Hello, all! For those of you that read my article last week and left comments, thanks for the positive feedback. I'm surprised it got as many hits, since it wasn't the normal “decklist” article and was coming from someone whose opinion might not matter as much as some of the other writers going around, so the feedback was well appreciated.
Anywho, as I promised at the end, I'm here today to tell you how my weekend in Charlotte went. As some of you may know, I'm from the Charlotte area originally (growing up in Rock Hill, a suburb of Charlotte) and still have family there. So I was able to talk Sarah into the trip by selling it as a “family trip” with a sprinkling of Magic on Saturday (and early Sunday, hopefully). Fun Fact: being a father also means you have to be a salesman when you want to play Magic in places that aren't within driving distance, thus is the nature of the position.
So we drive down from N. Virginia to Charlotte Thursday night, staying in a hotel overnight and calling up my dad in the morning. My dad is the very definition of “redneck”, having held each of the following occupations at some point in his life: electrician, plumber, mechanic, construction worker, maintenance man, “lawn-care specialist”, go-kart race driver… wait, what!? (Yeah, that last one's real; he loves NASCAR so much, he had to try his hand at it, albeit at a much lower scale…) I love my dad to death, and was excited to see him. He had yet to meet Zoey, so he had a blast with her and wouldn't let her (or me) out of his sight all day that Friday. When my aunt offered to watch Zoey so my dad, his girlfriend, Sarah, and I could go out shooting pool, we did on the caveat that we didn't stay all night, since I needed to get up to game in the morning. Well, when we got to the hotel at 2:00 AM that morning, I learned how little my dad cared about me getting sleep. Also, when we get there, we notice Korey McDuffie walking out of the hotel and asking directions to a different hotel, so I assumed they were sold out, but I later found out from him that he wasn't old enough to get a room, so luckily we were able to get a place for the night.
Saturday morning rolls around, and I walk to the tournament site. I sign up, get my free sleeves for being a balla-level 1 SCG member (I swear I'd be higher if I could actually go to these things…), and sit down with some friends. One was also on RUG (Stephan Merc), and I showed him my tech:
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He said he wanted to try it, and I quickly convince him by stating that I had yet to lose a game after casting him. I told him to trade out Avenger of Zendikar for it, since Sphinx isn't susceptible to Flashfreeze and can win a game just as easily (while also getting value even if the opponent casts Day of Judgment). It also stops Celestial Colonnade, Hawks (both sworded and not), and doesn't even need to attack to win (making Condemn look silly while I'm drawing 3 a turn). Before getting into my tournament, I'll say that I was birding Stephan's round 3 match against UW Caw Blade; his opponent has a Hero of Bladehold and Kor Firewalker on the board, Stephan with a Lotus Cobra. They both have plenty of lands, and it was Stephan's turn. His opponent had 2 Flashfreezes in hand, waiting to counter whatever Stephan played (with mana open to cast both). Stephan windmill slams Consecrated Sphinx (well, more like casually taps mana for it…), and his opponent stares at his useless Flashfreezes and announces that it resolves (JUSTICE!).
My opponent and I chat it up before the match starts, and we both reveal that we qualified for Nationals a couple weeks prior in Regionals. After the obligatory congrats, I asked where he played; he said he top 8'd Charlotte. I looked back at the match slip, but I didn't remember his name, even though I'd seen the top 8 of Charlotte. Oddly enough, this let me put him on Caw Blade, since I tend to just glaze over those decklists when looking around (I mean, come on, how many can you look at before they all end up looking the same?)
