Good evening. This is Magic: The Bloodening, your home for grinding on the Open Series and Grindstoneing the Open Series. And your number one source for Blood Moon . . . ening. I'm Reuben Bresler, and here is my Top 8 story.
Host of Magic: The Newsening and aspiring Community Cup nominee Reuben Bresler made the finals of the SCG Legacy Open: Cincinnati with Painted Stone featuring Bad Planeswalkers Club firebrand Chandra, Pyromaster. This is the first appearance of the M14 steampunk icon in the finals of a Legacy Open, proving that, contrary to popular belief, the goggles . . . they do something.
This past weekend at the StarCityGames.com Legacy Open in Cincinnati, avid punsman and practitioner of Tweetsmanship Reuben Bresler won "first loser," getting second place at the event. It is a little surprising, though, that his Mono-Red Painted Stone deck couldn't find room for at least one copy of @MoxReuby.
StarCityGames.com's own jester Reuben Bresler finished in second place this past weekend in Cincinnati, making it back-to-back weekends for StarCityGames.com employees in the finals with Painted Stone following Jonathan Suarez's win in Baltimore. You might say that Jonathan's win . . . Recruited Reuben to pick up the deck.
Notable Pyromaster Reuben Bresler lost to notable Young Pyromancer Eric Rill in the finals of #SCGCIN. Eric broke new ground with Grixis Delver featuring the M14 uncommon, burying the Painted Stone pilot under a pile of 1/1 Elemental tokens. Talks to promote the now three-time Open champion from Pyromancer to Pyromaster are now in serious discussion.
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Hello folks! My name is Reuben Bresler. You probably know me as an Event Coverage Coordinator on the Open Series, a Video and Coverage Content Associate for StarCityGames.com, my work with the StarCityGames.com Newsletters and Weekend Preview articles, and a plethora of other Magic-related things . . . that aren't actually playing the game. Well, this past weekend in Cincinnati I decided to try to change that by playing in both Open tournaments.
The weekend started Thursday night at our local Kaijudo Duel Day at the Star City Game Center in Roanoke, Virginia. Having not traveled anywhere else for Kaijudo just yet, I cannot say for sure, but with Chris Andersen, Chris VanMeter, Rudy Briksza, and, of course, Gerry Thompson in our local tournaments, it may be hard to beat in terms of overall player quality. And for the very first time I went 3-0! It was my first Duel Day win, and I was thrilled. Since I just picked up the game recently, I am by no means an expert, but I was happy with the success. I was prepared for more battles on the weekend.
As a side note, if you haven't tried Kaijudo yet, I heartily suggest you do. It's a great game with many similar skills to Magic, an exciting mechanic at the heart of the game in shield blasts, and a growing player base that will soon be complete with a PTQ-style circuit (the KMCQs), championship events, and even a judge program in the works. I recently entered the Kaijudo Master Commentator Challenge, and you can watch my commentary submission here. Should I win, you can catch me at the Winter Championship!
Master commentator . . . I like the sound of that. Maybe change that to a . . . Pyromaster commentator?
Friday I drove to Louisville to pick up my very good friend Nick Miller. I met Nick at Ohio University as a neighbor in our dorm and, along with Brian Toon, the three of us got back into playing competitive Magic. Nick was also the one who came up with the idea to substitute for Evan Erwin on episode 43 of the Magic Show while Evan was away. Nick introduced me to Magic writing, and we started together for the now defunct Londes.com during the original Ravnica block. Additionally, Nick is a fellow stand-up comic (shout-out to Mike Burden and Jeff Steinbrunner, with whom we were thick as thieves in the Athens, Ohio stand-up circuit) and a quality friend.
Nick edits the sports pages for over a dozen newspapers in the Midwest, so his schedule is hectic. Add to this the fact that Nick is new to Louisville and cannot drive (he's legally blind) and he cannot make it out to a ton of Magic events. I didn't want him to have to Greyhound it to Cincy, so I took the hour and a half detour to Louisville before heading to Adam Prosak and Taylor Gunn's apartment.
I stayed at Adam and Taylor's for a few reasons. One, of course, is that Adam is leaving for Seattle (he begins next week!). Another is that their apartment can literally be seen from the Sharonville Convention Center, so we could walk to the event site. But I'm also great friends with Taylor Gunn, John Douglass, Peter Johnson, Michael Augustine, Anthony Avitolo, and the rest of the folks that came through Casa de Value. Friday night I drafted Versus System Infinite Crisis, played Magic Online and a few different Cubes with the guys, drank Lime-a-Ritas, stayed up way too late with friends, and prepared my weapons for the weekend.
