"There's supposed to be upward of twelve inches of snow coming tonight. There's no way you're going to be able to go home tomorrow night, and the tournament might not even happen."
This past weekend my fellow psychopathic traveling companion Brian Braun-Duin and I went to Indianapolis for the first SCG Open Series of the new season. We knew that there was a warning of an incoming storm, but hey—sometimes the forecasts are wrong, and maybe it wouldn't be as bad as everyone thought.
We planned accordingly; we left work an hour early on Friday and got the okay to take Monday off if we "happened to get stuck in the snow."
Well, we definitely got stuck, and when they lifted the driving ban on Monday around 2 PM, we left Indianapolis. Technically we didn't actually "leave" Indianapolis until well after 3 PM since we had to dig my car out of the snow and get gas.
I'm pretty familiar with driving in the snow. I went to school in Spokane, Washington, and I lived in Wichita, Kansas for a number of years.
I had driven in the snow and ice, but this stuff was bad—and people driving were maniacs. I'm quite thankful that we never ran into any accidents and I only had to correct a slide once. We made sure to take it slow, wanting to stay safe, but it made travel disgustingly slow. In fact, we were only able to crawl about 60 miles in the first three hours of the normally eight-hour trip.
This first trip is something that's going to set the tone for my resolve for this year. I'm determined to be successful and qualify for the SCG Players' Championship and am willing go the extra mile to make that happen. Some might think we're crazy—and some might even be right.
I would make the trip again too even with the same conditions. I enjoy the traveling, and friend Justin Uppal was generous enough to allow us to stay at his place in Indianapolis. His family was awesome; his mom even cooked for us when we were snowed in. Can't turn that down!
I'm glad that BBD was able to Top 4 with our Standard deck since if we had made the entire trip only to brick on another "win and in" I would've been quite tilted. It would've been even sweeter if I had won my Legacy round 8 match to be able to draw into the Top 8. BBD would have made Top 8 with my Standard deck, and I would have made Top 8 with his Legacy deck. Unfortunately it was not to be, but I really did love both of the decks that we played this past weekend and would play them again for sure.
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
- 3 Scavenging Ooze
- 4 Stormbreath Dragon
- 3 Sylvan Caryatid
- 3 Boon Satyr
- 4 Polukranos, World Eater
For Standard I was able to talk BBD into giving the G/R Monsters deck that I'd been playing a try. We decided that the maindeck was still fine and only made a few changes to the sideboard.
Gruul Charm and Bow of Nylea had been so-so, but ultimately we wanted something a bit more high impact. At the Super IQ, I didn't have access to Chandra, Pyromaster, and in testing she was performing well out of the sideboard so we wanted another. The other card that we added was Ruric Thar, the Unbowed, and it was awesome. Against the control decks I was leaning toward playing a second Garruk, Caller of Beasts out of the sideboard, but after talking about it for a bit we ended up on the Gruul maze runner.
We don't want to have too many sixes in the deck, and the ones that we do have we want to be very high impact. Specifically against the U/W and Esper Control decks we want something that's going to do damage. Since we have Ghor-Clan Rampager to go along with our Mistcutter Hydras, we want to be aggressive and get in as much damage as possible. There are a lot of games where we end up grinding them out with our planeswalkers, but when we don't have an unimpeded Domri Rade building to an ultimate, we still have to pressure them before Sphinx's Revelation takes over the game.
Garruk, Caller of Beasts is pretty sweet, but Ruric Thar fills this role much better.
I'm sure BBD will talk about his experience leading up to the Top 4, but after playing with the deck now in two tournaments and doing well in them (I was 7-1 at one point and as per usual lost a lot at the end of the tournament to miss cashing), I'd like to talk about how I sideboarded against the different decks in Standard.
Sphinx's Revelation Decks
Against U/W Control, my game plan is to cut removal spells and sluggish creatures in favor of planeswalkers, Disenchant effects, and Hydras.
The whole tournament I was torn on the ninth card to cut when sideboarding in this matchup. There were times where I tried cutting an Elvish Mystic or a Boon Satyr, but I think ultimately the cut is either a Scavenging Ooze or retooling our sideboard back down to only having eight cards for this matchup.
Because we have Mistcutter Hydra to blank all of their non Supreme Verdict removal spells, Ghor-Clan Rampager becomes better than Polukranos, World Eater in my eyes. Big Poly might be a 5/5 for only four mana, but it just dies to everything and can be countered.
Against Mono-Black Devotion we want to bring in Chandra, Pyromaster as a way to either gain card advantage, kill Lifebane Zombie (since it can pressure our planeswalkers), or make Desecration Demon not be able to block. Plummet also kills ol' Double D and Nightveil Specter. We want to keep in our Mizzium Mortars since it can kill Nightveil Specter, Pack Rat, or Lifebane Zombie too.
