Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Standard, 3/26/13

Hi everybody!

Okay, time for another Standard Win-A-Box at Mox Mania! So, frustrated with Wolf Run Bant, I've switched to the current format's more established/proven control deck, Esper. I don't remember exactly what my 75 was that I played with, but it looked something like this:

3 Nephalia Drownyard
23 Other Land

4 Augur of Bolas
1 Snapcaster Mage
3 Restoration Angel

1 Tragic Slip
4 Azorius Charm
1 Ultimate Price
1 Dimir Charm
2 Devour Flesh
3 Think Twice
2 Dissipate
1 Syncopate
1 Detention Sphere
1 Forbidden Alchemy
4 Supreme Verdict
1 Terminus
4 Sphinx's Revelation

3 Negate
3 Gloom Surgeon
2 Purify the Grave
1 Rest in Peace
1 Psychic Spiral
1 Jace, Memory Adept
1 Planar Cleansing
1 Duress
1 Appetite for Brains
1 Obzedat, Ghost Council

So I was sitting idly waiting for the tournament to begin, when the store owner asks if I could fill in on Judge duty .. apparently the regular L1 Judge that usually runs the event was AWOL. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned in this blog that I am looking to become a judge, and this was my first time doing actual judge duty, so of course I jumped all over it. Then it occured to me .. I'm playing a slow, complex control deck. Hmmm. Well, I don't really have any kind of aggro deck sleeved up, so whatever.

The other thing was, I was out of town for the weekend, chillin with some Internet friends. Okay, not really chillin, it was actually very stimulating. Lots of video games and music and geek talk. But in the excitement of it, I forgot to take my blood pressure medication, and consequently I was suffering a headache most of the day. My headaches usually respond well to ibuproffen and caffeine, but this one was being a stubborn [cuss word].

Anyway, so that's the background. Now on to the actual matches:

Expect the unexpected? 
Round 1: vs. R/G Werewolves. Okay, so my deck is supposed to be prepared for just about anything, right? It was not prepared for Full Moon's Rise. My deck says, "sure, play doodz, I'll just Verdict when things get out of hand." Well, FMR doesn't really care about such nonsense. In one game, he had a couple of sunny-side werewolves out, then played that card that "transforms all humans" .. and suddenly I was facing 15 damage. Owch. :( 0-1.

It's burn, and it counters Supreme Verdict. Lame.
Round 2: vs. American Midrange. My opponent was one of the Misty Mountain FNM Youth Crew, and one of the more rambunctious ones at that. He's a good kid .. just .. kinda ADHD. And his great luck in opening powerful rares in draft has enabled him to put together a pretty respectable Standard deck. Well, the match was kind of a grind, and I failed to respect the amount of burn in the deck. So, another lesson learned the hard way: X/R control/midrange has burn, respect it. 0-2.

The other notable thing about this match was that I had a judge call in the middle of the match that took a few minutes. So of course, the round goes to time, and we're the last ones still playing. If I'd known that I was going to be on Judge duty, I would have bought a faster deck to the tournament. Oh well.

Death by a thousand paper cuts.
Round 3: vs. Esper Control. Oh boy, the mirror! This is one of those kind of matchups that we're supposed to dread, but I actually find myself enjoying. It's really interesting how the battle of wits (not Battle of Wits) plays out. Do I tap out? Do I save my counterspell? Mostly his game plan seemed based around Extort. Get a Blind Obedience out, and bleed me to death. I didn't quite realize that at first, so I was bracing myself for counterspell and mill wars. But he didn't really have much of the former, and almost none of the latter (he might have had a Memory Adept). Turned out, most of the battle was with my life total. Instead of playing the long game via mill, he played the long game via extort. It was rather amusing after a while. He would cast Feeling of Dread with no creatures on board, just to get the extort. It's a cool idea, but I think he ended up going 0-4 on the night. Oh yeah, so time ran out during game three. He seemed to have not much going on, and I had Obzedat and a couple of other critters. I asked for a concession, and I got it. I thanked him and expressed appreciation, and wished him good luck in round four. 1-2.

Round 4: vs. Orzhov .. stuff? So, game one, I found myself on the offensive with a couple of Angels. He had a couple of Cartel Arisocrats out, a Blood Artist, and I think a Spirit token. I'm at 8 life and I have two Sphinx's Revelations in hand. So I went for the win, knocking him down to 1 life. His turn: Mutilate. And my heart sank like the guy's face in the artwork. Okay, I'm exaggerating somewhat, but yeah. Another thing that I was not expecting. :( Second game, I did everything I could to deal with Obzedat (mostly taking a bunch of damage so I could block a Spirit token and make the Ghost Council fall in a hole). Next turn, Obzedat #2. :( 1-3.

