. Here’s his recap.
Game 1: Affinity on the Play.
RA: Draw Ravager. Glimmervoid, Ravager, Thoughtcast (D: Ravager, Glimmervoid) Bash with Disciple
GB: Draws SGC. Mountain, Skirk Prospector. GB uses Sparksmith targeting Ravager. In response, RA sacrifices Vault, Citadel, Skullclamp to Ravager. GB cycles Gempalm Incinerator to kill Ravager, and draws Swamp (Life totals 19-12)
RA Draws Disciple, Scoops.
Game 2: Affinity on the Play
RA: Draws Disciple, plays Ravager, attack with Frogmite (20-16)
GB: Draws Warchief, plays Taskmaster
RA: Draw E-Bolt. Sac Chromatic Sphere to play Bolt on Piledriver GB sacks Piledriver for R and plays Smother on Ravager, modular to Frogmite, draw Darksteel Citadel. Play Citadel, Myr Enforcer, attack (20-13)
GB: Draws Mountain, play Mountain, Goblin Warchief
Game 3: Affinity on Draw
GB: Draws Bidding, Mountain, Piledriver, Bash, RA blocks Piledriver with Frogmite, Warchief with Ravager, which eats worker.
RA: Draw Enforcer, Thoughtcast, drawing Ravager and Furnace, Play Furnace, Skullclamp, Enforcer. Bash. (18-15)
GB Draws Mountain and scoops, since it is drawing dead.
Game 4: Affinity on Draw
GB: Shadowblood Ridge
RA: Citadel, Jar, Worker
GB: Draws City of Brass, crack mire for Mountain, City of Brass (20-17) Goblin Sharpshooter
RA: Draw Thoughtcast. Glimmervoid, Enforcer, sac Sphere to Thoughtcast, drawing Welding Jar x2, Thoughtcast. Play Jar, Jar, Thoughtcast, drawing Chromatic Sphere, Seat of Synod, play Sphere
GB: Draw Taskmaster. Taskmaster, Piledriver
RA: Draw Blinkmoth Nexus, Play Seat of the Synod, pass.
— EOT: GB Sharpshooter @ Ravager (sac Sphere to make a 2/2), Sparksmith (20-13) @ Enforcer (Sac Welding Jar to regen)
Goblin Bidding Scoops. Affinity advances.
Chapin 5c Blood versus Squirrel Opposition
I ran into Tim Willoughby from the mothership coverage team online. He offered to play any deck I needed. (It helps to have a god account.) Aside from decks that just are not online yet, I was having problems finding anyone with Jade Leeches and the rest of the Squirrel Opposition deck, so that’s what I asked him to play. He did.
I was not sure what to expect in this matchup. Both decks have some really good creatures, and effects. Opposition has nothing like Cruel Ultimatum or cascade, but 5c Blood has no way of dealing with Opposition lockdown (other than Jund Charm and Volcanic Fallout.) I figured 5CB needed Maelstrom Pulse to have a chance to kill Opposition. I was wrong.
I’m not going to go through the play by play here. This is already a bazillion pages long.
The first game showed the power of Opposition. 5CB got a slightly mana short draw, and Opposition locked it out of all colors during upkeep turn after turn. It did draw one Jund Charm, and played it during upkeep, but some of the creatures locking it down were Call of the Herd tokens and Wild Mongrels, and they all survived the Charm. It took a while, but eventually Squirrel Nest freed up the fatties to kill 5CB. Opposition helped lock down colors and mana, but the critical fact was that 5CB never got enough of / the right colors of mana to cast the Bituminous Blast it had in hand.
In the games where 5CB got enough mana, though, it won. Even when Opposition got the enchantment in play, 5CB was often able to respond with instants, like Jund Charm, Bolt or Volcanic Fallout. Once it had the mana, Bit Blast was an even more devastating response. On turn, Squirrel Opps was trying to tap down all the color producing lands with 2 Birds of Paradise, 2 Wild Mongrels and a Flametongue Kavu. 5CB tapped mana in response, then cast Bit Blast targeting a Mongrel, and cascaded into Bloodbraid Elf, and then into Jund Charm. After the 2 damage to all creatures resolved, 5CB had an Elf, and Opposition had a 3/3 Mongrel with 2 damage, and it was down a card. In another game changing play, Squirrel Opps was locking down the board with Squirrel Nest Squirrels, and 5CB cast Bit Blast, cascading into Cryptic Command, which bounced the land Squirrel Nest was enchanting.
