It’s funny, I really wasn’t going to play in the PTQ. In fact I called a friend and told him I wasn’t going back to Parkside Hall until later in the day, then I wound up in front of him in line to register about 10 minutes later. Never underestimate the power of an understanding and supportive wife.
One last block tournament for the season. I figured I’d give GWR Fires Goyf (Dateline NBC) a try since I’d really had my fill of mono black control.
I went with a pretty standard build with just a couple of tweaks:
Creatures (25! Now that’s the way I like a deck. I’m a Timmy, sue me.)
4 Kavu Predator
2 Saffi Eriksdotter
4 Serra Avenger
4 Dead // Gone
4 Edge of Autumn
3 Fiery Justice
4 Flagstones of Trokair
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
4 Horizon Canopy
2 Llanowar Reborn
4 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Fiery Justice
3 Krosan Grip
4 Mystic Enforcer
3 Rebuff the Wicked
4 Temporal Isolation
Round 1 - Travis Owens - UGw blink/Goyf
For game one I shuffled up and drew a hand of a couple of Plains and a bunch of green and red spells. I decided to go for a more aggressive start so I shuffled again and drew a hand of the one Mountain and five other random spells. Ship again, keep five. Not a great start. I was never able to recover and never put up a serious threat.
Out went the Saffi’s, in went the Fiery Justice and one Temporal Isolation.
By turn three of game two I had two Predators in play and was taking burn from my Grove to pump them up, GCB-style. Between that fast start and Travis’ mulligan I won quickly.
Game three I got another pretty good start but this time Travis had creatures of his own. I got him down to three but he had two powered up Mystic Enforcers in play and a Goyf. I had my own Goyf plus a Stonecloaker and a Serra Avenger. On the turn before I’d drawn two extra cards by cycling Edge of Autumn and sac’ing Horizon Canopy. Untap, upkeep, then I ripped Dead // Gone off the top. He had an island and a forest untapped but I went for the win and bounced one of the Enforcers, then when it resolved I swung with everyone. Travis extended his hand and it was official: I like this deck.
Round 2 - Greg Hatch - UGWb blink
Yes, four color blink, and he never had trouble finding the right color in any of the three games between Terramorphic Expanse and Chromatic Star. Why did I have so much trouble getting to three land in a mono color deck?
Game one was very back and forth. I played creatures and he either bounced them with Vensers and Mystic Snakes or countered them outright. He got me down to two before I finished him off.
Once again out went the Saffi’s, in went the Fiery Justice and one Temporal Isolation.
Game two I got another fast start with a turn three Calciderm. Unfortunately I attacked into his untapped Goyf and didn’t realize it was a 5/6. Then, even worse, I didn’t Stonecloak the Calciderm back to my hand. Ugh. During the second main phase I played a Riftsweeper, Stonecloak’ed it back and removed the lone artifact from the yard, killing his Goyf. The next turn I played another Calciderm and it was off to the races. I was mad at myself for such a stupid series of plays but glad it didn’t cost me the game.
Game three I had to mulligan again and didn’t draw many threats. He used Snakes to counter the ones I did try to play and Slaughter Pacted the rest.
Round 3 - Michael Lew - UB control/bounce
Game one Michael suspended Cloudskates on three consecutive turns but got stuck on one Island and two Deserts for the whole game. I played the same Predator four times at least, but kept swinging with other creatures and he had to keep chumping with his Cloudskates. Eventually my creatures started connecting.
Game two Michael hit his land drops but didn’t draw much else. I helped that cause by Riftsweeping away his Ancestral Visions on turn three. I got a Predator into play and he didn’t find any bounce. I Fiery Justice’d away his team and created a 10/10 Predator and he conceded.
Round 4 - Richard Kho - Teachings
Game one started slowly. He played a River of Tears then an Academy Ruins which I removed by copying it with Vesuva (yay one copy of Vesuva main!). Unfortunately he played Urborg next. D’oh. I played a Predator but he killed it, played some other creatures which he Tendriled away, then he started hitting with Teferi and Urza’s Factory tokens. The Hellkite was the icing on the cake.
Game two he boarded in seven or eight cards and accidentally flipped one up while shuffling. I saw that it was black and thought it looked like Augur of Skulls but figured I must have seen it wrong. I took out Dead // Gone and put in Rebuff the Wicked.
