You Lika The Juice? – Mid-Atlantic Regionals

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Wednesday, June 11th – As of Thursday last week, I’d pretty much settled on the deck I was going to play as detailed in last week’s column. Friday, I get an instant message from Adrian Sullivan asking me what I was going to play. I sheepishly tell him B/G elves; I say “sheepishly” because I feel like a sell-out.

Before I get on with this column, I wanted to spend a few minutes singing the praises of fellow StarCityGames.com writer and Magic giant Richie Proffitt, a man of many talents, as a deckbuilder, Magic player, and Magic strategist. Apparently he was an artist too, something I only just now learned about. The Magic community is so vast it’s hard to keep up with everything!

I’ve been writing for StarCityGames.com since Pete charged first editor Omeed Dariani with assembling a stable of people who enjoyed writing about Magic, and over the years many writers have come and gone, but Pete and the editors over the years have really created a strong community here that’s a lot like family.

On a hot August day in 2001, I trekked down to Highpoint, North Carolina to try and qualify for Pro Tour: New Orleans. I believe the format was Invasion Block Constructed.
I had a unique deck built that I thought had a lot of potential and was looking forward to seeing how it would perform. At the time I’d had a string of good luck at States for a few years, and had performed well at that year’s Regionals (placing 21st place). Unfortunately, I started the tournament with a draw, and then got a loss, so I limped into the third round at 0-1-1 incredibly disappointed when I sat down across from Richie. I was nervous and a little upset, but Richie immediately set me at ease with his smile and small talk. I manage to eke out a win in three tough games, and Richie took the loss in stride, asking to see my deck, complementing me on the unique build and wishing me luck in the coming rounds. I went into the game nervous and upset, but Richie helped me not just bounce back from victory, but he gave me a psychic “push” that seemed to really help my confidence. I proceed to win the next three rounds, and find myself in at the top tables in the very last round with Top 8 within reach. Sadly, I lose, but came away with a good experience and fond memories of playing and talking with Richie Proffitt.

In the years since, he’s been a constant presence through the online community, whether through his always entertaining and inspiring articles or through his forum comments to my columns both with StarCityGames.com and when I wrote Into The Aether for Magicthegathering.com. Whenever I saw a comment from PolarBearGod, I knew it was going to be worth a smile. I’m going to miss you, Richie – God bless you, man.

So, Regionals.

Richmond Comix had a pretty good contingent of players make the trek up to University of Maryland for the Mid-Atlantic Regionals. Jay drove me, Griff, and David. In another vehicle Virginia Beach City Champs finalist Michael Rooks (equipped with 2 byes) drove his girlfriend Jessica Miller and 2006 Virginia State Champ (Limited) Emerson Physioc. Though already qualified for Nationals, Chris “Star Wars Kid” McDaniel offered to drive up and brought our buddy Josh Adams along; Josh has been on a leave of absence from Magic but recently re-caught the bug real bad. Just like the Mob, you can’t ever truly walk away from Magic forever…

As of Thursday last week, I’d pretty much settled on the deck I was going to play as detailed in last week’s column. Friday, I get an instant message from Adrian Sullivan asking me what I was going to play. I sheepishly tell him B/G elves; I say “sheepishly” because I feel like a sell-out. Adrian is one of my Magic heroes – he’s like the epitome of Rogue deck designers; he cooks up deck ideas way outside of the mainstream, tests the hell out of them to see if they have potential, and then tweaks them to perfection. Way back in the day I used to fantasize about being invited into Cabal Rogue. Anyway, as someone who enjoys cooking up his own decks, I love Adrian’s rogue style and envy his ability to turn them into competitive decks.

So here I am telling Adrian I’m playing the deck that just won the Standard Pro Tour, with only a couple of tweaks. Not exactly rogue, is it?

He posts a B/G Elves deck. “Play this, and you’ll be much happier.”

Sullivan Elves, by Adrian Sullivan

4 Forest
4 Gilt-Leaf Palace
4 Llanowar Wastes
3 Mutavault
1 Pendelhaven
2 Swamp
4 Treetop Village
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Boreal Druid
2 Chameleon Colossus
3 Civic Wayfinder
4 Imperious Perfect
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Wren’s Run Vanquisher
4 Nameless Inversion
4 Profane Command
3 Slaughter Pact
4 Thoughtseize

4 Squall Line
3 Primal Command
1 Chameleon Colossus
3 Kitchen Finks
3 Sudden Spoiling
1 ???

He tells me that they’ve done extensive testing and that this removal package is the best configuration. I have to say I like it – Slaughter Pact gives you an out against Magus of the Moon maindeck, and still gives you a “Terror” so you can go back to running Nameless Inversion and benefit from the Tribal type for Tarmogoyf boosting.

