When we last left off, I was somewhere in the middle of Indianapolis, probably wolfing down an egg burger, and getting berated by one of the waitresses over Electronic Dance Music DJs and why Armin Van Buuren is a god amongst them.
Oh, there was also some Magic going on too.
I've been doing pretty decently this year with Monsters-type strategies, and every day, there are more and more builds I want to try. Hordeling Outburst in a Monsters shell was a great call for the 5k that I top 8'ed, but I'm pretty much off of that now. I was at it on the trip back from Indy to New York, since I had an IQ to play in, a little less than two hours after my bus arrived in the city. I wouldn't have any time to go home, and barely enough time to drop my bag off and lighten the load, but I had a tournament to play in, and points to acquire. This has basically been my life most of this year, and it's been an awesome experience. The constant work, traveling, and seeing old friends and meeting new people are really what makes a great time on the road, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Oh snaps! I have to actually register a deck! That's what I get for reminiscing so much...
- 4 Ashcloud Phoenix
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Goblin Rabblemaster
- 4 Stormbreath Dragon
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 3 Courser of Kruphix
- 2 Polukranos, World Eater
The attempt with this build was to hedge against Jeskai Aggro decks, which are pretty popular in my area. Boon Satyr is eschewed for Courser of Kruphix in an attempt to recoup life from falling behind early, via having a mana accelerant die, or simply not having one in the first place. Polukranos has been on the downswing lately, but it is still really tough for them to deal with straight up. Ashcloud Phoenix is much better at pushing through damage, as well as attrition in the air and chipping away in stalemates. As you can see, I'm still very high on Fated Conflagration, and I'll probably be including it in all of my two-color Monsters decks from here on out.
As for the Tuesday IQ itself, I wound up making top 4 in a highly stressful affair. I wound up losing in a very frustrating manner in round 3 while my opponent was trying to make conversation with me during the game. Those that know me know that I'm not really one to talk much during games unless something awesome or intense happens, so when I get asked questions like, "How many of those are you playing?", "How big is your Voice of Resurgence elemental token?", and other forms of derived or hidden information, I'll generally not answer. Information is everything in Magic, and I will simply not give information that isn't required to be given. When you surround your entire life around the game, and you're in a pivotal position in your grind, you want to give up as few edges as possible. That said, I definitely don't want to be a jerk, and while I am usually more than happy to talk to players about almost anything outside of a match, inside of a match, it's business. There are times where I won't be in the mood for talking much, and the end of this match was one of those times. I tried my best to be polite and get some time to myself to decompress, and I wound up successfully doing so, but I was also worried that I left the wrong impression. In the end, I still had a tournament to play, and that loss turned into a win when my opponent gave the concession when the match was over. I was greatly appreciative, and we wound up chatting a bit during downtime. I love conversing with each and every person that comes to me, and the last thing I want people to have is a bad experience.
Overall, I didn't like this buaild of Monsters, as I often found myself not quite maximizing my mana at all points of the game. Yes, I did top 4 with it, but saying that the list was good enough would be lying. I still had two more IQs, and I wasn't going to let up now. There are valuable points to be made, and my drive is on a huge high right now.
This is what I'm looking at for Saturday's Premier IQ in Albany:
- 3 Ashcloud Phoenix
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 3 Heir of the Wilds
- 4 Rattleclaw Mystic
- 4 Savage Knuckleblade
- 4 Stormbreath Dragon
- 3 Boon Satyr
- 2 Polukranos, World Eater
- 1 Surrak Dragonclaw
I'm not going to lie; I tend to shy away from Temur because of the "minefield" that is the first couple of rounds. Mono-Red is by far the worst matchup, and is among the mines that we have to dodge when playing this, along with Mono-Black Aggro. We could just make our mana hurt less, but that takes away from the explosiveness that makes Temur attractive in the first place. Against the most popular decks, I think revamping the sideboard is very important.
