Oh, sweet ninth place. How I loathe you.
Hope is often bred from ignorance, and disappointment is just as often the other side of the coin.
Seeing that I was x-1-1 going into the last round with 62% breakers I was sure that I was a lock with a win. I had seen more than one person ahead of me in the x-1 bracket with sub-60% breakers and it looked at a glance that table three had to play their match.
I was wrong, and it almost cost an awesome dude (Adam Snook, my round nine opponent) his invite to the Invitational in Somerset. Thankfully I ended up being 50% right, he still placed in the Top 32 and collected enough points to play for all the “Benjamins” at the end of the month.
Despite coming in ninth place, I had an absolute blast playing Esper Deathblade. Since I came back to tournament Magic earlier this year, I haven't played a deck with Brainstorm, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and/or Stoneforge Mystic in Legacy yet – but this is for a reason. Brainstorm, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and decks that usually include Stoneforge Mystic with the powerful blue cards are difficult to play. Not the type of difficulty that can be compensated for by general awesome playskill, as habits have to be reformed that you normally wouldn't have the predisposition for.
Things like keeping a fetchland in play in case you draw a Brainstorm goes against the natural inclination to thin your deck so that you can draw a spell instead of another land. In a format like Standard, or even Modern, where your cards are more synergistic than bursting with raw power you might want to fetch to thin your deck and increase the odds of drawing a spell, but in Legacy it's the opposite. Drawing a Brainstorm in the mid- to late-game can be so dominating that keeping a fetch around to shuffle away some of the chaff you've been holding is more important than just about anything.
Speaking of “chaff” - because you have Brainstorm and the like in your deck, holding onto useless cards like extra lands, spells that don't do anything in the current match-up, or 15/15 flying spaghetti monsters is often correct.
Even Stoneforge Mystic is a shuffle effect when you need it to be.
I tell you what - it sure did feel good to put a Batterskull back on top of my deck with a Jace, the Mind Sculptor or a Brainstorm and Stoneforge Mystic it back up. That feeling will never get old for me, and I'm glad that I got it back. I even feel like I played moderately well (for the most part) during the tournament.
Making Top 8 would have made the 10+ hour drive back home (with both of us having work on Monday, at least I had a half day – BBD is a lunatic) more tolerable, but getting my “Brainstorm Legs” back was still worth it.
The last time I played a deck like this, Snapcaster Mage had just been printed and I was Swords to Plowsharing everything under the sun and loving it. I was convinced that there wouldn't be another creature to impact Legacy in some time. Maybe you've spotted a running theme with me lately, but I'm all about being wrong. Deathrite Shaman had an absurd power level with just enough interaction to make the game interesting. I don't really want to say a whole lot about Deathrite Shaman in Legacy, since there has been more than enough discussion about it, but the card is extremely powerful and if you aren't playing a degenerate combo deck in Legacy, you should probably be playing Deathrite Shaman.
Or Chalice of the Void. *wink*
The list of Esper Deathblade I played this weekend was the brainchild of Brian Braun-Duin, and I owe him quite a bit of thanks for the sideboarding help throughout the tournament. I was about 80% there with sideboarding based on feeling and using the last bit of the Brainstorm “Force” that resided in me, but he whipped me into shape quickly. It's a pretty straight forward Esper Deathblade list, with a few exceptions, let's check it out!
We didn't play the Abrupt Decays that people have been running lately following Todd Anderson's back-to-back wins. We liked to be able to cast our spells as close to 100% of the time as possible, and having to play another green source wasn't where we wanted to be. Rudy Brizka went so far as to even play a Golgari Charm in the sideboard of his Top 8 list from Philly. I am someone who loves having consistency in my manabase. In fact, both BBD and I wanted to play a 24th land. All of our spells are extremely awesome, and as long as we get to cast them on time we have a good chance at winning the game. We did want a fifth and sixth removal spell in the deck, so we decided to go with a Dismember and a Vindicate, both of which were awesome. The life loss from Dismember was rarely an issue and Vindicate was an all-star, giving us an answer to Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Tarmogoyf, Sylvan Library, and Creeping Tar Pit all in one card.
With everyone being on the Geist of Saint Traft train, we figured why not join 'em and beat 'em. Until M14 Mirror Galleries up the world of Magic, we wanted to use a couple Geist of Saint Trafts as a way to pressure our opponents when they don't have theirs... and as an answer to opposing Geists when they do. This is also why we wanted to play a couple Liliana of the Veil too. It's a great answer to Geist of Saint Traft in addition to being a very powerful turn two play against just about anything.
When BBD shipped me his initial list last week while we were planning for the weekend and I saw that he had Hymn to Tourach in it, I grinned ear-to-ear. I Top 4'd and won my first Legacy Opens with Team America/BUG and Hymn to Tourach has always been one of my favorite cards. Not only is it extremely powerful and able to win games all on its own, but we get to roll dice!
Anyone that knows me knows that I have an unhealthy Affinity for Gambling(tm). In fact, at dinner Saturday Night at UNO's I single-handedly turned a $5 “high card” game that Richard Nguyen and Christian Calcano were playing into a nine player event that apparently turned into $50 “high card” after I left. Good to see that Morgan Chang is putting the fifty bucks he got from beating the ever-loving hell out of me in Round Ten of the Standard Open that day to good use.
