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Errare humanum est – a PTQ, a WMCQ and a SCGIQ

April 18, 2012

Over the course of the last two weekends I have played in a PTQ, a WMCQ and a Star City Games Invitational Qualifier (SCGIQ) and today I thought I do a little recap of my experience playing these events.

With the “don’t audible”-lesson from my last PTQ fresh in mind, I decided about 2 weeks before the PTQ (which was on April 8th in Gothenburg) to pick an archetype, gets as much practice with the deck as I can and stick with it for this leg of events.

The archetype I picked for this tour was Humans. I wrote about how impressed I was by the arsenal of the Human decks in my GP Lille report that I wrote for Blackborder last month and thought I put the arsenal to use myself.

For starters, I looked at several lists of people that had done well with in earlier events to get a good starting point and then worked my way from there to a list I felt comfortable with. The list below was what I ultimately came up with and registered for the PTQ:

Haunted Humans

4 Seachrome Coast
4 Glacial Fortress
3 Moorland Haunt
1 Island
12 Plains

4 Champion of the Parish
4 Doomed Traveler
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
2 Leonin Relic-Warder
2 Elite Inquisitor
4 Fiend Hunter
4 Blade Splicer
4 Hero of Bladehold

4 Honor of the Pure
2 Dismember
2 Angelic Destiny

Sideboard:

3 Mana Leak
3 Mental Misstep
2 Jace, Memory Adept
2 Gideon Jura
2 Celestial Purge
2 Corrosive Gale
1 Leonin Relic-Warder

The list is fairly what you would expect to look like when someone says “Haunted Humans” but there are some personal adjustments I guess I need to highlight.

The main difference in the main is the void of Mirran Crusader and Loyal Cathar which are otherwise close to staples in the archetype. Instead I opted to go with Blade Splicer and a mix of Leonin Relic-Warder and Elite Inquisitor.

While Mirran Crusader is potentially a stronger card than Blade Splicer in a couple of matchups, I believe Blade Splicer, which I have grown very fond over after my foray in playing BW Tokens, is just a stronger card overall. It’s better against removal at large, works better with Moorland Haunt and the token can block creatures with Sword of War and Peace slapped onto them. It even wins in a on board fight against Mirran Crusader for that matter.

Another vital reason why I prefer Blade Splicer is because it’s better against various Delver decks. Sure, they can Vapor Snag the token to permanently get rid of it but at least you don’t get horribly behind in tempo as you do when they snag your Mirran Crusader. In the case of Blade Splicer, you at least get to keep the splicer itself.

Loyal Cathar was a card I was initially really excited about but it has been somewhat disappointing for me. This is mainly because there are a lot of Phantasmal Image and Phyrexian Metamorph in the format which are very good if they can piggyback of a Loyal Cathar (the clone comes back for another go like it does against Undying-creatures) and how surprisingly irrelevant the card is on the flipside. The fact that it’s black (doesn’t get pumped by Honor of the Pure), isn’t human (doesn’t pump Champion of the Parish), can’t block (dreadful disability against other creature decks) AND only have 1 thoughness (always a victim of Gut Shot, Curse of Death’s Hold etc.) makes it so embarrassing in my eyes. It’s funny, if it was either white, human, could block or had 2 thoughness I think I would overlook the other faults but together? Not impressed.

Instead I opted for Leonin Relic-Warder, as I wanted to have some card to interact with artifacts and enchantments before sideboard without messing with Thalia, and Elite Inquisitor for his awesome stats against other creature decks.

The sideboard isn’t too hard to figure out which cards are for what opponents. Some of the more unusual decisions are Jace, Memory Adept, a strategy I have bummed from Delver decks sideboard to have against opponents like UB Control, and Mental Misstep, as I found that most games I lost against Delver involved either multiple Vapor Snag or quickly flipped Delver of Secrets and hence I wanted a card to fight those situations.

