I took a couple of days off for the holidays and I decided part of that should be my first Friday Night Magic in awhile. So I brought this wacky deck to Rainy Day Games:
Four Color Control - Standard, designed by Adrian Sullivan for 2005 States
3 Sensei’s Divining Top
1 Tatsumasa, the Dragon’s Fang
1 Umezawa’s Jitte
3 Faith’s Fetters
4 Devouring Light
4 Kodama’s Reach
4 Lightning Helix
2 Seed Spark
4 Wrath of God
1 Firemane Angel
3 Godo, Bandit Warlord
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
3 Karplusan Forest
4 Temple Garden
4 Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree
3 Cranial Extraction
1 Faith’s Fetters
3 Ivory Mask
3 Sacred Ground
I was sick of the black green decks I’ve been playing for awhile and the Gifts-based Reanimator decks so I was looking for something different. It was either this or the blue/red splice-Ire of Kaminari deck but that deck just folds to Cranial Extraction and Kodama of the North Tree. I think I made the right choice since I saw both of those cards tonight. So I took Adrian’s build, card for card I think. I figure I’ll run with this until the red/green shock land and whatever gold goodies await us in Guildpact—I’m definitely going back to red/green aggro post-Guildpact.
Round 1 - Erik Williams - Boros
Game one I was mana screwed and didn’t do much of anything as Erik laid down creature after creature. My life total went 20, 18 (Isamaru), 12 (Isamaru + Pale Curtain + Glorious Anthem), 6, dead. He never took a point of damage.
Game two I boarded in the two Pyroclasm and took out a Godo and a Faith’s Fetters. It took awhile but I was able to clear the board and kill of his creatures eventually and then Godo found me a big Sunforger to beat with. Game three started the same way and I started to take control when he played Eight-and-a-Half-Tails. Bad for me, all my spot removal except Char is white. He used 8 1/2 to remove the Faith’s Fetters from the Jitte, swing, and get counters on the Jitte. Fortunately I top decked Wrath of God and gladly used it to get rid of 8 1/2. He still had a pretty full hand so I was scared that another 8 1/2 would follow but it didn’t. He seemed to be having trouble finding creatures and I eventually hard cast the Dragon’s Fang. At the end of his next turn I activated it. He tried to respond with Terashi’s Grasp but I reminded him that Grasp is a sorcery. He tried to cast it again during my turn and the words “Still a sorcery” just slipped out as I equipped a Sunforger to the newly formed 5/5 dragon. I didn’t mean to be a smart ass but Erik is a nice guy and didn’t take offense. I swung and he conceded.
Round 2 - Joel Allen - White/Green critters with Glare of Subdual
Joel splashed black for Cranial Extraction and removed Wrath of God after getting a Kodama of the North Tree in play. I had the Dragon Fang in play already and enough land to flip it so that kept North Tree at bay after he hit me once. I finally found Sunforger and equipped it to the dragon. Joel had taken a lot of damage from his pain lands and was at 12, so I was able to attack for 9 and unequip the Sunforger for the Lightning Helix.
Game two Joel seemed to draw nothing but land. I got Godo out and went to town.
Round 3 - David Stroud - Greater Good w/Yosei and Wrath of God
David’s deck is incredibly difficult to beat once it gets the Hana Kami/Cranial Extaction/Soulless Revival engine going. He got the Greater Good out fast. Once he found Yosei I didn’t untap again.
Game two I had to mulligan once and kept a hand with one of the Cranial’s and one of the Ivory Mask’s I’d boarded in plus three land. All I needed was a snake, a Kodama’s Reach, a Plains or a Swamp and I’d be home free. Naturally I never drew any of those despite the fact that David had to draw almost his entire deck before dragons killed me. Before the dragon attack David had the Hana Kami/Cranial Extraction every turn thing set up and I was slowly losing threats.
The only satisfying part of this match was the Cranial David cast early in game two. I hadn’t done much game one so he named Kodama of the North Tree, which I don’t play. But since he was able to Cranial turn after turn that didn’t really matter. Who the heck made Cranial Extraction Arcane anyway?