I was very confident in both of my decks for the weekend, W/B/R Humans and Painted Stone. A similar Humans deck, reminiscent of the B/W one AJ Sacher used to win a previous Open, actually won the Standard Open in Cincy in the hands of Nick Rudd. I managed to finish with the ol' Elvish Warrior: 2-3 drop. I was a little dejected and upset, which was not fun.
At this point I left the event hall. One of my downfalls as a Magic player, if not my number one downfall, is that I get way too upset when I lose. I have a hard time accepting variance in a game where variance is a big part of everything. I have gotten better, but I'm still bad and it's not good for me or for the game. Luckily, some very good advice came from the best possible source: my girlfriend. I'm so lucky to have a woman who knows how to calm me down and set me straight. I felt much better by the start of the night, and after another Cube draft or three at the apartment I went to bed.
To say that I thought I would get second place in the Legacy Open the next day would be a lie. I was hoping for a little bit of a payday, maybe Top 16 or so, just to prove to myself I could still play on the top tier. But the last time I made a SCG Open Top 8 was in Cincinnati, it was in a Legacy Open, and I actually made the Top 8 of that tournament by activating Grindstone . . . since I copied my opponent's with Phyrexian Metamorph!
The previous weekend in Baltimore I watched my coworker Jonathan Suarez win the Legacy Open with Painted Stone, a deck I have had an affinity for ever since I very nearly made Top 8 of Grand Prix Chicago in 2009 with a similar deck. My Chicago deck was more Stompy-like, with Chrome Mox, Trinisphere, Chalice of the Void, and Gamble, whereas John's was much more streamlined with Sensei's Divining Top and a few New Phyrexia creatures I didn't have access to in 2009: Spellskite and Phyrexian Revoker.
The crux of the deck is simple; greed, for lack of a better word, is good . . . for you. Your opponent's greedy mana bases are your greatest tool. I managed to play against RUG Delver and Shardless BUG three times total en route to the Top 8 and Shardless BUG again in the semis, and I didn't lose one of those matches. In fact, Mr. Matt Hoey was the unfortunate victim of my fourteen-second turn 1 victory in the semifinals.
Painted Stone is a very consistent turn 2 combo deck that can sometimes go off on turn 1. That combo? "Cast and resolve Blood Moon." Magus of the Moon works too, but the 2/2 is more vulnerable since it can die to Lightning Bolt, Swords to Plowshares, or Grim Lavamancer. Abrupt Decay is the only highly played maindeck card that can take out Blood Moon. Once the Moon hits their eye, you can either win with the real combo of Painter's Servant and Grindstone or you can beat them up with a smattering of Human Advisors and Spirit Apes.
There are a few other permanents that can take over a game in the 75. The "cast and resolve Blood Moon" mantra subs out the three-mana enchantment for either Thorn of Amethyst or Ensnaring Bridge after sideboard if you are playing against Tendrils of Agony or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Both have other niche uses as well, as a resolved Thorn is very tough for any Brainstorm centric strategy to defeat and Ensnaring Bridge also shuts down Merfolk and Slivers. But there is one more permanent in my deck that can take over a game by itself:
Most of the questions I have received about my finish in Cincy have been about the M14 planeswalker. Was it good? Was it worth it? Was it what you expected? The answer is that Chandra was very good. Against more controlling decks, decks where I want a card advantage engine, it's a pseudo-Jace. Against decks with Elvish Mystic, Dark Confidant, Young Pyromancer, or Delver of Secrets, it's a kill spell. Occasionally, you can trump opposing planeswalkers like Liliana of the Veil or Elspeth, Knight-Errant! Here are a few examples of things I got to do with Chandra over the course of the day:
- I got my Slivers opponent in the Ensnaring Bridge / Chandra lock. Since Chandra's 0 ability doesn't technically draw cards and instead amasses you what I like to call "virtual card advantage units," keeping your opponents under the Bridge is much easier.
- I was able to dig into my Grindstone quicker than my Lands opponent could dig up Krosan Grip for my Blood Moon and Punishing Fire for my Magus of the Moon.
- Often I would use Sensei's Divining Top and find three poor cards on top of my library. In those situations, being able to Chandra myself to get cards off the top of my library was a huge boon. This can be done with Grindstone as well. I often used Grindstone on myself to get rid of extra lands or put artifacts into my graveyard with Goblin Welder in play as well.
In the quarterfinals game 3, I landed Chandra, Pyromaster turn 2 on the play thanks to Ancient Tomb and Simian Spirit Guide and steadily killed every 1/1 I could. When he played Deathrite Shaman, I instead used the 0 to dig deeper in my deck . . . where I eventually exiled a Grindstone with Painter's Servant in play.
