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Dragon’s Lair Winter Championship 2013 – A report

March 5, 2013

So…Facepalm

If you have seen some of my tweets recently you probably have figured out I was playing in a Magic tournament last weekend, and judging from the picture above you have probably guessed how it went. But I’m getting ahead of myself, I will come to that picture in a bit.

As you might recall, my local game store in Stockholm (often abbreviated LGS around the web), Dragon’s Lair,  hosted last summer a big local two day event that ended up being a very well appreciated event and thus opted to, not surprisingly, host another tournament of the same scale already this winter; the Dragon’s Lair Winter Championship. The structure of the tournament was on day 1 X number of rounds of Standard Swiss (with X being the usual number of rounds given the number of players), and then top16 got to continue to play on the following day with a Gatecrash draft (3 rounds of Swiss) and then after that a top8 where Standard is once again the format of choice.

As I had just a couple of weeks ago been preparing for and then played in Grand Prix London, I felt fairly good about Gatecrash Limited and thus most of my prep work for the Winter Championship was focused on Standard, which I had not played much since Gatecrash was released. My deck selecting process for this event was somewhat weird and a bit different than usually because the settings for me for this event was to. By playing and doing rather well in a couple of earlier trials that were hosted to feed the Winter Championship, I had managed to gather 2 byes for the final event. In addition to the byes, since mostly local players would show and play I had a fairly good read on what decks to expect to be played at the event rather than the normal approach of relying on trying to get a good read about the current state of the format.

Because of the byes and knowing that most of the local ringer prefers playing Glacial Fortress decks and various midrangey decks as well as Humanimator being reasonably popular, I instinctively felt like I would want to be attacking for this tournament. Right after the Pro Tour the Aristocrats deck caught my eye as something that would be interesting for me to play. Not primarily because it won the Pro Tour, but more so because I thought Falkenrath Aristocrat and Knight of Infamy, and to certain extent Boros Reckoner, felt like cards that were well positioned in the format at the time.

So I picked the deck up and fooled around with for a while until I came to conclusion that, yes, Falkenrath Arisocrat and Knight of Infamy were indeed awesome and as long as you were playing against other creatures, Boros Reckoner was to. However, I wasn’t sold on the 3 color manabase. Always having the colors you need to play all your spells isn’t a given and the manabase is somewhat painful (12 shocklands), which depending on the matchup is a potential lethal problem. Having a bunch of Cavern of Souls in the deck together with 4 copies of Boros Reckoner is also challenging. In reality the manabase is probably fine but I’m personally very conservative when it comes to manabases and I usually like to keep things as simple as possible.

In addition to the issues I had with the manabase, I wasn’t exactly thrilled over the idea of having my Champion of the Parish or Boros Reckoner Azorius Charmed a lot since I expected to play against a fair number of those types of decks in the tournament. To combat these issues I tried to switch the Human core out along with Boros Reckoner for a Zombie core, much along the lines of what Sam Black described in his article about building the Aristocrat. I’m actually a bit reluctant to unveil the list as I didn’t end up bringing it to the Winter Championship for to be named reasons but it might be a deck I will revisit moving forward as the Standard PTQ season is drawing closer and the WMCQ season as well. Therefore I’d like to keep that list close to heart for the time being, but if you read Sam’s article I linked you will get a pretty good idea of what a Zombie version of the Aristocrat could look like.

Anyhow, I was liking how the Zombie version of the Aristocrats was shaping up and how it preformed in early testing. The manabase was slightly leaner and certainly not as painful, and I was much more happy with having Geralf’s Messenger in my deck than Boros Reckoner when facing down various Azorius Charm equipped opponents. But after a while it dawned on me that while the tricks you could do with the Aristocrats were cute and all, were they actually necessary? After all, it was the Falkenrath Aristocrats and Knight of Infamys that had drawn me to the archetype in the first place. So I tried to make an even simpler list:

BR Zombies

4 Diregraf Ghoul
4 Gravecrawler
4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Knight of Infamy
4 Thrill-Kill Assassin
4 Geralf’s Messenger
2 Thundermaw Hellkite
4 Falkenrath Aristocrat

3 Victim of Night
3 Searing Spear
1 Murder

4 Blood Crypt
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Rakdos Guildgate
2 Cavern of Souls
9 Swamp

SB: 3 Duress
SB: 3 Rakdos Charm
SB: 3 Vampire Nighthawk
SB: 1 Tormod’s Crypt
SB: 2 Olivia Voldaren
SB: 1 Dead Weight
SB: 2 Liliana of the Veil

Basically a deck of the previous format, not even containing a single card from Gatecrash, but is very much updated to handle the adversaries of today. The removal suite is made up to keep opposing Boros Reckoners, which is one of the greatest hurdles aggressive decks these days needs to get over, off the field. But even if an opponent gets a Reckoner to stick, it’s not that big of a deal. Knight of Infamy, Falkenrath Aristocrat and the hasty dragons swings by it at all times and in the early game even something as lowly as Thrill-Kill Assassin and Geralf’s Messenger can often swing into a Reckoner (assuming no mana is being held up for first strike-activation) without suffering too heavy casualties.

It wasn’t a perfect list by any stretch but I felt really comfortable with the archetype and was quite certain that I would be playing something about ~4 cards off the list above at the Winter Championship.

Then Grand Prix Quebéc happended.

Seeing the Naya Blitz deck taking it home and watching Nico Christiansen playing with the deck on camera for several rounds left me with a knot in my stomach.

Is this deck going to be a real force in Standard? Is this deck going to catch on? Will many of the local ringers suddenly pick this deck up? Will people now suddenly start playing a lot of cheap removal that previously had become out of fashion, like Pillar of Flame? And how on earth am I suppose to beat this deck with Zombies!?

These thoughts along with the usual post-tournament hype on various Magic sites left me feeling downright sick for a day or 2 directly after the GP. Even if aggressive decks overall wouldn’t suddenly become super popular, it was bound to be at least a handful of Naya Blitz decks at the tournament given the outstanding performance at the Grand Prix. Also it didn’t take long before realizing that playing 2/2s for B and 3/2s for BBB that came into play tapped and 2/1s for B that can’t block had no reasonable chance of beating that deck. So I thought that I had to throw the plan of playing Zombies into the garbage can and make new plans.

I still cared very much for the hasty vampire and the infamous knight so I conjured up, with some testing, the following list:

Rakdos Aggro

4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Stromkirk Noble
1 Stonewright
4 Ash Zealot
4 Knight of Infamy
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Falkenrath Aristocrat
2 Thundermaw Hellkite

1 Pillar of Flame
4 Dreadbore
4 Searing Spear
1 Brimstone Volley

4 Blood Crypt
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Rakdos Guildgate
11 Mountain

SB: 1 Tormod’s Crypt
SB: 2 Rakdos Charm
SB: 4 Reckless Waif
SB: 1 Hellrider
SB: 3 Pillar of Flame
SB: 3 Olivia Voldaren
SB: 1 Electrickery

Out went the Zombies and back in came Boros Reckoner to hold the fort. With this list I felt much more suited tackling any blitzing opponent while still remaining aggressive overall, which was something I wanted to remain doing for the Winter Championship.