Sprinkled through those matches, I had a few other judge questions, some more formal than others. I explained why using Curiosity on your opponent's creature won't let you draw cards when you get hit with that creature. I helped parse out a complex combat damage situation involving multiple soulbonds (including a Silverblade Paladin), lifelink, and trample. I explained that if a game is drawn, whoever chose to play first choses again for the next game (I'm not sure how the game was drawn, and it might have been a hypothetical). I explained that indestructibility does protect against destroy effects like Abrupt Decay. And I explained to my round four opponent that giving Obzedat Undying would in fact make it such that another Obzedat would give him two ETB triggers (one from the second one, one from the first one coming back after undying).

So, the evening is done, and I feel mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. "Need anything else from me? No? Okay, I'm gonna go home and have an aneurysm now." But it was great experience. And I got to do my first actual judge thing. So I'm pretty happy about that. I find it very rewarding to answer judge questions. I've always enjoyed that kind of thing for some reason. I think because I like being helpful, and I like demonstrating expertise.

Thoughts about the deck:

  • The 3 Restoration Angels was a mixup. I meant to only have two, but the deck is basically a port of my Wolf Run deck, and I forgot to take one or two out. I like the card, but 3 is too many. It makes me want to be more aggro and commit more stuff to the board, which then makes Supreme Verdict that much worse.
  • I would like to find room in the main deck for Obzedat. As annoying as he is on the other side of the table, he was great when I got him out. Seriously, card's good. Especially on an otherwise empty board. I need to make sure to not play him out until he's not gonna get Verdict'd.
  • Sadly, I feel like 4 Sphinx's Revelations is 1-2 too many. I've already got a lot of card draw with Think Twice, A-Charm, Forbidden Alchemy. I love the card, but it's not the right card for this deck. I feel like 2 is probably enough, but I feel nervous about running less than 3.
  • Witchbane Orb needs to be in my 75. It just occurred to me. Obzedat and Blood Artist say "target player." Seems good against the burn in the American decks, too.
  • I really miss. Doom Blade and Go for the Throat. I kinda want to find room for Murder in there somewhere. Devour Flesh sucks.
  • As much as it sucks, I needed to be more aggressive with it and other spot removal early. I can't lean on Thragtusk and Sphinx's Revelation to boost my life total anymore.
  • I liked Snapcaster Mage quite a bit. I'm gonna try running two. I like the interaction with Resto.
  • Augur of Bolas seems quite a bit better in this deck than Wolf Run Bant. More targets = more cards.
  • I got land screwed more than I would have liked. At least once, it was number of lands, and at least once I didn't have the right colors. I suspect one of the Glacial Fortresses needs to be a Drowned Catacomb or something like that.
  • Another card that needs to be in my 75: Curse of Death's Hold. That Orzhov matchup would have been much easier if I could have gotten that out early.
  • I got to use Gloom Surgeon exactly once. He immediately ate a Pillar of Flame. Lame.
So, I like the deck, but as you can see, there's room for improvement. I'm tempted to cut the Gloom Surgeons to make room for better sideboard cards, but I wanna make sure I can handle blitz aggro before I do anything rash. I didn't do any testing before this week, and it's possible that it affected how I built and played my new deck. I look forward to trying it out some more. At the same time, I'm thinking about sleeving up something a little more assertive, just in case I find myself unexpectedly on Judge Duty again.

Cool. Well, thanks for reading. Questions, comments, feel free to leave em. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Standard, 3/19/13

Hello everyone...

Okay, so my mood isn't that great today. Besides not doing terribly well at Standard lately, other personal things aren't going well. So ... yeah.

Anyway, I played the Standard Win-a-Box at Mox Mania last night. I played the same deck I've been running, Wolf Run Bant, with no changes from last week. I thought about making room for another Centaur Healer in there for a *little* more early game against Aggro, but I couldn't figure out what to take out. So .. no changes.

Card's good.
Round 1: vs. Naya Aggro. Same round 1 matchup as last week. I still lost, but at least I took him to three games. This kinda matchup seems to come down to a few things coming together: (1) early disruption, (2) board wipe, (3) opponent stalling out, (4) another board wipe. If two or more of those things happen, then I'm usually fine. It worked great game one, when I had multiple Supreme Verdicts, and subsequently pulled away with a Wolf-Run'd Restoration Angel. The other two games I stumbled and he didn't. 0-1.