Round 4 - Chris Heido - Dimir Cutthroat combo
Chris’ deck used Freed from the Real on Ley Druid (!) to generate infinite mana and win with X spells. I’m not sure which X spell he was using as his win condition though. Game one he kept casting Hippies and I kept Lightning Helix’ing them. I think I had two Helixes in the opening seven and found another one as he was casting Hippies. He was able to get a Dimir Cutthroat out but then I cast Godo and got Jitte. I had enough mana left to equip Jitte. When I attacked Chris didn’t block and I used the counters to kill Cutthroat, then Godo attacked again. I killed him the next turn.
Game two I still wasn’t sure what he was up to so I just brought in the Pyroclasms. He was able to get land and Birds and Elves of Deep Shadow out quickly and also got Freed from the Real on the Ley Druid. I had been holding Pyroclasm since the opening seven and cast it the next turn, clearing his board. After that I got to Godo mana and attacked with a Sunforger-equipped Godo.
I wound up finishing second out of twelve players and won a foil FNM promo Icy Manipulator and five packs of Ravnica. I didn’t get anything particularly good in the packs but I did get some rares I didn’t have four of, including Searing Meditation. I think I’m going to put two of those in the board instead of the fourth Faith’s Fetters and the Manriki-Gusari. Neither of those seemed useful—I didn’t need Manriki-Gusari because I could usually kill whatever creature my opponent equipped and a fourth Faith’s Fetters just wasn’t necessary. I’m thinking the Meditations could help against creature based “red deck wins” type decks which I’ve seen on MTGO, and I can’t see a time when I’d board in the fourth Fetters or the Manriki.
Round 1: Nathan Saunders - Bg Discard Arena
Game 1 I didn’t get a turn one drop. He said that was good for him because his wins and losses against Boros usually coincide with the Boros turn one drop. Then he played the Arena on turn 3, not a good position for me. It came down to him bashing me with Kokusho while I cast burn spells at him and let the arena dwindle him. Eventually I was at 1 life with 2 jitte counters, he was at 6 life with a post combat tapped Kokusho. I had Flames of the Bloodhand in my hand. I figured I had to draw any burn spell or a haste creature and I could win. Then in his second main phase he surprised me by Putrefying his own Kokusho. I responded by casting Flames of the Blood Hand to bring him to 2 life, but Kokusho hit the graveyard and was just enough to kill me. If only I had Yamabushi’s Flame in my hand instead.
Game 2 was long and bizaare. Again missed the one drop, but kept a pretty good hand. Nate got better creatures than me out so I played COP:B. It became a race between him casting creatures and me keeping enough land open to protect. I made a play mistake by letting him flip Shortfang, but with the cop I was able to sit and fill my hand up. It was a different feeling to have a full hand and my opponent having an empty hand. Eventually he had 9 creatures plus Svogthos. I had 3 creatures and plenty of land. Then I thought he made a play mistake by attacking with everything in a position that would not kill any of my creatures, he would lose 2 rats and he would do no damage to me. I blocked the rats and cop’d the rest. I should have known better, he just wanted to tap me out so I couldn’t cast burn at the end of his turn and more on my turn to finish him off. He was out of range for me to burn him in one turn and I had to keep my mana available on my turn for cop. Smart play by him. Then I made my next and final mistake. I cast a skyknight with haste to swing for 6 damage with two of my other creatures. I was at 1 life and couldn’t afford to let any threat past. I forgot to count his land/creature!! I did not have enough land open to protect every threat. I also was relying on a blocker. I should have been keeping enough land open to cop every creature incase he drew removal! What a rookie move to forget about that land guy.
Round 2: Derek Edgley - Bg Discard Arena
I didn’t want to play Derek in Round 2 after we both lost in round 1 because I was hoping one or both of us would top 4.
Game 1 I got the Swiftblade-Jitte combo early. He destroyed it with removal, but I found another Jitte and 2 more Swiftblades. He ran out of answers. Short game.