Pre-board, games were close, but post board 5CB had a clear advantage. 5CB took out the Cruel Ultimatums (too slow), Syggs, and Anathemancers (do too little) for another Jund Charm, Chameleon Colossus, Infest and Path to Exile. After boarding, 5CB got a lot better.
Tim’s comment at the end of one round summed it up. “I feel that [5CB’s] spells are just better…” Yes, Opposition is the nuts, but not forever, and 5CB’s other spells are just better. Bituminous Blast really is better than Flametongue Kavu, Bloodbraid Elf is better than Call of the Wild, and Putrid Leech is better than Wild Mongrel. Sure, Mongrel can kill a Leech — but it has to discard two cards to trade, and three cards to survive. In one game, two Leeches faced two Mongrels. One Leech held off both dogs while the other attacked turn after turn. It was never quite worth the loss of cards to trade.
Chapin 5CB advances.
Open Letter to Jamie Wakefield
This is long already, but I wanted to add and elaborate on something I posted in the forums. Last week, Jamie Wakefield wrote this in his weekly article. He was talking about Jund.
Holy God! Why am I not playing this deck?
“I should just spend the three hundred dollars and play Jund.”
“Would that be fun? I’m fine with you buying Jund if you want.”
“Yeah, that deck is awesome. I would laugh my ass off playing that deck.”
“What I’m asking you is: would you, and the people who really support you, be happy to see you qualify with Jund?”
Sad panda face. Lots of silence and thinking as I sit on the bed in Wendy’s office. “No. It goes against who I am and what I believe. I wouldn’t feel like me if I did that. I’ve never qualified with anyone’s deck but my own. But it’s so good! I don’t know how I’ll ever beat it!”
Here’s my response.
Jamie — a couple thoughts. First, I want to say that I’ve been a fan since The Dojo days. Your book is on my bookshelves. I modeled my first tournament report on yours, and that report won a writing contest for another site, which lead to my paid gig at The Dojo, which lead to this series, etc. I even have a dozen of your old Dojo articles saved on my memory stick, and reread them when I’m stuck. I love reading your stories, especially when you win. I want more of the excitement and pure joy that I found in articles like “It’s All About the Dinosaurs.” It’s the compelling narrative, far more than the specifics, that I want. I also want to get to the part of the story where the good guy wins. The part about laughing your ass off as a deck works is good, too.
If you have to play Jund, that’s okay. I suspect you would make it some sort of fattie Jund – maybe Abyssal Persecutor is the new Morinfen, Even if you decide to play creatureless Blue/White Control, if you really enjoy playing it, and that joy comes through in your articles, I’m cool with that. Maybe Gideon could become the last fattie that kills them.
That isn’t classic Wakefield school, but that might be okay. More on that later.
First, Jamie, please pay more attention to this Interwebs thingee. This isn’t 1999 anymore. The net means that a lot more people see a lot more decks, and play a lot more Magic, than they did then. Back when we were both writing for the Dojo, we could review maybe one or two meaningful Top 8 lists per week – sometime per month. Now, MagicOnline.com provides a half dozen Standard Top 8 / 3-1 or better lists per day. Everyone learns a lot more, a lot faster, than they did in the Dojo days. It is much, much harder to be a better deck designer than the whole world now than it was a decade ago. I’m not saying that you should netdeck — but I am saying that you need to pay attention to the net, to know what you need to beat. Cards are also coming out pretty fast now, and the web can help you learn what all the new cards are doing, faster than playtesting them all individually.
I’m not saying that the Web should be a source for decks, but it is an invaluable learning tool.
Second, consider going multicolored. Please. I know, back when you qualified with Secret Force, multicolored decks had mana issues. Back them Standard was Tempest / Saga. Saga was one of the most color restrictive formats ever. Look at the multi-colored lands that set produced: Thran Quarry and – well, nothing. Tempest block had Reflecting Pool, and 6E had City of Brass and the painlands. Playing a three color deck in those days was painful — in both meanings of the word.