It turned out that I was indeed correct with the assessment that Azorius Charm decks were the most represented group of decks at the tournament by far. There were a couple of Naya Blitz decks but most of rest of the field was fairly diverse. After realizing the what the meta at the tournament consisted of I felt sort of bad for panicking earlier in the week and abandoning my BR Zombie deck. Even though there were a couple of unwinnable matchup in the form of Naya Blitz in the field, a clear majority of the field was made out of decks that I was happy or at least fine with playing against wielding Zombies. To leave me even sourer about my deck decision a friend of mine ended up going 6-0 with no byes playing Jund Zombies. Kudos to Victor (said Zombie-playing friend) and shame on me.

After I had enjoyed lunch and my 2 byes I was ready to enter the fray along with the other 50 people who had showed up to game. I lost round 3 against Naya Blitz after losing the die roll (the first of many in this tournament) and died by a Searing Spear while I was about to stabilize in game 1. I then lost a fairly remarkable game 2 where I drew and played all 4 copies of Boros Reckoner in my deck…along with 9 lands. Even though my opponent couldn’t for the longest time attack me, eventually Howlpack Alpha created enough wolves to kill me in one attack. Even though I felt let down by my deck, I still felt fairly good about the matchup. Replace any of the card I drew that game with a Olivia and I’m 90+% sure I win that game.

In the next round I was up against what I assumed was Froehlich Naya. I flooded out game 1, he was manascrew game 2 and then in the decider I baited out enough of his removal so that when I finally dropped Olivia on the board he had no means of dealing with her. In the following round I was up against Jund Aggro. The match started out great with me winning what would turn out to be my only die roll of the tournament and then cruising in the for the win in game 1 with an unanswered Thundermaw Hellkite. Game 2 was equally lopsided the other way with him sealing the deal with Ghorclan Rampager, and then in the decider I once again flooded badly and simply couldn’t capitalize of my early advantage in the game. I did win the last round of the Swiss portion in Standard though against Mono Red after my deck finally showing me a little love along with my opponent bricking on drawing Searing Spear for 3 turns in the second game.

With my win in the last round I had locked up a slot for me in the draft portion the following day. Being 4-2 and in the second draft pod though didn’t leave me much room for error, as only 1 or 2 players depending on how the lone 4-2er in the first pod fared could conceivably make the top8.

I started the draft up with taking Mugging in the first pack with expecting to wheel either Aerial Maneuver or Ivy Lane Denizen and thus setting myself up for drafting either red guild. The next pick was tricky though where I had to decide between Skinbrand Goblin and Grisly Spectacle. The black card is significantly more powerful but this means potentially completely abandoning my first pick and the setup wheel, as red and black doesn’t interact all that well in this format. I also knew that the 2 players to my right in the draft have a preference for Orzhov, and there was a rare missing in the pack, so I ended up sticking with red and took the Skinbrand Goblin. That pick ended up being the defining pick of my whole draft.

After that I took mostly red cards to stay open for both the possibility of Gruul and Boros but I eventually slided into Boros when I got a late Debtor’s Pulpit in the first pack and then got 4th and 5th pick Wojek Halberdiers in the second pack. However, after that I didn’t get much besides a second pick Assemble the Legion in the last pack and I was left with following masterpiece:

 Garbage Boros

2 Wojek Halbardier
1 Burning-Tree Emissary
1 Skinbrand Golbin
1 Hellraiser Goblin
1 Warmind Infantry
1 Skyknight Legionnaire
1 Millennial Gargoyle
1 Knight of Obligation
2 Zarichi Tiger
1 Ordruun Veteran
1 Towering Thunderfist

1 Beckon Apparition
2 Mugging
1 Madcap Skills
1 Martial Glory
1 Aerial Maneuver
1 Arrows of Justice
1 Act of Treason
1 Assemble the Legion
1 Debtor’s Pulpit

1 Boros Guildgate
9 Mountain
7 Plains

Notable cards in the sideboard:

1 Dutiful Thrull
1 Smite
1 Righteous Charge
1 Vizkopa Confessor

Boros with a grand total of 7 creatures that cost 3 or less? 5 4-drops? Yeah, that’s not how a good Boros deck looks like. I’m not completely sure what happened in the draft, but I knew that the guy two seats to the right of me was drafting Naya and soaked up among other things a late Foundry Champion and a Assemble the Legions in the last pack and I’m pretty sure judging by how I got fairly late Boros-only cards in the second pack but little white overall that at least one of the 2 to me left was in Orzhov. I also think the packs wasn’t very deep either for Boros as for much of the second and third pack there was just nothing for me in the packs and then suddenly there could be two quality picks 4 or 5 picks in all of a sudden. On the other hand black was flowing and there was even a Balustrade Spy that wheeled in the last pack. If I had picked that Grizly Spectacle in the second pack my deck would have been a whole lot better, but I digress.

Regarding deck construction I mostly registered what I had because I was very short on playables as you can see. The only real decision I had was to maindeck Smite or not. I thought about for a while but decided not to, as Smite seemed horrible to have in the same deck with cards such as Hellraiser Goblin and Act of Aggression.

As you probably have figured by now I wasn’t very keen about my chances of going 2-1 or better with this deck, but I off course was certainly going to try to.

It started out well with a win in the first round against Dimir, where I mulled to 6 in game 1 and ended up being manascrewed and subsequently lost that game. My luck changed though and in the second game my opponent couldn’t deal with Assemble the Legion and then he went down to 6 and was stuck on 3 lands too long in game 3.

Supported by the little confidence granted by that win I went into round 2 of the draft against another longtime friend of mine and former National team member, Per Rönnkvist. He had been to the direct right of me in the draft and had manage to assemble a quite impressive Simic deck. This match was recorded on camera and you can watch the match here, starting from ~44 minutes in. I’m going to make a couple of comments more in-depth of the match, so to understand what I’m referring to, please watch the match or at least skim through the relevant parts.

In game 1 I was absolutely aware that the Aerial Maneuver play I made could end horribly in approximately a 1000 ways, but even if we just ended up trading trick for a trick and me basically chumping his Metropolis Sprite with my Wojek Halbardier, that seemed and still seem like a fine play to me. I have Assemble the Legion in my hand so I just want to try to make the game go as long as possible and thus preserving my lifetotal and/or potentially forcing him to use his mana on a trick instead of developing his board is in my best interest.

In the second game the commentators are absolutely right about the Skinbrand Goblin play on turn 3. There is no reason for me to not bloodrush there and have a 2/2 in play instead of a 2/1. Damn you, autopilot! Thankfully it didn’t end up mattering.

