I had a pretty good weekend. What about you guys?
Awkwardly enough, I played basically the same two decks I played at the last SCG Invitational, only I added Boros Reckoners to my Standard deck and Baleful Strix to my Legacy deck. Were they the reason I won?
Perhaps, but let's start with Standard.
Last week I wrote about U/W/R Flash, and I played largely the same decklist from my article. I'm not one to hide technology, especially when you can probably guess what I'll be playing. Thankfully, several of my opponents at the Invitational hadn't actually read my article. People made comments about me potentially having Blasphemous Act and how techy my Electrickerys were, but they could have known that stuff already.
Anyway, the decklist I posted in my last article was pretty good. I only ended up swapping an Augur of Bolas for a Think Twice (which was mostly a mistake) and cutting a Witchbane Orb and Dispel in the sideboard for a pair of Jace, Memory Adepts.
That brought me to this:
How did I do against G/B/W Reanimator? I went 1-1, but with a large asterisk. Against Nick Veccie, I won game 1, punted game 2, and then mulliganed for game 3 and didn't draw spells.
Overall, those are not the most concrete of results. However, in the games where we were both playing Magic, I felt like a favorite. It felt like Reanimator could beat me one of three ways:
The combination of Supreme Verdict and Sphinx's Revelation is incredibly potent against midrange strategies. If I can stem the early bleeding, make my land drops, and refuel with Sphinx's Revelation, eventually I'll be able to win.
Since the G/B/W Reanimator matchup isn't as bad as everyone said it was, what is there to fear? Well, Esper Control systematically dismantled me in the hands of Joe Bass. He knew the matchup, played well, and shut the door on any line of play I could take to win the game. Going forward, I'm going to need to be more creative in that matchup.
This is what I've been playing with lately:
A few things:
Cutting down to two Augur of Bolases for the Invitational was a mistake. I frequently wanted a body.
Staff of Nin is my Jace, Memory Adept / Witchbane Orb split card. Against matchups like Jund, they will attempt to Slaughter Games my Sphinx's Revelations and grind me out after that. You need some sort of card draw to bring in against decks with Slaughter Games, and Staff of Nin has always felt right. I just hedged by playing things like Jace, Memory Adept, which were more impactful against control.
My match against Joe Bass was one of the few that I felt like I did almost everything right despite losing. AJ Sacher wants to do a video on our match, which sounds like an awesome idea to me. A couple people on Twitter harassed me about certain plays I made, insisting they were wrong. Now, if you want to point out that me not killing my opponent with Harvest Pyre in round 7 was a mistake, that's fine. Against Joe, I did very little wrong up until the point where I was almost certainly losing. I have faith in AJ to do a good job on that video, so be sure to check it out when/if it is published.
Despite losing to Esper in the Invitational, I still feel like hedging toward beating midrange decks. Decks like Jund still exist, while Esper doesn't seem to be very popular. Cards like Staff of Nin are certainly worse against Esper than Jace, Memory Adept, but they are very close. The only thing I'd be worried about is being able to physically kill the Esper player. Jace does that quite well, but Staff might draw you into more useless garbage.
I went 6-2 in Standard, but the Invitational consisted of Legacy as well. It's been difficult for me to find a Legacy deck I can consistently win with, but I think I've finally figured it out.
Shardless BUG has been my deck of choice in two Invitationals, a Grand Prix, a Grand Prix side event, and a SCG Open. I cashed in each one of those. BUG has certainly given me more wins than any other Legacy deck aside from Dredge.
For general sideboarding strategies, explanations of card choices, and the genesis of the deck, you can read this article.
Since Grand Prix Denver, I knew the only thing I wanted to try was Baleful Strix in order to make the Tarmogoyf mirrors better. My record against RUG Delver has been quite good, but at GP Denver I lost to it twice. Those losses were mostly due to the resource denial aspect of their deck despite me usually being able to power through things like Stifle, Daze, and Wasteland.
Most of the games I was used to playing were attrition based, which were difficult but ultimately winnable due to their lower land count. If I could resolve an Ancestral Vision or Hymn to Tourach, I could out-attrition them. Similarly, a resolved Tarmogoyf on my side gave me a lot of virtual card advantage. Multiple Goyfs meant that suddenly I was the beatdown.