Then I notice something disturbing.

Only two Chameleon Colossus?!

“This removal package works, and something had to give.”

But… but… only two Chameleon Colossus?! I loved the big changeling so much I’d upped it one from Gindy’s version, and Adrian cuts one. Yikes!

Friday night I make the changes and start playtesting… and you know something? I drew those two Colossus like I had six of them in my deck. In fact, I seemed to draw them more frequently than when I had four of them.

I suspect Adrian must have some sort of voodoo going on with these decklists of his. Who am I to question pacts with supernatural forces?

One thing I do stand firm on though is playing four Mutavaults. By all accounts being able to run 8 manlands is one of the strong reasons for playing B/G Elves, so Cthulhu be damned! *glance over my shoulder nervously*

I ask Adrian for his thoughts on sideboarding.

The one sideboarding thing I’d like to impart that is definitely kinda exciting:

-4 Profane Command, -4 Nameless Inversion, +4 Squall Line, +3 Kitchen Finks, +1 Chameleon Colossus

This is for Faeries.

You will notice that there are only 14 cards in the board. I’m still not certain what all of them should be. I feel like that last slot should be 1 Faerie Macabre (for Primal Commanding into), but I’m not sure. I’d be board +3 Primal / +X Squall Line / +1 Faerie Macabre / +2 or 3 Sudden Spoiling in that matchup, but I don’t know what I’d cut.

Here are general thoughts:

Squall Line is to dodge Damnation/Wrath and to BE Damnation/Wrath versus Fliers. Primal Command is for lifegain or to answer unanswerable non-creature permanents. Kitchen Finks is for lifegain and for beating down in a race (a la Faeries). Chameleon Colossus is for pro-Black. Sudden Spoiling is for Counterspelling Reveillark and for creature wars.

I end up making two changes to his suggested sideboard. First is ditching the Sudden Spoiling. Last week I was high on Sudden Spoiling, it seemed like the perfect answer to Reveillark (and to a lesser extent, Swans), and could also be a huge buckeye in fighting the mirror match. Then I started thinking how those games would play out, particularly against Reveillark. At some point I’d need to hold back three mana to be able to cast Sudden Spoiling when they tried to “go off” (or, if I’m lucky and they block my attackers). Playing this deck though, it’s all about going on the attack; with only 23 lands, holding back on your mana sounds like you’d be playing right into your opponent’s hands, slowing down your plays and giving him time — a good portion of your offense is often your manlands, and they do a thorough job of soaking up your mana every turn.

A good opponent might even sniff out what you’re planning and do something heinous like Venser one of your Black sources of mana at the end of your turn before he goes off. No, I think for this style of deck, Faerie Macabre is the way to go – it lets you play your game, use your mana, and yet still have the opportunity of hitting that graveyard.

Of course that doesn’t address the problem with the mirror match. As far as I can tell, it all comes down to Chameleon Colossus. B/G Elves’ removal suite can’t touch the Colossus, so the only way you can contain the big guy is one of your own, or Wren’s Run Vanquisher and her Deathtouch. Most of the Elf builds don’t have as much removal, and they tend to hold their Terrors for things like Tarmogoyf and Imperious Perfect, cards that can quickly dominate the board. But the Vanquisher quietly becomes the key card in the matchup, blunting the effectiveness of opposing Colossi. Your Profane Commands are more likely to get back Vanquishers than Tarmogoyfs.

So I started thinking of including a couple more Deathtouch creatures, either in the maindeck or sideboard. Of course, my first instinct was Ohran Viper, a card I’ve long loved that never seems to get its propers. But my buddy Jay pointed out that Viper doesn’t exactly beat down (without some help from Doran), and offered up Thornweald Archer instead.

Thornweald Archer? Talk about not getting his propers… who plays with that card?

It was appealing though. It hits twice as hard as the Viper. As an Elf, it plays nice with Imperious Perfect. It’s cost is the same as Vanquisher, so you can block and kill something, and then get it back with Profane Command for just four mana. In a pinch, it can also block and kill fliers.

So this is what I ran with:

Unfortunately, I only went 2-2 with the deck, dropping from the tournament after getting my second loss and no shot at making Top 8 to rumble for a slot at Nationals. I had a strong feeling I’d do really well with this deck, so that 2nd loss really hit me hard. I won’t go over the blow-by-blow but I’ll recap how it went here.

The first round I played against a gentleman running Elfball, that wacky Elf combo deck that makes a bunch of elf tokens and draws a bunch of cards with Distant Melody. The kill card that Alan Comer ran at PT: Hollywood was Roar of the Crowd, but I didn’t see that card here so I’m not sure if he was playing that or doing something else. Luckily, I came out fast in both games, and drew my Thoughtseize and plenty of removal.