In game 3 there were 2 major points where I could have played differently and could have made decisions that would have altered the outcome of the match. First there is the Madcap Skills play on turn 4. My reasoning with putting Madcap Skill on Wojek Halbardier instead of the Skyknight Legionnaire was to play for the Assemble the Legion (and my sideboarded Smite) in my hand. By putting it on the Skyknight, I increase my chances of winning short term but it does in some sense put all of my eggs in the same basket. If he does come up with an answer to the Skyknight or even just draws and plays another flier, I’m in serious problems as the Assemble the Legion would probably not have been able to race his Elusive Krasis. A Halbardier with Madcap Skills is way easier for him to deal with but on the other hand, if he does, it’s not that big of a deal. In fact, even though I 1-for-2:ed myself trading the Halbardier on the following turn for his Elusive Krasis, that was fine in my world as Elusive Krasis is one of his best bets of beating a resolved Assemble the Legion from my perspective. Now it turned out that he didn’t draw a second flier or an answer to the Skyknight until way later in the game, so putting the Madcap Skills on my flier would have most likely won me this particular game.

Then we have the situation later on where I’m finally forced to block his Rust Scarab, which was a turn I certainly could have played better. It simply boils down to me not giving Per enough respect of him drawing Pit Fight that turn (as I was pretty sure his other card in hand was an Island given how he had played the game). Instead of putting a single soldier token in front of the scarab, I should have blocked with all of my soldiers. By doing this, I’m offering him to trade 4 tokens for his scarab (and the Assemble the Legion, off course) and if he wants to use his Pit Fight, he needs to blink first.

If I had blocked this way what probably would have happened was that he would blink first by playing the Pit Fight to take out my Towering Thunderfist and then try to kill 4 of my tokens in combat. If he does this, I could just have blowed him out by using Smite in response. In that case I would have been left with 5 tokens and my Towering Thunderfist versus his lone Zameck Guildmage, untapped and attacked for 8 and then pass the turn with lethal in play. Given the topdecks that followed, that would have been enough to win me the game. In either case, I think it’s correct to cast Smite that turn no matter how you block since having a Smite left in your hand is not something that seems ideal when you only have 1 flier left in your deck versus his plenty, but I should for sure allowed him the opportunity to walk down this trap I just described. Instead I was justifiably punished by not seeing this line of play and lost a couple of turns later to a Zameck Guildmage fueled Metropolis Sprite.

Magic is a hard game. :/

Even though I was technically dead in the tournament I decided to play out the last round to see if I could 2-1 with this heap of garbage. To make it really hard I was paired against Grand Prix Malmö runner-up Oscar Almgren, who probably had the best deck in the entire draft playing Naya and sporting cards such as Assemble the Legion, Foundry Champion, Rubblehulk and Clan Defiance.

I lost game 1 in one of the most astonishing fashions I have yet to lose to: resolving my Assemble the Legion after his. Technically I died off his Foundry Champion doming me for 13 but I was pretty much drawing dead as soon as he resolved his enchantment, as I had no real way of getting ahead in the Assemble the Legion arms race.

I then lost game 2 playing one of the worst games of Magic I have played in a long time and I just actually threw away a game I potentially still could have won,  hence the facepalm-picture in the beginning. I don’t even want to talk about what happened and/or what I did…I find it frankly too embarrassing to talk about. 😦

The fact that we weren’t really playing for anything and I was pretty tired and hungry by that point certainly had an affect on my plays and to be fair, I don’t think I had a shot in hell to win another game against Oscar’s deck so the end result felt fair; nevertheless I felt mentally crushed by how poorly I played that game. I haven’t felt that pissed about myself after a game of Magic in a long time.

I have written many a word at this point about the tournament and it’s time for me to round off. Big kudos to the people who did well at the event and to Dragon’s Lair for continuing to organize awesome events and continuing to look how to improve both as a store and at organizing events! ❤

As for comments on the Rakdos deck I played, I’m not sure if it’s a deck I will continue to play with and work on moving forward. As I mentioned, the settings for me coming into the Winter Championships was somewhat extraordinary and it very much affected my choice of deck. If you are interested in picking up the Rakdos deck I would recommend cutting Brimstone Volley for a Hellrider in the maindeck, as I feel the deck needs a little more “umph” compared to the number of lands that are in the deck. I flooded quite a bit in the tournament, so having a little more late game action seems necessary to make flooding not hurt so much. In addition to that, I would cut a Rakdos Charm for another card to bring in against other aggro decks. I’m not sure what exactly, but something like an Electrickery could do it.

That said, after playing this weekend and doing some more soul searching, I think you probably have to play Burning-Tree Emissary in your red aggro deck these days, if for no other reason just to simply keep up with the other aggro decks in the format! If that is indeed the case, then the Rakdos shell is most likely not where you want to be as Burning-Tree Emissary doesn’t interact as well with Knight of Infamy as it does with Flinthoof Boar.

That was what I had to say about the Winter Championship and about my run in the event. I hope you enjoyed it!

Until next time,

Bernhard

Grand Prix London 2013 – The Sealed pool

February 18, 2013

Hey,

In case you missed it, I was in London now two weekends ago and played in the GP. I didn’t do too well but I wrote a report from the event along with some impressions about the format that went up last week over at blackborder.com.

I’m mentioning this again directly on the blog because in the article, I wrote that I regrettably had not remembered to save my Sealed pool from the GP and thus it was not listed there; however it turns out that I actually did! To my joy I discovered when I came home (but unfortunately after I had submitted the article) that I had actually stowed away the cards in separate box.

Instead of going so far and re-editing the whole article, I thought I just post the Sealed pool here as a complement to the article. How would you have approached this pool and which 40 cards would you have put down on your decklist?

Bernhard Zander GP London 2013 Day 1 Sealed pool:

Lands:

1 Breeding Pool
1 Dimir Guildgate
2 Gruul Guildgate

Artifacts:

1 Armored Transport
1 Millennial Gargoyle
1 Razortip Whip

White:

1 Aerial Maneuver
1 Court Street Denizen
1 Daring Skyjek
1 Dutiful Thrull
2 Guildscorn Ward
2 Knight Watch
1 Nav Squad Commandos
1 Righteous Charge
2 Syndic of Tithes
1 Urbis Protector

Blue:

1 Agoraphobia
1 Clinging Anemones
1 Frilled Oculus
1 Keymaster Rouge
1 Last Thoughts
1 Leyline Phantom
1 Simic Fluxmage
1 Spell Rupture
1 Totally Lost

Black:

1 Balustrade Spy
1 Basilica Screecher
1 Contaminated Ground
1 Corpse Blockade
1 Horror of the Dim
1 Illness in the Ranks
1 Mental Vapors
1 Midnight Recovery
1 Realmwright
1 Shadow Alley Denizen
1 Shadow Slice

Red:

1 Bomber Corps
1 Ember Beast
1 Foundry Street Denizen
1 Madcap Skills
1 Massive Raid
1 Skinbrand Goblin

Green:

1 Alpha Authority
1 Diciple of the Old Ways
1 Experiment One
1 Greenside Watcher
1 Hindervines
1 Ivy Lane Denizen
2 Naturalize
1 Serene Remembrance
1 Slaughterhorn
1 Spire Tracer
1 Wasteland Viper
1 Wildwood Rebirth

Multicolor:

1 Borborygmos Enraged
1 Duskmantle Guildmage
1 Elusive Krasis
1 Executioner’s Swing
1 Ghor-Clan Rampager
1 Gruul Ragebeast
1 Hydroform
2 Kingpin’s Pet
1 Martial Glory
1 Mortus Strider
1 Mystic Genesis
1 Psychic Strike
1 Rubblehulk
1 Ruination Wurm
1 Skyknight Legionnaire
1 Truefire Paladin
1 Zameck Guildmage
1 Zhur-Taa Swine

Hybrid:

1 Arrows of Justice
1 Beckon Apparition
1 Bioshift
1 Merfolk of the Depths
2 Pit Fight

Or if you rather have the pool in a .txt-file, you can find it here.

