Grand Prix Charleston was awesome. I loved my deck, my play, and most importantly my angle of attack. I went back to playing Magic Online every moment I could for two weeks before the event. I learned so much about myself, the way I build decks, and the archetypes that best suit my play skill. Today I'm going to go through the entire story of how I came to play Hoof There It Is and why. The twist is that it is all in video form. Enjoy!
U/W Flash is one of the easiest matchups for this deck. They have very few ways to pressure you in the early game and even fewer ways to disrupt your creatures. The best way to play this matchup is to prioritize your spells correctly and not feel like you're the aggressor. They in fact have to beat you down first since you have inevitability with cards like Tracker's Instincts, Lingering Souls, Deathrite Shaman, and Gavony Township.
U/W Flash is going to have mana up on almost every one of your turns. This means prioritizing spells is very important. The easiest way to order spells is to break it down into turns they are able to cast Restoration Angel and turns they can only play Dissipate. Restoration Angel is the only way U/W Flash can get an early board presence. Without this flyer, the deck just sits around and tries to run its opponent out of cards before finding a Sphinx's Revelation. It's hard to pull that off against the #HOOF deck. U/W Flash can draw up to eight fresh cards and still be behind in card quality, so they need to land Angel as quickly as possible against us.
U/W Flash's counter package is heavy on removing the spells from the game. This makes it very risky to play cards like Lingering Souls from your hand into open mana. You never want them to get Dissipated. However, if they can play Restoration Angel, you'd rather make that one-for-one trade than have them resolve Restoration Angel. This is why I tend to cast Tracker's Instincts, Mulch, and mana dorks into three or fewer mana. I save the Lingering Souls, Deathrite Shamans, and Craterhoof Behemoths for when my opponent can get an Angel on the board.
Bring in everything but Angel of Serenity.
Sideboarded games get so much better. We now have access to uncounterable threats that can take games over all by themselves. Almost every card in the deck is difficult for U/W Flash to deal with, making their Supreme Verdicts have to work overtime. You never want to commit too many cards to the board. They will have a tough time with them anyway. I tend to try to hold a few powerful cards like Lingering Soul and Restoration Angel for when they cast Angel of Serenity. They'll likely have to blow up the board again to stabilize, returning the stolen cards. Just play safe and always name Beast on your Caverns.
The best thing I can say about this matchup is to be content with doing very little. Bant Control doesn't have a good way to put pressure on you. Sure, they can draw a lot of cards, but those cards don't match up well if you don't overcommit to the board. Simply activating Gavony Township with one guy and two Spirits will force a Supreme Verdict eventually. These control decks are designed to attrition the opponent out. Don't let them do this!
They also run very few counterspells in the main, making Craterhoof a real threat at any time. Just be patient and always keep a few resources safe.
Bring in everything but Angel of Serenity.
Sideboarded games get a bit more difficult since they now have Rest in Peace and more counterspells. Stick to the same game plan as game 1 but with more powerful spells. Get to eight mana and hoof the hell out of them!
From this point forward, we simply don't interact with our opponents. Seriously! We have a game plan, and we must do it as fast as possible. The more you interact with an opponent, the harder it will be to win. Just stick to the script and take damage when necessary. Use creatures as chump blockers only when you have to. The more interactive games are when you play and flashback Lingering Souls and start activating Gavony Township on turn 4. These games are still not very interactive since the tokens tend to kill opponents in two turns.
The goal in sideboarding in the following matchups is to constantly be doing the most powerful thing you can. You want to go over to top of everyone and exploit their weaknesses or force them to have answers to multiple lines of attacks. You are not answering them; they are answering you, including the aggressive decks. We just want to slam monsters down and hope that's enough. Angel of Serenity is an amazing Magic card and capable of winning games all by itself. It also doesn't hurt when she shows up on turn 3.
B/R Zombies is starting to look a lot like the green versions: tons of creatures and very few removal spells. This is why I am starting to board the exact same against both versions.
Four-Color Reanimator (Blue)
This is one of the only matchups I haven't been able to get much testing against. I played against it twice at the Grand Prix and both times had no clue who was favored. I'm still unsure if I want to bring in Angel of Serenity or not. It isn't that bad of an option since they will take the controlling role without many ways to actually control the game. I would have easily won my last round if I'd brought in four Thragtusk and four Angel of Serenity, but instead I just brought in a couple Angels. I would playtest this matchup if you're serious about playing this deck at a big event.