Game 2 I had a very fast start and didn’t let him get off his feet. Sometimes Boros just goes off and can’t be stopped. Didn’t even need cop’s or devouring lights I boarded in.
Round 3: Jay Collins - Greater Good
Game 1 I got an early pup and a Lion (replaced Lantern Kami main deck) and Jitte. But he got a couple tribe elders to hold me off. Then I got flyers for the Jitte. He got Greater Good and Iname to get 2 Kokushos and Yosei in his graveyard. He cast Goryo’s Vengance to get Kokusho in an attempt to block my Jitte equipped flyer. I cast Yamabushi’s flame on Kokusho before he could block with it. This forced him to use Greater Good without blocking. It slowed me down, but I quickly finished him off the next turn.
Game 2 I played an early pithing needle naming Greater Good. He played 2 snakes early again, but stalled out at 4 land! The two he had in the opening 7 and the two he searched for. He couldn’t find any answers and I had a nice complement of creatures and burn.
Round 4: Sean Collins - UW Control
This match was not fun or pretty. Game 1, he cast story circle and I was releaved that he named White and not Red. He also got a blue shrine out. He was short on white mana, so I would attack forcing him to tap pain land for white, then I would un-equip the forger. Then he cast the white shrine. So I am attempting to out burn him as he gains 4 life each turn. I was using my mana for the forger and he finally wrathed. I unequipped one last time casting Flames. He was at 2 life and I had Char in hand. The only problem was that unequiping the forger left me with only 2 mana. Nate was walking by from time to time and I was commenting about my chances of out burning the shrine at this point. Nate was wondering why I didn’t scoop a long time ago. I figured if I drew a low casting cost creature I would equip and cast Char, then un-equip at the beginning of his upkeep to get Flames. No such luck, I drew land the next two turns and finally took Nate’s advice. Turned out Sean had accumulated counter magic with all his blue shrine drawing anyway.
Game 2 he cast Ivory Mask, COP:R Storycircle naming white and the white shrine. Egad!! I needed my Grasps and pithing needles fast because he found Meloku. At this point I played poorly in an almost impossible situation. I found pithing needle and named copR. I found Grasp and killed the Ivory Mask hoping I could burn him. But I had no chance against the white shrine. I couldn’t draw burn that fast, even with what I had saved up in my had. I was at 27 life and got him down to 4, but he eventually out paced me by bashing with Meloku and gaining life. I should have pithing needled Meloku and grasped the shrine. That would have given me time to find another pith or grasp (which he probably would have countered anyway).
Results: 5th place, no prizes, slight increase to DCI rating I hope. I know Nate and Derek have higher ratings than me and I’m guessing the Collins’ have decent ratings. The only mistake I saw either make was calling white on the Story Circle, but that may have even been correct if he’s running COP:R main.
The Type 1 tournament was supposed to start at 1pm but naturally it didn’t start until 1:30 or later. I think this was at least partially because of the huge stack of deck lists the judges had to go through. I saw two of them frantically reviewing a stack of them. It must take awhile to review Type 1 deck lists since you’d have to check for banned cards, restricted cards and, in this case, count the number of proxies to be sure it was 10 or less. Yes this was an unsanctioned proxy event but that meant I could actually play without using my real Power.
The delay gave me plenty of time to walk around and see who else was there. I knew Randy Buehler often played at Seattle area unsanctioned events and had written about some of them for Star City. For my family and those not familiar with Randy Buehler he’s currently Director of R&D for Magic and has written for the official Magic site and Star City Games.
I saw a guy who I thought was him but I wasn’t sure so I slyly walked by him and looked down at his deck registration sheet. Yep, Randy Buehler. This should be fun. I knew he still did very well at these events and often won them. At first I thought it would be fun to play against him but then I thought it would be more fun to watch him play someone else.
Sitting next to Randy was another player I recognized but I wasn’t sure who he was. Then I saw the Magic Hall of Fame pin on his sweater. And I still didn’t know. I had to look it up online to match the picture to the face as Alan Comer, member of the first Magic HOF class. He’s also worked for Wizards of the Coast until recently when he rejoined the pro tour.