This is gonna be a long one.
Round 2: vs. Junk Midrange/Serenity. Very grindy matchup. Lots of doodz on his side, lots of board wipes and D-Spheres on my side. Angels on both sides. Eventually, I managed to run him out of cards after multiple Revelations, board wipes, and trading in combat, and I was left with a couple of creatures and about 15 lands (including Wolf Run, of course). Second game, I held him in check pretty well, using Purify the Grave very well to slow down his graveyard shenanigans, but this time I ran out of gas, and he finished me off right as time was expiring. I would have liked to play this one out, but .. you know, time limits. Also, at one point in that second game, I forgot he had another Unburial Rites in his graveyard, and though I don't remember exactly what I could have done differently, it probably would have changed what I did the previous couple of turns. 0-1-1.

Round 3: vs. Budget Gruul. My opponent seemed nice enough, but her deck was .. well .. budget. She had some Rancors and some Flinthoof Boars and some of those 4/4 trample bloodrush guys, but ... she couldn't keep enough pressure on me to keep my deck from doing its thing. Second game, I got two Faithmenders out and ended the game at 80+ life. 1-1-1.

Counter target Sphinx's Revelation.
Round 4: vs. American .. Tempo? Midrange? Not sure. He had Boros Reckoners, Augurs of Bolas, Restoration Angels, Snapcaster Mages, and lots of spells. It was an interesting matchup, but I don't think I played it right. I was playing it like a control deck, when I should have been thinking about it more like a Delver deck. He used burn spells to the dome pretty frequently, and I should have taken that into consideration when I took 3 from Reckoner several turns in a row. I also stupidly forgot that he could get first strike when I tried to trade my Centaur Healer with him. Other than that, I got pretty lucky in game two when he topdecked 5 lands in a row while I finished him off with a Restoration Angel. But I didn't know that, thinking that he was waiting for a chance to burn me out, so I held back. I had him dead on board with Angel and Wolf Run, so I should have just forced the issue--I would have been dead to a burn spell anyway. I think I was worried about Azorius Charm. Games two and three, it seemed like he almost always had countermagic for my Revelations and other threats. But that's how it goes. 1-2-1.

So, yeah. Kinda frustrating. I'm sick of losing to Aggro. So I think I'm gonna switch to either Zegana, or Esper. Probably Esper. Whichever one has a better matchup against Aggro, really. The way I see it is, if I have a bad matchup against someone, I would rather have the bad matchup against a deck that's gonna beat me by outplaying me, not run me over on turn 4-5 if I don't get a perfect draw. I'd like to, you know, play Magic.

Another part of me is pondering taking a break, though. I want to practice and get ready for the Star City Games Open in Milwaukee next month, and I want to do well. But if I keep getting frustrated like this, maybe I want to not bother. It sucks, though. I see myself becoming more of a serious Spike, and I'm not sure if I like that. But maybe that's just how I am: I like to win. I love brewing decks, and doing crazy stuff, but I don't wanna lose every match just to play something fun. That's why I had to abandon stuff like my Heartless Summoning and Spider Spawning decks. They were super fun, but they didn't win enough. And with my mental/emotional/psychological state as it is, I'm wondering if spending my free time losing at Magic is what I want to do with my life right now.

Well anyway, thanks for reading. Until next time...

Monday, March 18, 2013

Gatecrash Drafts, 3/15/13, 3/16/13

Hello everyone!

So in the span of 24 hours, I doubpled the number of Gatecrash drafts I've gotten in. Here's how it went:

Creature -- Bird Mutant
First draft was FNM at Misty Mountain Games. I opened a somewhat lackluster Pack One, and I think I first-picked Cloudfin Raptor. (Aside: Anybody else notice the disproportionately large number of GTC packs that have CFR as the first card in the pack? Weird.) I ended up taking some more Simic, and getting a couple of late-ish good Simic cards put my pretty solidly in the guild of Evolve. I ended up with a pretty good, fairly aggressive deck with two Raptors, an X-1, a Fish Crab, doubple Guildmages, Lizard Drake, Elusive Krasis (whatever it's called). (Another Aside: I love referring to the Simic creatures by their subtypes.) It was basically a bunch of doodz that just crash and smash. Raptor is of course really good, but the Elusive Krasis surpassed my expectations. It blocks early, then grows and gets in for unblockable damage every turn. Great card.