With all of our powerful planeswalkers and creatures that can end the game on their own, we put a lot of pressure on our opponents to have multiple types of removal spells and Thoughtseize to beat us. Previous incarnations of the G/R deck with Burning-Tree Emissary and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx were just torn apart by Thoughtseize and Hero's Downfall. This build is much better against those types of cards.
Against Mono-Blue Devotion we want to try to keep their devotion count under control unless we're able to overload a Mizzium Mortars and leave them with just a 2/1 Master of Waves. Thassa, God of the Sea when backed with Jace, Architect of Thought or Bident of Thassa can be a little tough since it becomes more difficult for us to keep them off making Thassa a creature, but it's still winnable.
Mistcutter Hydra with Ghor-Clan Rampager and Flesh // Blood is often going to be our route to victory. Getting an early Polukranos, World Eater into play and using it to control their board and put on pressure is another quick way to shipwreck Mono-Blue as long as they don't have a timely Rapid Hybridization.
As with any of the devotion-based strategies, they do have some absurd draws when they're on the play that can be tough to beat, but we also have some awesome draws. Something as simple as double mana accelerant into overloaded Mizzium Mortars can be just as backbreaking.
Against the R/W Devotion we want to get to overloading Mizzium Mortars as quickly as we can. Burning-Tree Emissary out of their deck is either going to be absurd and put them way ahead with a big Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx turn or going to be a miserable 2/2 that they can't chain into any other creatures.
Shock can help keep their devotion in check so that we're able to get to the midgame where our planeswalkers and powerful monsters can take over. Polukranos, World Eater is such a powerful card against them that I like to bring in Destructive Revelry as an answer to Chained to the Rocks. It can also hit Hammer of Purphoros, which is a very explosive card for them.
Against W/x Aggro we want more removal than Mizzium Mortars and Shock so we also bring in Chandra, Pyromaster. She might seem a bit innocuous against an aggressive deck, but the majority of their creatures only have one toughness. Unless a Spear of Heliod is in play, we can pick them apart with her +1 loyalty ability.
Once again overloading Mizzium Mortars is huge, and we want to play to that as an out as often as we can. One of the decks I lost to this past weekend was W/B Aggro, and it was due to my own misplay. If I had realized in game 3 that the way I was going to win the game was by drawing a Mizzium Mortars and getting to overload it, I wouldn't have chumped a Precinct Captain with an Elvish Mystic the turn he cast Spear of Heliod and would have been able to prevent an attack the following turn with a Polukranos, World Eater and then overload a Mizzium Mortars that I would draw a few turns later.
Being able to see how you're going to win a game and playing to that point is a great skill for tournament Magic that I constantly have to work on.
I don't have a concise plan for the G/W Aggro deck with which Andrew Shrout beat the crap out of both BBD and me, but moving forward that deck does have to be a consideration. It feels like it's a pretty bad matchup, but as Shrout was crushing me he mentioned that he feels like it's close to even and he just had good draws.
I hope that this quick rundown on how I sideboarded against the most popular decks helps anyone that's interested in picking G/R Monsters up. I think that it's going to continue to be a contender and that decks like U/W Control will have to adapt and play some Celestial Flares along with Last Breath as an answer to Mistcutter Hydra and Stormbreath Dragon.
A lot of people asked for the BUG Control decklist that BBD and I played since I didn't place in the Top 16 after losing my "win and in" against a RUG Delver opponent who eventually made it into the Top 8.
We went with this type of deck under the impression that Shardless BUG had been falling off the radar and that it was pretty well positioned against any of the True-Name Nemesis decks with all of our Liliana of the Veils and Diabolic Edicts with Snapcaster Mage.
The deck was pretty sweet, but there are definitely a few cards that I would change. I'm not quite sure what I want them to be, but the Spell Snares were pretty miserable. I also feel like I want True-Name Nemesis somewhere in the maindeck.
I would recommend this deck to anyone who's looking for something a little different to play in Legacy, but you do have to be mindful of your pace of play. You aren't going to be killing people very quickly, and every game is a grind. You have to extract maximum value out of just about everything and play quickly enough to avoid draws.
We were pretty happy with our choice of Marsh Casualties over Golgari Charm against other decks with True-Name Nemesis since we envisioned that we would have out Snapcaster Mages and either our own True-Name Nemesis or Vendilion Clique. Marsh Casualties is also pretty effective against the U/W/R Delver decks since when kicked we can kill Stoneforge Mystic and Delver of Secrets whether it's an Aberration or not.
I'm going to be skipping Orlando this weekend but will be at a PTQ up in Philadelphia, so be sure to stop by and say hi if you get the chance to. Signing a bunch of Elemental tokens in Indianapolis was awesome, and I look forward to meeting everyone in March at the Meet and Greet at Grand Prix Richmond!