It isn’t 1999 anymore. Wizards has decided that being color screwed isn’t good for the game. We don’t have City of Brass or painlands anymore, but we have more and better multicolored lands. You really don’t have to fear color screw anymore. We have the lands. Lots of lands. If you wanted to, you could even build an entire deck out of lands that give you two specific colors. Really — here’s proof.
4 Raging Ravine
4 Ancient Ziggurat
4 Savage Lands
4 Jungle Shrine
4 Exotic Orchard
4 Kazandu Refuge
4 Rootbound Crag
4 Rupture Spire
4 Terramorphic Expanse
4 Evolving Wilds
4 Jund Panorama
4 Naya Panorama
4 Unstable Frontier
Okay, adding the Forest and Mountains was cheating, a bit, but it proves the point. You can build a 60 card deck entirely out of lands that produce two specific colors. Not that you’d want to, but it just shows how wide the collection of multi-colored land is today. You can play multicolored decks and still have a reliable manabase.
A rotation ago, the mana was even better. With Lorwyn block in Standard, Tier One decks could actually run cards that cast 2GGGG, 2WW, UUBBBRR and 3GBR — all in the same deck. Lorwyn mana was too good. (I’m quoting Aaron Forsythe here.) Current mana fixing is not quite that good, but it is close. It is plenty good enough to support two or three colors, especially if one of those colors is Green.
Staying mono-colored really limits the decks you can build, since you are refusing to consider hundreds of cards. You are not only eliminating an entire expansion — Alara Reborn is all multi-colored cards — but you are also refusing to consider some of the best Green mechanics. Stay base Green if you prefer, but splash for at least one second color. Going GR, for example, would give you Raging Ravine (a really good manland) and Bloodbraid Elf (a 3/2 hasty elf that puts Leatherback Baloth into play for free.) Plus Fireball and lots of other options.
Wizards has put all the best mechanics into multicolor, at least for now. Even manlands are multicolor. Mono-color is so terribly restrictive. Jamie, please, if not Jund, at least experiment with the cards that make Jund good. You don’t have to spend the $300 to buy Jund, but at least playtest Bloodbraid Elves.
In Dinosaurs, you talked about how you 2-3ed a tournament and had to work hard at rebuilding your deck. You talked about how people were telling you that you had to give up a critical part of the Wakefield school if you wanted to qualify. You did: 26/62 went away. You cut the deck to 60 cards, because cards like Gaea’s Cradle and Wall of Roots changed the rules of mana. Playing a 60 card deck did not make you “not Wakefield” – All About the Dinosaurs is quintessential you. It also got you qualified.
Now, Wizards has printed cards that change the mono-colored rule as completely as Cradle and Wall of Roots changed the 26/62 rule. You need to at least test with multicolored cards. I also suspect that you need to play them – or at least a multicolored manabase – to win in this new world. That may change when Alara block leaves, but it hasn’t left, yet.
Jamie, I completely understand your feelings about Green. I agree with most of them. Over the years, I suspect that I have written more green rants than anyone, except maybe you and Bennie Smith. Check out my archives for articles like “Ban Island” and “Heaving over Upheaval” if you doubt my credentials. However, BLOODBRAID ELF IS A GREEN CREATURE. Wizards has made Green good. Many of the most powerful creatures in the game — Vengevine, Knight of the Reliquary, Bloodbraid Elf, Broodmate Dragon, Rhox War Monk, Lotus Cobra, Noble Hierarch, etc. — are Green. However, Wizards has changed the game so colors work in combination with other colors. No color — not even Blue — can stand completely alone. (Speed Red is an exception, but that deck is a one trick pony.) In this modern world, colors come in blends. Arguing that Green should be good is perfect reasonable — and Green is good. Arguing that Green – on its own – should be able to beat any other color, or combination of other colors, is going too far.
Jamie, even though Secret Force was a mono-Green deck, remember that Brothers Grimm was Black, and PhoenixHaups was Red. I am wondering what colors your next great deck will be.
I’m liking GR Titan / Destructive Force, but we’ll see.
“one million words” on MTGO