My first two matches weren't that close. Most of the time, if my opponent got off to a rough start, I just ran over him. One opponent had Aurelia in his deck, and we found ourselves racing, and I would have been just dead if he drew her. But he didn't, and I won. The only match that was close was the last one. He had a pretty good GRUUL SMASH deck that had the nuts in game one, but he stumbled just enough in the other two, where early and steady pressure got there.

Second draft was the afterdraft at a friend's house. I first-picked Domri Rade and pretty much forced Gruul. Well, turns out, kinda like Rakdos in 3xRTR draft, even a bad Gruul deck is better than most other decks in the format. Again, the first two matches were not close. My opponents stumbled early and I GRUUL SMASHED my way to victory. The last match was a little closer, and similar to the first draft, we went to three games. I made a few minor misplays, such as finally getting to cast Domri Rade with an Ember Beast on board, but forgetting to leave a blocker back to protect him. But I had enough cheap dudes backed up by Massive Raid and Mugging to get there. So finally, I got to keep the sweet planeswalker that I opened. :) Good times.

"I advise you to move into Simic."
Saturday I went to Mox Mania, and I had it in the back of my head to try drafting the only guild I hadn't drafted yet: Orzhov. Well, guess who was looking at me P1P1? The Ghost Council himself. Of course I snap-first-picked him, and forced Orzhov. Well, unlike Gruul and Rakdos, a bad Orzhov deck isn't still a good deck. You gotta have a plan against GRUUL SMASH and Boros. My plan was to hope they don't draw creatures (and I found out later, spoiler alert, Madcap Skills).

Well, Orzhov dried up, but I stubbornly stuck with the Catholic Mob while passing way too much good Simic. I ended up splashing some blue for some playable cards that turned out to be very key in winning games: Hands of Binding, and Call of the Nightwing. The deck was actually very fun to play .. when it didn't get GRUUL SMASH'd. And I did pick up enough Extort to be able to hang pretty well with the less aggressive creature decks. I should have noticed that there weren't any Kingpin Pets going around, though.

Okay, so my first opponent admitted that he had a total of 8 creatures in his deck, so I was able to durdle very well and just grind him out with Extort and whatever other little dorks I picked up. Second match was the good one, against the guy who ended up picking up all the good Simic stuff. It was very close, back & forth. I was able to set up boards where he couldn't really attack profitably, and I was able to plink him for 1-2 every turn via Extort or some other random evasive guy. Then, on my last turn, the board was like this:

Me: 3 life, Basilica Screecher with the lose-3-life Cipher spell encoded on it, and not much else. Him: 4 life, bunch of doodz, one of which enchanted with One Thousand Lashes. I had an extort card in hand. I didn't think I had it, so I swung with the bat, hoping he wouldn't block with his Sprite. Then I saw the play: Play the other Extort guy, extort him to 3. Play another cheap spell, Extort him to 1, pass turn. Crap.

Spoiler Alert: This card is lame.
Last match wasn't that excited. He played Madcap Skills on his 2-drop and I just died. Lame.

Oh yeah, I never saw Obzedat once all day. LAME.

Well, I had a good run Friday night, but my greed got the best of me on Saturday. I did end up with a sweet Obzedat, though. And a Blind Obedience. And I did have lots of fun. So that was good. *nods*

Cool. Well, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Standard, 3/12/13

Hello everyone!

Okay, so I got to play my Wolf Run Bant deck again. The list I played is very similar to the previous list, except for exactly two changes: I swapped a fourth Hallowed Fountain in for the second Alchemist's Refuge, and I added Gisela to the sideboard, taking out Garruk. I figured being able to hit my colors early was much more important than being able to cast my spells with flash much later. I wanted to reduce the chance of dying to a creature rush because Supreme Verdict sits in my hand while I have two colorless lands out.

I think there were 24 or 26 players at the event, the largest one I've been to at Mox Mania for the Win-a-Box thingy. Cool for the store, but competition is heating up, methinks. But hey, it's a chance to grow as a player, right? Unfortunately, I showed up to the event in kind of a bad mood, and I think it showed. I'm not sure if it affected my play or not, but I know there were several things I could have done better.

Round 1: vs. Naya Zoo. Game one, I had the choice of A-Charming a Champion of the Parish with 2-3 counters on it, or a Howlpack Alpha. I picked the Champion, thinking my Restoration Angel and Centaur Healer could help me stabilize. Unfortunately, 2-3 turns and a Huntmaster later, there were way too many, and a doubple-striking Ravager of the Fels trampled right over my Thragtusk. Would have been a much different game had I bounced the A-Charm. In retrospect, I could have bounced the Alpha, traded Thragtusk for the Champion, and there would have been far fewer woofs to contend with. Didn't really think ahead. Second game, I mulled to 6 and got stuck on two lands and I got Rancor'd to death by turn 4 or 5. 0-1.