So there was some heavy competition.
As they finally started clearing the tables for the start of round one they announced that the printer wasn’t working and they’d have to call out the pairings. Table one was a couple of people I didn’t recognize. Then the judge called out, “Table two, Roy Zolnoski versus Randy Buehler.” You’ve got to be kidding me.
Round 1 - Randy Buehler - TPS
As I sat down I said, “I was hoping to be able to watch you play from afar.” He smiled and asked what my Magic story was. I told him I’d played since The Dark but mostly casually, blah blah blah, then we both concentrated on the cards. I had a decent opening hand with some counters and some land. He kept too.
After a couple of turns with no conversation I asked him, “So, have you been playing Magic long?” Ha ha, wink wink. He was very focused on the cards though and while he was friendly he didn’t talk all that much.
Did I forget to mention that this was between rounds for the PTQ? It was. Everyone was standing around our table. EVERYONE who wasn’t playing, or at least it felt that way. I felt people standing right behind me and saw a crowd form behind Randy too. Any match he was in was the one of interest for most people. So I was nervous but retained my focus.
On turn one Randy had played Crop Rotation and went to get Tolarian Academy. I was saving Wasteland in my hand because I wasn’t sure what he was up to. I had a Mana Drain in my hand but didn’t counter the Rotation. I figured I’d wait to see what else he had planned. Eventually with the help of Black Lotus he cast Dark Ritual and got to 4BB, then cast Yawgmoth’s Bargain. I Mana Drained it and he looked somewhat frustrated. I’m sure he expected to be in the clear after I let the Lotus and his search spells through.
So I started turn two with 4BB in my mana pool. Naturally I used that to cast Mindslaver and activated it. That was a waste because all he had in play at that point was a Sol Ring—he’d sacrificed everything else on the Bargain and lost his only land, the Academy, to my Wasteland on my turn. It basically served as a Time Walk and I got to record his hand, which was mostly Grim Tutors and other searching. Nothing that would be too threatening without land.
Then I found an activated a Jester’s Cap, removing both his Tendrils and his Brain Freeze. I don’t think he had any way to win at that point but I was still somewhat intimidated by the whole spectacle and didn’t take enough time to really look through his deck. I did notice that all his Moxes and Black Lotus were real and many of his expensive cards were either promo foil versions (Vampiric Tutor for example) or signed by the artist (like Ancestral Recall).
A couple of turns later I found Tinker and traded my Mox Emerald for a Darksteel Colossus. Two turns later he was dead. And with everyone watching! That was fun.
Game two he Duressed away my Mana Dran and Time Walk then played a Xantid Swarm. Eventually he found his combo pieces and I couldn’t counter any of them even though I had Stifle in my hand.
Game three I made a play mistake early. My opening seven was 3 Force of Will, Polluted Delta, Volcanic Island, Goblin Welder, and a Demonic Tutor. On turn one I could either play the Volcanic Island and the Welder or play the Delta for an Underground Sea which would set me up for the Tutor. But I stupidly played the Delta and fetched another Volcanic Island, then played the Welder. I don’t know why I did that, but it kept me off black for several turns. Meanwhile Randy Duressed away one of my Force of Wills and started casting Vampiric and other tutors, trying to find the combo pieces. I drew a Lotus Petal which I knew would get me black mana for the Tutor but I wanted to set up one lethal blow and bluff more counters so I kept it in my hand. Risky, but I didn’t think he’d Duress the Petal if I played it and he’d just get whatever I Tutored for since I didn’t have the mana to Tutor and play something else in one turn.
Then I drew that Mox Emerald. I played the Lotus Petal and Tutored for a Tinker. Then I traded the Emerald for a Colossus again. This left me tapped out but he was at 13 and with the two Welders I had in play I had lethal damage on the table. He untapped, showed me his four cards and said “I win.” He had two Tutors, a Yawgmoth’s Will and a Tendrils of Agony.
Darn. I really thought I’d win but he pulled it out on the last possible turn.