You can find my build and the thought process behind it in my blackborder.com-article.

// Bernhard

Revisiting Momir Basic

January 30, 2013

I have been running this blog since late 2008 using the WordPress-engine and I have been quite happy about it. The features are sweet, the dashboard is tight and the end product looks good. Another cool things about WordPress is the amount of statistics the engine provides regarding your blog, so you can access tons of data about things like the number of unique readers you have per day, where the readers come from, how they came across your blog (search terms, referrers, etc.) and which entries that are the most read.

I’m mentioning this because of the later. What topic and/or which specific entry do you think have made the most people stumble on The Exploration and is the most read topic/entry?

If you are totally clueless despite the title of this very post, it’s Momir Basic! To be more precise it’s this post I wrote about the format last summer. When I started to notice the trend I was quite surprised but at the same time delighted. Momir Basic isn’t a very covered format and certainly doesn’t get attention on a daily basis, so I got to assume there is a demand for content about the format that simply isn’t met. Therefore plentiful of people have found their way here and I’m happy that I have been able to fill some of that void with that piece. After all, Momir Basic is a key format to play if you intend on going infinite on Magic Online so it’s not weird that a lot of people want to learn more about the format.

Naturally, the overwhelming popularity for the piece I wrote about Momir Basic have left me wanting for quite sometime to revisit the topic and write more about the format. However, because of the simple structure of the format, not a whole lot have changed during the ~18 months since I wrote about Momir Basic previously. Although new creatures are added constantly to the format with each set release, it requires a creature with a high mana cost and a momentous effect to notably shake up the format. It’s arguable but I would claim that no such creature have been printed since July 2011.

Since the format evolves in a glacial pace, there just haven’t been enough for me to say about the format to warrant writing a blog entry or a full blown article. In addition I still stand by practically everything I wrote the last time, so I haven’t not even been able to write a correctional piece or whatever you want to call it. It’s just all quite on the western front…until now, I should say.

Yes, I have finally got to the point that I feel like I have enough new things to say to honor Momir Basic with another blog post. Before we jump into the things I want to talk about, I strongly recommend you to read the last post I wrote first. That post was really Momir Basic 101 while the stuff I will be addressing today is more Momir Basic 102. In other words, the content of this post builds upon a lot of things I talked about back then. Off course, if you have played the format a fair bit and already feel well versed about the intricacies of the format, feel free to go on reading.

Giving credit where credit is due: 9-drops

As mentioned, I think the last piece I wrote has stood the test of time really well overall. That said, one of the shortcomings with it was the close to no respect I gave to 9-drops. I basically said that they were inferior to 8-drops and that you should never be activating Momir Vig on 9 instead of 8.

That is not the whole truth.

The powerlevel between an arbitrary 8-drop and arbitrary 9-drop is comparable. There are some hit and misses in both groups but overall you get about the same deal in the end no matter the amount of mana you pumped into Momir Vig. Therefore I would still recommend you to keep aiming at 8 lands as the end of your curve. The logic is that in the same time you could make a 9-drop, you can make 2 8-drops AND started your curve earlier. Since the difference in powerlevel between 8s and 9s are close to negligible, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense of going up all the way to 9. So in this regard I standby with my previous sayings.

However, there is one thing the 9-drops can brag about as a group that the 8-drops can’t; there is no 9-drop that will completely screw you over. When you are significantly ahead on board, the last thing you want to flip is a Kedrek Leviathan, Denzied of the Deep or Akron Legionnaire  There are no 9-drops with such tremendous drawback (currently as I’m writing this, I should add). Therefore 9-drops do have a slight advantage over the 8s. It’s not enough in my opinion to validate gameplans where ending on 9 mana instead of 8 is the goal, partly because the chance of hitting a given 8-drop on any given activation is less than 0.5% (and dropping by each new set), but if you by a freak chance accidentally can get to 9 (after hitting some card draw or mana acceleration on the way) keep that in mind and don’t get completely fixated on the 8-drops. If you are firmly in a winning position there is no reason to give yourself the chance of giving the game away.

Dangerous drops

On a similar note as the last segment, there are dangers lower in the curve you should be mindful of. While there are creatures that usually mean more trouble for you than your opponent, like Sky Swallower or Worldgorger Dragon, there are a couple that you just flat out lose by hitting. Phage, the Untouchable is probably them most famous one, sitting at 7 mana, but hitting a Leveler on 5 will also do you in. My philosophy with these dangers are similar to the 8-drops vs. 9-drops discussion.

The change of hitting a Phage or a Leveler is so small that I won’t be bother by the possibility while I’m curving out and the game is still anyone’s for the taking. The average upside with the creatures on 5 and 7 greatly outweighs the minimalistic chance of losing on the spot. That said, if the game is looking really promising there’s no need to give your opponent an extra out. Just avoid making a 5 or a 7 for whatever reason you were thinking of doing it in the first place. If I’m fully curved out by normal standards (i.e. I have 8 lands in play) and I’m in a clear winning position but still feel the need to add something to the board, 6 is my default safe haven. Worst case scenario you might hit a Worldgorger Dragon, which could be rough depending on the actual boardstate but when everything comes around is still a 7/7 flier. That usually does the trick despite of the annoying “remove all other permanents”-trigger.

Platinum Emperion and other extraordinary creatures

While starting out making creatures on 3 lands when you are on the play and 2 when you are on the draw and then work your way up to 8 lands is a perfectly sound gameplan for any given game, there are creatures that have such a profound impact on games that they warrant alterations in your gameplan. I touched on the subject in my previous post when I mentioned Sundering Titan and how you can play around that guy fairly well by constructing your deck and playing out your lands in a certain fashion. Today the focus will rather be on more direct responses.

The standard bearer for this league of extraordinary creatures is Platinum Emperion, not only because of his game warping effect but also because he is frequent to show up (considering 8 is the most commonly used value of X used to activate Momir Vig with and there is “only” 101 (according to this little site) different 8s as I’m writing this). When this gentlemen makes an appearance the games almost always takes a new turn, as often the board is clogged up and neither player can attack in a profitable fashion. The interesting question is what do you do when you find yourself with this boardposition? There are in my opinion a couple of different lines you can take, from both the perspective of the player controlling Platinum Emperion and the other guy trying to beat it.