So one round in, and I was pretty frustrated, and I started having "f- Magic I quit" thoughts. Or maybe I should just bite the bullet and play Hellrider aggro. "Turn doodz sideways rawr." Or something.

Round 2: vs. Jund aggro-ish? I've seen this guy, a young teenager, around at FNM at Misty Mountain on the other side of town quite a bit. I didn't get to see a whole lot of his deck; he didn't seem to get great draws either game, and I won pretty easily. It seemed like he had some decent cheap creatures (Experiment One, Rakdos Cackler, Dreg Mangler), and some disruption (Duress, Dreadbore). But I was able to keep his board under control and win fairly easily. 1-1.

Round 3: vs. Wolf Run Bant. Yup, mirror match. His version was a little different, with Angels of Serenity and Snapcasters instead of Augurs. As expected, it was a big grind. Game one he was able to counter my Sphinx's Revelations (with a maindeck Negate!) and out card-advantage me. Second game I was able to run him out of cards, force thorugh my own Revelation, and beat down. Third game we went to time, and we finished turn five with a more or less even board position. I got to use Gisela, and it was pretty awesome. Unfortunately, since we were running out of time, we were both playing kind of sloppily and suboptimally, but I think it affected me more than him. I also had Tamiyo out, and I could have protected her a little more carefully than I did, including me forgetting about Restoration Angel's "non-Angel" clause. :( The final board state was more or less equal, with both of us with big Angels out. We had a few cards in hand each--I had two Sphinx's, but I don't know what he had. It would have been interesting to play that one out. 1-1-1.

Round 4: vs. Selesnya Aggro. Pretty easy match. Selesnya is about a turn slower than Naya, which is perfect for me. Game one I had great draws, always having a Supreme Verdict to 3-for-1 him (or more), and multiple Sphinx's Revelations. Game two was pretty one-sided at first, with him getting stuck on lands early. But he recovered while I just played the "draw-go" game and 1-for-1'd him with various things. Eventually, I think I Supreme Verdict'd when he overextended with two Frontline Medics, and he didn't recover after that. I landed a creature and a Wolf Run, and won a couple turns later. 2-1-1.

I finished 10th place, good enough to win 5 packs. Not bad for $10. I opened a couple of Glaring Spotlights, a Godless Shrine (completing my playset), and a Duskmantle Seer (I believe also completing my playset). Not bad.

So, first frustrating match aside, I think the deck is all right. I think I need a 3rd Centaur Healer in there to better deal with the early aggression. I'd like to put in a 4th, but what do I take out? Maybe I don't need 3 counterspells maindeck. The other thing I'm thinking about is maybe going to a midrange or tapout style of deck, where I try to "control" with board presence and D-Spheres, and Zegana is my card-advantage engine. I think I'll try tweaking this a little more and trying it again next week and see how it goes. If I continue to struggle against aggro, I'll come up with a plan B.

Okay, well that's it for now. Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 11, 2013

FNM, 3/8/13

Hello everyone!

So, Friday was my return to the Standard format after taking a couple weeks off. I switched to Wolf Run Bant, and I went 2-2, losing two *very* close matches that could have easily swung the other way.

Here's my deck, give or take a few cards:

Lands (25):
2 Kessig Wolf Run
2 Alchemist's Refuge
21 (lands)

Creatures (13):
4 Augur of Bolas
2 Centaur Healer
3 Restoration Angel
4 Thragtusk

Spells (22):
4 Farseek
4 Azorius Charm
2 Dissipate
1 Syncopate
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Detention Sphere
4 Supreme Verdict
1 Terminus
4 Sphinx's Revelation

Sideboard (15):
3 Rhox Faithmender
3 Negate
2 Purify the Grave
1 Rest in Peace
1 Psychic Spiral
2 Garruk, Primal Hunter
1 Jace, Memory Adept
1 Witchbane Orb
1 Planar Cleansing

Round 1: vs. mono-black. Lots of back & forth in this match. He got kinda land screwed game one, but I didn't really have much offense going with all his removal, so it was kind of a long one. I won it, but I don't remember exactly what sequence led to winning. Game two was almost comical. I'd play a creature, he'd kill it. He'd play a creature or two, I'd kill em. At one point I was getting worried about running out of board wipes, but he eventually ran out of answers for my threats, and I won. 1-0.