After the match Randy was talking to Alan Comer about the match so I walked up and said “I’m going to eavesdrop if you don’t mind.” I talked to him for a bit about my strategy and his, particularly about my sideboard decision to not board in Tormod’s Crypt. He said the Crypt is only really useful in his deck in the narrow situation we found ourselves in during game three and that I was right not to board that in. He also agreed with the hand I kept in game three even though I didn’t have any card drawing or threats but did have three Force of Wills. He said “good match” and I walked away feeling better about a match loss than I ever have.
Round 2 - Chris Ross - TPS
Augh, again with the TPS! Combo was everywhere. But Chris was obviously no Randy Beuhler. I got a Mindslaver online quickly and looked at his hand. He was saving everything in his hand to go off in one monster turn. He had a Mox, a Black Lotus, Yawgmoth’s Bargain, Tinker, Yawgmoth’s Will and Force of Will. Then he top decked a Dark Ritual. I played his artifact mana, played his land, then played Tinker and Force of Will’ed it. Then I stepped back and realized I could cast Yawgmoth’s Bargain. I did and forced him to draw his deck, killing him immediately two different ways.
Game two was worse for him. I kept a no land hand but it had a Mox Emerald, a Lotus Petal, a Welder, and some counters. I could Petal out the Welder and wait for more mana backup, and once I got it I had something to trade for a Tinker. He Duressed me on his first turn and chose one of the counterspells. If he’d taken the Lotus Petal I would have been hosed. I played out my hand and said go. He drew and said go, missing the land drop. I top decked a Wasteland and thought a bit before trading my only land for his only land. I knew I could function with just one or two land but he needed more than that. He played draw go, still no permanents, and I did the same for a couple of turns, swinging way more than I ever wanted to with the Welder. He eventually drew an Underground Sea but then I drew my Strip Mine. I thought for a minute again but again decided to blow up his only land. I eventually found another Goblin Welder and all I could do was swing for two every turn. But he couldn’t find land and couldn’t do anything so eventually the Welders beat down.
Round 3 - Kris Scudder - TPS
Not again! And this time it was against another seasoned opponent. Kris had obviously played TPS before and played it very carefully once it became clear what I was playing. He used Duress to get the Mana Drains out of my hand and then assembled his combo pieces. He had to Bargain down to two life to find everything he needed in game two but he eventually did and went off.
At that point it was about 4:30 and I figured my family was getting impatient waiting for me in downtown Seattle somewhere so I decided to drop and get an early start back to Portland since I had no chance at Top 8 and would have had to play four more rounds just to see where I finished. Still it was a blast to get to play against and hobnob with current and future Hall of Famers and I did learn quite a bit about how to play against TPS. I definitely need Arcane Laboratory in the board instead of Stifle, since Xantid Swarm won’t do anything to shut down the Lab and TPS doesn’t run very much bounce at all. I also realized I should have boarded in Platinum Angel against Randy and should probably go back to running that main since combo only has one or two answers to that.
For the first time I decided to travel from Portland to Seattle for a tournament. I enjoy Extended and I thought I had a good chance of doing well with my own twist on the popular Dredgeatog deck. I played Goblins in the last PTQ and I’ve played them a lot so I was ready for a change. I thought about playing Boros but that was very similar to many other decks I played. Guess I should have just gone with the familiar.
My family and I drove up on Friday. There was a strange pattern of frost on some of the trees which gave us a lot to look at on the way up. We got to town at about 3pm and avoided the rush hour, which is a very good thing to do in Seattle. The town should probably be renamed “The Gridlock City” from “The Emerald City.” But I digress.
We spent the rest of the day enjoying the Seattle Center — the Space Needle, the carousel ride, and the local restaurants, bookstores and coffee-shops of the trendy Queen Anne neighborhood.
Sunday morning my kids got me up early (who needs an alarm clock?) and we walked to the main Seattle Center building in what I thought was plenty of time. We entered and the place was all but deserted. The only people we saw were janitors and the Starbucks staff. Fortunately they knew where I was supposed to go and I bade a rushed farewell to my family and fast-walked over to the right building.