Hymn to Tourach was awesome for me all weekend, and the fact that we played only two was actually pretty awesome. It is the type of card that, if we happen to get someone with it in Game 1, they will bring in cards like Divert which will probably end up being dead or mostly useless. I kind of wish that we had played three, but two was / is probably the right number for it.
Snapcaster Mage is an interesting card right now. Unimpeded, it is one of the most powerful effects that you can have access to in your Brainstorm deck. In fact, before the world of Deathrite Shaman, when we were all on Spell Snares to combat the rubble Mental Misstep left behind, Snapcaster Mage was almost too powerful. Now, things have changed and Spell Snare isn't a thing, plus everyone and their momma has Deathrite Shaman. That being said, we still wanted to play a bunch. In fact, I talked BBD into playing a fourth Jace, the Mind Sculptor over the fourth Snapcaster Mage in the deck. I've always loved both cards, but I'd much rather have a fourth Jace, the Mind Sculptor than a fourth Snapcaster Mage in this world of Deathrite Shaman.
Snapcaster Mage also shines in our list because of the supporting cast that we gave it. Having a Ponder, a Dismember, a Vindicate, and the Hymn to Tourachs along with the standard fare of Brainstorm, Swords to Plowshares and Thoughtseize allows us to Swiss Army Knife our Snapcaster Mages in a better way than most Esper Deathblade decks.
Our sideboard probably could have been better, as we were pretty weak to Storm, but I was happy with our choices for the most part. The Jace Beleren is to combat other Jaces, at least for the next two weeks. The anti-combo package of Force of Will, Meddling Mage, and Surgical Extraction seemed pretty good, but we are still a pretty big dog to the degenerate combo decks like Show and Tell and Storm. At least Deathrite Shaman interacts favorable with Dredge.
The Detention Sphere was primarily for the Show and Tell decks, but it also comes in against just about anything fair that doesn't have Abrupt Decay. Notion Thief was for BUG and the OmniTell deck, but honestly it could/should have been something different. The Supreme Verdicts are for the tribal/linear decks in the format like Elves, Maverick, Merfolk, and Goblins. It's also very good against RUG Delver. The pair of Baleful Strix were awesome all day and are great against anything with Tarmogoyf in it, especially RUG Delver.
There are definitely some changes that I would want to look at for this deck, and it is definitely in the list of decks that I am contemplating for the Invitational. I'll be spending this week and next week working on Legacy and M14 Standard for the Invitational, and the Standard Open portion of Richmond.
The full spoiler for M14 is out and now is the time for brewers to shine. What's going to shake up the format, if anything? Who knows! When a set first comes out, I usually like to first look at all of the cards and make a list of cards that I think have the potential to see play and what type of strategy they will fit best in, be it augmenting a current strategy or spawning a whole new one. There are plenty of other authors who will go over all of the cards in the set, and our very own Bard Narson and Evan Erwin will be doing their trademarked set review soon, so I'd just like to point out the cards that I think have potential to make a huge impact on Standard.
Gladecover Scout (a.k.a. “Not-so-Slippery Bogle”) and Witchstalker will augment the already-existing Bant Hexproof deck with their hexproofiness. Famed for being extremely non-interactive, hexproof creatures will continue this trend moving forward and kill many opponents while they hold useless cards that they expected to be using on all the decent human beings in the tournament who opted to not play Bant Hexproof.
I think that Ratchet Bomb will have a pretty bombastic impact in Standard. It's a great card against the aggressive decks that lean on one- and two-drops to pressure the opponent until they can finish them with their souped-up four- and five-drops like Hellrider and Thundermaw Hellkite. It also kills the Elemental token from Voice of Resurgence, and handles Lingering Souls all by itself. I think that this card is going to be best friends for some time with the next card.
While we still have Snapcaster Mage in the format, I really like how well Doom Blade and Ratchet Bomb work together. We had been missing an instant-speed removal spell with the flexibility of Doom Blade, and now that it's back, our mission is to find the best home for it. Maybe it's BUG Control or maybe it's some type of aggressive Zombies deck. Who knows!
Rotlung Reanimator was an extremely good card in its day. Times are different, and cards are on a whole new power level, but I still think that Xathrid Necromancer has a home and will spawn a more synergistic and resilient Humans theme. Cartel Aristocrat and Sin Collector are both Humans, and we even have Mutavault to go along with them.
Mutavault goes very well in linear aggressive strategies, but I am also a fan of using some number of Mutavaults in my control decks as a secondary way of winning or as a great chump blocker. Mutavault has been coined by Patrick Sullivan as being “The best card that isn't being played in Modern” and I agree. Now that we have it back in Standard, what are we gonna do with it?
Acidic Slime is gone from M14 (you're welcome), and so are the buddy lands. I'm hoping that there is an awesome cycle of duals in Theros to compensate, but I'm not holding my breath. All in all, I think M14 has some very interesting cards, and we won't really be able to fully see how the new cards and omissions will affect standard until the Innistrad Block and M13 rotate out in a few months. I will say, however, that it does look awesome for Limited, and I can't wait for the Team Sealed at the Richmond Open next weekend. I will be teaming with Kenny Castor and Charles Gindy and we're ready to open some flashy bomb mythics and not have to play real Magic while our cards just outclass our opponents!
I don't have any new decklists for you guys this week, but I'll definitely have a spicy number for the Standard portion of StarCityGames Open: Richmond, and BBD and I will be playing decks with M14 cards in them in our Versus video this week, so keep an eye out!
Stay classy, ya'll.
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