I lose the die roll and mull to 6 (I follow this exact sequence, lose roll-mull 6 in 4 of the first 5 rounds; good luck? I dunno… maybe I'm just learning to mulligan better? Hopefully…). My opponent hits the turn 2 Stoneforge (making my Mana Leak look dumb). I go Exploring the next turn, and he passes while leaving up 3 mana. The next turn, I have both Jace and Oracle in hand, so I run out the Oracle to try to bait out the Mana Leak. When he doesn't counter, I know he doesn't have it (or, if he did, he played badly and my Oracle would make the Leak irrelevant soon enough). He flashes in sword EOT, equips, attacks (discard: some land), untaps, drops a Squadron Hawk for the whole set, and Tectonic Edges my Raging Ravine, tapping him out and putting him down to 3 lands to my 4 (and Oracle); now, his logic was that if I had a Titan the next turn, he was just dead. However, a couple turns later when he's still on 3 lands, I find out that he didn't have another land in hand. Needless to say, I untap, cast Precursor Golem, he equips sword to his Hawk, attacks (discard: land), and I cast Jace, bounce Hawk, which basically sets him back too far. I make an auto-pilot error and attack headlong into Condemn with the whole Precursor team (as soon as I did I knew my auto-pilot mistake cost me), but Jace's Brainstorm saw Inferno Titan, which saw the concession.
Game 2, I pull the sick bluffs on turn 4 and get him to counter an Explore before playing a land. This left the door open to resolve Precursor Golem, which got him to 3, in which case I was up to 9 lands and 2 Inferno Titan. Mana Leak couldn't stop the expensive Lightning Bolt from winning…
Round 2: GW Aggro?
My opponent sits down this round and reveals that she beat Naya the round prior because he drew nothing but lands. I tried to pry more information out of her about how she won, but she seemed to not notice my attempts and just kept saying it was the flooding that got there.
Anyway, I lose the die roll, mull to 6, yada yada… She starts out with a Stirring Wildwood, and I with a Copperline Gorge. She drops Fauna Shaman turn 2, which I Bolt EOT. At this point, I've got nothing more in hand before Precursor Golem and Inferno Titan, so I'm actually pretty worried when she drops Scute Mob?!? I hadn't seen this card since Ranger of Eos, but I quickly realized that if she kept hitting land drops that it would grow out of hand before I could do anything. She gets a couple of pings in with the Mob while I drop lands (and she does too) until I drop a Precursor the turn before the Mob started growing. She attacks into my Golems, though, and I'm able to trade one for the Mob. At that point, winning becomes elementary as GW normally has a tough time with Inferno+Golems.
Game 2, I get an early Lotus Cobra, which she never answers. She DID get Kor Firewalker+Sword of Body and Mind+Basilisk Collar, which put my board at a stop (Inferno Titan+Precursor Golems) until I drop Consecrated Sphinx, which pulls the game very far out of reach.
Round 3: GW Fauna-Vengevine
I lose the die roll and mull to 6… My opponent opens with Birds-Squadron hawk, and I just play lands. I counter the turn 3 Linvala, and he follows it up with a Thrun, which I luckily don't reveal the Mana Leak in hand by not reacting (even though I was ready to Mana Leak… definitely got caught off guard…). Thrun gets in something like 1 hit before Inferno Titans 1 and 2 make it irrelevant.
Game 2, he gets turn 3 Thrun again (he reveals afterwards that it's a one-of...). However, I get the turn 4 Consecrated Sphinx, which draws the usual “whoa” reaction, draws a ton of cards, and generally just wins the game. Funny enough, I had 2 Jaces in hand the whole game, but I never cast either, as Consecrated Sphinx made it irrelevant and I drew into Inferno Titans…
Round 4: Dave (of 02drop.com fame) Caw Blade
I lose the die roll, but I don't have to mull! Exciting stuff… anywho, my opponent fetches up Mortarpod with his turn 2 Stoneforge Mystic, which makes me believe he has the Sword in hand, though he could also be one of the few that actually understand the importance of Mortarpod in the match (the former was right, though that doesn't mean the latter wasn't right either). My opponent ends up killing Cobra with Mortarpod, then drops Hero of Bladehold; Jace bounces the Hero, then never leaves the table and pulls me ahead with the help of Precursor and Raging Ravine.