Surrak Dragonclaw is probably worth playing again because of the uptick in counterspells and how Elspeth, Sun's Champion is used against us. While it was a pretty lackluster combat trick before, it's a trick that we desperately need at this point. Crater's Claws often isn't enough when there's so much lifegain in the format, and the more you play, the more your actual board development suffers. You are still essentially a Zoo deck by nature, so you want to do everything possible to maximize your presence. For that reason, Stubborn Denial gets the nod over Lightning Strike in the maindeck. I think that cleaning up this build and getting them dead is the primary goal. Less clutter, more power, and more pressure.
Another thing to note is that without Gobin Rabblemaster, Chandra loses a lot of her value, as do many of the other planeswalkers. It's tempting to play Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, but I don't think it's worth the maindeck spot. Focus on maximizing your creatures; anything that's not a creature should protect them or kill your opponent on the spot.
I managed to take this build to a second place finish at the Premier IQ, having to defeat a slew of Abzan Midrange, Legacy World Heavyweight Champion of the World Kevin Jones in the win and in, and Jim "give me the damn pizza" Davis in the top 8, among so many other excellent players the entire eight rounds. I was worried that I'd miss Goblin Rabblemaster, but now, I don't think I want it for a while. It's a pretty high maintenance creature and doesn't quite play nicely with Heir of the Wilds unless things go perfectly. Polukranos has once again disappointed me, but it feels like a necessity in some number because of Heir of the Wilds. It's still pretty tough for Jeskai Aggro to deal with a 5/5, and that's reason enough to let them stick around.
For Sunday's IQ, I'll be making some small changes to the sideboard. I used to bring in Hunt the Hunter against Abzan decks before realizing that it isn't that good at all. Savage Punch, on the other hand, may fill that role. It has similar applications as Fated Conflagration in G/R builds, being able to deal with the major problem card, Siege Rhino, while also being applicable in a multitude of other matchups, particularly the mirror. Icy Blast can also fill that role and can actually fight through a Hornet Queen, but Crater's Claws also does that, and the fourth one is more attractive to me. The single Destructive Revelry is fine, but I probably wouldn't miss it if it weren't there. I can't really think of a better card to replace it with, and it is a tad narrow for this kind of deck, so I may go for something that covers more ground, like Reclamation Sage, Hornet Queen, or Dig Through Time. Maybe there's a build out there that can push the envelope even harder. If there is, I'll definitely try and find it.
The IQ schedule is probably the most hectic it has ever been in the history of IQs in the next month. We're coming off of a triple IQ week this past week, then we have SCG Columbus, coupled with a Premier IQ and Elite IQ in Pennsylvania on Saturday and Sunday, then IQs on Monday and Tuesday! The best part? This is the week of Grand Prix New Jersey!
What a grind!
Speaking of awesome Grand Prixs, there's been a lot of talk about the new Commander set and its impact on Legacy. I have a lot to say on it, but here's the short version:
Dualcaster Mage is awesome, and is even better than advertised. Cheap flash creatures are always going to raise an eyebrow, but one that functions as a Fork is downright frightening. It's a counterspell, a Fireblast, a removal spell, a Thoughtseize, an Abrupt Decay...you get the point. I fully expect Dualcaster Mage to make an impact in New Jersey for sure.
Containment Priest is not the end of Sneak and Show.
Isn't that what they said about the other billion "answers" to Sneak and Show? How about you run them over with a freight train!? Death and Taxes was already an abysmal matchup, so if they want to shut off or board out their Aether Vials for a card that forces Mother of Runes' protection to fade Pyroclasm, then by all means go for it. There's a pretty solid chance we were going to die with almost any other Hatebear in that spot, and if they don't have it, and if it isn't coming out of Death and Taxes or Maverick, then it's probably a bit better than a counterspell at that point, and that's nothing Sneak and Show can't handle already. I'll definitely go more in depth on how to beat this card, but my Sneak and Show brethren need not fear!
All in all, I am super grateful of my fortunate IQ success this year, but I'm still super focused on trying to go to as many events as possible and continue working on my craft. I'm in the process of getting into my niche, but it's the people I'm surrounding myself with that are the real reason behind my finishes. There's still much more work to be done, and if I continue to garner the support from my peers, I can keep up this level of play for a really long time.
Now let's crush the rest of this year.