Okay, enough about the deck, let’s jump forward to the PTQ itself. It was a 58 player tournament which meant 6 rounds of swiss and probably not much room for late round intentional draws. This is how it went:

Tempered Steel L 0-2
Naya Pod W 2-0
5-color Control W 2-0
Esper Control W 2-0
Naya Pod L 0-2 Drop

Facing Tempered Steel in round 1 was not something I was prepared for and was quite handily crushed. Granted, my draws in either game wasn’t exactly spectacular but the matchup seemed quite rough to me overall, at least with the way I have built my version of Haunted Humans.

For the next 3 rounds the deck fired on all cylinders and worked like a charm. The highlight of these 3 rounds was game 1 against the Esper opponent where he only played a single spell, a Lingering Souls, due to the presence of a turn 2 Thalia before he died.

Despite losing round 1 my tiebreakers were excellent so I determined that I was locked for Top8 with a win in round 5. The match was quite close and I might have pulled that one out if the marginals were on my side. I lost the dieroll and my opponent led with Bird of Paradise into Sword of War and Peace. When he played the sword I looked at my hand and thought it was a cruel joke. Not only did I have Thalia, which would have meant everything if I had won the dieroll but I also had a Blade Splicer which could hold of…say a Avacyn’s Pilgrim holding the sword. I didn’t draw a Relic-Warder and thus were quickly dispatched. In the second game I came out really fast and got him down to low single digits in life before he stabilized with his bigger men. He gave me a couple of turn where if I had peeled Angelic Destiny or Gideon Jura of the top I would have won on the spot but that was not to be.

In the week between the PTQ and the WMCQ/SCGIQ I played with the deck some more, talked to people which opinion I respect which ended up resulting in a a couple of changes in the list before the WMCQ:

-2 Elite Inquisitor
+1 Leonin Relic-Warder
+1 Elite Vanguard

and for the sideboard I changed the following:

-2 Jace, Memory Adept
+1 Mana Leak
+1 Mental Misstep

Elite Inquisitor seemed better on paper than it did in the real world. Too often it just felt like a vanilla 2/2 and that just won’t cut it. Instead I fitted in another Leonin Relic-Warder, that turned out to be excellent and a Elite Vanguard, as I felt like that deck could need another 1 drop to get those quick openings that you want.

Jace got cut from the sideboard because most control players have shifted away from pure UB Control and gone to Esper or other variants which not only have good answers to Jace, like Oblivion Ring, but also have access to Sun Titan/Phantasmal Image which the milling plan is abysmal against. In it’s place another solid Mana Leak came in and I wanted another card against Delver so the 4th Mental Misstep was also included.

The WMCQ, which was on Saturday, was a 52 player tournament which meant 6 rounds of swiss. It went like the this:

Watanabe Delver W 2-0
Jund Wolf Run L 1-2
Jund Wolf Run W 2-0
Watanabe Delver W 2-1
Naya Pod W 2-1
Delver Spirits L 1-2

The deck performed well over the day and despite tripping again on the finish line to Top8 I can’t say I was displeased with the deck.

I lost in the second round against guy with Jund Wolf Run because of crucial mistake…on both our parts. On the critical turn, he was at 5 life and I had lethal in play even if he had a single removal spell or just a Primeval Titan. He draws for his turn, hits the sixth land and double black he needs, a Dragonskull Summit, and cast Black Sun’s Zenith to obliterate me. Now, what was the mistake?

After the match was done, which was only a couple of turns after the turn he cast the Black Sun’s Zenith, and the slip was signed, I replayed the game in my head to see if there was something I could have done differently to win that game while I was de-sideboarding. After pondering for a little bit I realize that the Dragonskull Summit my opponent peeled shouldn’t have come into play untapped as he didn’t have a mountain or swamp in play! Since the slip was signed and we had scooped up our card, there was nothing to do about it.

Now, judging from my opponents manners I’m quite sure he didn’t cheat intentionally but the whole situation off course sucked anyways. To be honest, I’m more angry with myself for being so gullible and not paying more attention to what my opponents was doing.

Lesson learned… the hard way.

Going into the last round of swiss, I was 4-1 and hoped that I could simply ID into the top8 but my tiebreakers were rubbish so I didn’t have that luxury. Instead I had to play it out against a close friend of mine, David Fallgren.

