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My Nationals 2011

June 24, 2011

As I mentioned in my previous post, Swedish Nationals happened last weekend in Gothenburg and I was there battling it out. Today I’m giving you a summary of my Nationals 2011.

Despite some rough time in school during the last couple of weeks of the semester, I was still able to spend a fair amount of time testing and practicing for the very prestigious event that is Nationals. Like I advocated a couple of weeks ago, I spent most of my testing time on limited. Which meant for me kept grinding MODO ques for the most part.

I think I pretty quickly got a good grasp over how the new draft format worked and soon found myself 3-0-ing or 2-1-ing about every draft I did. This was pleasing as I have sort of struggled with the format before. I never really got a good grasp over 3x Scars of Mirrodin (which my result at Worlds reflects quite well) but since the addition of Mirrodin Besieged and forward things have slowly improved. I might be a little biased, but I think the draft format is really interesting now with New Phyrexia. The phyrexian mana-mechanic, while it’s effects on Constructed can be discussed, is really great in Limited and the bleeding out of Infect to every color has made the format really good in my opinion.

Bringing the beats at Nationals 2011.

So, I was content with my drafting preparations coming into Nationals. The Constructed side was a more complicated matter. Or rather it was rather the reverse which made myself uncomfortable. As per usual, I had taken the top 5-10 decks I had seen around the web and just played a bunch of matches to get a grasp of the format as a whole. All those games and matches lead me to the following opinion of the format:

There are two competitive groups of decks. The first is the ones that legitimately wins by attacking with creatures. We can call these the “fair” decks. This group is lead head and shoulders by CawBlade. I tried Fauna Shaman-Vengevine decks, Vampires, RDW, Boros, Soul Sisters… each of these decks proved (not surprisingly) to be worse when push comes to shove than CawBlade. Granted, they all had some sex appeal but in the end my conclusion was always that this deck X are just all around worse than CawBlade.

There was some glimmer of hope in my mind in the other group of decks, the “unfair” decks or “the-decks-that-doesn’t-care-about-Batterskull”. Splinter Twin decks almost monopolizes this group and I was really impressed with how the Mike Flores-esque version of UR Splinter Twin matched up against the whole field. The deck as a whole really spoke to me and it gave me a good excuse to avoid duking out CawBlade mirrors all weekend long.

So when I sat in my friend Tim Käll’s car heading down to Gothenburg last Monday, I was almost set on playing Splinter Twin. And if I would panic somehow, there was always CawBlade to fall back on so I felt pretty comfortable.

And naturally, panicked I did.

During the first couple of days when I playtested with friends I started to feel less and less content when I was wielding Splinter Twin. Not only were my opponents considerbly tighter than your random opponent you find online, most of them had more hateful decks (Spellskite was the recurring nightmare of these playtesting sessions for me).  I had beaten random Spellskite before, but now when I faced opponents with better knowledge and more stuff to back up their Spellskites things looked grim.

So a couple of days before Nationals and the PTQ the day before it looked like I would be playing CawBlade after all. But then the idea of Pyromancer Ascension came back to me. I updated the list with my own ideas injunction with ideas I had cough around the web. I sleeved it up and ran it against our gauntlet and found myself content with how it ran. All of that lead me to the following list which turned to be the deck I choose to play for the course of the whole weekend:

Echoes, silence, patience and grace.

// Lands
    4 Scalding Tarn
    2 Halimar Depths
    7 Mountain
    9 Island

// Spells
    4 See Beyond
    4 Into the Roil
    4 Mana Leak
    4 Twisted Image
    4 Pyromancer Ascension
    2 Jace's Ingenuity
    4 Preordain
    4 Burst Lightning
    4 Lightning Bolt
    4 Gitaxian Probe

// Sideboard
SB: 3 Pyroclasm
SB: 4 Deceiver Exarch
SB: 4 Splinter win
SB: 4 Spell Pierce

I don’t feel like doing an in-depth cover of the decks since the actual format my Nationals was in will be dead within a week. If the archetype proves to be something post the bannings I’d might be more inclined to do so. I can say that the Twisted Images (which probably are the most eye brow-raising card in list) I got from Jeremy Neemans article on Blackborder.com were good all weekend. You hope to get Steppe Lynx, Birds of Paradise, Overgrown Battlement or Spellskites with it but even if you don’t it’s still a cheap cantrip card, which is exactly what this kind of deck wants. The move from Foresee to Jace’s Ingenuity was splendid as well as the Splinter Twin combo in the sideboard.

The weekend started with said the aforementioned PTQ the day before the actual Nationals tournament started. At the PTQ things went on well and after 7 rounds of play (beating UB Control, CawBlade, Elves, Boros and Vampires and a loss against a Big Red deck injunction with a draw) I found myself in the Top8.