Baleful Strix seemed to solve a lot of the problems I had. Either it traded with one of their dudes while gaining me card advantage or it could cantrip me into more lands. It was also another blue card for Force of Will, which is always welcome.
Naturally, after all that consideration, I didn't play against RUG Delver a single time in the Invitational.
During the Invitational, I did not play my best at times. That, combined with the fact that I lost three times on Day 2, left me feeling like I wasn't going to make Top 8 even though the math suggested I was. It was a surreal feeling, but that's the great thing about big tournaments where you can take multiple losses.
In the Top 8, I think I played some of the best Magic I ever have. I survived a hit from Emrakul, the Aeons Torn from Phillip Lorren, I came back from an 0-2 deficit against Brian Braun-Duin in one of the most intense matches I've ever played, and I swept Shaheen Soorani in the finals. It was fitting that I'd recently badmouthed Lingering Souls to Tom Martell on Twitter and Tom was forced to sit and watch as I destroyed his pet deck in the finals.
My quarterfinals matchup against Phillip Lorren was very interesting. He was playing the powerful Sneak and Show deck with maindeck Misdirection and sideboard Leyline of Sanctity—two very powerful cards against Hymn to Tourach, my best card against combo decks.
I decided my best shot was to sideboard out my Hymns, leaving him with potentially dead cards. There were a lot of things I wanted against him, and it wasn't likely that my Hymns were ever going to resolve. It might seem obvious to try to sidestep him, but I was worried that by removing my Hymns I might just lose without my best card.
In the end, I was very fortunate to emerge victorious. For the most part, my plan worked. Games 2, 3, and 4, he opened with a Leyline. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to sell him on keeping the Leylines in by telling him about the double Hymn draw I had that would have been awesome had it not been for his Leyline. Thankfully, I didn't need to sell him because he kept them in on his own, which, admittedly, he probably should have.
In the semifinals, I played a rematch against Brian Braun-Duin's Esper Deathblade deck. Our match went to five games, was incredibly back and forth, and was a ton of fun to play. I wish that the entire match had been on video, but you can watch game 5 when it's available.
BBD's deck has a plethora of early threats that need to be dealt with immediately. If he plays a Dark Confidant, I can't spend my turn Hymning him, as that would put me too far behind. Instead, I sided out all the discard and tried to focus on making a board presence. Siding out the discard also made my late-game topdecks far more robust than his.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, discard was quite good in the finals against Shaheen Soorani's Esper Stoneblade deck. He wanted to play a slower, more controlling game than BBD did, so my discard was more valuable to strip his powerful control tools. I also wanted some discard to hit Batterskull after he searched for it.
I loved both of my decks, and the win felt great. Playing best of five in a Legacy Top 8 is definitely grueling, but it was a blast. Everyone's support made it all the better. Thanks guys and gals!
Dragon's Maze is right around the corner, and it's shaping up quite nicely even with just a few cards spoiled. I like to wait until the whole set is spoiled before making any predictions on what will happen in Standard, so for now I have a trio of sweet green decks from Magic Online Daily Events that I'd like to share.
If I were the Junding type, this is the version I would play; it just looks so clean and focused.
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 4 Elvish Archdruid
- 2 Gyre Sage
- 4 Huntmaster of the Fells
- 4 Master Biomancer
- 1 Snapcaster Mage
- 4 Thragtusk
- 2 Prime Speaker Zegana
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary
- 3 Dreg Mangler
- 4 Flinthoof Boar
- 4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
- 4 Gyre Sage
- 4 Lotleth Troll
- 4 Wolfir Silverheart
This is a mashup of Saito's Gyre Sage decks and Jund Aggro, and I really like it. Increasing Savagery is going to be insane in some matchups, especially with Gyre Sage. Wolfir Silverheart is another fantastic way to go bigger in midrange mirrors, while the Kessig Wolf Runs make your opponent not be able to chump block anymore.
A few other things that have been popping up:
Tracker's Instincts or Chronic Flooding in G/B/W Reanimator.
Those are all cards that have started to see more play as the format continues to evolve. Overall, some pretty interesting stuff.
Next week: Grand Prix Strasbourg!
@G3RRYT on Twitter