Sometimes, your greatest enemy is yourself.
Last weekend I played in a 50K tournament in Indianapolis, my former home. Naturally, I played U/W, although with the red splash I debuted at Grand Prix San Antonio. This is what I used to get third place:
My changes in the maindeck from last week were:
Those who were following along in the comments section last week know that many people suggested Izzet Charm to me. As a counterspell, removal spell, or card drawer, it's very weak. On its own, I didn't see any reason to play it. However, one person suggested it instead of the third Think Twice, and that made sense.
Think Twice is mostly used as a way to see a bunch of cards and make your land drops in order to power out Sphinx's Revelation. Post-board against aggressive decks, you have more one-for-ones, so having a two-for-one is very important. If you don't have ways to sift through cards, your aggro opponent will likely draw more relevant spells than you (thanks to your higher land count and overall density), and you'll end up losing.
As far as that plan goes, Izzet Charm is the worst. We want to gain card advantage here, not lose it. However, I was using Think Twice to see a lot of cards, and Izzet Charm does that as well. If you absolutely need to dig for something, such as a Supreme Verdict when nothing else will save you, Izzet Charm is a fine card to have.
Over the course of the tournament, I used each mode, never sided it out, and was reasonably happy with it. That said, drawing multiples is pretty bad, but the same can be said for Think Twice. I think my version needs a certain amount of card drawers/filters and two Think Twice / one Izzet Charm feels correct.
The fourth Snapcaster Mage was added to ensure I would have maximum Pillar of Flames / Azorius Charms against aggressive decks like B/R Zombies. It also blocks Knight of Infamy in a pinch. However, I probably didn't need it, and there were certainly times where I had multiple Snapcasters rotting in my hand. Three still feels correct.
Other than that, the only change I made was a cosmetic switch from Dissipate to Counterflux. Only Plains and Moorland Haunt don't cast Counterflux, so the mana was rarely an issue. The benefit of Counterflux outweighs the benefit of Dissipate right now, as the only cards you really want to Dissipate are Lingering Souls and Unburial Rites.
Those decks are decent matchups already while Counterflux shines in control mirrors, especially post-board when everyone has Dispels. Trust me, Counterflux is the future, but I'll get into that later.
I needed to make some radical changes to the sideboard. Reid Duke's Bant deck was not a pleasant matchup, and it was a deck I expected to see a lot of. Initially, I thought Mark Stanton's Curse of Echoes was the answer. It makes their counterspells useless and allows you to piggyback their Sphinx's Revelations, hopefully in a counterspell.
The only things it was weak to were planeswalkers, Detention Sphere, and Nephalia Drownyard, aka the rest of their deck. I attempted to solve this by playing the sideboard package I posted last week of two Negate, two Dispel, two Curse of Echoes, and one Increasing Confusion.
This allowed me to force Curse through and protect it reasonably well. Increasing Confusion was my answer to Nephalia Drownyard. Thankfully, what I ended up realizing was that Jace, Memory Adept was basically what Curse plus Confusion were together. They're both vulnerable to the same thing (Detention Sphere), although Jace can be attacked. For the most part, that's irrelevant because your Augurs and Angels can chump block long enough to kill them with it.
I went up to the full amount of Staticasters, as I expected a lot of G/W and B/R, and they didn't disappoint me. They were even fantastic at clearing out Lingering Souls tokens against Esper Control in order to protect my Jaces.
Reanimator didn't seem like it would be prevalent or doing well, so I went down to a single Rest in Peace. They could have all gotten cut, but I liked having the miser's copy to find after a large Sphinx's Revelation to completely shut them out.
Supreme Verdict has often been one of the most awkward cards in the deck. Drawing it plus a counterspell or Runechanter's Pike makes your draw pretty bad since you don't have a coherent game plan. If you ever draw Supreme, Pike, and a counterspell, you probably can't beat them regardless of what deck they're playing—that draw just isn't good against anyone.
It's that rationale that led to me to shave Pike and Supreme down to one copy in the sideboard and cut the third Supreme Verdict entirely. Plus, it isn't good against B/R, and I have Staticaster for most of G/W's threats.
Going up to four Izzet Staticasters was inevitable. As long as G/W, B/R, and Lingering Souls exist, you should be playing that card. While drawing one is very against those decks, you basically level up whenever you draw another one.
The second one invalidates their Silverblade Paladins, the third allows you to beat things like Garruk, Primal Hunter and Sublime Archangel, and the fourth leaves them with nothing. Often, I'd hold Restoration Angel until I needed to get another use out of Staticaster as well, which allowed me to kill bigger guys.
Oblivion Ring might get some double takes, but it's very important and much better than Detention Sphere. You see, when you're basically all-in on killing them with a planeswalker, you need to free it from their Detention Sphere. I considered boarding a Sundering Growth instead to get maximum use with Snapcaster Mage (and Augur of Bolas), but I wanted the exile effect against B/R.
I'll spare you the complete tournament report and only provide the highlights, as sixteen rounds of Swiss plus another two is a bit much.
Round 4: Esper Tokens
I could have conceded game 1 but could tell that I'd be able to eventually grind him out with Runechanter's Pike and Moorland Haunt. On the turn before I could fully take over the game, he drew Sphinx's Revelation into Ultimate Price and killed me.
With only 22 minutes on the clock, I had to play quickly. I won the second game in seven minutes and was about to close game 3. My opponent had multiple Ultimate Prices to stay alive, but there was no way he was winning that game.