Game 2, Lotus Cobra hits on turn 2 (he plays Stoneforge on his turn for Sword; I assume he has Mortarpod in hand, but he doesn't) and never leaves. The mana advantage ends up being the difference, with Precursor doing the heavy lifting.
This round was an uncovered feature match. When I sit down, I ask my opponent if he was famous, since I don't consider myself “Feature Match” material (yet). He said that he wasn't, but that he was playing a rogue deck that was tearing it up. I normally like RUG against Rogue, since most people don't have great answers to the multitude of angles I attack from. This match was no different.
Game 1, I lose the die roll and mull to 6 (again…). He gets stuck on 1 red mana and Jace ensures it stays that way for a while. He finally hits a mountain and drops Koth, which knocks Jace down to 7 loyalty. I kill Koth (I think through both Bolt and Inferno Titan) and start fatesealing again. Eventually, he sees another Koth, taps his 4-counter Everflowing Chalice and 2 Mountains for (with 1 Tec Edge untapped), I Mana Leak to get him to tap out (and not be able to Tec Edge my Ravine), and he goes to untap a mountain to attack. I ask if he was going to pay for Mana Leak, and he notices I cast the Counterspell, and bins his Koth. He then concedes…
Game 2, I get Consecrated Sphinx online early. He ramps a bunch with some artifacts but doesn't seem to have an end-game to go with the ramp. I get a Nature's Claim to blow up Tumble Magnet that threatened to get annoying with a Throne of Geth on the table (though I probably should have blown up the throne, even not knowing what his deck was trying to do…). A couple of turns later, he drops Spine of Ish Shah, and the gig is up. He starts blowing up my permanents with Spine, Proliferating up his Chalices, and started to stabilize. Luckily, I have enough mana to double-activate Raging Ravines to BARELY pull the game out. Pretty sweet deck idea, sad to see it go down…
At this point I'm feeling pretty confident. I haven't felt challenged up to this point, and I really felt like I was on top of my game (with the exception of the Condemn misplay earlier). We were about to find out how serious I was about winning this thing though…
Round 6: Dan Jordan UW Caw Blade (Feature Match)
Yeah, so we're both 5-0. He's going for back-to-back SCG open wins in Boston and Charlotte AGAIN. So we find ourselves under camera (my first time being under camera). I can't say that it affected me, as I was oblivious to the camera honestly, but I will say that I noticed something this round. For the previous 5 rounds, I felt confident knowing I could outplay or at least not GET outplayed by my opponents. This round, that vanished. I didn't feel like an underdog, match-up wise, but I lost my confidence. I can partially attribute my bad keep in game 1 to this, but then again, that's no excuse. I kept a hand with Mana Leak and Jace on the play, which in all reality, SUCKS against Caw Blade (which I knew he was playing, obviously).
Anyways, in game 1, I get Oracle of Mul Daya online early, but I'm flooding bad. How bad you ask? I cracked Scalding Tarn end-of-turn to shuffle away an irrelevant Lightning Bolt only to realize that I had no legal targets left in deck, as they were all in my hand! Dan reacted with “that just happened!”, to which I could do nothing but laugh (since that play pretty much revealed my entire hand to be nothing but lands). I drew nothing else of relevance and died soon thereafter.