After winning game 1 in a commanding fashion, I lost game 2 after choosing the wrong creature to exile with Fiend Hunter. The game was very much in a balance at that point and I choose to exile his Snapcaster Mage instead of a tapped Insectile Aberration because with Snappy gone in addition with an attack with my team would basically put him on defense for the rest of the game. The plan failed however as he not only flipped his other Delver he had in play but also had Timely Reinforcements to completely swing the race in his favor. It’s not clear that I would have automatically won if I had exiled his flipped Delver instead but it was nevertheless the better choice.

Then I went on to lose a heartbreaking game 3 where I think I successfully played with the odds but was punished for it. On my last turn of the game, I was at only a single life but had pretty much lethal on board and David had 3 Vapor Snag left in his deck to give him the win on the spot. The crucial decision for me was whatever to attack with my Golem token or not. If I attack, I leave him with another out to draw, Sword of War and Peace, which I know he has a single copy left in the deck but the advantages of attacking is that makes sure that a Dungeon Geist, Batterskull, Lingering Souls or Timely Reinforments is not good enough for him to continue stall the game.

I ended up attacking with the token, said go and he did peel that last sword…leaving me a sad panda. David did eventually take down the whole thing though (kudos man!) so there could have been worse players to have lost to.

I recouped and after way too little sleep I was at it again in the SCGIQ the day after. Unfortunately, it didn’t go to well. Partly I felt like I was a little unlucky in my matches but it was mostly because I didn’t get much sleep the night before and my heart was somewhat out of it because of the day before:

Haunted Humans L 1-2
RG Aggro L 1-2 Drop

I don’t have much to comment about the mirror match, I kept a somewhat slow but powerful hand on the draw in game 3 but got way too far behind to be able to utilize the powerful cards in my hand.

Against the RG player I went down to 3 cards in game 1, still managed to put out a Leonin Relic-Warder with a Angelic Destiny on turn 4 but my opponent had enough gas to race. After quickly winning game 2, my opponent lead with Llanowar Elves into Sword of War and Peace in game 3 on the play.

Now I was faced with a Sophie’s choice-moment. I had lead off with a Champion of the Parish and contemplated whatever to just play Leonin Relic-Warder to get rid of his sword or lead with a Honor of the Pure. If I lead with Honor, I can play around any Galvanic Blast that he might have but I have to take a sword hit to do so.

If I lead with Relic-Warder, I’m exposed to a Galvanic Blast but it’s definitely the better play otherwise. If he has a removal spell like Incinerate, Brimstone Volley or Combust, it doesn’t matter if I lead with Honor… I’m cooked anyways. But if lead with Relic-Warder at least I prevent a sword hit for a turn.

As it was after sideboard and judging from the stock list of RG aggro looks like, I deemed it was about as probable for him to have a 3 dmg or more burn spell in hand and thus I went for the Relic-Warder straight away. My opponent directly punished me for my decision by playing an Arc Trail to kill both my creatures….

Yeah…

After that I took a couple of sword hits but manages to eventually peel a replacement to the fallen Relic-Warder and seemed to have stabilized and turn the tide. However, before I could finish my opponent off he managed to peel 2 copies of Galvanic Blast to unlock his sword once again and I was soon cooked.

Final words

With that this leg of Standard events is in the books and here we are. If you are looking for something to play in Standard for the few weeks left before Avacyn Restored gets released and like turning men sideways, I would highly recommend Haunted Humans. It’s a very solid deck with solid matchups against most of the format and you have access to a mighty arsenal of threats that many opponents cringe to face.

But when it comes down to it, the most pressing question regarding the deck is off course; how does it fare against Delver?

Well, if you ask me I rater be on the Humans side of the matchup although it’s close. However I know several dedicated Delver player how would rather be on the other side of the matchup. From my experience how the matchup goes depend greatly on the pilots and their skill and knowledge of the matchup. If you familiarize yourself with the deck I think you will find yourself eventually beating more Delver opponents than not.

Until next time,

Bernhard

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