I’ve been playing around with MBC for several months and tried a Standard build in Friday Night Magic. I didn’t even bother writing up that report because basically I got crushed. I went 2-2 but beat two inexperienced players playing slowish creature decks (which Damnation loves) and losing badly to Dragonstorm and Dragonstorm.
Fortunately I didn’t let that deter me when Tarmogoyf reared its ugly head in Block PTQ’s a couple of weeks ago. I really liked the idea of having Damnation in a block deck but when Goyf became the prominent deck I figured MBC might finally have its turn. I know, I know, Mystic Enforcer, but he still dies to Damnation and my build had another (albeit more difficult to use) answer in Smallpox.
4 Funeral Charm
4 Sudden Death
4 Augur of Skulls
4 The Rack
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Slaughter Pact
4 Withered Wretch
Before I get to the round by round coverage I want to discuss a couple of my more unusual choices. Most MBC or BU control decks are running Korlash as their finisher. I went with Tombstalker instead for two reasons: first, he has evasion while Korlash can be chumped by anything, even lowly Mogg War Marshal tokens; second, Tombstalker strips my own graveyard and keeps Tarmogoyfs smaller. My second decision was omitting Tendrils of Corruption. These can backfire against Kavu Predators but in general I just didn’t want spot removal for four. I was beating mono red even without those in my testing and I didn’t really have another matchup where those were better than Pact or Sudden Death.
Extirpate is probably my shakiest spot in the board. I had it in there against cards I just couldn’t deal with like Sacred Mesa and Wild Pair. My hope was to get those into the yard and then remove them from the game. Not a great chance of doing that, I know, but better than no chance at all. Withered Wretch was definitely my sideboard MVP. He provides an early threat and a Shadowmage Infiltrator blocker against UB control, an early chump blocker against random aggro decks, and a graveyard cleaner against Goyf.
OK, on with the countdown.
Round 1 - Kyle Mayfield - Bu Korlash control
For the first few turns this looked like a mirror match: swamps, discard spells, hands dwindling rapidly. Fortunately I found The Rack and he wasn’t running it so his relatively empty hand started hurting him. Unfortunately for me he had Phyrexian Totem and started swinging. I was one turn away from finishing him with a Nihilith but he was swinging harder with the Totem and I died first.
Game two my deck just clicked. I stripped his hand and got The Rack into play and his life total slipped away. I was encouraged.
Game three was much the same as game one but he got Korlash again and this time I wasn’t able to find removal. I wasted a Nihilith by attacking into an untapped Korlash who was a 5/5 instead of a 4/4—I forgot to count all his lands as Swamps since I had Urborg in play. He also had 1B untapped so he could have just regenerated anyway. Not my brightest move but I would have had to use the Nihilith to chump anyway if I’d kept him home so I don’t think it affected the game too much. It did cost me a turn though which could have bought me the time to draw Damnation. Not so encouraging.
I did like Kyle’s one Plains for Temporal Isolation from the board but I still liked my build. I really needed to win though or this would be a very short afternoon.
Round 2 - Thomas Kiene - WRu Blinkrider
I kept a hand with a Desert, a Swamp and some relatively expensive spells. Not bad, I figured I would draw a land in the first three or four turns which is all I really needed to do. Bad idea. He played an Avalanche Riders turn three off Prismatic Lens and blinked it a couple of times, this leaving me with no land and just a Rack in play on turn four or five. He played the big land destroying Dragon a couple of turns later and I scooped.
Out went Funeral Charm, in went Withering Wretch to get rid of those Blinks from the yard and provide some early threats. I stripped his hand but he had two lenses and three or four land in play so he was able to play a Lightning Angel and a Bogardan Hellkite. Fortunately I had Smallpoxes for both threats and the Rack eventually got him.
Game three he was stuck on two Mountains for much of the game. I had a slow start but I found disard before he found land. He scooped when a second Nihilith came into play.
Whew. I was scared after that first game but my deck worked after that.