In either case, continuing to spew out 8s is suboptimal. If you are controlling Platinum Emperion, you don’t want to risk losing it by your own doing. As I have earlier mentioned today you should at least go up to making 9s. If you are in the opposite position, I’d like to move up to 9s as well as you are more likely to hit an answer to a Platinum Emperion among the 9s compared to the 8s, while also reducing the risk of actually screwing yourself over as a bonus. You can do a gatherer search yourself to verify but by my count there is 2 reasonable answers to a Emperion among the 9s (Bringer of the Red Dawn and Kuro, Pitlord) among a total of 30 9s, which means you are about ~6,5% of hitting an answer at every Momir Vig-activation. If we make the same analysis on the 8s, we have 4 direct answers (Hoverguard Sweepers, Avatar of Woe, Sanguine Praetor and Living Inferno) plus Kedrek Leviathan which probably isn’t ideal but will at least progress the game. There are currently 101 8s and that leaves us with about ~5% chance of hitting an answer with every activation, and that is with counting in Kedrek Leviathan and disregarding that you risk screwing yourself over with something like Denizen of the Deep.

So is making 9s the ultimate answer to the Platinum Emperion conundrum? No, not always, as in many aspects of Magic; it depends. If you are the person controlling Platinum Emperion and the board doesn’t look overly threatening even if you would lose the giant robot on the following turn, you should strongly consider going bigger than 9s. I have seen people trying to go really deep by making land drops up to 15 in order to go for the Emrakul-kill. I think that 15 is a bit overkill but the principle is sound. After all, even if you don’t add anything to the board while making those necessary land drops, there isn’t much the opponent can do to get rid of the Emperion. Heck, even if the opponent makes 5 9s, he/she doesn’t even have a 30% shot of finding either Bringer of the Red Dawn or Kuro, Pitlord! What I recommend is to aim for the 11s, as this group of creatures have the beautiful qualities of being small in numbers, most of them can punch through about any boardposition and they do not threaten to screw you over in anyway. Even though it might take a couple of turns before they get there, Darksteel Colossus, Pathrazer of Ulamog, Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre and Worldspine Wurm will get you there eventually. Particularly the Eldrazis are nice as they also by every attack reduces your opponent’s chance of getting out of the ordeal by annihilation.

The same gameplan could be utilized by the player in the opposite position although I wouldn’t recommend it. The problem is that pretty much only Ulamog, Blightsteel Colossus and Emrakul are good enough to beat Platinum Emperion, i.e. you have a smaller selection of creatures to hit that will matter, and you also have to worry about getting attacked back as you don’t have the fluffy cushion that Platinum Emperion provides that the other guy has.

As I mentioned, Platinum Emperion is the most interesting creature you will have to deal with on a regular basis, but he is certainly not the only creature that will lead into interesting decision making and lead into playing games of Momir Basic differently. I’m not going to raffle off a complete list of the interesting creatures in Momir Basic as 1) that list would be insanely long, 2) because of the odds hitting a specific creature in the cmc <=6-region is very small and thus chances are that I haven’t had a ton experience with each of every one of them and 3) how to play with them often greatly depends on what else is going on in said game. That said, it’s interesting to ponder on how to play with or against a creature like Hokori, Dust Drinker or Oona, Queen of the Fae, because it’s such factors that can separate those who regularly goes 3-1 or better at Daily Events and those who don’t.

With that I think I have cleared my plate for today. I hope my revisitation to Momir Basic was learning and entertaining. As always, if you have any questions or think I’m talking mumbo jumbo about something, feel free to drop a comment down below!

Until next time;

All hail Momir Vig!

2012 in the mirror

December 31, 2012

It’s the 26th of December (at least currently as I’m starting to write this) and that means it’s time for my annual reflective annals. Every year I look back and muse about the year that has passed and what I expect and hope for in the year to come, from a personal, magical perspective. So please allow me to do just that, right here and now.

2012 started out on my part with two decks really. In Standard I spent the first couple of months casting Primeval Titans and that experience culminated with GP Lille where I ended up a bit short on day 1 after a close match against Delver in the last round. Still, I was quite happy with the list in retrospect and rather credit most of my losses at the tournament to poor mulligan decisions.

At the same time I had become heavily invested with Living End in Modern. The “love affair”, if you will, started out really as a objective experiment as Living End was an archetype I had little experience with previously and I wanted to know what’s really up with the deck. And what can I say; there is a couple of things that deck does that are really admirable in my opinion. It’s a very simple deck and is very consistent in doing what the deck does. It’s also quite good against people playing “fair” decks, which I think are way more represented then they should be in Modern. On the flip side the deck is quite bad against other combo decks, particularly those who sports Steam Vents in them and that is the main reason people like to shy away from the deck.

I wasn’t really committed into playing Living End during the season but it kept being a deck I came back to while I was fumbling around with the format. Those who know me knows that I really appreciate consistency and thus Living End had me hooked…sort of. It preformed well in the events I entered with it but right before the only paper PTQ I got to play in that season I started to lose faith; faith in Living End, the format and myself.

People who’s opinion I respect would bicker me with questions like “are you REALLY considering playing Living End at a PTQ?”, which wasn’t exactly boosting my confidence. In addition I suspected that Steam Vent decks would be reasonably popular at that PTQ in particular which also made my confidence falter.

This lead me doing something I thought I had grown past; the last minute audible. Not only did I went through with the cardinal sin, I opted to audible to a really sketchy deck…Zoo. Needless to say I crashed and burned at the PTQ but at least I learned something. So I hope, I should say…

Next up was Standard again with a PTQ and a WMCQ in connecting weekends. I opted to play Haunted Humans for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I didn’t want to play Delver if I could justify it as playing several mirrors over the course of each tournament was not something I wanted to do. Further on, before Restoration Angel was out you could put Delver on their back foot fairly easily if you were aggressive enough, which Haunted Humans certainly was. In addition I was really impressed with Thalia and how resilient the deck was to ordinary sweepers by playing against it and spectating at GP Lille. Lastly, Zombies had become a real thing by this time in Standard and playing white cards was certainly the best thing you could be doing against Zombies.

Overall I was content with how the deck preformed over those events. I lost playing for Top8 at both the PTQ and the WMCQ…and I’m quite certain that I would have made the top8 in the WMCQ if I had just payed attention against the first Wolf Run deck I faced in the Swiss. However my little affair with Haunted Humans effectively ended with the WMCQ as Restoration Angel was released just a couple of weeks later and we all know by now how that card put the format on its head.

After those Standard events GP Malmö was the next notable event on my schedule. I was quite confident with the format going in and had fairly high hopes on myself. Although I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed the format overall and certainly don’t place it high on my list of top Limited formats ever, but I had a pretty high win percentage during my time with the format. Formats where playing 18 lands is often correct seems to be my wheelhouse.

The pool I was greeted with as I sat down for deck construction at the GP left me with much to wish for. I had a solid white core with Angel of Glory’s Rise, a Terminus and a Moonsilver Spear as standout cards, however I didn’t really have a second color. While there was a Spirit Away in blue, there was just not enough playables to even get to 22 cards. The green was okay but that would leave me with literally Terminus as the only removal spell (and Holy Justicar I guess, depending on how you look at things). I would not have any of that so I ended up with going with black as my secondary color. Those who have played AVR Limited know that black isn’t exactly the Cadillac of the format in therms of card quality…

In the end I had a deck with a couple of really good cards but I din’t like my deck as a whole. Not only did I have to play a couple of really subpar cards in terms of overall quality, my deck was very reactive and that is something I don’t like to be in Limited. I’m happy to be playing decks that strive to go longer in games and revolves around card advantage but I don’t like cringing on what the opponents does. Like what you have to do to get the most out of a card like Terminus. Not unexpectedly I was dead by midday but fought on to finish 6-3 to redeem some honor.