I'm not going to sit here and say that this deck wasn't designed for the expected metagame. It will not be the driving force of Standard moving forward. It's fragile to most removal spells that are not seeing play. However, the deck proves that this format is far from being solved.
Removal will find its way back into the metagame. W/G Humans, Zombies, and #HOOF are vulnerable to Pillar of Flame, making it the go-to removal spell right now.
#HOOF is much weaker to removal than most decks. It's really difficult to determine how large the backlash will be against it. There are so many different strategies that popped up in Charleston that it's hard to say what will come into play. If cards like Curse of Death's Hold and Izzet Staticaster start seeing more play, the deck will have to transition back to the slower four-color version with Angel of Serenity as its kill condition.
The only thing that I know for sure is that Reanimator strategies are not going anywhere. They are the most flexible and powerful ones available. Unburial Rites is my favorite card to play, and I don't see myself unsleeving it for a while.
"It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up." –Vince Lombardi
Before I wrap this up, I hoofta say something. My career with Magic has been a rocky one. It has had many highs and lows. Pro Tour Gatecrash could be the first Pro Tour I haven't been qualified for since my debut PT in 2009. With every poor performance, this inner pressure builds to regain what I once had. Every once in a while the feeling burns so hot that winning is all that matters.
I was especially feeling this way in Charleston.
Losing the last round on Sunday was probably the most difficult loss of my career. I had the Golden Ticket to get back on the train and keep my dream alive. I couldn't ask to be playing a better deck than the one I had in my hands, and every opponent was lucky to get past me with a win. But I found myself short of Top 8, and the opportunity to make it to Pro Tour Gatecrash slipped away. I was destroyed.
I went outside after the loss. I didn't want any condolences or inquiries of my finish. I wanted to be alone with my thoughts and have a minute to regain my composure. It wasn't working, and I found myself still in disbelief that my tournament was over. I just couldn't shake it.
Then my phone buzzed.
Great, probably someone offering their condolences, I thought. I knew it was someone who cared about me, but I didn't want to hear "sorry" right then. I would rather hear someone tell me I screwed up and am terrible at the game than tell me there was nothing I could do.
However, I found it wasn't a message from a loving friend. It was from my father.
"You are truly one of the classiest, resilient, upbeat, and motivational people I have ever met. You are looked up to by literally hundreds of your peers, friends, and fans. What an absolutely wonderful life you have and human being you are. Proud and honored to have the privilege to call you my son!"
I sat there reading this message over and over again. This was exactly what I needed, and "Poprocks" knew it.
Soon after this message, I looked to see what was happening on Twitter. The reception was spotty all day in the tournament hall, so I never got a chance to see the comments people sent me. A wall of a hundred messages showed me how much support I got all day long. People showing their support for my deck, for me, and both. I felt so good at that moment even without winning the event. Times get tough, but you guys are always there to lift me up. Your support keeps me doing what I love. I can't thank you guys enough for this.
That same weekend, discrimination and hate reared its evil head in the community.
Magic means more to me than I could ever put into words. This isn't just a game to me. Magic has brought me to every corner of the globe, introduced me to the most amazing people I have ever met, and created a home for me to express myself. Before Magic, I was just the shy kid that had no self-confidence. I dreaded speaking in public. Confrontation was the scariest thing on the planet. I was an outsider with no outlet.
Magic changed all of this for me and taught me to be myself. I didn't have to hide my passions, my faults, my likes, and my dislikes. Everyone in every shop I played at was friendly. I learned everything in card shops. I even learned how to talk to girls in a card shop. Thinking about it, I probably shouldn't have done that.
I found a home where I got to blossom into who I am today.
Discrimination exists. It's naive to think it doesn't. It plagues our community just like very place else in society. We as a whole are not better than the rest of society, but we can make steps to try to be.
I, for one, am a huge fan of everything Helene Bergeot does for this game and community. Magic is not just a game we play but a lifestyle we love. If we condone the things said in public media, they will spread to local stores where new players breed. This is something that is unacceptable. This game would not have grown this fast if it wasn't for the amazing people on the front lines that help new players start their journeys.
We might all not all be the same, but we all share the same passion. This alone should be enough to have mutual respect for one other.
I hope you all have a wonderful week, and good luck at StarCityGames.com Open Series: Baltimore. I will be celebrating the holidays with my mother dearest and old Poprocks. I hope to see you all out in Los Angeles for the Invitational in a couple weeks. Hoof a wonderful week!