Round 3 - Tristan Emerson - Wild Pair slivers
Tristan knew what I was playing from earlier discussions with our group but I didn’t know what he had. I was not happy when he started to play Slivers. Wild Pair had been my worst matchup in testing. He got Wild Pair into play fairly quickly but I was able to keep Telekinetic Slivers off the table with Sudden Deaths and my unblockable Nihilith did the job eventually. Well, actually he ripped Take Possession when he was at four to grab my Nihilith but I found another one and killed his.
Out went the Racks (they’re pretty useless against Slivers since once they get going they’re actually discarding at EOT to get back down to seven cards) and in went the Extirpates and one Slaughter Pact
Game two he eventually combo’d out even though I Extirpated Gemhide Sliver on turn three. I thought that would buy me enough time to strip the rest of his hand but he still got Wild Pair into play off two Coalition Relics. He also boarded in Riftsweeper to get my Nihilith’s back into my library. I had no chance to win the game but after winning game one I had no reason to concede either. I was hoping he’d either take the rest of the round to kill me or accidentally deck himself. He did neither and killed me off with plenty of time for game three.
Game three he played creatures and I killed them until I got a Tombstalker in play. Fortunately he didn’t find a Telekinetic and four turns later the Tombstalker finished him off.
Round 4 - Sean Collins - UBr Mishra
This deck has given me trouble online because it can be very explosive. Game one went according to plan with me emptying his hand after killing a turn four Mishra. He did get me down to three with a Phyrexian Totem but the Rack finished him off.
Game two I made oh, about 600 of the same mistake in a row. I kept killing his Epochrasites in a variety of ways and I had a Withered Wretch in play but I didn’t remove the Epochrasite from the game when he went to the graveyard and triggered his ability. I finally realized what I was doing toward the end of the game and instead Damnation’ed, then Extripated three of the four of them away (the other was suspended) but I was kicking myself the rest of the match. I still would have won game two but he ripped Void and cast it for one, killing my Rack. I would have won on the next turn as I had Smallpox which would have brought him down to two life and one card in hand.
Fortunately I didn’t let my horrible play get to me too much in game three. I stripped his hand and two Racks did their thing. I think Sean was quite annoyed to lose to someone making the same mistake over and over but as he said I don’t think it was a good matchup for him.
Round 5 - David Ballon - URb Bridge/Madness
David ran an unusual deck which basically splashed black for Dread Return and Magus of the Bazaar to activate Madness and get big critters into the yard.
Unfortunately for David, Nihilith really likes when you are discarding three cards a turn. Discard should have helped him but I was able to get the Dread Return out of his hand and keep him to less than three creatures in play so the Akroma in his yard stayed there. Even after mulliganning once I killed him pretty quickly with a Tombstalker after getting rid of his Bridge and two cards from his hand with an Augur.
Game two I brought in Withered Wretch and took out Smallpox. The Wretch kept the relevant reanimation cards out of his yard and a Nihilith swung for four.
Round 6 - Joel Popick - mono white aggro
Joel and I got the nerve-wracking deck check and it took forever. Well, 13 minutes actually. We were both starting to wonder if they’d found a problem. They took a long time looking at Joel’s deck and then took a long time looking at mine. Eventually they brought our decks back and asked if I would resleeve after this match. They said some of the sleeves were marked with little bumps but that they couldn’t find any pattern which would indicate that I’d done it deliberately which, of course, I hadn’t. They were brand new sleeves which I’d just put onto the deck the day before. Fortunately Joel agreed to loan me some sleeves since he had enough extras for my entire deck. Very nice of him.
We started with Joel suspending creatures on each of the first three turns (one Shade and two Knight of Sursi). I Damnationed them away after he played Calciderm and my Nihilith and Rack started doing their thing.
Game two I had totally under control with two Nihilith’s in play and Joel at 8. He had two cards left in hand and a Serra Avenger and a Knight in play. I wasn’t sure what he could have in his hand but I wanted to be sure he couldn’t pull out of the position he was in so I cast Stupor. Big mistake. Dodecapod went into play as a 5/5 and he swung for my last 10 points. Ouch, that hurt.
Game three went very similarly to game one. He played some creatures, I killed them and got two Nihilith’s into play and they swung and swung.