About a month later it was time for another PTQ and WMCQ, this time in Malmö, again both Standard events. By now Restoration Angel had been fully infused in the Delver archetype and with that clearly propelling Delver to the clear “best deck” of the format. Although I still didn’t want to play a bunch of mirrors I didn’t really like anything else in the format, hence playing something that wasn’t Delver felt stupid. While that reasoning and decision was certainly healthy, I ended up having just a god-awful weekend playing Magic. I made several sketchy decision in games that I ended up paying for while at the same time having several really bad draws over the course of the weekend. The cream of the crop was that I after those tournament also concluded that my list had a land too many in it, causing me to flood out a lot. That was off course a fault on my part of not testing enough with the deck beforehand and instead relying too much on the judgment of “people on the Internet”. Although some wisdoms were learned from that weekend, it felt mostly like an experience that was best discarded and never thought about again.

During the summer I didn’t have a lot of events to play in and subsequently I wasn’t playing too much Magic during this time. I played in a couple of online PTQs but to no result worth speaking of. However at the end of the summer there was the Summer Championship, which was a local event my local watering hole for Magic, Dragon’s Lair, had manage to pump up a quite impressive prize pool in. This ended up being my highlight for 2012 (I know, spoilers etc.) as for tournaments goes. Not directly because I ended up doing rather well and finish in the Top4 but rather how I prepared for the event, correctly analyzed what the expected the field would look like, choose deck after the expectations and finally how I played at the event. I rather don’t delve too much of the entire process here and now, so please read my report from the event for the whole story. Anyhow, I felt vindicated on many level after my really poor performance in Malmö at the beginning of the summer and got some confidence in myself back.

Lastly we have the fall, which I don’t have too much to say about. Because of things happening in my “non-Magic life” I took a break from my column over at www.blackborder.com and didn’t play a whole lot of Magic during the early fall. Regrettably no GP was participated in for my part and I only managed to squeak in a single paper PTQ, in which my pool was rather lackluster and subsequently did not go well for yours truly. I did however got back to writing regularly again by the end of the year and I’m really glad that I got myself back in doing that.

All in all not a amazing year for me by any stretch, playing or otherwise, but certainly filled with some necessary growing pains for me as a person. I felt really bad about cutting down that much on Magic as I did during the fall, which included skipping out on all three of the European GPs, but that’s the curl of the burl. Hopefully I should be able to redeem myself on that part starting next year (although the recently announced cut in Swedish PTQs per season from 2 to 1 is going to make things more challenging for us Swedish “wannabes”). I’m also quite psyched about continue to write about the game both here and over at Blackborder when able, as that is something I really enjoy to do. I have some other projects related to Magic in my head that I would like to explore in 2013 but that depends on how much time I get spend on the game. So fingers crossed for that.

That was about what I had to say about my 2012 playing Magic and what I expect from 2013. Before saying goodbye to 2012 I would like to wish you a happy new year, say thanks for reading and finally say stay tuned for more.

See you in 2013!

Best regards,

Bernhard

How would you play it? – Conclusion

November 16, 2012

Now it’s time for the conclusion of the Sealed deck exercise I threw you guys at the beginning of the week.

Since the number of suggested builds that were sent in was scarce, I will just go through my thought process during the deck building session at the PTQ as well as some thoughts about the pool and the build in hindsight.

First I want to say as a general note that my approach on how to narrow down what color and cards to play for any given Sealed deck is to pinpoint your big game changers (or bombs if you will) and then make a great effort to play them.

The bombs might force you to bend your manabase in an awkward fashion or leave you in color that is short of a playable or two, but it’s usually worth it. Particularly in Limited there are cards that can single handedly win games pretty much regardless of what the opponent is doing, so it’s fine strategy to play relatively subpar card compared to the opponent during the first couple of turns of a game as long as you have an ace in the hole. It’s certainly not an unique approach for sure, but it’s working great so I have yet been served a reason why to deviate from it.

Sidenote, you can read more about this philosophy in this recent article by LSV.

So I started with scouring through the pool and as I already stated in the previous post, I wasn’t super happy about the tools I had to work with. Not a whole lot of powerful cards nor removals spells to be seen. The only thing that was somewhat pleasing at first sight was that the pool had a fair amount of options regarding manafixing, which is something at least.

I quickly came to the realization that Korozda Guildmage might be the strongest individual card in the pool. Don’t get me wrong, Lotleth Troll and Precinct Captain are really good. However they both are quite mana intensive and they are only truly awesome if you draw then in the early turns, which means splashing for them is weak. The guildmage on the other hand is great on turn two but it’s even better if you draw it later which means the guildmage is far more splash friendly.

Now I like Korozda Guildmage quite a lot (all the guildmages are fantastic, particularly in Sealed) but realizing that it might be your best card in the pool is somewhat of a turn off.

You would like to open at least some a sweet rare or two, *cough* Pack Rat *cough*, but that was not how this PTQ was going to play out for me.

Between pinpointing Korozda Guildmage as a card that I would most certainly have to play and the fact that I had 2 Golgari Guildgate and a Selesnya Guildgate, I tried to look if I could make green-black or green-white with a black splash happen. These were the two approaches I came up with:

GBw

2 Golgari Guildgate
1 Selesnya Guildgate
7 Swamp
5 Forest
2 Plains

1 Centaur’s Herald
1 Dryad Militant
1 Drudge Beetle
1 Daggerdrome Imp
2 Grim Roustabout
1 Korozda Guildmage
1 Lotleth Troll
1 Wild Beastmaster
1 Korozda Monitor
2 Towering Indrik
1 Perilous Shadow
1 Terrus Wurm

1 Giant Growth
1 Deviant Glee
1 Golgari Keyrune
1 Mind Rot
1 Stab Wound
1 Launch Party
1 Knightly Valor
1 Trostani’s Judgment
1 Rites of Reaping

GWb

2 Golgari Guildgate
1 Selesnya Guildgate
5 Forest
8 Plains
1 Swamp

1 Centaur’s Herald
1 Drudge Beetle
1 Concordia Pegasus
1 Precinct Captain
1 Korozda Guildmage
1 Wild Beastmaster
1 Seller of Songbirds
1 Centaur Healer
2 Vassal Soul
1 Korozda Monitor
2 Towering Indrik

1 Giant Growth
2 Swift Justice
1 Security Blockade
1 Stab Wound
1 Common Bond
1 Launch Party
1 Knightly Valor
1 Trostani’s Judgment
1 Coursers’ Accord

As an explanation to some of the card choices that I made, I really wanted to keep whatever build I ended up with really aggressive. Since I don’t have a whole lot of late game power or removal to deal with opposing such, I wanted to put myself in the drivers seat in each game and try to close out games before any of my opponents could draw and play their more powerful cards. That is why Knightly Valor was splashed for in the GB based build and how Dryad Militant got in there as the 23rd card. The militant specifically got in there because I really wanted to avoid dipping further into white and there wasn’t much else to choose from in either black or green.