Like they ever start these things on time.
I saw more players from Portland than I expected and that set me at ease somewhat. It took awhile to fill out the deck list — stupid Tog one of’s!
1 Meloku the Clouded Mirror (alternate win condition, in case of Cranial Extraction)
1 Stinkweed Imp (sets Goblins back a step and it can block a Piledriver, and he’s also good in the mirror. Plus his huge Dredge is handy for setting up lethal Tog’age.)
2 Sensei’s Divining Top
2 Circular Logic
2 Cunning Wish (I went with the utility sideboard and I’m not sure that was a good idea, see below)
2 Force Spike
3 Gifts Ungiven (I found that Gifts didn’t do any good in your opening hand because early in the game you’re either playing draw-go against the mirror or countering spells from aggressive decks)
1 Life from the Loam
1 Living Wish (also a rescuer from Cranial Extraction and allowed me to put a couple of utility creatures in the sideboard)
2 Mana Leak
1 Nightmare Void (amazing in the miror or against any control deck)
3 Pernicious Deed
1 Barren Moor
2 Bloodstained Mire
1 Lonely Sandbar
1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
1 Overgrown Tomb
4 Polluted Delta
1 Tranquil Thicket
1 Underground River
2 Watery Grave
1 Wooded Foothills
2 Yavimaya Coast
1 Echoing Truth
3 Engineered Plague (for Goblins or Horror against Ichorid decks)
1 Ghastly Demise
1 Gloomdrifter (anti Goblin tech)
1 Hideous Laughter
1 Llawan, Cephalid Empress
1 Moment’s Peace
1 Shred Memory
1 Withered Wretch
Round 1 - Zaiem Beg - Boros with more white creatures
Let me sum this up: the round lasted two games and I didn’t even see Tog either game, much less cast it. How do you think that went?
Zaiem had main deck protection from black creatures in what turned out to be a great metagame choice. He cast a first turn Isamaru followed soon by a Mystic Crusader. Normally my Smothers and Darkblast would have made short work of such threats but he just kept laying out more threats and then started with the burn. I never did a point of damage in either game.
The second game went much like the first except he also got an Auriok Champion out. It just wasn’t pretty. Fortunately Zaiem was a nice guy, even though he was wearing a Broncos shirt, and we got in some good AFC West smack talk before he crushed my dreams just as Elway has so often done.
Round 2 - Matt Hague - Tog, almost mono blue version with lots of counters
Game one, we played draw go quite a bit and I finally started trying to get Tog’s to stick. They either got countered or Smothered and Matt finally got one out on his side, and then I died. Game two I got a quick Deed out on the table and followed that by a Llawan, Cephalid Empress which I snuck through the counterspells. He couldn’t play any creatures with that setup and my Naturalizes and Putrefy’s took care of the two Stalking Stones he tried to block with. Game three was a battle. He cast Cunning Wish at the end of my turn and I responded with Gifts, naming Life from the Loam, Nightmare Void (which had done well against him in game two) and two cycling lands. He gave me the two lands, then got Shred Memory with his Wish. Ouch, he took both of my dredge spells. And here I thought Shred Memory was my little secret.
We eventually ran out of time as I had started to take control of the board. I think I would have won but it wasn’t clear and we ended with the draw.
At this point I had a decision to make. The Type 1 tournament was starting in 15 minutes and I was really interested in playing my Goblin Welder deck with main deck Jester’s Cap again. It’s such fun! And I would have had to win out at that point to top eight the PTQ. So I dropped and joined the Type 1 tournament. Did I mention the top prize was a Black Lotus?
There were 119 players in the PTQ, the largest in years apparently and around double the size of the one in Portland. I didn’t stick around to see where I finished out of these but I was happy to see several Portland players sitting at the first table when I left, including Josh Beck at table 1. Chris Buker, who almost always Top 8’s and beat me badly at States two years in a row, won with Affinity after losing in round one. Interestingly the top 8 included two Affinity decks, two combo/Mind’s Desire decks, and a Tooth and Nail (Josh’s deck).