Round 2: vs. Orzhov Zombies. Wasn't sure what this was at first. I thought it was Aristocrats or something, but it turned out to be plain ol' Zombies. I took game one pretty easily, but I misplayed badly in game two. I was busy shuffling after a Farseek, and he played a Geralf's Messenger into my three open mana (and Syncopate in hand). "Okay, sure." Then I thought, "no, wait!!! D:" I'm trying to get out of the habit of allowing myself takebacks, so I didn't take it back. And that Messenger was able to help whittle my life down into unmanageability. Game three I think was dominated by Obzedat. I did make a misplay at one point, though. I tried forcing in some damage, but in doing so, left him an opening to attack back for 9 damage, tightening the Obzedat clock. Frustrating loss, because I probably would have had that second game had I countered that Messenger. Also, I did another dumb horrible thing. I cast Sphinx's Revelation for 3, gained 3 life, and drew 4 cards without realizing it. Opponent: "uh, did you just draw four?" Me: "Crap .. yeah, I think I did. Judge!" I got a very stern lecture from the judge, who reminded me that it would have been a Game Loss at Competitive REL (which I knew). So .. perhaps the misplay was karma? Or pre-emptive karma (I don't remember which happened first)? 1-1.

Round 3: vs. U/R Guttersnipe. So this guy is just getting back into Magic after a brief absence, and he tossed together a Guttersnipe deck made up mostly of commons and uncommons (I think he said his only rare was a sideboard card). It was a fun match, but I was able to sandbag counterspells and keep his board clear of Goblins and Delvers, and eventually I got in there with ... whatever I landed (I forget exactly). 2-1.

Round 4: vs. Naya Midrange. Kinda don't like playing against Midrange anymore. They have too many must-answer things that generate card advantage and put pressure on me and take time to find answers for. Matches are grindy, and if they play carefully, they should beat me most of the time. Well, we traded games one and two and had about 8 minutes to play game three. We beat up on each other pretty good, and I had a decent board position going into extra turns. I just needed to find a Kessig Wolf Run to punch in the last few points of damage with my Beast token. Then on turn four: Bonfire for lethal. And he also had Thundermaw Hellkite. My next card: Kessig Wolf Run. D: 2-2.

Well, I finished 2-2, but I feel like I could have done better had I played a little tighter. It's also a little different kind of a deck, too, so I'm getting used to how to play things out. I need to learn when to play out my Angels to surprise-block something, and when to save them so I can get Value. And sometimes I'm still not sure what to do with Azorius Charm. Cycle it? Bounce a creature? I think bouncing a creature is one of the best things I can do with it. It's not removal, but it is a 1-for-1 in the abstract (trading my card for their next draw step and a few damage). It's one of those many cards that seems so lackluster until I think about just how much work it does in my deck.

So, I think I'm gonna give it another week or two to see if I can tighten it up, but I'm already looking on the horizon at other opportunities. Bant Midrange looks like a lot of fun, with Zegana and Angel of Serenity. Esper keeps calling out to me, too. There's the griefer version which wins mostly off of mill, and then there's the planeswalker-heavy version Shaheen Soorani runs (you know, if I want to actually have fun doing things with my cards instead of just killing and countering everything).

I've been playing my Delver Pauper deck on MTGO some more in the Tournament Practice room, and not having much luck with it. I think people are gunning for it, and finding a lot of good answers for it. Maybe I'm not playing it right, but it seems like a lot of times I'm about a turn behind in trying to keep pace between my threats and counterspells. I'm thinking about switching to Cloudpost, because that looks like more the style of deck I like to play in Standard/whatever. We'll see.

Welp, thanks for reading!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Drafts, 3/1/13; Modern PTQ, 3/3/13

Greetings and/or salutations!

Well, I got my 2nd and 3rd Gatecrash drafts finished, and I've come to one major conclusion: I hate Bloodrush. More later.

So at FNM I first-picked Nightveil Specter and went Dimir. I looked for a splash guild, waffling between Simic and Orzhov, and settled on Orzhov on the merit of more playable cards (including Knight of Obligation and Orzhov Charm). I wanted to get more Cipher stuff, but I only ended up with a handful (the Binding one, Last Thoughts, and maybe a third?). I played against black decks each round, including two other Dimir decks.