Round 7 - Trevor Chart - mono blue control (BU control?)
I can’t remember if Trevor played a River of Tears or not so I’m not sure if he ran mono blue control or a tiny black splash. I tried to calm down and focus despite all the onlookers. We were the top table which was actually playing. Everyone above us drew into the top 8 but we had to play. Especially me. My tiebreakers were horrible, or at least Peter Z told me so. They’d started posting pairings after round four but I hadn’t looked. I figured I just had to keep winning so I didn’t want to worry about what position I was in or what my breakers looked like.
Game one I was able to empty his hand pretty quickly and get The Rack plus a Nihilith into play. He killed the Nihilith by copying it with a Shapeshifter but a few turns later I got a Tombstalker out and he did the final 10 damage in two turns.
Game two was much more intense. He played Willbender face up, hoping to find a Shapeshifter later. He played a Morph and I had two Sudden Death’s in hand. I wanted to play them very carefully so I kept them in hand for several turns. I had suspended a couple of Nihilith’s but he Cancelled one and Dismal Failure’d the other, causing me to discard one of the Sudden Deaths. Eventually I found Damnation to clear the board, then cast the Tombstalker I’d been saving. After the Rack had been bleeding him much of the game, Tombstalker did the final five points of damage.
I had made Top 8! Since I actually had to play to get in, the Swiss ended with me ranked first.
Top 8 - Round 1 - Gabe Carleton-Barnes - GWr Goyf
GCB was not the player I wanted to be paired against but I felt I had a good chance against his deck. I’d tested the matchup online and mainly lost when I had bad draws. Of course, most of those players weren’t as good as GCB.
We filled out our names and addresses and, for some reason, dates of birth on the forms provided and this revealed exactly how old I actually am. Gabe and I joked for the rest of the match about age and as we shuffled over and over and over I asked a judge if we could start since I wasn’t getting any younger.
Finally we did start and he played a Kavu Predator turn two. He had a Grove of the Burnwillows in play and took every opportunity to give me life with it. I stripped most of his hand and put the Rack to work but his Predators got bigger and bigger (he played a second one on turn four or five). Eventually he had an 8/8 and a 4/4 Predator and my life total went from 16 to zero in two turns.
Game two he played a Whirling Dervish but attacked into an untapped Desert. “I’ve never played against Desert before in my life,” Gabe said as he read the card text. Sadly that wasn’t enough to help me. He played another Dervish and played a Griffin Guide on it and swung a few times. I had Damnation in hand but was waiting vainly for him to play a few more creatures. He never did and I had to Damnation the Guided Dervish away.
He played a Goyf and I had a Sudden Death and a Damnation in hand and two Deserts in play. I could have let him attack me and Sudden Death the Goyf, then finish it with the Deserts but I was afraid he’d Griffin Guide or Thrill of the Hunt it and my plan would backfire so I cast Damnation on my turn instead. Unfortunately my plan did backfire when he played Mystic Enforcer next, and he was well into Threshold territory. Two alpha strikes later my day was over. I had two Damnations and all four Smallpox left in the deck but that game illustrated the biggest problem with mono black in Time Spiral block: no card drawing and no tutoring.
Yes, that was my first PTQ top 8 after several GPT top 8’s and last year’s limited States second place finish. It was nice finally getting the pin but I wish I’d done better in the top 8. Like, say, winning a single game. Still, I was happy with finally getting there especially after losing the first round.
Lessons learned: slow down and focus on what’s happening (the Withered Wretch/Epochrasite interaction), check your sleeves more carefully, and don’t face 1900+ rated players in the Top 8. Oh, and don’t get greedy when you have the win on the board.
I still like the deck and might play it in GP San Francisco. I do like UG Goyf as well but what can I say, I’m a sucker for The Rack. I think Extirpate may come out of the board. I need some way to get rid of Mystic Enforcer. Perhaps two more Epochrasites and one Triskelevus to block the pro black creatures, although Triskelevus is a very slow answer. Maybe three Grave Peril’s since it doesn’t target the creature and would, at worse, force them to slow down and play creatures differently.
Thanks to my lunchtime playtest group! I think the practice is helping.