You might point towards Slum Reaper or Treasured Find and ask why I didn’t play either of them, and to that I have the following to say; Slum Reaper is just not good card, as it’s highly likely that the opponent can just sacrifice something that you couldn’t care less about. I have used it once or twice as a sideboard card, but that’s about as much credit I can give to that card. In addition I wasn’t interested in another 4 drop as my deck already had 4 and my deck also didn’t really have any creature that you could easily throw away, like a Gatecreeper Vine. I have a bit warmer feelings for Treasured Find, but unless I have at least one Grizzly Salvage and/or is playing a very controlling deck, I’d like to stay away from it.

Anyhow, after I had crafted those lists, I went ahead to look if there was a less obvious route that you could go with the pool. Outside of green, black and white, the card with the most potential is Teleportal, so I went ahead and tried to make a list the included that card:

RBu

1 Izzet Guildgate
1 Transguild Promenade
8 Swamp
6 Mountain
1 Island

1 Rakdos Cackler
1 Daggerdrome Imp
2 Grim Roustabout
1 Frostburn Weird
1 Guttersnipe
2 Lobber Crew
1 Splatter Thug
1 Perilous Shadow
1 Cobblebrute
1 Soulsworn Spirit
1 Spawn of Rix Maadi
1 Isperia’s Skywatch
1 Terrus Wurm

1 Deviant Glee
1 Syncopate
1 Teleportal
1 Mind Rot
1 Stab Wound
1 Izzet Keyrune
1 Launch Party
1 Traitorous Instinct

While this approach looked better than I imagine beforehand, there are still several iffy details about it. There is less removal than in either the GBw or GWb version, the manabase is worse, the curve is higher and there a couple of card that I just don’t want to play with.

Guttersnipe is one.

I can make a case for Guttersnipe in aggressive and dedicated Izzet decks, but in here he is just going to be more than a Gray Ogre more often than not. Not only are there just 5 instants and/or sorceries in the deck but they are also for the most part spells in which you cast at very specific points in game. For example, you don’t curve into Teleportal or Traitorous Instinct in the same way you curve into a Inspiration or Annihilating Fire. If instants and sorceries isn’t a part of your regular curve, Guttersnipe is quite poopy to be honest.

With the final minutes of deck construction looming, I discarded the idea of playing RBu and subsequently narrowed it down to choosing between either of the green lists.

In the end, I went for the GBw approach for a couple of reasons; The manabase was slightly better in that version as the white cards I looked into playing was very color intensive (Vassal Soul, Precinct Captain), the black cards offered me a little more long game (Perilous Shadow, Terrus Wurm, Lotleth Troll) than the white cards while still allowing me to be as aggressive and finally because I just like Lotleth Troll more than Precinct Captain.

As you know my tournament ended short at 2-2, but despite the actual result I liked where I went with the pool in hindsight. The card quality overall wasn’t that great so trying to be aggressive was certainly the plan to pursue  The approach I went for allowed me to do that while also allowing me to just play the strongest cards in my pool.

With some perspective I think it’s actually closer between the green-white based version and the green-black based I choose since white does offer a fair amount of fliers which supports the beatdown plan a lot. Therefore I could see an argument being made for playing the white heavy version instead since it might increase my chances of mizing games against otherwise better decks, but that’s about it.

Those were my thoughts about this Sealed pool. Feel free to mention if you like where I went with the pool or if you would have done something differently. With that I wish you the best of luck for the remaining PTQs and for GP Taipei and/or Lisbon for those who are attending!

May you open many a Pack Rat,

Bernhard

Thoughts about Standard leading up to GP Bochum

November 14, 2012

Hey,

Sadly, I’m not attending GP Bochum because I’m preoccupied elsewhere. That does leave me with no problem to dish about what I think about the current state of Standard though. So, what do I have on my mind?

Draw, go…with a splash!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my experience with UR Delver in Standard. To make a long story short, I said back then that I really liked the angle of attack that deck had on the Standard metagame.

Standard has evolved to a place where midrange decks that intends to cast expensive and extremely potent cards like Thragtusk and Angel of Serenity has become the top predators of the format. There are a couple of variants out there but they share a similar core and their gameplan is very similar although the exact execution might vary.

When the field looks like this, suddenly the usefulness of countermagic spikes to ridiculous levels. Even though the counterspells that are available in Standard are relatively crappy, the usefulness outweights this “crappiness” times over. When the threats are so difficult to handle once they hit play combined with the fact that they have a hefty manacost attached to them, playing with countermagic is exactly where you want to be.

While I felt that the counterspells and the cheap threats of the UR Delver deck felt spot on to combat the format, the actual card Delver of Secrets felt underpowered. I have since wanted to find a replacement for it and/or build the deck in such a way to circumvent the use of the card.

And then roughly a week ago, I think Adam Prosak broke the ground that I gazed towards at the end of post about UR Delver.

I don’t have anything to say really about the deck’s strategy and how it plays out that neither mister Prosak or GerryT hasn’t already said over at Star City Games, so I won’t. Do you want to know more of the ins and outs of the UW Flash (is that what we are calling the deck?) archetype, check out their respective latest article on SCG.

What I do want to say is that if I would be playing in Bochum (or Charleston for argument’s sake), that is the deck I would play. I would however strongly look into splashing a third color, probably red, primarily to have something to deal with Deathrite Shamans. That card is so frustratingly hard to deal with in straight UW since it’s so cheap and there literary are no instant or sorcery speed way to deal with one that has resolved  At the same time it’s hard to ignore because it more or less shuts down your Snapcaster Mages and makes Runechanter’s Pike embarrassing. I like red for this task as the bolts you would play in that case, Searing Spear and/or Pillar of Flame, have other lucrative uses, like going upstairs or somewhat deal with Planeswalkers that manage to sneak by your counterspells.

Thragtusk, meet Cavern of Souls

If playing with counterspells doesn’t float your boat and you rather just steer into the skid and duke it out in the midrange battle with some arbitrary approach, my advise to you is to embrace Cavern of Souls. I know that the manabases are tight and doesn’t really allow for much wiggle room when it comes to incorporate basically colorless lands, but you need to because of the rising popularity of the UW Flash decks. Try to squeeze some into your maindeck and see how many you can afford to run without the manabase completely collapsing. You could even have what couldn’t be fitted into the maindeck in the sideboard and just treat them as virtual spells.

Just make it work somehow, because otherwise all your shiny powerful cards will get syncopated, essence scattered, dissipated or rewounded to oblivion.

As for which Thragtusk deck I would be battling with if it would come to that, I’d have to say a reanimator variant. From my experience  the mirror-esque matchups all come down to the big haymakers, like Thragtusk and Angel of Serenity. The answer to who can draw and play the most of them in a at least somewhat effective manner determines a majority of the games in those matchups (given that neither player isn’t screwed by their mana in any way).