The first match was against a younger dude who's improved vastly since last time I played him. He made a few mistakes, but his deck was pretty good--basically a better version of mine, but with a Simic splash instead of Orzhov. I took him to three pretty close games, though. It was a great match, though, one I don't mind losing. Especially when it's to a younger player who's showing obvious signs of improvement.

Second match was against the other Dimir deck. He had a bunch of Cipher cards, but I was able to keep him in check with my removal. One game I assembled the Ciphertron, which was awesome.

Third match was against a Borzhov deck that likely didn't get its best draws against me. I think it was three games, and both games I won was directly because of Mind Grind. Card's good.

So I got a couple of boosters which I took with me to play an afterdraft at a friend's house. In that draft, I ended up going Boros after first-picking Ball of Lightning Helix (aka, Spark Trooper). No splash. I got just enough playables to fill out a 40 card deck. I don't think I sideboarded a single card. Yeah, the deck was really good, with doubple Guildmage, the 2-drop vigilance/firebreathing/first-strike guy, the aforementioned Spark Trooper, and lots of doodz. You know, a Boros deck. Unfortunately, I ran into my nemesis: BLOODRUSH.

So, I had my round two opponent somewhere around 5 life, with me at around 12. He had that multi-block Angel out, so I was being conservative in just getting in with my 3/1 first strike one combat step at a time. Meanwhile, he was assembling his air force and I was assembling my ground force. I kept my creatures back, figuring I'd be safe with my combat trick (the +1/+1, flying, first strike thingy), but he had the +3/+3 doubple-strike bloodrush thing. "Take 20?" Ugh. Then something similar happened in the last round. I was at somewhere around 15 life, figuring I was safe not to leave blockers back. Then ... bloodrush and I lose.

Maybe it's just me being a whiny loser, but I'm not sure this is the direction I want my beloved game to move in. In Constructed formats, sure, combo decks exist that can win out of nowhere, but Limited has far fewer tools to be able to deal with such things. I dunno. I suppose "blockers," but ... I dunno. I don't like it. I probably need to suck it up and learn to deal with it.

Anyway. Modern PTQ this weekend too! I was pretty excited to play it in, as I've saying here. My decklist was something like this:

4 Arid Mesa
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Marsh Flats
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Steam Vents
2 Seachrome Coast
2 Island
2 Plains
1 Mountain
1 Slayer's Stronghold
1 Moorland Haunt

4 Delver of Secrets
4 Steppe Lynx
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Geist of Saint Traft

4 Serum Visions
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Path to Exile
4 Mana Leak
4 Lightning Helix
2 Izzet Charm
1 Remand

2 Stony Silence
2 Spell Pierce
1 Spellskite
2 Disenchant
2 Aven Mindcensor
1 Path to Exile
3 Molten Rain
2 Celestial Purge

I ended up going 4-4, one win shy of prizes, but I had lots of fun. Here's a summary, as best as I can remember:

Round 1: vs. Pod. This was pretty interesting. I tried to keep him off his Pod and/or combo pieces (e.g., Murderous Redcap) and try to keep pressure on. I was able to get Aberrations and Kitties and Geists in aplenty, and he kept throwing Finks in my way. One game, he combo'd out with Kiki-Jiki and Restoration Angel, and in the third game, he said he was one Phantasmal Image in his library away from comboing out (he drew the only one he had, and couldn't get the chain going any other way). Good match. 1-0.

Round 2: vs. U/W/R Midrange. Seems like a bad matchup for me. She had all kinds of answers for my threats, and I couldn't really gain any traction. I know I'm in desperate times when I have to use a Lightning Helix on a Soldier token, only to have my Geist die anyway. Oof. 1-1.

Round 3: vs. Junk. Kinda similar to the deck I played against on Monday night, but with slightly better creatures (e.g., Bob, Tarmogoyf). I think this went to three games, and I know he won, but I forget exactly how. I think Liliana got me one game (card's annoying), and I think he had enough lifegain to keep me from closing the deal. 1-2.

Round 4: vs. Affinity. First time playing against the dreaded Arcbound Ravager. I wasn't sure what to make of it, and a few things caught me by surprise. Like, he can sacrifice himself to himself in response to Path. Then he puts his counters on an Ornithopter. I had the removal for the 'thopter, but I kinda really didn't want to do that. But it was a really good, close, surprisingly grindy match. I have SO MUCH 1-for-1 removal, but he has stuff like Whipflare to 2-for-1 me. In the end, we ran out of time. I conceded to his board of doubple Vault Skirges and some other creature. 1-3.