Round 2 was a heartbreaker against Reveillark. I came out fast enough to steal the first game, and felt pretty good about my chances bringing in Squall Line, Primal Command, and the Faerie Macabre. The second game was rough, with him drawing a ton of counterspells while I stalled on land, and he eventually beat me down with Reveillarks. The final game was tight, I got a fast beatdown start, managed to stuff his dying Reveillark (go-go Squall Line!) by removing Body Double and Mulldrifter from the graveyard with Macabre, disrupt his hand with Thoughtseize, but he rips a Teferi’s Moat to stop my groundpounders while he beats me down with Mulldrifter and Faerie Conclave through the air. I take him down to 3 with Profane Command and reanimate the Faerie so now things are a little hairier for him. He then plays Reveillark and has one card in hand and I draw… another Squall Line. I’m at six, he’s at three, one card in hand, and he can take me down to two in the next attack. I decide to go ahead and go for it before he draws another card, I Squall Line for three, and of course he’s got the Rune Snag (with a couple more in the graveyard). He takes me to 2, I draw a land off the top and that’s game. Man, so close!

Round 3 I play against a fellow with an interesting Blue/White control deck. He’s got counterspells, Wraths… and maindeck Plumeveils, one of which ambushes a 3/4 Tarmogoyf that I’ve got charging into the Red Zone. Whoa! He’s also running Nodes, just tons of anti-creature stuff… but I drop no more than two creature card threats at a turn, draw plenty of manlands, and lay a steady stream of beats to take the match in two games. He did unfortunately get terribly land flooded in the last game.

Round 4 begins inauspiciously with a mulligan to five, and I keep a one land hand with a Mutavault, a Llanowar Elves, a Nameless Inversion, a Slaughter Pact, and a Civic Wayfinder. Basically, any other land I draw other than another Mutavault and I’m doing okay. Given I only have 23 lands in the deck I’m worried taking another mulligan could just mulligan me to oblivion, so I keep. My second draw I do get a Llanowar Wastes, but he’s gone turn 1 Elves, turn 2 Magus of the Moon, turn 3 Chameleon Colossus. He pretty much annihilates me since even with a full hand this would have been a tough position to fight out of. Game 2 doesn’t begin with a mulligan, but he opens with turn 2 Magus, turn 3 Colossus again, but this time I manage to climb out, Slaughter Pacting the Magus, playing a Vanquisher and a Wayfinder to guarantee a basic Swamp. He pauses with his Colossus and drops a Countryside Crusher and a Tarmogoyf. Yeesh! I get an Imperious Perfect out and active to generate some chump blockers until I finally get a Colossus and Tarmogoyf of my own. I’m fairly low in life but the Perfect starts churning out the Elves, I kill the Crusher before he gets too huge, and I’ve got Mutavault and Treetops in reserve and pretty well have the ground held. So he drops Garruk and cranks up his loyalty towards an Overrun. Next turn he can pump his Colossus twice so I’m fairly sure I’m dead, but I draw my card (a land), nod, and pass the turn. I do have a Nameless Inversion that I desperately wish was a Terror right now. For some reason he doesn’t attack, but pumps Garruk’s loyalty and passes the turn. I guess he was worried about the two cards I had in my hand? Maybe I somehow bluffed him by accident? I don’t think I’ll get another chance to dodge the bullet.

So I do some calculating, and realize that I can launch a big attack on Garruk enough to destroy it, and still hold back enough chumpers to survive a counter attack, so I do that. He blocks my Tarmogoyf with his Tarmogoyf and Elf to kill my Goyf, which I was actually hoping he’d do so I could kill his Tarmogoyf with my Inversion. For some bizarre reason, I decide to be clever and deal enough damage to the Goyf and his Elf so that even with the Planeswalker dying I’d be able to Inversion his Goyf afterwards and get two-for-two. Like, the elf mattered not at all, it was completely not a threat, and turns out that the Inversion’s Tribal characteristic hits the graveyard before the +3/-3 takes effect and puts his Goyf’s toughness 1 point away from dying. So I basically throw away my Tarmogoyf and Nameless Inversion for his Llanowar Elf (and leave him with a considerably larger Tarmogoyf).

I shoulda not worried about that damn elf! Sigh.

I’m left with one large man to his two large men, and in seriously bad hole. A Profane Command could certainly turn things around, but I don’t really draw anything relevant and he rips a Firespout to off my Perfect and other small Elves. He crashes in, and I have to toss my couple of manlands in the way to survive. A few turns later it’s all over.