In the Top8 I was faced against none other than Anton Jonsson.  He was on CawBlade however which still had me fairly confident about my chances. Nothing crazy happened game 1 so I won. I went down to 5 in the second game and never got anything going. For the final game I went for the surprise elemtent and switched to the Splinter Twin-plan (which you normally do not against CawBlade). He lead of with a Leyline of Sancity which made me pump my fist. Several turns later I got him with the combo when he unwarily tapped out to play a JtMS.

My luck ran dry after that though when I was paired against fellow Stockholmer Oscar Almgren in the semis. He was on Boros and slaughtered me in the first game with a double Goblin Guide draw. Then in the second I had a 3 turn window to draw a Mountain so I could play my Splinter Twin onto my Deceiver Exarch but  sadly didn’t get there. Props to Oscar nevertheless for eventually taking down the whole thing. Good luck in Philly!

Overnight I reconsidered my list but ultimately didn’t change anything. I battled with Per Nyström about Halimar Depth presence in the deck. He wanted me to changes those to Island, claming they did more harm than good (being targets for Tectonic Edge, coming into play tapped…) while (at least at the time) I thought they did more good than harm.

Nationals started out well with winning my first two rounds. Then I was paired against my teammate from last year, Love Janse who was sporting RDW. After somehow getting there in game 1 I found myself in game two once again needing just a Mountain from the top to win the game. I bricked for 3 turn before Love drew the last bolt he needed to win. In game 3 my draw was just overall fairly weak and I got binned in the end by Koth of the Hammer.

While it was a little sour to lose the match like that I wasn’t all that disappointed starting out 2-1. Now it was time to draft where I felt very comfortable about coming in. My pod for the first draft wasn’t all that spectacular on paper with the exceptions being Swedish magic veteran Mattias Kettil so overall I wasn’t particularly intimidated by the competition. After the draft was done I found myself with a reasonable aggressive metalcrafty RW deck (sorry, no decklist!). No really flashy bombs (I guess it depends on how high you rate Myr Turbine) but not too shabby at all. I felt confident that I would at least go 2-1 and maybe 3-0 if there wasn’t too many flashy rares in the pod.

Blowout.

To my great disappointment I only managed to go 1-2 with the deck. I won the first round against a slower version of my deck (that also splashed green) thanks to my fliers. Then in the following round I faced a UG deck that wasn’t all that spectacular overall from what I could see but he had some really good cards against decks like mine, cards like Tel-Jilad Fallen and what nod. It didn’t feel like a hopeless battle but I felt outgunned in the end. That trend continued to the last round of the first draft where my opponent swiftly crushed me with a Thopter Assembly in game 1 before I mized game 2 after a stumble on his part. In the deciding third game things were looking fairly well. I was on a clock from Decimator Web but I was clearly ahead on board. I had removal backup if he would land a big creature (like Thopter Assembly) and I was going to win the race versus his Decimator Web. So everything looked okay until he showed me Choking Fumes.

Choking Fumes? Really!? Oh man…

I tilted a little when he played the card as I personally dislike that card very much and think it’s barely playable. It’s a very situational defensive card which greatly conflicts with how white decks tends to play out in this format. But he had it there and then and it totally crushed me at that time. After the Choking Fumes blowout I couldn’t recoup and was eventually decked by the Decimator Web.

Going 1-2 wasn’t really according to plan and I was quite bitter at the time. I talked with some of the players of the draft I it quickly went up for me that this very draft was quite seat dependent. For example, there were no less than 3 Thopter Assembly in the draft. The guy to me direct left opened up Sword of War and Peace, Thopter Assembly and Myr Battlesphere…

After recouping from the disappointments that the last draft had in store for me I sat down for the second draft, which turned out to be one of the most… interesting drafts I ever had in this format. I was once again pushed into red after 2 Razor Swine tabled(!) in the first pack. I moved into blue in the second pack when the red seemed to dried out before I received a 7th pick Burn the Impure(!). From this I concluded that red was “open”, it was just that the packs as a whole was just dry of red cards. In Scars of Mirrodin a Wurmcoil Engine said hello in my opening pack and after that the deck came together quite nicely.

Beside the Wurmcoil Engine (which off course is absurd) the deck I deemed the deck about as good as my previous. All the karma I was missing during the last draft came back to me and with some fortunate draws I managed to stitch together a 3-0 finish.

My run at Nationals was promptly ended during the first Constructed round of day 2 though. I was paired against a gentlemen who was playing the GU Infect deck you can see occasionally on MODO. He led of with a Glistener Elf of a Forest while I played a Gitaxian Probe on my turn 1. He showed me 3 Vines of Vastwood along with a Forest and a Distortion Strike. Two turns later I was scooping up my cards. Then in the second I just didn’t draw…anything really. I staved of the first wave from his side but died eventually with 6 lands in play together with 2 more in hand along with 2 copies of Splinter Twin.

That was my Nationals 2011. 6-4-drop wasn’t exactly what I had in mind particularly compared with how I did last year. But ups and downs are a apart of Magic, that just how it is. Before I end I want to congratulate the Swedish team for this year, champion Martin Berlin alongside Per Rönnkvist and Joel Larsson. Kickass in the states later this year!

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