Game 2, I hit the Cobra on the play, and it doesn't get removed! I'm good to go, right!? Well, I thought so… Dan doesn't really do much, which pretty much lets me know his hand is probably all countermagic (especially with 2 Preordains and still no action). Dan eventually finds Stoneforge and fetches up a Mortarpod to try to kill Cobra and keep me from getting back in when I do draw lands. The next turn he tries to flash it in, but I Nature's Claim with the Living Weapon trigger on the stack (which is why I switched to Nature's Claim over Acidic Slime to begin with…). My hand is stocked with 2 Mana Leak, 2 Jace TMS, Precursor Golem and an Inferno Titan with Lotus Cobra and 4 lands on board, one being a fetch. Any land off the top is good; or so I thought. I draw Preordain and cast it, trying to hit more lands. I see none, ship Explore and Cobra to the bottom, and see Raging Ravine. I use the mana to attempt Precursor, which he leaks. He drops a Sword and equips to hit me (discard: Mana Leak, I think), untaps, and basically takes over. I try Precursor next turn, another Mana Leak. He then drops Sun Titan, attacks, untaps, drops ANOTHER Sun Titan, Tec Edges a land, and passes the turn with me absolutely dead…
Oh well, down 1 round, now I'm out of the toughest bracket, I can just win 2 more rounds in the x-1 bracket against players of similar skill and be good to go! No problems, right?
Round 7: AJ Sacher, UW Caw Blade (Feature Match)
Yeah… about that. We get another feature match, this time uncovered (I don't know what made the SCG guys think I was famous; perhaps it was the TCGPlayer shirt, I don't know. I mean, I feel I'm a good player, but hey, more power to them! One day I'll get there…).
He wins the die roll, and drops a Stoneforge after I drop a turn 1 Raging Ravine. He knows I'm RUG, and gets the Mortarpod to kill my Lotus Cobra. After that, I'm never really in it…
Game 2, we go back and forth for a while. Eventually, I have him dead on board to an Inferno Titan and Lotus Cobra and I know he doesn't have removal for it, since I'd just hit him with Titan. He drew for the turn, said “That's fortunate” and drops Day of Judgment. I used to get quite upset about topdecks, but with perspective, I realize that you play cards so that you can draw them (I know, really in-depth, right?), and he happened to hit it. It's a part of the game. I tried to make it a game with Frost Titan but he ends up getting there…
After this, I drop out; I know I could have gotten top 16, and I felt confident that I could do so, but I just wanted to see Zoey and Sarah, who were sitting in the hotel waiting on me. We went and got dinner and just relaxed the rest of the night.
With that, I want to definitely go up to at least 2 Consecrated Sphinxes. I'm going to get greedy online and try 3; right now, there aren't many instant speed removal spells that stop it from getting online before you get 2 cards out of it (making it a 3-for-1, which I'm fine with). Also, a lot of UW lists lean on Condemn, Tumble Magnet, and Oust, so I don't even attack with Sphinx against UW (unless they're tapped out obviously), since the 3-to-1 ratio of cards drawn will win a lot more than the 4 damage would have.
As for New Phyrexia, I definitely want to give Mental Misstep a shot as a sideboard card against aggressive decks. My biggest issue with playing against decks like Boros and RDW is the turn 1 Lynx/Guide when I'm on the draw. It might be too cute, but it also stops late-game Lightning Bolts and Burst Lightnings… Urabask may get a try, since curving from that to any Titan seems relevant. Beast Within seems like an auto-include in the 75, but I'm not sure on the exact split right now. I know Chancellor of the Tangle is bad, but it could be fun to try and get a turn 1 Lotus Cobra (especially with 2 Chancellors, as then you can drop a fetch and go silly). It also “wins” titan fights, though that's a bit misleading, as they all end up winning in the end by, you know, being titans. Also, technically, the Deceiver-Twin combo fits in our colors, and could be a sideboard plan, but I don't know if its necessary. Gitaxian Probe can go into anything, but what do you take out for it in this list? Hex Parasite is another card that goes into anything, and I suppose if the Pyromancer/Deceiver deck takes off, it can help fight the Pyro side (obviously also fights Jace wars).
Congrats to Ali on top 8ing, and congrats to Kenny Mayer, who had a chance to top 8 at the end with his dumb Battle of Wits-Zoo deck. We all laughed, then laughed harder when we noticed he was 4-1, then 6-2… he ended up getting 32nd, which is A LOT better than we assumed going in!
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