I never used the ultimate ability on Chandra, and honestly I don't see a situation where I'd need to. With only nine instants and with Lightning Bolt as the only truly good one to trio-cast with Chandra's -7, I'd be surprised to see that occur. But the two abilities you do have are excellent. Some people have played Koth of the Hammer in this slot to be able to function as a second finisher and a good trump on Jace, the Mind Sculptor. The thing is you don't lose to Jace decks anyway and it doesn't really matter what you end up killing people with once Blood Moon is down. Chandra garners "virtual card advantage units," which is all I want out of my four-mana planeswalkers.
A few notes about the deck you should be aware of:
- Goblin Welder is one of the trickier cards in the deck. The best use is to kill an opponent with Grindstone in play and Painter's Servant in the graveyard. Activate Grindstone, maintain priority, and use Goblin Welder targeting your Painter's Servant, and then with the Grindstone in the bin, let the ability resolve with Servant in play!
- Against some decks, specifically Emrakul decks, Jaya Ballard, Task Mage is the best win condition. If you are able to stick Painter's Servant and Jaya together, that means you can knock off any troublesome permanent when you need to and dome them for three when you don't.
- Cast your Simian Spirit Guides! At least half of my wins were through beatdown with Imperial Recruiter, Magus of the Moon, and friends.
- Speaking of Recruiter, you only have the Portal Three Kingdoms uncommon (and judge foil!) plus three fetchlands as shuffle effects for your Sensei's Divining Tops. Use them wisely.
- Pyroblast is better after sideboard if you have Ensnaring Bridge in your deck because you can empty your hand of useless cards even without a blue permanent in play.
Let's wrap up by looking to the future.
Now here's the bad news, folks—I think people get the hint. You can no longer throw a bajillion dual lands, the best spells of Magic's history, and a couple unfair 1/2s and Planechase 2012 creatures in a deck together and call it a day. If you lose to Blood Moon, it doesn't matter. Therefore, I anticipate a backlash. More basic lands from Death and Taxes to U/W Control with five or more basic lands to more Elves and Burn are going to creep in. Worse, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is troublesome not only in play but in an opponent's deck! Less and less RUG Delver, Esper Deathblade, Shardless BUG, and other decks that scoop to a $5 Modern Masters enchantment will show up. It's the Circle of Life.
I do not think the Grixis Delver matchup is as bad as my results against Eric Rill would have you believe. Both of our matches ended 2-1 in his favor (I lost to him in the Swiss as well), both times he had the play in game 1, and in both matches he was able to win games after I landed and kept a Blood Moon in play for several turns. This required him to draw his Gitaxian Probes, free counterspells, Lightning Bolts, and especially multiples of his Young Pyromancers instead of any of his Brainstorms, Ponders, Dark Confidants, and the rest. As this is a deck I see growing in popularity going forward (because the deck is sweet!), the matchup will be that much more important.
The sideboard wasn't perfect, but it was good. I would like to have a tutorable way to deal with Nimble Mongoose and Young Pyromancer tokens going forward, especially if Grixis Delver picks up in popularity. I think a copy of Bloodfire Dwarf is where I'd head for that, and even a copy of Electrickery or two sounds good to me. Cunning Sparkmage may work as well, but that won't cut down the army the Pyromancer has already created (or ten or so Empty the Warrens tokens).
I seriously considered splashing white for Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Rest in Peace, Swords to Plowshares, and Enlightened Tutor (hence the choice to bring Arid Mesas). This also lets you dip into Ajani Vengeant if you want, but I still prefer Chandra. I think that is certainly something worth pursuing and would love to work on the white splash going forward.
Bottom line: Brainstorm and Force of Will will always be a part of Legacy, and if they are, then a deck with maindeck Pyroblasts will be there. Turn 1 Painter's Servant off of Ancient Tomb or City of Traitors followed by another so-called "Sol land" and Grindstone plus activation on turn 2 is a kill against 90% of the format! That said, the metagame will get much harsher in the near future. But the great ones overcome, and I think this deck can handle the "hate."
I will be playing Painted Stone going forward in my future Legacy tournaments. It has a good matchup against many of the boogeymen of the format in Shardless BUG and RUG Delver, it has decent matchups against most of the field, and it has many quality options for change. I invite you to do the same!
I'd like to thank Adam Prosak, Taylor Gunn, Nick Miller, and all the rest of the folks who said hi to me this weekend and made it special for me. Congrats to Eric Rill on a win well won with a sweet new deck, thanks to all of you that supported me on social media, and I'll see you all soon!
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Well, that's all the Bloodening for this week. I'm Reuben Bresler, and remember—don't feed the Rills.
Video and Coverage Content Associate for StarCityGames.com
Event Coverage Coordinator for SCGLive.com
Social Media Grinder at @starcitygames
Aspiring Three-Time Open Top 8 Competitor