I have no idea whether I would have pulled out that second game, nor what may have happened in game 3, but I so disappointed with that huge mistake that I drop out, go to the Student Bookstore to buy a magazine, grab some lunch, and chill for about an hour. When I wander back I see some of my buddies are still doing well, and while all but one have accumulated a second loss, they’re still plugging away. I feel a little silly now for dropping out; the deck was good, and I could have easily have won out the rest of the day.

I decide to jump in a Shadowmoor draft. I did pretty well in the first one I played in during the Star City Mega-Magic weekend, and end up in the same colors as I did then, Black/Red. My first pack doesn’t have anything noteworthy outside of Blowfly Infestation, which I used to great effect in a sealed deck not too long ago, so I try and keep my eye focused on Wither effects and —1/-1 counters. I also get a third pick Jaws of Stone, so I lean more heavily Red. In my second booster I crack open an Oversoul of Dusk, a card I both a) don’t want to have to play against and b) need for my collection, so that’s an easy hate-pick. About this time my buddy Griff is standing behind me watching my picks, and after I move to my third pack, he shakes his head in dismay and walks off, unable to watch me make a mockery of the draft. He therefore misses me rip another Jaws of Stone and 3 Elsewhere Flasks. Here’s what I end up with:

Shadowmoor Draft Deck

2 Scar
1 Puncture Bolt
1 Spiteflame Witch
2 Sickle Ripper
1 Rustrazor Butcher
1 Emberstrike Duo
1 Smash to Smithereens
3 Elsewhere Flask
1 Blowfly Infestation
1 Boggart Ram-Gang
1 Faerie Macabre
1 Burn Trail
1 Sootwalkers
1 Scrap Basket
1 Scuzzback Marauders
1 Wicker Warcrawler
1 Gloomlance
2 Jaws of Stone
1 Leechridden Swamp
6 Swamp
10 Mountain

1 Niveous Wisps
1 Heap Doll
1 Revelsong Horn
1 Safehold Sentry
1 Pili-Pala
1 Blight Sickle
2 Cinderbones
2 Poison the Well
1 Gnarled Effigy
1 Mudbrawler Raiders
1 Oversoul of Dusk
1 Tyrannize
2 Gravelgill Axeshark
1 Traitor’s Roar
1 Torrent of Souls
1 Rage Reflection
1 Roughshod Mentor
1 Pale Wayfarer

What’s kind of funny after the draft is long over, it occurred to me with 3 Flasks I could have “splashed” the Oversoul of Dusk and likely gotten away with it. What do you think? How might you have built this?

While I’m still very much a novice of this format, I thought the deck came together pretty good and I ended up winning the draft. The fast beats combined with a serious boatload of removal worked pretty well in most cases, with Flask plus Jaws just blowing games wide open (or ending them) and cards like Leechridden Swamp and Spiteflame Witch eking out the last few life points when needed.

The last match was incredibly hard. He’d drafted a Green/White deck that was chock full of gigantic beasts (including his own Oversoul of Dusk!) that started raining down later in the game and taking over in swift order. I lose the first game horribly, and steal the second game when he stumbles on mana just long enough. I decide to go balls-out in the last match, boarding in 2 Poison the Well to keep him off his mana, and the Traitor’s Roar to make him pay if he does get a fat creature out. Game 3 turns out perfectly, with early beats from my side, a bit of a stall on mana from his side while I draw both Poisons to further his problem, and finish things off with Flask plus Jaws. Whew!

In one of our games we had a weird situation pop up. I had Bowfly Infestation… and he had Flourishing Defenses! Needless to say, this evoked some funky rules interactions that we called a judge over to help explain how things would work. Unfortunately, he was unable to give us “tactical information,” so he explained things the best he could but neither of us were sure about how either of us could use the interaction to our advantage. If there are any enterprising judges reading this that could indeed provide some rules-powered tactical information on the interaction between these two enchantments in the forums, that would be awesome!

Winning the draft — especially against such a brutal deck in the finals – helped me feel a bit better about things, but then I checked in with my buddies and found out two were finishing out with quite a few prize packs and one of them — Michael Rooks, playing his trademark Elemental Shaman deck — had a real shot of making Top 8! He’d gotten 2 byes from City Champs, and waded through five Reveillark decks and two Kithkin(!) decks to accumulate an 8-1 record (losing once to Reveillark); since the two guys above him drew to make Top 8, he was left with first place after the Swiss, good enough to take home the Mid-Atlantic Regionals 1st place trophy! Unfortunately, the Top 8 had to play one round to see who’d get invites to Nationals, and he picked up his second loss of the day, again to the Reveillark menace. Where were the damn Faerie decks that were supposed to keep the Reveillark craziness in check?!

Still, Rooks got to take the trophy – it’s good to be Champ, and I was pleased to have some of my friends do so well. It made for a really great day of Magic fun!

‘Til next week, take care!


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com