I mulliganed twice (the set of seven just had one land, the set of six was 3x Rebuff the Wicked, a Forest, Fiery Justice and a Riftsweeper) then on turn two I played a Goyf. Then Richard played Prophyry Nodes. Ouch. Goodbye Goyf. I played another creature and he played another Nodes. I don’t know why more Teachings decks don’t run those, they’re easy to cast with Lens or Coalition Relic. Goodbye creature #2, a Predator I believe. A couple of turns later he did cast Augur of Skulls. I had a Serra Avenger and two lands in hand and two plains and a Grove in play when he sacrificed the Augur. I tossed the two lands. This proved to be key since after that I drew two Calciderms but never drew another land. Richard kept tapping out to kill my smaller, targetable creatures but I couldn’t take advantage by ripping a land and casting a Calciderm. Richard finished the game at 30 life since I had to keep tapping the Grove and his Triskelavus and associated tokens finished me off.
2-2 drop. Apparently I was destined for .500 Magic at this GP.
1) The internet writers were right, Saffi isn’t very good in this deck. It’s not bad against Teachings and is pretty good against mono black (which nobody plays but me) but isn’t aggressive enough to really suit this deck. Often just plain Grizzly Bears would have been better since they wouldn’t have had the rough mana requirement.
2) I might run this in Standard because it’s such fun to play but if I do I’ll probably move a Riftsweeper to the board, cut both Saffis and put in another three of, maybe Call of the Herd. You want four Riftsweepers against blue, at least in block, but otherwise it’s often just a grizzly bear and can just wind up shuffling one of your own Delayed spells back in. They might need to go to the board entirely in Standard or perhaps out altogether if Ancestral Visions and Cloudskate go out of favor.
3) Rebuff the Wicked is way too situational. This needs to be something else. Sunlance would have been better in block; I’m not sure what goes here in Standard. Maybe Glare for the mirror for the next month or two.
4) I should have boarded in the Grips instead of the Rebuff the Wicked against Teachings. I knew that going in but just forgot it there in round four.
For my first Grand Prix we packed the whole family up and drove down the coast on the fabled Highway 101. We stopped at lots of beaches, drove through the Redwood forest, got stuck in traffic in Coos Bay and Willits, the whole bit. We did take a bit of a detour through downtown San Francisco because we missed the exit onto Highway 1. In California they like to only post a sign right in front of the exit you want with no warning, that way you have about two seconds to see the sign, realize it’s where you want to go, and cut across four lanes of traffic to get there.
I went out to Parkside Hall on Friday night and decided to enter one of the 32 man grinders, more to see what kinds of decks were being played than for the three byes (although the byes would have been nice). I scrubbed out of that in round one and it happened so fast I don’t even remember what it was against. Some flavor of Goyf as I recall. I know I was mana screwed both games and had to mulligan game two because I had two lands in hand, neither of which produced black. I decided going up to 24 land was in order so I added another Urborg. I got more productive deck tweaking by talking with the Portland crew, especially Peter Zaworski. He suggested adding a Vesuva instead of a Swamp in the main to blow up other peoples’ Urborgs and Academy Ruins.
I went with this build:
4 Augur of Skulls
3 Funeral Charm
3 Slaughter Pact
3 Sudden Death
4 The Rack
2 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Dauthi Slayer
1 Sudden Death
2 Tendrils of Corruption
4 Withered Wretch
We had 671 participants and I was still, alphabetically, the last one. We had a brief player meeting at the beginning of the tournament including the announcement that they were now allowing you to place “non-game” items on top of your library to remind you to pay for Pacts. Good call, although later in the day I still overheard somebody losing a game when they cast two Pacts when they only had mana to pay for one. I also saw one of the Japanese pros put the Pact itself on top of their library and the judge didn’t complain so apparently the rules on this are still being worked out, but it was still a welcome announcement since I was afraid of losing a game to my own Slaughter Pact.
Round 1 - bye (on rating)
Round 2 - Rich Jacques - Renimator
Game one Rich threw some critters in the yard, played Dread Return for Hellkite and won. It was pretty simple really. I didn’t find enough discard to disrupt his plan and I couldn’t find a Funeral Charm to kill the Magus of the Bazaar. I had mulliganed once and pretty much drew land the rest of the game.
Game two in came the Withered Wretch, out went some of the targeted removal. I decided not to bring in Extirpate because he had so many different threats that I didn’t think it would help as much as the Wretches. I got the Wretch in my opening hand, played him early, and kept his yard bereft of threats. I love removing a white Akroma from the game with a black creature.