Round 5: vs. Scapeshift, aka [swear word] Valakut. Yup, still hate Valakut. They sit there ramping, and then they cast their spell that either wins or loses the game if it goes off or not. I think he got me in two games. I had two counters in hand, but they were both of the "unless you pay X" variety (Mana Leak, Izzet Charm), and he had the extra mana. Plus a Dispel. I think this deck needs more "hard" counters to deal with this kinda thing. Spell Pierce and Mana Leak and Izzet Charm aren't quite cutting it. And ... crap ... I gave away the first game. Valakut says "five *other* Mountains" (emphasis mine). He only had 1 Valakut and 5 Mountains. Oh well. Next time. 1-4.

Well, at this point I was a little disappointed. But I was still having fun, and it was still possible for me to finish at .500. So, play on!

Round 6: vs. Jund Loam. I guess this is a thing? It was a cool deck, but my opponent was 1-4 with it so far, so maybe not quite good enough? Anyway, it ran Seismic Assault and Life from the Loam to get an engine going of redrawing lands and tossing them at creatures and opponents. Oh, and Raven's Crime to make me discard my hand. At one point, I Path'd my own Angel token during my second main phase so I wouldn't lose it to Raven's Crime (and, you know, ramp? yay?). He also had Liliana and other good stuff like Bob and Goyf. Well, we traded games 1 and 2, and at the end of game 3 I stuck a Geist that he couldn't deal with, and I 2'd him to death (he was throwing lands at my Angel tokens). 2-4.

Round 7: vs. Standard Junk Zombies. Another guy who wanted to play but only had his Standard deck. Okay, he did toss in a couple of Paths to make it a little less [relatively] janky, but it was still not quite enough. He did take me to 3 games, though, when I couldn't quite draw enough removal for his brain-eating horde. We also talked about Nintendo (he commented on my Yoshi figurine that I use as my mascot/good-luck charm/reminder token/creature token/etc.), and he showed me some of the cool synergies his deck has (like Rancoring a Gravecrawler and Disciple-of-Bolas'ing it). 3-4.

Round 8: vs. U/W/R Control. My opponent didn't seem to be terribly happy. Maybe he was expecting to be doing better? I dunno. Well, I was able to get pressure on him early and often. I was a little smarter about not playing into X-for-1's, and eventually I got there with a critter or two and some burn. I was able to counter a Sphinx's Revelation at one point, which was pretty hot. 4-4.

So there you have it! My first big Modern tournament, and I didn't finish with a losing record. It was a lot of fun, and I'd gladly do it again. Of course, there are a few things I'd like to do differently. Among them:

* Steppe Lynx kinda sucks. It helped quite a bit to add a 10th fetchland in there, because I was usually able to trigger Landfall. There were a few times I wasn't able to, but I don't remember if it costed me the game or not. He's a great aggro creature, but getting easily 2-for-1'd by stuff like Electrolyze stings. Maybe I could play around this kinda thing better? I'd rather just play a better creature.

* Serum Visions is so depressing after having played with Ponder, Preordain, and Brainstorm in Pauper. I don't think I set up a Delver flip all day with it, though I did set up at least one land drop (including a Lynx Landfall trigger).

* The deck runs out of gas. In that sense, it is kind of a burn deck--I really want to maximize the amount of damage I can do with each spell I cast. But of course it's 3 colors and relies more on critters.

* I'd rather run a more midrange or controlling version of this deck. I like the idea of running Cliques, Restoration Angels, some better counterspells, some card draw, and some higher-end threats. So .. yeah, basically the U/W/R Midrange deck that I played against in round 2. But I wonder if a Delver build would be possible that has a little more card draw and a little more reach. I wonder if Figure of Destiny in the Steppe Lynx slot could facilitate this. Lynx is great, but it's a high-risk/high-reward card that might be a bit much risk for my liking.

* Like I said earlier, needs better counterspells. Mana Leak is great, but it needs something for later in the game that doesn't rely on how much mana they have. Sometimes my opening hands were a bit too creature-light, and I needed to play a more controlling game. 1-for-1 removal is great, but it's not gonna win a grind the way a more proper midrange or control deck would.

Well, I'm not sure when I'm gonna play Modern again anytime soon. I'm definitely going to hold off on getting any money cards until this PTQ season winds down and Modern Masters comes out this summer. I like the format, but being an older format, the staple cards are expensive, and it's harder to commit to something financially. So I'll probably keep playing Delver for now, for the handful of tournaments I may or may not play in.

Thanks for reading!