He refused to concede, which is understandable since no one knew what record was going to be necessary for Top 8. On Day 1, a draw was as good as loss, but maybe X-3-1 would end up making Top 8. As it turned out, that draw was as good as a loss for both of us.
I considered conceding because I wasn't sure how much better my deck was against control than it was the week before. In the end, I was correct to enter the draw bracket and maybe should have tried doing it sooner.
Perhaps I should have conceded game 1 because my Izzet Staticasters were going to annihilate him post-board, but it didn't cross my mind. Most of the time I'm thinking about how to sideboard during down time in my games, but that game 1 required my full attention to even have a shot. I probably could have just crushed him in the post-board games but didn't realize it.
Round 7: Human Reanimator
I took a loss here because I didn't have enough counterspells to stop all of his Unburial Rites or enough hate in my sideboard. Game 3 was super close, and I probably messed up somewhere.
Round 9: Bant Control
I was playing with my Day 2 life on the line and somehow managed to win game one. This was mostly due to me figuring out that Thought Scouring yourself in the control mirror is almost always wrong. Yes, they can mill Think Twices to get slightly ahead, but if you mill over your Runechanter's Pike, you probably can't win.
In the second game, I had Jace and Pike in play, but he was forced to Detention Sphere my Pike since could kill him next turn. I switched gears and got to milling with Jace, but my opponent had a plan.
Round 14: Bant Control
I liked my spot in game 1 as I thought no card could beat me, but then he played an uncounterable Angel of Serenity. Runechanter's Pike and Moorland Haunt forced a chump block, but he had the second one to start the chain. Had he kept playing Angels, I likely would have conceded, but instead he opened himself up to a one-shot from Runechanter's Pike when he cast Supreme Verdict and then Thragtusk.
A few people said that I played this game well, but I wasn't sure. I don't think I did anything horribly wrong, but I don't think I did anything spectacular either.
The second game was humorous because he cast a turn 2 Rest in Peace when I had actually sided in my own Rest in Peace to beat his late game Angel loops. Eventually, I resolved a Sphinx's Revelation but didn't draw any gas. Since he was missing land drops, I had to Oblivion Ring his Rest in Peace so that I could Counterflux his next threat and then use Snapcaster Mage to Counterflux again.
A few turns later, I had Jace, Memory Adept going, but he dealt with it. With time running low, I exposed my second Jace, but I knew I'd be able to find the third one in time.
Round 15: U/W/R Geist
My opponent was a lock win, lose, or draw, whereas I needed a win in the next two rounds, but he wanted to play for seeding. I explained that he would be second seed no matter what, but he decided not to concede. I was curious as to why.
His explanation was, "If you weren't Gary Thompson, I'd concede."
I had no idea what that meant other than it was time to battle!
The first game was one of those games where you're sure you should have won but you don't know where you messed up. I got the second game, and in the third, I baited an end of turn Sphinx's Revelation so that I could resolve Drogskol Reaver.
Naturally, he had his one-of Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, and I died after drawing a string of lands.
Round 16: U/W/R Geist
My opponent, David Bauer, had been 13-0 at one point, had lost his last two, but was still in Top 8 even if he lost.
He graciously conceded.
Since we turned in our match slip right away, the scorekeeper didn't bother looking and marked it as a draw. Needless to say, I was a little confused as to why they didn't announce my name for Top 8 like everyone else's. I imagine it was a rollercoaster of emotions for Peter Ingram, who was supposed to finish 9th but was announced as 8th. Sorry Pete, no one deserves that.
Top 4: U/W/R Geist
Geist backed by burn and counterspells destroyed me in game 1, but Drogskol Reaver repaid him in game 2. In the final game, I got tunnel vision, didn't switch gears, and that allowed him to get back in the game. He missed an on board kill (after peeling a perfect Slayers' Stronghold) that gave me the potential to get back in the game, but then he drew Feeling of Dread.
I can safely say that I wouldn't have lost the matches I did if I had played better, but that's the epic struggle with Magic, right? The only thing I was disappointed in was myself.
The last three weeks have been very kind to me, so it should be no surprise that I'd be willing to play U/W/R again. Of course, every tournament is a learning experience, and I would certainly alter my deck for any future tournaments, such as the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Las Vegas this weekend.
This is what I'd play:
The Syncopate was added to the maindeck to make matchups like Bant Control and Reanimator easier. Since I added red, I've been skimping on those matchups. Because U/W/R with Geist of Saint Traft got first and second, it will probably become more popular, and Syncopate is a solid answer to Geist, even on the draw.
Other than that, I made the full swap from Dissipate to Counterflux and cleaned up the sideboard a little. Drogskol Reaver is ultimately unnecessary against decks like G/W or B/R. If you need a finisher, at least against G/W, Jace is a fine man.
That's it for me this week guys. The sideboarding guide was in last week's article and mostly remains the same. I'd like to take a sentence and thank everyone for the congratulations and support I received throughout the last three weeks. It's been a blast, but it's time for a return to normalcy. This weekend I'll be staying home, although there is an Invitational Qualifier in my town that I'll probably play in.
Other than that, I'll be spending the remainder of this week brewing Legacy and finalizing my U/W/R deck for the StarCityGames.com Open Series in Los Angeles featuring the Invitational.
Wish me luck!
@G3RRYT on Twitter