We went to game three and that’s when the trouble started. I suspended Nihilith on turn two and Rich’s Looter removed counters quickly. At end of one turn Rich Extirpated something from my yard and the Nihilith went from two counters to one. He passed the turn and I untapped, then removed the die from the Nihilith, put my hand on it and slid it toward my Wretch, saying “Comes into play?” Rich didn’t respond so I drew for the turn and attacked. Unfortunately I did that a bit quickly and Rich called for a judge, protesting that I didn’t give him a chance to respond to the Nihilith. I told him I said “Comes into play?” and when he didn’t respond I proceeded but he said he didn’t hear me say that.
The judge took both of our cases, conferred with one or two other judges, and announced that he was going to rewind to the upkeep step but after the Nihilith was already in play. Rich was not happy and showed the judge the two Delays he had in hand. He said he was taking time to think about what he wanted to do and that I didn’t give him a chance to respond. He appealed the ruling to the head judge. The head judge took our cases again and asked a few more questions than the other judge did. He decided that we had both established shortcuts in our previous game play, such as not announcing each step as it passed (which was one of Rich’s objections, that I hadn’t done so). He made what I agreed was the correct ruling and rewound the game state back to when the Nihilith was coming into play. Rich Delayed it and I still won because the Nihilith only got two counters (after the Delay hit the yard) and Rich still had two Looters in play. My Wretch continued to eat his yard until the Nihlith came back and finished the job.
Later on the player who was sitting on Rich’s left came up to me and told me he heard me say “Comes into play?” which made me feel better about the situation.
Whew. My first real non-bye win at a GP. I had to work for it.
Round 3 - Joseph Lee - Teachings
Ugh. Teachings piloted by a good player. This was the matchup I was dreading since in testing it’s proven to be pretty much an auto-loss for me. The Rack is pointless because I can’t stop them from drawing lots of cards. Tendrils doesn’t help either since I’m fairly good at doing 20 damage with Rackage and critters but 30 or more is kinda tough.
Game one I tried to strip his hand and keep creatures into play but wasn’t too successful at either goal. Eventually, after softening me up with a Factory token he got a Triskelevus into play and bashed me with it, then made some token flying critters and threw them at me too.
Game two in went four Dauthi Slayers and three Withered Wretch, out went Funeral Charm and The Rack. I played creatures, he played Damnation. We went through that cycle three times, along with a timely Tendrils to bring him back from 8 to 14 life. Eventually he found a Hellkite and Flashed it in for five, then finished me off with it.
I hate Teachings.
Round 4 - William Mattox - GWR “Fires” Goyf (or, as Nathan Saunders calls it: “Dateline NBC, To Catch a Predator”)
Finally, the nuts draw. Play The Rack, Suspend Nihilith, play Augur, sack Augur and play Stupor. William’s hand was empty and Nihilith was in play. Game one was pretty quick.
Game two in came the Wretches, out went a Sudden Death, a Slaughter Pact and two Funeral Charm. I wanted to cut down on the targeted removal since I figured he’d bring in Mystic Enforcers and possibly even Whirling Dervish. I suspended two Nihilith’s only to see them whisked away by Riftsweeper. I did some Rack damage but not nearly enough.
Game three was one of the weirdest I’ve ever played. He played some early threats and I killed them. We got to the point where both of our hands were empty and we each had five or six land in play and both in top deck mode. Neither one of us could draw a threat, even with him cycling Edge of Autum and sac’ing Horizon Canopies. I even Vesuva’d his Horizon Canopy and sac’d it on the next turn looking for something which dealt damage. Meanwhile I drew removal spell after removal spell.
William found a creature here and there and I let a couple stick around, trying to work the Damnations, but he never found more than one creature at a time so my Sudden Deaths and Smallpoxes and Slaughter Pacts did their work. At one point I had a hand of three Smallpox, three Damnations and a spare Swamp to toss to Smallpox. I think I Smallpoxed two consecutive Calciderms away at one point. Finally I was down to one lonely life and he had a Predator in play. He cast Fiery Justice at my Nihilith for four and me for one, then swung with the Predator. I cast Slaughter Pact to kill his Predator and my remaining Nihilith finished him off.
Round 5 - Warren Eng - Slivers
Warren’s was kind of a mix of aggro and poison slivers. He had Virulents but his whole deck wasn’t built around one drops. I was happy when Warren played a turn two Gemhide since, in testing, Slivers has been a good matchup for me. He played slivers, I killed them. He found a Frenetic and I had Sudden Death. Eventually I got him with a Nihilith and The Rack.
Game two in came the two Tendrils and the Sudden Death, out went three Racks (if he gets a decent draw he’ll be drawing lots of cards, if not I win anyway). Unfortunately my strategy didn’t matter much as I was mana screwed much of the game after a mulligan to six keeping two Swamps. I finally got to three swamps but it was way too little too late.