Given that premise, the reanimator decks just seems to do this the best to me. Not only do they typically play more of these haymakers than say Jund, Band or Naya, they are also really good at sifting through the deck and finding the relevant spells. To boot, they have Unburial Rites which allows the pilot to basically recast the relevant spells over and over again.

The case you could make against reanimator is that unlike Jund or Bant for example, it’s susceptible to graveyard hate. I don’t however think that case is a very good one though because while the archetype is labled as reanimation strategy, the actual reanimation part isn’t a super critical component to the archetype. Most of the better lists can actually cast all their threats off their lands or the occasional manadude, making Unburial Rites not a necessity to draw but rather just a sweet value spell. While cards like Purify the Grave and Rest in Peace technically does something against the reanimator lists, they could just side out Unburial Rites and ignore that battle almost completely, which in the end would leave the opposing side with some dead weight in their deck.

As for actual lists go, I have been very enticed lately by the following list that was brought to my attention by GerryT:

Forbidden Instincts Reanimator, played by hima123

MAINDECK:

4 Cavern of Souls
1 Drowned Catacomb
2 Glacial Fortress
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Hinterland Harbor
1 Island
2 Overgrown Tomb
2 Sunpetal Grove
4 Temple Garden
4 Angel of Serenity
4 Centaur Healer
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Restoration Angel
4 Thragtusk
4 Farseek
4 Forbidden Alchemy
4 Tracker’s Instincts
4 Unburial Rites

SIDEBOARD:

2 Armada Wurm
1 Craterhoof Behemoth
3 Detention Sphere
1 Ray of Revelation
2 Sigarda, Host of Herons
1 Slayer of the Wicked
2 Sphinx’s Revelation
3 Supreme Verdict

I haven’t been able to play a significant number of games with the list so far to make a fair assessment if I think it’s actually better than the more common approach with Faithless Looting, but theoretically this list just strikes the right chords.

For starters, the list fields the arguably top 3 creatures in Standard right now, which would be Thragtusk, Angel of Serenity and Restoration Angel. I would call that a solid start.

Moving on it has a full playset of the aforementioned Cavern of Souls, which I deem to be really crucial for this style of deck these days,  and I’m loving the Deathrite Shamans. The card is great against other reanimator decks for shutting down their Unburial Rites. It’s fantastic against Snapcaster Mage and the Runechanter’s Pikes those kind of decks typically plays. Also, because of the choice of running Forbidden Alchemy and Tracker’s Instincts as the means of sifting through the deck and loading up the graveyard with goodies, Deathrite Shaman will more reliably tap for mana than say in a version with Mulch in those slots.

As I said, I haven’t put a lot of time of actual playtesting with the list, but it sure looks enticing to me.

Full circle?

With all the talk about the UW Flash decks with their plethora of countermagic and how you are poised to squeeze in Cavern of Souls in your Thragtusk midrange deck, we might soon reach a point where attacking with Gravecrawlers and Geralf’s Messengers is where you want to be again.

It makes sense right, as the UW decks become more and more popular at the expense of the midrange decks. When the number of midrange decks diminishes and those who are left needs to go through hoops to play against the abundance of countermagic, it leaves space for the super aggressive decks to shine again. UW Flash doesn’t want to play against hordes of Zombies and their like. Rewind is far from the ideal card to have to combat Gravecrawlers.

If that scenario plays out we would be exactly at where we started this Standard format and thus the circle would be complete…and then then evolution would start all over again. I would be surprised if that time has already come to this weekend but it’s bound to happen sooner or later unless the midrange decks can prove that they can play around and/or through the sea of countermagic successfully.

That is what I had at the moment about Standard. I hope this post was insightful and I wish the best of luck to friends and colleagues that do attend either GP Bochum or Charleston. Godspeed!

Until next time,

Bernhard

How would you play it? – A RTR Sealed Pool exercise

November 13, 2012

Last weekend I played in a PTQ for Pro Tour Gatecrash which was held at the local watering hole in Stockholm. Those of you who follow me on twitter (please do if you aren’t currently) know that my attempt to snatch the slot was not successful as I earlier tweeted the following:

As stated, my pool wasn’t particularly exciting as per the standard evaluation of Sealed pools goes, i.e. there were not a lot of bombs or removal to speak of. However, bar the mildly disappointing powerlevel of the pool, it was a quite interesting pool to build and I sure had to use every single minute of deck construction at the PTQ to get my list locked up. Therefore I thought I would throw it up here and see if you guys got any thoughts about how you would address the pool that I received.

Without any further ado, I give to you the renowned pool:

PTQ Gatecrash Sealed Pool @ Dragon’s Lair, Stockholm 2012-11-10

LANDS:

1 Azorius Guildgate
2 Golgari Guildgate
1 Izzet Guildgate
1 Selesnya Guildgate
1 Transguild Promenade

ARTIFACTS:

1 Golgari Keyrune
1 Izzet Keyrune

WHITE:

1 Armory Guard
1 Avenging Arrow
1 Azorius Justiciar
1 Bazaar Krovod
1 Concordia Pegasus
1 Knightly Valor
1 Precinct Captain
1 Security Blockade
1 Seller of Songbirds
1 Sphere of Safety
2 Swift Justice
1 Trained Caracal
1 Trostani’s Judgment

BLUE:

1 Blustersquall
2 Cancel
1 Chronic Flooding
1 Crosstown Courier
1 Doorkeeper
1 Faerie Impostor
1 Inspiration
1 Isperia’s Skywatch
1 Runewing
1 Soulsworn Spirit
1 Stealer of Secrets
1 Syncopate

BLACK:

1 Daggerdrome Imp
1 Destroy the Evidence
1 Deviant Glee
2 Grim Roustabout
1 Launch Party
1 Mind Rot
1 Perilous Shadow
1 Slum Reaper
1 Stab Wound
1 Terrus Wurm

RED:

1 Cobblebrute
1 Electrickery
1 Guttersnipe
2 Lobber Crew
1 Splatter Thug
1 Tenement Crasher
2 Traitorous Instinct

GREEN:

1 Centaur’s Herald
1 Drudge Beetle
1 Giant Growth
1 Horncaller’s Chant
1 Korozda Monitor
2 Towering Indrik
1 Urban Burgeoning
1 Wild Beastmaster
1 Worldspine Wurm

MULTICOLOR:

1 Centaur Healer
1 Chemister’s Trick
1 Common Bond
1 Coursers’ Accord
1 Essence Backlash
1 Frostburn Weird
1 Havoc Festival
1 Korozda Guildmage
1 Lotleth Troll
1 Rites of Reaping
1 Search Warrant
1 Spawn of Rix Maadi
1 Teleportal
1 Tresasured Find

HYBRID:

1 Dryad Militant
1 Nivmagus Elemental
1 Rakdos Cackler
2 Vassal Soul

Have a crack at it and post your suggested builds with some reasoning behind them in the comments! I will get back to you in a couple of days with how I built the pool at the PTQ, whatever I think I made the right call or not and thoughts about any suggested builds that has been submitted.

Until then, have a good one!

Bernhard