Game three he got Telekinetic and Frenetic and I couldn’t find removal (after yet another mulligan). You wouldn’t think a mono-color deck with 24 land would get mana screwed so much. What I wouldn’t give for Dark Confidant in block.
At least Warren went on to finish in the top 64 and he was playing in a feature match. Unfortunately for him his opponent was playing Serrated Arrows. I should have run those instead of Extirpate, which I didn’t wind up boarding in all afternoon.
Round 6- Matthew Siler - Slivers
Matthew was running a more typical aggro build, without Warren’s Psionic Sliver. Much of game one was spent playing mana sources and building our position. Eventually he found Frenetic and Telekinetic. He built up to one large attack and I Sudden Death’ed his Frenetic with a Delay’ed Damnation coming into play the next turn. His alpha strike took me from 15 to 2. After that I hard cast a Nihilith and an Augur and thought I was in good shape. Then he played another Telekinetic. I sent the Nihilith and passed the turn. He ripped Firewake Sliver, tapped my Augur with it and swung for the remaining two. Grr. I’m beginning to hate slivers now too.
Game two, same board as round 5. We traded attacks back and forth. I had a Tendrils, Nihilith and Augur in my hand and we each had a couple of creatures into play. Unfortunately he had two Gemhides and used them to cast Bust. All my land went away. After that he was able to cast spells but I wasn’t and he started swinging with Slivers until I succumbed.
Wow, from 3-1 and right in the thick of the race to 3-3 and out of it. To top it all off we had an hour and a half delay after round 6 because they lost some of the results or something and had to “reconstruct the matches by hand,” which apparently was a lengthy process. And I thought Cascade Games was inefficient.
Eventually, after a few crazy 2HG games with Nick (formerly of Portland) vs. Erik and Becky, we proceeded to round 7. I would point out that both Smallpox and Nihilith proved to be pretty crazy it multiplayer.
Round 7 - Thaum Christman - UR Suspend
Thaum was playing a version of the UR precon, I think, but tricked out with some rares like Akroma, Angel of Fury. All I saw in the first game was Shivan Sand-Mage and Chronozoa. You’d think I could remove those with ease but I spent the entire game on two Swamps with two Sudden Deaths in hand. I eventually had to Smallpox with just two Swamps in play just to kill a creature. I drew another Swamp but couldn’t find a third land and died to dividing Chronozoas.
Usually I’m a pretty happy, congenial player but I was pissed after this game and did some bitching. I boarded out three Funeral Charm and boarded in Tendrils and Sudden Death. I got a good draw and stripped his hand, then Thaum drew nothing but land. Game two ended quickly. Game three was more of the same except I got the nuts again and stripped his hand by turn four. The Rack and a Nihilith took it home. Good. Thaum was a nice guy but I would have been really mad at myself if I’d lost this round.
Round 8 - Kalib Walker - UW blink
In game one Kalib suspended some Cloudskates and played a Calciderm but two Damnations cleared the board and The Rack eventually did its work.
Game two, in came the Sudden Death and the Wretches, out went Funeral Charms and — um, I forgot the other two cards I took out. Game two I double mulliganed and never recovered. Game three was close as he played creatures and I killed them. He kept resolving Cloudskates and bouncing my third land, then I kept replaying the land and Sudden Death’ing his Cloudskates. I had him down to four but he was able to bounce my Nihilith. I was down to one life and he had one Cloudskate on the board. He attacked and I showed him the one card in my hand, an Urborg. He exhaled and we shook hands. I dropped before the final and, for me, meaningless round nine.
Well, not great, I finished in the middle of the pack somewhere, but it wasn’t a totally embarrassing finish. I was in it for awhile. Still it was a disappointment after a PTQ top 8 with essentially the same deck. I think the deck’s time had come and gone but it was the deck I knew best and I’m glad I gave it a shot.
1) If you want to play control, play it with blue.
2) Forget about Extirpate, it’s not very useful. I never boarded it in, even against Reanimator which is designed to throw cards in their yard.
3) Coalition Relic is nuts and is going to enable some pretty wacky control decks over the next Standard season.
4) Again I was proven right: several people saw me play and complimented me on Nihilith vs. Korlash. It seems like Korlash should be good but there are too many aggro decks out there who can just chump Korlash all day long. Usually Nihilith gets a win against Slivers but Korlash in the same position would be bouncing up against one drops all day, and half of those wouldn’t even die due to Frenetic. If you want to rip Swamps out of your deck I think Twisted Abomination would be better.
Congrats to Peter though, he made day two after playing against pros in three or four consecutive rounds!